The 5 Stages of Partner Life Cycle Management (And Why They Matter)

Pictogram Teamwork with LIFE CYCLE Ribbons

As the owner of an affiliate program, partnerships are essential to the growth of your business. However, many struggle to ensure that every stage of the partner life cycle is handled properly, which can reduce the value and impact of your affiliates.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to optimize the key elements of partner life cycle management, and make sure that your relationships with affiliates are strong and well-maintained over time. When nourished carefully, these partnerships have the potential to offer a very strong return on investment (ROI).

In this article, we'll introduce you to the five stages of partner life cycle management. We’ll explain the importance of each step, and provide advice on how to successfully move through it. Let's get to work!

An Introduction to Partner Life Cycle Management

Partner life cycle management describes the way businesses manage relationships with their partners, from beginning to end. This is especially important for affiliate marketers, as your success lives or dies based on your relationships with affiliates (which take time and effort to prosper).

Each rewarding partnership maneuvers through a progression, starting before the affiliate even joins up. It follows them as they secure knowledge and skills, and evolve into a trustworthy team player.

Understanding how this process works can help you to better run and improve your program, and maintain a roster of high-quality, trustworthy affiliates.

The 5 Stages of Partner Life Cycle Management (And Why They Matter)

So what does partner life cycle management look like in practice? Let’s break down the five stages of this process and talk about how to navigate your way through each one.

1. Identification and Discovery

The first stage of partner life cycle management is discovering and identifying the right affiliates. You can evaluate who you would like to partner with based on their standards, business methods, and work habits, in addition to their focus and audience.

Your main objective is to persuade the right people to join your affiliate marketing program. There are many ways to do this, but the best way to start is to make sure you fully understand the target audience for your products. Then you can search for affiliates within those communities, saving yourself a lot of time and hassle.

2. Recruitment

The second stage, recruitment, is all about getting people to sign up for your affiliate program. There are numerous places where you can get the word out about your program, and you can also reach out to likely candidates directly.

An affiliate signup form.

One of the best ways to recruit the right partners is to be selective about how you promote. You’ll want to choose your platforms carefully, and make use of analytics to find out where you get the most engagement. Some top methods for attracting affiliates include contacting influencers, getting active on social media, and attending conferences.

3. Onboarding

Once you’ve recruited an affiliate, you’ll need to take them through an onboarding process. This stage enables you to communicate terms and conditions, educate your affiliates about the program, and generally set them up for success.

After all, if a partner isn’t given the proper amount of preparation and the right resources, they may not be able to make a strong impact (or might simply leave the program). On the other hand, a structured onboarding procedure can bring partners up to speed quickly.

One of the best ways to prepare your new affiliates is to provide them with a custom affiliate dashboard:

An affiliate dashboard.

This offers them a centralized place to find the information, resources, and support they need. It also enables you to walk them through the onboarding process step-by-step, rather than leaving them to sink or swim alone.

4. Engagement

It’s easy to think that once affiliates are properly onboarded, your job is done. However, a strong affiliate relationship depends on encouraging them to engage, both at the start and long after the novelty of signing up for your program has worn off.

Getting your affiliates to engage fully with your program prompts them to work harder to promote your products or services. However, it can do a lot more than that. For example, engaged and excited affiliates are more likely to recruit others to your program, expanding your reach without much work required on your end.

There are many effective ways to engage your affiliates. You can provide helpful resources, and develop a sense of community between individuals in your program. Other techniques to consider include creating video content, running contests, and offering multiple commission tiers that reward affiliates for improving their results.

5. Cultivation and Innovation

The last stage in the partnership life cycle is cultivating and innovating the partnership over time. As an affiliate program owner, this includes keeping an eye on how well your affiliates are getting through to your potential customers, and improving your program over time to help them succeed more effectively (and keep them highly engaged).

There’s no one right way to cultivate a strong long-term affiliate relationship. However, it’s important to set clear expectations, provide opportunities for growth, and be honest and transparent with your partners at all times. You can also track affiliates and view their progress using Affiliate Royale, and use what you learn to better support your worst performers and keep your best performers happy.

Conclusion

It’s vital to remember that your affiliates are real people, not numbers on a page or simple resources. If they’re going to boost your business to the next level, you need to do more than just sign them up. You’ll want to establish strong relationships with them from the start, and build their engagement over time.

This means paying close attention to how you begin and implement each of the stages of partner life cycle management:

  1. Identifying and discovering potential affiliates.
  2. Recruiting affiliates to your program.
  3. Onboarding affiliates and giving them the resources they need to succeed.
  4. Encouraging your affiliates to fully engage with your program.
  5. Cultivating and innovating your relationships and program over time.

Do you have any questions about how to establish strong and effective affiliate relationships? Ask away in the comments section below!

How to Find and Cultivate Great Affiliate Partners

affiliate partners

As an affiliate program manager, you may think your job is a solitary one. While this can be true in the beginning, as your program grows, you may find yourself wanting to expand your reach by partnering with others to boost conversions.

Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities to grow through great affiliate partners. This is a mutually beneficial solution that can offer you significant results. With a partnership in place, not only can you grow your audience but you can also improve your brand’s credibility.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to the idea of affiliate partners, including the benefits of establishing your own partnerships. Then you’ll learn three key tips for creating successful affiliate partnerships with like-minded affiliate programs. Let’s get started!

What Affiliate Partners Are (And Why You Need Them)

An affiliate partnership is an agreement between your affiliate program and another affiliate program, individual, or business to jointly promote each others' products. There are many benefits to this tactic:

  • You can expand your brand’s reach. When you work with an affiliate partner, you can expand your audience reach with very little effort on your part.
  • Both brands can gain credibility. As more businesses and brands work with you, you’ll be able to further establish your brand’s credibility and become a more trustworthy option for consumers.
  • You leverage an opportunity for growth. As you work alongside your partners, you’ll learn things you can then use to grow your business in the future.

As you can see, a strong affiliate partner can provide you with innumerable returns. As a result, you can grow your business naturally and with minimal effort (aside from setting up the partnership and maintaining that relationship).

How to Create Successful Affiliate Partnerships (3 Key Tips)

Understanding the importance of an affiliate partnership is one thing – how to do so is a whole different ball game. Let’s look at three great ways to implement one.

1. Participate in Industry Events

Content marketing conference event page

Industry events are a great forum for networking with affiliates, influencers, and businesses.

Whether online or in-person, industry events (such as conferences, webinars, and social gatherings) can help you network and find those with similar interests.

In turn, this can provide you with two partnership-related benefits. First, events allow you to meet influencers within your industry (i.e. people who may be interested in being an ambassador or affiliate partner). Secondly, you can meet program managers who are also looking to partner with other affiliates.

There are many websites you can use to find events in your industry. Of course, attending events is only the beginning. You’ll also need to know how to network your program successfully. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Prepare for the event. Know who’s going to be there, and what you can offer them. The chances of finding good affiliate partners will increase if you plan ahead.
  • Be genuine. An affiliate partnership requires trust. The more genuine you are when networking, the more trust you’ll build with potential leads.
  • Follow up with your leads. Chasing potential partners after an event will keep you fresh in their minds, which can improve the odds of a future partnership.

If industry events are difficult (either due to location or lack of suitable industry events), another option is to get involved in community groups online. Facebook is a great place to find online communities, and it can help you make meaningful connections with others.

2. Reach Out to Compatible Programs

The Nike and iPod partnership

Partnering with a compatible and relevant program can expand your reach and improve your business.

Compatible programs are those that have a similar audience and goals to you, but have complementary differences that will benefit both brands. Working with them can have two main benefits.

First, you can clearly expand your reach through your partner's audience. Second, a program with established authority can extend that authority to you through association. If you’re unsure how to find a program to work with, take a look at these three tips:

  1. Use social listening. You can find mentions of other programs in your niche that may be beneficial partners by searching product-related hashtags and following niche influencers.
  2. Find programs with strong followings. To ensure the partnership is worthwhile, look for programs with strong followings (both social and brand). You’ll need to at least consider social media followers and website traffic.
  3. Highlight the benefits of implementing a partnership. This means understanding what you can offer to potential partners, then highlighting those positives when approaching them.

With a compatible program on your side, you can now work to expand your reach even further and grow your own affiliate program.

3. Start a Brand Ambassador Program

Kendall Jenner instagram post as a brand ambassador

Joining forces with a brand ambassador (especially a high-profile one) can do wonders for your conversions.

A brand ambassador program involves recruiting social media influencers and paying them to market your brand to their audience. Starting an ambassador program can have numerous benefits for your business.

For example, ambassadors can expand your brand’s reach by leveraging their own audience. Additionally, they can boost your brand’s authority (if you choose them wisely).

Achieving this is very similar to recruiting affiliates. However, there are a few slight differences. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Understand your target demographic. Who do you want to recruit as ambassadors? Create a target persona, and build a program that caters to them.
  • Find social influencers that fit your demographic. With platforms such as Experticity, you can easily find social influencers to recruit to your ambassador program.
  • Offer irresistible benefits. What can your ambassadors expect to get from this partnership? Aside from monetary compensation, consider free “merch” and other such incentives.

When looking for influencers, you'll want to look past follower numbers. Engagement can be more important than how many followers they have, and an influencer with high engagement can be worth their weight in gold.

Conclusion

Establishing strong partnerships should be at the forefront of your mind as your business grows. By extension, the same could be said for your affiliate partners, so taking the time to nurture them is crucial.

In this post, we’ve introduced you to the importance of affiliate partnerships, and offered three key tips for creating successful affiliate partnerships. Let's recap them:

  1. Participate in industry events.
  2. Reach out to compatible programs.
  3. Start a brand ambassador program.

Do you have any questions about how to find and cultivate great affiliate partners? Let us know in the comments section below!