Pre-Launch Checklist for a Successful Affiliate Program (10 Steps)

This guide equips you with a detailed roadmap to avoid common pitfalls like miscalculated commissions and broken links, ensuring your influencers are buzzing about your deals rather than tweeting their disappointment. From competitive analysis and goal setting to choosing the right platform and optimizing payment systems, our 10-step checklist covers every base.


Picture this: your affiliate program launch goes off the rails faster than a rogue shopping cart. Commissions are miscalculated, links are broken, and influencers are tweeting their disappointment instead of buzzing about great deals. Avoid such a “strategic misfire” with this 10-point pre-launch affiliate program checklist.

It’s a rapid-fire, simple-to-do initiative that sidesteps 99% of the most common launch blunders. Think of it as the 80/20 rule for affiliate marketing success: a little effort upfront saves you major headaches (and lost profits) later. Ready to launch smoothly? Let’s check off some boxes.

Perfecting Your Affiliate Program Prep in 10 Steps

In this detailed guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to ensure you complete all necessary tasks, utilise essential tools, and focus on critical elements for a successful affiliate program.

1.    Assess Your Business and Research Your Competition

The $15 billion affiliate marketing industry thrives on solving problems and bridging gaps. As such, mastering affiliate marketing demands self-reflection and market awareness.

Begin by scrutinising your offerings and analysing audience/market profiles, popular products, and marketing channels. This self-examination reveals opportunities like untapped demographics or under-promoted products. Conversely, identify challenges such as low brand awareness or niche markets with limited affiliate interest.

For instance, if your business sells sports equipment, diving into market analysis might reveal a spike in interest in a particular sport during a specific season. This insight can influence your affiliate program’s timing and promotional strategies. 

Researching competitor affiliate programs and benchmarking commission structures, promotional materials, and partner recruitment strategies is essential. Analyse their successes and shortcomings for valuable insights so you can tailor your program to outperform your competition.

Affiliate marketing offers a tantalising prospect of increasing your passive income but requires continuous learning and strategising. A platform like Partnership Managers Marketplace (PMM) proves invaluable in this learning curve. It connects businesses with experienced partnership managers with over a decade of expertise. Imagine painless program establishment, expert guidance, and minimal effort—ideal for scaling your affiliate program for maximum impact.

2.    Define Your Goals and Set Your KPIs

Affiliate marketing relies on defined goals and measurable results. Common affiliate program goals include enhancing sales performance, bolstering brand visibility, driving high-quality traffic, and boosting customer acquisition.

Clearly defined goals guide your program’s direction and inform Key Performance Indicator (KPI) selection. For instance, if your primary goal is driving sales, prioritise conversion-focused KPIs like conversion rate and average order value.

Your chosen metrics should crisply capture your program’s performance. Top affiliate marketing KPIs include:

  • Clicks: measuring affiliate-driven traffic
  • Conversions: tracking desired actions
  • Conversion Rate: revealing the percentage of clicks leading to conversions
  • Average Order Value: analysing how much customers spend per purchase
  • New vs. Returning Customers: understanding the program’s impact on customer loyalty

Affiliate marketing KPIs are vital for measuring program effectiveness and providing insights into performance against goals like increased sales or enhanced brand awareness. Businesses can identify and analyse high-performing affiliates to inform their acquisition strategy, keep affiliates activated, and offer incentives to maximise their impact.

KPIs highlight growth opportunities, aiding informed decisions on scaling affiliate recruitment. A reputable affiliate marketing platform with many curated partnership managers simplifies growth by optimising program performance and streamlining recruitment for its customers. Trackdesk can do this for you.

3.    Choose the Right Affiliate Platform and Marketing Tools

Choosing the right affiliate marketing platform and marketing tools is all about seamless synergy, ensure you can accurately monitor and optimize your campaign from the start by incorporating the best affiliate tracking software into your toolkit. The platform’s features and integration capabilities directly affect your ability to build partnerships, track progress, and increase revenue. Invest time in selecting a platform tailored to your business needs with these best practices:

  • Choose an intuitive platform that empowers your team and affiliates to navigate seamlessly, saving valuable time and resources.
  • Prioritise platforms with reliable affiliate links tracking capabilities to monitor and optimise your affiliate program’s performance.
  • Ensure seamless integration with your existing systems for a smooth workflow and reduced manual work.
  • Choose a platform that delivers responsive and reliable customer service to tackle and resolve issues swiftly.

Utilising the right tools is as vital as selecting the right affiliate platform. Essential affiliate marketing tools can significantly boost your program’s efficiency by automating tasks, optimising content, and delivering real-time analytics. Consider these essential marketing tools:

  • Creative Assets: High-quality banners, product images, and landing pages attract and convert potential affiliates.
  • Affiliate Tracking Software: Track clicks, conversions, and commissions to gain valuable insights into program performance.
  • Performance Management Tools: Analyse affiliate performance, identify top performers, and incentivise further success.
  • Communication Tools: Choose tools facilitating easy collaboration and updates for regular communication with affiliates.

Discovering cost-effective software with a robust platform and tools can pose a challenge. Trackdesk stands out in this regard. Introducing Product-Led Growth in affiliate marketing, trackdesk offers free affiliate tracking software. With over 100 integrations, it handles the technical aspects, so you don’t have to. You can use it for free until you reach $5,000 in monthly affiliate revenue. When you decide to upgrade, trackdesk also provides a competitive offering in the market.

4.    Develop Comprehensive Terms and Conditions

A thriving partnership ecosystem requires a solid foundation—clear and comprehensive terms and conditions. This legally binding document is crucial to your affiliate program checklist as it establishes the groundwork for mutual success.

For Affiliates, the T&C provides:

  • An explicit understanding of rights and obligations
  • Clear guidelines on how referrals contribute to their commission
  • Transparency on commission amounts and duration
  • Detailed information on permissible and prohibited promotions
  • Rules and limitations on laws and data management, such as spam acts

For the company, the T&C delivers:

  • Clarification of rights and obligations as a company and affiliate program manager
  • Protection against fraudulent affiliate activities
  • Assurance that the contract aligns with your brand, marketing, and sales strategies


Affiliate program rules vary widely based on each company’s unique vision. Consider the purpose of your affiliate channel and what qualifies as an eligible referral. Before drafting an affiliate contract, reflect on the following:

  • Outline a competitive commission structure, payment frequency, and potential performance bonuses.
  • Decide on a fixed or ongoing program and clarify renewal terms.
  • Define valid referrals and the duration of tracking cookies.
  • Specify authorised promotional methods, branding guidelines, and prohibited activities.
  • Address data privacy regulations, intellectual property ownership, and dispute resolution procedures.

Don’t let the legal aspect intimidate you. Trackdesk provides a user-friendly Affiliate Program Terms & Conditions Template to guide you through the process. You can customise the Terms and Conditions to meet your specific needs.

5.    Avoid Forbidden Practices

Part of leveraging affiliate marketing for business growth is following the legal and ethical aspects of it. Prohibited practices in affiliate marketing include:

  • Misleading Advertising: Fake promises or deceptive tactics to earn clicks and commissions
  • Spamming: Overly pushy promotions, primarily via email, which don’t provide recipients with the option to stop getting marketing messages, violate the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Cookie Stuffing: Sneakily inserting a tracking cookie onto a user’s device
  • Non-Disclosure: Deliberately hiding the affiliate partnership
  • Violation of Privacy Laws: Sharing data without consent
  • Trademark Infringement: Using trademark logos without permission

Engaging in these practices can result in various penalties, adversely impacting your reputation.

These legal and ethical parameters also bleed into creating deals and preparing marketing materials. Both need to be attractive and compliant.

When assessing industry standards and competitor offerings, ensure your program doesn’t encourage prohibited activities. For instance, a commission structure solely based on traffic volume, without considering its quality or source, could unintentionally promote spamming. On the other hand, an enticing commission structure and bonuses can motivate affiliates to promote your products ethically.

Similarly, in preparing marketing materials, address branding, design, and legal compliance. Ensure claims about your products are truthful and substantiated to avoid false advertising. Optimise your materials for mobile accessibility, including compelling CTAs, without resorting to spammy or intrusive tactics. Additionally, investing in affiliate software with fraud prevention features can help you identify suspicious behaviours and enhance brand protection.

6.    Optimise Your Website

A well-optimised website acts as the cornerstone of a thriving affiliate program. Here are key considerations:

  • Ensure the site is user-friendly, with clear communication and a visually attractive design representing your brand.
  • Cater to the mobile-first audience with a seamless user experience across all devices.
  • Check the loading speed and make changes, like resizing photos, to ensure an optimal speed.
  • Ensure GDPR compliance and adhere to AICPA SOC standards for transparent and secure data practices, fostering trust.
  • Create a dedicated landing page that strategically integrates keywords, emphasising your brand name and affiliate program to attract potential partners. Affiliate program landing pages are specialised portals on your website that provide distinct advantages like targeted messaging, conversion focus, and performance insights. A good example of an affiliate program landing page is this:

Landing pages are central hubs for all affiliate-related content, facilitating affiliates to find and access necessary resources. These pages may contain promotional materials, product information, and sign-up links. Utilising customisable features, such as those provided by trackdesk, enables you to tailor these pages to meet your specific needs and preferences.

7.    Familiarise the Platform from an Affiliate Perspective

An affiliate program checklist item that most forget or dismiss is putting yourself in your affiliates’ shoes. Understanding their experience helps pinpoint obstacles and challenges holding them back. This insight enables you to make precise enhancements to the program, simplify processes, and boost overall program efficiency.

A user-friendly platform with affiliate-centric features is a magnet for affiliates. Trackdesk’s communication features are tailored to streamline and centralise all affiliate-related interactions. Customise messages to provide clear and concise information, covering everything from onboarding to offering specifics. Keeping communication in one place ensures consistency and clarity, ultimately improving affiliate engagement and performance.

Furthermore, trackdesk can:

  • Seamlessly integrate with popular tech stacks like Shopify, Stripe, PayPal, Zapier, and Magento to enhance your affiliate program’s efficiency.
  • Utilise the affiliate tracking feature to monitor performance and marketing activities, gaining valuable insights.
  • Optimise your affiliate program with different types of commissions with tier options.
  • Elevate your affiliate program with customisable features, including a user-friendly dashboard, personalised creative assets, and efficient management through integrated communication tools.

8.    Support Diverse Payments and Seamless Payouts

Secure, diversified payments are the bedrock of affiliate loyalty. Cater to individual preferences with flexible options for every partner. Trackdesk’s automated affiliate payout system provides diverse payment options, allowing you to seamlessly pay affiliates in bulk through bank transfers, PayPal, or a custom method. Imagine the ease with which you can save time using this feature. If you're able to save 15 minutes daily from using the platform, you'll amass 7.5 extra hours a month for other tasks.

The system prioritises security and timeliness in payouts, benefiting international affiliates by ensuring swift and secure processing. This eliminates worries about delayed or lost payments, providing you and your affiliates with peace of mind. It also simplifies the management and monitoring of affiliate payouts, empowering you to handle the entire process from your dashboard.

Manage billing details, track affiliate balances, and set custom payment frequencies directly from your dashboard. Trackdesk enables you to compensate individual affiliates or entire campaign participants, define specific currencies, and adapt to your program’s needs.

Remember, timely and secure payments are more than transactions; they express appreciation for your affiliates’ efforts. By prioritising diverse options, seamless delivery, and flexible management, you fuel their motivation and pave the way for a thriving program.

9.    Motivate Affiliates with Favourable Conditions

Ignite your affiliates’ enthusiasm with conditions that motivate top-notch performance. Lower the bars but raise the excitement by ditching high minimum payout thresholds. Low payout thresholds:

  • Attract a diverse range of affiliates, including newcomers
  • Motivate affiliates to increase efforts, resulting in higher sales and revenue
  • Build trust through regular payments, demonstrating a commitment to fairness and transparency in the payment process


Implement tiered commission structures with trackdesk’s automated affiliate commissions. Easily manage and adjust payout thresholds based on affiliate performance. Trackdesk supports various commission models catering to diverse affiliate preferences:

  • Cost Per Action (CPA): Pays for completed actions like purchases
  • Cost Per Lead (CPL): Rewards affiliates for generating leads, such as sign-ups or form submissions
  • Revenue Share (RevShare): Affiliates earn a percentage of the generated revenue, appealing to those driving high-value customers.

Utilise a unique feature that combines different conversion models in a single campaign, allowing affiliates to maximise earnings by choosing the most suitable model for their traffic and conversion rates. Additionally, trackdesk is free for all businesses up to $5,000 monthly revenue, offering CPA, CPS, and CPL tracking. It easily connects with Stripe and other payment systems, using API or Zapier when direct integration is not available.

10. Implement Risk Management Strategies

Part of an affiliate program checklist is a risk management strategy. Identify potential risks and craft mitigation plans to ensure the smooth execution of your strategy.

Do a detailed risk assessment for your affiliate program and examine potential pitfalls. Once risks are identified, evaluate each and create plans to either minimise its impact or avoid it entirely. This may involve stricter vetting practices, enhanced control over affiliate actions, or terminating relationships with high-risk partners. 

Disputes will happen, so creating a solid dispute resolution plan is crucial. Depending on the dispute's severity, you can use the expertise of a third-party arbitrator or mediator. Ensure clear communication channels for quick and efficient resolution. A strong resolution plan is vital for preserving the company’s reputation, trust, and affiliate relationships.

Risk management is ongoing. Stay vigilant for new risks and be prepared to adapt your strategies as needed.

Laying the Groundwork

Affiliate marketing is vast, and choosing the right platform is pivotal for success. Trackdesk has a unique feature that sets it apart: access to world-class partnership managers who set up, manage, and scale your affiliate program. This exclusive offering, not replicated by competitors, allows you to discover experienced managers, leveraging their skills for services ranging from trackdesk integration to defining partnership marketing strategies. This includes persuading influential creators and partners to promote your business. To thrive in affiliate marketing, trackdesk is an invaluable asset, available through our business and enterprise plans.

Equipped with trackdesk’s products and the pre-launch checklist above, you’re prepared to establish, refine, and launch a high-impact affiliate program.

Geri Mileva

I have a passion for storytelling. I believe that a good story delivers value while capturing, influencing, and sustaining its intended audience. This has always been, and always will be, my primary aim as a writer.

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