Everyday over at Refersion, we help merchants who have previously never done any affiliate marketing take their first steps into these waters. This gives us a unique understanding of the most common mistakes newbies make when first starting out. Here are the top 5 mistakes that you should watch out for if you’re just beginning your affiliate marketing journey.
1. Not having a plan
Time and time again, we see people sign up with Refersion and not have any strategy in mind to start the marketing process. As much as we love to work with new clients, you should always get an affiliate before you get the software.
Unless you have a plan of attack to acquire your affiliates, no software in the world will help you grow. Start with the basics:
- Who is my ideal affiliate?
- Am I targeting my existing customers?
- Who are the social influencers in my niche?
- What am I going to offer my affiliates?
By tackling these questions and finding your first affiliate partner, you can build a firm foundation to grow your marketing network.
2. Not K.I.S.S.ing (Keeping It Simple, Smarty*)
Each quarter, we are astounded by the growth of some of our clients. They are affiliate marketing pros at the top of their game with many different partners, offers, and product tiers. But that didn’t happen overnight.
A big mistake that newbies make is trying to emulate the success of these merchants with their own complicated schemes. This never works. If you’re starting from scratch, keep your offer extremely simple.
We recommend starting with just one offer to your affiliates, something around 5–15% commission on a sale (whatever is competitive to your industry) and don’t worry about tiers or product-level commissions. Once you cultivate a healthy relationship with your affiliates, you’ll organically grow into a more multifaceted marketing program. Make sure you’re secure in your one offer, that it returns a healthy ROI, and then take the next step.
*And yes, we know it’s “Keep It Simple, Stupid” but that’s no way to talk to people smart enough to get into affiliate marketing!
3. Not communicating with your affiliates
Too many times, we see new affiliate marketers treat affiliates like an employer-employee relationship. “Here’s the offer, go make me some money.” But that’s not how you make your marketing program grow.
From the get-go, make sure to communicate and cultivate a true partnership with your affiliates. They should feel equipped in all aspects of this relationship. A few examples of what you should make clear to them:
- How order cancellations and refunds are handled.
- Your policy on trademark bidding.
- The current commission structure.
- When they’ll be paid. (An important one!)
Your job is to make sure your partners understand exactly what their expectations are. And be sure to get this down on paper, as you’ll want a reference point if any disagreement pops up.
We’ve seen affiliate marketing programs fail due to lack of proper communication, and it’s sad (and frustrating) to see a relationship collapse when all it would have taken is just hopping on the phone early in the partnership.
Also, if you use a service like Refersion, don’t forget to communicate in this direction too. We are an excellent resource when you’re just starting out and need help. If you plan to do a collaboration, flash sale, or need some help setting up your network, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
4. Not nurturing your affiliates
Communication is one thing, but nurturing your affiliates is a whole different potato. Once things are swimming along nicely, another common mistake we witness is a merchant not incentivizing their best affiliates to do more.
Again, it’s all about maintaining a healthy relationship, and promoting your top (or top few) affiliate to their own offer is a great way to a) keep their motivation going, b) earn both you and them more money, and c) stepping out from being a newbie marketer to dipping your toes into the next phase of your marketing program.
As in point #2, you want to keep it simple. While you don’t want to take this step too early, you also don’t want to stagnate your network’s potential. We want to mention it here because we do often see a “set it and forget it” mentality that many merchants have at the start and never grow out of. While your program grows organically, always remember that you still need to be nurturing your partners to optimize earnings and never leave money on the table.
5. Not investing enough time and losing patience
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to grow your business. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or immediate. We constantly see merchants just a couple months in becoming unduly frustrated. “Why can’t I find affiliates? Why aren’t they converting for me? My competitor is doing XYZ numbers, why aren’t I?”
Building a solid, comprehensive affiliate marketing program takes time and energy. Remember, it’s all about building relationships and trust doesn’t come immediately. Setting up a new program from scratch is hard work.
So make sure the timing is right for you to take on this area of marketing. If you can’t devote some chunk of time to reach out to influencers and maintain communications with them, maybe wait to dive into affiliate marketing until you can. At Refersion, we’d much rather merchants wait until it’s the right time for them to start, rather than launching a half-baked program just to let it stagnate and sour them on the experience.
Affiliate marketing will always be there when you’re ready to start!