3 Steps To Grow Your Store’s Affiliate Program With Coupons

You might be wondering: “Why start an affiliate program for my store?”

Affiliate programs are a great way to increase your sales and extend your marketing reach for your store without having to employ sales people or invest more heavily in paid marketing programs (like Facebook Ads, Google Ads or other paid acquisition channels). You only pay when they do their job and help you sell something.

But you probably already know all that and are looking for some tips on how to grow your store’s affiliate program.

Today we’ll be talking about using coupons to grow your affiliate program and how that can fit into your marketing strategy.

The good news is that having a successful affiliate program will actually help grow your entire store both monetary-wise and marketing reach-wise.

It’s a great area to focus on, for the overall growth of your store. So let’s get started…

Best affiliate program tool to use for WooCommerce stores

This article will be pretty general for store owners running any kind of store software.

But since we are WooCommerce extension developers, there’s just one thing before I would like to say specifically for WooCommerce store owners first before we get stuck in.

We’re talking about growing your affiliate program here, but if you haven’t even set up an affiliate program for your WooCommerce store yet, you will need to address that first.

The best on-site tool I have found for running your own affiliate program on your store is AffiliateWP.

AffiliateWP is a plugin that works alongside WooCommerce and adds the features and tracking necessary to run an affiliate program.

In just a few minutes you will have an affiliate program ready to accept sign-ups.

And the reason I recommend this plugin, in particular, is because we’re a user of it ourselves in our affiliate program and are very happy with how it operates. I found the setup to be straightforward and mostly automated.

Ok, now that is taken care of, for the rest of this article, I’m going to assume you already have your affiliate program set up and running (regardless of whether you are using WooCommerce or not).

Creating A Coupon Strategy For Your Store’s Affiliate Program

Having a coupon marketing strategy is a great way to grow your store and coupons can also play a huge part in growing your affiliate program too.

Not only can setting up exclusive affiliate coupons be used to attract big affiliates. Coupons can also be used to motivate affiliates to promote your store and it’s products more often.

There are three steps I want to cover for creating a basic coupon strategy for growing your store’s affiliate program and they are:

  1. Identifying your top producers
  2. Recruiting more top producers
  3. Choosing your approach

What I’m hoping to do is give you the basic building blocks.

These three steps will illuminate some of the paths, but beyond that point (as with any marketing strategy you read online in an article like this) it’s up to you to figure out to do next and what is going to work best for your store.

Step 1: Identifying your top producers

If you aren’t aware of the 80/20 rule (or Pareto’s principle) where 80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs you should probably brush up on it because it also affects affiliate programs too.

In short; 80% of the affiliate sales volume will come from 20% of your affiliates in your affiliate program.

Often the ratio is skewed even further. It’s more likely to be 95% of the sales volume from 5% of the affiliates.

Simply being aware of this ratio gives you some business leverage.

You probably don’t want to waste your time giving hands-on attention to affiliates that aren’t going to sell products, right?

By being aware of the 80/20 ratio, you know that you have certain affiliates in your affiliate program, who I like to call the “top producers” that give you the most value.

It’s your job as the affiliate program manager to identify your top producers and work more closely with them to optimise their sales even further. This is what we like to call low-hanging fruit.

These top producers will likely be willing participants too because they’re already making money from you and will be eager to make more, especially if you are going out of your way to help them.

Additionally, by focusing on these top producers, you aren’t going to be wasting your time talking to the wrong people.

TLDR;

  • If you already have some affiliates, work on building a better relationship with the ones who are delivering the most sales already (the 80/20 rule in action)
  • The “top producers” are the best candidates for doing special deals, joint ventures, first access deals, etc. It’s your shortlist of people that need special treatment

What should you do for your top producers?

Top producers in your affiliate program are the ones that should get the 5-star royal treatment.

They should be the first in line targets for your first access deals, exclusive discounts, standing offers, joint ventures and any other special initiative you want to run with your affiliate partners (more on choosing which approach to take in Step 3).

These people are the low hanging fruit for improving your affiliate program results.

Find and contact the top 20% (or whatever the top percentage ends up being) and simply ask them if they are open to working on some special initiatives together.

To start with, you can probably approach them in bulk with a templated email, but these folks will most appreciate special treatment if you actually make it special and don’t just offer the same as everyone else.

In step 3, I’ll go over what kind of special treatment you can give in more detail, but first, let’s pour some fuel on the fire.

Step 2: Recruiting more top producers

Now that you know who your top producers are, you need to profile them and get more just like them.

Once you’ve had your affiliate program for a while you’ll start getting weekly or daily emails from people looking for special treatment.

It’s a nice feeling knowing that you have people coming into your program, but how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

And while you’re at it, can you be proactive and actually seek out the right kinds of affiliates? After all, you want to ensure you are only working closely with the ones that have the potential to be top producers, right?

The key is being selective by employing a “fitness criteria”.

Apply A Fitness Criteria

Before you approach (or respond to) any potential affiliate, you need to make sure they pass your “fitness criteria” checklist.

This is just a way for you to ensure they are:

  • Legitimate business people
  • A good fit for your extra attention
  • And have potential for big sales numbers

Check their social profiles. A blogger, for example, should have a following of more than 1000-5000 people on most of the platforms they are promoting themselves on. If they’re actually a big name, you’re looking at social profile numbers in excess of 10k on each platform.

You might be thinking, “this number is just a vanity metric” and you’re right. But it gives you a rough idea of their potential reach.

If they have 50k followers on Facebook, you can probably guesstimate their email list would be 20-30k as well and that is a good amount of people that they could reach to tell about your products.

Check their website for professionalism. It should be professionally designed, have clear funnels and active contributions from visitors like in comment sections.

One other thing I like to do is check their LinkedIn profile. This will give you a signal of their legitimacy. Fly-by-nighters who aren’t serious will not have anything on their LinkedIn about their business.

Serious online marketers have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, etc… even if they aren’t using them at all for promoting, they usually still have a basic profile with basic info on it. What you are really looking for is a level of seriousness that comes from someone that knows what they’re doing and would be worth talking to.

Lastly, I also like to make sure that the people I’m going to work with more closely are also working closely with other affiliate programs.

If you can find evidence of them doing specific deals with other affiliate programs or having special pages honouring other people’s products and linking to them via their affiliate program it’s a good bet that they’re open to the idea of working closely with an affiliate program and will be willing when you approach them.

Finding New Affiliates That Fit The Criteria

If you have only just set up your affiliate program and don’t have many top producers yet (if any) then you need to find people that fit the criteria.

Newsflash: It’s unlikely that big affiliates are going to come to you and land on your lap, so you need to be proactive about approaching people.

Like with any marketing, it’s all about getting out there and making connections. Chipping away at it one big affiliate at a time.

Firstly, I suggest you create your dream list of bloggers, online celebrities or social media influencers that you’d love to have to promote your products.

Then create another list of “second level people” or “associates” of those people that might not be as big or might not have the same reach but are in the same space.

Going for the lesser-known people first is best because the big ones will eventually pay attention if you have some people on board that they already know.

For example, Jill might be the biggest influencer in your niche but getting her attention is hard.

Jane has a smaller audience, maybe only 1/10th of the size of Jill’s but it’s more than enough to promote a unique deal to and she is actively looking for opportunities and will be easier to get on board.

Find enough Janes and you might not need a Jill. Or find enough Janes and do enough joint promotions and if Jill really is as good as she is, she’ll become aware of you and this will make the final approach to landing this big whale of an affiliate much easier.

Next, filter all of these people by applying your fitness criteria. You can use the same criteria I mentioned above for your existing top producers, just apply it to this list of people as a screening tool:

  • How many social followers do they have?
  • Are they professional looking?
  • How big do you estimate their email list to be?
  • Is there evidence of other affiliate marketing happening on their site? (a good indicator they are familiar and open to it)

Sort them by fittest and easiest to target and start contacting these people. Directly emailing these people, explaining what you do and inviting them to try some of your products is a great way to break the ice.

Remember: Developing a relationship takes time… but you can start today.

Step 3: Choosing Your Approach

There are plenty of coupon/deal types that are great for use with your affiliates in your affiliate program. Here are the top 4 I recommend looking at:

  • Joint ventures
  • Standing discounts
  • Exclusive audience deals
  • First access deals

Joint Ventures

Joint ventures are a great way to build trust with your affiliates where your affiliate also has something to sell.

You can do them in three main ways:

  1. You can jointly promote each other’s products; OR
  2. Create a product together; OR
  3. Create a product bundle together

The point is to do something together that leverages both people’s audiences.

Standing Discounts

A standing discount is an offer that your affiliate can make to their audience that doesn’t expire.

For example, 10% discount on all products using code UNIQUECODE10

This works well when the affiliate is say a blogger, who has access to an audience and might frequently recommend products/services to them.

The standing discount would could appear in their “recommended” section on their site or it might just be something they mention often in their content.

I like this strategy because it is long term.

It gives you long term access to that person’s audience, it lets you give a great standing offer to their audience so they know that you are legit, and more often than not, it leads to multiple links back to your site over time which is great for SEO too.

I recommend providing unique coupons or deals to each affiliate so that you can really make it unique to them and they have something different to promote to their audience over their competition (eg. a reason why they should click via their link as opposed to just Googling for you or clicking via a competitor’s affiliate link).

Exclusive Audience Deals

In some ways this is like a standing discount that is perhaps more temporary in nature. An exclusive audience deal could be something you just want to promote only to that affiliate’s audience as a temporary arrangement.

It might be a special hidden discount on one of your top “entry” products (this gets tons of people in the door that can be sold to again later), or it might be some special product bundle that you can only get via that person’s coupon code.

You can even do things like free shipping deals with this. Anything to make the promotion unique and stand out from the rest. This is what gets customers motivated to click on affiliate links.

With exclusive audience deals you are more likely to get the affiliate to email their list and shout it out on social media, giving you much more coverage.

First Access Deals

This is similar to exclusive deals, but specifically for new products.

Do you have a big affiliate that can move tons of volume for you?

Consider doing a unique launch special just with that person’s audience. You could be looking at huge numbers of sales to kick start your launch.

First access deals are great for giving affiliates a reason to promote the heck out of you too. There’s no better time to get a big boost in affiliate commissions than a launch window.

Summing Up

Growing an affiliate program can be an incredibly rewarding experience both from a marketing perspective and also just for the amount of amazing connections you’ll make with people in your industry.

The more you get known and get out there the better off your affiliate program (and your store) will be.

So to sum up, to grow an effective affiliate program for your store you need to

  1. Start your affiliate program
  2. Identify your top producers (and double down on helping them)
  3. Find new top producers
  4. Choose your approach (note, this could/should vary per affiliate)
  5. Rinse and repeat

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