One of the single most frustrating things you can do as an online entrepreneur is to put in the effort to recruit affiliates…only to have them do nothing. Today, I’ll show you how to activate your inactive affiliates.

Strategies for affiliate managers to activate inactive affiliates to make sales

I received an email recently from a guy who has over 1,000 affiliates for his product. That’s great!

But…only 42 of them have ever made a sale. 42. Less than 4%. Yikes!

So his question was, of course: How do I activate these inactive affiliates?

This question ultimatey has TWO answers, as it very much depends on whether your program is evergreen or you are doing a limited-time launch. In the first part below, I’ll address it from a launch standpoint. Then I share some strategies for evergreen promotions.

WHY You Need to Activate Inactive Affiliates

The reasons why you should do this might seem obvious, but I know a lot of people who don’t do it on purpose. They just assume the effort is not worth it.

They think that if someone signs up and doesn’t promote, it must be because the affiliate changed their mind or it’s not a good fit. Or maybe they are just lazy or are spying on them.

Sure, you’ll find some examples of that, but most of the time, it’s just because they got busy. They got busy with other work-related tasks. They got busy with their kids. They got sick. In other words, life got in the way.

And all they need is a gentle reminder.

When they come back from whatever kept them from promoting, they have a mound of email, calls to return, posts to write, and videos to record. They aren’t thinking about you. No offense, but it’s just not high on their priority list.

But that gentle reminder gets them back on track and fired up again.

That’s all it takes with most people.

Often all it takes to activate inactive affiliates is a gentle reminder.

Results of Our Activation Campaigns

Before I show you the WHO, HOW, WHEN, and WHAT of an activation effort, let me share some of the results from past campaigns.

Shutterfly/Tiny Prints

Shutterfly affiliate program

In the Shutterfly/Tiny Prints program in late 2013, we had more than 15,000 inactive affiliates.

With one push that lasted less than a week, we were able to activate nearly 1,400 of them, who produced more than $430,000 in additional revenue just in the next year.

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt affiliate program

With Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever affiliate launch in 2016, we had 944 affiliates who had not sent traffic after the first week.

Three days later, 291 of them were sending traffic. In total, they produced more than $104,000 in sales. Both of those numbers continued to grow throughout the launch.

Learn & Master Guitar

Gibson's Learn and Master Guitar affiliate program

One of my favorite activation campaigns was also one of my very first. Many years ago, I ran the affiliate program for Learn & Master Guitar. When I took over, there were  704 inactive affiliates. Most of them had been a part of the program for more than a year and were considered dormant.

Within a month, however, we had activated 261 of them! And combined, they helped the affiliate program grow from $2.2M a year to more than $6M within a year.

Of the top 10 affiliates by year’s end, 4 of them were from that group of inactivate affiliates, including 2 of the top 3.

In short, when done right, this absolutely works!

Part One: Launches

WHO is Considered Inactive in a Launch?

We consider an inactive affiliate to be anyone with less than 3 hits or 1 optin by day five.

Why 3 and 1? Because most people with only 1-3 hits or only 1 optin were just testing.

That number doesn’t change throughout the launch. Below I show you when we reach out to them.

Sometimes, we’ll raise that 3 to a slightly higher number to hit some of the people who might be “active” but really all they’ve done is send a tweet.

Depending on the system you use, a simple traffic report will show you exactly who is inactive.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may have to compare it to your master list as some systems don’t show who has sent zero hits. We use Excel to run a dedupe to show us all the affiliates with zero hits and then add the ones with 1-3 hits. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it.

WHEN to Reach Out to Inactive Affiliates

The typical Product Launch Formula-style launch lasts 14-21 days, with 17.2 days being the average. Typically that looks something like this:

Sequence for Product Launch Formula affiliates

We want to reach out a day or two after the second piece of Pre-Launch Content. This gives them plenty of time to get active, but doesn’t wait too long. You want to balance being proactive and being annoying.

Here’s what a recent activation campaign looked like in a 17 day launch:

How to activate inactive affiliates in product launch

That allowed us to reach out three times, which was a good balance between getting results and getting on their nerves.

Make sure you reach out at least twice, possibly three times, but space them out a few days apart. And don’t worry too much about the being annoying part…it’s not like they can send you less traffic. 😉

Part Two: Evergreen

No matter what you do, any evergreen affiliate program with more than a few dozen affiliates is going to have some that become inactive. You can run the best program with the best commissions and have the greatest personality, but some of them just fall off the earth. Below I share the reasons why that happens…and what to do about it.

WHY Are Some Affiliates Inactive? (and What to Do About it)

In part one, I shared WHY you need to activate affiliates. I explained why affiliates aren’t just automatically promoting you. They need a gentle reminder to get active.

In other words, you need to take action yourself to get them to take action. Activating affiliates requires intentional activity, not just crossing your fingers.

So why would an affiliate be inactive? Below I share five reasons.

It’s important to understand the exact reason as that will determine the best approach to take to activate them.

Reason #1: They signed up on a whim

Rick Perry debate oops

This happens more than I wish it did. Person A sees Person B promoting something, signs up and then quickly realizes one (or more) of three things:

  • This is not a good fit for my audience
  • I have no idea how to promote this
  • I don’t have time to promote this

With this group, there is not much you can do. If you find out someone mistakenly signed up, just remove them and move on.

Reason #2: They are promoting a competitor

This one hurts.

The reality is that no matter how awesome your product is, how great the commissions are, or even how solid you feel a relationship is, sometimes people leave for “greener” pastures. That’s the nature of our world.

When this happens, it’s important to understand their WHY.

In other words, shut up and listen. Don’t get defensive, angry, or try to convince them at first. Just listen to why they switch allegiances. It might be for any of these reasons:

  • The new offer converts better
  • The new offer pays better
  • The new offer has better affiliate tools
  • The promise of a reciprocal promotion

My advice when dealing with this type of situation is to stay calm, ask why they switched, and listen. Trust me, it’s best not to say anything initially. Give them some time and follow up in a few weeks to see if there is anything you can do.

If the issue is something like tools (graphics, copy, tracking) this is a sign you need to fix these things. Get them what they need and then tell them you listened. Here’s a list of basic tools you need to provide for your affiliates.

If the issue is conversions, find out what the competition is doing to beat you. Help them optimize their campaigns to convert better. Work on your sales funnel and get your conversions up.

If the issue is commission structure, make sure you aren’t underpaying. I don’t prefer to get into bidding wars over commissions, but I will make sure we are competitive. If someone leaves a program that is already paying 50% for a program that is paying 80%, let them go. It’s not worth killing your margins.

But if you are just being cheap and someone else is beating you, stop being cheap. Pay a competitive commission.

If the problem is that you can’t do a reciprocal promotion, reconsider your stance. It might be worth promoting them to keep them. Or consider other alternatives if you truly can’t do a reciprocal promotion.

Make sure you are paying the right commission to your affiliates. Here’s how to decide the right commission structure for your affiliate program.

Reason #3: They went out of business

It happens…and they’re isn’t much you can do about it.

Move on.

Reason #4: They don’t know how to promote

Sometimes an affiliate just doesn’t know HOW to promote your product. Or they haven’t done a good job of adapting to the ever-changing landscape of the marketing world.

Your job is to help them. <<< Is that clear enough? Your job is to help your affiliate succeed.

Jerry Maguire help me help you bathroom scene

That means doing things like:

  • Hosting training webinars to show them how to promote
  • Recording videos to show them how to promote
  • Getting on calls with them one-on-one to help them
  • Telling them to subscribe to my site (seriously)
  • Creating promo checklists for your affiliates – here’s a template of one

Remember again…it’s your job to help your affiliates.

Reason #5: They’ll “get around to it later”

There are two types of “get around to it later” affiliates.

Type One (0.13%): They truly have it on their calendar for the future. In fact, let me look at our promo calendar real quick…Yep, it’s this September 7-12.

Type Two (99.87%): They’re never going to “get around to it”…UNLESS…

You give them a nudge.

As I mentioned above:

Often all it takes to activate inactive affiliates is a gentle reminder.

These affiliates are never going to take action unless you give them the nudge they need.

That means sending a specific email to get them to get off their virtual couch and start making sales.

I’ve sent more than 300 different versions of activation emails in my decade-plus of affiliate management. Along the way, I cataloged the BEST performers. And for the first time ever, I’m making them available to the public!

You can get ALL of my best activation email templates by clicking here.

HOW to Reach Out to Inactive Affiliates

The HOW is very simple…you use any means necessary. Email, text, Voxer, Skype, phone, social media, smoke signals, carrier pigeons…whatever you can think of.

We typically use email for most affiliates, but if we know other information, we’ll use that to reach out as well.

They key is to, over time, learn their preferred method of communication. If they prefer text, stick to text. If they like chatting on Skype, you can accomplish a lot more with a quick Skype message than you can with an email.

WHAT You Should Send Inactive Affiliates

I’m about to share one of the most effective emails I’ve ever used to active affiliatesWith a larger program, 95% of your communication is going to be via email, so we’ll focus on that here. 

This was an email we used during Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers affiliate launch last year.

It was sent on day five of the launch to every affiliate with 3 or less hits and 1 or less optins.

SUBJECT: Everything ok, ?


Hey ,

Just checking to make sure everything was ok.

I had you down to support Jeff’s Tribe Writers launch but haven’t seen any activity yet.

There is still PLENTY of time to join in. The launch is going amazingly well, but it’s not too late for you to get started.

Let me know how I can help. That’s what I am here for!

All the best,


====END BODY====

This email has five elements:

1. It grabs their attention

Everything ok, ? definitely stands out in their inbox.

2. It reminds them of a commitment

As Robert Cialdini reminds us in his book Influence (MUST READ!), almost nothing is as powerful as the principle of commitment.

We have a natural desire to do what we said we would do.

I make sure to remind them of their commitment.

NOTE: Many people have asked…is this a bit of a guilt trip? Yep, sure is. But it also has results that will make them a lot of money, so there. 🙂

3. It encourages them

Twice I say that there is still time.

By day five, some people might think it’s too late to join in, but I make sure to tell them otherwise.

4. It has social proof

People want to be a part of something successful.

I make sure to point out that things are going great and I want them to be a part of it.

5. It offers help

Make sure you are clear that you are there to answer questions and hold their hand if needed.

More Affiliate Activation Emails

This was just one of many successful activation emails I’ve used over the years.

I’ve sent more than 300 different versions of activation emails in my decade-plus of affiliate management. Along the way, I cataloged the BEST performers. And for the first time ever, I’m making them available to the public!

You can get ALL of my best activation email templates by clicking here.

affiliate activation email templates

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Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

Or…check out some of my free reports to help you get on the right track:

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2 thoughts on “How to Activate Inactive Affiliates

  1. Chad A Condon says:

    Hey Matt,

    This information is so valuable! It is good of you to share all of these strategies to activate the affiliate manager and raise awareness of something they may just not have thought of.

    I understand this thought process and how well it has worked for you in the past. a thought I am having after reading this is how I can use this information to also activate or motivate the small list of affiliates I have.

    Like you said, people are busy, they have great intentions and mostly do a good job but if you are not the squeaky wheel, you don’t get fixed!

    This is something I will not forget and put into use immediately!
    Thank you!

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