The 80/20 of Running a Successful Affiliate Program | Get Others to Actually Drive Sales to Your Products

Running a Successful Affiliate Program

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There are few things more beneficial to an online business than a well managed affiliate program. Running a successful affiliate program can be difficult and there are enough tasks to keep you busy day and night if you want to do them all. 

Fortunately, not all affiliate management tasks are created equal. Some are far more meaningful than others. 

This article shares why you need to run an affiliate program, the mindset you should adopt and the 4 simple tactics that will drive 80% of the results for your program.

Why AffilIate Programs Are So Amazing

Although it gets a bad reputation thanks to years of fly-by-night scams, affiliate marketing is beautiful when done properly and ethically. Everyone involved wins.

The affiliate (the person promoting the product for commissions) can earn money for the influence they have built up. All the free work they’ve done suddenly turns into money when their followers trust their recommendations and purchase the products they endorse.

The buyer gets exposure to the products that will help them and they can feel more confident in their purchase decision because it’s coming from someone they know has their best interest in mind. Good affiliate marketers after all understand that they only get paid when they consistently create value. Recommending back products in a frenzied cash grab is not a recipe for extended success.

The product/service owner gets risk free promotion that requires absolutely no money down. If the affiliates don’t make sales, they pay nothing. If they make sales, they already know that the commission is at a point that is still profitable to them.


Also, they get an “exchange of trust,” from the influencer. Selling anything requires trust and there is no quicker route to trust than having it passed to you from someone who already has it. This is why the value of influencer marketing cannot be overstated. (This is also why Amazon created the Amazon Influencer Program.)

Backpack Affiliate Snap Shot

30 day affiliate sales for a recent launch. 90% of the sales were from affiliates.

If Joe Rogan promotes a product I made this morning, my product now has the trust of Joe Rogan followers. It would take me a lifetime to gain that amount of trust on my own. 

The “What Is an Affiliate Worth,” Mindset That Changes Everything

You‘ve likely heard someone say something like, “you need to know how much you can spend to get a customer.”

The best marketers on the planet know this. They can tell you confidently, “A customer is worth $70. I can spend up to $69.99 to get them to buy and still be profitable.”

People can tell you how much one customer is worth to them but most people cannot tell you what one affiliate it worth to them. This same logic seems to go out the window when it involves affiliates.

Here’s an example. I have an affiliate who I know could drive $25,000 in sales for a product I launched. The profit on that was $23,000.

This affiliate was worth $23,000 to me!

If I paid him 50% commissions on every sale he made, having him on board would net me $10,500 ($23,000-$12,500).

So, what does that mean? It means I could SPEND money to get him to want to promote me if he wasn‘t already interested to begin with.

If he was hesitant to promote the product, I could have theoretically have offered him ethical bribes with gifts, bonuses or even a higher commission rate. I could spend up to $10,499 and still be profitable.

I wouldn‘t spend that much because it wouldn’t be profitable enough to be worth the time BUT I‘d surely be down to spend $1,000-$2,000 in incentives to get him on board and also excited to promote for me.

This is the “secret,” that many of the most successful internet business owners know and use.

Ok, hopefully you‘re sold on the power of affiliate marketing. It is genuinely the best method out there even better than well planned paid traffic. Now, how do you get affiliates on board and how do you maximize their results?

4 Tips to Run a Successful Affiliate Program

Here are the best practices for running an affiliate program.

#1 Invest in Finding the Best Affiliates

Ditch the passive approach to affiliate marketing. Don‘t take affiliates for granted like most of your competitors, fortunately, will.

STOP waiting for affiliates to come to you and SPEND time and money. 

Identify the people who you know have an audience that would buy what you’re selling and do as much as you can to not only get them onboard but also to be excited to promote for you. 

If you are a large company that could earn $100s of thousands of dollars from affiliates, consider hiring an affiliate campaign manager. $65,000/year could be the best investment you ever make if that person can boost affiliate sales. If they’re working full time and are halfway decent at their job, it’s pretty reasonable to expect a huge ROI on that. 

Affiliate managers can also help with getting your current affiliates to promote more effectively. Many times, a company will get a great affiliate but they do nothing to encourage the affiliate to promote with real intensity. 

Which takes me to the next couple of best practices…

#2 Offer a Great Commission Rate

It kills me when I see companies going cheap on their commissions. It shows that they don‘t understand the value of an affiliate. It makes the affiliate think you are ignorant or greedy. I’m honestly not sure which is worse… I guess greedy?

So what commission rate should you offer? There is a lot that goes into this but the bottom line is that you should be as generous as possible. Ideally, more generous than your competitors. 

If your competitors are paying 25% for 12 months, try to beat that if you have the margins to do so. Make your commission rate higher and/or your payout lifetime longer.

If you don‘t have the margins to pay more than your competitors, I hate to say it, but you’re behind the 8 ball. As Russell Brunson says in Dot Com Secrets, “the person who can afford to spend the most to gain a customer wins.”

The commission rate is relative to your costs and the overlap of your own audience (if you have a mailing list that overlaps with your affiliate by over 50% for example, you factor that in and pay less because they will have a few sales you would have made on your own). 

#3 "Gamify" the Process

As an affiliate myself, I can tell you nothing lights a fire under my butt like a contest. Most internet marketers are naturally competitive and adding any prize or leaderboard is like lighter fluid to a fire. 

Offering prizes for winners is awesome but even just having a leaderboard will light the flame of competition. 

Use an affiliate software that makes measuring leaderboards easy and regularly update affiliates about who’s winning, who’s climbing and anything else that gets their attention. 

#4 Support Your Affiliates

The best affiliate programs include swipe files with ads, emails and other digital assets that help make sales.

One of the best companies at doing this is Clickfunnels. The Clickfunnels affiliate program offers an absurd amount of resources for their affiliates to use in their own promotions.

If your affiliates have blogs, offer to write a guest post for them with their affiliate links. They'd be crazy to say no to that. I've had multiple companies help me by creating content that promotes their products well.

Offer to do webinars with their audience and do something special just for them. Get creative with the process and make sure you don’t just expect the affiliate to do all the work themselves. You want their audience, not their work. 

Make them feel like they have to do very little work and will make a lot of money.

The Software I Use to Run Affiliate Campaigns

There are a lot of options for affiliate software out there. Some companies build their own but I highly recommend you just use one of the many resources available. 

The three that I use currently are PayKickStart, ThriveCart and the built in affiliate program by Gumroad.

  • Gumroad is very affordable (read my article showcasing it if you want to learn more) and great for beginners BUT not robust enough to run an affiliate program the way you will eventually want. 
  • ThriveCart is slightly more expensive but is currently a one time, lifetime payment. It offers more robust features than Gumroad but it isn't fully complete either. 
  • PayKickStart is the closest thing to a complete affiliate management program that I have ever found. It isn't cheap (plans start at /month) but if you're running a business at scale and really want to get more out of your affiliate program, it's what I recommend.

None of these options are perfect. Whenever you involve browser cookies things get messy!

Gumroad Transparent Logo
ThriveCart Transparent Logo




No Transaction Fees*

No Transaction Fees

No Transaction Fees

1st Tier Only

1st and 2nd Tier

1st and 2nd Tier

Host Products or Embed on Site

Requires 3rd Party Website (Typically WordPress)

Requires 3rd Party Website (Typically WordPress)

No Affiliate Bonus Delivery

Affiliate Bonus Delivery

Affiliate Bonus Delivery

No Contests



No Lead Tracking

No Lead Tracking

Pay for Leads and Opt-Ins

No Alternate Incoming Links

Limited Alternate Incoming Links

Advanced Incoming Links

No Asset Library

Asset Library

Asset Library 

I do recommend that you avoid Clickfunnel's built in solution BackPack.

Due to a tremendous amount of bugs that the company shows no interest in resolving, it simply isn't viable any longer and I can't in good conscience promote it.

Final Word

Even if you are already using affiliates in your business, I bet you aren't using them to their full potential. Understand the value of an affiliate and spend time and money accordingly. 

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