MALVERN, PA — As marketers tap into social strategies for brand building, programs like affiliate marketing are becoming more popular. As with any strategy, there are benefits and drawbacks.

During an Emerge CPG Lunch and Learn webinar held Oct. 19, Kim Biddle, affiliate and influencer marketing expert and co-founder of Clutch Affiliate, presented the benefits and key considerations for building an affiliate marketing program.

The first consideration revolves around systems. As the foundation of the program, the system is not only the first step but also the first pitfall to avoid.

“You need to choose the right systems and set up the right workflows,” Biddle said. “Systems can look like the platform you manage affiliates with, how you’re developing outreach and keeping track of it. And if you don’t pick the right systems — or you don’t have a system set up at all — it’s going to be tough as you move through the journey.”

For Biddle, who is an Emerge CPG mentor and works primarily with clients who are emerging brands, she insists that her clients engaging in affiliate marketing will dedicate time to put proper systems in place.


“It doesn’t have to take months, but we do have to take time and give thought to how you develop the foundation,” she said.

The core objective of an affiliate marketing program is to identify “super fans” who will endorse a brand to their social following, family and friends by inviting them to use a promo code when purchasing those products. Affiliates are seen as a natural extension of a brand’s sales team and compensated based on the sales they generate.

For the sake of efficiently setting up the program, it’s easy for a brand to take the path of least resistance, using boilerplate messaging shared out to all affiliates, but Biddle advises against it. The best programs, she said, are those that can be customized to each affiliate. After all, these are individuals who are already dedicated to the brand or its products.

“Customizing the program a little further means you care enough to put the extra effort in,” Biddle said. “On the other side, affiliates can tell.”

That said, consistency — as with any good marketing strategy — is key.


“It’s really important to be consistent with your outreach, consistent with your messaging, consistent with any incentives that you have,” she suggested. “And being consistent with your commission structures and payment is also important.”

Another critical component to success is engagement. Although affiliates are a natural extension of the team, this is not a “set it and forget it” type of strategy. Affiliates who are loyal to the brand will often thrive on engagement from it.

“I’ve seen too many times where a program doesn’t have a lot of engagement,” Biddle said. “Where the program was set up, and then it kind of got left there on the platform in hopes of generating some dollars.”

Affiliates love to be incentivized, so sometimes all it takes a bonus payment or free product. Then again, sometimes a little encouragement goes a long way. A simple phone call to offer support or advice on getting started is a great way to engage.

As a program grows, it might seem harder to maintain engagement, but the key is simply adjusting for growth. Tools like Facebook Groups create easy-access touch points for checking in and gaining feedback. And that all points back to the system that was built in the foundation.


Knowing how to identify a customer vs. an affiliate is also an important factor in building a great program. Although affiliates can easily be found inside the customer base, affiliates and customers are not one and the same.

“You have to really drill down on the personas,” Biddle said. “Before you can identify the affiliates, you have to identify who your customer is and how they like to take information about your product.”

It also doesn’t hurt to conduct some competitive analysis and knowhow the competition is managing their affiliates. It’s a great way to identify overall best practices as well as key in on what a brand’s own program is getting right or where it needs improvement.

While the most successful affiliate marketing programs start by creating community that is engaged and nurtured, the ones that last are those with a solid foundation and a reliable system in place.

“Be patient with building your process, and be consistent,” Biddle said. “Set realistic goals. Once you put a code in someone’s hands, it will take time for them to condition their audience.”

This webinar is part of the Emerge CPG Lunch and Learn series, available to members of the Emerge network, which is designed to help early-stage CPG founders become healthy trading partners and accelerate growth. For more information on joining Emerge and other upcoming events, visit