Affiliate Marketing & Programs

Qualities of Successful Affiliates


Qualities of Successful Affiliates

I have been an Affiliate Manager for over six years now, the last three of which I’ve served as the Director of Affiliate Relations. A key component of my job is trying to determine which affiliates are capable of driving a high volume of quality leads from those that can’t. After speaking with thousands of affiliates over the years, one of the most common characteristics I’ve found in the most successful ones is that they possess an unyielding drive to be successful.

I recently completed the book “Drive,” by Daniel H. Pink, which examines the method by which people are motivated to be successful. In particular the book compares extrinsic motivation (i.e. how an environment’s rewards and punishments influence behavior) with intrinsic motivation, which is the inherent tendency to seek out new things, to overcome challenges, to learn, etc. The book then argues that while extrinsic motivation still has its place in the right circumstances, intrinsic motivation is often a more powerful motivator and more importantly, an underdeveloped one that can be cultivated. Below are a few of the takeaways from the book that seem well suited to successful affiliate marketing.

“A way of thinking and an approach to life built around intrinsic, rather than extrinsic motivators. It is powered by our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.” Daniel H. Pink (Drive)

According to Drive, there are three elements of true motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Autonomy — This is the first element of intrinsic motivation that most successful affiliates possess. Autonomy is the desire to direct your own life, work your own hours and promote the products that generate the best results. Successful affiliates enjoy the freedom to test a variety of brand names within the same vertical to see which perform the best. By not being contractually bound to a particular company or brand, they thrive in a results-driven environment that allows them to think outside the box to find a profitable solution.

Mastery — Successful affiliates also have the desire to continually improve their current marketing methods, which helps them to automate and master their tactics. When speaking to ‘Super Affiliates’, they are always trying to find ways to expedite algorithmic work. They become bored with routine tasks and look to find ways to reduce these tedious tasks to a script, formula, or solution. They tirelessly focus on testing ad copy, creative, placement, etc. to make sure they stay profitable in a highly competitive space. The online landscape is constantly evolving, and every day there is increased competition. By being able to create a profitable campaign and sustain it for months at a time through these techniques, they gain the Mastery aspect of intrinsic motivation.

Purpose — An affiliate’s desire to do things in service of something larger than themselves is the final element. Some of the most successful affiliates create programs and technologies that they share with networks or other affiliates. By doing this, they do not necessarily gain anything financially, but they are contributing to the growth of the affiliate marketing industry. By having helped to improve something, they are often recognized as a leader within the industry, giving them a larger sense of purpose.

Affiliate marketing is still a young industry that can be vulnerable to unscrupulous marketers trying to take advantage of the lowest common denominator. These “one-trick pony” affiliates will find a way to squeeze money out of the system for a month or two. However, when you speak to most successful affiliates who have made a career out of affiliate marketing, they are usually highly self-motivated individuals, who enjoy working on their own terms, seeking campaigns and offers that will add value to the end user, generating quality traffic and finding and/or developing creative ways to automate tawdry tasks through automated systems. If these elements don’t exist in your current affiliate marketing, look for another way of doing things where they do exist, and in the end, you’ll find success.

Doug Davis is the Director of Affiliate Relations for, a division of Media Breakaway, LLC.

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