Insider’s Guide To Launching An Affiliate Program And Unlocking Reliable Growth

Jordan-Ashley Barney

Growth has become increasingly difficult in recent years.

Marketers have had to roll with the punches as challenge after challenge has popped up: pandemics, economic uncertainty, and ever-increasing costs. Even successful businesses have been hobbled by the costs of paid advertising becoming staggering at scale. It has become nearly impossible for many businesses to keep growing – unless they are running an affiliate marketing program.

With affiliate marketing, you continue scaling by working with third-party marketers who have extensive industry knowledge without your budget being drained unexpectedly.

Ever-increasing costs of paid ads have naturally steered the marketing world toward harnessing the performance power of affiliate programs. In fact, interest in affiliate marketing rose more than 264% between 2020 and 2022!

Why has affiliate marketing grown so fast lately?

Businesses have turned to affiliate marketing for its significant advantages:

  • Rapid growth increases in customer size
  • Increased brand visibility
  • Ability to reach highly targeted users
  • Massively controls costs by only paying for results delivered

Interested in determining if affiliate marketing could work for your business? Read on to find out.

Affiliate Programs Deliver Stronger Results

As a leading Partner Marketing Platform, the team at Everflow has seen firsthand the power that a well-built affiliate program has to drive next-level results for businesses. Our many client successes offer reason enough to launch your own affiliate program:

These examples are just a few of the many different types of businesses that we have seen thrive by adding an affiliate program. Launching an affiliate program is one of the wisest decisions you can make for your business in this economic climate!

Most importantly, affiliate programs carry very little financial risk, as these programs revolve around performance marketing:

You are only paying your affiliates when they drive sales, leads, or other conversions. If they don’t deliver, nothing comes out of your budget.

This makes affiliate marketing one of the best solutions to get consistent conversions in a cost-effective way.

Ready to create your own affiliate program?

This guide will provide your business with a solid foundation in affiliate marketing that will allow you to re-imagine your growth and revenue goals. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to launch your own program and say “hello” to cost-effective growth.

Through this guide, you will learn:

  1. Basics of how affiliate marketing works
  2. Categories of affiliates you can work with
  3. Necessary steps for easily launching your own affiliate program

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Breaking it down to the most basic level, an affiliate marketing program has four main players:

Player One – The Merchant

The merchant, or brand, is a business looking to generate leads and sales for their products and/or services.

The merchant's goal in affiliate marketing is to bring in as many leads or sales as possible while minimizing upfront costs.

Player Two – The Affiliate Marketer

The affiliate marketer, also known as a publisher, promotes the advertiser's products or services through a merchant’s offer on their preferred marketing channel. These channels include paid ads, coupon codes in podcast advertisements, or even organic posts on social platforms like Instagram or TikTok.

A commission is paid to the affiliate marketer by the merchant each time they drive a sale or valid lead conversion. A valid lead conversion could look like subscribing to the merchant’s email list, downloading an app, applying for pre-approval, registering for a free trial, or submitting a phone number with an opt-in for SMS marketing.

Player Three – The Consumer

At the end of the day, the consumer or customer is what this whole affiliate thing is all about. The affiliate puts time and effort into promoting the merchant to the consumer.

Once the consumer purchases a product (or completes some other conversion action like submitting their info to sign up for a free insurance quote) via the affiliate marketer’s promotion, the merchant gains a new client or revenue, and the affiliate earns commission from the merchant.

Player Four – The Affiliate Management & Tracking Platform

Using a platform like Everflow allows businesses to keep track of the important aspects of their affiliate program, like monitoring conversions, sales, and payouts to affiliates.

A good platform will not only track everything, but also provide valuable data insights that will help your program grow faster.

Getting Started With Affiliates Step-By-Step

Next, let’s break down how affiliates will join your affiliate program and start promoting your business.

Here are the six steps involved in working with affiliates:

STEP ONE:

Be sure you are set up to succeed from the very beginning. You can do this by picking the right platform to manage and track all affiliate activity.

When choosing your platform, you want to ensure that it will have all the features you need to grow. To build the strongest affiliate program, it’s important to have extensive tracking and in-depth reporting so you can optimize your strategy. Additionally, automations can save you time on mundane tasks, so you can focus on revenue growth. We might be biased, but we think Everflow is the best platform to launch and scale your program. Learn more about the features that set us apart from other platforms!

Once you have your  platform set up, you’ll need to get everything ready for your new affiliates. For example, you’ll need to determine how much you wish to pay for each lead, conversion, or sale. Other steps you will want to take to be prepared include providing creatives, setting up offer structures, determining who can access your offers, and even creating a recruitment plan to attract affiliates that are right for your business.

Affiliates likely won’t know about your program because it’s brand new. Therefore,

to entice an affiliate to promote your offer, you want to make a good first impression. Check out some tips from Lenée Gill and Alex Gunoe of Digistore24:

STEP TWO:

The affiliate applies to your program to promote your products or services. Affiliates might choose one of your product/service campaigns over another due to their particular niche, conversion payout, ease of conversion, or promotion type (i.e., organic, email, display, paid, etc.).

STEP THREE:

The merchant reviews the affiliate’s application, and chooses to approve the affiliate based on track record, niche alignment, or solely on earnings potential. Note, not all affiliates who apply to a program are approved, and all affiliate applications need to be strongly vetted to ensure your new affiliates are legitimately interested in promoting your business. Affiliate fraud occurs in virtually every program. Therefore, you must always remain proactive when screening new affiliate applications.

Once an affiliate is approved, you will provide the affiliate with the necessary tools for marketing their products or solutions, including tracking links and promotional creatives. The affiliate will also provide their payment information, to allow you to send commission payments when the time comes.

STEP FOUR:

The affiliate promotes your product or service via their preferred marketing method. This includes Instagram posts, TikTok paid search ads, Google Ads, or YouTube videos.

STEP FIVE:

Potential customers are taken from the affiliate promotional placement to an offer page (that you create) through a trackable link, or coupon code. Here is an example of an offer page, complete with creatives, courtesy of one of Everflow’s very own customers:

STEP SIX:

The customer purchases your product/service or completes some other conversion action, which is then reviewed and verified as valid in your affiliate platform. The conversion is then attributed to the correct affiliate. Once you’re ready, you can send payment to the affiliate through your affiliate marketing platform (typically on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis).

STEP SEVEN:

You have now scored a new lead or sale. And the affiliate marketer gets a commission. Everyone wins!

And, yes, it really is that simple! With affiliates as a powerful performance marketing channel,  you can break through to new levels of growth with minimal financial risk.

Need more convincing to start your own program? Let’s dive even deeper into some of the major advantages of having an affiliate program.

The Many Benefits Of Affiliate Marketing

Some of the “pros” of launching your own affiliate program include:

The Ability To Reach New Audiences (Who Are Better Fits For Your Business)

Affiliate partnerships expose your brand to entirely new geographic regions, targeted demographic groups, and even users on specific devices. Thus, tapping into new audiences through affiliate marketing can enable you to leverage massive growth in potential customers!

Expanding your reach and dialing in targeting via affiliate marketing will help your business not only generate more leads and conversions but will also help you bring in higher-value customers.

By dialing in marketing campaigns with these new audiences, you can zero in on your ideal targets by city, political affiliation, pet ownership status, mobile device type, and more.

Cost-Effective Sales Channels

As mentioned above, one of the best aspects of affiliate marketing is that it’s incredibly cost effective. Your business doesn’t need a massive advertising budget to see impressive boosts in traffic, leads, and sales.

How? A business only pays affiliates when they generate a sale or lead, rather than accruing an upfront cost.

Because of this, affiliate marketing is scalable.

You can collaborate with as many affiliates as you want without breaking the bank because you only pay for the results delivered.

Get More Eyes On Your Brand

While conversions are the goal, it definitely doesn’t hurt that affiliates are essentially providing free promotion for your brand even when they aren’t generating conversions.

When affiliates promote your business, even if they don’t generate a lead or sale, they are still introducing new customers to your brand or reinforcing your brand’s value (a nice boost vs. your competition). Therefore, at the very least, you will gain a major competitive advantage by embracing affiliate marketing through dramatic increases in exposure.  

Trends in marketing have long-shown that potential customers typically need to be exposed to a brand or ad multiple times before they make a purchase. Repeated exposure increases brand familiarity and trust, leading to a higher likelihood of conversion.

Access To Diverse Marketing And Social Channels

Businesses today have a dizzying array of marketing channels at their disposal. Unless your company has a large marketing department, it is unlikely that you have a strong presence in all of them.

Conversion rates are higher when products are promoted on social channels where trust has been established over time. For example: 61% of consumers trust influencer recommendations, in comparison to only 38% who trust brand-produced content. Jumping onto a new channel without any brand awareness will not lead to immediate results. And this is where affiliates can really shine.

By partnering with affiliates who have a strong presence on the social channels you want to use, or are experienced in marketing via those channels, you can tap into their experience to drive conversions and sales.

For example, let’s say you are interested in advertising a health and beauty product on TikTok because you’ve heard that other brands have boosted their sales substantially through that channel.

Connecting with an influencer who has a large following and is eager to recommend your brand could propel you to success on TikTok or any other marketing channel where you have no prior presence.

Additionally, affiliate marketing enables you to launch entirely new marketing initiatives, like your very own influencer program, pay-per-call program, referral program, or even expand into offering a completely new service.

For example, if you are in the health and wellness space, you can create an affiliate program based on health supplements.

BTW, you can learn how this can easily be done in this recent fireside chat with Supplement Millionaire’s Cody Bramlett:


With the help of a smarter affiliate platform like Everflow, you’ll have tools at your disposal like tracking, reporting, and automation to make establishing new marketing channels an easy process.

Knowledge And Expertise Through New Partnerships

When it comes down to it, affiliate marketing is all about establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. You’ll benefit not only from increased revenue, but also from the knowledge that your affiliates have gained from their industry experience.

Some publishers may have experience reaching your target customers, and have the materials to drive more leads and sales already in place. Some affiliates might have email lists of consumers that could be a perfect fit for your product/service. Other affiliates might have landing pages already built to sell exactly the same types of products/services. Affiliates tend to specialize in certain niches, and finding the right affiliate could open up new growth opportunities.

Best of all, you can learn from your affiliates, replicating successful techniques in your internal marketing efforts.

The mutually beneficial nature of affiliate marketing is one of the most exciting advantages of launching an affiliate program.

Popular Types Of Affiliates

There are numerous types of affiliates, each offering their own unique benefits.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular affiliate types and what they can bring to your affiliate program:

Content Affiliates

Writers looking to monetize their content often do so through affiliate marketing, typically covering a specific niche in their posts. The more specific the subject matter covered by the site or blog, the more targeted the audience.

Content affiliates make unique posts to promote products or services that will interest their readers, or incorporate them into their regular content. In exchange for a commission, your business gets a direct line to an audience already interested in what you’re selling.

Review sites are one of the most common channels that content affiliates use to promote affiliate products. In this channel, promotion of your product or service is provided via product reviews, ratings, or “top ten” lists. Placing affiliate links in these types of articles can be an effective way to drive sales because you are catching the potential customer during the critical research stage before action is taken.

Overall, the niches that are particularly successful for content affiliates include fashion and beauty, health and wellness, home and decor, and personal finance.

Coupon Websites & Extensions

In the affiliate space, there are two main ways that customers can gain coupon discount codes for your products or services from affiliates:

  • Coupon websites allow users to discover your brand while they search for discounts or a deal on your brand before making a purchase.
  • Coupon extensions automatically inject discount codes at checkout for customers looking to make a purchase of your brand’s products or services.

Intent is important when it comes to coupon affiliates. Many customers discover products via coupon websites, which can make them a valuable asset. But others are already intent on purchasing and only grabbed the coupon at the last minute. The intention of the customer has a major impact on the viability of relying on coupon affiliates.

Additionally, it is important to beware of coupon poaching in this particular area of affiliate marketing. Coupon poaching can occur in two ways:

  1. A customer is about to complete a purchase from an affiliate promoting your business and then searches for a coupon code, finds a coupon on a coupon affiliate site, and then completes the purchase.
  2. A customer heads to checkout to buy your products or services from an affiliate, receives a coupon code from a coupon extension, and then uses that code to complete the purchase.

In both of these cases, the commission is misattributed to the coupon publisher rather than the affiliate who originally introduced the brand to the customer.

To learn more about coupon poaching and how to find the right coupon affiliates for your program, check out this article from our very own Tony Cohn on the subject.

Influencers

Influencers have exploded on the affiliate scene with the growing prevalence of social media in our day-to-day lives. These affiliates promote products or services to their followers via social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, and on the airways via podcasts.

Influencers now come in all shapes and sizes. They can be subject matter experts, well-known celebrities, or even ordinary people with less than a thousand followers who enjoy sharing their lives (and promoting your brand).

A massive follower base isn’t necessary when looking for influencers who will make quality affiliates for your brand. Engagement is critical when it comes to influencers and, more broadly, affiliate marketing (more on that later). It's possible that an influencer with 3K followers will generate more engagement for your brand than one with 30K.

You can learn how to build partnerships with these micro-influencers via our chat with Helen Christoni of Ideal Living:


When working with influencers, you can create coupon codes via your affiliate platform to allow them to easily promote your brand. These affiliates can then promote your brand with just a word or a phrase, rather than asking customers to visit a long URL with a code attached to make a purchase.

Learn more about the power of coupon codes and how to track influencer affiliates using them in this blog post!

Media Buyers

Media buyers are professional marketers who buy ad placements to promote products or services on your behalf. This will typically look like paid ads on sites like Google and Facebook, or sometimes on apps like Instagram or TikTok. Seasoned media buyers can do a lot to help your business generate more sales.

There are also some media buyers that focus mainly on native ads. These ads are content and video placements that mimic the look and feel of a particular app or site.

To see if native ads are a fit for your new affiliate program, check out this fireside chat with Joe Burton of ROI Marketplace where he discusses how native can unlock more program revenue growth:

Tips For Launching A Great Affiliate Program

Launching your own affiliate program will require time and effort, but the results make it well worth it.

Here are a few helpful tips for making sure your program gets off to a fast start:

  1. Recruit Quality Affiliates

The number of affiliates you need for your program to be successful will depend on how engaged each of them is. The truth is that many of the affiliates you recruit will not actively promote your products or services. And of those who do, only a fraction will generate significant sales.

Ben Kiblinger, co-founder of QUANTUMrevenue, puts it this way: “You probably need to have 500 affiliates join your program to get 125 to actively promote you, with maybe 25 of them sending meaningful traffic. So, to get those quality affiliates that make an impact on your revenue, you will need to start with quantity and whittle your way down.”

Building relationships with your strong affiliates is also key.

The best way to make sure you don’t miss out on building good relationships with great affiliates, as Alex Gunoe of Digistore24 encourages, is to pay close attention to them.

  1. Use Reporting To Optimize Your Strategy

When you get the ball rolling with affiliate offers, watch closely as the results start coming in. Analyze detailed reporting on traffic, engagement, conversions, and sales. Once you begin to see patterns in which affiliates are producing, and which channels are working, you can optimize your strategy accordingly.

Paying close attention to tracking and reporting will also help you identify the affiliates that are providing the best results. As William Volmuth of PowerChord said in one of our recent fireside chats, “Test, Test, Test” your new channels!

Standard affiliate platform reporting doesn’t provide answers to questions that will lead directly to successful scaling of an affiliate program. But, Everflow’s partner placement reports enable you to generate program performance data quickly based on partner performance, partner type (content site, coupons, paid social, etc.), and placement type (e.g., native ad, email blast, paid search ad).

Having all the information you need gathered together and consolidated into one dashboard can help you gain perspective on what is working and what isn’t, so that you can easily make decisions.

Taking advantage of tracking and reporting will also make it easier to analyze traffic for fraud and start automating fraud prevention.

  1. Run A Competitive Analysis

When launching an affiliate program, it can be helpful to analyze several competitors in your industry who use affiliate marketing.

When running a competitive analysis, it’s important to consider what your competitors are offering in their own affiliate programs, including payouts, creatives, and promotional campaigns.

You are no longer competing only for customers, but also for affiliates. As a result, it's a good idea to create a program that appeals to the best affiliates that your industry has to offer. When creating your offers, check out what competitors are offering through offer listing sites like Offer Vault.

Additionally, if you want an extra boost in the building of your program, there are tools that you can utilize to uncover affiliates. Everflow partners with one of these tools, Publisher Discovery, to help businesses get connected to new affiliates, including those used by your competition!

EF Match, now included in every Everflow plan, provides businesses with a dedicated account manager that will directly introduce you to new partners that can immediately contribute to scaling your program!

Bonus Tip:

If you want to dig deeper into what makes a program successful, learn the ten pillars of a successful affiliate marketing program, according to Meghan Damico and Ryan Alarid of Affiliate Moguls, in this insightful fireside chat:

Affiliate Marketing Is The Smart Way To Keep Growing

Affiliate marketing is an extremely cost-effective and strategic way to promote your brand and increase revenues. Affiliate programs create a win-win situation in which your businesses can increase revenue and affiliates can monetize their hard work.

The affiliate marketing industry is constantly changing as society, culture, and purchasing patterns shift, but one thing is certain: it is growing at an increasing rate with each passing year -expanding to $14.3 billion globally in 2023 and to $15.7 billion by 2024.

A solid affiliate program will enable you to achieve serious growth for your business, even in challenging times. Along with offering you a cost-effective sales channel, affiliate marketing will give you a competitive edge by equipping you with access to diverse channels and new audiences.

The time to launch your own affiliate program is NOW!

Everflow is here as a resource to answer any questions you might have about launching your affiliate program. And you can book a demo with us to learn more about how Everflow and our affiliate marketing platform can help you launch your first affiliate program!

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