Affiliate Programs: Why You Should Build a “Second Audience” for Your Business

Want to expand the reach of your business and find new audiences for your products and services? An affiliate program could be the answer for you.

Copyblogger’s affiliate programs run like a well-oiled machine, and in this episode of Hit Publish, you’re going to find out why.

We want you to take advantage of our hard-won knowledge so you can put together an affiliate program that expands your reach, and boosts your profits.

You’re about to hear from some of the people responsible for keeping our affiliates very, very happy. They’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at how they do what they do.

Tune in to hear from Mica Gadhia, Jessica Commins, and Tony Clark as we discuss:

  • How affiliate programs work, and why they’re a boon to online businesses
  • Why starting an affiliate program entails developing a new audience for your business (and how that’s a crucial element to their success or failure)
  • Why treating your affiliates unequally might end up making your affiliate program more attractive

The Show Notes

Affiliate Programs: Why You Should Build a “Second Audience” for Your Business

Pamela Wilson: It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t even know what an affiliate program was, and that’s all right. If you don’t know, it’ll be our little secret.

Here’s how it works.

You have a product or a service that you sell from your website. Other people with websites and their own audiences like what you offer. It’s good quality. It gets good results, and it sells, so they want to recommend it.

You want to thank them for helping you reach people you wouldn’t reach otherwise. You set up an affiliate program where they can get credit for sending you sales.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, it can be tricky. If you’re not careful, you can end up alienating your affiliates. I want to help you avoid that, and that’s why I’m tackling this topic today.

Welcome to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business. This is Pamela Wilson of Copyblogger Media. This week, I’m bringing in Copyblogger team members to share their answers to your online marketing questions and show you how to build the business that grows your profits.

I want to thank you for downloading this podcast, and I want to thank Rainmaker.FM for hosting it. Are you ready to build a successful affiliate program? Let’s Hit Publish.

How Affiliate Programs Work, and Why They’re a Boon to Online Businesses

Pamela Wilson: We’re going to start today’s episode with Mica Gadhia, who’s the affiliate program manager for Copyblogger’s massive StudioPress affiliate program. She knows a lot about this topic. I asked Mica if she would give us a general definition of affiliate marketing.

Mica Gadhia: It’s funny, I looked into the definition of ‘affiliate,’ and it says, “To officially attach or connect to an organization.” Basically, an affiliate is someone that sells your product for you. For example, we have StudioPress Child Themes, and we have over 14,000 people listed with us. They have their own websites. They have their own customers. They buy the Genesis Framework and Child Themes from them, and we give them, in exchange, a percentage of that sale, of a full price sale. So affiliate marketing is just something where you either like a product or you have created a business, and you sell someone else’s product.

Pamela Wilson: So it’s a way to expand the reach of your products, when you work with affiliates.

Mica Gadhia: Absolutely. We love our affiliates.

Pamela Wilson: When it comes time to actually pay the affiliate for promoting your product, what does that look like?

Mica Gadhia: You can do different ways of paying your affiliates. Some of our programs are percentage of the sale. If you sell a full price, if they refer to a full price sale, they’ll get 35 percent of that sale. That’s generous. That’s what you want to be. We’re very generous with our programs.

You can do percentages, but we also have programs where we do a flat fee. Those are going to be also highly generous, but those are typically your recurring sales. So if you have a monthly product, oftentimes you can do a flat fee for those, and it’s one time. Your hope is that customer, that is referred by your affiliate, will continue with your product, so you’ll see the benefits of that long term.

Pamela Wilson: There are a lot of long-term benefits to running an affiliate program when you’re selling products or services online.

Coming up, we’ll talk about how to create and maintain a well-run affiliate program.

A quick reminder, before we continue, Hit Publish is sponsored by our Authority Rainmaker live event, which will happen this May in beautiful Denver, Colorado. The event features a robust curriculum and lots of networking opportunities. I would love to see you there. Learn more at

Why Starting an Affiliate Program Entails Developing a New Audience for Your Business (and How That’s a Crucial Element to Their Success or Failure)

Pamela Wilson: Jessica Commins joins us next. Jessica oversees all of Copyblogger Media’s affiliate operations. Jessica hadn’t run an affiliate program before she started running ours, so she had to hit the ground running and learn on the job. I asked Jess what surprised her. What were some unexpected tasks that she had to learn to do?

Jessica Commins: It’s funny you would bring that up. I absolutely did get thrown into this, and it was intimidating. But it was not impossible. I was fortunate that the program was already in existence, so I really just had to pick it up and keep it going. Since then, we have established new programs for various products. There are a lot of little things that people may not realize going in.

First off, for somebody that’s brand new, has never run an affiliate program, and they’re starting something brand new for their own product, I would strongly recommend understanding an affiliate’s perspective. It seems intuitive that you write this amazing book, and you’re going to have an affiliate program for people to sell it. But it’s surprising how few people take a moment to really research things from the affiliate’s perspective.

What are they looking for? What makes them feel confident? Beyond just knowing your book is awesome and recommending it to their friends, there are certain things that people look for. So I would recommend just applying to a couple of affiliate programs to get an idea of what the journey is like for them.

Pamela Wilson: That’s a great idea. You’re saying that they should become affiliates themselves just to experience it.

Jessica Commins: Exactly. That way you’ll also get to see how other affiliate managers respond to various points in the journey.

Pamela Wilson: Love that idea.

Jessica Commins: The second thing that people often don’t think about ahead of time, is confirming trademark boundaries. You spent all of this time and effort writing this amazing book, or creating this amazing product, and now you’re going to open it up to people who know, like, and trust you. They’re going to promote you.

Most people are awesome about it. But sometimes when you’re dealing with someone who either doesn’t have experience, or perhaps they just don’t understand that certain things are not okay on a trademark or brand protection level, you’re going to want to really spend some time thinking about what words are okay to be used in promotions.

For instance, things like Facebook. I’ve heard a lot of people get surprised by this one. Sometimes an affiliate won’t realize that they really have to make it clear they’re not you, when they’re putting up a Facebook ad.

You’re going to want to have guidelines that tell them what kind of wording they can and can’t use, if there are certain things they can and cannot bid on in paid advertising. It’s simple. You don’t have to get all lawyer-y about it. Just a friendly outline that helps them understand what’s cool really helps the affiliate, too.

Pamela Wilson: What’s the best way to get that information to them? Is it something that you should make clear when they’re signing up? Is it something you should send in the initial email that you sent to affiliates?

Jessica Commins: Chances are when you’re getting people into the program, you just need to get them into the program. We have a program Terms of Service that is available when you apply, and affiliates can go and refer to it later. You could just put something as simple as a page up on your website that outlines what you can and cannot do. If you’d like to go and find something to crib from, check out You can see the ‘normal people’ language that we use to describe our general terms.

Pamela Wilson: That’s great. Thank you for that resource. We’ll put it in the links on our show page.

Jessica Commins: The third thing is, make sure you create lots of art. Affiliates have different spaces on their website. Sometimes they might want to promote your product or service with a post. So you’re going to want have a really good, bigger image for that post. Maybe they want to put a banner up on the side of their website. You want to make sure you offer art in a variety of sizes so that it’s ready and easy for them to apply.

Pamela Wilson: That makes sense.

Jessica Commins: The fourth thing is, make time. When you’re first setting it up, it’s probably going to take more time than you think.

There are a lot of great books out there that talk about, “Affiliate program management in an hour a day.” It’s like Rachel Ray with her 30-minute meals. Yes, you can probably eventually make that in 30 minutes, but with the prep work, it’s probably going to take an hour the first time.

Pamela Wilson: Right.

Jessica Commins: Just make sure you set aside enough time to really pay attention to your affiliates. Pay attention to the customers that are referred by affiliates. Work out the kinks. Make sure you address the pain points and just be cool.

Pamela Wilson: Right. That’s a reason that we can embrace the fact that when we first start affiliate programs, typically we’re starting with just a handful of people, but that’s a great way to work out the kinks. Work them out with this small group. Then as you expand your program, you’ve got the basics figured out.

Jessica Commins: Absolutely. Your affiliates, just by the questions that they ask you, will tell you where you can grow. The customers that they refer by follow-up feedback, or however they communicate with you, will also tell you what perhaps you could be offering your affiliates, too, and improve the journey for them.

Pamela Wilson: It’s almost like your affiliates are another audience that you need to be listening too.

Jessica Commins: Absolutely.

Pamela Wilson: Great advice.

Jessica Commins: The last thing is data. I am an enormous fan of using data to guide your strategy.

One, this is sort of an advanced concept, if you already have e-commerce tracking enabled on your website, you can actually work it out to where you include affiliate referral data in there as well. You can take that forward and go all across your website to see how your various channels are performing with different affiliates, with different content.

If you’re not ready to dive that deep into it, my last recommendation for people who are setting up an affiliate program for the first time is, in addition to making time to listen to your customers and your affiliates, make some time to look over the data on a daily basis. See who is sending clicks. See where they’re going. If you find that affiliates are sending a lot of people to one particular landing page, and it’s not making sales for them, to make things awesome for your affiliates, you’re probably going to want to think about how that landing page is structured. Not only to improve conversions for them, but also for you through them.

Pamela Wilson: Right. That makes sense. So you need to be looking at the data they’re generating and basically responding to it almost as if you were responding to your audience.

Jessica Commins: Exactly. Opening an affiliate program is just a new relationship with your customer base. Your affiliates are also often customers. It’s just taking it to the next level.

Pamela Wilson: Jess recommends putting ourselves in our affiliate’s shoes, so we understand their needs and understand their journey. That’ll help us support what they do and help them be successful.

Developing an affiliate program is a lot like developing a brand-new audience for your business. You’re going to do some of the same kind of research that you may do to understand your public audience when you’re trying to better understand your affiliate audience.

Why Treating Your Affiliates Unequally Might End up Making Your Affiliate Program More Attractive

Pamela Wilson: Our last guest today is Copyblogger’s Tony Clark. Tony’s got some strong opinions about how to run an affiliate program right. I asked him what site owners can do to keep their affiliates happy.

Tony Clark: Pay them on time, first of all. That’s the most important thing. People tend to overlook that. They think that’s not the main thing that they should be focusing on. But it is. Pay on a regular schedule, and pay it on time.

The other big thing is, when you treat all of your affiliates the same that can get you into trouble, both with the big affiliates and the small affiliates.

Big affiliates, a lot of times, don’t need a lot of hand-holding. They don’t need a lot of help. You provide the tools. They take it. They do what they do, and they actually convert really well and bring in a lot of money. Smaller affiliates need a little bit more hand-holding, maybe need a little bit more guidance. You have to provide them that type of guidance. But don’t treat all of your affiliates the same, just like you wouldn’t treat all of your customer segments the same.

Pamela Wilson: That makes a lot of sense. Does that follow through to the percentages that you pay larger affiliates?

Tony Clark: Typically it does. You can work on a performance basis. There are affiliates that you know that perform very well, you may know in your particular industry or niche that they do very well, and you can start them off higher. Other ones, you start everybody off the same, and as they begin to perform, you increase their percentages as they do better.

Pamela Wilson: Keep them motivated. That’s a great idea.

Tony Clark: Exactly.

Pamela Wilson: Mica, Jessica, and Tony recommend that we think about our affiliates as a whole new audience we’re going to develop. Understanding their needs and meeting those needs with the affiliate resources that you create is going to help you build a successful program.

Remember, you’ll probably start out with just a handful of people. That’s how we all start. Let your program develop organically. Stay in contact with your affiliates, so you understand what they want and also what they need, so that they can be successful, because in the end, if they’re successful, that means sales for you.

Here are my questions for you this week.

If you already have an affiliate program, can you get in touch with just a few affiliates and ask them how you can better serve them?

If you don’t have an affiliate program, can you spend some time researching your options? Find out what’s a simple way that you could set up an affiliate program on your website.

This is Pamela Wilson. I want to thank you for being one of the many highly intelligent Hit Publish subscribers.

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