Guide to Starting an Affiliate Program for Your Product Business

Affiliate marketing is a reward-based system that encourages partners or fans to promote your products in exchange for a commission. 

A customer, advocate, or industry marketer (sometimes the press) signs up for your affiliate program and sends visitors to your online story through their special referral link, and any sales that you make as a result of their promotion earns the marketer a monetary reward. Having an affiliate program is very attractive to bloggers, influencers, and the press – basically anyone who is in your niche or niche-adjacent who wants to promote products like yours.

This guide will walk you through how it works and how to set this system up for your product business. 

Guide to Starting an Affiliate Program for Your Product Business
Handmade Baby Shoes from Waku Waku Baby. Owner Seiko offers 20% sales commission to affiliates who sign up for her program and send paying buyers to her site.

How an Affiliate Program Works

  1. You set up an affiliate program through a 3rd party company (affiliate network) that can help you track affiliates and sales, and payouts. 
  2. Once the program is set up, you’ll be able to provide your affiliates with a link to sign up for your program. From there, they can get a unique code or link use to refer traffic to your products and website. 
  3. If traffic from their link or using their code purchases on your website, the affiliate network will record that transaction so you can pay your affiliates the percentage of the sale you’ve offered. 
Guide to Starting an Affiliate Program for Your Product Business
Candy Bowl from Oak and Everly.
Etsy has its own affiliate program that deals out 5% per sale. If you’re already on the platform, just send people the link to sign up for the Etsy affiliate program and they can start promoting your work in their content!

Commission Range

We highly recommend that you provide a percentage-based commission to affiliates that is between 20%-30% of the sale. The reasoning behind this is that if you want your products to get featured in the press, having an affiliate program AND one that is in this commission percentage range, is going to help you get more press placements. 

Having a commission percentage in this range is also highly attractive to bloggers and influencers, so you are more likely to get sign-ups and have affiliates purchase your products to review them (instead of you having to send products for free). 

Affiliate Networks

Affiliate marketing has taken off in the past ten years, and especially during the pandemic when so many businesses moved online and more online purchases started happening. Currently, there are dozens of affiliate network platforms to choose from. Many work similar to marketplaces, where affiliates can “shop” for programs they want to apply to be a part of. 

We recommend choosing a platform that will connect you with the most affiliates, but it is also acceptable (and usually easier) to create an affiliate program on a non-network platform. 

Here are a few networks we recommend using:

ShareASale

ShareASale is a highly known affiliate network platform that accommodates many big and small brands. You’ll recognize brands like Cricut, Shein, Sears, and more. 

To get set up on ShareASale, please know that the Merchant Account setup fee is $500+, so be prepared to budget this out. *Does not work with Shopify.

Impact Radius

Impact Radius is another larger affiliate network marketplace, and very easy to use. Your startup fee will depend on a few factors, so make sure to set up a demo so you can chat with someone from their team. 

BrandBassador

BrandBassador is another larger affiliate network marketplace, on the newer side, but is highly rated! You’ll find brands in their marketplace such as Fabletics and Popsockets (which have become super popular BECAUSE of affiliate marketing!). They have a few different pricing plans, but of course you will need to set up a demo to get the details.  

There are more, but these are the easiest to use and contain the largest audiences of possible affiliates – so people are more familiar with using them. *DOES work with Shopify.

Non-Network Affiliate Software

When using non-network affiliate software, instead of having your brand live in a network marketing, you will need to send individual brands and influencers the memo that you have an affiliate program they can sign up for. The following are the most well known:

Refersion 

Refersion has the most integrations – Shopify, Woocommerce, and more. 

Rewardful

Rewardful is for if you use Stripe for payments on your site. Works with Woocommerce. 

Affiliatly

Affiliatly is great if you have Shopify, but also integrates with a host of other apps!

Etsy

Etsy has it’s own affiliate program set up – this is not software, but an actual program. This program pays out 5%, so it’s very low, but they do have one! You can send influencers to this page to sign up to become an affiliate.

You can also sign up if you want to promote products sold on Etsy – this makes sense for a maker who might want to promote certain craft supplies or other makers’ products, linking from Instagram, their blog, or their newsletter.

A great example is: Let’s say you’re a weaver. You can link to your favorite handmade loom being sold on Etsy, and make money from any sales made when people go through your link. 

Have questions about affiliate marketing? Leave your questions below!