Marketing & Advertising

A Strategy to Retain Affiliates, for Affiliate Marketing

There are thousands of retailers that offer affiliate marketing programs. Potential affiliates have many options to choose from. A goal of an affiliate manager should therefore be to build loyalty among existing affiliates. A loyal affiliate will more likely promote your company’s program over your competitors.

In fact, as a merchant you may have a customer retention strategy, one that engages customers to drive more revenue. Similarly, an affiliate retention strategy will engage your affiliates and drive increased revenue through that channel.

One way to create an affiliate retention strategy is to send emails to affiliates based on key milestones. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

A Strategy to Retain Affiliates

First or second sale email. Mature programs could have as many as 2,000 affiliates. An affiliate manager should try to make each affiliate feel special and appreciated. One way to accomplish this is to set up an email that is triggered by a first or second sale. The email could contain copy such as this.

Dear Jill,

Congratulations on making your first sale with the Widgets and More affiliate program! We are happy to be working with you and look forward to your success. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I’ve included my direct contract info, below.


Carolyn Kmet
Affiliate Manager
Widgets and More

This simple and appreciative acknowledgement helps affiliate feel wanted. It also reminds the affiliate that your program does convert. Affiliates will more likely promote programs that are proven converters.

An affiliate’s first sale is sometimes to herself. For that reason, I typically avoid bonuses or incentives on the first transaction. Bonuses and incentives should be tied to a second transaction. An email to an affiliate after her second transaction could read something like this: “Congratulations on your second transaction. To show our appreciation, I’d like to buy you a coffee. Since I can’t do that in person, I’ve deposited a bonus $5 into your affiliate account.”

Anniversary email. You may have seen, as a consumer, these types of communications. Restaurants often send coupons to redeem during your birthday month. The goal is to encourage a repeat visit to the restaurant.

Affiliate managers rarely know an affiliate’s birthdate. However, we do know the date they were approved into the affiliate program. Consider sending the affiliate an email, wishing him a happy anniversary and extending an higher commission rate during the anniversary month.

Whereas the first or second sale email would only work on sales-generating affiliates, an anniversary email would apply to all affiliates, regardless of their activity. It could also function as part of an activation strategy.

Clicks-but-no-sales notification. Event-based communication can include many activities. For example, affiliates who drive high traffic but no sales would be a candidate for an email like the following.

Dear Jack,

Thank you for sending traffic to Widgets and More from your affiliate links. We appreciate it! However, we aren’t seeing any of that traffic convert. Please let us know what you are trying to promote. We can help with a more effective landing page on our site and, additionally, producing custom creative for you.  Let me know what I can do to assist.  My direct contact info is below.


Carolyn Kmet
Affiliate Manager
Widgets and More

Getting Started

How can you set up event-based emails? Some networks offer the ability to create event triggers and email templates so that your entire affiliate-retention strategy is automated.  But even if your affiliate network or tracking provider does not offer triggered emails, you can still implement them manually.

Generate reports every month that show (a) first and second sales, (b) sign-up anniversaries, (c) traffic and sales reports, or (d) other filters, as needed. Then, use your email provider to generate a template and deploy to appropriate affiliates. All of this should not take more than a couple hours each month. You have direct access to the data. Run the reports yourself, without relying on another team.

Carolyn Kmet

Carolyn Kmet

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