• Caroline Mulvihill

My top tips for Affiliate Marketing

I am at the very start of my freelance Performance Marketing Consultancy journey but my aim to give straightforward, actionable advice to my clients. With this in mind below are my top tips from my 18+ years within the industry. If you would like some more in-depth advice, please feel free to message me.

1. Know the value of your channels and the partners within your channel

a. De-dupe sales so you can understand where the sales came from

b. Use attribution tools. There are so many around including a free one from Google. If you are unsure, I would recommend chatting to these guys who are attribution gurus!

c. Look at the customer lifetime value (CLV) on a partner level. You may be surprised at the differences between partners which appear very similar.

CLV = (Revenue – acquisition costs) x tenure of the customer

2. Understand your partners strategy and communicate your strategy to them.

Its important to look for alignment or differences. From this you can look at how you can bridge the gaps and capitalise on any shared goals. For example, when working in BT we wanted to shift from a volume strategy to a value strategy, where we would sell more of the premium products.

Many of our partners listed products based on cheapest monthly cost. We had to work with partners to look at how we could better represent our premium products whilst making sure that partner commissions did not decline.

Finally document your shared strategy and create a roadmap with milestones. It’s a great way of keeping communication open between the brand owner and partner. It also helps when you want to consider entering industry awards. More on award entries coming up!

3. Audit how your brand and products are being represented and sold on your Partner’s websites.

Are your partners selling the products you would ideally like them to sell. If not why not? It could be that a slightly different product matches more closely to their website’s demographic or that they are simply unaware that you have a preferred product you would like them to sell at that point. You have to work with your partners individually to understand what is the best fit to align to both companies goals.

How you are being represented is also important. At BT we had brand guidelines and marketing employees undertook tone of voice training to ensure consistent brand representation. Communicate these to your partners as its important to maintain your brand’s identity.

Your partners site may use a slightly different tone of voice to appeal to a different demographic more aligned to its own customer base for example student websites. However, make sure that wherever you are represented on site your branding is consistent. In practical terms this means that you should be providing the assets and descriptions for your products.

Finally and crucially, test the journey from partner site to order confirmation. Are there any optimisations to be made? Could you link deeper into the journey so the customer lands on a page with the product they have clicked off on? Is there co-branding on the page to ease the hand off from partner to end purchase brand? Does the tracking work? A partner is not going to promote your products if their efforts are not being fairly rewarded.

4. Choose your network/platform you are going to use to track and manage your programme carefully.

Networks are fantastic if you are short on resource. They can help you to manage your partners effectively and help with the reporting and analysis on your programme. Check what levels of support you are getting for the money you are paying. Depending on the level of support you may want to consider supplementing this with an Affiliate consultant (

The second benefit a Network can bring is that they curate the best emerging technology providers you should be working with. At BT these opportunities were brought directly to us. As a smaller brand they may be surfaced through networking and partner days most of the large networks offer.

I have also seen some fantastic examples of platforms used well. The levels of data and insight are impressive. Many also see themselves as partner facilitators and so will look at compatible brands on their network you could run joint promotions with. Make sure you clarify what resource levels are available to you and again consider using a consultant to supplement your internal resource.

5. Sell your channel’s success internally.

Media agencies do this really well which is helped by the fact that their output is more visible (TV Ads for example). As a result, they have the ear of senior managers within big brands. Affiliate agencies do struggle with this. If you are the Affiliate manager you need to build and keep awareness amongst senior managers. This will ultimately help when there are budget allocation decisions.

To do this, make sure you write closure reports for key activities and find opportunities to communicate these up. If you have an internal news site, be your channels PR manager and submit regular stories.

Ask for time with senior managers and bring in your key partners to meet them. Again, use a briefing on an upcoming campaign, or feeding back results of a campaign you have already done to make this a useful session for your senior managers.

6. Sell your success externally.

Develop an award-winning mentality. Ask yourself if what you are doing is best in class. Are you getting the basics right and beyond this are you innovating? What actions can you take tomorrow, next week, next month to move you towards this goal? Are there non-competing companies whose affiliate programme you admire? If so, get in contact with the Affiliate Manager to swap ideas. Sometimes other industries do things slightly differently but this could be applied to your industry.

Remember all those closure reports you have been writing? These will now help you to create award entries.

Writing an effective award entry is a whole other article. As a seasoned judge of the PerformanceIn Awards, I have seen a wide range of awards. What sets the winners apart is telling a clear story.

It is a privilege to be a part of this industry, the foundation of which is built on creating great relationships. To this end in closing I would like to quote Affiliate industry legend Ciaron Dunne of Genie Ventures. When asked what his one piece of advice for anyone starting out in the industry, he offered this pearl, which I agree with 100% “Just don’t be a dick”

If you would like any futher help or advice, please get in contact

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