Affiliate Marketing Strategies – Part 2

In part 2 of the Affiliate Marketing Strategies 3-part tutorial, we dive into ‘Superb Customer Service’ for affiliates i.e. how to treat and interact with affiliates to encourage them to garner ongoing promotions, by cultivating liking and trust. Some of these strategies may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but I’ve found them to be very useful for leveraging lift and real return on investment (ROI).

Payment Terms and Payment Timing

If you have someone with an email list who is driving for your products or services, then the following common payment terms often apply: once you (the affiliate) sells our stuff, we will wait 30 days and then take all refunds and subtract that from your earnings, and then pay you in one month or at the end of the month in which the promotion took place.

This is a very common strategy for paying affiliates, and one that generally adds up to 50% payout of the transaction value for a digital product OR 5% to 8% on the lower end of recurring ongoing billing and up to 20% to 25% on the higher end for the sale of software. Whatever the specific payment terms, I recommend paying as much money as you can as quickly as you can to affiliates.

If you can immediately show your affiliates that their action(s) yielded results (by paying them quickly), then you will pop into their mind more swiftly than someone who pays them later. The idea is to reward affiliates, while the results from their promotion are still fresh in their minds.

To be clear – I’m not saying you should “give away the farm”, 100% of what your product is every time; clearly, that’s not a sustainable practice. I am recommending that you pay as much as you can on the front-end.

Of course, to pay quickly you need to first master your back-end (i.e. have in place follow-up offers and various other products and services that you sell to other front-end customers), but if you’re selling a digital product with no real manufacturing cost, then you have all the more reason to pay sooner. I suggest paying within one week of when an affiliate has finished a promotion.

An exception to the general algorithm is high-ticket products – if you’re selling a low number of high-ticket products, you may have to factor out refunds from what you pay out to affiliates. That being said, almost under no circumstances have we (in any of my three LLCs) had an astronomic refund rate. We may factor in some refunds as par for the course, from there figure out the highest payment possible, and then pay as swiftly and as much as possible to our affiliates.

Our biggest money makers are recurring subscription products, and we know our customer lifetime value (those who subscribe generally pay $175 over their customer lifetime). In turn, we pay $50 or $60 to affiliates for a front-end sale, which may be less than the up-front ticket price, but we know our customer’s lifetime value and can accurately gauge the ROI. Either way you slice it, the ultimate goal is finding core offerings that yield high payouts to affiliates and convert well to their traffic.

A quick note on promotion length – I recommend an agreed-upon promotion period of 42 to 78 hours. Keeping a shorter window makes it easier to immediately reward behavior, and to climb the totem pole with big affiliates.


Every facet of what an affiliate might need to do for your offer i.e. “the creatives” (from banner advertisements or simple email templates to various article materials for SEO or content marketing) should already be done prior to the affiliate’s promotion. Don’t expect for affiliates to create the creatives on your behalf.

Usually, we send out the necessary creatives 14 days before a promotion and then again 48 hours before the promotion; being persistent makes it almost impossible for affiliates to lose these materials or to forget about their agreed-upon promotion.

Similarly, with tracking and reporting, the day after a promotion, affiliates should get an email about how well their promotion performed. Two days later, send them their final numbers in a complete report (i.e. how many sold, per product price, total sales). Tell your affiliates that you want to pay them immediately and ask for the best payment method. Act as if the micro-accuracy for their numbers and payment are more important to you than it is for them.

Special Treatment

The building of relationships and liking can be an invaluable asset for your business’ continued success. I like to make the analogy of the financial world, in which there are people who manage the portfolios of others – whether that be an Edward Jones, a Morgan Stanley, etc. Handling affiliates’ best interests is a similar game.

The boots-on-the-ground sales staff are often not the most highly-trained quantitative traders, but they frequently don’t mind the face-to-face aspect of the business. Their job is to build the liking and the relationships with the customers. This is not done through manipulation, but through active relationship-building i.e. being useful and providing value.

For this reason, when dealing with big affiliates, we’ll often (in addition to the pay out) send a personal card or handwritten note in the mail, along with a small gift (or larger, depending on the offer) to the affiliate’s office after a promotion. This is usually a small gesture, such as a Starbucks card for affiliates and their assistants, an extra $20 to get a dinner or beer on me, or a similar token. Nine times out of 10, the affiliate will appreciate the gesture, even if the offer didn’t go so well. Consider doing something similar to the affiliates that you value.

Introduce Them to Quality People…Often

If leveraged, you’ll find that one of the best gifts you can give to serious business folks is introductions to people who are worth having in their rolodex. This could be other affiliates, vendors in the space where the affiliate is actively looking to build an audience, or similar business owners who are smart and with whom they could socialize and learn. Any time you have a genuine introduction to make, the first people you should think about are your big affiliates – the ones who have the potential to really boost your ROI.

Stay Tuned…

Be useful to affiliates using the above strategies, and you’ll find that you’ll garner the liking factor responsible for building real affiliate relationships.

In part 3 of the Affiliate Marketing Strategies tutorial, I’ll review the system that we use to track sales – a simple Excel format to monitor, day in and day out, what we are promoting/doing for various partners and what we need to expect from our partners. Stay tuned next week!

Here’s to a productive week,

-Daniel Faggella
CLVboost Founder



About The Author

Daniel Faggella

I grow businesses with marketing automation, email marketing, and conversion-rate optimization. I've spoken on business and emerging technologies internationally and at some of America's finest schools (Yale, Stanford, Cornell, etc...). My marketing strategies have been featured in the Boston Business Journal, MarketingProfs, Direct Marketing News, and much more. CLVboost is where I share marketing strategies, is my major pursuit.