As affiliate marketing managers, we’re frequently contacted by brands interested in starting or growing their affiliate programs, and we appreciate that. It shows that people have learned about the expertise, passion, and commitment we put into our work and about the great results of our affiliate marketing efforts. We also love sharing our knowledge and helping brands grow. But there is one thing we don’t like: providing affiliate marketing growth estimates when we don’t have all the details.

Dear merchants, we fully understand and support the need to estimate growth, costs, and profits and we would love to be able to help. However, the growth of an affiliate program depends on numerous factors that affiliate marketing managers, don’t control and, therefore, cannot estimate. This is especially true when we’re just getting started, before knowing all there is to know about your brand, budget, and marketing strategy.

Affiliate Marketing Growth Factors Out of Affiliate Managers’ Control

1. Brand Awareness

By fostering consumer and affiliate trust, creating association, and building brand equity, brand awareness will play a huge role in the growth of your affiliate marketing program. Affiliate marketing managers can help build and improve it over time. However, they cannot control existing brand awareness and its impact on the growth of the affiliate program being launched or optimized.

2. Brand Reputation

Bad reputation makes it extremely difficult to grow an affiliate program. When it’s a bad reputation among customers, the affiliate program manager can only contribute improvement and management ideas. Once the brand has improved its reputation in front of customers, the manager can help improve it in front of affiliates. But it takes time and it requires support from the brand.

3. Pricing Strategy and Selling Points

When 83% of shoppers compare prices before buying, it’s important to stand out through a compelling offer (competitive prices and/or unique selling points). The affiliate manager doesn’t control the brand’s pricing strategy and selling points and cannot estimate their evolution and impact on affiliate marketing growth. If your products are not competitive or have lower prices in other stores, the affiliate program will take longer and be more challenging to grow.

4. Stock Stability and Management

Popular products often go out of stock. When they do, the affiliates promoting them get disappointed and replace them with competing products. The affiliate manager can help control the damage when the brand has numerous products, the stock issues are rare, short-lasting, and announced in due time. It helps if the brand agrees to set up similar product recommendations, pre-order options, etc. However, they can’t prevent, anticipate, or measure stock issues, and, as a result, they can’t control affiliate response to them or estimate the impact on traffic and sales.

5. Offer to Affiliates

Affiliate managers can recommend what commissions to pay, what budget to allocate, and how to distribute those to affiliates. The final decision belongs to the merchant, the affiliate manager only implements it. We pitch brands to affiliates, call in favors, and appeal to long-standing relationships, but we cannot force reviews or placements. Brand awareness, competitive commissions, free samples, and a budget for paid campaigns guarantee those.

6. Website Conversion

In a well-built affiliate program, affiliates drive high-quality traffic to the online store. The merchant is responsible for converting that traffic into sales, for turning website visitors into paying customers. The affiliate program manager can suggest ways to improve website conversion but they cannot control it. When the website conversion rate fluctuates greatly or is lower than normal, affiliate program growth is impossible to estimate.

Some affiliates run tests before adding a new brand to meaningful placements. Others just monitor affiliate program statistics and begin to promote when the numbers make sense. If everything goes well and they see their return on investment, affiliates scale, leading to a considerable increase in traffic and sales. When affiliates see discouraging stats or their tests fail, they move on to another brand and may never look back.

7. Overall Marketing Strategy

More often than not, merchants see their affiliate program as a “marketing channel”, separate from email marketing, paid ads, social media marketing, and PR. They fragment their marketing strategy and don’t get their teams to work together. An affiliate program can grow under such circumstances as well. However, the process is much faster when the teams work together and support one another.

For example, personalized and exclusive discount codes can be a powerful tool. Affiliate endorsements can become valuable social proof. Backlinks and free samples can convince many affiliates to promote. Regular promos and giveaways are a great way to engage affiliates and prospects as well, not just buyers. PR efforts can result in valuable media placements but the affiliate program manager can help consolidate the relationship and obtain more media placements with the publishers in question with communication and teamwork. Affiliate marketing growth will depend on all these factors and more, and this makes estimates impossible.

Should You Try to Estimate Affiliate Marketing Growth?

Starting and managing an affiliate marketing program involves costs. As a merchant, you want to ensure you’ll recover your investment and eventually make a profit. It’s normal to want an estimate of the results you can expect. However, when requesting that estimate, focus on aspects the affiliate program manager can control and anticipate, like:

  • First steps after launching or optimizing the affiliate program
  • Number and type of prospects to be contacted every month
  • Minimum number of valuable affiliates expected to join every month
  • Minimum affiliate traffic growth estimates and strategy to grow further
  • Number of expected placements

How Long Does It Take to Grow an Affiliate Marketing Program?

Each brand is different, and what works for one may not work for the other. Usually, the affiliate programs of brands with numerous products, competitive offers, and high brand awareness see faster and more streamlined growth. For small brands, with low budgets, and starting from scratch, results usually take longer to appear. Generally, no matter if you’re launching or optimizing an existing affiliate program, you should give your affiliate program manager at least 3 months, preferably 6.

This will give them time to implement the strategy you approve, onboard, and activate more affiliates. It will give the affiliates time to publish content about your brand and, hopefully, see results. Finally, it will give you time to get to know your affiliate program manager, to understand if they are what you and your brand need, and if they can bring in the results you’re looking for. Just remember to see your affiliate program as a long-term investment, not a quick sales driver.

Think of it as an orchard or as a vegetable garden. You have to invest in planting and growing the trees and veggies but your efforts will be rewarded later on, at harvest.  Just like the fruits and veggies feed your family or end up bringing you cash, affiliates, if taken good care of and protected from weeds, will help grow your brand and bring you more traffic and sales.

How Can You Facilitate Affiliate Marketing Growth?

  1. Work with an experienced affiliate program manager with a proven track record! They’ll have relationships, experience, and tools that enthusiasm can’t compensate for and you’ll recover your money’s worth faster.
  2. Support! When your affiliate program manager asks for discount codes, promo info, analytics, or creatives, it means they need them. You may not be able to honor all their requests but keep an open mind and help with what you can.
  3. Stay flexible! Some affiliates will need higher commissions than others or require upfront costs. Try to see the bigger picture, the average cost per sale across the affiliate program and not for individual affiliates, and the long-term benefits. You may need to lose money or break even on a couple of sales with a few key affiliates to open the door to new partnerships and hundreds more sales.  But when your affiliate program manager recommends that you go through with the partnership, at least give them a chance to explain.
  4. Consider and act on feedback! Your affiliate program manager wants the best for your brand and program. Their ideas and feedback may not be what you want to hear but keep an open mind. You may discover issues and solutions you didn’t know you had.
  5. Communicate and work as a team! Inform your affiliate program manager of any initiatives, promos, product launches, PR events, etc. Most such news and events can and should be shared with affiliates, to engage them and convince them to create more content about your brand and send you more traffic. You can decide how to present the information together. Then, your marketing team should work together to streamline the buyer journey, not compete over who gets credit for more sales and who should spend the available budget.

Let’s say your PR team publishes some press releases and facilitates content about a new product launch. If you share your plans with your affiliate manager and equip them with all they need, they can further pitch the news to affiliates and help create even more content. These efforts will bring you more traffic, but it takes 3rd party reviews (often from affiliates), a good website, compelling deals, exit intent popups, shopping recovery emails, and retargeting with display ads to convert that traffic into sales. Then, email marketing, social media marketing, and loyalty marketing come into play to bring buyers back to your website and get them to spend even more money.

All these efforts will have better results and lower costs if the people behind them understand everyone’s role and work together to create a streamlined, cohesive, buyer journey. As a merchant, you want your brand properly marketed. Letting the different teams and “channels” cannibalize one another won’t allow that, so get them to communicate and collaborate, whether they like it or not!

The Bottom Line About Affiliate Marketing Growth Estimates

Some affiliate management agencies promise 100% or even 300% growth over 6 months, and it can be encouraging for a merchant to see some numbers. We guarantee 1000% growth and even higher if you follow our recommendations. But it’s a big if, and does that help your brand and ensure your success when you start from scratch? Not really! 100% growth in affiliate sales only means doubling them. If you’re now getting only 2-3 affiliate sales monthly, increasing to 4 or 6 won’t make a huge difference. 40 or 60 sales don’t mean much either.

A single affiliate could drive hundreds of sales monthly. And affiliates happy with their earnings always have room to scale and can become an example, an inspiration for other affiliates. Under the circumstances, estimates won’t be relevant. More important than the number of potential affiliate sales is their quality and cost, how they can be used to engage even more affiliates and bring you even more sales.

When we’re only discussing the possibility of managing your affiliate program, we don’t know all the details. Without them, estimates cannot be accurate and we prefer to avoid them. But we do know how to launch and grow successful affiliate programs and have all the skills, tools, and resources to do so. All we need is your vote of confidence, a chance to show you what affiliate marketing growth can look like. We all understand that you won’t keep paying for management services if you’re not happy with the results you’re getting.

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