Running a Profitable Affiliate Program: A Piece of CAKE?

Brandon Myers
by Brandon Myers 28 Jun, 2017

For companies looking to attract new customers and grow their business, affiliate marketing continues to gain traction as a tactic that gets results. My company is a mobile education company specializing in driver training courses and we've seen great success with our affiliate program. Since launching it just over a year ago, the program has enabled us to expand into new markets, build our customer base and increase revenues at a record pace.  

Despite the revenue-generating opportunities presented by affiliate marketing, making the most of an affiliate program is not as simple as just flipping a switch, however. Just like any other digital channel, it demands a sound strategy-one that melds data and technology with best practices. Over the last year, our team has learned a lot about what it takes to succeed and ultimately make money through an affiliate program.
Here are some key tips:

  1. Give your affiliate program the attention it deserves. A common misconception about affiliate marketing is that a company can just set up a program and then put it on autopilot. While there are many aspects of an affiliate program that can and should be automated for efficiency's sake (more on that below), your overall affiliate strategy demands just as much attention and planning as any other marketing channel. Companies should take a data-driven approach to their program, which allows us to learn from what's working and what's not, and continually refine so that we are making the most of our affiliate spend.  

  2. Measure performance. What does a data-driven approach require? You need technology capable of accurately tracking the performance of affiliate campaigns, at a very granular level. We needed to know, for example, which offers were generating the most revenue per conversion, which offers were most successful matched with specific traffic sources, if there were regional variables that impacted conversion rates and which partners were generating the largest volume of traffic, the most valuable traffic, etc. A little over a year ago, we began using a SaaS-based performance tracking platform from CAKE by Accelerize. CAKE's platform is empowering us to gain previously unavailable insights about campaign performance that are in turn helping us make better (and faster) decisions about how to structure and optimize our affiliate program.


  3. The reporting structure is customizable and shareable, giving insight into the channels that drive digital marketing campaigns.
  4. Different traffic sources may require different types of campaigns. We would not have been able to understand the nuances of how different sources of traffic respond to our affiliate offers without CAKE. We learned quickly that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. By capturing detailed insights about how specific sources of traffic respond, we can now customize campaigns to match the traffic source. For example, we were able to identify sources of traffic likely to convert quickly, and present these with a purchase page on the next click, while other sources require more description and information about our product offerings. With CAKE, we can also A/B test various campaign options and then optimize our offer based on which option is more likely to generate the most revenue. This alone has had a big impact on our bottom line.   

  5. Be prepared to adjust your strategy in real-time. As an affiliate program grows, a business is not going to be able to do everything manually and maintain a high level of performance. The world of digital marketing in general is incredibly fast-paced, and this holds true in the affiliate channel. An ability to process information and act on it in real-time is absolutely critical. With CAKE, we can make large-scale changes in a matter of seconds-like update landing pages across multiple publishing properties rather than doing updates one at a time-and this gives us incredible agility to adapt to insights as they happen.

  6. Efficient management matters. Our affiliates are paid different rates based on a combination of factors-how much traffic they drive, how relevant that traffic is to our business and the rate of conversions. Typically, on average around 10 percent of your affiliate partners will drive 90 percent of your revenue. CAKE's management features allow us to apply rules to automate these payouts, so that no matter what type of relationship we have with an affiliate, they are paid promptly. We also offer many different paths to a conversion and many different products within those paths. With CAKE, we can drop a "universal pixel" into our offers, which allows us to dynamically pass back-order values upon conversion so that revenue shares can be paid. Businesses can easily get overwhelmed with the administrative requirements involved in keeping an affiliate program running smoothly, so it is important to choose supporting technologies that make relationship management seamless and efficient.    

Successful affiliate marketing depends on a combination of good relationships and good decision-making. A data-driven approach, supported by the right technology help ensure that your affiliate program is optimized for success.

About the Author
Brandon Myers is the Affiliate Director, at Aceable Inc., a company specializing in Defensive Driving Adult Drivers Education and Teen Drivers Education. Aceable offers online and mobile educational programs in seven states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. For more information, visit