Keeping an affiliate program private can provide many benefits for DTC and B2B businesses looking to grow. However, there are several downsides as well. It is important to fully understand the pros and cons before choosing a private or public affiliate program.
Thousands of new affiliate programs launch on networks such as ShareASale, Impact, and Refersion every year. When we talk to these companies we hear some of the same concerns:
I don't like coupon sites.
Why aren't affiliates promoting my products?
Where are the sales?
Why aren't we getting 4x ROAS from this channel?
The good news is that these concerns can be resolved with an easy fix — a private affiliate program. Lock down the application process and make it invite-only. Stop the madness!
During our sales process, we ask a series of detailed questions about our prospect's overall health and strategy. Of the programs launched on their own, all but a few do so before they are ready for the full impact of what the affiliate channel can do for them. They don't have enough brand recognition or margins to support the channel. Affiliates need proof of conversion. They need coupons, discounts, and deals to convince customers to click their links or use their codes. If you consider your brand “premium” or “elite” and you don't want to discount, walk away from affiliate marketing or keep it private.
In a closed program, you can still find influencers, content creators, or mass media publishers that will link to your products through the affiliate channel. You can have fast growth this way, but it isn't sustainable. This strategy isn't going to get you year-over-year growth. The best case studies from Apogee are from programs that utilize all the available models of performance marketing and grow significantly over a 3-5 year period.
Professional affiliates want high conversion, high commission, and the best offers available. They want to work with brands that help them make money both quickly and for the next 10 years. These are the partners that brands need for growth, but they aren't looking for you. They need an invitation from a reputable affiliate manager or a promising brand with good statistics.
If you aren't ready for the onslaught of hundreds of non-relevant affiliates applying to your brand, just keep it private. Build your program slowly and then expand as your numbers become attractive. My team would be happy to walk into a private program that represents 5–10% of a brand's overall online sales and build it toward the 15% range. This would be so much better than us tearing down an existing program with auto-approved affiliates and no content affiliates with sales.
Who manages a private affiliate program? You do. In-house. Whether you are the owner of the company or the eCommerce director, managing a private program for the first 18 months will be a slow but relatively easy process. Once you are ready for sustainable growth, find an agency like ours that offers you reasonable expectations and costs.