Remember way back when you used to work that 9-to-5 job in some corporate office? You collected your paycheck every two weeks, but there were some other perks: pizza Fridays, company swag, maybe a holiday booze cruise. These benefits that showed appreciation for your hard work beyond your salary kept you motivated and happy.
As you grow your affiliate marketing program, you should take the same approach in order to cultivate a healthy relationship with your affiliate partners, beyond their commission. Here are 7 ways you may not have thought about to keep your affiliates happy and productive.
1. First Sale Surprise Bonus
There’s no better good impression than the first good impression. A great way to start off your partnership with a bang is to send a surprise bonus when they make their first sale.
Probably not wildflowers, unless you’re really in love.
It doesn’t have to be much (keep it proportional to the revenue of the sale). A Starbucks or iTunes gift card, a bottle of wine, a cheese basket, a branded coffee mug. It’s your opportunity to be fun and creative with an initial thank you gift that is definitely not just cash.
Why? It’s the difference between getting a five dollar bill as opposed to bacon-flavored gumballs ($4.97): the latter is more personal and more memorable. Especially since your new affiliate isn’t expecting the bonus, it’s a better way to go than a few extra dollars.
2. Branded “Team Rep” Package
Our recent client spotlight with Blenders Eyewear mentioned the idea of sending a branded package full of goodies to partners who have hit a certain amount of sales. Two reasons why this is a good idea:
One, it shows that you don’t just consider them a lead factory, but as a valued member of your extended team, which is exactly how you should view your affiliate partners. Branded hats, shirts, bags, etc show that they’re part of the squad, and a sense of belonging is a powerful incentive for loyalty and happiness.
Two, it never hurts for your brand to be on display! Again, it’s your opportunity to get creative. And yes, fidget spinners are played out.
3. Virtual VIP Lounge
Reddit has a “super secret community” for members who have been gifted (or purchased for themselves) Reddit Gold.
It’s nothing special, but even the illusion of being a VIP is enticing (and it does make Reddit some money). In the same way, having a virtual place for your affiliates to congregate can impart the same sense of belonging to something exclusive.
The easiest way to do this is to create a Facebook Group just for your partners. Here, they can stay engaged with your brand by communicating with other affiliates, and it’s an easy way to quickly get a notification across if you need. You, or a member of your team, should be an active participant here to answer questions, hold contests, and keep discussion going.
4. Occasional Meetups or Webinar
Yelp’s official events/meetups are pretty legendary and go a long way in cultivating a sense of loyalty among their elite contributors. While you may not have Yelp money to throw a bash for the ages, if your network has a high enough concentration in one area, you should hold a simple meetup perhaps every month, quarter, or year. There’s nothing better than getting actual face-to-face time to develop a lasting relationship with your partners.
If a physical meetup isn’t feasible, a regular virtual meetup can still have a large benefit. One idea we’ve seen from successful merchants is to hold a monthly webinar with a dedicated time for Q&A. For additional virtual face-to-face time, try Google Hangouts (max 25 people) or Facebook Chat (max 50 people). These apps make it easy to see and interact with your partners without being in the same room.
Your webinar can cover new features, products, or affiliate tiers, then give way to general conversation. In fact, this is a great segue for our next tip…
5. Hold Office Hours
Not being available and accessible by your partners is a rookie mistake. By holding regular “office hours” each week (just 1 hour a week is enough) so they can ask questions and resolve issues will go a long way in providing an excellent experience for your affiliates.
Maybe pick a better time than this.
You can let them know that you are instantly reachable at a certain time each week, or at the end of a webinar as mentioned above. Sure, sometimes an affiliate will want to speak privately, and you can schedule time for that, but holding regular office hours will show that you’re committed to being there for your extended team.
6. Beta Access to New Features
Another way to convey a sense of a VIP society among your affiliates is to give them early-access to anything new from your company. Have a new product? Let them know before it goes public and give them a change to pre-order. Your software has a new feature? Let them have free access to it first for a week or two.
This is an easy way to provide a special service, but also to get feedback on your new launches. Affiliates won’t mind being beta testers; after all, it’s completely optional for them. See what works and what doesn’t while building loyalty at the same time.
7. Hot-Streak Bonus & Commission Bumps
At the end of the day, money still speaks the loudest. You probably already have commission tiers built into your affiliate program. But here are two other commission boosts you can implement for extra incentive.
One, a “hot-streak” commission bonus can add a little gamification to your program, which is a strategy proven to increase business. An example: 5 sales in a 30 day period “unlocks” a higher commission bracket for the next 60 days.
It’s like collecting real, spendable coins!
Two, you can try “random” commission bumps whenever you feel like. This obviously benefits you (as it may boost sales), but by announcing a “limited time commission bump” at random times with short notice, it also keeps your affiliates engaged because they’ll never know when it might happen.
Of course, you want to keep these fairly rare. The last thing you want to do is train your partners to only convert during these bumps. Usually these bumps happen during the holiday shopping season, but having another surprise period of higher commission rates can get your affiliates paying attention.
What ways do you have to keep your affiliates engaged and productive?
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