What does it take to run a great affiliate program? Surprisingly, it only takes getting six things right. But you have to master these six things. Today, I reveal the final three pillars of the six pillars of great affiliate programs.

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Previous Episodes of The Affiliate Guy

The 6 Pillars of a Great Affiliate Program (Part Three)

The 6 Pillars of a Great Affiliate Program (Part Two)

The 3 C’s of Successful Affiliate Programs Part 2

The 3 C’s of Successful Affiliate Programs Part 1

The New Model for Affiliate Programs

The Future of Affiliate Marketing & The Advantage of Being Small

The 6 Pillars of Every Great Affiliate Program (Pillars #4-6)

What does it take to run a great affiliate program? Surprisingly, it only takes getting six things right, but you have to master these six things. Today I reveal the final three pillars of the six pillars of great affiliate programs.

Welcome back to the final episode in this series. It’s pretty much going on the whole month, really, the foundational work for building a great affiliate program.

And we’ve covered the first three pillars in the previous three episodes. Today we’re going to talk about the final three pillars of great affiliate programs. If you haven’t listened to the first three episodes, go back and listen to those, because I talk about them in depth.

Just to give you the super quick overview, the first pillar, we talked about contests. We shared how to run great contests and why they work. So make sure you go back and listen to that. We shared the second pillar. I covered that in the second episode. It’s all about communication.

And I shared how to communicate with your affiliates effectively. Right? How to communicate with them in a way that makes them feel valued but gets them to do what you want them to do, which is make you more sales.

And then I covered the third C. You’ll notice all of these begin with C. I talked about coaching, educating your affiliates, and how to coach them to success.

And now we’re back for the final episode, the final three C’s here. And so with that, let’s just jump right into number four. Actually, two C’s for the number four.

It’s just competitive commissions. Again, this is foundational stuff. You can’t have a great affiliate program without great contests.

You can’t have a great affiliate program without great communication. You can’t have it without great coaching. And you certainly can’t have it without great commissions, without competitive commissions.

And I use the word competitive because do you have to have the highest? No. To have a great affiliate program, you do not need to have the highest commissions, but you do need to play in the same ballpark as the competition.

You cannot offer a 20% commission when your competition is at 40. If your competition is at 50, you need to be at at least 40. If your competition is at 30, you need to be at least 25.

You really need to be in striking distance of your competition. So if your competition is at twelve, some of you are listening, like, how do you offer a 12% commission that’s ridiculously low. That is reality.

In fact, lower is even reality in retail world, where you have an 85% cost of goods. People don’t realize, like, companies like Walmart don’t make very much money per item. They make any profit, because in the amount of time since I started recording this episode, they have sold 10,000 items worldwide.

Since I started recording this, they only make a buck 50 an item, but that adds up. And so in that world, 4% might be competitive, 5% might be competitive, but if your competition is at 12%, you need to be at ten. So a good rule of thumb is you need to be at at least 80% of your competition. So again, if they’re at 10%, you need to be at 8%. If they’re at 50, you need to be at 40. And, of course, the gap is wider there percentage wise.

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Ten and eight is 2%. You do not need to be at 48% to be competitive with the 50% affiliate program encompassed in competitive commissions. Again, foundational stuff, timely payouts, you need to offer better payout time frames, or at least equal to the competition.

So if the competition pays like most programs do, where sales for June are paid the first week of August, most companies have a 30 day return period, and that allows for all of the sales in June to be dealt with, all of the returns to be processed, and they’re paid out in the first week of August. But if you have a lot of competition that’s paying out weekly, you need to pay out weekly. You need to pay out either better or at least equal to the competition in terms of timing.

So if your competition moves to weekly, you got to move to weekly. There could be a stop gap there where if they’re going weekly, maybe you go twice a month, something like that, but you need to be competitive there. This is all about standing out.

You got to have flexible payment options. So more than just PayPal or whatever, give them options. Give them options like direct deposit and PayPal.

At least one that is good for international affiliates, unless you literally can’t have international affiliates. You need to make sure they have options to get their payouts. And it’s usually not an ACH from your bank.

It’s usually not direct deposit. It’s usually something like PayPal or other options. You need to have custom commissions based on affiliate type.

So if you’re going to have competitive commissions, it’s really hard sometimes to offer a 40% commission to a coupon site. You need to have lower for that. So you need to have a specific commission for content affiliates and coupon affiliates and rewards loyalty affiliates, things like that.

You need to have tiered commission structures. Some of those successful affiliate programs use tiered commission structures. And this means as affiliates bring in more sales, as their sales volume goes up, their commission rates increase.

That’s a huge motivator. This is why we always say we advertise the lowest possible competitive commission. So if your competition is at 25%, I can’t advertise lower than 20.

But if I can pay a 30, I advertise like a 25% commission rate and I have 5% to move people up. Like if you make 500 sales in a month, you move up to 30%. All of a sudden the difference between making 450 sales and 520 sales is astronomical to the affiliate.

Let’s just say that it’s $100 product. I will just run some quick math. In fact, I got to open up a calculator here doing those live. Let’s say they’re going to make $100 transaction. So they make 450 sales times 100. Okay, 45,000 and they make 25%.

They’re going to make $11,250 but at 510 sales, same $100 price. But now at a 0.3, $15,300. So 15300 minus 11250. I mean, we’re talking almost a 50% increase in payout. 40 something % difference. That’s a lot of money to make extra for an additional 60 sales, 36% increase in money for only a 13% increase in sales. That’s a 3X return on that.

You see what I’m saying? It’s highly motivating to affiliates to do those tiered commission structures. Obviously you need performance based bonuses, certain milestones like we just talked about, but it could be just flat amounts.

So in that particular case, which of these psychologically would be more of an incentive if you’re trending towards 450? And I say if you hit 500, I’m going to give you $3,000 or a 5% commission bump. Now, you and I both know I just did the math on that.

I’m going to make $4,050 more. But what sounds like more psychologically, what’s better, $4,050, but it’s 5%. So it kind of doesn’t seem like that big of a deal or $3,000. It motivates me more to get to that next level. So think of those types of things.

Think of recurring commissions. If you’ve got software, think of ways you can be competitive with a recurring commission. What are some ways you can have your affiliates continue to earn money long term. This rewards them for customer retention, but it also gives you an opportunity to keep paying them.

And you go, why would I want to keep paying them? Because every time you pay them is an opportunity for you to say, ‘Hey, we just sent you $1,000 this month. Thanks for being an affiliate, by the way. We have our big launch coming up in five months. Do you want to be a part of it?’

Every time you send money to them? It’s like a marketing fee. That’s what it is. It’s a marketing fee. They get reminded them like, this is the company sending me money every month. ‘Oh my gosh, these people are amazing. I want to promote them even more.’ All right, so we’ve got to have a competitive commission.

The next thing, the fifth thing that I would not have included 19 years ago when I got into this world, when I became an affiliate manager back in 2005, I would not have included this one. It was all about communication to the masses back then.

Now it’s about our fifth C in these six pillars of great affiliate programs. Customization, custom landing pages as much as you can with your bigger affiliates especially, it could take you 20 minutes to customize a landing page, adding a welcome message to the top that says welcome. Such and such people, basically doing a little bit of branding of their stuff.

If you have an endorsement from the affiliate, which you should, you have an endorsement from them. Put their endorsement front and center instead of some other person’s, you want their endorsement to be the first thing that they see. If you’ve done a video with the affiliate, do a video with the affiliate.

If they use your product, ask them why. If they don’t, ask them why their people should. If there’s any customization you can do, do it. It’s going to convert so much better.

So custom landing pages, custom offers, custom coupon codes, custom graphics, the very least, like divide your affiliates into two to five buckets based on their content, type their niche, their target audience, and create custom graphics and custom copy for those.

Custom graphics. If you’ve got three different audiences, older women, older men and middle aged women, we’ll have different graphics for those. If you got moms and entrepreneurs in a faith based element, have different graphics for those.

When we did my book promo recently, we did a campaign with our affiliates where they promoted our book and we created some new graphics. And one of them, we loved it and affiliates loved it. It was an angry boss and he’s yelling at this employee, and the basic message was like, if you’re tired of the nine to five grind, Turn your passions into profits (Matt’s book), right?

It was a male boss, and I had an affiliate ask for one with a woman, so we created one for the woman. It was a woman boss yelling at a woman employee instead of a male boss yelling at a male employee. That was the only difference.

Well, then we released it to all the affiliates and we had like, seven other people who wanted it. It’s an example of customization. I mentioned custom promo codes, custom commissions we just talked about.

So again, at the very least, think of buckets and how you could customize graphics and copy for those backing up to the buckets there. The buckets could be based on, again, content type, the niche, the target audience, all types of things like that. So you’ve got different copy for your coupon site, different copy for your bloggers, different copy for the audience who has older women versus middle aged men and things like that.

Those are creating custom copy based on the audience type, but those are just for buckets. So if you’ve got 5000 affiliates, you might have here’s copy for 1000, here’s copy for another thousand, and so on and so forth. But if you really want to take it to the next level, let me share how we are creating custom copy for affiliates takes a little bit of time on the front end, but once you do it on the front end, it’s amazing.

This is something we used to do on a very limited basis because of the time it would take. We would write, write meaning from scratch. We would take the copy and we would try to capture the voice of some of our top affiliates and give them custom swipe copy.

And it would take, say, for ten emails. It would take 3 hours to write that copy. Totally worth it because sometimes those affiliates would make us $100,000 plus. But it was still 3 hours. It was a pain in the b***. There’s an easier way to do it now, and it’s using AI.

So I give you an example here. We’ll take some of our top affiliates. We have a company we’re working with now, and one of their top affiliates is Reese Witherspoon. Like the Reese Witherspoon. Right? And what we would do for her, it’s social media.

We took, like, 200 tweets. These are all publicly available, they’re profiles, whether it’s Reese Witherspoon or somebody a lot less famous. Took 200 of her tweets, loaded them into a bot that we create on chat GPT, load them in there, and we call it the Reese Witherspoon channel, basically, or chat.

We took 200 of her tweets, said, these are her style, these are the words she’s using. This is the format of her tweets. This is the tone and the style that she has on her tweets. Do you understand her tone and style? Yes. Great.

Now I want to create 50 more about this product in her tone, style and format. And it created them, and about seven or eight of them kind of sucked. But now we had 42 that were awesome. All right, create ten more. And I pulled eight of those, and those eight were amazing. Now we had 50.

We’re able to give Reese Withershoon 50 amazing tweets for her to post. Can do the same thing with Instagram, Facebook, whatever, with email copy. We only do this for our top, top affiliates.

You give you, like, one of our top five to 15. Now, working with multiple clients, I can do this for an affiliate. And now I’ve got it there. Like, it’s there. And when I have a new offer, I don’t have to redo the work each time. I’ll save the chat.

So I’ll have a John Smith chat and a Susie Anderson chat and whatever Reese Witherspoon, in that case, but chat, I’ll have that. And when we have John, we want to create custom copy. I’ll go pull 20 of his emails.

How am I supposed to sign up for his email list? Well, that could take a couple of weeks. Yeah, it could. You’re not saying you’re going to have it on day one, but you could also ask. I like to do it as a surprise, personally. So typically sign up for their email list.

And one of the ways I have found that you can speed this process up. If you have a few different email lists, go sign up for a few different things of theirs, like different opt ins. So you’ll get more emails more quickly in probably a different automation sequence.

And in ten days, you can get 20 emails and you create a model. This is their style. These are the words they use and don’t use, you can create custom swipe copies.

Then you say, okay, I’d like you to rewrite this email. Your generic swipe copy. You find the one that maybe you have four different versions. We talked about bucketing.

You take the one that’s written for the bucket that most fits their bucket and you say, rewrite this in their style, tone and format. And you might have to correct like one or two things.

But if you know how to use Chat GPT, then you say, “Hey, here’s the rewritten version. This is more in alignment with their style. Please use this going forward.”

After a few times of doing that, you’ve trained it and now I can create ten custom swipe copy emails. Instead of taking 3 hours, I can do it in about 20 to 25 minutes and it’s totally worth it. So these are just some of the ways that you can customize things.

Again, custom promo codes, custom commission, custom graphics, custom landing pages. Customization is now a pillar of great affiliate programs. You can’t just run a generic affiliate program.

Number six is you need a centralized hub. You need a centralized place for your affiliates to find everything.

It needs to be all in one place, one login, one place to find everything easy to use. Some people say affiliates are lazy. You got to hand it to them.

Now I say affiliates are busy and their number one priority most days is not your stuff. It’s their team, it’s their platform, it’s their podcast, it’s their blog, it’s their social media, it’s their products, their services, their clients, their customers, their students, whatever their members, those are their priorities. Your affiliate offer is like number twelve on the list.

I’m in this world when I think, okay, when I’m promoting something as an affiliate, what’s the order? Again, not like failing and stuff. I’m talking about just within my business, my business, our clients, our team, our customers, our students, my content, our articles, my podcast, my social media, our videos.

I’m already at nine things before I even think about your affiliate thing. So because of that, you need to make it easy. Put everything in one place.

I should have a portal, a hub where I can log in and I should see my stats. Why do I have to log in to two different things? Why do I have to see stats here and then links are here and oh, we got to check that email I sent two weeks ago.

Why do I have to go for an email from you two weeks ago to find my links? I should just be able to log in there in one place. My stats, my links, my swipe copy. If it’s personalized, swipe copy. It’s right there. All the graphics should be right there.

The calendar should be right there. The terms, the agreement. If you need a template, by the way, go to mattmcwilliams.com/termstemplate. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes so they know the rules.

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Like you can just copy that template. Obviously change like my company name to the actual name of your company. Promo tips FAQ right?

Need to make this easy to navigate. It’s got to be easy to navigate. I’m thinking about like I’m logging into our portal right now and when you log, know there’s a welcome message.

That’s great. Yeah, you want a welcome know, but right there, boom, stats. Stats right there, boom. Important dates, boom. Link to the partner Facebook group up here. Program info like, here’s the information on our different products.

Here’s the information. I’m clicking through our webinars. Here’s the information on how to sell 10,000 copies of your book without major media or paid advertising.

Webinar here’s the webinar on this. It’s got the different product information. And then I go to that and boom, it’s got all the information about that particular offer and it’s got all the information on the promo plan and the swipe copy and links for that, the graphics.

I click on that and boom. I usually have Twitter graphics. I click here, I’ve got Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn graphics. I click here, I’ve got Pinterest graphics for this specific promotion. I go up here and I’ve got the calendar of everything coming up. Got this webinar coming up.

Got this one coming up. This event coming up. Our upcoming live trainings, our upcoming Evergreen promotions, which is pretty much, well, they’re evergreen, but I’ve got promo tips.

Here’s all the stuff to help you. I’ve got an anatomy of a successful launch, and I’ve got best practices for offering bonuses. I’ve got how to put together a bonus package.

All this stuff is right there for you. Then you go to the links and swipe copy. And it’s all right there. The links and swipe copy for the webinar. Here’s your link. Not the insert affiliate link here.

No, it’s got your, boom. You just click here and you copy it. You just click right here and copy that link. And it’s so easy to just be able to grab it. We’ve got graphics in there for everything. We’ve got the rules like, hey, don’t spam, no cookie stuffing, things like that.

We’ve got the FAQ and a link to our partner’s Facebook group. All that’s right there in the portal. We make it super easy for them, easy to navigate.

So if you’re interested, if you want us to build one for you, you’re interested in having a really. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing, too. It’s.

The thing is, it’s visually appealing, which is what you want. You want your affiliates to be like, this is a good looking website. Nothing against certain systems. I’m not going to mention certain systems. Some of these back ends are just ugly. They are hideous.

And it just doesn’t make me feel good about promoting you because your back end in looks like it was designed in 1998. It doesn’t make me feel good. Give me something beautiful, easy to navigate, easy to find.

I don’t want to have to guess where I’m supposed to click to figure out the thing. Where are my stats? It should be under something that says stats. Where are the graphics? Where it says graphics. Where’s the swipe copy for the webinar in June?

It’s right there where it says swipe copy, webinar, June. Make it so easy. So if you’re interested in having us build one for you, you can text me 260-217-4619 I’d love to hear from you.

Just text me and we can talk about building one. Or you can probably build one for yourself. It’s just that we’ve done them a bunch, so we’re better at it.

But if you want to do it yourself, do it yourself where everything’s in one location for them. Make it ridiculously easy.

All right, so those are the six pillars, but as you might have expected, I have a bonus one. I always have a bonus one. And it’s one that I mentioned earlier. Like, I wouldn’t have talked about customization 20 years ago.

I wouldn’t have talked about the centralized hub eight years ago. The more common thing is, like, here’s where you log in to get your stats, and then your links are in this email, and then the graphics and the swipe copy are in a Google Drive and the schedule is in a Google sheet, and then this other thing’s in like an Airtable or whatever. And you got like five different places where you got to go to get stuff.

And the leaderboard is only in email. There’s nothing. I didn’t even talk about that. You should have a leaderboard tab. So the leaderboard’s only in email or only in the Facebook group. You got six places just to get.

I mean, good grief, that was fine eight years ago. But over the last five years or so, I realized, no, we need a centralized hub. This is one that I realized probably as little as three or four years ago, I think you could get away without having, but now you need this.

And that is our 7th C, which is community. Community. More than ever. This is big. No longer do people see other affiliates as competition, especially. We talked about this before, when your affiliate program, when your company is on a mission, when you can get your affiliates and band them together to be on a mission together.

We’re all in this together. Yeah, there’s a competition. Yeah, there’s contests. We talked about that. That was the first one.

Yeah, there’s contests, but we’re on a mission together. So building community with your affiliates, doing things like having a Facebook group, you got to have a Facebook group or some sort of a group where people can interact and form a community. And the reason I prefer Facebook for that is they’re already there.

They don’t have to log into another place like we talked about. They’re logged into Facebook and they can connect with each other. You can make friends there and they actually become friends. Right?

You got to have a Facebook group, having things like office hours, trainings. That’s one of the things we didn’t talk about with the training one.

But it also helps create community where you get 100 people on live and you’re helping them all in there, they start masterminding. This is the thing I love about is we don’t do them as webinars because those are dumb. Because you just look at me, I’m teaching you, and you’re down here, you can only type.

You can’t be on camera, you can’t talk. No, we get them on camera. We get them talking and they start helping each other out.

So you get this in the Facebook group, you get this on the zooms or whatever you use. They start helping each other out. They start encouraging each other.

They start sharing ideas, masterminding with each other. That’s what we want. They start creating bonuses together.

So now you get affiliate a and affiliate b, and you have this offer. I’m making this up here. But the offer is, let’s say it’s to teach people how to play golf.

You got a golf offer and covers everything about golf. Right. It’s a course about golf, how to play golf.

Well, this affiliate specifically teaches the mindset of golf. And this affiliate teaches putting. Just making something up there.

Well, could they work together? Could the putting guy offer a bonus that the mindset guy could use and vice versa?

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So now they both have better bonuses, they both make more sales. Everybody wins in that regard. The putting guy makes more money.

The mindset guy makes more money. The merchant, the owner of the course makes more money. Everybody wins.

That only happens when you have community, when they start sharing ideas. Here’s an email I sent that really worked. Here’s something that I tried.

I’m going live on facebook and talking about this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and they start forming that community. They’re on a mission together. They’re helping each other out, just sharing successes and problems.

Even I don’t like when these groups turn into like a giant complain fest, but that very rarely happens. But maybe somebody’s like, yeah, gosh, this is just not resonating with my audience. What’s the deal?

Somebody’s like, well, let me see your emails. And they go, well, here’s probably a reason maybe you need to do this. Have you tried this? Have you done this? No. Try those things.

So when you create community, not only does it serve the purpose of making it a better experience and releases dopamine and oxytocin and all those things for the affiliates and they feel better about your affiliate program, but you make more money because they’re going to be doing better.

So number one, just to review real quick, number one, contests. You got to have great contests.

Number two, you got to have great communication.

Number three, coaching. You got to teach your affiliates.

Go back and listen to those episodes if you haven’t yet. Okay, those are the first three pillars in this series today.

Number four, competitive commissions.

Number five, that customization. And there’s tons of ways. Start simple. Just create some custom graphics or one set of custom swipe copy for a bucket of affiliates.

Number six, centralized hub. Make it easy for your affiliates to find everything in one place.

And number seven, community where everyone helps each other out and encourages each other and shares ideas and all that stuff.

So I’d love to hear your biggest takeaway from this, or if you have any questions about this or anything else, you can text me anytime at 260-217-4619 I would love to hear from you. Last thing, as always, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss our upcoming episode.

Our next episode I’m going to talk about how Brenda Ster made $90,000 in one affiliate promo, just 1200 people on her list. It’s an absolutely awesome episode that you don’t want to miss. And then after that, let me share my top ten pet peeves that affiliates have with affiliate programs, which is something that you affiliate managers definitely want to listen to.

So make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. I’ll see you in the next one.


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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