Passive Affiliate Recruitment: Definition and Tips on Leveraging It


You may have heard the phrase “passive affiliate recruitment” before. But what exactly does it mean and how can you make the most of it? You will find the answers in my respective episode of The Affiliate Marketing Experience:


If, however, you’d rather study the subject of passive affiliate recruitment by reading about it, here goes the text version of the answer:

Back in 2013, I invented the term “passive affiliate recruitment” (juxtaposing it to active outreach), and it was exciting to see it become one of mainstream affiliate marketing terms. Let me dissect this concept for you, providing a few practical ideas on how to make the most of it in your affiliate recruitment strategy.

Let’s start by defining the subject of this conversation. The term “passive affiliate recruitment” basically consists of two elements: (i) “passive” and (ii) “affiliate recruitment”. It’s a funny combination, because affiliate recruitment always implies onboarding, and onboarding almost always requires outreach, whereas outreach, by its very definition, is an act of reaching out. So, there’s nothing “passive” about recruiting affiliates, one may conclude.

Affiliate marketing challengeHowever, affiliates are no different from you and me. Most of us don’t like being called, emailed, or grabbed at the sleeve… in an attempt of being sold something. Similarly it is with affiliate programs. With more than 80% of brands utilizing affiliate marketing, there’s no deficit of affiliate programs out there, and neither is there lack of active “selling” of the idea to join this or that affiliate program.

So, affiliates are increasingly masking their contact information or not even checking direct messages within affiliate networks/platforms or those that arrive in their email. Additionally, various research (by AffStat and Affiliate Benchmarks) confirms that affiliates prefer to find new affiliate programs to join by themselves. This is where passive affiliate recruitment comes in!

There is one word that passive affiliate recruitment supports: findability of your affiliate program. When they are looking for affiliate programs in your niche, you want them to find yours.

So, everything that you do through the passive part of your “recruitment” makes your affiliate program findable.

In what follows, I’d like to give you seven ways you can leverage the idea of recruiting affiliates “passively”. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Affiliate Program Directories

Did you know that around 20% of affiliates turn to affiliate program directories in their search for new programs to join? Will they find yours there?

2. Affiliate Program Page

Too many advertisers, that do have affiliate programs, don’t have an affiliate program page on their main website. Having a detailed (and SEO-friendly) affiliate program page (or better yet: a Resource Center!) is a must. As you work on the copy of such a page, you may find my 10-year old post entitled How To Construct a Good Affiliate Program Description of help.

3. Paid Search

This is an underutilized technique to get your affiliate program in front of the affiliates who express their intent to find you by querying their favorite search engine. Yes, I hope you will rank high on the important “affiliate program” related keywords, but whenever you don’t, invest in paid search. It’s much more affordable than you may think!

4. Confirmation Page

Once a visitor converts into a customer, and reaches your “Thank You” or order confirmation page, show them the messaging that encourages them to become an affiliate and let his/her friends know that they’ve just shopped with you, in exchange for a performance-based payout. If their friends buy as well, the referrer gets a cut.

5. Platform-Based Opportunities

Many affiliate networks (and other platforms) would provide you with various visibility opportunities: from an enhanced directory (or category) listing to being featured on the first page that the affiliate sees upon logging into their account, the opportunities to stand out are there! Do look into what’s available to you.

6. Second Tier

There will be affiliates who would not be interested in marketing your product (or service), but may be very interested in marketing your affiliate program. If you add a second tier dimension to your affiliate program, you’ll be able to pay them on every onboarded affiliate that they refer to you. Many of the earlier-mentioned affiliate directories work this way, giving your affiliate program better visibility if you pay them for the sign-ups they refer.

7. Advertising

Do advertise where they are! Be it a sponsoring a section of their favorite online resource, or having an ad about your affiliate program in the conference guide of a show they attend, look for the opportunities to get in front of their eyes.

Now let’s recap:

a. Affiliates prefer to find new programs by themselves
b. It is integral to make your affiliate program findable
c. This is why you want to be active at passive affiliate recruitment.

Now, go put this knowledge to good use!


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