Practical Ecommerce

Affiliate Marketing: 5 Ways to Energize Affiliates

Here’s the scenario. You’ve launched your affiliate program; it’s been live for about six months now, and you have about 200 affiliates. But no one is driving any traffic or sales. Before you write off the affiliate channel, invest a little elbow grease, a little money, and motivate those affiliates to promote your brand.

Here are five ways to get your affiliates engaged.

1. Produce a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

It may sound corny, but a scavenger hunt gets affiliates exploring your site. The more familiar they are with your offering, the stronger marketer they’ll be for your brand. All you need to do is come up with a short questionnaire about your site. Here are some examples.

  • “We offer flat rate shipping anywhere in the continental U.S. What is our flat rate?”
  • “At what URL can you find a list of our bestselling products?”
  • “What year was our company founded?”
Scavenger hunt promotion

This scavenger hunt promotion I ran for one of my clients, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

You could also just provide item names, and have the affiliate locate those particular items on your site. Then, in exchange for a completed questionnaire, you could bump up the affiliate’s commission, or even provide a product sample.

2. Offer a First or Second Sale Bonus

Offer a first or second bonus, so that affiliates earn commission on their first sale, and get an additional bonus on top of commission. This encourages affiliates to get banners and posts up, to earn that extra bonus. Many affiliate managers will offer a lower first sale bonus, and a higher second sale bonus. The reason they do this is because the affiliate themselves may make their own first purchase to collect the bonus, but by offering a second sale bonus, it’s more likely that the affiliate will bring in a unique customer.

3. Increase Commission for a Specific Time Period

If you know, for example, that the third week of May is predictably slow, offer affiliates increased commission for that time frame. This will motivate affiliates to promote your brand during that timeframe, ideally offsetting the sales dip. If you try this tactic, you may want to have participation be either invitation only or opt-in. This is because you may not want to increase commission for affiliates who are already driving significant sales without the extra incentive. You can also do variations of this model, offering increased commission on specific product categories or brands.

4. Send Product Samples to Select Affiliates

Don’t just send a product sample. Send a marketing kit that includes a list of product benefits and positioning ideas, and that describes how much the affiliate would earn by selling the products. One of my clients is MommySlim, a diet and nutrition system for moms. When we send product samples, we send enough so that the recipient can actually try the system for a few days, so that she can experience the benefits. This approach works best with content and blog affiliates, because those are the types of sites that will provide editorial on the product sample. Sending out a product sample in exchange for a banner placement may not yield the best return on investment.

5. Offer Exclusive Coupon Codes or Landing Pages

If an affiliate has an exclusive offer, he is more likely to share it with his audience because it shows that he can provide unique value to his readers. The offer can be as simple as a vanity code that incorporates the affiliate’s brand, or it can be as complex as a dedicated, co-branded landing page offering exclusive pricing on multiple products. Another variation on this would be to offer affiliates access to a pre-sale event, so that the affiliate’s readers get preferred pricing in advance of the regular public.


Regardless of the method used to encourage affiliates, create a promotional calendar, so that you’re engaging and enticing them regularly. Just like customers, affiliate relationships need nurturing, and loyal, engaged affiliates will be invaluable to your bottom line.

Carolyn Kmet

Carolyn Kmet

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  1. Jason Dea April 29, 2014 Reply

    Great article. The bottom line is that for affiliates, much like with any other type of commission salespeople, the payout dictates the behavior. Your tips are a great way to creatively modify the payouts you offer to incent different types of behavior from affiliates and stand out from your own competitors a bit.

  2. Carolyn Kmet April 29, 2014 Reply

    Absolutely, affiliates should also be given the tools to support their marketing efforts, just like commissioned salespeople. Thanks for reading!

  3. Sora June 23, 2014 Reply

    I agree with your tips, its very important to energize affiliates. In spite of online trading scams, affiliate marketing remains a lucrative business for both publishers and advertisers. Often referred as a “semi-passive”form of income, affiliate marketing is especially beneficial to those who want to reach more customers and earn money without spending a lot of time and effort. Finding the right affiliate partner can make your business profitable in the long run. Take a look at the site SORA.COM, there are you will find a lot of useful info about affiliate marketing