7 Steps to Create a Plan for a Successful 2021

Feb 1, 2021
Written by Carissa Payne

We made it! It’s finally 2021, and with a new year, comes new opportunities to grow and develop your affiliate program. Cultivate a winning approach for the coming year by following these seven fundamental steps to create a successful plan for your affiliates in 2021.

1. Review Past Performance

Before closing the books on last year, it’s important to review 2020 performance and strategy. Looking back at holidays and peak program periods will help you pinpoint your successes and develop a plan to replicate that success in the coming year. What performance and partner trends did you notice during peak periods?

While it’s important to highlight accomplishments, you should also take notice of opportunities that were left on the table. Consider any missed opportunities with specific partners or certain promotional methods. Was there anything missing from your growth strategy last year that you can include in your plan this year? Reviewing Insights reporting is a great place to get started, but don’t forget about CJ’s Q4 Performance Lookback Report and COVID-19 Lookback Report, which can help you compare your program’s performance to the network’s.

2. Set Goals

After reviewing your 2020 performance, it’s critical to set program goals for the new year. Setting revenue or lead goals is important, but also think about where you can grow through optimization. Goals like program diversification, building relationships with content partners, and increasing AOV will ultimately help you to reach your revenue and growth goals!

Don’t forget, it is important to keep your budget in mind when creating your goals for this year to remain realistic about what your program will be able to achieve.

3. Check the Checklist

Just like New Year’s resolutions, it’s hard to make progress if you don’t hold yourself accountable to an action plan. We’ve done the work for you this time with our Advertiser Growth Checklist. This checklist will provide you with the daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks for building, optimizing, and maintaining a successful CJ program.

4. Create a Promotional Calendar

To prepare for key performance and promotional periods, create a promotional calendar, which you can use not only to plan your promotional cadence, but also to look for partner optimization opportunities based on performance from previous calendar year. Look to both capitalize on positive performance and turn around negative trends.

Pro Tip: Review our Junction post highlighting the Global Holiday and Retail Event Calendar for 2021 and incorporate these peak periods into your plans!

5. Recruit, Activate, Optimize

Consistent recruitment, activation, and optimization is key for program growth. Planning time for your recruitment and activation campaigns can really pay off in the long run. Take advantage of slower periods to recruit new, quality partners, and then activate and develop those partnerships so they are ready for your key promotional periods. Use our new Recruit Partners tool within the CJ account manager to get started!

6. Size Up the Competition

Make sure you’re aware of how your competitors are promoting with publishers. Key items to consider during a competitive analysis include checking that your commission rates, cookie duration, and consumer-facing offers are competitive both in your category and with your top partners. Have your competitors offered any promotions or run any campaigns that you’d like to incorporate into your 2021 planning?

7. Incorporate New Learnings

And of course, an interesting past year called for a more creative approach to our affiliate programs. Reflect on any innovative strategies you implemented in response to the pandemic. What worked? How can you replicate or expand on that in the year to come?


To say 2020 was a unique and challenging year would be an understatement, and we hope these steps will help guide you through a fruitful 2021. From all of us at CJ, we’re sending you positive vibes and good thoughts for a better new year!


Insights provides actionable data on demand in an intuitive, streamlined and easy-to-use platform to help you identify where to take action for your program.

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