Building out a B2B affiliate program takes time, resources, and expertise.
Yet, even after countless hours of work setting up commission structures, designing ads, and recruiting affiliates, so many of these programs far underperform their potential. One of the main reasons is because companies fail to establish true relationships with their affiliates. Building strong partnerships is one of the most important pillars when it comes to the success of a program. Without true buy-in from your partners, they won’t be motivated to promote your brand to their audience – you’ll just end up being “another program I joined”.
That’s why, today, we’ll discuss some of the top tactics used by leading affiliate managers to build and foster stronger relationships with their affiliates, leading to a healthy, profitable affiliate channel. Let’s dive in.
Tactics to Grow Relationships with Your B2B Affiliate Partners
As with the relationships you establish in life, every B2B affiliate partnership is unique and has its own specific desires and requirements. Below, we will discuss the factors to keep in mind in order to enhance your existing partnerships, as well as the approach you should adopt when forming future partnerships for your brand.
Truly Understand Affiliate Partner Needs
To foster a strong relationship, it's important to understand the needs and goals of your partner. Take the time to truly learn about their business model, products, and target market. Yes, many partners are in the business of making money.
However, not all of their business models are the same. You may find yourself working with partner types such as bloggers, YouTubers, influencers, performance agencies, and sub-affiliate networks, which all require different levels of support from your business. By adapting to their unique requirements, you can provide the support and resources they need to succeed. This will not only help the partner but also benefit your business in the long run by strengthening the partnership.
Providing Value to Your Partners Upfront
Another way to foster a strong relationship is by providing value to your partner from the start.
No, we’re not talking about “we’ll give you 20% commission if you promote our brand”. What’s so different about this value you’re providing? We’re talking about unexpected value. Unexpected value can come in the form of providing partners with:
- Providing a backlink to your affiliate partner's post without them asking.
- Increasing their commission rate without notice.
- Sponsoring an affiliate partner’s YouTube short, even if you know the ROI will be low.
- Providing suggestions for how they can make more money from their blog.
These may seem like small steps, but they go a long way in the eyes of your affiliate partners. They’ll realize you are in it for the long run and are there to support them along the way. When they feel supported, they’ll likely dedicate more time and resources to your brand.
Communication is Key
Effective communication is a vital component of any successful relationship, and B2B affiliate partnerships are no exception. You should be communicating with your affiliates from the moment they join your program, whether that’s via email, phone calls, or monthly newsletters. When you keep your affiliates informed, the likelihood of them promoting your products and services to their audience dramatically increases.
Here are a few tips for streamlining communication.
Automated drip email campaigns
If you have a mature affiliate program with hundreds (or even thousands) of affiliate partners, it’d be nearly impossible to hop on a weekly phone call with each person. That’s where automation comes into play. You should set up automated drip email campaigns through your partner management platform once an affiliate is approved to your program. These emails are essential to the success of your affiliate program for 3 reasons:
- Provide everything your affiliates need to begin promoting your products or services.
- Keep your brand top of mind.
- Motivate your affiliates to continue to promote your products.
Below is a very basic idea as to how you should set up your affiliate drip email campaigns, but of course, you can take this in many directions.
- Day 1: Welcome & onboarding emails
- Day 2: Reminder about the program
- Day 3: Affiliate challenge!
- Day 7: 1-week check-in
- Day 14: Share some promotion tactics
- Day 30: 30-day check-in with a performance report
- Day 45: Keep going! (Motivation)
Set Up Regular Communication Cadences
From the start, you should get in the habit of setting up a regular communication schedule with all of your partners. This may include setting up blocks on your calendar to reach out to your partners, setting time aside to respond to partner inquiries, or building out your monthly affiliate programs newsletter. Again, if you have hundreds of partners, your approach could look something like this:
- Analyze your affiliate partners and put them into “buckets,” from high-performers to low-performers.
- Allot more time in your week to your high-performers through in-person meetings, bi-weekly phone calls, weekly email communication, etc.
- With your low-performers, set up automated email drip campaigns for challenges, bonuses, etc. that are intended to motivate them to promote your program.
Monthly Affiliate Program Newsletters
One other way to keep your program top of mind for partners is to send out a monthly or even bi-weekly affiliate program newsletter through your affiliate software. Within these newsletters, you can share details such as:
- Product changes
- Upcoming product launches
- Active challenges
- Promotion tactics
- New landing pages to test out
- Fresh ad designs or widgets
Now, we don’t suggest stuffing the newsletter with too much information. Sometimes less is more. Pick out maybe 3-4 items you believe are truly important and valuable for your affiliates to know. Design the newsletter in a minimalistic fashion, with clear calls to action that you want your partners to take:
- Replace old landing pages with new design
- Replace old ads with new ad designs
- And so on
Remember, affiliates are running a business. Therefore, any significant changes you make to the program can affect their earnings. So, if you’re going to make any major program changes, such as commission structures, cookie lifetime, or last click vs. first click, you will 100% need to notify your affiliate partners of this ahead of time.
With your high-performers, who can drive real volume for your brand, you should be especially having these candid conversations well ahead of time. Here’s an example:
Let’s say your B2B affiliate program had a cost per lead (CPL) offer. Your CMO ran an analysis and noticed the cost per action (CPA) for the affiliate channel had increased, likely because you had raised CPLs for high-performing affiliates over time. You’re now tasked with changing up your affiliate offer to cost per opportunity (CPO) and need to communicate this to your partners. Here’s what you could do:
- Run a clear analysis of your program’s health.
- Identify partners who meet your target CPA. Analyze if it makes sense to keep their CPL offers in place. If it does, communicate to them that you’re making a change to the overall program but keeping their offer in good faith.
- For “high-performers” that drive decent lead volume and quality but don’t meet the target CPA, hop on a call with them and begin negotiations.
- For “low-performers” with little impact on your program’s health, send out a few email notifications about when this change will occur and be candid with them. Keep an open line of communication.
Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship, and it's especially important in B2B affiliate partnerships: being honest and having integrity in all dealings is crucial for building trust. Meeting agreed-upon deadlines and expectations and being proactive in solving problems or resolving disputes shows that you are reliable and trustworthy.
By building trust, you can create a strong foundation for a long-lasting and mutually beneficial partnership.
Keeping the Partnership Fresh
Maintaining excitement and keeping the partnership fresh is important for ensuring its longevity. Regularly reassess and adjust the partnership to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of both parties. Implement new ideas and initiatives to keep the partnership exciting and dynamic. Show them why should they continue to promote your brand over your competitors’.
Celebrate successes and milestones together to reinforce the strength of the partnership and build a sense of shared accomplishment.
Wrapping it all up
Fostering strong partnerships with B2B affiliate partners is crucial to the success of any affiliate program. By understanding their affiliates’ unique needs, providing value upfront, and maintaining effective communication, businesses can establish mutually beneficial relationships with their partners. Implementing tactics such as automated drip email campaigns, regular communication cadences, and customizing support for each partner can lead to a thriving affiliate channel for the brand.
With these strategies in place, businesses can build strong relationships with their affiliates and achieve mutual success.
Thanks to Grace for reviewing this article.