Want to get started building an affiliate network for your online store? Then you won't want to miss the five crucial tips in this post. Read on to learn more.

Reaching out with Your Blog

Running your ecommerce affiliate program can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Many companies are told they need affiliates to expand and create a program without knowing what they're getting into. So whether your program is just getting off the ground or is well established and has hit a growth wall, here are essential five affiliate marketing practices that will help strengthen your network.


Laying down the law

Creating the appropriate Terms and Conditions for your program is a very important step that is often overlooked in the affiliate world. The old adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure’ applies when combating affiliate fraud. Good affiliates will respect your terms and bring the most value to your program.

Clearly stating practices that are not allowed will deter fraudsters from joining your program.  More importantly, when fraud happens (a sadly unavoidable part of doing affiliate marketing) and you choose to reverse commissions, evidence will show their tactics were in clear violation of the terms they agreed upon. Be thorough when creating your Terms and Conditions and feel free to utilize Volusion’s terms as a guideline for your own program.


Recruiting the RIGHT affiliates

If you're using an affiliate platform like CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) or LinkShare, affiliates will apply to your program in mass quantities. Sifting through these applications takes a lot of time and isn't often very rewarding. On the other hand, good affiliates are like ninjas; you can only connect with them if they want to be found. Otherwise, they're too busy counting money and reinvesting in the campaigns they've already established.

Gaining their attention and acquiring  initial contact is the hard part. Few affiliates have a phone number on their site, so it will take some persistence on your part to connect. Once you exchange emails and phone calls, reel in that catch with an incentive. Make them excited about promoting for you by offering them a 10% commission for hitting goals, or a commission increase for consistent performance. When you find an affiliate that produces, nurture the relationship and grow together. Paying them extra will be cheaper than financing you own marketing campaigns.


Diversity of affiliates

Many affiliate programs will have a customer demographic that performs well, but have you considered all the opportunities you may be missing? Reaching the right demographic will depend on the affiliate audience, so consider alternatives to the bread and butter you've already established.

Think outside of the box and brainstorm where your potential customers might come from. Then go search and contact affiliates that fall into that demographic. For example, say you sell skateboards. The obvious affiliates would be skateboarding forums and skateboarding YouTubers with thousands of clicks and views. But you can also expand your reach to other extreme sport sites like snowboarding blogs. These less-obvious affiliates could generate a few extra sales a month, which would add up quickly if you recruited a couple of new affiliates. You might even find a diamond in the rough to join the ranks of your top affiliates.


Analyze the value of coupon sites

When I think coupon sites, I think of three statistics:
  • 78% of online shoppers say coupons will close a deal when undecided (MarketingCharts, 2011).
  • 61% visitors of coupon sites likely to switch brands if they find a better coupon (MarketingCharts, 2012).
  • AOV is 11% higher than any other affiliate channel (Coupon Mountain, 2013).
In other words, coupon sites are the closers of the affiliate world. They have incredible potential to grow brand awareness and create more sales volume. However, consider how much value they are actually bringing to your program. Some sites utilize toolbars and Adware to offer last minute discounts when a sale was already imminent, essentially stealing a commission from a content affiliate at the last minute.  Also, be wary of discounting your goods and services beyond the point of sensible profits.


Testing new ideas

Do you have a new idea that you want to test out but are afraid it’s too risky? Perhaps you want to try working with a lead based program (a non-revenue producing activity such as filling out a form, downloading software, etc.), but are worried about fraud or the quality of leads that will be produced. Trying something new can be scary but settling for what already works and not being progressive will leave your program in the stone age.

The solution? Weigh your options. Create a pro/con list to determine if the reward of a small investment outweighs the risk.  Start out with a test campaign for a new publisher and see if the payoff is worth it. Testing an idea could turn out to be a dud or a gem, but you’ll never know without trying it out.


With these five practices on your side, your affiliate program will have the strong foundation it needs to build onward and upward. Have your own favorite affiliate marketing tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below.




Dustin Howes is the Affiliate Marketing Manager at Ice.com, where he facilitates all affiliate based relationships. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring Austin with his wife and two Boston Terriers, playing softball and coaching high school baseball with the Austin RBI program.Connect with Dustin on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out with any questions regarding affiliate management.