How to Create an Affiliate Program: A Simple Guide

Table of Contents

Affiliate program analytics report

Here, you will learn how to create an affiliate program that works. But first, answer this question:

Who are the best marketers? Social media marketers, digital marketers, content marketers..?

They are all great, but in reality, the best marketer for any business is a happy customer. 

Why? Because people trust others for product recommendations much more than any other source.

This is where affiliate marketing comes into play. Through an affiliate program, you are allowing your customers to get a reward for being more vocal about their love for your brand. 

It’s a win-win situation where you get new referrals/customers and the affiliate gets commissions.

Before we begin explaining how you can create a successful affiliate program for your brand, we will explain exactly how they work and clear up some misconceptions around affiliates. 

Feel free to jump to the steps:

4 steps to create your affiliate program

What is an affiliate program and how it works

Affiliate marketing is a fairly straightforward system.

First, a brand needs a website with its products and services. Then, it launches an affiliate program and invites people to join. Usually, anyone can apply but the company has requirements to be approved.

Once people join, they get unique links to specific products or services they choose. 

These links allow an affiliate marketing software to register how many times that exact link was clicked and how many times it lead to a purchase.

Below we will tell you how you can create affiliate links for your program.

Then, the affiliates share these links to their audiences through content. The content they create is completely up to them. So they can make YouTube videos, Instagram posts, blog posts on their personal website, TikToks, etc. 

The point is to talk about these products they love and recommend them to their audience. Product reviews are a very popular type of affiliate content.

But all the effort of building an audience is theirs. You as a brand only need to provide a way to generate the links and guidelines for the program. The rest is up to them.

Finally, when someone makes a purchase using an affiliate link, the affiliate gets a commission for the sale.

You set the commission rates.

Referral Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for 2021

Affiliate vs Influencer vs Brand ambassador

A very common source of confusion around this topic is the difference between an affiliate, an influencer, and a brand ambassador. 

This confusion is caused by the fact that affiliate programs exist, as well as brand ambassador programs, and influencer campaigns.

However, affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors are basically the same things. Let’s define each one, so you can see they can be the 3 things at the same time.

  • An influencer is essentially any person who has a following and can influence them.
  • An affiliate is a person that gets rewarded by a brand for getting new customers through the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.
  • A brand ambassador is any person that partners with a brand on a long-term basis and participates in online or offline marketing activities.

So, if someone with a following creates content about your brand using affiliate links, the 3 categories apply.

Benefits of having an affiliate program

Increase brand awareness

Naturally, when you have a group of people, each with a specific audience, talking about your products, more people will be aware of them.

Affiliates need an audience to be successful, so just imagine what hundreds of affiliates could do for your brand in terms of brand awareness.

in adddition, if you are launching a new product or service you can give people a higher commission to talk about it.

More sales

Word-of-mouth recommendations are more powerful than you might think. 

92% of consumers trust brand recommendations from people they know.

This means that people are more likely to purchase your products if someone else is recommending them. Recommendations provide validation.

That’s why today, brands are focusing so much on word of mouth marketing, user-generated content, online reviews, and this type of program.

89% of consumers try finding reviews when making purchase decisions.

Affiliate programs are cost-effective

Affiliate programs are a type of performance-based marketing, which means that the amount of money you spend will depend on the performance of the affiliates. 

Excluding the costs for setting up the program, you will only have to pay for every sale that the affiliates generate. 

This allows brands to have as many affiliates as they can find. 

How to create an affiliate program in 4 steps

Now we can talk about starting your own affiliate program. These are the 4 steps you need to follow:

  1. Decide on your affiliate commission rates
  2. Choose an affiliate management tool
  3. Create supportive marketing materials
  4. Recruit affiliate marketers

1. Decide on your affiliate commission rates

The first thing you need to do is decide if you are going to make all your products available at the program and how much the commission will be. 

This is up to you, but usually, commission rates are between 5% to 30%. However, some affiliate programs offer lower or higher commission rates.

For example, Amazon’s commission rates range between 1% to 10% depending on the product category. 

Amazon affiliate program commission rates for each product category

On the other end, Elementor offers a commission rate of 50% to their affiliates. Which tells you that you could make your commission whatever you want. 

Elementor affiliate program

The important thing is that it makes sense for your products.

Additionally, there are many ways you can structure your payouts. Let’s take HubSpot for example.

In their affiliate program, they give members the ability to choose from 2 options. The first option is a recurring 15% commission for up to a year. This means that affiliates get 15% of the paid plans they bring in every month.

And the second option is affiliates get a flat rate corresponding to 100% of the first month’s revenue.

What HubSpot tries to do is give people a great deal so more people want to join. You should also think of payout structures that interest people while benefiting your brand.

HubSpot affiliate program

2. Choose an affiliate management tool

Now, you need tools to set up your affiliate program. There are plenty of options of software and plugins for WordPress and Shopify you could try, but generally, it’s better to use an all-in-one affiliate management platform like SocialLadder.

SocialLadder gives you the tools to streamline the whole process. You can find ideal affiliates, recruit them, manage them, and track their performance from the same place.

How? Let’s take a closer look.


The Discovery Module uses enriched data and machine learning to scan your customer base and find ideal candidates for your program. 

As we mentioned before, the best affiliates are people who actually believe in your products, and the best way to find those people is to look at your current customers.

Create affiliate links

You can’t have an affiliate program without affiliate links. With SocialLadder’s Deep Links, affiliates can choose the products that they love from your site and create affiliate links by themselves they can use in their content.

How to create affiliate links

These links then track every click and purchase so you can have a clear ROI from your program.

Affiliate link tracking

Managing your affiliate program

You can directly talk with your affiliates through the in-app chat so you can stay in touch and build a stronger relationship with them.

Then, you can pay the affiliates their corresponding commissions.

Additionally, SocialLadder is the only affiliate platform that has gamification. That means that affiliates get a sense of competition by seeing the affiliate leaderboard. Where everyone can see the top performers.

This feature increases affiliate participation because not only are they earning commissions, but they feel like playing a game.

Scaling your affiliate program

SocialLadder makes recruiting and managing easy so you can focus on the strategy. 

Affiliate tracking platform, SocialLadder

3. Create supportive marketing materials

As you know, affiliates will be creating content around your products, so you should make it easy for them to show the benefits.

You should provide guidelines on how to talk about the advantages of using your products and services. As the brand, you know better than anyone else what sells. 

In addition, you can provide statistics, information, and case studies that have performed well in the past. 

Or you can create graphics that people can easily share. For example, your logo, PNG images of the product, etc. Graphics are great for social media content but also for blog posts, in case your affiliates create written content.

If your affiliates do email marketing, you can share templates.

The point is to make it easy for people to create any type of content that converts.

4. Recruit affiliate marketers

Once you have everything set up, you need to promote your program and start adding affiliates. 

The best way to start with this task is by letting your customers know about the program. To do this, send an email to subscribers with the information and a link to the page where they can apply.

Check out this email template you can use to reach out to your customers:

Hey [Customer Name],

Thank you for being an awesome customer and supporting our mission to [company mission].

How would you like to spread the love for our products and earn extra money along the way?

We recently launched our affiliate program where you can earn a [commission] commission from every customer you bring.

If you’re interested in joining the program click the button below

[Become an affiliate button]


Short and to the point.

Then, you can post on social media as well. A simple image showing that you have an affiliate program should do the job. This should drive awareness among your customers. 

After that, you just need to remind your customers every once in a while through another email or social media post.

You should also write content about your affiliate program so that people that search on Google for affiliate programs find yours.

Over to you…

Those where the basic steps you need to follow to create an affiliate program that increases brand awareness and gets quality customers. All through the power of your customers.

If you want to know more about more word-of-mouth marketing strategies make sure you check out this article: 6 Proven Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies that Work.





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