So you’re finally ready to start your affiliate program. Congratulations! Of course, just launching that program is not enough. If you want it to be successful, you still need to recruit quality affiliates. That is what we are going to cover in this post: program promotion and affiliate recruitment strategies to employ in order to onboard affiliate partners into your newly-launched affiliate program.
Think of it as having a great book in your hands, well-written, edited, and formatted, ready to be printed, make publishers money, and enchant readers. However, unless you send it to publishers (or self-publish, if you prefer), it will never reach bookshelves and it will never earn anyone any money.
Your affiliate program is that great book. It does not really matter how great it is if publishers never hear about it. Unless you spread the word about it, no one will join to help sell your products or services.
Have you run through our checklist for a successful program launch? One of the five components on the list was the announcement of the launch. Its obvious goal is to draw attention to your program. This is what our own Geno Prussakov recommends in his Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day. In fact, he dedicates an entire chapter to announcing the program launch and recruiting affiliates. We will review some of his recommendations and more in the following lines.
How to Draw Publishers’ Attention to Your Program
If you’ve followed our advice, you have already prepared the announcement. All you have to do is adjust it to the requirements of the distribution channels you are using. As for distribution channels, Geno mentions the following:
- Press release platforms
- Affiliate marketing forums and blogs
- Affiliate program directories
- Social media
- Affiliate networks
Let’s take them one by one and see what they have to offer.
1. Press Releases
Some companies still use them, others have seen weak results and have given up on them. If you post press releases regularly to PR Newswire, PRWeb, Newswire, PR.com, WebWire, or other similar websites, it won’t hurt to submit a press release regarding your program launch. Otherwise, other distribution channels might cost less and yield better results.
2. Forums and Blogs
These are basically communities where publishers exchange information and advice. Some, like STM, only let you join their community, start and comment to threads, and identify and reach out to affiliate marketers in your niche. Others, like the WarriorForum and AffiliateFix, have marketplaces where you can advertise your program.
There are also affiliate marketing blogs that may publish your announcement for a small fee or allow you to post as a guest. Of course, you will probably need to wrap up your announcement in some valuable content or summarize it in your author profile.
If you work with an experienced affiliate program manager, chances are they already have their own affiliate marketing blog where they can announce your program launch and database of publishers they can promote your program to.
The best example is the AM Navigator Blog that you are reading, where, besides publishing educational content and industry news, we announce new program launches. We also have a Clients section where we introduce the programs we manage to the publishers visiting our blog.
3. Affiliate Program Directories
These are basically affiliate program databases to which merchants submit their offers and publishers go to find new programs to promote. Some will charge you a small fee for listing your program, but many reputable affiliate program directories will do it for free. Consider submitting your offer to:
- Top Affiliate
4. Social Media
Depending on your niche, sponsored social media ads may be a good idea as well. If you haven’t done this already, you should join publishers groups and groups related to your niche. You can announce your program launch there as well.
Again, if you work with an experienced affiliate program manager, they will help you spread the word about your program as well. Chances are they already have considerable social media following and they will not hesitate to announce the new program they are managing (see Geno’s LinkedIn announcement about AM Navigator taking over the management of The Unbounce Partner Program).
5. Affiliate Networks
If you run your affiliate marketing program on one or several affiliate marketing networks, spreading the word about it will be easier. Most networks have a special category for new programs that publishers often check when looking for merchants to join (see screenshot of ShareASale categories below).
Remember that publishers using affiliate networks will see your program listed along with those of your competitors. If you want to attract them, you have to make your offer stand out from the rest. The best way to do that is to offer time-sensitive incentives to new and active affiliates. Think increased cookie life, tiered commissions, contests with prizes in cash or various products, etc.
The Best Channels to Announce Your Program Launch
Best channels to announce the launch of your affiliate program are your own website, your own contacts, and industry events too! If you play your cards right, all these channels will help you spread the word about your program. However, if you focus on those alone, you make a huge mistake and miss out the channel with the highest potential: your existing audience and customer base.
Your website already sees some traffic, from people who come to buy your products or services or who read your content. You also have a database of customers or subscribers, partners, and service providers.
Take Advantage of Underused Opportunities
After all, we are talking about people who have already spent money on your products and/or services and people who are familiar with them and stand to win in more than one way from boosting your sales. It would be easy for them to recommend your products and/or services to others, so they are the first ones you should target.
To do that, announce your affiliate marketing program’s launch through a blog post or a banner on your homepage. Do include a link to your affiliate program page in your website menu (below you may see the how Best Buy links to their program from in the footer menu of their main website)
Also, send your customers and/or subscribers, business partners, and service providers an email announcing the launch of your program, or at least include the news in your newsletter. If you attend industry events, don’t hesitate to mention your affiliate program launch in your speech or on the marketing materials you use.
People that already know and love your products or services are the most likely to become your affiliates, especially if you offer attractive bonuses. With their help, you can get your program off the ground and drive some sales until you recruit more affiliates.
How to Recruit Quality Affiliates
No matter how successful your program launch is and how many affiliates the above announcements bring you, don’t stop recruiting! There is no guarantee that an affiliate will continue to promote your products or services or be successful at it.
According to Geno’s classification, there are two broad types of affiliate recruitment strategies:
1. Passive Recruitment – These are the types of actions that aim at giving your affiliate program the maximum visibility. The goal is to make your affiliate program easily findable.
2. Active Recruitment – These are your active outreach campaigns, whereby you identify potential affiliates, discover their contact details, and invite them to join your affiliate program.
Passive Affiliate Recruitment Strategies
There are several ways to passively recruit affiliates, some of them being years old but still effective. We’ve already discussed three of them above:
- Affiliate directories
- Press releases
- Affiliate program link on your merchant website homepage
Let’s see what more you can do:
Affiliate Network Listing
If you don’t run your affiliate program on a network, you may consider joining at least one. Affiliate network listing means having your program seen by thousands of potential affiliates. Geno recommended it a long time ago among other avenues for passive affiliate recruitment, and we’ve seen proof of its effectiveness time and time again.
Of course, your competitors will be there as well, so make sure you stand out. We will discuss how you can do that in the following lines.
- Always upload a logo or 88×31 micro bar. You’re surely aware of the importance of graphics, and so are your competitors. Not having one won’t look good in the eyes of potential affiliates. If you don’t upload one, some networks will use the first 88×31 button or banner you upload. Others will not show any logo. If you’re not sure what your logo should look like, check out these 24 inspiring examples.
- Post a good program description. We’ve covered how to construct a good program description and what key points to cover in your affiliate program description previous posts, so we’re not going to get into details. If you need more help, check our clients’ program descriptions for inspiration and, of course, get in touch!
- Post promotions. Most affiliate networks have coupon feeds and/or coupons and deals databases. For example, ShareASale has the Deals and Coupons Detabase. CJ lets affiliates search through their advertiser database by promotion type (see screenshot of CJ promotion type search options). If you don’t plan on offering deals and coupons, you can offer free shipping or complimentary products or services on orders exceeding a certain amount. As the CJ search options suggest, affiliates treasure coupons, sweepstakes, hot products, sales/discounts, free shipping, seasonal links, and sites to stores. Answering these needs and expectations will help you stand out from other merchants.
- Use smart keywords to help affiliates find you. Besides industry-relevant keywords, product categories, and brands, don’t hesitate to include your competitors’ name. This way, if an affiliate looks for your competitors’ program, they can see yours as well and, assuming you’ve followed the above tips, decide to promote it.
- Increase cookie life. Many publishers take cookie life into account when choosing the program they affiliate themselves with. Look at what your competitors are offering and top their offer. Most sales occur on the first day from clicking the affiliate link, so an increased cookie life is unlikely to result in higher payouts. It could and probably will convince more publishers to join your program, so try it!
Affiliate Program Website
Some merchants only dedicate a page on their website to the affiliate program. However, depending on the specifics of your business, your affiliates will probably need and appreciate more than that. It could really help your program to host it on a dedicated website.
Consider backing it up with excellent support services and it will seem even more attractive. Affiliates love it when they have someone to get in touch with, by chat, email, or phone, to get answers and help with any issues they may encounter.
Add an FAQ section, and any materials that could help affiliates to better promote your products and services. You could also upload your affiliate creatives, some video tutorials, and product presentations. You could post information about new promotions and keep affiliates up to date with your branding and marketing campaigns.
If you’re really serious about making your affiliate program successful, you could also start a blog and create a newsletter. Anyone interested in your affiliate program but not yet ready to join it should be able to subscribe to your newsletter. This way, you get their email address and future opportunities to recruit and activate them.
Having some quality affiliate recruitment ads posted on the most popular affiliate marketing websites, blogs, and forums should get you new affiliates without you having to do anything more about it. Sure, the ads will cost you a little, but if you choose your sources carefully, it will all be worth it.
A great starting point could be FeedFront, forum recruitment ads, and affiliate blog banners. Don’t hesitate to experiment with pay-per-click platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads as well. With the right ads, you could reach a huge number of potential affiliates.
Finally, social media ads could get you some great results. Your could ) only, but look also into paid visibility opportunities on social media (through Facebook Business Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and more). If you’re lucky, your competitors aren’t yet exploring this opportunity, so this could be your chance to take the lead.
We’ve already discussed announcing your program launch on social media. Once it’s launched, you should consider creating affiliate program pages and support groups, especially on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (See screenshot of some Facebook affiliate support groups)
Many publishers check these aspects before joining an affiliate program. Moreover, these pages and groups will come in handy during your active affiliate recruitment campaigns.
You can send invitations to prospective affiliates and encourage or incentivize (see second-tier affiliates discussion below) existing affiliates to invite their contacts as well.
Speaking of active recruitment strategies, we’ll discuss the most effective of them and what they involve in the following lines.
Active Affiliate Recruitment Strategies
Geno identifies affiliate recruitment as the first pillar of affiliate program success. It makes sense, considering that you can’t really sell and make money with your affiliate program if no one is promoting your products or services.
How do you find and recruit quality affiliates? Again, Geno has the answers, and yes, these are tested and proven strategies, so don’t hesitate to use them!
1. Competitive Intelligence
If you’ve read our competitive intelligence guide, you already know how important it is to be up to date with your competitors’ strategies and learn from them. Apply the same principles to affiliate recruitment. Identify the publishers promoting your competitors’ products and services with the best results and invite them to promote yours as well.
Of course, you will need to come up with a competitive offer, so analyze your competitors’ programs and make sure yours is at least as attractive. If it’s not, make adjustments before reaching out to potential affiliates. Otherwise, your efforts will be in vain.
This strategy will probably help you identify other promising affiliates in your niche as well. Don’t hesitate to contact those as well and convince them to join your program. Tools like MediaRails, Publisher Discovery, or NerdyData should come in handy.
2. Satisfied Customers
We’ve already mentioned the importance of announcing your affiliate program launch to your customers, business partners, and service providers. You shouldn’t stop there. Here are a few ways to turn satisfied customers into successful affiliates:
- Add an invitation to join your affiliate program on your order confirmation page.
- Send customer-geared email newsletters and include the link to your affiliate program page
- Invite your social media followers to join the program and keep them up to date with related promotions and deals
- If you have a customer review system, track the most enthusiastic reviews and invite their authors to join your program
- Offer rewards to existing customers who bring in new customers and to their referrals
And if you’re going to have existing customers bring in new ones, why not apply the same strategy with existing affiliates?
3. Second-Tier Affiliates
At this point, if you’ve followed our advice, you should already have a few good affiliates who know the industry and their main competitors. Reach out to those affiliates and offer them a bonus for referring other affiliates to you.
It can be a one-time reward or a recurring commission from the new affiliates’ commissions or from the sales these may drive. To avoid having affiliates refer themselves to get rewards on both ends and keep costs under control, a one-time bonus paid on valid sign-ups could be a better idea.
4. Influencers and Opinion Leaders
Not so different from the above strategy, this one involves reaching out to industry leaders, bloggers, and anyone able to influence your target customers and convince them to join your affiliate program. Many merchants use influencer marketing successfully these days.
You could lure influencers with free samples or subscriptions. Some influencers are used to placement fees. Therefore, instead of forcing them to accept a pay-for-sale model, consider a combination of the two models.
5. Network-Based Opportunities
Most affiliate networks offer valuable affiliate recruitment opportunities. We’ve already covered some of them above, but those are not all. For example, most popular networks have tools or functions that will allow you to find and recruit quality affiliates, such as:
- ShareASale’s Recruitment Tool
- CJ’s Publisher Recruitment
- Rakuten’s “Find New Publishers”
- Impact’s Media Partner Discovery
6. Cross-Program Recruitment
You surely know a few merchants with products or services similar to but not competing with yours. They could be your very own suppliers or service providers. If they run their own affiliate program, they may be willing to partner with you and recommend your program to their affiliates while you recommend theirs’ to your own.
This is much easier when you work with a competent affiliate program manager or OPM agency. They surely manage programs related to yours and can easily promote your program to the publishers affiliated to the other programs they manage.
At AM Navigator, we have obtained excellent results using this technique, so we can assure you that it works. Of course, we have managed a wide variety of programs throughout the years, we use all the major affiliate networks, and we have a huge database of publishers. This makes it easy to find publishers matching the specifics of the program we are recruiting for.
7. Related Verticals
We mentioned reaching out to niche affiliates and influencers but what is your niche and what markets do you target? The products or services you sell could cater to the needs of other audiences as well. Here are two examples:
- Let’s say you sell costumes. You probably target party people and focus on holidays and characters, but why not tap into the entertainment, movie, theatre, and music industries as well? Find the most prominent affiliate marketers in these industries and reach out to them.
- Perhaps you sell sunglasses. Why limit your audience to beachgoers? Target sports fans, gamblers, anglers, etc. Have you tried driving with the sun in your face and no sunglasses? Try it, and you’ll begin to see some whole new opportunities to promote your products.
8. Professional Affiliates
So far, you’ve focused on your niche and those related to it. But why not think outside the box and go even further than that? Depending on the products or services you sell, you should reach out to publishers running:
9. Content Monetization Tools
You are most likely familiar with online properties like TechRadar, Business Insider, and Cosmopolitan. They are some of the best examples of content monetization via affiliate links. But do you think they review and insert all those affiliate links manually?
They use content monetization tools like VigLink, Skimlinks, YieldKit, and others to automatically convert their links into affiliate links. You can onboard such tools into your program and have your products and services promoted on various websites.
The ideal is to maintain a direct relationship with your affiliates but this could be a great opportunity to boost sales and revenue. Besides, these platforms are usually very responsive and easy to onboard.
Now you have several ways to recruit quality affiliates. With time, you will see which ones yield the best results and what affiliates are more successful. Replicate the most successful strategies and focus on recruiting more of the affiliates that are driving the highest sales. If you need help identifying potentially successful affiliates, check out tools like SimilarSites!
Implementing all the above strategies may seem a little overwhelming. It probably is, if you haven’t managed an affiliate program before. That is why working with an experienced affiliate program manager or an OPM agency like ours is so important:
You will have these strategies implemented by someone who is well-versed at it.
Moreover, although recruiting affiliates is very important to the success of your affiliate program, what you do with those affiliates matters more. Just getting them to join your program is not enough.
You need to activate and motivate them, communicate with them on a regular basis, and offer them the support they need to be successful. At AM Navigator, we have been doing this successfully since the dawn of affiliate marketing. We will gladly put our knowledge and experience in your service.
Whether you want to know more on how to recruit quality affiliates or you need help steering your affiliate program in the right direction with professional affiliate program management services, reach out! We will get back to you as soon as possible and provide the answers and solutions that you are looking for!