Founder of Growth Models
After recently taking part in several affiliate marketing campaigns, I’ve seen that there are 2 sides to this.
On one side you’ve got the owners and CMOs who hand over little more than a link and some well wishes to their affiliates.
On the other, affiliate marketers get access to a dashboard and person or team to help them succeed along every step of the journey.
No prizes for guessing which of these two approaches got the best results…
Here’s the thing though.
The second (obviously superior) approach to affiliate marketing didn’t get better results simply because they had people to help me out.
Those launches succeeded because they took time to implement a well-devised persuasion model.
We’re going to break down that model so you can copy it for your business.
I’m going to be approaching this from the standpoint of the product owner (not the affiliate) so…
Before you jump in, I want to go over the basics I’ve seen make a difference.
There are generally 3 ways you can go about implementing your affiliate strategy.
I would highly recommend 2 or 3.
Your affiliates are ambassadors for your brand. With zero checks in place, it’s easy to have someone create content that reflects negatively on your brand.
The chance is slim (and should be reduced with decent terms and conditions for affiliates), but the risk is there.
And when you’re looking for affiliates you want to find someone who…
The reason here is simple.
The whole affiliate marketing model is built on borrowed authority.
You are relying on the kind words and recommendations of your affiliate to persuade people to trust you. If the affiliate themselves isn’t known and trusted, it’s a wasted effort.
That being said, don’t only go for the A-players in your industry.
There are plenty of up-and-coming people who don’t yet have huge audiences that should be considered.
Getting in with them today will not only be easier for you, but it could be the start of a long-term relationship that continues to generate positive returns over years.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the two primary goals of a good affiliate marketing strategy.
After working through some great affiliate campaigns and some… not so great ones, there’s one key difference I noted.
The poor strategies focus only on sales.
Obviously, the primary goal of your affiliate campaign is to drive sales, right?
You want the affiliate to say “check out [BRAND], they’re great”.
I get that.
But you have to consider where the user is in their knowledge, understanding, and trust of you and your brand.
Yes, a recommendation from a trusted source will help remove some of the anxiety.
But if you’re selling a high-ticket offer you’re gonna need more than a simple “this thing is good” from an authority.
Which is why your affiliate program should also focus on generating leads for your business.
That way, the people who don’t convert immediately can be marketed to over time.
You can spend weeks or months building up that trust so that, one day in the not-too-distant future, they become a customer.
Some brands pay their affiliates for leads.
Usually a small amount like 50c per lead.
You can do this, or you can put something like 30-day attribution tracking into place. That way, if a lead supplied by Affiliate A converts within 30 days, Affiliate A gets the credit and the commission.
However you choose to do it isn’t important.
What is important is you also focus on building your list through your affiliate strategy.
This is what will benefit you in the long run and it will also increase your chances of getting the sale.
With those 2 pre-requisites out of the way, let’s look at how NOT to organise your affiliate program.
This is, unfortunately, the affiliate marketing model I see most often.
Brands who use this offer their affiliates one thing.
They’ll give you a tracking link that will head to their primary sales page.
… Well, that’s it.
It’s then on you to do the rest.
You have to…
It’s a two-step process for the customer.
And as I mentioned above, if you’re selling high-ticket offers, this is a huge ask.
You’re hoping that the strength of the affiliate’s reputation and recommendation is enough to make someone pay $1000+ to a brand they don’t really know.
This model can work, but it tends to work best with offers that are…
The trust your affiliate has built up only goes so far.
If you’re selling a $20 product, a simple “this is great” from a trusted authority could work.
But for a $1000+ program or product, a simple recommendation isn’t going to be enough.
There’s not enough trust built up in that recommendation to remove all the user’s fears.
You need to build trust over time to ensure that a $1000+ purchase is something the user knows they’ll get a positive ROI from.
You need to build more trust and help the user get from “who is this?” to “I need what they’re selling”.
That’s hard to do in a single mention or recommendation.
You need to offer more. Here’s how to do that, with a few real-world examples.
Over the last few months of analysis and taking part in several affiliate campaigns, I’ve found the best affiliate marketing strategies all do one key thing.
They focus on building trust instead of getting the sale.
They know that if trust is built, hitting someone with the sale is going to be so much more effective.
I’m going to be using Leadpages and their affiliate marketing resources they host within Impact for an explanation here.
However, I’m also going to be recommending a way they could use the resources they’ve created in a more effective way based on what I’ve seen work with other brands.
The first thing I want to address though is what you’ll need to make this work.
The resources for effective affiliate marketing
You don’t want to be one of the wham, bam, thank you, ma’am vendors who does little more than supply a link to a sales page.
So the first thing you need to create are trust-building assets.
Trust building assets
Something that makes the user go from “who is this?” to “I’d pay for their stuff” much easier.
These will all be free, value-based assets. We’re talking things like…
These assets should all help show the customer you are an expert who can and should be trusted or highlight how your tool can make achieving their goals so much easier.
If you take a look through Leadpages Impact account, there are dozens of potential assets to choose from for promotion. Here’s just a small selection of what they offer.
By promoting these freebies in a sequence, you can build incremental trust with the lead.
Build enough trust, and when you hit them with the actual request to sign up, they’re going to be more likely to take that step.
Because they know now what it is you can do for them, and they’re confident you can get them the result they need.
It’s similar to the yes ladder which we covered in our Noom analysis (you can get it by signing up for our membership here).
You start with a low threat ask. Something to get the user to make a small “yes” commitment.
In this case, it’s a note from the affiliate to check out your freebies as they’re great.
The next ask is slightly larger. And the next larger still.
At each stage you ask for more from the user.
If you’re building the right kind of trust along the way, each new ask seems insignificant. And if done well, even the “buy now” question feels insignificant to them.
In addition to these trust-building assets, you need to make the promotion easy for the affiliate.
Affiliate promotional content
One of the best affiliate promotions I’ve taken part in included both a calendar and promotion assets to be swiped.
I would log in, navigate to the right day, and pick out the copy and image that was due to be sent.
I’d make a few amendments to it to ensure relevancy, but it took a fraction of the time to create promotions than other strategies where I’ve had to create it myself.
When you’re creating your affiliate content, make sure you create some of the below to make it easy for affiliates to promote you…
The schedule issue is one I think more brands need to use.
If you’re working toward a hard launch date - like May 12th - then it’s simple to work through.
You simply work backwards from that date and identify what emails should be sent to promote what asset in the run-up.
However, if you’ve no hard launch date and are running a product like Leadpages with year-round enrolments, it can be trickier.
My advice would be to make it simple.
If your affiliate tracking is 30 days, come up with a 28-day promotion program.
This way you’re promoting for the entire affiliate tracking period increasing your chance of generating a sale while incentivising the affiliate.
Just make sure you start off the sequence with low-threat and easy to consume information.
Remember you’re building a simple yes ladder. Start easy, escalate from there.
Hitting someone on step 1 with a 3-hour presentation might be too much and cause them to abandon.
If you really want to kick things to the next level, I recommend the below.
The two-track affiliate marketing strategy
A lot of the affiliate marketing campaigns out there are single track.
And this is true even with the well-devised affiliate strategies like Leadpages.
What I mean by this is that the vendor offers a resource to the affiliate and ask them to share it.
The affiliate shares and drives traffic who become vendor leads. Those leads are then nurtured and receive promotions from the vendor brand’s marketing team.
It’s a simple handoff from affiliate to brand.
The affiliate promotes one of your freebies and you do everything else.
It’s better than the link -> sales page method as there is some nurturing that happens.
However, that nurturing is all handled by the brand. This could be improved upon by creating a two-track promotion.
What’s the two-track promotion?
In the two-track promotion, both you and the affiliate are promoting your service at the same time.
The affiliate will always get the attribution (as long as the sale happens within your tracking period) as they brought you the lead.
But you can both work to build a stronger case for your brand by promoting at the same time.
Getting valuable content from the brand itself and an influencer they trust over a 3-4 week period is going to do a lot to remove that last-minute purchase anxiety.
It’s a partnership. With both of you working at the same time towards the same goal, ensuring both audiences get maximum exposure to trust-building elements.
Just make sure you’re not using the same scripts as your affiliate. It’d be weird to get the same email from two sources at the same time.
Visualised, the two-track method would look something like the below.
You’re both promoting the same free assets at the same time.
When someone is added to your email list, they then get the promo from the influencer they trust and you as the creator of the information.
You’re basically running your own promotion campaign. However, the affiliate partner is helping top up the number of subscribers who are going through that campaign.
It’s a partnership.
Leadpages doesn’t encourage the 2-track method outlined above.
However, they do give you more than enough assets to implement it.
All they’d need to do is organise some form of calendar for affiliates to follow and work with them through it all.
The process is super simple and here’s how I’d organise it based on the resources they’ve got available.
Again, this is what I would create for the affiliate. I’d put all of this into a swipe file and calendar for their affiliates to pull from.
Let’s also assume I’m doing this for a general “digital marketer” audience.
Week 1 - Cheatsheet
I’d kick things off with the lowest threat offer I could find which is this “fill-in-the-blank” guide.
This is a super low threat offer and could help people overcome a very common issue of the dreaded blank page writer’s block.
The promo emails I’d create for something like this would be along the lines of…
All of these emails would promote the ebook and link to the above page.
Week 2 - Free eBook
Next up, I’d promote the below free workbook.
It’s a free workbook to help people better optimise their website.
You’ve started with a page. Now we’re expanding to the website.
It’s a natural progression and should work well.
The emails I’d create might be something like…
All would have a CTA to the above page.
Week 3 - Webinar
In week 3 I’d choose one of the many webinar’s Leadpages have.
I’d promote this for a week with a focus on the replay being unavailable once Friday evening rolls around.
The emails I’d send might look something like…
Week 4 - Promotion of the offer
The final week would simply be a promotion of Leadpages itself.
However, rather than just say “sign up now”, I’d use a few of the other elements they have on Impact.
In particular, a few of the case studies and testimonials.
Again, I’d try to find people with a relevant overlap with the audience I’m targeting. So that might be a case study like the below.
I’d pick out a handful of these and some direct promotions.
And for this final week I’d send a few more emails. Maybe 5-7. The topic of the emails I’d send, in order, would be…
The direct promos with the bonus would clarify that the bonus itself will not be available beyond the promotion period.
That’s the basic approach I’d use and their assets/timeline I’d create for my affiliates.
Don’t forget that you’d have to create complementary assets and promotions on your brand side to ensure maximum coverage and persuasive power.
The above is a basic outline for a successful affiliate marketing campaign.
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