Business to Business Affiliate Programs – do they work?

Posted October 22, 2012 in ,
Last updated: September 14th, 2021

b2b affiliate programsWe are approached by many different kinds of advertisers each and every week.  One type that is consistently at our doorstop is the Business to Business category.  From cloud storage to graphic design, from crowdsourcing to html development and more, B2B advertisers are looking for ways to acquire new customers, increase revenue and grow their business. Can performance marketing, affiliate marketing specifically, provide a cost effective means to reach those goals?

I decided to ask some of the smartest people I know, and two of the most successful affiliate managers with experience in the B2B space – my team members Danielle Dougherty and Brian Secrist.  They both have several years experience managing sophisticated B2B programs for a variety of advertisers in the space.

I sat down with them earlier this week and asked them a few questions:

Can these type of programs work?

Danielle & Brian:

Absolutely! There are many successful B2B affiliate programs out there. They just can’t be put in the same category as retail programs. They take much more time and attention to get started, and drive volume.

What are the three most important factors for success in B2B affiliate marketing?


  1. Competitive advantages on program, product, and payout on the service offered to gain affiliate interest.
  2. Patience and consistency when communicating with your affiliates. Ex: I reached out to one affiliate for almost 9 months before he finally started promoting one of my B2B programs and now he is a top performer for us month over month, he also now promotes almost all of my programs.
  3. Willingness to try new placements/offers/concepts. Especially for small b2b programs that do not have the brand awareness. You must have a budget to test with to determine where you fit.


  1. Know your partners: This is absolutely critical. Managing the relationship with all your top affiliates and taking the time to provide individual attention is key. Since most B2B programs do not have a promotion calendar or coupons; newsletters are instead used to provide program information, tips, or seasonal information. Get them on the phone on a regular basis, see what they need, be prepared to provide custom deliverables. Sending regular program information, timely updates, top performing links, and useful tips can be a big part of why a program sees success.
  2. Specialize: Get all types of partners signed up. Mobile, CPA, CPS, CPL, PPC, retargeting, shopping cart abandonment, DNS error and niche affiliates all on board. Have as many types of traffic generators as you can sending leads/sales to your landing pages. Find partners who specialize in one particular type, be it mobile, CPA network, get them all driving traffic if applicable to your programs constraints. Do what you can to have many different landing pages for each type of traffic, test often.
  3. Customize: Each partner relationship is different. To get the most out of each affiliate, you will need to customize the offer, their needs, and likely the payout. Have multiple program terms built out with many different payouts. Have a CPA payout, rev share payout, email signup action payout set up, and ready to provide depending on the publisher. Also, item base out as many different actions as possible. This provides a lot of customization on the client end as well as clear payouts for the publisher.

What are the most common mistakes made managing B2B affiliate programs?


  • Lack of communication due to not actually having new and updated offers for affiliates to promote. Educate your affiliates on the service or product with content newsletters/ examples of how they can promote without having a coupon attached. Personal outreach about content ideas and suggestions on angles to take with the service or product helps.
  • Writing off a small affiliate. It’s the 20 small affiliates that make up the super affiliates in these programs and having 5000+ of them makes for a successful program.
  • Not taking suggestions.  Listen to your management team and have a some willingness to take risks.
Don’t think of them as a retail program. You can’t just send out newsletters with the latest offers or promotions, because there may not be any.  Be very careful with sub affiliate networks, CPA networks or loyalty publishers. Lead generation is all about managing quality. Not all of these types of publishers are bad, many are great and can really drive significant quality volume. The key is to be always checking lead quality. Especially at first.


Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for someone just starting out with a B2B affiliate program, or struggling to find success?


  • Be patient, especially if you’re brand new to the space.
  • Spend the money on a branding campaign to get those eyeballs to your site. Offer aggressive deals or do paid placements/exclusives with those affiliates that can drive volume, if it doesn’t work then at least you know where to NOT focus your efforts in the future.
  • Don’t get stuck on the type of affiliate YOU think is best for your brand. You may be surprised by who works well for you.
  • Be kind to your management team..and send them gifts 🙂 LOL
Start small. Join, activate, and optimize each individual partner one at a time. Checking lead quality and cost per click for each partner along the way. Don’t expect too much. B2B programs take time and a lot of attention before they become a strong traffic channel. Be open to customizing each relationship or opportunity to make it work for your program. Finding a great publisher may be one you did not initially think would work.

Amazing stuff and quite a lot to digest for those managing B2B programs or thinking about launching one.  One thing that these boil down to use work.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of time dedicated to these programs to make them work.  There aren’t shortcuts with B2B affiliate programs.  If you need help with yours, don’t hesitate to call us!

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About the author

  • Jamie Birch

    Jamie Birch


Jamie is the owner and principal of JEBCommerce. His extensive Internet marketing experience includes all facets of online marketing: email, paid search campaigns, customer retention programs, and much more. This wide range of disciplines has enabled Jamie to excel as a business leader and JEBCommerce to realize a great level of success for its clients. Jamie cut his “affiliate marketing teeth” managing affiliate programs for many well known companies before spending several years at Coldwater Creek, a Top 5 nationwide women’s clothing retailer. While at Coldwater Creek, Jamie established and managed affiliate campaigns, email campaigns, and SEO campaigns – an opportunity that allowed him to develop many of the proven processes JEBCommerce successfully employs today. In recognition of his professional leadership, the affiliate marketing industry has consistently nominated him for Annual Pinnacle Awards over the years. In addition to individual accolades, JEBCommerce is gaining momentum within the Internet marketing industry and is experiencing positive, exciting growth. This is a direct result of Jamie’s positive leadership, integrity, and earned respect – from his clients and industry peers. Need a speaker for your next event? I can do that, too!