Rebranding and Affiliate Program: Concerns and Best Practices

RebrandingAre you thinking of rebranding while having an affiliate program up and running? Then I should warn you that it can be complicated, risky, costly, and should only be considered for the right reasons.

As Dawson from Hubspot emphasizes, rebranding is not a solution for low sales, boredom, or unsuccessful brand awareness efforts. It also won’t help new managers stand out or companies in crises cover everything up.

Such problems could be solved with a new, better marketing strategy. When something doesn’t work the way you want it to, don’t destroy everything to start from scratch!

You’ve invested time, effort, and money to reach the point where you are now. Instead of throwing everything away, salvage what you can and build on it. Changing the brand name, logo, or colors, won’t always solve your problems. Identifying past mistakes and learning from them might.

When is Rebranding Favorable for an Affiliate Program?

You should only consider rebranding if your company’s mission, vision, and values have changed. It may help if you’re tapping into new markets to which your current logo and other brand elements are not relevant, or if you’re trying to reposition your brand on the market. Expanding offers and mergers and acquisitions may justify rebranding as well.

If you decide to go through with it, don’t rush! Take some time to plan and prepare everything, to make sure you do it right. The process is much more complicated when running an affiliate program. You need to protect your reputation not just in front of customers but also in front of affiliates.

On one hand, you want to hold on to any shred of brand awareness and reputation you’ve already built. On the other hand, you want your new company image and actions to inspire confidence and professionalism to both customers and affiliates.

Rebranding means more than a new logo. It means a long stream of changes that need to be implemented consistently and strategically, not just by you as the merchant, but also by your partners and your affiliates.

Things get even more challenging when physical products are involved. Compared with digital products or services, where most of the changes have to be implemented online, rebranding physical products affects labels, packaging, stocks, and more.

Here are the most important three aspects to consider when planning everything so as to minimize the negative impact on your affiliate program.

Key Rebranding Aspects & Impact on the Affiliate Program

1. Brand and Products Presentation

Depending on your line of business, you use your logo, motto, and your brand colors everywhere. They’re on your website, product labels, tags, and packaging, product guides, and instruction manuals.

They’re also part of your affiliate network merchant profile. Your affiliates and wholesale, retail, and dropshipping partners use them as well. Perhaps you’ve also spent a fortune on commercials and traditional marketing materials and campaigns.

Before you spread the word about your rebranding plans or implement any changes, it is important to have everything covered, to act consistently. When you get to it, anyone looking up your brand should see the same elements everywhere. Otherwise, your brand image, company reputation, website conversion, sales, and affiliate program statistics will pay the price.

2. Affiliate Program Creatives

Many merchants running affiliate programs ignore the importance of creatives. Don’t follow their lead! Instead, notify affiliates in advance of your plans and make sure that, when the time comes, they have new banners, product and lifestyle images, videos, etc., all in line with your new branding strategy.

If they do not, the gap between what potential buyers see on your affiliates’ sites and what they see on your website or receive from you after ordering could negatively affect your website’s conversion rate and, with it, the performance of your affiliate program.

Low conversion means fewer sales, lower affiliate payouts, and low EPC, which is the primary criteria affiliates use to determine which merchants to promote. All these affect affiliate program statistics, which, in turn, have a snowball effect on overall business performance.

They can be avoided if you remember to provide your affiliates with new, high-quality creatives in time for them to line up with your rebranding process. If you play your cards right, they may even help you spread the word. They could easily announce your plans in blog posts, newsletters, or on social media.

3. Product Samples

Many merchants running more or less successful affiliate programs do not realize it but rebranding brings about the need to send new products or samples to reviewers and influencers.

If you changed the labels and/or the packaging, the available video reviews and photos are no longer an accurate representation of your products and/or services. They create false expectations (of a certain label, packaging, etc.).

Therefore, you will have to send products with the new labels and packaging to affiliates. This way, you enable them to create new reviews or update their existing ones.

That could add up to the already steep rebranding costs. However, it’s a necessary step and does bring about some benefits. You’ll get more backlinks, more search results, and more attention.

Some reviews are surely old, forgotten, buried under more recent reviews of competing products. Some affiliates have probably refined their strategies and are much better at highlighting product strengths and convincing their audience to buy.

It may help to begin with top reviewers and expand to the rest gradually. If you have high-quality creatives and a knowledgeable and dedicated affiliate program manager, they should be able to help. They can reach out to affiliates, send them the new creatives, and ask them to update their promotions accordingly.

4. Merchant Website Changes & Affiliate Program Links

The changes you decide to implement as part of your rebranding process will, undoubtedly, be reflected on your website. It’s maybe the last thing on your mind, but if it will result in website downtime or if the domain name or product URLs are going to change, you need to do something about it.

If you already know when it’s happening and how long it may take, it helps to notify affiliates. Rather than abandoning your old domain, setting up a new one, and expecting all your affiliates to update their links immediately, set up redirects and update links and banners on your end.

Not doing it means closing your door on affiliate traffic. The broken links will result in warnings to affiliates, poor experience for the traffic they send your way (which could be redirected to your new website), lost sales, and, implicitly, lost commissions.

All these can be avoided, so see to it. If you do not succeed, then acknowledge, apologize, and act! This post on How to Remedy Downtimes in Affiliate Tracking explains everything you need to know and do.

Unsuccessful Rebranding Through Customers’ Eyes

Imagine that you’re the buyer and you find out about a great line of products on an affiliate website, from ads, or on social media. You want to know more, and you google them. You get a lot of results but, instead of each result reinforcing the idea that you’ll get great value for your money, you get confused.

The same brand name appears with different logos, in different colors. Some retail websites show generic, specifications-focused product names that do not resemble anything on the merchant website.

You check video reviews, and you find some linking to retailers and others linking to the merchant website. Some feature products with a blue label, others feature products with an orange label. You click links supposed to take you to the merchant’s website but end up with a 404 message.

As you move from one website to the next and from one page to another, you notice the brand name is spelled differently. Perhaps you can even find different spelling variations on the same website.

Do you risk ordering if you’re not sure which product you are going to receive? Let’s say you do order and receive a product that’s labeled and packed differently from what you saw online. Even if you don’t return it, your experience is anything but rewarding.

And just because one person decides to buy, it doesn’t mean all your target customers will do the same. How can you avoid such issues and make sure that your rebranding efforts pay off? Pay attention to the aspects discussed above and follow the tips below!

10 Rebranding Tips for Merchants Running an Affiliate Program

1. Learn from the Best

No matter your line of business, you should be able to find at least one competitor or related merchant who went through a rebranding. Analyze their reasons and evolution. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, so as to leverage the former and avoid the latter when the time comes.

Believe it or not, your partners and affiliates can be of tremendous help here. Chances are some of them went through rebranding themselves. Others have surely witnessed the process implemented by various merchants they work with. They can share their experience, provide feedback, and advice.

At AM Navigator, we helped quite a few of our clients rebrand while managing their affiliate programs. It’s not easy but it’s not impossible either, especially when you learn from other people’s success and mistakes, when you plan and implement everything strategically, paying attention to details.

2. Get Everyone Within the Company Involved

While the decision may be yours alone, as explained above, it impacts most if not all the departments of your business. Therefore, make sure you discuss it with your team, including your affiliate program manager.

This way, they will know what to expect, what their responsibilities are, and they will be able to help. Your rebranding efforts will be much more likely to succeed if they are supported by everyone else, from accounting to marketing,  customer service, logistics, and affiliates.

3. Budget Carefully

Rebranding brings about considerable costs: new logo, website, marketing materials, and packaging designs, new product photoshoots and video commercials, extensive marketing campaigns, new label products for affiliates to review and feature, etc.

Once you get the ball rolling, you cannot stop it because you’ve exceeded the allocated budget. Therefore, make sure you’re aware of the costs and able to cover them. The members of your different teams can help you assess needs and costs for their particular departments.

4. Consider Trademark and SEO

If you’re going to change your brand name or how you spell it, it is important to make sure that the new name can be registered as a trademark and protected. The last thing you want is to neglect that and leave your brand name at the mercy of trademark violators.

It can severely harm your reputation, cause additional costs, and negatively affect the affiliate program. You can expect deceitful advertising, increased PPC costs, and valuable affiliates turning your back on you.

Another aspect to consider when choosing the new brand name is SEO. You want to research keywords that would be relevant for your products or services, for your line of business, and optimize your website to rank among the first ones in search results for the respective keywords.

5. Strive to Get a Great Logo

The logo is usually the first thing that changes during rebranding. Many merchants see it as a shortened version of their name and only worry about whether it matches brand colors and looks good on the website, labels, and packaging.

Ideally, the logo should be able to tell your target customers who you are and what you’re selling without requiring further explanations. Many of your affiliates, especially those focusing on savings and rewards, will only display your logo on their website.

If visitors don’t recognize it and can’t tell what you’re selling from it, chances are they will not click it, so they won’t find out about your offers, visit your website, or buy from you.

6. Announce Your Rebranding Through Stock-Clearance Sales

Especially if you have a large product inventory, you want to get rid of old label products and packaging and make room for new ones. It’s never a good idea to send your customers products that differ from what they see on the website.

An excellent way to avoid that and ensure the success of your rebranding efforts is to organize a sale. It goes without saying that your affiliates, especially reviewers, influencers, and content affiliates, should be included.

Work closely with your affiliate program manager to make sure they receive timely notice of the sale and of its purpose. The discounts will help you sell faster, increase your website conversion rate, and improve affiliate program statistics, including EPC.

When the time comes to send your affiliates new products to review, they won’t refuse. Moreover, the sale is an excellent way to announce your new goals, values, and mission.

7. Work with Your Partners to Implement Changes in Sync

When you rebrand, you want to do it at the same time everywhere: on your own website, on your resellers’ websites, on any third-party directories, etc. It doesn’t help anyone if you change the logo and images on your merchant website but resellers and affiliates keep promoting the old ones.

On the contrary, it will create confusion, false expectations, and burden your customer service department with questions to answer, refund requests to process, and unsatisfied customer feedback to mitigate.

8. Be Consistent

Once you’ve started on the rebranding path, there is no going back. Don’t switch between logos or start another rebranding process. It suggests that you don’t know what you’re doing and you cannot be trusted.

With the right marketing strategy, any logo and brand name can be made popular but, once ruined, a merchant’s reputation is difficult to rebuild. Your customers, partners, and affiliates need to know that you’re responsible, reliable, and you know what you’re doing.

9. Be Coherent, Within and Outside the Affiliate Program

As you go through the rebranding process, a lot of changes will be required, from the website content to the affiliate program description. It is very important to make sure that every single image, every video, every banner, and every single piece of content on your website and within your affiliate program reflects your new brand elements.

So take some time to review and adjust everything.  Sometimes, it can be as easy as using Ctrl+F to find different spellings of your brand name and updating affiliate banners within your affiliate network to make sure the changes will be reflected everywhere.

10. Announce Your Rebranding Outside the Affiliate Program

There’s no such thing as too much publicity. Don’t hesitate to announce your rebranding campaign and promote your new brand elements whenever and wherever possible: paid ads, commercials, truck side advertising, affiliate recruitment campaigns, giveaways, newsletter blasts, contests, etc.

It is important to help you and your partners’ audience associate everything that was positive about your brand with the new image you are trying to build. You want to leverage any amount of brand awareness and build on it, and marketing can certainly help with that.

The more popular your brand is, the easier it will be for your affiliates to promote it to their audiences and drive traffic and sales. And if you work together, at the end of the day, you will get what you want: sales for you, commissions for your affiliates, and great statistics for your affiliate program!

How to Turn an Affiliate Program Failure Into Success

Has your affiliate program reached a dead point, where the few affiliates you have are no longer promoting you, or their efforts no longer pay out? You may be tempted to give up think that your failure simply means that affiliate marketing does not work for your business model.

Don’t give up without a fight! We have yet to find a business model for which performance-based advertising does not work. Chances are that, if your affiliate program is not driving the results you were hoping for, it’s because you’re doing something wrong, especially if you’re active in one of these 15 niches.

The least you can do, before giving up, is to try to identify your mistakes and correct them. You can do that by performing an in-depth affiliate program health check to see where you stand and what can be improved.

You’ve already invested time and money into your affiliate program, so you owe it to yourself to not give up without a fight. I’m pretty sure your affiliate program can be resuscitated, and I’ll lay out the steps in the following lines.

10-Steps Health-Check or How to Turn Affiliate Program Failure into Success

1. Competitive Landscape

When you launch an affiliate program, you can expect the best publishers to be already promoting your competitors. If you want them to switch to you or promote you as well, you need to offer something more, like higher commissions, better creatives, better offers to the end consumer.

If you haven’t done it already, it is imperative that you do your homework on what your competitors are doing and how they are doing it. Compare your current offer with theirs, and see what you can improve so as to at least match but preferably beat their offer, at least for select niche affiliates.

Put yourself the question all affiliates ask: “what’s in it for me?”. Why should they promote you? And keep reporting yourself to your competitors and learning from them throughout the following steps as well. It will help you make better decisions and, eventually, turn your affiliate program failure into success.

2. Affiliate Program Agreement or Terms of Service

Do you have an affiliate program agreement in place, to define the terms of your collaboration with affiliates? Without it, some rogue affiliates could be trashing your brand name and resort to fraud, deceitful advertising, spamming, and more.

Good affiliates avoid promoting merchants without a thorough agreement in place because they know their cookies will most likely be overwritten by those rogue affiliates and they will not get paid anyway.

If you do not have a program agreement in place, then its lack could definitely explain your affiliate program failure. If you have one, make sure it clearly defines what your affiliates should and should not do. This guide on how to create your affiliate program’s terms and conditions and this sample affiliate program agreement will surely help.

3. Affiliate Compliance

Let’s say you have a sound affiliate program agreement in place. Do your affiliates actually comply with it? You shouldn’t expect them to but rather monitor their activity and take measures against those who do not. Many affiliates resort to parasitism and other activities that do not add value. Such activities could justify your affiliate program failure.

If you want your affiliate program to work, you need to start policing your affiliates. Use tools like BrandVerity to monitor their TM use and ad hijacks. Analyze affiliate transactions and canceled orders. Monitor affiliate traffic volume and sources keeping an eye for red flags like:

  • Higher rate of canceled orders from the same affiliate
  • Sudden and unexplained spikes in affiliate traffic
  • Affiliate clicks from websites you do not recognize
  • A high number of overwritten affiliate transactions

Once you’ve confirmed violations of your affiliate program agreement, depending on their gravity, warn affiliates to stop or report them and remove them from the program directly.

If they generated fraudulent transactions or overwrote other affiliates’ referrals, don’t hesitate to withhold their commissions and, if applicable, credit the affiliates who should have received them in the first place.

4. Affiliate Creatives

Did you provide your affiliates with links and banners, perhaps even a datafeed and some videos, to enable them to promote you? Again, look at what your competitors are offering and match or even beat their offer. You need different banner sizes, including some mobile-friendly banners.

If you’ve already provided some banners to your affiliates, it may be time for an update. Make sure the banners you have don’t include spelling mistakes and, worse, your website URL, phone numbers, or email addresses.

These last three qualify as traffic leaks and could determine affiliates to never start promoting you or, if they have, stop. Affiliates hate leaky websites and landing pages as well. This brings us to the next step to turning your affiliate program failure into success.

5. Merchant Website and Landing Pages

Believe it or not, your very own website and landing pages may have driven your affiliate program failure. Publishers check websites and landing pages before joining affiliate programs.

If they notice traffic leaks, they don’t join or, even if they do, never promote the respective merchant. Therefore, either don’t display phone numbers, email addresses, chat, and links to other websites, or accurately track all referrals.

Also, do your landing pages convert? If you’ve received traffic but no sales, it could be a sign that they don’t, and you need to improve them. This post covers 15 ways to create affiliate-friendly websites. It should be enough to get you on the right path.

6. Affiliate Recruitment

Did you actively recruit affiliates? Many merchants don’t. They join affiliate networks and mistakenly believe that, just because they’re listed as merchants, publishers will rush to join. They don’t, at least not the ones you really want in your program.

You need to reach out to them, using all means available (email, social media, affiliate network tools, website contact forms, forums, etc.), and this affiliate recruitment guide should help. Don’t forget to follow up on your initial contact initiatives. recommends five follow-ups and I’ve seen good results following this approach as well.

Also, remember that you need diversification in your affiliate recruitment efforts. Don’t focus on coupon affiliates, reviewers, and bloggers only. There are at least 18 types of affiliates you can and should reach out to, and doing it could be key to turning your affiliate program failure into success.

 7. Affiliate Vetting and Approval Process

So you’re recruiting and receiving quite a few affiliate applications. How do you deal with them? Auto-approval based on affiliate rating may seem a good way to save time but it will also mean leaving the door open to affiliate fraud and parasitism. From there to affiliate program failure, there is only one step.

Auto-approval of affiliate applications could lead to affiliate program failureNowadays, some merchants and program managers provide positive feedback to affiliates just for joining their program or in an attempt to convince them to put up their links, without even looking at the affiliate’s specific.

A proof that rating is not a reliable criterion for automatic affiliate approval is ShareASale’s test account ended with +50 rating (not that they don’t deserve it). Just check their and other affiliates’ feedback and you’ll see for yourself.

Many merchants do not police their affiliates and find themselves praising TM, PPC, and coupons policy violators for driving their first sale. At the opposite end, I’ve seen affiliates with negative feedback because they chose not to promote a merchant, gave up, or didn’t drive sales.

Therefore, review each affiliate application carefully, and request a marketing plan from the publishers who join your program. Check websites to make sure they are live and compatibility with your products or services. Do not accept PPC and coupon affiliates if you do not plan on working with them, or notify them of your related policies and monitor their activity.

8. Affiliate Activation and Motivation

Perhaps you have hundreds of affiliates, and that probably makes your affiliate program failure more difficult to accept. But just because a publisher joins your program it does not mean they will actually promote you.

It is up to you to convince them through first sale bonuses, incentives, contests, and strategic affiliate communication. We’ve covered some effective ways to motivate and activate affiliates in this post.

9. Affiliate Payments and Voids

It should go without saying that all valid affiliate sales should be rewarded accordingly and on time. However, quite a few merchants neglect to activate the auto-deposit function or void transactions. If your merchant account funds run out, your program goes offline, its statistics are messed up, and your reputation suffers.

If you void transactions without a valid reason, your affiliates will eventually stop promoting you. Sure, it makes sense not to pay commissions on canceled orders or returned merchandise. However, it is important to consider the reasons for those cancellations and returns.

If it’s something out of your control, like credit card issues or repeat orders, it’s your right to void transactions and not pay commissions. If the buyer claimed a refund or returned the merchandise, you should assess your contribution (assuming there are no instances of deceitful advertising involved).

When affiliates do their job and drive valid sales, your failure to retain buyers should not affect them. Most of the time, the middle way works just fine. Just make sure to provide accurate reasons when voiding transactions and, of course, do it before the commissions lock.

10. Management and Leadership

Have you actively managed your affiliate program and acted as the leader your affiliates need? Just like your business, your affiliate program needs management. This covers all the above and more:

  • Besides making continuous efforts to grow your affiliate program, you need to use affiliate program analytics to assess results and make better decisions. Don’t rely only on instinct, experience, or third-party advice. Your affiliate tracking software, whether network-based or in-house, provides accurate numbers. Use those to assess results and steer your affiliate program in the right direction.
  • Just like your employees, your affiliates need supervision, guidance, and inspiration. But do not forget that affiliates are not your employees and you cannot manage them. They are your partners, your collaborators, and all you can do is help them reach their full potential while also protecting your brand and interests.
  • Communication is also important. You need to write your affiliate program description, affiliate application receipt, approval, and denial emails, newsletters, recruitment, and motivation emails carefully. It is also important to notify your affiliates in advance of any promotions you run and changes to your affiliate program. We’ve covered all about affiliate communication here.

Check out our guide on affiliate program management and affiliate marketing leadership here.

Final Advice on Turning Affiliate Program Failure into Success

Now you have ten possible reasons for your affiliate program failure. Keep in mind that more than one could apply to your particular situation. As advised above, the best way to identify the reasons is to perform your own affiliate program health check.

Another option is to request an affiliate program audit from specialists. Besides clearly identifying all problems, they will also recommend effective solutions.

If you decide to take matters into your own hands, remember to be as objective as possible and consider your affiliate program from your affiliates’ and target publishers’ perspective. Also:

  • Do not let your findings disappoint or discourage you. You cannot turn back time but you can take measures to ensure a better future.
  • Don’t rush things. Take steps, one at a time, monitoring results and affiliate feedback.
  • Admit to your mistakes and rest assured that you’re not alone. Even the best merchants and affiliate program managers make mistakes. I’ve listed no less than 20 affiliate program mistakes here. Check them out and make efforts to avoid/correct them.

Steps from Affiliate Program Failure to SuccessFinally, do not hesitate to ask for help, especially since we’re offering it for free. Contact us, give us more details about your affiliate program failure, and we will advise you on how to resuscitate it. If you agree, we can also do it for you. You have nothing to lose, and your affiliate program deserves a chance to grow and drive profits, don’t you agree?


Affiliate Program Management and Affiliate Marketing Leadership

Are you thinking that your successful affiliate program launch, affiliate recruitment, and affiliate communication strategy have earned you the right to take a break and enjoy your success? Don’t!

Long-term results and performance are not possible without active and ongoing affiliate program management and, most importantly, affiliate leadership.

Affiliate marketing leadershipIn other words, your affiliate program will need constant management, and your affiliates will really need not pure supervision but a true leader to follow. You can provide these yourself, hire someone to do it outsourcing your program’s management, or, maybe even combine in-house and outsourced affiliate management solutions.

As we’ve mentioned many a time in the past, running your affiliate program on autopilot or forgetting to put a dedicated manager in the program “driver’s seat” would be a huge mistake. How do you avoid this mistake and ensure effective affiliate program management and affiliate leadership?

Acclaimed affiliate management expert Geno Prussakov authored numerous thorough and easy-to-follow resources, like his Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day, and this intuitive LinkedIn Learning course. We have also compiled an in-depth affiliate marketing and management guide for merchants from our most popular blog posts on the topic

As we’ve mentioned on several occasions, the five pillars of affiliate program management are:

  1. Affiliate onboarding (or recruitment)
  2. Activation of onboarded affiliates
  3. Policing of affiliate compliance (with your program’s Ts & Cs)
  4. Communication with affiliates
  5. Affiliate program optimization

Obviously, the first four refer to your affiliates. The last one refers to your affiliate program but should be based on your observations and results connected to the first four pillars. Optimizing your affiliate marketing program will involve optimizing not only your affiliate recruitment, activation, policing, and communication strategy, but also: your creatives and landing pages, your affiliate incentives and your customer-facing offers, and much much more.

One of the keys to successful affiliate program management (and optimization) lies in categorizing your affiliates. Prussakov recommends it in his aforementioned book as an important step to developing custom approaches for each group and maximizing program management effectiveness. Although many affiliate program managers prefer to see their affiliates as a single group and deal with them accordingly, affiliate categorization is beneficial and can be done in several ways.

How to Categorize Affiliates

Segmenting affiliatesAs mentioned above, you may categorize affiliates based on several criteria, and we will review the most popular five of them in the following lines: affiliates’ activity, their promotion method(s), vertical of focus, size, and target area. Let’s look into each of these in greater detail.

1. By Activity Level

You should categorize your affiliates based on how active they are in your program and what results they drive if any. This way, you can reach out to them and provide custom advice and solutions for them to improve their activity and boost their performance. You should have at least three categories:

  • Stagnant affiliates – This category should include those who have joined your program but are not actively promoting your products and/or services. They should be the target of your affiliate activation/motivation efforts.
  • Traffic-driving affiliates – This category should include affiliates who are driving traffic to your merchant websites but fail to drive leads and sales. Your goal is to find out why that traffic fails to convert and take measures. The low or zero conversion rate could mean two things: a) those affiliates lure visitors to your website with false promises or incentives, or b) you should work on improving your website conversion rate.
  • Leads/sales-producing affiliates – This category should include affiliates who are driving some performance. You should focus on keeping them engaged and motivated, on helping them obtain even better results. Also, you can analyze the activity of your top-performing affiliates and use your findings to help other affiliates drive similar performances.

Geno proposes yet another way to categorize affiliates by their activity level, starting from the Objectives-Performance matrix of Goldschmidt, Junghagen, and Harris. It involves looking at the correspondence between your affiliates’ objectives and their performance.

The Correspondence Between Affiliate Objectives and Performance

As marketers, your affiliates have the following objectives: exposure, recognition, attitude, and exchange. Their performance depends on their ability to drive the following end-user responses: attention, interest, desire, action. It can be measured by four variables: impressions, clicks, leads, and sales.

If you analyze the correspondence between your affiliates’ objectives and their performance, you will notice that some of them create just impressions. Others drive hits as well. Some drive both hits and leads, and only a few drive all of the above and sales. If you only remunerate sales, you can skip categories referring to leads.

2. By Primary Promotion Method

Another way to categorize affiliates is based on how they promote your products or services. Geno Prussakov identifies 18 types of affiliates but chances are yours only fit into a couple of categories, like:

Having your affiliates categorized this way lets you provide them with custom creatives and information to help boost their performance and, implicitly, your sales.

3. By Vertical of Focus

Some of your affiliates will only promote a specific category of products or services. Knowing which category they focus on, you can reach out to them with specific deals, creatives, and information. Most will appreciate your personalized approach.

For example, as an online fashion merchant, you may have affiliates who focus on a specific category or brand (shoes & handbags, designer clothing, etc.). Knowing their category lets you send them communications that cater to their specific interests (new product launches, category discounts, brand-specific promotions, etc.).

4. By Size

Knowing your super affiliates and your smaller affiliates helps as well. You want to keep the ones in the first category motivated and help the ones in the latter category grow and boost their performance. We will cover how you can do that later in this post.

5. By Target Area

Some of your affiliates may target specific markets.  Knowing who they are and what markets they target could come in handy. If you decide to tap into new markets, provide free shipping to specific regions, or open new location stores, you’ll want to let the right affiliates know.

Once you’ve categorized affiliates, you can move on to profiling. Just like marketers profile buyers and content creators profile their audience, you, too, should profile your affiliates. We’ll discuss why and how you should do it in the following lines.

How to Profile Affiliates

Types of affiliatesIf you’ve followed our advice on categorizing affiliates, your work is half done. Now, you need to find out a little more about the affiliates in each category. If you were profiling customers, your focus should be on their interests, needs, and preferences.

However, since you’re profiling affiliates, you should care more about their pains and troubles as far as your affiliate program and your products or services are concerned. Perhaps they consider your cookie life too short or your commissions too low. Your creatives may not be as affiliate-friendly or as high-converting as you thought they were.

Moreover, certain affiliate categories will drive better performance than others. Your goal is to find out which those categories are and what drives your affiliates’ success. While at it, exploit every opportunities to improve the tools and creatives you make available to your affiliates and, thus, help drive performance.

If you succeed, you can recruit more affiliates from the best-performing categories and, maybe, guide affiliates from other categories to improve their results. Contrary to what you may think, profiling affiliates does not mean compiling endless lists of data. Simply analyze your affiliates’ activity focusing on the following:

  • Website specific
  • Target audience
  • Promotional methods
  • Marketing focus
  • Competitors promoted

As you begin to look into these aspects, you will notice other patterns as well. You will easily identify the affiliate profiles that match your program objectives and brand vision and those that don’t. You can then use those profiles to steer your affiliate recruitment campaigns and personalize your affiliate communications.

As you categorize and profile affiliates, don’t forget to keep an eye for affiliates who could resort to fraud, unethical or prohibited practices. You don’t want such affiliates in your program, as they could cost you money, affiliates, and reputation.

How to Prevent Affiliate Fraud

Affiliate marketing fraudSome affiliates will do whatever it takes to take credit for leads and sales, from spamming to forcing clicks, cookie stuffing, fake incentives, and more. You don’t want such affiliates in your program. Chances are they will rip you off, ruin your reputation, and discourage good affiliates from working with your affiliate program.

Your best bet is to prevent them from joining your program or, if they already did, police them and take measures against the ones who do not comply. to accomplish that, you should:

1. Have Clear Rules and Policies in Place

The first step to preventing affiliate fraud and discouraging bad practices is to have a sound affiliate program agreement in place. We’ve already explained how you can create one and even provided an affiliate agreement template here, so I’m not going to get into further details.

Just make sure that in it, you clearly explain your position regarding trademark use, promotional methods, cookie stuffing, and parasitic behaviors, etc. You should also foresee clear sanctions for affiliates who do not comply with your agreement.

Of course, quite a few affiliates continue to believe that rules are meant to be broken or do not even bother to read agreements. How do you deal with them?

2. Review All Affiliate Applications and Research Applicants before Approving Them

Many merchants make the mistake of automatically approving affiliate applications. Some see no harm in accepting any publisher wanting to promote their programs and services while others allow all affiliates to join and monitor their activity.

No affiliate program manager can be on call 24/7, and a couple of hours are enough for a rogue affiliate to cause damage to a brand and/or other affiliates. Yes, you can withhold their commissions to minimize costs but chances are you will be unable to reverse the harm to your brand and lose valuable affiliates.

Therefore, instead of automatically approving affiliate applications, review them. Find out whether your applicants have active websites, and what marketing methods and traffic-generating methods they use. If you see anything suspicious or cannot find the information you need, reject them.

Announce your rejection by email, explaining your reasons and inviting them to further explain their plans of promoting your brands if they want you to reconsider your decision. This way, if you accidentally reject good affiliates and they are honestly interested in joining your program, they can reapply.

3. Monitor Affiliate Activity and Keep an Eye for Red Flags

If you accidentally approve rogue affiliates into your program, you should have a system in place so as to detect and sanction them. Here are some red flags to keep an eye for:

  • Sudden traffic surges
  • Unusual increases in the number of transactions an affiliate refers
  • Fraudulent transactions (fake leads, stolen credit card numbers, canceled self-referred transactions after commission locking, etc.
  • Referral URLs and website domain names similar to yours or your brand

This will help you identify some rogue affiliates. To catch others and prevent damage to your brand, you should constantly monitor your online reputation. There are tools that can help you with that, like Google Alerts, Mention, Social-Searcher, Reputation Ranger, SentiOne, etc.

You also need to educate yourself on parasitic and cookie-stuffing behaviors and stay up to date with new developments in the field and their users. You can learn a lot on the subject by joining affiliate marketing forums, as many affiliate marketing managers share their problems and report rogue affiliates there.

4. Take Measures against Rogue Affiliates

As you discover suspicious affiliate behavior or transactions, you want to take measures against them. We recommend adapting those measures to each situation. For small violations, a three-strike approach could work.

For fraudulent referrals, cybersquatting, or parasitic behaviors, an immediate ban of the affiliate from your program would be justified and highly recommended. Needless to say, you should void any commissions earned through policy violations or fraud.

Once you’ve disciplined or eliminated bad affiliates from your program, you can focus on leading the good ones. And yes, besides managing the affiliate program, a competent affiliate program manager will lead affiliates.

Affiliate Leadership Basics

Affiliate marketing leaderThere are many differences between management and leadership, and quite a few scholars have focused on identifying them. My favorite authorities in the field are John Paul Kotter and John C. Maxwell.

Although Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership are a valuable resource, they are too many to list here and not all relevant to our discussion. Kotter’s perspective on leadership and the differences between management and leadership, on the other hand, is definitely worth reviewing.

According to Kotter, management and leadership, although different, are essential to organizational success. While management is all about order and stability, leadership is about adaptive and constructive change. Applied to an affiliate program context, Kotter’s theory could be summarized as follows:

Affiliate Program Management

Affiliate Leadership

Ensure order and consistency among your affiliates

Produce positive change and movement in your program

Plan and budget your affiliate marketing program by:

  • Establishing clear goals
  • Setting milestones
  • Allocating resources
Establish a direction for your affiliates to follow by:

  • Creating a vision
  • Helping them see the big pictures
  • Devising and implementing strategies
Recruit and manage affiliates by:

  • Providing infrastructure through affiliate-network based, in-house solutions, or both
  • Marketing your affiliate program
  • Devising and implementing a sound program agreement
Align affiliates by:

  • Effective communication
  • Engagement and personalization
  • Teamwork
Monitor affiliate activity, improve program performance, and solve problems by:

  • Offering affiliate incentives
  • Developing creatives and solutions to various problems identified along the way
  • Identifying problematic affiliate behaviors and taking measures to correct them
Motivate and inspire affiliates to reach their maximum potential by:

  • Inspiring and energizing them
  • Encouraging their creativity and initiatives and remaining open to their suggestions
  • Helping them overcome obstacles in their promotional activity and satisfying their unmet needs

In Affiliate Management: An Hour A Day, Geno strongly recommends combining management with leadership. Besides providing a list of twenty differences between managers and affiliates, he moves on to characterize a true affiliate leader. According to him, the following four traits are the most valuable:

Most Valuable Characteristics of a Leader

  1. Honesty – For an affiliate program manager, this would mean integrity and trustworthiness, ability to admit and correct mistakes, values and ethics.
  2. Forward-looking – This characteristic implies clear orientation towards the future, vision, well-defined short- and long-term goals.
  3. Inspiring – Affiliates need program managers to set an example, to show enthusiasm, to motivate them and help them move forward.
  4. Competence – Before you can manage an affiliate program or lead affiliates to performance, you need know-how, experience, and skills. You may not have them all from the beginning, but you should work on improving them and overcoming your own limits.

As Geno warns, you don’t become an affiliate leader by being designated an affiliate program manager. You need to emerge as a leader through persistence and communication and strive to become a transformational leader.

This could be easier or more challenging, depending on your personality and charisma. However, it is doable, at least in the context of affiliate marketing and especially if you follow Geno’s advice and focus on the “three Is of effective leadership”, namely:

1. Inspirational Motivation

Inspire your affiliates to adopt your high goals as their own and motivate them to work with you for achieving those goals

2. Intellectual Stimulation

– Work with your affiliates to help them overcome any challenges or problems, by adapting your approach to their level: educate beginners, brainstorm with professionals, etc.

3. Individualized Consideration

Pay attention to the needs of each affiliate, personalize your communications accordingly, and provide individual direction and advice.

If you are determined, committed, persistent, and willing to learn from your mistakes, then you will surely succeed to become the leader your affiliates need. Just keep in mind that the stake is huge and it ranges from sales, leads, and the corresponding commissions to your most valuable affiliates and your brand reputation.

Final Advice on Affiliate Program Management and Affiliate Marketing Leadership

Instead of trying your luck and taking unnecessary risks, you should consider working with professionals, at least in the beginning. It will give you a chance to learn everything you need to know about program management and affiliate leadership, apply what you’ve learned, and improve up to the point where you feel ready to take over. We are here to help in any way that we can.

Besides providing professional affiliate program launch, management, auditing, and affiliate recruitment services, at AM Navigator, we can also train you and your affiliate marketing team to help you reach your full potential. Contact us now to tell us more about your affiliate marketing program and receive personalized advice and recommendations!

Affiliate Marketing Communication: 5-Step Strategic Planning Template

You are proud of setting up your affiliate program and, by now, you’ve even succeeded in finding and recruiting quality affiliates into it. Does this mean you can now relax and watch sales flow? Definitely not!

Affiliate communicationYou should rather work on your affiliate communication strategy. Why?

The reasons are numerous but let’s review the five most important of them.

5 Reasons for a Sound Affiliate Communication Plan

Believe it or not, excellent communication is key to:

  1. Convincing affiliates to promote you versus your competitors;
  2. Educating them regarding your products or services and your branding strategy;
  3. Equipping them with the tools they need to successfully promote your products or services;
  4. Activating affiliates and helping them reach their maximum potential;
  5. Motivating them and convincing them to continue promoting your products or services.

As this Refersion post highlights, your affiliates are not your marketing tools but real people, each with their own priorities and preferences. Sometimes, showing your interest in their preferences and priorities, supporting them, and leaving your “door” open will get you more than paying a high commission rate.

Not doing that could cause consequences similar to the Chernobyl disaster, so it is better to manage your program and the communication with your affiliates proactively. You will need a sound plan, tailored to the specifics of your business and affiliates.

We will discuss the steps you need to follow in the following lines. Just remember one thing:

Your goal is to ensure flawless, two-way symmetric communication, not broadcast.

Besides sharing your own views, you need to be open to those of your affiliates. Instead of forcing your affiliates to embrace your approach, you need to meet them half-way and consider their proposals as well. Let’s see how you can do that.

How to Come Up with a Good Affiliate Communication Plan

In Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day, Geno Prussakov dedicates an entire chapter to teaching affiliate managers and merchants to communicate with their affiliates. From his perspective, confirmed by numerous affiliates and affiliate marketing  program managers in response to our blog posts on the subject, planning affiliate communication requires taking the following steps:

  1. Studying and Identifying the Best Affiliate Communication Channels
  2. Deciding on Communication Frequency and Approach
  3. Setting up a Communication Routine
  4. Putting Together the Necessary Materials

Since we were talking about two-way, symmetric communication, you should also remain open to affiliate feedback and adjust your communication strategy accordingly.

Let’s take a closer look at these five steps and see what they involve:

1. Study and Identify the Best Communication Channels

You’ll want to have three types of communication channels:


These are the channels your affiliates can use to get in touch with you directly whenever they have questions or need help related to your affiliate marketing program. For example, at AM Navigator, we encourage merchants and affiliates to contact us directly through the following channels:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Traditional mail
  • Online form

We also respond promptly to blog comments (leave a comment and see for yourself) and social media messages (see links to our social media accounts in the website footer). If you are serious about ensuring your affiliate program’s success, you should keep at least one, preferably more open communication channels.

Regular or Expected Communications

This category includes the types of communications your affiliates expect or receive regularly, like your newsletter, performance reports, holiday greetings, etc. And yes, you should set up a newsletter, review your affiliates’ performance (praise success, encourage those with average results, and offer your help to those with poor results), and send holiday greetings.


Publishing content online, on your own website and blog, as well as other platforms, will help you recruit new affiliates, retain existing ones, and boost their performance. We will discuss how to make the most of these opportunities later in this post.

Until then, an important step in building an effective affiliate communication plan is to identify your affiliates’ preferred communication channels. If you get a chance, it doesn’t hurt to ask them directly. Otherwise, you can go with industry stats.

According to our findings, affiliates prefer the following channels, listed according to their preferences:

  • Merchant email
  • Affiliate network email
  • Merchant website and blog
  • Network area for merchants
  • Social networks

Generally, affiliates want relationship and communication but on their own terms. They want to be able to get hold of you when they need it and read your communications at their own pace. Calling them too often or without a valid reason is never a good idea.

Through your overall efforts, you need to show them that you are reachable but not demanding, open to affiliate relationships but not willing to force them. What does that mean in terms of frequency and approach? Let’s find out!

2. Decide on Communication Frequency and Approach

Let’s see how you should approach your affiliates and how often you should reach out to them, according to the three types of communication channels.

Open Communication

We’ve already discussed the importance of being and showing that you are open to communication. You can express your availability in your program description, emails, and newsletters, as well as on social media.

The most important thing in terms of communication at this level is to respond promptly. While many merchants take up to one week to respond to affiliate queries, we recommend much shorter response times.

Perhaps you cannot reply within 24 hours but you should not let your affiliates wait more than 48 hours. This is how much they are willing to wait and what they consider reasonable response time. If you wait longer, by the time you respond they may have already moved on to your competitors.

Regular/Expected Communication

As mentioned above, affiliates prefer to receive email communications from their program manager, between once a week and once a month (affiliate newsletter). More frequent unsolicited and unnecessary communication is already too much. What could justify more frequent communication? Awin identifies the following circumstances:

  • Changes to your program agreement, especially to the commission structure, cookie life, etc.
  • Merchant website and affiliate program website downtime
  • New deals and promotions
  • Affiliate account suspension or ban
  • Promotional tools updates (new creatives, new product categories)
  • Changes to your branding/marketing strategy, etc.

Since each business is different, we recommend that you experiment with biweekly and monthly affiliate newsletter and see which option yields the best opening rate. To improve the opening rate of your communications, consider the following tips:

  • Identify the right person to contact, otherwise, your communication will be useless
  • Adjust the content to the receiver, as different types of affiliates will have different needs and expectations
  • Ask for feedback if your communication opening rate drops, as the best ones to help you figure out what went wrong are your affiliates.
  • Personalize your emails to make your affiliates feel important, to show that you treasure their contribution to your program.
  • Don’t suffocate your affiliates with unnecessary communications.


Whether you post on your own blog or contribute to various affiliate marketing blogs, the more content you publish the better. Do not hesitate to follow our lead and put together a Knowledge Base, an FAQ section, and any other databases that could help your affiliates.

Cover everything you would want to know if you were in their shoes. Check out your competitors’ approach for inspiration. Research keywords and topics using tools like UberSuggest, SEMRush, Moz SEO, Google Trends, and Google Keyword Planner.

You can post industry data and news, updates on your company, or advice on how affiliates can better promote your products or services. Video content rules, so don’t hesitate to get in front of or behind the camera and provide your affiliates with new perspectives.

Just remember to provide quality, affiliate- and customer-driven content. After all, that is where the money comes from. If you’re not sure how to create a content strategy, the following resources may help:

Now you have a better understanding of what your affiliates expect and treasure in terms of communication. Meeting their needs and expectations could seem difficult but we have good news: you can turn everything into a routine.

3. Set up an Affiliate Communication Routine

Indeed, it is possible to plan most of your communications and have solutions ready for open inquiries as well. For example, if you set up the above-recommended Knowledge Base and FAQ sections on your website, you will be able to redirect most affiliate inquiries to specific communication pieces providing the necessary information.

Better yet, you can implement search buttons and encourage your affiliates to look for the information you need. Have you tried our blog search option? It lets you browse through nearly 1,500 blog posts to find the information and advice you need.

Things are even simpler when it comes to newsletters and publications. You can plan their content, write them in advance, and schedule their sending/publishing as you see fit. We recommended this approach in our affiliate program launch checklist for your email templates and program launch announcement.

Just do the same with newsletters and publications. You don’t even have to write them yourself. If you work with a competent affiliate program manager, they will see to it. If you prefer to take matters into your own hands, you can always hire an in-house writer or outsource.

This will make the next step easier.

4. Put Together Your Communications Inventory

Are you familiar with Geno’s P’s of effective communication? They have proven their effectiveness time and time again, and they will surely work for you too. As you or your service providers put together your communications inventory, remember to build them around these 6 P’s:


Personalize your communications to the specifics of your affiliates. Use terms they understand, address their needs, and deliver in a format they will like. In your emails, use their names. If you want to establish a relationship with your affiliates, you need to make them feel the target of your communications, and only personalization can secure that.


If you’ve performed your competitive analysis before launching your affiliate program, you’ve surely come across vague program descriptions saying something like: we pay some of the highest commissions or our products have an excellent conversion rate.

Your affiliates don’t care about your opinion. They want numbers so that they can compare data and draw their own conclusions. Check out our brief description of our client’s, Evite, affiliate program in the screenshot below. See the numbers?

Evite affiliate program description


If you want your communications to draw, engage, and retain affiliates, you need to make them practical. Don’t write or tweet for the sake of doing it or complying with your content schedule! Do it to provide value and drive results.

  • Provide your affiliates with bestsellers lists, best-performing links, coupons, new tools, etc.
  • Teach them how to make the most of the data and tools you provide
  • Answer their immediate needs
  • Keep your advice simple and easy to follow

If you do that, chances are you too will receive feedback like our reader’s response in the below screenshot.

affiliate feedback to AM Navigator blog post


It may seem insignificant, and maybe it’s just a personal obsession, but when I see grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, I lose track of everything else. In his book, Geno warns that typos and other mistakes discredit brands and negatively affect business relationships.

If you don’t have someone to proofread your communications, take a break from them and return to proofread them before hitting the send or publish button. Keep in mind that, as the author, you are prone to overlook your own mistakes, so pay attention.


Another thing you need to do before hitting the send or publish button is to preview the material you’ve been working on. Make sure the formatting is right, the text is easy to scan, and the overall text looks cohesive and sends the right message.

Think of each communication piece you write as your only chance to engage readers, namely affiliates. If you make a bad first impression, you may never get a second chance. Therefore, take the time to ensure everything is perfect from the beginning.

Providing Options

Whenever possible, give your affiliates the freedom of choice. Let them decide how they want to receive your communications, how they want to keep in touch, and more. Give them a chance to subscribe to your affiliate newsletter and your social media channels. Remind them of the available options in your communications. They will appreciate your efforts to meet their needs and your flexibility.

5. Reevaluate and Adjust Your Affiliate Communication Plan

At this point, you already have a sound communication plan and at least part of the resources required to implement it. But what if your first choices and decisions weren’t the best ones? What if your affiliates don’t resonate with your communications?

As mentioned above, we all make mistakes. What matters is to discover them in time and correct them as soon as possible. To do that, we recommend that you monitor your affiliates’ responses. If you find out what type of communications drove the most responses and engaged the widest audience, you can create more of them.

Also, whether you manage your program yourself or working with an affiliate management agency, do not hesitate to ask your affiliates for feedback and act on it. Ask them what they want to read about and cover those topics. Keep track of their social media inquiries and discuss the most frequent ones in separate communications.

It is not that difficult, and you don’t even have to do it alone. In Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day, Geno provides even more in-depth advice, communications templates, topics ideas, and case studies.

Moreover, at AM Navigator, we do more than just operate as an outsourced affiliate manager and educate both merchants and affiliates through our communications. We also provide affiliate program audit and training services. You can take advantage and get a clear assessment of your affiliate program, help steering it in the right direction, or training on doing everything yourself. Give us a chance to prove that we take affiliate communication seriously and we implement the above advice ourselves!

Also, we’d love for you leave your comments below, sharing your thoughts, experiences, needs, and/or expectations. It doesn’t matter whether you are an affiliate manager or an affiliates. Everyone’s feedback is warmly welcomed!