Affiliate Marketing • 26 min read
One of our favorite things about affiliate marketing is that it gives you access to audiences you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. Yes, you split the commission with them, so the profit per sale is smaller, but the overall profit from product sales can be exponentially higher than anything you can generate on your own – depending on the quantity, and especially quality, of your partners, of course.
Now imagine if those partners brought their own partners, giving you access to additional audiences, that you might not be able to unlock yourself.
Even here at East 5th Avenue, where each of our affiliate managers is required to make 5 new connections a month, there’s a limit to how many partners we can recruit on our own.
That’s why we offer second tier commissions to anyone who can connect us with a great affiliate.
Think about it. If your secretary, copywriter or a colleague’s spouse can get on the phone and vouch for you with a super affiliate with a million subscriber list that’s a perfect fit for your product, wouldn’t you pay to get in front of that list?
With second tier affiliates, you do just that. If Rachel refers Laura, and Laura signs up to be your affiliate, Rachel becomes your second tier affiliate, because she’s the one who connected you with Laura, and she’s basically the reason Laura even considered becoming your affiliate.
Therefore, you pay both Rachel and Laura an affiliate commission for every sale that Laura makes for you.
Is it Worth it to Split Your Revenue with Second Tier Affiliates?
When you recruit affiliates, you agree to split your revenue from the sales these affiliates bring, because you wouldn’t have gotten these sales otherwise.
Let’s say that you pay affiliates $4 for every $10 they bring – you still get those extra $6 that you wouldn’t have had access to without your affiliates.
Of course, if you have second tier affiliates, you might be “giving up” an extra $1, which goes to your second tier affiliate (Rachel in the example above), the one that pretty much recruited the affiliate for you. But that still leaves you with $5 you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
Yes, it might feel like you’re giving everybody in the world a commission, and you might feel like you’re Oprah, giving everybody in the audience a car…
“You get an affiliate commission, and you get an affiliate commission, and you get an affiliate commission… Everybody gets an affiliate commission!”…
… but when you multiply this by 10,000 or 100,000, you start realizing you don’t lose money by recruiting second tier affiliates. Instead, you’re scaling your sales and growing your bottom line.
Second Tier Affiliates Best Practices that Will Help You Scale Your Affiliate Program
OK, if you’re ready to scale your affiliate program, you might be wondering where to start. We recommend understanding the best practices when it comes to managing second tier affiliates, so you can set yourself to success.
Second Tier a Company or an Employee?
If a company’s employee refers an affiliate to you, should you second tier the employee directly or the company?
There is no right answer, but we recommend deciding on your preference ahead of time, so all your affiliate managers know what to do. Deciding on this ahead of time also prevents uncomfortable situations, where different partners who contribute the same, get paid differently.
Write the Reach Out Copy for Your Second Tier Affiliates
Make it as easy as possible for your second tier affiliates to offer an introduction and get their connections excited about working with you.
Just like you write the copy for your first tier affiliates, write the copy for your second tier affiliates. We recommend including how the affiliate knows you, how profitable your offer has been for them if they’ve promoted it themselves, or for other affiliates if they haven’t.
We like to open with numbers and close with the mission behind the product, because different people care about different things. Some will only get behind your offer if it makes a difference, others will only care about profitability, and yet others will only mail for you if you can deliver on both.
Either way, we recommend addressing common objections in your copy, so your second tier affiliate isn’t left there trying to defend your product on her own, and so you don’t lose a potential new affiliate if she doesn’t know the answers.
Look for Ongoing Second Tier Affiliate Partnerships that Keep Growing Your Network
We recommend getting an agreement with other companies or people, whenever you can, and committing to referring 1-2 affiliates to each other every month.
This way, you know you’re getting 12-24 extra potential affiliates from each source. Do that with 100 partners every year, and your sales are bound to skyrocket.
Top Strategies to Identify Potential Second Tier Affiliates
Now that you’ve set your program to success, let’s identify some great revenue sources and start selling. Here are some of the most useful ways to do that.
Affiliates You Already Work With
Your affiliates already know how well your offer converts, and what a difference it’s made to their audience. Spreading the word among other affiliates is an easy way for them to increase the commission they’re already getting from you.
Plus, if your offer has converted well for them, it means they’re already great at selling it, which could make it easier for them to recruit additional people to the party.
Other Affiliate Managers
Other affiliate managers are potentially your lowest hanging fruit, since they work with so many affiliates, but they also constantly need new ones.
Therefore, a great way to make sure they send great affiliates your way is to send great affiliates their way. Like we said above, you could even make a deal that you’re referring 2 affiliates to each every month, and second tier each other, so you both know you have new revenue streams coming into the company every month.
To get started, consider approaching affiliate managers you already have a relationship with, especially affiliate managers who work with affiliates you’d like to work with yourself.
Copywriters, web developers, business coaches, lawyers, accountants, and anyone else you buy something from, who works with other companies, might know someone who could be a great affiliate for you.
If you work in an entrepreneurship hub, for example, and you know many professionals in your field go to eat at the same mom and pop bakery that you frequent as well, those bakery owners might be able to introduce you to someone who could be a great affiliate.
Keep your ears open, stay open to possibilities, and become the most connected person you know.
Here’s one way to do it:
If you’re an affiliate manager, you’re a salesperson, and if you’re a salesperson, you know that gatekeepers can sometimes make or break your ability to reach a great affiliate.
So why not reward those gate keepers for giving you access?
Personal assistants, secretaries, heads of customer service, directors of marketing, HR leaders… all could be the link you need to close your next deal.
Mastermind Groups and Conferences
Other people in your mastermind groups and conferences are probably there to network and build win-win relationships, just as you are, which makes it a useful resource for second tier affiliates.
You’re already investing a lot of money and time to be there. Might as well get some ROI.
New to the whole conference world? Here’s how to network in a conference, even if you’re an introvert:
Second Tier Affiliate Payment Considerations
To keep your second tier affiliates referring people your way, you’ve got to make sure they’re happy. Building actual relationships with them is key, but also making sure that they get paid well, and get paid on time.
How Much Commission to Pay Second Tier Affiliates
Affiliate commission decisions vary between companies and products, but to give you a general estimation, consider giving around 10% for info products, and around 5% for coaching services.
Always Audit Your Second Tier Affiliate Program
Audit your systems every once in a while to ensure everything is set up properly not just for your first tier affiliates to get paid, but your second tier affiliates to get paid in full and on time as well. Make sure the sales their referrals make are continuously attributed to their name.
What to Do When Your Second Tier Affiliates Don’t Want a Commission
While you can’t obligate someone to take your money, we recommend that you make an effort that they do.
People might tell you they don’t need a commission, that they’re referring affiliates because they’re your friend and they like you – and they might even mean it – but always remember that the reason they’re able to refer affiliates is because they’ve spent years, and maybe even a lot of money, cultivating relationships.
And the partners they’re referring will potentially generate a large sum of money for your company. And if these partners stop mailing for you, this mutual connection might be the door to resume the relationship.
So when it comes to our second tier affiliates, we treat ours like gold. We make sure our systems are ready to track all the sales their referral generated, and we pay everything we promised.
Get Affiliates that Bring You More Affiliates, and Expect Unprecedented Growth
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Sir Richard Branson says: "Succeeding in business is all about making connections. It's all about personal contact. You need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships." And I think he knows a thing or two about business, because he's built 300+ companies and amassed a $4B+ empire. I'll take his word for it.
Second tier affiliates are just like every other affiliate… except that instead of selling your product directly to end customers, they sell the value of working with your company to those who can get you in front of end customers. They’re basically affiliates for affiliates.
The more you make second tier affiliate recruitment a routine part of your operations, the more your network will grow, and the easier it will get to unlock doors to every dream affiliate you might not have been able to access before, and the bigger the impact you’ll make on the world.