How do I find more of {insert type of affiliate here} affiliates for my affiliate program?

We recently finished another round of our MyAffiliateCoach affiliate manager training, and without doubt this question was probably the very first one asked by every student.  “Jamie I need more loyalty affiliates.”  “Jamie, how do I find more mommy bloggers?”  “Jamie, where can I find more outdoor and pet type of affiliates?”  Let’s get one thing out of the way, there isn’t a silver bullet, pot of gold at the end of the recruiting rainbow or four leaf clover that will help you find all the affiliates you need today, get them active and grow your sales.  It’s simply not there.

Over the last 13 years I’ve tried just about every tool you can imagine to identify and recruit all different types of affiliates to over 100 affiliates program, from retail to business to business, lead gen to cpa.  There simply isn’t an easy way to go about it.  Nothing beats old fashioned searching and networking.  And that just takes time.

Let’s talk about networking.  Way back in 2001 I had just started at Coldwater Creek in Sandpoint Idaho.  I had just come from my second job out of college and a bruising experience with the dot com bubble.  The network of affiliates I brought with me were either in the medical field or the business to business sector.  Not very conducive to selling dresses, shoes and women’s jackets.  I had to adapt quickly and find new partners for a program that had just left the ground.

The networking search began.  I looked for every affiliate forum, email list, and affiliate manager I could find.  I immediately got involved in those forums and reached out to the other affiliate managers.   The forums were relatively simple to get involved in, listen to the conversations, introduce yourself and then interject when you have something to say.  It won’t take long to build relationships.

When I reached out to affiliates it was to share information and help each other build strong programs.  I made a point to reach out to a new manager each week.  Over time I built great and solid relationships with amazing people that I now consider friends and have been friends for 10 years plus.  Over the years we have helped each other grow programs, meet new partners and deal with the many challenges our industry has faced over that time frame, we had plenty of issues.

These affiliate managers and I introduced each other to affiliates personally, exchanged lists of affiliates that worked for each of us and introduced each other to other affiliate managers.  For a while we had a pretty solid group and I met some of the best affiliates that myself and my team have had amazing relationships with for years.  You simply can’t beat the tried and true tactic of networking.

“Jamie, how do I meet these affiliate managers?”  I’d first ask your network account exec who are the best affiliate managers in their network that aren’t competitive.  I’d check out our affiliate marketing resource page as there are a few there and I’d start searching for complimentary but not competitive affiliate programs and send an email.

Conferences!  Each affiliate network has their own conference, I’d make sure you are there.  Don’t miss out on at least one of the Affiliate Summits.  These conferences are amazing opportunities to not only network with other affiliate managers but to meet affiliate partners.  I can’t overstate the importance of these conferences and face to face interaction to help you find new affiliate partners.

Now, let’s talk about searching.  The first week with any new client of ours we perform our 5-day on-boarding process.  During that process, our teams complete what we call our Ideal Affiliate Worksheet.  Sometimes we complete 5-10 of them when there are more than one category of affiliate that will work well for that client.

That worksheet includes things such as:

  • Affiliate Category
  • Affiliate Demographic Data
  • Customer Demographic Data of that ideal affiliate
  • Appropriate Search Terms that those affiliates are associated with
  • Competitors of our client
  • Internal tags – a proprietary tagging structure we use at JEB

These worksheets allow our teams to put down on paper the characteristics of the ideal affiliate.  One of the fortunate things we have here at our agency is a large database of affiliates that we have compiled over the 8 years we have been managing clients’ programs.  Our team takes this worksheet and identifies all the affiliates we have in our database that fits those characteristics.  Then our analysts use the interwebs to search for additional websites/publishers that fit those characteristics too.  So for each and every client, we manually compile lists of potential partners.  You’ll never find them all and there are more popping up each day.

We have used software many times to try and build lists, we’ve even built our own spiders.  We’ve never really found one that beats the process we currently use.  I don’t recommend any at this particular time.  I always welcome to be proven wrong :).

Another team you want to lean on is your network account management team.  Many of them are steller and can provide you with introductions to affiliates.

Well there you go for this Monday morning!  What do you think?  Do you have other ways to find partners?  Please share!

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