Starting an affiliate marketing program can be profitable for your brand, if it’s done right. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut formula for success because what may work for one brand may not necessarily work for another. But with affiliate marketing experts like PartnerForward to support you, you can be sure that decisions being made are based on years of management experience. Regardless, it’s common to make mistakes in the affiliate marketing world. To help you avoid them, here are some of the worst mistakes you can make in affiliate management.


Your DTC (direct-to-customer) website should seamlessly function in terms of design, functionality, and speed if you want to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions. If DTC ecommerce struggles for any reason in any of these areas, or if you don’t provide product information that the user is interested in or wants to engage with, your affiliate marketing program will not magically work.


Treat your affiliate marketing program as an important aspect of your overall business strategy. All of your marketing channels, including email, paid search, social media, and so on must be aligned in terms of the products you’re pushing and your overall goals. For example, one can't promote a product at a much lower price in your affiliate marketing program that doesn’t align with what you’re pushing in another channel. Your affiliate marketing program needs the support of your entire team. You need aligned content and marketing messages, tech to integrate, finance for healthy ROAS/KPIs/margins, and so on.


To launch a competitive affiliate marketing program, you need to be able to constantly check whether your offers are competitive. For instance, if the merchant's product is available elsewhere like on Walmart, Amazon, Macy's, Sephora, etc., you must make sure that your prices, shipping offers, return policy, and promotional offers align with these. For example, if Amazon sells products for a lower price and offers free 2-day shipping on any purchase versus your site's free shipping offer on a $50 purchase, or another site offers Free Returns versus No Returns on your site; your DTC site and overall affiliate marketing program will suffer. Affiliates are more likely to promote products from other marketplaces that will sell/convert best for them.


The tools you use to set up and monitor your affiliate marketing programs matter. You have the freedom to choose whether you’re managing your affiliates in-house, within a network, or with the help of an agency like PartnerForward. You can work with a combination of these options if you prefer. What’s important for brands and merchants to be part of a strong and established affiliate marketing network that can offer you premium tools for effective affiliate recruitment, outreach, research, affiliate management, and performance tracking. In choosing the right network for you, you must also take a look at the size, average commissions, and some other factors.


It's important to set up the right commission structure, cookie terms, and payment window when managing your affiliates. The affiliate contract must be written clearly with what's allowed and not allowed to avoid problems later. It needs to be comprehensive with clearly defined terms and conditions. Some important things you need to include are rules for affiliate paid search, trademark use, and coupon use. The contract must also define the types of actions you will be rewarding and how much for each type of action.


Affiliate partnerships need to be nourished to reap long-lasting benefits. Never make the mistake of putting your affiliate program on auto-pilot. Instead, keep fresh your relationships with your existing publishers. It’s also crucial that your affiliates have robust support: evergreen and seasonal creatives, the right text links and promotions, communication/newsletters, and everything else they need to succeed.


While affiliate management means hand-picking only the most suitable affiliates for your brand, you must also make sure to choose them based on your marketing funnel. A full-funnel approach would increase your chances of success at affiliate marketing. You must be covering the bottom, mid, and top of the sales funnel. Keep growing your relationships with every type of publisher and keep an open mind. We would also recommend attending events, subscribing to industry newsletters/groups, and keeping on learning to be aware of what's new and hot in affiliate marketing.


Measuring your performance is an important aspect of any affiliate marketing program and ignoring your insights can prove to be a costly mistake. You must also make sure to periodically monitor and audit your program for potential fraud, TM+ violations, and so on.


Always, always be open-minded. And don’t hesitate to test your programs! Affiliate marketing has expanded beyond coupons, deals, cashback, and bloggers. It includes other models of performance marketing, unique publisher types, and - YES - paid budgets. The only way to find out how much more profitable your program can be is for you to constantly test new waters.


As you establish and grow your affiliate marketing programs, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. But the worst mistake you can make is not learning from them! Learn to identify, correct, and improve on the mistakes you make and avoid them in the future. Affiliate marketing methods and approaches are constantly changing with the times so you have to be open to failing sometimes and learning from your failures.
After seeing some success in affiliate marketing, you will start to feel confident about your knowledge and experience. Confidence is good but don’t let it hinder you from continuing to learn and grow from the mistakes you make. If you know how to acknowledge and correct your mistakes, your affiliates will trust you more and you can build strong relationships with them.