Steps For Setting Up An Affiliate Program For Your Business

Successfully launching and maintaining an affiliate program from the ground up can be tricky. 

You’ll need to discover and teach reliable affiliates, set up a fair payment structure, and devise a method for monitoring their performance. 

You must also check to see that they play by the guidelines set forth by your program.

I know this seems intimidating, but it’s really not. 

You’ll learn all about how to set up an affiliate program in this post.

If you’re ready to get off to a good start with affiliate marketing, this comprehensive guide has you covered. 

Affiliate programs can be successful if you take the following steps below.

Let’s get to it! 

What Is Affiliate Marketing Anyway? 

what is affiliate marketing anyway

Let’s go over the basics before we get to the meat of this article.

If you’re completely at square one, we’ll have to review affiliate marketing. 

The form of marketing known as “affiliate marketing” involves rewarding consumers with a commission for every sale that originates from a personal referral of your product or service.

Affiliate marketing has two distinct sides.

Affiliate marketing begins on the vendor side.

Affiliates are users who promote the goods or services of a third party in exchange for a commission.

Let’s show the example a travel writer.

They create a button for the company “BookWithMe” for purchasing plane tickets in their articles.

The blogger can earn a commission on sales made through the affiliate link on the blog by enrolling in BookWithMe’s affiliate program.

Now let’s examine affiliate marketing from the perspective of the company.

If you’re an online retailer who’s already had success with your own site, you can consider launching an affiliate program to thank your customers for spreading the word.

You could launch an affiliate marketing program to do so, in which case you’d offer unique, trackable links to other content producers.

Of course, you’ll have to pay affiliates by giving them a cut of any purchases generated through those links.

Sales go up, and customer advocacy goes up because of this.

This is as near to a “win-win” situation as one can get!

Related Reading: My Favorite High-Paying Affiliate Programs – Check Them Out Here.

Should You Set Up An Affiliate Program For Your Company? 

There is a high likelihood that affiliate marketing will work for you if you sell physical items or a digital subscription service. 

However, affiliate programs are not for every online business, as there are specific criteria that must be met.

Some things to keep in mind are as follows:

  • If you want other people to advertise your business on their own channels and bring traffic to your website, an affiliate program is a good way to go about it. In other words, affiliates won’t resell your goods. They will instead promote and link to items in your online store.
  • It will be ideal if your services or products appeal to a wide audience. 
  • High client retention rates are essential to the success of any affiliate program. Paying repeat commissions to a customer is more manageable if the customer is a reliable source of income for your company. Since you won’t have to allocate as much capital toward customer acquisition expenses, you’ll have more money to allocate toward affiliate rewards. This will, in turn, attract more high-quality affiliates to your program.
  • You need to be willing to provide affiliates with a commission in the form of cash (or shop credit is a potential) for every sale they help you close.
  • Great affiliates are essential, so you may work with content producers whose target demographic is similar to your own.

Businesses with better profit margins benefit the most from affiliate programs.

Affiliate programs can be useful for businesses in any sector, although they are especially common for online retailers and subscription services (such as SaaS).

Affiliates’ promotion of your goods on their website means they will mostly reach people that you can’t. 

Consider a referral program instead if you’d like your existing clientele to do the advertising for you.

Benefits of An Affiliate Program For Your Business 

setting up an affiliate program - benefits of an affiliate program for your business

It’s common for small enterprises to operate with tight budgets and limited resources.

In other cases, they may lack even a modest marketing department. 

Affiliate marketing is an efficient and low-overhead strategy for expanding customer reach and revenue generation. 

A strong affiliate marketing program can do wonders for a small business, but you still need to be particular about who you partner with.

You should have a screening procedure in place rather than just letting anyone into your program.

Just as an eCommerce search marketing plan may increase awareness of your company, so can your affiliates.

Affiliate marketing, like SEO tactics for online stores, can boost awareness and, ultimately, revenues.

It has many advantages, some of which are listed here:

Relatively Low Start-up Cost 

You won’t need a dedicated advertising team or shell out cash for billboards or ads to implement an affiliate scheme.

Rather, you’ll need to rely on your partners’ creativity for promotional material.

One of the reasons affiliate marketing has grown so successful is that, after the initial work of identifying and screening affiliates, you don’t have to do much to promote your stuff.

After establishing trust with an affiliate and working together successfully, it’s usually best to let the affiliate handle the bulk of the promotion for your product or service.

Relatively Low Ongoing Costs 

Since affiliates perform the bulk of your marketing, they will also be responsible for a sizable portion of the associated costs. 

Affiliates will only be compensated for sales that they directly contribute to through the commission-based nature of the program.

This marketing approach makes expenses easy to manage and does not disrupt your cash flow, unlike other marketing methods. 

For comparison, PPC advertising requires you to pay for every click going to your website.

However, with affiliate marketing, you will only pay out cash when actual sales are made.

Boosts Brand Awareness

It is the objective of any internet business to be discovered by as many customers as possible.

Affiliates help spread the word about your business by directing visitors to your website. 

Affiliates have a financial stake in your business’s success.

As a result, they promote your company enthusiastically and acquire the trust of potential clients.

Boosts Social Proof 

Modern consumers are more sophisticated and fussier than ever before.

Social approval of a product is crucial to them. 

Studies have shown that nearly all shoppers check out online reviews prior to making a purchase. 

Affiliate product or service evaluations provide genuine social evidence to potential consumers when a brand establishes relationships with an audience that trusts them.

Low Risk 

Payments are only processed when a conversion really occurs, reducing the possibility of loss and making this option attractive to businesses with limited funds.

Expands Your Target Audience 

By leveraging their partners’ customer bases, SMEs can increase exposure to their products and services. 

These untapped demographics may have been difficult to locate and target with traditional advertising and marketing channels. 

By working with affiliates who share your brand’s values, you can be sure that the visitors who click on their links are truly interested in what you have to offer.

Better Conversion Rates

Improving your company’s efficiency is doable when you monitor its progress. 

Affiliate marketing tracking provides businesses with valuable information about customer acquisition channels and purchase motivations.

Businesses can boost conversions by making use of the data they collect to tweak their websites, expand their selection of visually appealing “creatives,” and zero in on the most profitable affiliate networks.

High ROI

Measuring the success of a marketing or advertising campaign is sometimes a difficult and time-consuming process. 

Affiliate marketing’s -performance-based structure was created with profit in mind.

Companies only pay for actual purchases, not for exposure to potential customers.

This is one of the main draws for smaller companies to use affiliates to market and sell their wares. 

Affiliate marketing allows you to bypass traditional advertising channels and reach a pre-qualified audience that is already down for what you have to offer.

Related Reading: Affiliate Programs For YouTubers – Find Out Here.

How To Set Up An Affiliate Program

Have you decided that the next move for your business would be to create an affiliate program?

If so, you’re going to need to know how to set one up yourself. 

But before we get started on that, make sure you are familiar with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules on disclosure of affiliate ties before you begin. 

You can’t just set up an affiliate network for your small business and expect affiliates to flock to it.

We’ll tackle this in a bit. 

There’s no need to get overwhelmed. We’ll go over every step, starting with planning.

Determine Your Objectives 

determine your objectives

Define your overarching objectives, just as you would for any marketing campaign.

They may include:

  • The types of customers you’d like to attract with your program
  • The types of affiliates that you want to promote your products and services

Aside from these factors, it would also be best to consider some measurable objectives, like: 

  • How much revenue you want your affiliates to bring in every month, quarter, and year
  • Conversion rates of affiliate links that typically bring in sales 

The amount of money made through affiliates is what really counts.

However, by establishing objectives and metrics, you will be able to evaluate your program’s success and adjust it as needed.

Study The Competition 

It’s best to study the affiliate programs of your competition to learn what works and what doesn’t before launching your own. 

To locate influential users, you can conduct a search on Google or on social media channels using hashtags that are related to your business. 

Have a look at their profiles to determine if they are endorsing any of your competition through affiliate marketing.

You’re competing not only for the attention and wallets of your potential customer but also for the best affiliate programs’ top performers.

Study the affiliate programs of at least two of your competitors and note:

  • The commissions they receive compared to the price of the products or services they’re endorsing 
  • How stringent the application process is 
  • Affiliate pricing
  • The rules and requirements around how their affiliates can promote their affiliate links 
  • How their affiliates are trained 
  • How well and frequently do they communicate with their affiliate partners 
  • The strengths and weaknesses of their affiliate programs as a whole 
  • How they structure their affiliate commissions (whether there’s a set amount or a portion of the sale) 
  • If affiliates are paid in products or in cash 
  • If their affiliates are personally recruited or recruited through an affiliate network 
  • The terms and conditions of their affiliate program 
  • How tracking cookies are traced back to a sale and how long their stay active if a customer doesn’t purchase on the first click 

After you’ve thoroughly studied the affiliate programs of your rivals, figure out how you can add value beyond what they offer. 

Zero In On High Average Order Value (AOV) Products To Promote 

setting up an affiliate program - zero in on high average order value (aov) products to promote

Picking out the goods you’ll be offering as part of the affiliate program is the next stage. 

You’re free to showcase everything you sell.

However, prioritizing items with a high average order value (AOV) will bring in more money and earn you more affiliate commissions per click.

If you’re selling a product for $80, a 10% commission is far more appealing than if you were selling a product for $10.

Specify the items that affiliates should promote and supply them with helpful advertising advice, such as:

  • Giving new customers a first-time buyer discount 
  • Offering free shipping over a certain purchase amount 
  • Giving discounts with bundle purchases 

Providing affiliates with useful products and promotional advice can increase their sales and, in turn, your company’s revenue. 

If your affiliate marketing strategy isn’t working, you can always add or remove products from your affiliate program and adjust your messaging.

Determine Your Commission Structure 

Use what you discovered from studying the competition to inform your affiliate payment structure.

After settling on a selection of goods, the next step is to settle on a compensation plan. Naturally, cash is the best possible incentive. 

Freebies and store credit are also effective incentives for some online retailers.

However, the hard currency should be the goal.

Establishing a rate is the next step. Both of these options are viable here:

  • Flare-rate commissions 
  • Percentage commissions 

Percentage commissions are the most popular type of affiliate compensation, with the average commission sitting somewhere between 5% and 30%, as reported by ReferralRock.

By comparison, the standard commission rate for selling things on Amazon might be anything from 1% to 20%.

If your current price point isn’t working for your company, feel free to raise or drop it.

Alternatively, you can make many offers with varying commission structures.

Pick An Affiliate Management Network (and Affiliate App) 

pick an affiliate management network

Do you plan on using an existing affiliate network or launching your own?

There is nothing wrong with creating your own affiliate program if you have the time and resources to devote to it.

However, it can be difficult for a small business to develop its own system.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of affiliate marketing platforms where you may hawk your products in exchange for a cut.

For an affiliate program, affiliate networks serve as a go-between or manager.

Among the many services they offer, program management includes hiring and screening candidates, keeping tabs on sales, and allocating earnings to participants.

A few examples of widely used affiliate network platforms are provided below.


LeadDyno is a widely used affiliate marketing plugin.

The platform has excellent customer service available via live chat, email, and phone, and it processed over $200,000,000 in affiliate sales in 2020. 

Affiliates have access to a suite of tools designed to encourage participation and sales through monetary compensation and other incentives.

LeadDyno is highly adaptable and can be easily integrated with eCommerce sites.

When you use a service like PayPal, Dwolla, or even Coinbase to pay your affiliates, they can either be paid automatically or given a one-click approval. 

The affiliate commissions are automatically calculated and distributed by LeadDyno.

Feature Highlights:

  • Personalized dashboards for every affiliate 
  • Automated outreach programs 
  • Comprehensive tracking system without third-party cookies 
  • Intuitive affiliate management tools 
  • Digital marketing tools for growing your program 
  • Affiliate groups and commission tier creation 
  • Superb customer support 

LeadDyno has a 30-day free trial. Its Starter plan starts at $29 a month. 


Refersion stands out as a formidable contender in the affiliate marketing space. 

It provides a comprehensive platform for affiliate and influencer marketing, allowing you to roll out your campaign in a matter of minutes.

Refersion streamlines the process of finding, managing, and compensating affiliates.

In addition to the benefits above, all Refersion customers gain access to a marketplace with over 5,000 prospective partners who may be interested in taking advantage of your offer.

Feature Highlights: 

  • Easy to find influencers to work with 
  • Affiliate dashboards to gauge performance 
  • Product level commissions 
  • Breezy start up 
  • Quick registration page for new affiliates 
  • Discount code conversion triggers and tracking 

What’s more, Refersion is set up to expand alongside your company’s needs. Use the trial version of the Professional plan for free. 

Then, if you find you need more room to grow your affiliate program, subscribe to the Enterprise plan.


UpPromote is the most highly regarded affiliate management tool available today.

With UpPromote, you can quickly and effectively create a high-quality affiliate marketing campaign that incorporates the efforts of influential people in your niche.

Just a few clicks are all it takes to handle your affiliate program.

It’s straightforward to make default commissions, adapt registration forms, and set up payments. 

It also features a powerful tracking system for monitoring clicks and conversion rates, as well as capabilities for converting clients into affiliates.

Feature Highlights: 

  • Accurate tracking process with multiple click-tracking methods 
  • Dedicated assistance 
  • Advanced offer options for attracting more affiliates 
  • UpPromote Marketplace (a resource for potential influencers) 
  • Customizable dashboard and management platform to go with your brand 
  • Affiliate contact syncing 

UpPromote provides a free plan with unlimited affiliates and a free 14-day trial. Pricing for the paid plans begins at $21.99 monthly.

Attract Your Affiliates 

attract your affiliates - setting up an affiliate program

You’ll need to find the ideal affiliates to join once you’ve worked out how to start an affiliate program.

Video game streaming platform Twitch uses an affiliate program that selectively accepts only the most impressive candidates. 

Affiliates in these programs often view their acceptance as a mark of distinction.

However, not every company can enjoy the same level of affiliate program success as Twitch. 

Nevertheless, there are a few strategies you may employ to entice affiliates to sign up for your network and start promoting your digital and physical goods, like:

Email Marketing 

Please utilize your email list if you have one.

When compared to other communication methods, email requests have the biggest effect on affiliate participation. 

Send an email to your list informing them of the affiliate program and soliciting their support in spreading the news to others who might benefit.

Individual affiliates can be contacted via email if you have a few in mind.

A personalized message is always best, but there are plenty of email templates online if you don’t know where to start. 

Leverage Social Media 

Spread the word on your own social media marketing platforms about your affiliate program. 

Some of the largest companies around the world use Instagram to tell their audience about their affiliate programs and invite their followers to join. 

This emphasizes the advantages of becoming an affiliate in an effort to drum up further interest among potential affiliates.

Use Your Own Website 

People that find their way to your site already know something about your company.

These folks might be good candidates for your affiliate program.

More importantly, this is where affiliate marketers can circle back for new programs. 

Put a link to your affiliate program in a visible location, like the footer, where it won’t draw too much attention but will still be easily accessible. 

Constructing a landing page for the program with prominent benefits highlighted is a must.

Provide useful information on your website so that affiliates will feel comfortable working with you.

Don’t forget that once an affiliate has joined your program, they are responsible for promoting your products. 

However, it is still your responsibility to advertise your program.

Provide them with an enticing offer and simple application procedures.

Make sure that the details of your affiliate program that would interest potential affiliates are included. 

The reputation of your affiliate program, the quality of your affiliate network, and the precision with which you measure affiliate activity will have the most impact on the success of your program. 

Affiliate Networks

Conversely, you may choose to add your company to affiliate networks such as ShareASale and Impact.

You’ll have access to a pool of millions of pre-existing affiliates through these networks. 

Because of the low barriers to entry, they are especially useful for startups and small enterprises in establishing an affiliate marketing program and recruiting affiliates.

As an added bonus, several of them provide tools for learning affiliate marketing and quickly becoming an expert.

Manage Your Affiliates 

It’s crucial to monitor your affiliates and the health of your program once you’ve recruited them. 

A successful affiliate program is built on a foundation of regular communication.

Since email is the primary mode of communication for most affiliate marketers, this can be accomplished with relative ease.

It is vital that your affiliates are acquainted with your brand and understand the guidelines of the affiliate program. 

To ensure that all of your affiliates are on the same page, it is a good idea to provide them with a bank of content that they can utilize. 

This can include lessons, webinars, visuals, pre-written social posts, and a list of acceptable (or even necessary) hashtags.

Continuous growth requires an in-depth understanding of your affiliate program’s performance. 

For instance, if you know which affiliate marketers are bringing in the most revenue, you may put more resources into nurturing and rewarding their efforts.

Figure out why they’re doing so well.

Before they became an affiliate, did they have a lot of brand loyalty? 

If this is the case, perhaps you should approach your most loyal customers and invite them to join the loyalty program.

Here are a few metrics to monitor consistently: 

  • Sales per affiliate 
  • Total payouts 
  • Gross margins 
  • Affiliate rate acquisition 
  • Total affiliate sales 
  • Average order size 
  • Payout-to-sales ratios 
  • Total number of affiliates 
  • Number of affiliates who didn’t stick with the program 

Finding and managing affiliates is simplified with tools like individualized signup and onboarding processes, affiliate tracking, and data analytics. 

Fortunately, the affiliate management apps mentioned above all have these features. 

Related Reading: Best Affiliate Programs For Beginners – Learn More Here.

Final Thoughts 

There are benefits and drawbacks to establishing an affiliate program, just as there are to anything else in life. 

However, there’s no denying that the trend in the digital sphere is toward the influencer model. 

This allows brands to more easily and cheaply connect with large audiences, build relationships with affiliates, and ultimately boost sales.

Affiliate networks are strong avenues to contact potential customers at a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising channels.

It just makes sense to bank on this fact.

Disclosure: This article might contain affiliate links to the resources I refer to. It's at no cost to you, and it's how we pay the bills. Get more info here.

Brooks Conkle Banner Image
Brooks Conkle

Brooks is an entrepreneur, father, husband, & follower of the golden rule. He has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur after graduating with a Finance degree from Auburn University. Addicted to starting new business projects, he believes in creating multiple income streams and a life of flexibility. Business should work around your life, not the other way around. He creates content on his website, sharing his projects to help other hustlers in marketing, personal finance, and online business.