How To Build A Successful Affiliate Programme

By Rodney Laws | Marketing

Sep 16

What makes a successful affiliate programme? Well, it depends on a variety of factors (such as the quality of your affiliates, your commission structure, your products and services, and the effectiveness of your affiliate management). This article will discuss each factor and a brief discussion on why you should have an affiliate programme for your business.  

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the practice of allowing other people to promote your products and services in exchange for a commission. This commission is usually a percentage of the profits for every sale. Commissions are only paid when a successful sale is made. 

It is a concept that came from old salespeople who only get paid when they managed to sell something. Even the word ‘commission’ came from that advertising model. When salespeople (or affiliates) get paid for every person, they are encouraged to buy a product or service.  

Why this works 

Affiliate marketing works because you allow expert marketers to do your promotions for you. Instead of doing it yourself, you let people with lists and followers do the heavy lifting. It works because these people are usually experts in converting leads to sales. 

You may be wondering how you can convince world-class marketers to promote your products and services. Well, the primary reason why affiliates look for products to promote is they don’t have the time to come up with a product themselves. So they usually look for products from affiliate networks and focus on promotions.  

How does affiliate marketing work?

 Knowing that it works is different from knowing how it works. While the concept is simple, the process can get quite technical. It is not just about what it can do but what happens in the background. All of these steps are necessary for an affiliate programme to work.  

Step 1

An affiliate signs up to an affiliate programme. He or she is then given a unique affiliate ID, which is appended to the product URL. He or she can then use this link to promote the product.

Step 2

When someone clicks on the affiliate link, a cookie is placed on the person’s computer who clicks the link. This action will ensure that the affiliate will get credited when the person who clicked the link purchased the product from the same page days later. 

Step 3

When a sale is made, the affiliate cookie is searched on the customer’s computer. If it is there, the deal is credited to the affiliate. 

Step 4

The affiliate programme should create reports showing the affiliates all his clicks and sales. 

Step 5

Once an affiliate meets a payment threshold, his commission is then released to him. 

This is how the process works. But the elements involved are varied. 

First, you need an affiliate signup page. This is where potential affiliates can sign up for an account.

Next, you need an affiliate dashboard. This is where affiliates can get access to his affiliate link and his referral reports. This is also where he can request payment.

Then, it would help if you also had an administrative dashboard. This is where you can view all of your Xaffiliates and pay all of their commissions in one click. 

Is affiliate marketing right for your business?

Now that you know how affiliate marketing works, you may wonder how it applies to your business. Affiliate marketing, after all, is not for all types of business. 

You cannot give away hefty commissions if you have incredibly low-profit margins. You may be far better giving away your products without making profits if you deduct commissions from your low-profit margins. 

You need to understand that it is a promotion model that works by giving away commissions for every sale. You need to adjust your profit margins to make room for the commissions. 

So how do you know if your business should have an affiliate programme? That’s simple. You look at similar products and services in your industry. If you found that they also have an affiliate programme, it might be a good fit for your business. If not, you may want to skip it and think of other ways to promote your products and services. 

It also helps to look at how long an affiliate programme exists in business before you make a decision. Having products and services with longstanding affiliate programmes in your niche is a good indication that you should pursue it. 

Another way to find affiliate programmes in your niche is to use search queries that will help you uncover these. Here are some keywords that I use. 

  • PRODUCT OR SERVICE + affiliates
  • PRODUCT OR SERVICE + affiliate programme
  • PRODUCT OR SERVICE + affiliate marketing

Once you have decided that an affiliate programme is for you, you can start setting one up on your website.  

How to build a successful affiliate programme for your business 

The process of setting up an affiliate programme for your website will highly depend on your website platform. It is all about finding the right referral software so that you can set up an affiliate programme in just a few clicks. 

Shopify, for instance, has some apps that help you create affiliate programmes. This is what websites like Best Drum Set Labs and Most Powerful Crossbow Labs have used for setting up an affiliate programme on their website. 

Here are some of the most popular apps.  

OSI Affiliate 

Many ecommerce business owners prefer OSI Affiliate or Omnistar as their go-to tool for affiliate programmes. The best part is the software keeps on improving. It considers all the needs of its market and has functionalities for influencer and referral marketing. Maybe these functionalities are the reason why big brands like Macy’s use Omnistar as their affiliate tool. The functionalities are just unique. 


LeadDyno is another popular affiliate marketing tool that integrates with platforms like Shopify. It is popular because of its seamless integration with payment systems like PayPal and Coinbase. These payment systems allow for more manageable affiliate commission payments.  


 Another affiliate platform worthy of your attention is Refersion. It is a tool that has over 100 five-star reviews. Its popularity is mainly due to its free plan, which expands as your business grows. You can upgrade to their paid plan when you get more affiliates and leads.

With the right software, you can set up an affiliate programme in a few steps. This will allow you to have a dedicated admin and affiliate dashboard where all affiliate links are automatically generated within the system. 

All affiliate cookies are also tracked within the system, and the corresponding commissions are computed accordingly. With a system like this, you no longer have to worry about manually doing everything; the software will assist you in creating an industry-standard affiliate programme for your business.  

Finding the right affiliates  

The success of your affiliate programme will highly depend on the performance of your affiliates. Without the right companions, you will only have affiliates by the number. But you will not feel the results. 

You’ll know that you have the right affiliates when you see a significant increase in sales.

A few effective affiliates are suitable for your business. Some brands like Twitch even created stringent requirements for their affiliates. They require them to have a badge of honor before they can promote the brand.

While you cannot do this if you are not a big brand like Twitch, it still helps to have your own set of requirements when qualifying affiliates who will promote your business.

There are many places that you can visit where your affiliates may hang out.  

Your website 

You’ll want your website visitors to know that you have an affiliate programme. There may be some marketers lurking looking for some opportunities to promote your products for all you know. It helps to have a link to your affiliate programme right on your website homepage. You can have it in the announcement bar, on the sidebar, or a pop-up window. This simple gesture can immediately inform your existing website visitors, subscribers, and customers that your programme exists. 


They say that your customers or followers are the best people to promote your business. The easiest way to reach your customers or followers is to send an email. One message can contact all of your followers in a single click. So it can be useful for promoting your affiliate programme as well.  

Social media

One of the best sources of effective affiliates is social media. It helps that the users have become more active in recent years. You can reach more people if you promote your services on social media. Brands know how valuable social media is. Some brands even choose to promote their affiliate programmes solely on social media, and it works for them. 

Influencer websites

 You can also promote your affiliate programmes on influencer websites. Influencers are great because of their massive impact on the decision-making process of their followers. You can leverage this by getting influencers in your team of affiliates. A technique that worked for me in the past is to create an exclusive programme for influencers. It can be an affiliate programme, but the commission percentage is different for your target influencer. This usually encourages the influencer to join your affiliate team.  

Affiliate networks

 Another place that will get you some effective affiliates is affiliate networks. These are the websites that marketers flock to when they are looking for products they can sell. It is a great way to gain exposure for your products and services and find effective affiliates in the process.  

Joint venture websites

Some of the best affiliate marketers are in joint venture websites. These people earn big bucks promoting other people’s products. They do this by going after product launches. They look at products they can sell, and then they create content for it before it even launches. When the launch day comes, they are already ready to promote and monetize. This is effective if you are only in the first stage of launching your affiliate programme. This will give your plan some much-needed traction so that you can start getting a team of high-performance affiliates to your business.  

How to manage affiliates 

Once you have your affiliates, you should know how to manage them. Here are three ways  

Have a clear set of rules

Affiliates may seem like they only have one way of promoting your products, and it is posting their affiliate link. But you’ll be quite surprised by how creative they can be. Because of this, it is essential to have a clear set of rules. It would help if you told them outright what qualifies for a commission and what doesn’t. This way, it will protect your system from abuse.  

Teach them how to promote you

Some of your affiliates will need some extra help in promoting your products and services. You can provide them with content, emails, and graphics to assist in the advertising process. It also helps if you have a proven way to get sales. You can teach them the system, and this will enable them to be more effective affiliates for your business.  

Have a tracking system 

You will only see how well you are performing if you have a tracking system. Effectiveness depends on how well your affiliates can convert a qualified click into a sale. With this system, you will also be able to filter your affiliate list and find high-performing ones. You’ll find that you can have a very successful affiliate programme with a handful of top-performing affiliates compared to a dozen non-responsive ones.  

Automate your payments 

Your affiliate system is here to assist you. It gives you a scenario where your affiliates can sign up and get their unique affiliate ID. And it also gives you a system to automate your payments. Use that to your advantage. Instead of fretting about affiliate paydays, click a button and automate it. This will ensure that you pay your affiliates on time and you keep them happy. 

As you can see, there is no single formula for a successful affiliate programme. You still need to launch one yourself to find how it can work for your business. 

Author Bio: This article was written by OSI Affiliate Software.