How to Grow an Existing Affiliate Program

We’ve talked all about¬†launching a new affiliate program¬†before. There’s plenty of questions to ask yourself, actions to take and changes to make. But what happens when you already have an affiliate program? One that’s been around for a number of years, or rather for roughly a decade.

After a good five or 10 years of running the same thing, how can you possibly grow a mature affiliate program?


Analyze This!

Before you make any changes at all to inject some new life into your ancient affiliate program, you first need to take its temperature. That involves a full metrics review of the program. Look at your program’s overall performance. How are your numbers comparing this year to previous years? How does your commission structure and product offerings match up with a similar program run by your competitors?

Part of your analysis should include identifying who your publishers are. Chances are, there’s a strong theme to the general type of affiliates in your program. But look a bit deeper to see if there are new patterns emerging. Perhaps there’s a new sector of publishers just latching on to your program. Find those publishers, help optimize their site and see if that sector will grow as much as your main pattern.


Explore New Life

You don’t need to be Dr. Frankenstein to bring your long dead affiliates back to life. Yesterday’s top affiliate may be fairly flat over the past few months or even years. It may be a slow, painful process, but you should regularly perform a full Affiliate Audit. Dig through your list of affiliates and find the ones who are no longer performing. Take a look at their sites, give them a call, and see what, if anything, has changed. Work with them to get these publishers back up to a high level.

Besides breathing new life into old affiliates, you should also seek out brand-new life. In other words, branch out to new markets. If you’re only hitting up the United States, give Canada a try. Even better, look overseas to India or down to Latin America. The EMEA and APAC markets have really taken off of late, so why not tap into that fairly fresh arena?


Test New Models

Affiliate Marketing is the perfect training ground for trying out different things. If it doesn’t work, you simply shut it down. Since payment is only sent when affiliates make a sale, if your new idea is a total failure, it really won’t have cost you much. So try a bunch of different models. Test the waters of pay per click. Try a CPA program. Maybe come up with a hybrid rev share/CPL model. Whatever you’re doing now, you can keep doing if it works. But toss in some alternatives either for specific affiliates or open to your entire group.


Freshen Things Up

It’s shocking how many longstanding affiliate programs have been untouched for years. The whole “set it and forget it” methodology just doesn’t work anymore. Whether your program is brand-spanking new or a decade old, makes no difference. The bottom line is: you need to keep things fresh.

That means updating your creative. Add new banners and text links. Come up with new ways to either promote different sections of your site, or simply think of a new way to market your entire site.

A great way to really dive in is to completely act like you just joined the program. In fact, really do it. Take the time to sign up for your program from scratch and see how the user flow goes. Then see what creative is available and what you like, dislike, don’t notice, etc. You’ll be surprised how eye opening something as simple as “joining” your own program can be.


Reach Out

Possibly the best way to see what direction you should take your program is to simply ask your publishers. Find your most loyal and productive affiliates and give them a call. If they’re local, take them out for lunch. Not only will it show you care about them but it’ll give you a more relaxed atmosphere to discuss things. Ask them what they’d like to see in the program, what would make their life easier, and how you can truly help them grow. Face time goes a real long way, so any chance you get to meet your affiliates in person, take it!
Just because your affiliate program’s been around for years, doesn’t mean you should leave it on autopilot. No matter how successful your program is, there will always be room for improvement. Keep your eye on the big picture and constantly adapt as necessary. Follow these tips and your affiliate program should live a long healthy life.