May 26, 2022

The Biggest Mistakes Brands Make With Self-Run Affiliate Campaigns

By Alex Cramer

Have you ever dove face-first into an empty swimming pool? What about driving your car the wrong way down a freeway with a blindfold on? Did you ever shout “YOLO!” and invest your life savings into a cryptocurrency with a dog mascot?

Probably not (and if you have, prayers for your swift recovery), but that’s exactly what we see so many brands do when they decide to manage their own affiliate campaigns without doing the proper research and preparation first.

Marketing “gurus” and “experts” love to tell you that affiliate marketing is easy and a great way to make money in your sleep.

But we’ve had too many conversations with potential clients that fell for the online hype, launched their own campaign without understanding what they were doing and then quit in frustration when they didn’t see the results they expect.

At Advertise Purple, we want to see every business succeed, whether they’re working with us or not. That’s why we’re sharing the most common mistakes that we see brands make when they attempt to run their own affiliate program.

Not Actively Recruiting High-Performing Affiliates

The day you launch your own affiliate campaign, you’re probably going to feel like a rock star. You should expect to be inundated with emails from hundreds of different affiliates who want to be a part of your network and all you have to do is sit back and click “approved” over and over again. Fantastic!

But then, a few months later, you’ll look at your affiliate sales sheet and wonder why your revenue figures are a couple of zeros short of where you thought they’d be.

The truth is that there are well over three million affiliates you can possibly add to your program and the vast majority of the ones that approach you will tend to be bottom-of-the-funnel discount and coupon affiliates who will cannibalize your sales rather than drive new ones.

The top performers that actually can make sales aren’t going to knock on your door and beg to join your network. Instead, you need to aggressively recruit them and find a way to stand out from the pack just to get on their radar.

Keep in mind, that the best affiliates are fielding requests from hundreds of different brands a day, which means that if they don’t already know you, it’s going to be almost impossible to get them to take your brand seriously.

You can’t build a successful campaign unless you aggressively recruit and build relationships with top-performing affiliates and prove to them that you deserve to be a part of their affiliate program.

Not Having an Optimization Strategy

Let’s say that you put in the hard work and manage to partner your brand with a few top-tier affiliates. Amazing! Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the money to roll in, right?

Wrong. So, so, so wrong.

Landing the right affiliates is really just step one. The next major step is strategizing and building your campaign within those affiliates so that your brand is receiving the right placements, promotions and marketing push to stand out from the hundreds of other brands that that affiliate is also selling.

Most publishers will offer premium media buys and paid placements to give an extra boost to your brand. This means that for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, they could put your product in an email announcement, give it prominent placement on their homepage or include your product in high-performing content such as holiday gift guides.

Some of these optimizations can be extremely valuable, while others will mostly be a waste of your money. But if you don’t have the data and have never optimized a campaign before, you’ll probably struggle to tell the difference and you could throw away a lot of money on low-performing strategies.

You’ll also likely need to pay top dollar for those placements in order to compete against agencies, such as ours, that have already negotiated lower rates for the several clients we represent with that same affiliate.

Additionally, in order to make sure that your brand is treated as a priority, you may need to incentivize your affiliate with a multi-tiered payment structure that rewards them for making more sales.

Driving strong affiliate sales requires maintaining a strong relationship with every partner in your network. It’s a daily task to constantly test, gather data and optimize the individual sales strategies that you’ll need to create with each of your affiliates.

Failing to constantly communicate with your partners and build out your optimizations, means that your products will slide to the back burner while your competitors are making moves on the front page.

Not Kicking Low Performers to the Curb

Ok, so before you really knew what you were doing, you added a bunch of random affiliates to your network that weren’t driving sales. But, you think, because this is performance marketing it doesn’t really do your brand any harm to keep them around.


Low-performing affiliates can be very damaging to your campaign, especially as you’re starting out. If you have a large number of low-quality affiliates driving traffic to your site without delivering sales, then this will lower your program’s overall earning-per-click (EPC). The higher-performing affiliates that you want to work with will see that KPI and likely decide that your brand doesn’t drive enough sales to be worth their time.

So if your affiliates aren’t delivering, then you need to put on a pair of steel toe boots and kick them to the curb before they can drag your program down with them.

Giving Up

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common problems we see. People make one or all of the mistakes we listed above, don’t see the sales they’re expecting and cancel their program. Affiliate marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry and Advertise Purple alone has driven nearly $3 billion in sales for our clients in the last decade. The sales are there but it takes knowledge, time and commitment to make them happen.

Even with all of our experience, data and relationships, it usually takes three to six months for us to get a campaign running at full speed. So if you’re starting from scratch, be patient with yourself and willing to commit the time and energy that it’s going to take to succeed.

Don’t give up if you don’t see the results you want immediately. Learn from the mistakes others have made and build your program the right way.



Are you getting started in affiliate marketing or looking to improve your current program?

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