UpPromote - Affiliate Marketing Software

How to Start an Affiliate Program for Your Business: 7 Steps to Success

An affiliate program is a helpful method for making your store sell more stuff. Loads of companies worldwide use it, with over 80% of brands having their own affiliate programs. More and more folks are making ...

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how to start an affiliate program for your business

An affiliate program is a helpful method for making your store sell more stuff. Loads of companies worldwide use it, with over 80% of brands having their own affiliate programs. More and more folks are making a living out of this marketing strategy, showing how awesome it is for making businesses grow.

This method is a win-win for business owners. In this article, we’ll talk about what affiliate marketing is and how it’s good for both sellers and marketers. We’ll also look at why it’s great for your online business. Also, we’ll chat about how to add an affiliate program to your Shopify store with the UpPromote Affiliate Marketing solution.

But first, let’s figure out what exactly an affiliate program is.

What is an affiliate program? 

An affiliate program is a deal between two businesses or an influencer and a business. In this deal, one party pays the other a commission for sending customers or making sales happen. This collaboration can involve various platforms like websites, social media, or even integrating products.

Let’s take Wirecutter.com as an example. It’s a website that gives suggestions on what to buy, and it’s part of The New York Times. Wirecutter make money by getting commissions from the retailers they work with.

Now, you might wonder if this commission setup influences their recommendations. Surprisingly, it’s the opposite.

Wirecutter only earns a commission if a reader buys a digital product from an affiliate retailer and doesn’t return it. So, they have no reason to push bad products. If they did, they would make less money and lose the trust of their readers, which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

How To Start An Affiliate Program For Your Business: 7 Steps to Success

Set goals for your affiliate program

When you start an affiliate program, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind.

Firstly, define the audience you want to attract through affiliate marketers:

Customer Types: Specify the kind of customers you aim to bring in via your affiliate program.

Affiliate Types: Identify the affiliates that will help you reach these customers.

Then, set measurable goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound):

Revenue Goal: Decide the amount of monthly, quarterly, or yearly revenue you want affiliates to generate.

Conversion Rates: Set goals for how often people clicking on affiliate links should make a purchase.

Average Order Value (AOV): Establish AOV goals driven by affiliates.

Unique Affiliate Sales: Define goals for the number of unique affiliate-driven sales within a specific period.

Impressions, Clicks, Leads: Consider goals for impressions, clicks, and leads brought in by affiliates in the given timeframes.

You can have more than one goal and give them different levels of importance. This helps you track how well you’re doing over time. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve helps you create a good plan for your affiliates, and you can see if things are going well in the first few months.

Analyze your rivals’ affiliate programs

You checked out how your business compares to competitors, but now it’s time to dive into their affiliate programs.

Even before creating your own, studying their affiliate setups helps you understand your position and lets you make your program stand out. Remember, you’re also in a competition to attract affiliates.

When conducting a competitive analysis of your competitors’ affiliate programs, follow these steps:

Identify Competitors: Choose at least two competitors with affiliate programs. Consider including a business that shares your audience but isn’t a direct competitor.

Examine Commission Structures:

  • Determine the action triggering affiliate commissions (sale, lead, etc.).
  • Analyze whether affiliates receive a percentage of the sale or a fixed amount.
  • Understand if commissions are paid in cash or credits.
  • Compare affiliate commission rates relative to other programs and product prices.

Explore Affiliate Recruitment:

  • Investigate how each brand finds affiliates (direct recruitment or through an affiliate network).
  • Assess whether affiliates need to submit applications and the application process.
  • Understand the affiliate agreements, terms and conditions of each affiliate program.

Review Affiliate Promotion Guidelines:

  • Analyze how affiliates can promote and post their links.
  • Identify prohibited actions within each program.

Gather Additional Program Details:

  • Discover the training provided for affiliates.
  • Evaluate resources given to affiliates (banners, creatives, free physical products).
  • Assess the frequency of communication between the brand and affiliates.
  • Investigate the use of affiliate tracking cookies, including cookie duration.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis:

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of each program.
  • Look for opportunities competitors might have missed.
  • Identify threats posed by competing programs to your affiliate program.

This comprehensive analysis will help you position your affiliate program competitively, understand industry standards, and capitalize on opportunities your competitors might have ignored.

Choose an affiliate solution

Picking the right solution for your business’s affiliate program is important.

For startups, the affiliate marketing software should be simple, user-friendly, and provide all the necessary information to help you kick off easily.

If you plan to grow your affiliate program, opt for comprehensive and powerful software with all the features your brand requires.

UpPromote provides tailored guidance to enhance your affiliate marketing experience. With user-friendly features suitable for beginners, it ensures a smooth start for your program.

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As you scale, its comprehensive and powerful features support advanced customization, making it an ideal affiliate app for startups and growing businesses on Shopify.

Determine the program’s key aspects

Creating a good affiliate program involves thinking about important things like how much affiliates get paid (commission structure), how long their recommendations are counted (cookie duration), and the rules they need to follow (terms and conditions). In this section, we’ll talk about these key parts and give tips on how to plan them for a successful affiliate program.

Set up a Commission Structure

Let’s decide how you’ll reward your affiliates. Some brands give free products or credit, but cash rewards usually appeal more to experienced affiliates.

Next, you have two main options for setting the rate:

Percentage Commissions: Affiliates get a percentage of each sale they make.

Flat-Rate Commissions: Affiliates earn a fixed dollar amount for each sale.

Choosing between them depends on your business and what your affiliates prefer.

Some affiliate programs are straightforward – everyone earns the same commission (one-tier system). Others are more complex, allowing affiliates to earn from the sales of affiliates they referred to (multi-tiered).

You could even have different programs with varying levels based on sales. Top affiliates earn more, while newer ones start lower and work their way up.

With UpPromote, you can create an Auto-tier commission for your affiliates. The more they refer, the more they earn.

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Here is a table of different commission rules.

Commission Structure Purposes Pros Cons
Percentage-based Affiliates earn a percentage of the sale amount – Motivate affiliates for higher-value sales – May result in higher costs for higher-priced products
Flat-rate Affiliates receive a fixed dollar amount per sale – Simple and easy to understand – May not reflect the product’s actual value
Multi-tiered Affiliates earn on their sales and sales from referred affiliates (multiple levels) – Encourage affiliate recruitment – Can be complex to manage and explain
Performance-based Commissions tied to specific performance metrics – Allow flexibility in defining desired actions – Affiliate focus may shift away from sales to performance metrics
Hybrid Combines different commission structures – Offer flexibility based on the product or campaign – Complexity in managing different structures
Recurring Affiliates earn a commission for each recurring payment – Ensures ongoing revenue for affiliates – Requires a reliable system for tracking recurring payments

Remember, the choice of commission structure depends on your specific business goals, product affiliate pricing, and the nature of your business affiliate program.

Recurring commission is a good fit for businesses that have subscriptions or services with regular payments.

Meanwhile, the percentage-based commission is great for businesses with different-priced products.

Decide on cookie period

Deciding how long affiliates get credit for a sale, called the “cookie period,” is a big choice. It determines how much time can pass between a customer clicking an affiliate’s link and purchasing for the affiliate to get credit.

Imagine this: a short cookie period, like a few hours, means affiliates only get credit if the customer buys really soon after clicking. A longer period, maybe 30 days, lets affiliates earn commissions for sales within that time.

Some famous brands have different cookie lengths.

For example, Amazon has a short one, which is around 24 hours. But some travel sites, like Booking.com, may have longer ones, often 30 days or more. It all depends on how quickly people usually decide to buy after clicking a link.

So, when picking a cookie period, think about how your customers usually shop to be fair to your affiliates.

Write Terms and Conditions

Drafting comprehensive and clear terms and conditions (T&C) for your affiliate program is crucial to establishing a transparent and fair partnership.

While the specifics may vary based on your business model, here are some criteria that you should include:

  • Eligibility
  • Commissions
  • Cookie Duration
  • Payment
  • Code of Conduct:
  • Termination
  • Modification

Recruit affiliates

A good affiliate marketing plan relies on bringing in the right affiliates to join your team.

So, what are some ways to get affiliates to join and help sell both digital and physical products?

UpPromote Marketplace

The UpPromote Marketplace is a go-to platform for expanding your affiliate team. With a Shopify website and UpPromote installed on your store, you can access the Marketplace to discover top-notch affiliates.

Simply showcase your affiliate program on the UpPromote Marketplace, allowing potential affiliates to check their eligibility and express their interest in joining. This streamlined process makes it easy for you to connect with high-quality affiliates and grow your team efficiently.

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Social media

Spread the word about your affiliate program on your social media platforms. This way, you can naturally connect with your followers, and some of them might be interested in becoming affiliate partners.

On Instagram, you can use powerful tools like Instagram Hashtags. Best Hashtags is a website where you can input your industry, and it will provide you with a bunch of relevant keywords.

For Facebook, try looking for groups related to your business where your target audience hangs out. Engaging with these communities could lead to finding affiliates.

Don’t forget TikTok, especially if you’re targeting Gen Z. Create a TikTok profile for your business, and the platform’s algorithm will suggest potential affiliates based on your industry. Watch TikTok videos related to your business, and you might find willing affiliates.

Leverage Google’s powerful searching

Let’s say you run a fitness brand that emphasizes inclusivity, body positivity, and high-quality workout gear.

Here’s a keyword list you could use to find influencers in the fitness niche:

  • Inclusive fitness, body-positive, empowering
  • Athletic, active lifestyle
  • High-performance, durable
  • Comfortable, stylish
  • Sustainable, eco-friendly materials
  • Motivational, inspirational

You can use these words as hashtags or when searching for influencers on social media posts or search engines.

For example, searching ‘positive fitness influencers’ or ‘eco-friendly workout gear influencers’ can help you discover influencers who match your brand values. This way, you’ll find influencers who not only showcase your products but also share the positive spirit of your fitness brand.

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If you’re not happy with the search results, you can make your Google search more precise using special commands called operators. These operators help you narrow down your search and increase the chance of finding exactly what you need.

Operator Purpose Example Search
” “ Ensure that each result has the precise phrase (not just synonyms) inside the quote marks “fitness motivation” influencers
OR (all caps) Show results for one or both search terms (these two operators are interchangeable) yoga OR “strength training” influencers
( ) Organize your search words into groups and manage how Google searches (healthy lifestyle OR fitness) influencer
Remove it from the search if you don’t want to see results for a keyword with a dash before it workout gear -reviews
site: Only display search results from web pages hosted on a single website site:instagram.com fitness influencers

Another way, to find affiliates or influencers in your local area or any specific location, you can adjust your search settings. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings (located in the right-bottom corner of Google search).
  2. Choose Search Settings.
  3. Scroll down to Region Settings.
  4. Select the specific place or region you’re interested in.

This way, Google will tailor the search results to include affiliates or influencers from the chosen location.

Email Marketing

Use your email list to let potential affiliates know about your program. Emails work well for getting affiliates interested. Tell your subscribers about the program and ask them to apply. Also, encourage them to tell others who might be interested.

If you have specific people in mind, send them a personal email. Here’s a simple template to use:

Subject: Exciting Affiliate Opportunity!

Hi [Affiliate’s Name],

I hope you’re doing well. We have an exciting affiliate program, and we think it’s a great fit for you.

[Share a bit about your brand and the program, including benefits and earnings.]

We value your expertise, and we believe promoting our products/services can be beneficial for both of us. If you’re interested, apply [insert application link].

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. We look forward to working with you!


[Your Name] [Your Title] [Your Contact Info]

Your website

Your website visitors are potential affiliates, as they already know your brand. Make it easy for them to join your affiliate program by following these best practices:

Easy Access: Feature your affiliate program prominently, like in the website footer, so it’s easy to find.

Dedicated Page: Create a page exclusively for your affiliate program, showcasing the benefits of joining.

High-quality Content: Populate your website with top-notch content to establish trust with potential affiliates seeking reliable partners.

Remember, while affiliates promote your products, it’s your responsibility to promote your program. Provide essential details such as your niche, product relevance, and the affiliate network used.

Additionally, make your program enticing with tiered commissions, bonus incentives, and a straightforward onboarding process supported by affiliate assistance during application.

Affiliate Network

Think about joining affiliate networks like ShareASale or Impact. These platforms link you up with many affiliates for your program. They’re great for small businesses, easy to get started with, and offer training to help you become an affiliate marketing pro in no time.

For example, stores like American Hat Makers, along with other networks, to let people know about their programs online.

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Educate your affiliates and motivate them

Teach your affiliates about your brand and program basics, provide them with unique affiliate links, and share tips on how to effectively place and promote these links. Equip affiliates with promotional materials such as branded banners, product images, or videos.

UpPromote Media Gallery allows you to easily upload and share various promotional materials with your affiliates.

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Remember, nurturing affiliate relationships is key for long-term affiliate program success. Support goes beyond training, so keep your affiliates updated with the latest promotions, sales, new products, and any program changes.

Regularly monitor individual affiliates’ progress through email, direct messaging, or your affiliate dashboard. Set a schedule for check-ins, and ensure they know how to contact you for any program-related questions. Consider creating an affiliate FAQ to address common queries and seamless communication.

Keep track of your affiliate program

Tracking is essential to gauge the success of your affiliate marketing efforts. It helps identify top-performing affiliates and those needing assistance. Communicate with your affiliates, understand their needs, and provide necessary resources, such as product videos or customer quotes.

Here’s a list of key metrics for brands in affiliate marketing:

  • CTR (Click-Through Rate)
  • Conversion Rate
  • ROI (Return on Investment)
  • AOV (Average Order Value)
  • Traffic Sources
  • New vs. Returning Visitors
  • CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
  • Revenue Share
  • Commission Rate

Also, keep an eye on your program’s overall performance. Monitor affiliate revenue and conversion rates, adjusting your strategy if it falls short of your initial goals.

Benefits of affiliate marketing programs

Starting an affiliate program comes with several advantages for businesses.

Firstly, it helps you connect with a broader audience, reaching potential customers into affiliates you might not have reached alone.

Affiliates spread the word about your products or services through their platforms, making your brand more visible and potentially bringing more visitors to your affiliate website.

Another significant benefit is the potential for increased sales and revenue. Affiliates are eager to promote what you offer because they earn a commission for each sale or lead they bring in. This gives them a reason to market your products actively, resulting in more conversions.

Lastly, affiliate programs contribute to enhancing your online reputation and credibility. Publishers usually have a devoted following or a specific audience that trusts their recommendations. By teaming up with reputable affiliates, you can boost your brand’s credibility and win the trust of potential customers.

Launching an affiliate program can be a cost-effective marketing strategy with a high potential for return on investment (ROI).

Is an Affiliate Program Appropriate for Your Business?

Starting an affiliate marketing program might be a good idea if you sell stuff, whether physical things or digital subscriptions. But not every company can jump into it – there are a few things you should consider:

Your goal: An affiliate program is great if you want others to talk about and send people directly to your website. They won’t sell your products directly, but they’ll suggest and link to stuff you sell online.

Payment: You need to be okay with paying affiliates real money (or store credit) whenever they help you make a sale.

Audience: It’s better if your product or service is something many people might like.

Matching friends: You should find affiliates whose audience matches yours. If they talk to the same kind of people you want as customers, it works better.

Repeat customers: If people keep buying from you, it’s easier to pay affiliates repeatedly. Also, if you’re not spending a ton to get new customers, you can give better commissions and attract awesome affiliates.

Profit margins: Businesses that make more money per sale find affiliate programs extra helpful. While it can work for any industry, it’s super popular with online shops and subscription services.

Affiliates and influencers are not the same. Influencers are like experts who talk to a group of followers they’ve connected with over time. Unlike affiliates, influencers focus more on genuinely sharing how they use a product rather than pushing for direct sales.

Also, influencers get paid for a specific affiliate marketing campaign, not for each sale they make.

But here’s the cool part: you can mix influencer and affiliate marketing. This means you can discover influencers and ask them to join your affiliate team. You give them special links, and they earn money based on the sales they help make.

It’s like getting the best of both worlds!

Best tips & strategies for affiliate programs

Let’s explore essential tips and strategies to not only grow your affiliate program but also cultivate a strong and engaged affiliate team.

Keep it simple

You should ensure your affiliates can easily understand the guidelines and processes. Treat them like valuable team members by providing support, regular check-ins, and updates. Create a community-like environment where everyone contributes to the business’s success.

Also, offer advertising resources like banner ads and email templates to help affiliates promote your products on a social media channel. Simplifying the process and providing support encourages affiliates to thrive, bringing in traffic and boosting sales.

Recruit the right influencers

Treat Affiliates as Partners

View your affiliates as essential members of your business team. When you treat them like valued partners, they’re more likely to stick around and excel in bringing in traffic and boosting sales.

You can create personalized support for your affiliates based on their needs and performance. Offer one-on-one sessions to address questions or concerns and tailor your support to help them overcome specific challenges.

And don’t forget to offer the support they need, whether through regular communication or assistance with different advertising strategies. Remember, a motivated affiliate is a productive affiliate.

Building a Community Feel

Imagine your affiliates as essential team members, not just partners so you need them in the loop with regular updates on exciting promotions, new products, or any tweaks in the affiliate program.

Also, encourage them to share experiences and tips, creating a friendly space, perhaps on a social media group. This sense of community fosters a deeper connection to your brand, making them more enthusiastic about promoting it.

Monitor and Adapt

Regularly monitor the performance of your affiliate program. Keep an eye on key metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and overall revenue. Adapt your affiliate marketing strategy based on the insights gained.

If certain affiliates excel, learn from their strategies and share these insights with others. Continuous improvement ensures the long-term success of your affiliate program.

Remember, the success of your affiliate program is intertwined with the success of your affiliates. By creating a supportive, engaging, and straightforward environment, you empower them to contribute significantly to your business growth.

How to set up an affiliate program for Shopify stores with UpPromote?

To run a successful affiliate program that boosts your business, it’s crucial to choose the right affiliate software.

With UpPromote, you gain full control over your program. It provides a user-friendly dashboard for affiliates to track their progress easily. This affiliate management tool simplifies communication and support and keeps affiliates motivated.

So how to build up an affiliate program with UpPromote? Follow the steps here.

Step 1 – Create Your Shopify Account

Make sure you have a Shopify store to use UpPromote.

Go to Shopify.com, click “Start free trial,” and provide your email, password, and store name. Answer questions about your store and click “Enter my store” when finished.

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Step 2: Install UpPromote

Add UpPromote to your Shopify store by browsing through the Shopify App Store. Click on “Shopify App Store,” and it will direct you to the app store.

Next, search for UpPromote and select Install.

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Once doing so, it will direct you to the embedded Shopify interface. Simply click on the “Install” button to add UpPromote to your store.

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Provide your details, such as your first and last name, email, password, and other required information during the setup process.

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Step 3: Set up your affiliate program with UpPromote

Don’t feel overwhelmed, as UpPromote will guide you through an onboarding process.

Here, you can tailor your affiliate program to your business preference.

For instance, if you wish to establish a program where affiliates are compensated based on a percentage of sales, such as a 15% commission, you can set it up like this.

Save and Next.

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The system lets you set up a test affiliate email to see how the affiliate marketing process works in the app

Next, choose the payment method, for example, PayPal and Debit Card.

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Step 4: Your affiliate program is almost ready

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This is what the dashboard looks like after you’ve finished setting everything up.

If you want to create more programs, you can browse through the Program > Create Program.

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Don’t forget to customize your affiliate registration form; this is where your publishers will sign up for your affiliate program.

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That’s all! Now you can share your affiliate form and bring in your publishers.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Are affiliate programs profitable?

Yes, affiliate programs can be moneymakers. When people promote a business and bring in sales, they earn a commission. It’s a win-win – businesses get more sales, and affiliates get paid for helping out. So, yeah, affiliate programs can be pretty profitable.

  • How much does it cost to set up an affiliate program?

Setting up an affiliate program can vary in cost. It depends on the platform you choose and any additional tools or services you need. Costs may include software fees, affiliate payouts, and marketing expenses. It’s smart to research options to find a setup that fits your budget and goals.

  • How do beginners start affiliates?

Starting as an affiliate marketing beginner is a straightforward process. First, identify a niche or area of interest that you are passionate about. Then, research companies or products within that niche that offer affiliate programs.

Once you’ve found a good fit, sign up for their affiliate program, which often involves providing some basic information. After joining, start promoting the products or services using unique affiliate links on your blog post, social media, or other channels. It’s essential to track the performance of your promotions to understand what works best.

As you gain experience, you can refine your strategies and explore additional affiliate opportunities. Remember, the key is to share authentically and engage your audience to build trust and maximize your affiliate marketing success.

  • Is affiliate marketing right for your business?

If you want more people to know about your stuff, increase sales, and build trust online without spending too much money, then affiliate marketing might be just what you need.

It works well for products or services that many people might like, and if you make good money from each sale, even better. Look at these factors to see if affiliate marketing matches your business goals and can help you succeed.

Wrapping Up 

Small businesses often operate on tight marketing budgets, requiring a careful allocation of resources. Setting up your affiliate marketing program can be a savvy move to promote products and enhance brand visibility without straining your finances.

To recap, here are three straightforward steps to establish your affiliate marketing program:

  • Set up your goals & analyze your competitors’ affiliate programs
  • Choose an affiliate solution: Choose a suitable affiliate platform like UpPromote to facilitate your referral program efficiently.
  • Set up your affiliate program’s key aspects
  • Recruit and expand your affiliate network
  • Train and motivate your publishers

Monitor everything

Feel free to drop any questions you have about kickstarting your affiliate program in the comments below!

Ellie Tran, a seasoned SEO content writer with three years of experience in the eCommerce world. Being a part of the UpPromote team, Ellie wants to assist Shopify merchants in achieving success through useful content & actionable insights. Ellie's commitment to learning never stops; she's always eager to gain more knowledge about SEO and content marketing to create valuable content for users. When she's not working on content, Ellie enjoys baking and exploring new places.