It seems like every fashion blogger is a part of an affiliate network now. From Skimlinks to RewardStyle, partnering up with a brand (or dozens of brands!) has never been easier. In case you haven't heard of affiliate marketing before, it can be broken down rather simply as follows: a brand, preferably one you like, offers to pay you a commission for each paying customer you send their way through your blog. These visitors are usually tracked through a link that's specific to your blog or affiliate account. When one of your blog's visitors clicks that link, a cookie remembers the link or ad, usually the date and time as well (most affiliate sales only “count” if they happen within a certain time frame), and the blog the visitor came from (hopefully yours). Done well, affiliate partnerships are a great way of turning what you're already doing – making recommendations – into a source of steady revenue.
But let's say you've joined up with a few brands as an affiliate and you've been with them for awhile, but the relationship is starting to stagnate. Maybe they offer a really low commission percentage. Maybe they've even recently cut their percentage. You'd like to hang on to this relationship, but you'd also like a higher commission. What do you do?
As I mentioned in this blog post on negotiating for ad space, deal-making is part and parcel of our industry. If you're not wiling to take the risk of negotiating (which, let's face, is only being told “no” in this case) then you are literally leaving money on the table. And who wants to do that? So how do you start the negotiation process? Hopefully, this blog post will help!
1) Arm yourself with information.
The first thing you want to do is take look at your affiliate stats for the past year. Are you making money just like you would on games? If so, who are you making the most money with? Also, which brands are getting the most conversions? Note: the answer to questions #2 and #3 may not be the same brand. You might make a lot more money from one store with a higher commission, but get most of your conversions (or sales) from a brand with a lower commission. This is important info to have, and it's exactly why this article is focused on raising those commission rates.
2) Focusing on the names with the highest conversion rates, ask the brand (or your contact for the brand's affiliate program) if they're able to raise your baseline commission.
Don't ever phrase this request as though the brand is doing you a “favor” or that they should be “really nice” and raise your commissions. This is a business relationship. You need to be able to prove, with facts and hard numbers, why it's in this brand's best interests to give more of their money to you. It's incredibly important to be professional in your request. Capitalization, grammar, spelling…it all matters when you're asking for money.
3) Tell the brand what you can bring to the table.
Understandably, many brands are reluctant to raise their commission rates. After all, if everyone else is happy with 3%, why should they give you 5% or 7% or 10%? If at first a brand seems hesitant, don't be discouraged. Instead, be prepared. Can you offer more featured content? What about putting one of their affiliate banners in an ad space? Could you try sponsored tweets or Facebook status updates using their link? Not all of these recommendations will work for every audience, so be creative, but also be reasonable about what your readers want to see. The point is, don't be afraid to “sweeten the pot” with a deal they can't turn down.
4) Explore incentivized or tiered commission rates.
Ask a brand if they can link your commission rate to the number of sales you bring in per month. Maybe your commission rate is 5% for up to $1,000 worth of sales, but if you reach $2,000, then it's bumped up to 8%. This can be a win-win for you and the brand. If you're converting well, you get the higher commission and they get more sales. It's the definition of performance-based marketing.
5) Never be dishonest.
Sometimes a brand will offer a higher commission rate in exchange for something shady, like an undisclosed sponsored post. Don't do it. Successful affiliate marketing depends upon reader trust first and foremost. Your readers have to trust your recommendations. If they don't, they won't click the links (as well they shouldn't), and you won't get the sale. And reader trust, once destroyed, is extremely difficult to regain. If a brand is asking you to do something unethical, calmly remind them of your blog's advertising or editorial policies, and if they continue, then stop the conversation. After all, you're looking for long-term business relationships…not a quick fix.
Do you use affiliate marketing on your blog? What advice do you have when it comes to negotiating for higher commissions? Please share them in the comments!