How to Recruit Affiliates like a Pro

“Do you want to make money working from home and selling the products you already use?”

Most people would quickly delete this message. The world is becoming more and more immune to sales pitches and you’ll never get noticed with this cookie cutter approach to recruiting affiliates.

So, how do you get noticed above all the other pitches?

Provide value to the affiliate from the start.

Affiliate programs are so contingent on relationship-building, you will find the most success using as much personal communication as possible.

Building these relationships takes a lot of time and resources but it also determines how successful an affiliate program ultimately is.

Unfortunately, when an affiliate manager gets too busy the first thing to get dropped is affiliate recruitment and with it, any chance of sustaining a successful affiliate program long-term.

Because the process of recruiting can be so time consuming, it may be a better use of company resources to partner with an affiliate program management agency.

JEBCommerce dedicates recruitment time into the weekly schedule so we’re always working to bring new affiliate partners into your program.

An extra perk for partnering with an affiliate program management agency is they can introduce brands to top talent. Over the past decade we have nurtured relationships with major affiliates in the outdoor, beauty, fashion and apparel retail space.

Having a close relationship with an entire pool of high-quality bloggers, influencers, and paid search partners we are able to get programs up to speed quickly.

You may already be familiar with some common affiliate recruitment techniques so this article discusses less common techniques to bring in high-quality, top performing affiliates. Here’s how to recruit affiliates like a professional.

Start with the Customer

This step is Marketing 101 but is often overlooked when hastily trying to recruit affiliates without a plan.

It doesn’t do any good to recruit affiliates who write about video games, if your customers are primarily interested in outdoor gear.

Make sure you have your customer demographics (who’s buying your product), as well as your target market (who you want to buy your products). Then work on the websites those customers may be visiting.

Affiliates You Already Know

Start in your “universe of known affiliates” – those affiliates you may have worked with in the past or who you have easy access to.

There’s a lower barrier to entry for these affiliates and it’s easier to get them activated and producing in your program sooner.

Within the universe of known affiliates, there’s several recruiting techniques to consider:

Gap Analysis

A gap analysis allows you to compare the performance of affiliates to prioritise the top performers over lesser known affiliates.

You already know that all the publishers you’re looking at are familiar with affiliate marketing.

This overcomes a major first hurdle in terms of education. Run a Gap Analysis between multiple programs to see which affiliates are missing from your current database.

Top Performers

This is where working with an agency can really come in handy. At JEBCommerce, we manage dozens of affiliate programs and work together to share affiliates we know to be successful.

For example, if we need affiliates who market sporting goods, or fashion apparel, we’ve already managed a similar program in the past and have a database of top performing affiliates to pull from.

Network Partners

Assuming your affiliate program is being managed using an affiliate network (such as Impact, CJ, ShareASale, Rakuten, Partnerize, etc.), don’t be afraid to ask for their help in recommending affiliates you could work with.

These network partners have loads of data at their fingertips from hosting thousands of affiliate programs; all you have to do is ask.

As an agency, we have great relationships with all of these networks and find that they’re always willing to lend a hand in an effort to grow your programs.

In addition to their custom feedback, most of the major networks have ready-made recruitment tools that you can use to access their entire database of affiliates. Ask your network rep for access to their recruitment tool and have them walk you through how to use it.

Affiliates You Don’t Know Yet

Once you’ve looked into your universe of known affiliates or those you have easiest access to, it’s time to enter the “universe of unknown affiliates” – those affiliates you don’t have any history with, they may or may not be familiar with affiliate marketing in general, but you know they’d make a great fit for your program.

There are a whole set of tools to help you recruit affiliates successfully. JEBCommerce wrote an entire article focused solely on helpful tools.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Google Search Console: If you don’t know who your customer is or how they spend their time on the internet, this is a great first step. Google search console provides insight into the most popular search queries consumers are looking for when they discover the brand. We call this “owning the SERPs” because the more top search results sites that become partners, the more coverage brands have for high volume search terms.
  • Mass Media Conglomerates: More and more the affiliate industry is swaying in favor of high-quality content sites that hold a lot of decision-power over their reader base. One of the best examples of this is mass media affiliates.
  • Social Media: Run ads on Facebook and Instagram advertising your affiliate program and explaining the benefits of partnering. Join affiliate marketing groups allowing you to network. Partnering with sites (or influencers) that your customer is already engaging with and trusts helps the conversion rate as soon as the new affiliate joins.

Consolidate and Organize Your Contacts

There are a number of CRM tools available including MediaRails and Buzzstream that help manage affiliate partner contacts.

Good ol’ fashioned Google Sheets or an Excel doc works as well – as long as you maintain it and keep it clean. The way you store your lists isn’t as important as how you reach out.

Reaching Out to Potential Affiliates

After completing the above steps, you will have a pretty sizable list of potential affiliate partners. Time to reach out, explain the opportunity and get them to join your program.

Read these 5 steps to recruit affiliates into your program:

  1. Educate yourself on the affiliate’s website. Get to know them, the content they produce, their business model and their readers to determine if they’d be a good fit for your brand.
  2. Look for a phone number, then a personal email, then a general email on their site, in that order. Many things are easier and quicker when handled over a phone call.
  3. If you can’t find any contact info on their website, head to social media. You can connect with them on LinkedIn, DM them on Instagram, friend them on Facebook, etc. There’s a million ways to get in touch with someone.
  4. Follow up. Statistics show it can take up to 8 touches with a contact to make a sale. Since that’s essentially what you’re doing in pitching an affiliate program, you have to be prepared to follow up with your prospects and don’t be put out if you don’t hear back right away. Keep a clean list and track when you reach out and any replies you may receive along the way.
  5. Take the time to educate. Introduce yourself and the brand you’re promoting, but talk more about them, their website, and their business model. Maintain a curious mindset and simply look to educate yourself before launching into pitch mode. Then, be sure you’re taking the time to clearly educate your prospect as to what affiliate marketing is and how it can benefit them.

Keep in mind, many folks have a bad taste in their mouth for affiliate marketing, whether from poor past experiences or Multi-Level-Marketing schemes, etc.

Be sure to clearly explain every step of the process and walk them through the network sign up and integration of text links, etc. This will prove to solidify your relationship long-term.

Grow That List!

When recruiting affiliates, mass email 2,000 affiliate prospects in a drip campaign asking them to join your affiliate program.

This does not yield results and it does not help the industry. JEBCommerce recommends talking to a max of 10 affiliates per day. Read their website and take the time to learn about the person.

Then reach out and personalize your language. Call out specific aspects of their website that you enjoy and think would do well for your affiliate program.

A personalized approach will get much better results than a blanket mass email to all potential affiliates.

Are affiliate recruitment services really all your program needs? JEBCommerce wrote an article with a real world example of  what happens when affiliate recruitment is the only strategy deployed.