September 11, 2023

Affiliate Marketing: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Profitable Partnerships

Mosaic Blog

Over the last decade affiliate marketing has emerged as the trailblazing force in countless brands’ advertising strategies, propelling them forward at reasonable rates and blowing all other marketing methods out of the water when it comes to performance KPIs. Brands small and large are leveraging partnerships with content creators and publishers to expand their audiences and grow their customer base. 

It’s rare for something to be the end all be all of all marketing methods and have absolutely no drawbacks. When it comes to affiliate marketing, the biggest drawback is that it’s very difficult to get started on your own. Now don’t let this discourage you from trying it out, I never said impossible. But it is a game of having and leveraging connections, or being able to discover and create relationships with potential new partners. It’s definitely doable to source your own partnership leads and deal with each affiliate on a case by case basis working directly with them to negotiate the terms of the relationship, it will naturally just take more time to grow your program with such a laborious process. Luckily for you at Mosaic we’re experts in the affiliate space and can give you the rundown on how to make a partnerships program that leads to profitability – not a waste of precious time and resources. 

Getting Started

The first step is to educate yourself on the affiliate marketing industry – what the different moving parts are and how everyone works together in the environment. In short affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where affiliates (anyone with the ability to promote your brand on a website or other digital platform) promote your products or services and earn a commission for each sale or lead generated through their efforts. There are typically three moving parts in any affiliate transaction – the advertiser (you), the affiliate (the one promoting you), and the affiliate network (the mediator between you two). 

Finding A Network

Choosing and setting up your affiliate network is going to be the next step towards starting your partnerships program and often where brands struggle. A lot of networks have layouts and setup processes that aren’t necessarily intuitive so it’s fairly common to get a bit frustrated during this part of the process. With Mosaic, our team helps handle the network setup process to mitigate complications with this step. For the most part affiliate networks do the same thing, there are slight differences that might lead you to prefer one over another. You can take a look at our guide to the top affiliate networks to see which would be the best fit for you. One important thing to note is brands can only be in one affiliate network while affiliates can be in several networks. Your affiliate URL link within your network is how affiliates are going to join your program.

Network Setup

When you first login to set up your affiliate network you’ll get some different options to determine how your program is structured. There are several things you’ll want to think through ahead of time that will help you breeze through this process…

  • Program structure: This determines how and when your affiliates are paid. Some common program structures include…
    • Pay-per-Sale (PPS): Affiliates earn a commission payout for each sale they generate.
    • Pay-per-Lead (PPL): Affiliates earn a commission payout for each qualifying lead they bring in.
    • Pay-per-Click (PPC): Affiliates earn a commission based on the number of clicks their referral links receive.
  • Baseline commission: This will be the standard rate applied to all affiliates within your program. You want this to be a few percentage points lower than the “MAX” you would pay an affiliate in order to keep some wiggle room to increase the commission for high-performing affiliates as an incentive for them to promote you more (what we would call an optimization).
    • Try to do your due diligence and research into what a competitive commission rate would be for your product and the affiliates you’re working with.
      • Mosaic’s commission report makes this easy by showing the rate you’re currently paying an affiliate compared to the average rate they’re receiving from other brands in your vertical, allowing you to increase (or lower) your commission in order to stay competitive while not overpaying in any areas. 
    • Keep in mind you can always go back into your network and adjust the commission for individual affiliates – making it either higher or lower – so what you put down during sign up isn’t set in stone.
  • Compliance restrictions: The legal agreement section of any sign up is usually one of the trickiest parts to understand. If you’re signing up for an affiliate network yourself the most important thing to remember when you’re writing out this section is to include any important FTC disclosures about your product and highlight the terms and conditions of your program such as whether or not you allow bidding on your keywords. 

Getting Creative

Another huge part of setting up your network is uploading creatives and marketing materials for affiliates to use on your behalf. This is a crucial step that can easily get overlooked when signing up if you aren’t familiar with how affiliates use your network. Once an affiliate signs up using your affiliate link, they’re going to navigate to your profile, go to creatives, and use the banners, text links, and coupons there on their website to promote you. The more materials you give affiliates to work with, the better their promotions are gonna be. Some best practices when it comes to the creatives section of your network…

  • Images: include each of the following image types for your products
    • Product images – the product against a plain background
    • Lifestyle images – photos of the product in action or being used by models
    • Logos – different sizes/styles of your brand logo
  • Coupons: these don’t have to be actual discounts, although they can be
    • Include codes/links for any active discounts
    • Sitewide & evergreen promotions like free shipping over order of $100 or 10% off for first time customers
    • Links to best sellers
  • Text links: these should mimic any coupon links set up in addition to…
    • Homepage link
    • Links to best selling products

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit

After all this your affiliate network is fully configured and you’re ready to get recruiting. By joining a network you’ll get access to thousands of affiliates and potential new partners. You can search through the affiliates in your network for contacts to reach out to regarding joining your program. There’s not really a filter you can apply to find affiliates super specific to your products and brand within your affiliate network so it will just take some dedicated time to researching and analyzing the publishers you choose to reach out to.

One of Mosaic’s key features is customized recruitment recommendations. We work with a dozen affiliate networks and thus have access to over 80,000 affiliates for you to work with. We also have these affiliates’ performance history, are able to see which products/verticals they’ve driven the most revenue for, how they promote brands, and how successful they’ve been, which allows our technology to build out recruitment dashboards that bring our best picks based on your preferences to the forefront. 

Tracking Performance

Lastly you’ll need to set up a cadence for staying on top of your program’s performance. Within your network you can see how much revenue a particular affiliate has driven, and how much your program has driven overall, however you’ll likely want to know a few more details to get a full picture of your program’s health and how it is growing.

Mosaic’s performance reporting shows the KPIs we’ve selected as most important when it comes to affiliate marketing in both a holistic program overview and also individualized for each affiliate that is active in your program. We think it is important to distinguish between active and idle affiliates. There will always be affiliates who join your program and then sit and do nothing for months on end, never driving a click or even putting your content on their site. While your network might count them, we choose to exclude these affiliates from our reports because they aren’t contributing to your performance in a positive OR a negative way. 

Instead Mosaic likes to narrow down to only affiliates who are actively or have previously promoted you – highlighting those whose performance is on the rise and those who are falling behind so you can know who to reach out to and whether it’s an optimization outreach or a “let’s get you back on track” outreach. For more tips on reaching out to affiliates read our guide to affiliate communications.

Our no. 1 goal at Mosaic is to help make it easier for brands to find success in the affiliate channel. Having a good product and branding is only half the battle of becoming profitable with affiliate marketing. The other half is having credible connections and resources to be able to forge partnerships with viable publishers in the first place. Your individual strategy and style will come with time. The best thing about an affiliate program is how it grows with your brand and changes over time. It’s far from a one and done, set up and leave it, marketing strategy. The more time you dedicate to it, the more personal and unique your program becomes both for your partners and your customers. Taking time to strengthen your affiliate relationships in turn boosts their ability to promote you in engaging ways to their audience which will start to turn into new conversions and new customers for you. 

To learn more about Mosaic Digital Systems and how our partnerships management CRM can help scale your affiliate program, reach out to a team member today!

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