How to implement a promo code strategy with your affiliate program

It’s undeniable that affiliate promo codes (also knows as “coupons”, “discount codes” or “gift codes”) and discount codes in general are a powerful way to incentivize people to buy from you. We all love a good deal from time to time, don’t we?

Promo codes can attract new customers and reward loyal ones. When you’re in a highly competitive niche, they can help you stand out and even attract customers from your competitors.

However, promotions have become so ingrained in the buyer’s psychological behaviour that there are consumers who won’t buy something unless they can get it at a discounted price. Often times, they will be fishing for coupons before making a purchase. Unless that’s your sales strategy to begin with, these are not the type of clients you should aim for.

If you’re in it for the long run and want to grow your business in a healthy, sustainable way, you don’t want to come across as an always-discounted shop, where people only buy when the prices are down. You also don’t want to seem desperate for sales or send the message that your products are worth less than the full price.

Depending on the niche you’re in, your competition and target audience, there are several strategies to successfully implement promo codes to increase your sales.

Today, we’re going to focus on one strategy in particular: using promo codes directly with your own affiliate program.

So, let’s see what is it all about!

What are affiliate promo codes and how do they work?

Generally speaking, a promo code is a string of characters that customers can enter at checkout in order to receive a discount on their purchase.

Often times, these codes are an exchange for something valuable to the seller (like having new users sign up with their email address to be contacted for future sales).

You surely are familiar with promo codes and probably used at least one in your life (we sure did).

Now, if someone makes a purchase by using a promo code assigned to one of your affiliates, then the affiliate gets a percentage of the sale, the customer gets the promised discount and you make a sale (hopefully at profit). The affiliate basically promotes the discount code to their audience on your behalf, while earning a fair share for their efforts.

Sounds like a win-win-win situation, right? Well, that’s how it should be, if you implement it correctly.

When’s a good time to run an affiliate promotional campaign?

As we said earlier, think wisely and decide whether implementing a discount code strategy into your affiliate program is aligned with your brand and business goals.

Don’t overuse them, because it might hurt your business image over time and lead to a reduction in perceived value of your products. If your products are always discounted, why would anyone want to pay full price for them?

These being said, the best two moments to run an affiliate promotional campaign would be:

  • When you launch a new product. Running a promo code campaign to get the word out about your fresh new product can be a good way to see the first sales rolling in. We wouldn’t use it on every new product, though.
  • When you want to tap into a new audience. This can work well when you start a new partnership with an influencer or brand ambassador. With a promo code, they can help you expand your reach to new customers from their audience.

How to implement promo codes in affiliate and influencer marketing

Setting up and assigning a promo code to an affiliate is actually the easiest part (we’ll show you below how you can do it with SliceWP on a WordPress-powered online store). The hardest part is doing the ground work of preparing the campaign and finding the right partners.

If are already running an affiliate program for your online store (if not, start here on why and how to set up you first WordPress affiliate program on WooCommerce), you surely have a few people in mind that could be a good fit for a promotional campaign.

We recommend you to be selective and implement this strategy with just a handful of affiliates or influencers at first. Unfortunately, not all of your referral partners will be the best advocates for your business, so strengthen the relationship with those that resonate best with your brand.

The best affiliates are more like brand ambassadors, people that genuinely love your products or services and find it easy to promote them to their audience. They would most likely tell their friends about you even without being paid: these are the people you should aim for having as partners.

Running a promotional campaign with your affiliates is great not just to increase sales, but also to reward your partners’ audience for their loyalty.

Before diving head first into an affiliate or influencer promo code campaign, you should also consider the following important aspects:

  • Why. Why do you want to run a discount code campaign? Is it to attract new customers? Is it to spread awareness about a fresh new product? Are sales stalling and you need cash flow? Think well of the reasons that nag you and see if there aren’t other (better) solutions to your problems.
  • Pricing. Work out your product/ service pricing to include (besides production costs) both the discount for the customer and the affiliate’s share. How much can you afford to give away so that you still make a profit?
  • Channel. Where do you want to run the promotion? Is it on Instagram? On a blog or other website? On Twitter or Facebook? Every channel and social media platform has its own rules and might require different promotion strategies, so think it through.

Once you decided that an affiliate discount campaign is what you want and found your partner(s) to run it with, it’s time to get to work and make it happen!

#1. Keep the code short, simple and personalised

The most simple way would be to create a promo code that includes the name of the affiliate and a number equal to the discount. As an example, for 10% off of SliceWP, the code could be something like “DEEA10”.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that basic. You can go ahead and tweak it as you like it, but as a general rule try to keep it simple and short. Pay attention to possible confusions caused by “o” and “0” (zero), or letters like “I” and “l”.

It can also be something memorable or funny, as long as it’s easy to read and write.

Keep the promo code unique to each affiliate; it’s easier to track the results afterwards.

#2. Make it time-limited

This is important for two reasons.

First, it creates loss aversion for the customers interested in your products, which makes them more inclined to buy. If you run it for too long, people might keep postponing the purchase until it’s too late or they find an alternative.

Second, you limit the chances for the code to leak out of its intended channel. This might happen anyway, so don’t be surprised when it does.

A duration of 2-3 days, up to 10 days, should be a good timeframe to have the promo code running. Shorter than 2 days and not enough people might get to find out about it. Longer than 10 days and you risk people to lose interest.

#3. … or limited in another way

Instead of time-limited, you can make the promo code available for a maximum number of purchases. For example, only the first 100 customers benefit from the discount.

Or, you can additionally have it work just on purchases that exceed a minimum set value.

Both WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads offer the options to set these kind of limitations on your promotions.

#4. Have clear terms and conditions

Make it crystal clear what the conditions are for the usage of the promo code.

The affiliate has the responsibility to communicate the terms and conditions to their audience, but make sure you fill them in with all the details.

Some examples of things to be discussed with your partner would be:

  • channel where they are allowed to run the campaign
  • duration of the campaign
  • minimum purchase value (if any)
  • shipping included or not
  • whether the offer is available only to a specific audience (like new customers) or area (for example, US customers)

We recommend, again, to keep the T&Cs short, simple and clear to understand.

#5. Track results and oversee the campaign

Last but not least, track the results!

This will help you analyse how your partner(s) performed: how much traffic was sent your way, how many sales, how many new customers, what did people say about the campaign? What can you learn and what can you improve? How did sales change after the promotional campaign ended? Was it worth running it?

If you run various similar campaigns, tracking the results will also help you compare which partners performed best.

How to set up promo codes in SliceWP

If you’re using SliceWP to power your affiliate program you can set up a coupon code for one of your affiliates right away.

This feature is available for most integrations, including WooCommerce, Easy Digital Download and Paid Member Subscriptions, with SliceWP’s Affiliate Coupons add-on.

Once you have the add-on installed and activated, navigate to the coupons code interface of your store or membership plugin and add a new coupon.

Within this page, besides the other settings fields, you should also see a new “Affiliate Name” field, where you can select the affiliate you want to be tied with this new coupon code.

For example, in WooCommerce it should look something like this:

SliceWP affiliate name field in WooCommerce discount code

With an affiliate selected and the coupon saved, each time visitors make purchases from your store, with this code, the attached affiliate will be rewarded a commission.

And that’s all! With just a few clicks you can set up coupon codes for your affiliates.