Tips on paying your influencers and affiliates.

One of the biggest areas of friction between businesses and their affiliate reps is payment issues, and it’s an exceedingly effective way to lose good reps and your affiliate marketing reputation. Word travels fast in the affiliate community, and your company risks developing a “do not work” stigma for repeated offenses.

And getting on the bad side of people who are social media experts is probably a horrible idea for your brand.

So let’s avoid all of that. Here are some best practices to follow to stay on the good side when tackling paying your affiliate marketing reps.

Manage expectations

The best way to stay on the side of the angels when dealing with payments is to be extremely clear on pay schedule expectations and to put that right in your affiliate contract. As long as you have a clearly stated time frame in order to process checks to your affiliates, and you stick to that schedule, you’ll be golden. But even though that seems like common sense, it trips companies up all the time.

The biggest reason companies miss payment windows is that their windows aren’t realistic enough. While net30 is generally industry standard, your business may need more time than 30 days to turn around checks. This can happen if cash flow is an issue and you need to wait to see if any returns are made by your customers before calculating how much money is left in the coffers for the month.

Of course, this is not the ideal scenario, but bootstrapped small businesses deal more in stark realities than idealisms when it comes to cash flow. To give yourself more of a cushion to process returns, consider implementing a net45 or even a net60 in your affiliate rep contract. While the downside is scaring away potential reps with long payment schedules, you minimize the risk of being late on your payments. Then once you’re in the groove, you can work to shorten the payment window to a net30.

Make time to review and approve

Another unexpected delay in processing affiliate payments can be from running out of time to look into conversion issues and discrepancies. Merchants should never approve payments until all the affiliate conversions have been reviewed and approved, but many times merchants don’t realize that this takes time. Some conversions may appear questionable and may time days to look into, making sure that there isn’t any fraud happening.

Our best practice suggestion is to set aside a couple of hours at the end of each week to review your affiliate conversions. That way, you’re processing and qualifying as the month goes along instead of letting them pile up and trying to go through them all on the 30th. Trust us, this will actually save you time in the long run, even if it seems like scheduling this in each week might be a lot on your plate. Prevention is always easier, faster, and less stressful than performing triage.

If you notice any discrepancies, you’ll have ample time to reach out to your affiliate reps via email and resolve issues before issuing any payments at the end of the month. Remember NOT paying for a fraudulent conversion will save you exponentially more time (and money) than trying to recover those payments.

Automate your payment process

Simply put, the fewer obstacles you have to issue payments, the more likely that issuing payments won’t be an obstacle (was that simply put?). In other words, make paying easy. Once you’ve scheduled the specific day to run payroll for all your affiliate reps, you can use payment systems like Payment Rails (connected to your PayPal account or bank transfer) to help you easily process bulk payments. If your reps are producing a high quantity of conversions each month, this can save you a ton of time instead of having to issue payments one by one. PayPal Payouts (their replacement to Mass Pay) is another good option to use.

Pro tip: merchants who use Shopify can also take advantage of Order Cancellations to automatically adjust commissions when customers cancel orders. A system like this can help you “set it and forget it” so you don’t have to worry about manually adjusting payments to each rep by calculating the net sales.

Know when to hire help

Finally, know when there are so many affiliate payroll and adjustments that you simply need to hire some help. As your business grows, your own time might become too valuable to spend on affiliate payroll. After you’ve explored all the automation options above, you should consider hiring either a dedicated affiliate manager or a general bookkeeper who can take overpayment. The former would be better for your program as a whole, while the latter might be good for your business’s accounting as a whole.

A good bookkeeper can also help with tracking down any tax issues for each of your 1099 freelancer affiliate reps. Ideally, they should have all filled out the required tax documentation the moment they became affiliate reps, but we all know things slip through the cracks all the time.