How to Handle Inactive Affiliates

June 1st, 2016
Estimated read time: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Do you ever ask yourself questions such as, “Why do I have so many inactive affiliates?”, “What is the most effective way to get activity from my affiliates?”, or “What kinds of results should I expect from an ‘activation campaign’?”

Unsurprisingly, the most common questions that arise when analyzing an affiliate program’s performance concern the high number of dormant or stagnant affiliate accounts.

As Geno Prusakov put it in A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing, “Sooner or later every affiliate manager has to face it—most affiliates on board the affiliate program are inactive. Some have christened it a 5-80 Rule: 5% of your affiliates do 80% of the work.”

Here are some guidelines and advice that you may find useful in dealing with inactive affiliates.

1. Make sure the tag “dormant” is being attributed to the right affiliates.

This leads us to the question of how active your affiliates actually are. Though many would tend to label affiliates based solely on their referred sales, this may not always be a representative indicator of your “dormant affiliates” rate. Another way to categorize or segment your affiliates is to consider these three categories:

  • Affiliates with impressions of banners or links but no sales
  • Affiliates with clicks but no sales
  • Affiliates with no clicks and no sales

2. Understand the reasons for affiliate inactivity.

Some affiliates sign up to get into an affiliate program, but they don’t move further with promoting any products, or they don’t convert their impressions or clicks into sales. The most common reasons are:

Affiliates who have never had any activity or clicks

  • They already have enough on their plate and your program is in their pipeline of future actions.
  • They didn’t receive the information they needed in order to get started.
  • They lack the necessary experience in the niche.

Affiliates who have had at least one click since joining the program

  • They have tried to sell your products but were unable to convert their promotions into sales. This is usually due to poorly targeted traffic or insufficient information on how they should advertise the product.
  • They have switched to your competitor’s products since joining the program.
  • They have stopped their affiliate activity at a certain point and are no longer interested in this business.

3. Take action regarding dormant affiliates.

Obviously, cutting down the inactive affiliates might be among the first thoughts that come into the minds of affiliate managers. However, sharing the responsibility for their activities is more likely to lead to a positive outcome.

Consider testing several actions that may lead to increased engagement from your affiliates and more sales coming in.

A) If your list of dormant or non-productive accounts is not so big—let’s say it comprises a couple of hundred affiliates—we suggest you go through it and check each affiliate for their website and profile and then contact the ones that you find relevant and find what they need in order to become active.

In impact Radius, you have access to certain information about the affiliates’ profiles including the date when they joined the network, the number of campaigns they’re promoting and their network ranking. On top of this useful information, you can also check the websites yourself to find out the Alexa Rankings for an estimation of their traffic.

B) If you count yourself among the merchants whose number of dormant affiliates is too large to even consider manual checkups, you can start by segmenting your affiliate base through “activation campaigns”. Here’s how:

Craft a special offer for the inactive affiliate base that can be comprised of one or more of the following:

  • a bonus for their first sale
  • a contest with prizes exclusive to targeted / previously inactive affiliates
  • promotional pricing

Establish what the activation metric will be:  For your initial effort,  you could try to engage them in contacting with you rather than threatening to close their account if they don’t generate any sales.

  • Ask them to email you back to confirm their interest in continuing to be a part of your program.
  • Ask them to reply to your email in order to benefit from your special offer or to take part in your contest.
  • Ask them to answer a short survey regarding the reasons for their inactivity and the motivation they need to move forward.
  • Set a deadline to create a sense of urgency for your inactive affiliates.

Having a large number of inactive affiliates can be frustrating, but with some understanding and initiative on your part, you may be able to convert some of them into productive partners.

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