Essential Insights for Achieving Affiliate Success & Building Lasting Partnerships

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6 minute read

When it comes to affiliate marketing, success hinges not only on the strength of your product or service but also on the quality of partnerships you forge with affiliates and publishers.

The key to driving revenue growth and ensuring long-term success is to establish enduring partnerships.

Amber Spears – the Co-Founder of East 5th Avenue, an affiliate management education and marketing company – recently joined Phonexa’s Amplify webinar series to talk about “Growing Your Affiliate Revenue and Building Lasting Partnerships through Program, Process & People.”

East 5th Avenue has trained over 2,500 companies and helped them generate over $530 million from their training methods. Spears has been called upon by industry giants like Kajabi, Clickbank, and Digital Marketer to create courses on partnership and affiliate marketing that are being used by companies all over the world to grow their business with her proprietary methods.

From refining account management structures to incentivizing performance and fostering open communication, Spears’ insights offer a roadmap for unlocking the full potential of affiliate partnerships and driving revenue growth.

Here are the key takeaways as shared by Spears shedding light on the crucial elements underpinning sustainable affiliate relationships.

Watch the webinar here.

Define the Ideal Affiliate for Your Business

Spears started the informative session by imploring viewers to define which type of affiliates would be an ideal match for their business.

Spears categorized affiliates into three types.

  • Traditional Affiliates: Generate leads, help attract buyers, and facilitate brand-to-brand collaborations to open up new markets, verticals, and consumers. Marketing channels used by traditional affiliates include affiliate networks, email marketing, newsletters, SEO blogs, e-books, review sites, and media buyers.
  • Influencers & Creators: Subject matter experts or micro- to macro-celebrities with a big social media or podcast following (or a smaller, more engaged audience).
  • Ambassadors: Regular clients and brand enthusiasts who hold a big influence over their friends, family, and peers. Ambassadors are integral to businesses with referrals and testimonials.

The key distinction among the three types is that traditional affiliates, influencers, and creators have an audience, whereas ambassadors have influence. Ambassadors are not as effective at marketing as creators and, therefore, do not command the same audience.

The 3 Pillars of Partnership Marketing

Spears continued the deep dive into the intricacies of affiliate program success by examining three essential elements of partnership marketing – program, people, and process.

“When I start looking at [a program], I might say, ‘We’ve got the people and the program, but that means we have no process, so we have no consistency,’” said Spears. “Or we have the program and the process built out, but we don’t have a good person in the driver’s seat – they’re doing 10 other things; they’re the social media manager, the copywriter, and they’re expected to be an amazing affiliate manager. That’s not going to work.”

Spears encourages managers struggling with any of these elements to assess their program as a whole to identify areas for improvement. This will help program managers determine whether they’re weak in one particular area or if all three elements need overhaul.


For programs in need of improvement, Spears recommends the following steps for success:

  • Develop a high-converting sales funnel
  • Implement industry-leading payouts
  • Establish sales tiers for your top affiliates based on volume and payout increases
  • Provide white-glove, proactive partner services for top affiliates

Being proactive with partner services provided to top affiliates is crucial, according to Spears.

“If you do not woo them, take care of them, nurture them, they will go somewhere else,” said Spears. “You are sadly replaceable for them.”


“You want to align yourself with people – at your level or above it – who are going to give you good credibility and have offers, products, and services you feel comfortable promoting and are a service to your community,” said Spears.

What will ultimately make your internal people successful is hiring salespeople rather than “people” people.

“You have to have somebody who likes to hunt in this position, who is motivated by money, and who can actually close business – not just somebody who is good at talking and just managing and growing your current department,” said Spears.

For Spears, it all comes down to complementing the right sales personality with adequate training.

“They need clear KPIs, a generous [compensation] structure, and they need to be good at both cold outreach and management.”


Regarding the process component of partnership marketing, Spears emphasized the importance of deep vertical integration by using an example of maximizing opportunities for exposure when working with an affiliate partner that promotes you once a quarter in their email newsletter.

How do you maximize these opportunities? Spears encourages affiliates to start by asking partners the following questions:

  • Can we also get on your podcast?
  • Can we sponsor your podcast?
  • Can we do livestreams together?
  • Can we do banner advertising?
  • Can we do co-branded blogs?
  • Can we connect on LinkedIn and support each other on the platform?
  • What are things we can do to own that category in that business?

After posing these questions, program managers must assess how they can diversify the types of affiliate partners they work with.

“If we’ve already gotten really deep into influencers and creators but haven’t touched the other types, how do we start diversifying into those new verticals? How do we expand our team?” asked Spears.

Growing a team is a critical first step for a program manager looking to expand into new verticals. Spears urges managers to foster loyalty among their affiliates by signing them up for Mastermind classes, incentivizing them with prizes or gifts, or, most importantly, planning the entire year with them.

“I closed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sales as an affiliate manager, and one of my secret sauces was that I planned my whole year in advance with my top affiliate partners,” said Spears. “I knew what launches they were having, I didn’t put mine on top of theirs, I knew what contests they were doing, I was sending them referrals every month, they were sending me referrals every month – we mapped out our entire year so it worked together and not on top of each other.”

Tips for Structuring a Program That Motivates Affiliates

Spears explains that nurturing partnerships and sustaining long-term success can be achieved through a handful of steps.

  • Identify the sphere of influence and potential partners to pinpoint those who already serve your target audience
  • Determine the standard in your niche by monitoring the practices of rival programs
  • Establish your terms, program structure, and assets accordingly while keeping your ideal affiliate partner in mind

Spears views the process as a journey.

“Take care of [your partners] and build loyalty instead of just giving them money. You have to go the extra mile and that’s when you really start being sought after,” said Spears.

Plugging the Holes in Your Program

Spears also warned program managers who focus solely on attracting new affiliates.

By neglecting their current affiliates, program managers risk having them poached by competitors.

“Anyone doing process should be looking at this and saying, ‘What are the holes in our current program? What would happen if our top affiliates left? How do we make sure we build a moat around them so they never want to leave?” said Spears.

“They need white-glove service … be proactive and take care of them – keep regular contact and be responsive.”

Nurturing Partnerships

The importance of building lasting partnerships cannot be overstated. In essence, the key to sustained affiliate success lies in cultivating meaningful connections, aligning incentives, and continually adapting strategies to meet the evolving needs of both affiliates and the business.

As we navigate the dynamic landscape of affiliate marketing, Spears’ insights serve as a guiding light, illuminating the path toward enduring partnerships and sustainable growth in the digital age.

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Amplify is Phonexa’s thought leadership platform designed to empower marketing professionals like you. Amplify provides a carefully curated selection of articles, case studies, interviews, and webinars. If you'd like to contribute to Amplify, email
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