Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you already have a pretty decent idea of what affiliate marketing is. After all, you clicked on a link to an article published by a leading affiliate marketing agency. It would be kind of strange to have gotten to this point having not even the faintest clue of what it is an affiliate manager does.

But let’s go ahead and assume exactly that. Let’s pretend you don’t know anything. That’s always the best way to learn: with an open mind, a fresh slate, and a little bit of time to spend on gathering information.

Here are 6 tips for establishing and maintaining an effective affiliate marketing strategy:

1. Get to know the affiliate networks inside and out

Commission Junction, Share A Sale, Rakuten, Pepperjam, just to name a few. These are some of the networks you’ll be coming into close contact with along your journey to creating the optimal affiliate marketing strategy.

Awesome, now you know where to begin… but what does an affiliate network even do?

Great question, thoughtful reader. Essentially, an affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs. It allows website publishers to more easily find and participate in affiliate programs which are suitable for their website (generating income in the process). 

It also allows websites offering affiliate programs to reach a larger audience by promoting their affiliate programs to all of the publishers participating in the affiliate network. So basically, without access to these networks, an online merchant can’t play ball.

Learn the differences between the networks and work to engage the ones that make sense for your program.

2. Engage an affiliate marketing agency (*cough, cough*, like Advertise Purple)

There’s a pretty good chance that you’re reading this because you want to start an affiliate program and you’re doing research on getting started. That’s great! You’re going to find a lot of different conflicting opinions on what you should do. So if you’re Google searching how to do this, here’s a little bit of free insight for you to noodle on.

Some people will say you can manage your affiliate program on your own. Some will say you shouldn’t even bother with affiliate. But here’s my argument for engaging AdPurp.

We use a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) payment structure, meaning we only profit when you do. There’s minimal risk in working with an agency that already has direct points of contact with every single network and most (if not all) of the affiliates you’ll want to reach to market your product.

We’ll put an analyst and an account manager on your account and treat you like the human being you are. Whether you’re working with a massive Fortune 500 company looking to create new streams of revenue or if you’re a little old entrepreneur trying to make your way — we have the capacity to give your account the attention it needs.

If you just want to set it and forget it, that’s cool. But if you want to see all sorts of graphs and insights, we can do that too.

3. Be patient

This might seem platitudinal. Of course, everyone knows that with any marketing tactic, if you’re looking for an overnight success, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. Other than maybe getting Lil Nas X to tweet about you, there’s very little you can do to immediately flip the switch to create new income streams.

But this is just as important as the first two. If you work with affiliates and need to see revenue numbers go through the roof in a week or less, you might be a little disappointed. Until you are able to tell the story effectively of your brand and how its products or services can benefit the end-user, you will not see optimal results.

But that’s exactly what we do. We work on the data and with the affiliates to make sure whatever you’re pushing out is effective. Because even if you get placement on that awesome blog, if the affiliate doesn’t know how to tell your story the right way, you might not see conversions. But communication and tweaking things can change that. In due time.

We typically have a 90 day quasi-trial period with new accounts. By then, we think we should have made an impact — and if we don’t, we do more tweaking and optimizing.

4. Be aware of competitive brands in the affiliate space

This one is also key. If you aren’t aware of competitors or other brands that also do affiliate, you might not be able to keep up with them and their tactics. But there’s another side of doing your research that can benefit you as well.

If you see articles written about similar products to yours, go ahead and find out what network they’re in. Seek out brands that you think are like yours, or that you admire. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those affiliates. Be tactical about your approach.

Of course having an agency doing this for you works wonders, as well.

5. Be consistent with your brand story and engage the right affiliates to make your marketing efforts look more organic

Often times, affiliates themselves and merchants working with them fear their collaboration will seem inorganic. The affiliates don’t want to make it seem like they’re “selling out” to brands that are paying them to generate content, and the merchants don’t want to have their story told in an inaccurate convoluted manner.

The key to alleviating the stress on both sides is communication and consistency in storytelling. An affiliate working with the right brands feels seamless and works well to generate conversion. And a brand working with the right influencer or affiliate makes that affiliate seem like they may genuinely use the product or service.

The best advertising is the kind that hardly feels like advertising at all. If you can get to that point with the people you’re working with, you will win. For sure.

6. Put yourself in the affiliate’s shoes

This is similar in many ways to the last point, but it’s also quite different. Telling your story is key, sure, but so is understanding the audience of the affiliates you engage to work with. It’s important to think of things from their side, because if you don’t, you’re probably not engaging the right affiliates.

It’s almost a chicken before the egg situation. There will be certain partnerships that instantaneously click and work, but there will also be misfires. However, if you can get ahead of potential mistakes and realize a few affiliates you wanted to work with don’t fit your target demographic, you can avoid disappointment that might come from collaboration with them.

Think about what the affiliate is doing for other brands or for their own personal posts and try to emulate that. If you don’t think it’s a fit, be honest with yourself and with the affiliate. This way everyone saves time and money.

Good luck out there in the affiliate space! It’s really an exciting time to be in it. This is the future of sponsorships and paid ads, and we’re happy to be educating others on it. Can’t wait to see what the future of affiliate looks like!