Despite the growing tide of evolving trends, referrals have remained the holy grail of customer acquisition across all industries. Studies show that referrals lead to faster conversions, increased sales, and higher revenue. Imagine having an entire army of brand ambassadors referring your product to their network of highly engaged social media followers.
BAM BABY – instant growth.
This concept is widely used by some of today’s top-ranking companies. While the process of acquiring and utilizing brand affiliates may be overwhelming at first, the approaches developed and used by brands such as Uber, AirBNB, and Amazon to drive rapid growth and recurring revenue are, for the most part, replicable.
More sales, less hassle, higher ROI. Here is your 7 step guide to build a highly productive, low maintenance affiliate program in the millennial world (and the top 3 mistakes you absolutely must avoid).
Create an alluring offer
A recent PwC report stated that:
Millennials are strongly drawn to the “anything is possible” spirit of entrepreneurship….Companies that embrace a risk-tolerant culture and promote learning and experimentation will benefit from the heightened energy around innovation. 
When coming up with an offer that encourages affiliates to join, ask yourself this: Why should an affiliate choose your company over all other options out there?
Don’t be afraid to show some statistics and proudly display the revenue earning potential possible from becoming an affiliate for your company. Let them know they can make a living by representing your brand – then let them run free. Proven potential, a tempting offer, cutting-edge software, and freedom to be creative are all a millennial needs to build massive success.
Set up tracking accuracy
Before opening up your doors to the high-revenue potential of an affiliate model, you’ll need to make sure you have a tracking system in place. Each affiliate will need a unique ID to be able to determine when and how much to be paid. This is the only way to make your affiliate model a scalable source of revenue with a high ROI.
Provide real-time reporting
We live in a world of instant gratification. Affiliates and digital franchisees of your brand will demand access to easy-to-read charts and graphs on their commerce success in real time.
You know that feeling when you post your favorite picture on Facebook and watch as the “likes” roll in and that little red notification bubble shoots up? It’s like a reward. Seeing that red notification on Facebook actually releases dopamine in the brain, providing instant positive feedback.
The same is true when you allow your sales reps to see instant visual confirmation of their ongoing success with your company. Providing a visual dashboard that tracks sales and revenue with charts and graphs encourages your affiliate to keep putting their best foot forward in promoting your brand.
You can hire a developer to integrate sales processing and real-time reporting with your existing platform, or you can use cloud-based software like ControlPad that does it all automatically for you.
Choose payment processing wisely (including direct deposit)
Companies like Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB have drastically raised millennial expectations for fast, easy payment processing. It is up to you as the merchant to select a system that both processes sales payments quickly and provides commission deposits into your affiliates’ accounts instantaneously.
This is one area where you can easily outperform most (if not all) competitor affiliate-based businesses. Most companies are still using slow processing techniques that may have a rep waiting anywhere from 7 – 30 days before having their affiliate commission deposited in their account.
Can you image how disheartening it would be to work really hard for days on end, make a ton of sales, and not have the cash from it for another 30 days? That’s just ASKING for a low rep retention rate.
If you want to keep loyal, passionate, and hard-working millennial affiliates on your team, choose a payment processing system that enables them to make a huge volume of sales and go out to dinner to celebrate that same night. This instant reward will keep them motivated to hustle, hustle, hustle.
Not to brag or anything, but financial-guru and founder of ControlPad Adam Campbell figured out a way to speed up the payment process. This feature is fully integrated into ControlPad, where all payments are processed natively and securely and deposited to your affiliate’s account immediately.
Have an inventory management platform
Whether you elect a dropshipping or a cash-and-carry model for your affiliate program, it is VITAL that you have an automated, seamless inventory management system.
Assume you’re a fashion company and your affiliate Steve is just killin it with your line of hipster onesies. So well, in fact, that Steve sells your entire inventory supply of “The Snuggle Is Real” onesies in one day.
If your corporate site isn’t integrated with a backoffice that automatically tracks and updates inventory with every purchase, and someone tries to order your adorable and slightly amusing onesie for their new nephew after Steve’s streak, you’re going to run into backorder issues and unhappy customers. Yikes.
Further, if you choose a cash-and-carry model, you absolutely must keep track of all inventory currently out. If you have no idea where all your inventory is, you could be audited and run into unrecoverable legal issues. Better to do it right from the get-go rather than have to track down thousands of pieces of inventory from hundreds of reps down the road.
ControlPad is fully integrated with a cloud-based inventory management backoffice that connects your affiliates’ sales with your corporate site. From the corporate account, you’ll be able to quickly see and manage how much inventory you have out, which affiliates have what inventory, what inventory is performing really well, and what inventory is collecting dust. This kind of visibility into your inventory is invaluable, whether you make the switch to an affiliate-based business or not.
Give reps easy access to their own app and website
According to a recent Medium article on affiliate marketing in 2017,
The research shows that customers will visit a site up to seven times before making a purchase. And while most of these purchases are made on desktop, most of the initial browsing and visiting is done via mobile….That’s why it’s important for both brands and their affiliates to make sure their prospective customers’ mobile experience is smooth, fast, and seamless. Think of it as making a great first impression. 
While a high quality website and mobile app are essential to an affiliate’s success in promoting your brand, these come with a high-barrier to entry – i.e. either a lot of time, a lot of money, or a lot of technical know-how.
Even with content management systems like WordPress and Sqaurespace, setting up a website is still extremely time consuming and can get quite technical – especially when you add in inventory management, unique tracking ID’s, and various payment processing options. And asking reps to build their own mobile app? Simply out of the question.
With cutting-edge, cloud-based software like ControlPad, every affiliate that signs up to promote your company will automatically be given access to their own website and personal, branded mobile app. Both the website and app will be fully integrated with your corporate backoffice, completely streamlining all inventory management, shipping, tracking ID’s, and payment processing. With ControlPad, signing up an affiliate is as simple as creating an account with their name, email, and password. They will then be able to customize their personal website and app interface with a simple tap.
Make it easy for potential affiliates to find you and grow your network
One of the quickest and easiest ways to start building out your affiliate program is to get your customers to start referring their friends. 
Your existing customers and fans are the best place to start when looking for affiliates. Your fan base is a collection of individuals who are already familiar with your brand, are passionate about your product, and likely have a network of friends, family members, and co-workers that fit in a similar demographic with your target audience.
According to the 2016 National Harris Poll Survey, 82% of Americans “say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase decision”. 67% say they’re “more likely to purchase a product after a friend or family member shared it via social media or email.”
Further, 95% of Americans between the ages of 18-to-34 say they “would like some sort of incentive (money, product or service, loyalty points, early access, swag) for sharing a product via social media or email.” 77% selected that they prefer money over swag.”
Are you seeing what we’re seeing? According to this nation-wide poll, there’s an entire audience of 1) individuals looking for recommendations from friends and families on what to buy, and 2) an entire network of millennials wanting to promote their favorite brands in exchange for cash. Transitioning to an affiliate-model (also known as referral marketing, rep-based business, digital franchise, or word-of-mouth marketing) is the perfect solution to increase your fan base and ramp up sales.
Don’t be surprised to see more businesses looking to lower their cost-per-acquisition and start implementing a system to turn their existing customers into affiliates. 
Top 3 mistakes to avoid at ALL costs
Avoid High Upfront Costs
Want to turn away highly qualified, passionate, and talented brand ambassadors? Require a high upfront cost for joining. Want to build a network of engaged, passionate Millennials eager to promote your brand? Keep upfront costs as low as possible. When you use a platform like ControlPad, new brand ambassadors can sign up instantly and start selling your products that same day.
Don’t use outdated software
This one may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Millennials expect a certain standard of fast, intuitive, and efficient software. The more you can automate and streamline the selling, shipping, CRM, and inventory management processes of being an affiliate for your brand, the more likely your affiliates are to consistently produce high volume sales.
Refrain from strict policies
While certain policies will need to be in place to help your company and your reps avoid legal and logistical trouble, aim to keep your affiliate program flexible with plenty of room for creativity. 77% of Millennials say flexible work hours would make them more productive .
[Millennials] expect to work in communities of mutual interest and passion – not structured hierarchies. 
When you give your Millennial affiliates the space they need to be creative and passionate, you empower them to do their best work for your brand.
Mark Zuckerberg once said:
People influence people. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.
With over $4 billion invested in the affiliate market in the past year and projections that affiliate marketing will affect 14% of all ecommerce sales in 2017, this is one trend that any and all commerce businesses simply can’t afford to ignore any longer.
The savviest businesses are not waiting for some tipping point to react. They are adjusting their approach to managing and communicating with employees now. And this will determine how successful they will be in retaining these future leaders. 
For the most innovative, cloud-based, Millennial-friendly affiliate software available, checkout a free demo of ControlPad today and sign up your first affiliate in 30 seconds or less.
 PWT: Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace
 Medium: How Affiliate Marketing Will Look in 2017
 Millennials At Work Infographic
 Internet Retailer: Why Affiliate Marketing Attracted 4 Billion New Investment