ClickUp guest blog Affise Sam O'Brien

Planning an Affiliate Marketing Campaign: A Step-by-Step Guide

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS PRM Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background and a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology.


Running a business is tough. You have to wear a dozen hats, trying to do everything perfectly, but naturally, not all of those hats fit equally well. For many, marketing remains their biggest challenge as a small business owner.

Getting leads in, increasing exposure, and driving sales can be the hardest bit, but it’s also the most gratifying. The whole point of your business is to sell, profit, and get that money rolling in. Ka-ching! 💰

Affiliate marketing might be the answer to your woes. The way it works is simple. You offer another marketer commission for bringing in leads and raising awareness about your products and business.

You pay your affiliates only when they perform, thereby increasing your ROI, and making the chances of failed investment close to none. Your profit margins are slightly reduced, but since your affiliate does all the marketing, it’s worth it.

Take the ClickUp Affiliate Program as an example. Affiliates get an impressive 20% of all transactions from users joining using their affiliate links. ClickUp, meanwhile, benefits from the extra exposure and lead generation that comes from working with top-quality affiliates. It’s the very definition of mutually beneficial. 🤝

Follow the eight simple steps below to develop a high-performing affiliate marketing program of your own!

8 Steps For Developing a High-Performing Affiliate Marketing Program

1. Determine your target audience

Do you know who buys your product? 🤔

Before you embark on an affiliate marketing campaign, you need to know who your customers are, along with where they live, their age, income, etc. You should know what pain points your product caters to and what your target market’s needs and worries are.

Figure out who you want to reach, and create a customer avatar for your business. The clearer the picture of your target customer, the better you’ll understand who they are, and the likelier you are to reach them and push them down your sales funnel. It’s critical to align your brand with its target audience, so you can best speak to and serve them in everything you—and you affiliates—do.   

Try to figure out where your customers hang out. Are they on YouTube or Instagram? What are they searching for on Google? Which influencers do they follow? What blogs do they read, and what podcasts do they subscribe to? Many affiliates use their social media following to convince followers to click on affiliate links.

Once you have the answer to these questions, you’ll know which affiliates to hire to appeal to your target audience.

affiliate marketing EasyAffiliate
via EasyAffiliate

2. Set objectives

If you don’t have goals, you have nothing to measure your success or failure against. Define SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. These marketing objectives will help you assess if your affiliate program is working.

An example of a SMART sales goal might be that, in two months, you want to have 20 affiliates who bring in a minimum of 2,000 leads. You should assess your affiliate marketing campaign’s success against these objectives and also define KPIs to measure daily and weekly performance.

Setting measurable goals helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing strategy, so you can make appropriate changes at the right time.

You could also set stretch goals. These are targets that are beyond your current capabilities but encourage you to strive harder, gain bigger, and win better.  🎯

SMART goals
via Bodybuildingmealplan.com

3. Check out the competition

What’s keeping you from taking over the world? Competition! If you want your business to grow, know where you stand compared to your rivals. A thorough competitor analysis can help you decide on a reference point for your affiliate program.

Your research should answer the following questions:

  • What is their revenue-sharing strategy? Does the affiliate earn per click or receive a standard commission fee?
  • Do they use an affiliate network to find affiliates?
  • How does the merchant support the affiliate? Is there any training offered?
  • What are the terms and conditions of the affiliate program?
  • What progress tracking metrics do they use?

The reason for this research is so you can attract the right affiliates and get them to choose you over your rivals.

By assessing your competitors’ affiliate programs, you can search for opportunities to improve them and find ways to do it better. 📈

4. Optimize your conversion funnel

Affiliates will consider your conversion rate before they choose you over others. Work on your user experience, website design, and sales copy to improve this. This will directly impact your EPC and increase program adoption rates.

The metric most affiliates are interested in is earnings per click (EPC). EPC is a measurement of the profitability of an affiliate marketing campaign. Affiliates prefer to spend their valuable time promoting the products and services that make them the most money.

You’ll find it hard to get affiliates with a low EPC. It’s a fickle world, we tell you!

Earnings will improve as conversion rates do. There’s no point in having a hundred thousand leads if you only convert 100 of them into buying customers. Optimize your conversion funnel to convert the maximum number of leads and make partnering with you more profitable. 

The more they can make, the more high-caliber affiliates you’ll attract. 

conversion funnel
via Crazyegg.com

5. Decide if you want to use an affiliate network

Depending on your objectives, you can decide to run your affiliate program yourself or join an affiliate network. 👥

Doing it yourself can be a hassle and increases the workload you’re looking to reduce in the first place.

Instead, you could join a network that helps you find affiliates and facilitates your relationship with them. Affiliate networks take a cut of the commission for each sale they are involved in, however, which can be a concern. 

If you decide to go solo and want to deal with affiliates directly, you’ll need project management software to help with resource management, task management, and to help define clear goals. 

Whether you choose affiliate marketing management software or an affiliate network, the choice should be made based on your budget, priorities, and capacity.

Affiliate network
via Entrepreneur.com

6. Find suitable affiliates

This is the climactic part of your affiliate journey: finding the right people. When you start your affiliate program, you have to actively find partners. Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have thriving affiliate communities you can join.

Other than social media engagement, you can reach out to affiliates through emails, joining affiliate sites, or messaging influencers who’ve reviewed products like yours or whose following is similar to your target audience.

Be careful while selecting affiliates, and do not accept everyone who applies. You don’t want or need low-quality content—this will harm your reputation. Accept only those applicants who align with your brand’s objectives.

Recruiting affiliates who prove to be an asset is difficult, but once you have a good team working for you, and the sales start rolling in, they’ll be incentivized to work even harder. 🤝

7. Support your affiliates

Not all of the affiliates you hire will be pros. Most will have little to no training in affiliate marketing.

You should be ready to support your affiliates with a fantastic affiliate toolkit. Another good idea is to have an affiliate manager who can support them to increase their earnings and, in turn, your sales.

Create an active community where you’re constantly engaging with your affiliates, helping them out when needed. Online Facebook groups are used by many businesses to increase knowledge and understanding among their partners.

You could also have an event once in a while, or perhaps host a webinar to share tips and tricks to help new affiliates and train them in using tracking software and dashboards.

Remember this: The better your affiliates perform, the more profit you’ll make.

8. Test everything

Once your affiliate program is up and running, monitor it regularly and make improvements as necessary.

Testing is crucial.

Ideally, you should use A/B testing. Test two affiliate marketing campaigns in parallel and throw out the one that doesn’t work.

Use your objectives to develop KPIs for your affiliates and to monitor their performance.

Seek feedback from your affiliates so you can actively make changes that improve results. Keep updating your marketing collateral, promotional materials, and offer codes.

You can encourage your affiliates by emailing them exclusive discounts, increasing commission rates, or sending them a gift.

Start Using Affiliate Marketing

By now, you should have a better idea of how to start an affiliate program. Whether you sell clothing, jewelry, or a service in the SaaS space, an affiliate marketing campaign can propel your business to new heights.

Affiliate marketing can be incredibly lucrative. It may even become your most successful marketing channel once you’ve determined your audience and set your goals. It’s also a ‘safe haven’ if you don’t have time to track budgets. You can choose to join an affiliate network or hire a manager to find and support your new partners for you. 

Affiliate marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a mass audience that you wouldn’t be exposed to via traditional sales and marketing campaigns. Using the influencer model can help you reach potential customers for a fraction of the cost of advertising. 

A successful affiliate marketing campaign can drive traffic and generate leads like no other marketing channel and is extremely risk-averse. What are you waiting for? Enter the fascinating world of affiliate marketing today. 🤝

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