Affiliate Recruitment Letter: 7 Mistakes to Avoid (a Critique)

An affiliate manager, who has recently finished studying my latest book, has contacted me with a request to critique his freshly-baked 700-words-long affiliate recruitment letter. Having removed all sensitive information (and having received his approval to do this in public) today I’d like to post my recommendations in my blog (as, I am confident, this will help many other affiliate managers avoid the same mistakes).

First of all, here’s the core of the text:

My name is _________ and I manage _________ affiliate program on _________ affiliate network, which already shows some amazing results:

  • EPC data
  • AOV info
  • Conversion stats

I’ve come across your web-site on the Internet and it’s great! As far as I see it has been up and running since 1997. And since it appears that it caters to the highly targeted traffic, I am sure you will take the opportunity to earn a fortune with our product just adding it to your website. The good news is that you don’t need to do a huge job as you have everything ready to start earning with us.

The commission earnings start from XX percent and go up to XX percent per sale (depending on your performance with our affiliate program). And as you have a well-designed and fully functioning web-site, I find it mutually beneficial for us to partner together.

Let me show you an example of how you can earn with us. For promoting and selling a X-month subscription to our product, you would be getting a commission of XX.XX USD. Thus selling as least as three such subscriptions a day, you could get a commission of X,XXX.XX USD a month. Also, for every rebill/reorder made by the customer you referred to us within X days after initial purchase, you will get a XX% commission regardless if the reorder was placed on your or our default web-site.

Having said all that, I would also like to get you up on a special and exclusive offer right off the bat: If you join our affiliate program, and refer any sales by [date here], your commission level for every order or rebill will be increased from XX percent to XX percent until [same date here].

Exclusive offer especially for you: We will create a web-page, featuring our product, designed to fit your web-site (including necessary images, descriptions, links and buttons).

About Our Company
[150+ words here]

Market Niche Potential
[167 words here]

If, for some reason, you are not quite ready to sign up with our affiliate program, I will also be glad to answer any questions you may have, or see how our two websites could still work together. Many thanks in advance for your reply.

Now, overall, this is a very good affiliate recruitment letter. However, there are things to improve; and here are my 7 criticisms (in no particular order):

Mistake #1: Text’s Length — You want to value your prospective affiliate’s time, and not make them read 700 words to get to your main point. Stay serious, concise, and to-the-point. The sweet spot is really between 150 and 200 words.

Mistake #2: Lack of Personalization — When you talk about their website, do mention its URL (they may own many more than one). When you have the name of the website’s owner (which can often be pulled from the WHOIS database), do address them by their name.

Mistake #3: Clichés — Delete “which already shows some amazing results” and re-phrase this to sound more serious. Cliches devalue your proposition. On the same reason, avoid “…and it’s great!” (and exclamation marks in general), “opportunity to earn a fortune”, etc.

Mistake #4: Less-than-attractive Incentive(s) — The second incentive to join (the offer to create a co-branded landing page) is great. However, it is weakened by the first one. I wouldn’t recommend limiting the commission increase to such a short period only (if you cannot offer a lifetime bump, give them an increase for at least a couple of months – so that they have the time to fully enjoy it).

Mistake #5: Calculations of Unearned Riches — On a reason as in my very first point above, avoid clichés, avoid calculating the money for them. Just underscore your strengths (such as conversion rate, low/no reversals, recurring nature of subscriptions/sales for which they will be compensated, etc… and they’ll do their math themselves).

Mistake #6: Mispositioning of Important Data — Do include “about the niche potential” and “about company” info, but not at the end. Introduce your company where you introduce yourself (and make sure you link the company’s name to its website, so that they could check it out, should they want to), and list your “niche potential” info where you talk about your program’s strengths. Again, be eloquent here. Value their time.

Mistake #7: Missing Call(s)-to-Action — Your primary goal is to generate a sign-up. Your secondary goal (unless the primary one is met) is to make your program known (so that they know where to go when they’re looking for an affiliate program in your niche). Do include respective CTAs throughout the email. The maximum number of sign-up links I’d including is two.

What else have I missed? Your feedback is appreciated as always; and that’s what the “Comments” section under this post is for.

17 thoughts on “Affiliate Recruitment Letter: 7 Mistakes to Avoid (a Critique)”

  1. Stevie Chalmers

    Agreed! The subject of the message is the deciding factor. If it seems flashy, scam soundng, lots of symbols *** !! and so on it is turfed asap, no questions asked.
    FYI Geno, fabulous article! Thank you for sharing.

    S. Chalmers

  2. Geno, Thank you for this post and your critique. I bet many ‘fresh’ affiliate managers can learn a lot from it.
    Matt, as to your question, the subject line stated ‘Partnership Proposal from [Company Name]’. Do you belive it needs more improvement?

    1. I often feel the need to preface things I write because I am rather blunt (yes, that is a problem and I am working on it haha), so let’s pretend we are old friends here. This is how I would answer an old friend if he asked:

      No, that sucks. It doesn’t need improvement, it needs to be completely scrapped.

      Problems with it:

      1. It’s bland.
      2. It’s spammy.
      3. I don’t like to be proposed to. What’s in it for me?
      4. I probably don’t know your company name.
      5. If I do know your company name it looks like a sales pitch (i.e. to buy something)

      I’ve personally never truly split test recruiting emails but I have tracked which ones worked the best by trying 3-4 at a time and seeing which ones got the most signups.

      Here are those subjects or slight variations of them:

      New [category/product name] Affiliate Program (i.e. New Stationary Affiliate Program)

      #1 [category/product name] Affiliate Program

      Google Tells Me… (And then proceed in the body to tell them that Google tells you their site is great for [category])

      Top Ten Reasons [Company]’s Affiliate Program Rocks (long, yes…then you launch into a top ten list 1-10 reasons)

      [Their Site] & [Company]… (Then begin email before salutation even with “A match made in heaven”)

      Don’t try to get too cute, but some of the most effective were the slightly off the wall ones. I never measured open rate specifically because some of the cute ones would get opened at insanely high rates but not acted upon.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Matt, thank you for your prompt and friendly reply! I’m quite sure I’ll get more signups now using Geno’s and your advices.
    Do you belive I should resend the revised recruitment email (with that sweet subject line, avoiding those 7 mistakes) to the prospects I’ve tried to contact already? In 2-3 weeks maybe?

    1. Personally I sent about 15 per day every day. I had a big list of over 1000, so we cycled through them every day for a quarter before hitting them again. The list grew and shrank as we got bounce backs, signups, and “remove me” requests. So it usually stayed around the same size. I usually sent a new email each time, although I often recycled old material that worked well.

      I also worked in a special bonus related to that time of year or their particular site (i.e. “If you sign up before July 31 and put up your links, I’ll give you $10)

      Also, I segmented holiday themed sites (about 100 or so) and hit them hard 4-6 months out from the holiday. I used a subject like:

      A Great Back to School Affiliate Program
      [Company] is Great for Valentines
      #1 Valentines Affiliate Program

      Those worked really well. I would hit them more frequently in the 4-6 month out frame with another hit about 2 months out. I would leave them alone the rest of the year.

  4. Gentlemen (i.e. Guest and Matt), thank you for this quality conversation. Priceless info for many affiliate managers, I’m sure.

    Re following up with those prospects were approached before, we do (and recommend) 5 follow-ups: 1 week after original email, 2 weeks after the first follow-up, and then 2 months, 6 months, and 1 year. I talked about in my How Often to Follow Up with Affiliates post early last year, and other AMs (see comments under that post) seemed to echo.

    Hope this helps.

    1. These are all great strategies! I am however curious to see some actual affiliate’s opinions on what works and what doesnt particularly work in recruitment emails? Geno, do you think we can plug some affiliates into the conversation?

  5. Hey all,

    Working for a big publisher in the UK I tend to get a lot of these emails.

    I think really there are no hard or fast rules for what would be successful but as others have said I wouldn’t read a 700 word email. If I was going to offer tips, i would say first of all check you are sending to the correct contact. We have a team who put offers and merchants live. When you know who to send it to, personalise it like Geno mentioned.

    A book I read recently talked about how people take responsibility when in groups less than four. This is referred to as the bystander effect. I think it’s the same with bcc emails or emails send to multiple members of a team. People think that someone else will deal with this and are less inclined to reply than a personalised email.

    I would then focus on getting across the key message about the programme, but again figures rather than ‘earn a fortune’ type statements that, to be honest, I would just screen out.

    Hope that helps,


    1. Graham! Very insightful. Thank you! I like it when two worlds (advertiser vs publisher) collide and successfully discuss a topic quite important to both. I would really love to see more of this becuase I believe it is a very valuable learning tool.

  6. Pingback: Marketing Day: August 3, 2012

  7. Hi Olga. Thanks. I am glad you found it helpful. I agree, I think that often people set out with good intentions but if they don’t know what their affiliates/clients want then they won’t get the results they are after.

    As I said there is no one size fits all, but I think that listening and acting on what you learn is the key to success in most marketing disciplines.

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