5 Steps to Affiliate Partner Activation
You've done your due diligence in finding and attracting affiliate partners.
You've worked hard to onboard and train them.
But looking at their engagement data, you're now unsure if your efforts have paid off.
One of the biggest challenges partner professionals face is keeping partners engaged. Why? Because not only is the industry saturated with competitive affiliate partner programs, but also if your program isn't in a position to help partners succeed (a position that is arguably difficult to maintain), partners will likely go elsewhere.
Keeping active partners does require effective measurement, communication, and trust, but it doesn't require rocket science. Let’s review some steps that can help you activate your affiliate partners.
What is an Activated Affiliate Partner?
Partner activation is about getting your recruited partners moving and excited about the operations, goals, and requirements of your partner program.
An activated affiliate partner is more than just one who's successfully generated a sale or conversion for your affiliate program.
It's also partners who've successfully completed the onboarding and training phases and have truly adopted the content into their daily tasks.
They are also partners who consistently participate in the program in a variety of ways. They're enthusiastic about and have a comprehensive understanding of the company, its goods, and its services. They're advocates of the goals the program has set for itself. And, because they also benefit from the program, they're committed to it.
Additionally, they're able to use the resources you've provided them to their advantage.
Why is Affiliate Partner Activation Important?
Affiliate programs allow you to reach the audiences most likely to be interested in your products through your partners. When affiliate partners are activated, they give your company the following advantages:
It's important to always keep the numbers in perspective. Setting goals is one thing, showing an affiliate's performance based on actual data is another. One of the easiest ways to determine if an affiliate is activated is to examine the business they bring in. Quantitative measurements of your channel can help determine the status of an affiliate relationship. If they’re registering and closing deals, as well as generating high revenue it will benefit your business.
When partners share content and interact with potential partners on their social networks, you benefit. Activated partners make the most of their platforms (such as social media profiles), although it's up to you to create and share social media strategies and make it easy for them to access and post up-to-date content.
Collaboration & Communication
Ongoing and effective communication is critical in any professional engagement. Business moves at a dizzying pace, so your partners need to be able to keep your team immediately informed of all opportunities and developments.
Activated partners take full advantage of your news feeds, social media accounts, chat options, and other communication systems you've set up. This can lead to collaboration between you and the partner, opening up new ideas and approaches to marketing.
Shared Marketing Resources
Your marketing team has invested many hours in creating marketing materials and content that engage potential customers at every stage of the cycle. Activated partners use this information and access it to target prospects and close deals.
Activating Affiliate Partners
As mentioned before, there are a lot of affiliate programs out there. The challenge is to keep your brand top-of-mind above other competitors' programs.
Here are the steps you can take to do so:
Step 1: Understand Your Partner’s Goals
Your relationship with your affiliate partners must provide them with value. You need to understand their long- and short-term goals and determine what actions you need to take to help your channel partners achieve those goals.
Your partners could have goals for Return on Investment (ROI) and other strategic components such as market share or new products. Of course, each of these goals should be consistent with the company's overall growth and revenue goals.
As Adam Pasch, Head of Partnerships at Improvado, stated in his Greatest Minds in Partnerships interview:
“It’s about focusing on how can I help partners grow their business. What the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are, and how can my business help overcome them.”
Step 2: Establish Communication
Communication with your partner partners is one of the most important things necessary for the channel's survival. Effective communication strengthens the bond with channel partners and increases productivity which, in turn, increases revenue
Set clear expectations early on so partners know what's expected of them. To communicate effectively, keep the following in mind:
- Nail down communication channels: You and your partner need to agree on a channel that works best for you. For example, a partner portal is designed to manage multiuser communication. Your company can communicate with channel representatives and centralize discussions with your partner.
- Personalize your communication: One method to create a fantastic affiliate experience in your program is personalization. It allows you to customize your messages so that they're more compelling, relevant and efficiently delivered. Try not to be too formal, communicate with your partners as though they were your friends. Also, make the time to have one-on-one sessions with top-tier partners.
This way, you can increase engagement and strengthen relationships with your partners.
- Communicate regularly: Constant communication helps keep you at the forefront of their minds. However, remember that quality is always more important than quantity. Make sure your messages are useful, relevant, and encouraging.
Step 3: Create a Comprehensive Onboarding Pipeline
One of the most important aspects of an affiliate program that's sometimes overlooked is onboarding. You can onboard new partners quickly and get early results by setting up the appropriate procedures and tools in accordance with partner onboarding best practices.
When creating and implementing your partner onboarding process, you should consider the following points:
- Customize the process to meet the needs of your partners: Since not all partners are the same, not all need the same level of onboarding. Develop a customized approach to ensure that each partner receives the knowledge and support they need to succeed.
- Keep it simple: Keep the process short and easy to understand so people can get up and running as quickly as possible. Furthermore, keep the process autonomous so that the partner can do it at their own pace, and in their own time.
- Support the process at all stages: Once partners are successfully onboarded, the process shouldn't stop. Support them throughout their journey to keep them informed, maintain their engagement, and help them achieve mutual success.
Step 4: Nurture Partner Enablement
One of the most important elements for the long-term growth of a business is a good partner enablement strategy. Channel partner enablement is providing your partners with the education, training, and resources they require to conduct partnership activities.
Implementing a structured and enabled affiliate program can increase sales and improve the overall experience for everyone involved. That's why you should incorporate partner enablement into your overall growth strategy. It also allows you to manage your partner relationships more effectively.
For example, set up an asset-sharing platform where you can publish all the guides, supporting resources, best practices, case studies, training videos, and any other materials that might be useful. This way, your partners can easily access all training materials and learn whenever they need it.
Step 5: Build in Feedback Loops
Customers and channel partners have a lot in common. Just as a customer who's had a bad experience would stop buying from you, partners may stop doing business with you if they've had an unpleasant experience.
So, how can you tell if or what your partners are having trouble with?
Consider a survey asking for qualitative information in the form of short answers from high-performing partners. You can do this by scheduling one-on-one sessions with them.
You can also ask mid- and low-level partners to complete quantitative surveys. To encourage participation and prevent fatigue, you should limit such surveys to a few questions.
Additionally, you might want to invest in a PRM. Receiving and processing feedback from channel partners in real time is one of the most important capabilities that PRM software offers.
You can identify problems that would otherwise go undetected for too long. Ask your channel partners what problems they're having and what you can do to help them overcome those challenges.
Build your feedback efforts into the program to remain consistent. And most importantly, take your partner’s feedback into consideration and act. This way, your partners will see that they're actually being heard.
BONUS: Create Collaborative Campaigns
Collaboration is a very important tool for creating strong and enduring partnerships. And when it comes to affiliate partners, what better way to collaborate with your active partners than we co-marketed campaigns.
You and your partner may, for instance, co-host a webinar. The webinar will receive twice as much promotion and you will get access to your partner's audience. All of the people on your partner's contact list, all of their social media followers, and all of their regular webinar participants will at the very least learn about you, if not actually attend your webinar and turn into a lead.
Since you're intimately familiar with your product or service, this also helps your partner's sales reps understand how you sell. Best of all, you'll be actively involved in passing new leads directly to the partner's reps.
“Truth is, People aren’t opening emails anymore—we don’t do email marketing at Chili Piper, just a newsletter. They're turning to their trusted service providers that they already have a relationship with to get feedback and input.”
Utilize the trust your affiliate partners have built with their audience to make new connections.
Activating affiliate partners is no walk in the park, but it's not impossible.
With the right strategies and efforts, you'll be well on your way to a thriving affiliate relationship. Follow these steps to ensure you have taken the first step in the process for affiliate partner success.
Remember that your PRM can be a particularly powerful tool for affiliate activation. It can facilitate affiliate onboarding and training, simplify channel enablement, and enable feedback.
It can also vastly reduce the manual tasks required to run an affiliate partner program, such as creating unique links, tracking progress, and sharing rewards.
This way, you'll have the critical information you need to make decisions about your sales strategy, while also having the time and resources to fully scale your program.