What is an Affiliate Partner? (And Why You Need One!)

Greg Harrington
Greg Harrington
Director of Revenue

Finding new ways to grow your customer base can be life-changing for any business owner. While email marketing, SEO, and social media are all core elements of a successful digital marketing strategy, affiliate partnerships cannot be ignored for their low-cost, high-profit opportunity.

Affiliate partnerships can do a lot for your business in a short amount of time. Partnering can boost your brand awareness, grow your audience, enhance your credibility, and unlock new revenue streams.

In this guide, we’ll explain what affiliate partnerships are, outline the different affiliate networks, discuss how they work, and otherwise provide all the details you need to build your own affiliate partner program.

What is an Affiliate Partner?

An affiliate partner is an individual (often a blogger, influencer, or content creator) or business that partners with your company to promote your brand, product, or service. In return, the partner earns a commission from any successful conversions due to their efforts.

A classic example of an affiliate partnership is the Amazon Associates program. Essentially, partners sign up for the program and create their own individualized link to an Amazon product. They may use that link in a YouTube video as you discuss the product, or in a blog reviewing their favorite accessories. However it’s used, affiliate partners get a commission if someone follows their link and buys the product. It’s a fairly simple process, and Amazon Associates is a great way for beginner influencers to get their feet wet in affiliate marketing.

In this example, Amazon gains a customer by paying the affiliate partner a commission. The affiliate earns money while posting content and growing their influencer brand. Both parties have something to gain.

But affiliate partnerships don’t just belong to Amazon. Large and small businesses alike can use an affiliate program as a means for referral marketing. Affiliate programs are especially useful for startups and online businesses, as they can quickly boost brand awareness and provide credibility.

Why You Need an Affiliate Partner Program

An affiliate partner program is a fantastic way to increase your brand recognition or overall product consumption. A successful affiliate partnership can grow your audience size significantly with minimal effort on your part and can be beneficial for your partner as well.

Let’s say your company sells an industry-specific SaaS tool. Your software automates lots of processes, saves a lot of time, and overall helps other businesses run their organizations much more effectively. But with only a few years in business, you need help gaining traction and building an initial client base.

That’s where channel partnership comes in. By working together with an established and complementary brand, you gain more brand recognition and increase your clientele at the same time. Your partner benefits from offering your product as a value-add, which makes their product appear more valuable. And, they also gain a small commission or other incentives from every long-term client you gain via the partnership. Win, win, win!

In essence, affiliate partners can help in these ways:

  • Grow business. For you, a partner program motivates you to create an affiliate program and related assets for partners to use. This becomes a scalable foundation that effectively brings in new clients with low effort.
  • Improve brand credibility. Having affiliate partners that are willing to promote your brand name and stand up for your product makes your brand instantly more credible.
  • Increase brand reach. If you’ve had a hard time expanding into new audiences or audience segments, partnering with a brand in that area will surely help. Consider it a foot in the door to test the waters and see how well the audience responds—without spending significant marketing dollars to gain such insight.
  • Improve conversion rates. With more partners promoting your brand, credibility increasing, and new audiences being reached, your new client conversion rates and related metrics are sure to grow.

How Can Your Affiliate Marketing Program Make Money?

The science behind affiliate marketing is pretty interesting. Businesses provide personalized product links for each of their affiliates. The influencer or affiliate partner promotes that product and links to it using their personalized link, and whenever someone clicks it and is directed to the product landing page, a cookie is added to their browser.

The cookie will stay there in the background for a certain amount of time. For many affiliate programs, it’s around 30 days, though that cookie timeframe can last up to 6 months or longer.

If the user purchases your product or service within that cookie timeframe, the purchase will be attributed to the correct affiliate, and that person will earn a commission on the sale. Affiliate partnerships are often paid via a set commission rate, which could vary widely by product and industry, from 1% to 200% and beyond. Those high commissions are generally found in more niche markets, where one conversion earns the business and affiliate partner alike a larger payout.

Looking for the nitty-gritty on developing a profitable channel partner program? Our free eBook, How to Become a Premium Channel Partner, has what you need.

How to Build Successful Affiliate Partnerships

There are intricacies involved in setting up an affiliate partnership. You want to be sure to team up with the right partners who make sense for your product or service. Your first step will be to do some initial research into finding partners who already have customers or followers in your target audience. Then, follow these tips to get in touch and grow your potential affiliate base.

Reach Out to Ideal Your Affiliate Partners

A great first step is to make contact with the influencer or affiliate manager at the businesses that you’d most prefer to partner with. A compatible affiliate program partner will be in a similar niche and target a similar audience.

If you want to know how to contact them, you have a few options.

  • Phone call - For the most authentic and professional approach, research the affiliate program manager at your target company and call them directly. Make your call short and sweet, stating who you are, what your brand offers, and what you’re proposing. Promise to send full details immediately after your call, and be sure to do so. Don’t forget to follow up in a few days if you don’t hear back by then.
  • Email - This is a good solution if you can’t reach your decision-maker over the phone. Send an email (or a series of emails, if necessary) introducing yourself and what you’re offering by way of the partnership. Just like standard email marketing best practices say, you can slowly reduce the frequency of your messages, but never give up until you get a clear “not interested” response.
  • Social media - Reaching out on Twitter or LinkedIn can give you immediate access to brands you want to partner with, but it may come across as spammy if not done right. For best results, be sure to contact partner managers via your company’s official social media account, so that person can easily look up your business and see if it’s a good fit.

Remember in every communication to promote the benefits of working together. Since you’ll probably be reaching out with cold messages, you might need to sell them on the idea. Highlight the key details of the partnership that will benefit them, being sure to also showcase your credibility so your potential partners feel safe working with you.

Take Part in Events

A big part of business is networking. This could be through face-to-face conversations or through online interactions. Events are a great way to boost your networking and have conversations with people in the same niche as you.

For that reason, you should consider taking part in some events. Even if you don’t secure a partnership in every event, at least you can grow your list of viewers and subscribers.

You should have two goals in mind at every event: meet potential affiliate partners and people who might want to be an ambassador, and look for program managers who are searching for a new affiliate partner.

Before the event, do your homework and find out who is going to be there. From there, determine what the benefit might be of working together. Keep that in mind and leverage that at the event.

Once you’re there, be yourself and be honest. You’re not trying to trick anyone into being an affiliate partner — these partnerships should be long-lasting and involve a lot of back-and-forth trust.

Finally, don’t forget to follow up with everyone you met. Even if they explicitly told you that they weren’t interested in a partnership, it’s worth asking if they know of someone who is. Keeping tabs and catching up with all of your leads is a great way to transition into future business ventures.

Engage with Influencers

If you want to drive more traffic to your site and grow your brand awareness, influencers are a great place to start.

At their core, bloggers, influencers, and content creators are great at growing an audience of people who care about their opinion and follow their advice. If you run a paid partnership together, you can use their influence to your advantage.

To run your influencer partnership, there are a few payment models. You might pay them upfront for the post or video, you could give them a commission based on people who clicked their link to buy your product, or you can work with a hybrid version of both of those models.

Regardless, you’re paying for the social power that the influencer has. Any time a Kardashian posts a promotion about a product, that company sees a massive uptick in its sales.

Examples of Affiliate Partnership Programs

There are plenty of online partnership opportunities that businesses can use to find influencers who will share their products on their blogs or social media. Sites like eBay, Clickbank, and Amazon all offer such affiliate programs. However, if you’re wondering about larger-scale programs and how they work, take a look at these three big names, and how they’ve structured their affiliate programs.


Commission: 200% commission after referrals maintain active subscriber status for 2 months

Cookie life: 30 days

Shopify is a leader in drop-shipping, with more than 2 million merchants using it around the world to host, manage, and process payments for online e-commerce stores. Shopify affiliates earn 200% on the cost of a monthly subscription (which can be up to $2,400) for any new subscriber they refer after that subscriber maintains their account for at least two months. Any referral that signs up for a Shopify Plus account earns the affiliate a flat $2,000 payment.

Shopify provides its affiliates with content to promote to their audience, making referrals that much easier. There’s no cost to join Shopify’s affiliate program, and Shopify affiliates enjoy enhanced support for their own Shopify stores.

WP Engine

Commission: $200+ per signup

Cookie life: 180 days

More than 60% of websites are built on WordPress, and WP Engine provides web hosting for thousands of these sites. Through WP Engine’s affiliate partnership program, affiliates can offer special coupon codes to their audience, and affiliate commissions can be as much as $200 per new WP Engine signup, or 100% of that new customer’s first monthly payment, whichever is higher.

By encouraging followers to use StudioPress themes, affiliates can earn an additional 35% of those sales (cookie life 60 days). And on top of that, by referring new affiliates, current affiliates collect a flat $50 for each of their referrals.

Constant Contact

Commission: $5 per free trial sign-up; $105 per paid account signup

Cookie life: 120 days

Constant Contact provides an email marketing suite that allows entrepreneurs to create full-scale email marketing campaigns. Their product includes access to webinars, templates, and tutorials to help users take full advantage of all of its tools.

Through Constant Contact’s affiliate program, affiliates earn $5 for every qualified lead referred, and $105 once that referral becomes a paid customer. To help make referrals a breeze, Constant Contact provides promotional materials, a referral tracking dashboard, and support as needed.


Affiliate partnerships allow companies to partner with similar businesses, influencers, or content creators to unlock a mutually beneficial revenue stream, all without breaking your marketing budget.

Getting an affiliate program running requires a good amount of organization, though. Each partner must have a set of personalized links so that all attributions are made correctly. Affiliate managers should use a dashboard to track each partner’s marketing efforts and any commissions earned—and Relevize offers just that.

If you want to learn how to get started with a reseller partner program, you can trust Relevize. Our team is here to help you track, manage, and optimize your channel sales. Request a free demo today!

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