6 questions you should ask early on to ensure your affiliate programme is a success

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Imogen Beech
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6 minute read

Looking to create an affiliate programme for your business? Wise move! Affiliate marketing in the UK has an ROI ratio of 1:16 (according to AWIN). And in the US, it drives as many e-commerce orders as email (according to Business Insider).

But you can’t just create an affiliate programme and expect it to be successful without first putting in some groundwork. There are lots of details to nail down – from how much commission you’re going to offer to what affiliate link tracking software you’re going to use. But before you do anything, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself, to set your affiliate program up for success.

1. Who are your customers and what are they doing?

First things first, you need to pinpoint exactly who your customers are. 

By identifying customer personas, you’ll be able to better understand what problems your products and services are solving for a specific audience. But you’ll also be able to seek out affiliates whose audiences match your customers – these are the affiliates who’ll have the best chance of successfully selling your products, as they’ll be talking to people who could actually benefit from your offering.

Once you’ve nailed down who your customers are, go a step further and learn more about their interests – for instance, what are their hobbies? Who do they follow on social media? What lifestyle do they lead? What are their values?

Often, your affiliates will be operating in the same niche as you – for instance, if you sell yoga pants, an affiliate operating within a yoga niche is likely to be perfect. However, there might be other relevant niches for you too. For instance, if you find that your customers typically have other interests as well – like sustainability or reading healthy eating blogs – then working with affiliates operating within these niches could be a great way to target your potential customers.

Successful affiliate programme

2. Who are your competitors working with?

Next, take a look at your competitors’ affiliate programmes. What kinds of affiliates do they work with? Are there any that you could also approach? What can you learn from your competitors’ successes and mistakes?

Breezy is a great tool for analysing your competitors’ partnerships – it can pull data from up to 40 of your competitors all at once to find you like-for-like opportunities. Plus, our partner database will enable you to track your positioning in the partner landscape against competitor brands, identifying which of your existing and potential partners also collaborate with competitors.

It’s true that many affiliates won’t work with direct competitors. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth approaching – some affiliates like review sites and directories will be happy to work with competing brands. Plus, there’s no reason why you can’t approach any of your competitors’ affiliates to see if they’ll accept a better offer (shhh don’t tell your competitors!).

Either way, knowing who your competitors are working with is a fantastic chance to understand what kinds of opportunities you might be missing out on – and can help you to get ahead in areas that they haven’t yet considered! 

3. What does your industry vertical look like?

When you create an affiliate program, it’s important to understand where your brand sits amongst others in your industry vertical – what other brands in your niche are also investing in affiliate marketing? Who’s working together? Where is the overlap?

Of course, that includes your competitors, but it also includes other players in your industry. This is where Breezy’s partner database (the largest in the world!) comes into its own. It allows you to get a high-level understanding of the global ecosystem, segment the data into niche ecosystems specific to your company and see spend by partnership type. 

So far, we’ve mapped more than 7 million partnerships across 350 networks, 250,000 brands and 800,000 content creators. And there’s more to come!

Remember, anyone who has the ability to promote your product to your audience can be an affiliate marketer. Gaining a solid understanding of your industry vertical and the collaborations that are taking place within it can reveal untapped opportunities to collaborate with traditional publishers and content partners. But it may also open up other possibilities, such as collaborating on an affiliate basis with other businesses within your niche, who may not have worked in this way before. 

Successful affiliate programme industry vertical

4. What are your customers searching?

One great way of figuring out who might be a successful affiliate for you is to consider what your customers are searching for on Google. In other words, we’re talking good, old-fashioned keyword analysis!

Often, sites that rank highly on Google for your top keywords will make good partners for you (discounting your competitors, of course!). That’s because customers who are thinking carefully about where to spend their hard-earned cash are turning more and more often to expert-led affiliate content for advice and guidance – for instance, if you sell footwear, your potential customers are likely to turn to an affiliate like The Sole Supplier for help making the right purchasing decision. And The Sole Supplier is likely to rank for the same keywords as you are!

Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to go through every single keyword you’re targeting, type it into Google and scroll through pages of unlikely partners. Instead, you can simply load a list of up to 500 keywords to Breezy – our powerful partner search engine can analyse and pull together data from a whopping 40 competitors and 500 keywords all at once, combining these data sets to yield thousands of hyper-relevant leads that could make a real difference to your business.

As well as thinking about your keywords however, you should also think more laterally about other keywords your customers might be searching. For example, if your business is a house removal company, the chances are that before searching for your services, your potential customers will be searching for estate agents and conveyancing solicitors. Inputting their keywords into the Breezy platform is likely to uncover some super useful affiliates for you too.

5. What are your goals?

Not all affiliates will be suited to helping you grow your business in the same ways. So, before deciding exactly what your ideal affiliates look like, it’s important to think about what goals you’re hoping to achieve with their help.

Are you looking to boost brand awareness? Increase revenue? Expand to new markets? Do you want to prioritise long-term or short-term growth?

Once you know what your goals are, focus on the kinds of affiliates that can help you to achieve them. As an example, paid partnerships on Instagram can make it hard to accurately track conversions as affiliates are restricted in terms of how many affiliate links they can post and where – however, Instagram is a great platform for boosting front-of-funnel metrics like brand awareness. Similarly, Instagram posts won’t gain traction over time like blogs optimised for SEO would do – but they’re fantastic if you’re looking for a short, sharp boost to growth.

Breezy is all about helping you to tailor your partner discovery to your goals. You can set up searches looking for affiliates in specific locations, filter results by partner type and even uncover leads that aren’t yet working on an affiliate basis but would be well-suited to this kind of partnership. In other words, we don’t just scrape affiliate networks for data as other partner discovery platforms do – instead, we focus on finding you the most relevant partners for your brand, wherever they may be.

Successful affiliate programme goals

6. How will you find and recruit affiliates?

Finally, now you know what kinds of affiliates could be the perfect fit for your brand, you need to think about how you’re going to go out and recruit them to your affiliate programme!

This step is multi-faceted. You’ll need to consider how to find affiliate marketers, but you’ll also need to think about how you can make your programme attractive enough that they just can’t say no to it. That includes competitive commission rates, a fair attribution model and decent cookie duration – our guide to creating an affiliate programme for your business has more on designing an appealing partner programme.

Once you have an affiliate programme that you're confident can help you to keep your affiliates happy and engaged, it’s only a matter of time before word of mouth will start to attract affiliates to you. However, you’ll need to get the ball rolling somehow, and there are always more opportunities out there to engage with affiliates who aren’t yet a part of your programme. So, it’s important to be proactive. 

You could Google relevant keywords, join affiliate networks, use SEO tools and leverage your website but that’s all pretty time-consuming. In fact, the average affiliate manager spends 35% of their time sourcing new partners! If you want to save yourself all that time and energy, Breezy’s partner discovery platform will be right up your street – use it to uncover both quick wins and hidden opportunities, and then recruit them to your programme.

As you can see, every brand is different, and the best affiliates for someone else won’t necessarily be the best affiliates for you. That’s why it’s so important to answer these questions with your business in mind, so you can really nail down your unique needs, goals and what a successful affiliate programme might look like for you.

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, you’ll be well-placed to start a successful affiliate programme. Check out our blog on creating an affiliate programme for your business for a step-by-step guide. And don’t forget to sign up for Breezy! 

Our powerful partner discovery platform will help you to find and recruit the perfect affiliates for your brand, so that you can reap the benefits of the new affiliate programme you’ve created! Just book a demo to get started.

Imogen Beech

Imogen is a copywriter and content writer with over two years’ experience writing about the exciting world of strategic partnerships, as well as running her own business. She loves learning about new topics as she writes, and has enjoyed penning articles on industries ranging from mortgages to events, theatre to home improvements and everything in between.

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