What to do with inactive affiliates

With many affiliate programs, up to 90% of affiliates are inactive. One of the most tempting things for affiliate managers to do is to "trim the dead weight" and remove the inactive affiliates. However we do not recommend this.

What's wrong with terminating inactive affiliates?

  1. If you terminate an affiliate, most will never come back to your program.
  2. Some of the best affiliates take longer than average to get active with your program.
  3. Inactive affiliates don't cost you anything.
  4. They've expressed some interest in your program by signing up. As such, your inactive affiliate list is one of your best recruiting sources. What would you pay for a list of 10,000 potential affiliates? If you have 10,000 inactive affiliates, that recruiting list is FREE!
  5. You never know which ones will be the future top performers. If you've been running your program for a long time, you can probably look at your current top 20 affiliates and it's an entirely different list than a few years ago. When you terminate inactive affiliates, you have no way of knowing which ones would have been your top performers in the future.

Why do I have inactive affiliates?

  1. They've signed up, anticipating promoting your niche in the future, and just haven't got around to it yet. Most affiliates have a list of sites (with domains registered) that will probably take 10 years to develop. Many affiliates sign up in advance, rather than waiting to sign up when they're ready. If they waited, they might not get approved or might have to wait days, weeks or months to get approved.
  2. They signed up, but you don't provide everything they need or want. For instance, your data feed may be poorly categorised, out of date, or inaccurate. Maybe your banners have been poorly designed.
  3. They may rely on SEO and are building pages, but it'll take time to build traffic to those pages.
  4. You might not have approved them fast enough. Perhaps they were ready to promote one of your products, applied, didn't get approved, and found another merchant with the product.

What should I do with my inactive affiliates?

  1. Segment them out. You should be dealing with different affiliates differently. Each of these groups should get different newsletters: active affiliates, high potential inactive affiliates (ones that you know have a lot of traffic or are top affiliates elsewhere), new inactive affiliates (signed up recently), long-term inactive affiliates (signed up ages ago), formerly active affiliates (was active but isn't any more). The different inactive groups can get different activation campaigns, too.
  2. Send activation campaigns to your inactive affiliates. You know what the lifetime value of an active affiliate is. Put some money into activation bonuses. There's no reason you can't get 25% or more of your affiliates active. Vary your activation campaigns. Different things appeal to different affiliates. Some ideas: $5 bonus for putting links up. $20 bonus for first sale. $100 bonus for first $1000 in sales. Higher commissions for life if they generate a sale this month. Free sample of your products.
  3. Activate them as quickly as possible. Use auto-approval if possible, and include a time-sensitive activation campaign (for instance, a $20 bonus if they generate their first sale within a month) in the welcome email. The quicker you can approve and activate them, the better.
  4. Make sure you build out your tool sets. Make sure your data feeds are detailed, complete, and accurate. Enable deep links. Update your banners. Follow best practices for coupons.
  5. Continue to make your program more and more appealing. Read forums such as ABestWeb, books on the subject of affiliate management, learn what affiliates like, and implement those things into your program.
  6. Make sure to let your inactive affiliates know how to contact you, and ask them to let you know what they need that you're not offering.