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5 Essential Steps for Successful Affiliate Onboarding


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When you or your company manage a program for third-party affiliate partners, you know how essential they are to business growth. To start a new relationship and set up compensated affiliates for payments through your unified software systems, implement an excellent onboarding process with strong design, software tools, communications, and follow-up steps. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest affiliate onboarding techniques to maximize your business’s potential from its affiliate program management. This guide covers how-to’s and best practices.

Affiliate Onboarding: Why the Process Matters 

The affiliate onboarding process matters because it registers new affiliates in your company’s system, collects tax documents, orients partners on how to set up their processes, and informs them. Onboarding can motivate new affiliates to focus on optimally achieving results. Excellent onboarding readies the affiliate for an on-time first payment in a stream of future performance-based earnings.

In today’s business news-driven environment, knowing that the affiliates that you manage will be paid on time becomes more important than ever and helps you reach your successful affiliate retention goal. 

You already know what affiliate onboarding is from your role in affiliate marketing management. But you can implement continuous improvement for this essential process to create better performance-marketing results for your business and its social media and celebrity influencers, affiliate referral marketers, freelancers, creatives, and publisher partners. 

The manager of your company’s affiliates program develops an overall strategy and online materials for distribution prior to holding an orientation session to launch the onboarding process. Your organization will take several steps to implement the affiliate partner strategy. 

5 Strategic Steps for a Smooth Onboarding Process 

5 strategic steps for a smooth affiliate onboarding process are:

  1. Create and distribute Welcome communications, including key people contacts
  2. Hold standardized online orientation sessions for the affiliate type
  3. Provide gated access to the affiliate partner system, including knowledge base and payments set-up
  4. Highlight ongoing communications channels 
  5. Complete the feedback loop with a Q&A session and survey completion

Step 1  – Welcome Communications

In advance, design a Welcome message with content that will reinforce the affiliate’s decision to team up with your company. Include the name, title, and email URLs for key contacts within your organization for current and future two-way communications in this Welcome email.

When the affiliate completes an agreement to join the company as a third-party partner, automatically email that welcome message immediately. Consider personalizing the Welcome message to the type of affiliate. For significant new affiliate partner deals, use fully-personalized communications and consider the value of writing and issuing a corporate press release. 

Step 2 – Affiliate Orientation Session

Like employees, affiliates need to learn about your company upfront and their expected contributions to its goals in a way that motivates them to excel. Giving them the big picture, including a review of the non-confidential parts of corporate strategy, is a necessary introductory step during orientation. Affiliates will receive an optimal onboarding experience, collectively leading to the success of your affiliate program. And these onboarded affiliate team members may refer other affiliates to your company’s program. 

Schedule an online orientation session for new affiliate partners with a choice of recurring dates throughout the year near their joining date. It will have a signup page for attending affiliates to complete. If practical, set up separate sessions for each type of affiliate.

In a high-quality orientation session for affiliates:

  • Give introductions to the affiliate manager and key people in the company and affiliate organization 
  • Motivate with a prepared welcome message presentation
  • Communicate company overview: culture, values (including ethics), mission, and goals for the company and its affiliates
  • Discuss incentives for affiliate marketing and everything you need to know to get started
  • Review standard rules, processes, and system for affiliates
  • Identify communication channels

Affiliate compensation may include incentive compensation, such as commission payments for sales or leads from affiliate referral marketing. Performance measures requiring payouts may also be tracked through a platform for ad networks that match ads with publishers or a different type of affiliate software platform. Because the type of possible affiliates that your company may deal with is in a broad range of specialties, affiliate payments structural types vary. 

Power your entire partner payouts operations

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Step 3  – Access to Affiliate Systems

Your business lets the new affiliates gain access to any online affiliate systems through an online invitation and registration. Affiliate systems include any company system for conducting affiliate business and reporting and the payment system for affiliates and partners. 

Affiliate systems include:

  • Access to shareable training materials and tutorial videos
  • Company policies, procedures, and standard terms for affiliates
  • Knowledge base, if applicable
  • Branding kit when needed
  • Link to the affiliate agreement
  • Mass payments and AP automation software, providing tax and global regulatory compliance, invoice processing, guided approvals, payments, and automatic payment status notifications

For best practices, use Tipalti AP automation and mass payments software integrated with your ERP system or accounting software. Besides payables, invoice processing, and payments, Tipalti provides supplier management for onboarding and beyond. Your affiliates can register their contact information and prepare for receiving payments through data entry in a self-service supplier portal. 

In this self-service portal, the affiliate provides its business or independent contractor name, TAX ID number (TIN), completes an online IRS W-9 or W-8 form, and provides a preferred payment method and related information required. This information is entered into a system with enterprise-level security, designed to protect the privacy of any TIN, bank, or payment card information entered. 

To meet tax compliance deadlines, your business will have access to 1099 and 1042-S reports data for easily preparing IRS information returns through Tipalti. Or, it can optionally use partnered software with twelve calendar months of your captured payments data to eFile 1099-NEC and 1099-MISC forms with the IRS and applicable states and distribute copies to recipients. 

With Tipalti finance automation software, affiliates can choose from their country’s available and cost-effective payout methods. Payout options may include ACH, global ACH, PayPal, wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, and live paper checks. Your business can apply for a virtual payments rebate and employee spend tracking card called Tipalti Card. 

Tipalti payments are available in 196 countries and 120 currencies. If your affiliate agreements permit, as a business, you can choose to shift payment transaction fees to payees, pay the fees through your business, or share them with the affiliates.

Tipalti mass payment software validates affiliates with TAX ID numbers (TIN), screens against blacklists, and applies 26,000+ payment rules to reduce fraud and errors and achieve global regulatory compliance. 

Tipalti integrates with several performance marketing systems to simplify your affiliate payouts.  

These affiliate performance systems include:

  • Affise
  • CAKE
  • Everflow
  • HitPath
  • LinkTrust
  • Paladin
  • TUNE Partner Marketing (formerly HasOffers)
  • Vidooly

For example, if your business is an ad network paying affiliate publishers, note that a Tipalti software integration with the Everflow affiliate software tracking platform makes publisher payments simple and effective within your Everflow platform. Tipalti’s recent Publisher Payment Satisfaction Survey indicates: “69% of publishers have stopped or would stop working with an ad network because of a payment issue.”

Step 4 – Ongoing Communication Channels

Affiliate marketing is an important subset of relationship marketing called partnership marketing. As part of your team’s affiliate marketing management duties, keep affiliates updated on their results and periodically check in. Be sure to provide your affiliates with the information and dedicated email addresses they need to stay informed and ask future questions to the affiliate point people within your company. Congratulate them on earning their first sales or lead generation incentive payment.

Ongoing communication channels include:

  • Periodic newsletters
  • Emails
  • Product updates through issuance of new marketing materials
  • Reports on data or revenue volumes or events achieved triggering payments to affiliates
  • Real-time results dashboards for affiliates

Step 5 – Feedback Loop

Hold a Q&A session during orientation and have affiliates complete a survey about the orientation session.

Later, respond to affiliate comments and inquiries as quickly as possible. Design and distribute ongoing affiliate partner surveys to measure affiliate engagement and satisfaction levels.  Schedule any future online sessions needed for interested affiliates. 

How can your business improve its global affiliate onboarding and payments? 

Check out our “Mass Payments” page to learn how your business can achieve best-in-class affiliate partner and other supplier payments. 

Use mass payments and AP automation software with white-branded, self-service supplier and affiliate onboarding, payments tracking, and verification processes to ensure global tax and regulatory compliance and reduce fraud risk.

Is It Time to Consider Affiliate Software?

Now is the best time to consider affiliate software because it saves time and money, reduces fraud and errors, and optimizes the affiliate experience. Software helps establish a process for onboarding satisfied new affiliates and keeping them automatically informed about their payment status, reducing distractions. Using the right type of affiliate software can become a competitive advantage. 

Perks of Adopting an Affiliate Software Solution 

Perks of adopting an affiliate software such as Tipalti’s affiliate solution include:

  • Consistently following best practices for onboarding and paying domestic and international affiliates in a choice of currencies
  • Collecting accurate contact and payment information and W-9 or W-8 series IRS forms data through a white-branded, self-service supplier portal for partners before the first payment
  • Achieving automated 1099 and 1042-S tax reports, global regulatory compliance, fraud and error reduction, and an audit trail 
  • Eliminating manual processes for streamlined efficiency
  • Efficiently paying affiliates accurately, on time, in large batches

Your business will leverage the benefits of automation system efficiency to reduce up to 80% of staff processing time and minimize new hires. That means saving substantial costs and redirecting your work as an affiliate manager to projects and communications that can improve affiliate knowledge and results and help your company retain its affiliates. 

Summing It Up

To optimally manage third-party business affiliates for better results and retention, establish a solid affiliates onboarding program with defined steps spanning from orientation to follow up communications and affiliate payments using efficient large batches. 

For best practices in onboarding and payments, use proven mass payments and AP automation software tools. You’ll enhance efficiency, strengthen financial controls, reduce fraud and errors, give affiliates a reliable, timely, and accurate payment system, and save time and money for your business. When payables and payout operations run smoothly, you can allocate more of your time to devising new strategies and programs and improving results from affiliates. Download our eBook, “How Digital, High-Performing Businesses Scale Payables.”

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