Kick-Starting Affiliate Recruitment A Guide For New Merchants

by Evgenii Prussakov
August 8, 2012

Developing a new affiliate program can be a lengthy and sometimes complex process but all of
that effort be wasted if, once launched, the program fails to attract any affiliates. It seems almost
too obvious to say, but affiliates are the life-blood of any successful affiliate program and so recruitmentis of critical importance if a program is to achieve its goals.

This needs to be borne in mind from the very beginning and so as soon as your affiliate program
goes live, you need to concentrate two very specific things: the announcement of your program to
the affiliate marketing world, and the rollout of your affiliate recruitment campaigns.

Announcing the Launch Of Your Affiliate Program
 Once your program goes live the first task is announce
it as widely and loudly as possible. In the announcement
you should give prospective affiliates good reasons to join.
Describe the affiliate program (preferably without using
clichés about “unlimited earning potential” or “highest
payouts”), offer an activation bonus (an incentive to join the
program) and a performance bonus too (e.g.: $20 additional
commission for three sales within the first month of joining
the program).
There are five main ways to announce your freshly baked
affiliate program:
• Affiliate marketing websites
• Affiliate program directories
• Social media channels
• Affiliate networks
• Press release websites
Let’s briefly look at each.


Affiliate Marketing Websites
This represents the most effective avenue for affiliate
program announcements. By affiliate marketing websites,
I mean forums like ABestWeb.com, Affiliate Summit’s
forum, and 5StarAffiliatePrograms.com, blogs that cover
industry-related news and happenings, and, last but not
least, industry-leading resources such as Revenews.com and
Revenue Performance.

Affiliate Program Directories
I do recommend listing your program in affiliate directories.
They are the references affiliates to go to when
searching for affiliate programs, and they are normally very
well positioned in search engines. Based on various polls
and surveys, I can confidently state that around one-fifth of
affiliates use affiliate program directories to find programs
to join.
“What are the affiliate program directories to submit my
program information to?” you may ask. There are many
directories out there, but I suggest adding your programs to
the following:
AffiliatesDirectory.com
AffiliateFirst.com
AffiliatePrograms.com
AffiliateRanker.com
AffiliateScout.com
AffiliateSeeking.com
AllAffiliatePrograms.comAssociatePrograms.com
JamAffiliates.com
Top-Affiliate.com
(The list is a merely alphabetical one and should not be
considered as a ranking or an endorsement of any kind.)

Although it might be tempting to focus entirely on affiliate
directories, keep in mind that this particular recruiting
avenue accounts for only some 20 percent of affiliates. Many
affiliates never use directories, and you’ll miss out on 80
percent of the market if you neglect the other avenues.

Social-Media Channels
Between blogging, livecasting, photosharing, podcasting,
video sharing and social networking, there are at least 17
social media types out there. However, when you’re starting
to promote your affiliate program from scratch, you can’t
start with all 17 at once. So, to begin with, start with a blog,
actively using social bookmarking and social news buttons/
plug-ins for easy social sharing and further distribution of
your content by your readers. That will be the integral part
of your affiliate program support mini-site. Additionally,
you want to register at various affiliate marketing forums,
open a Twitter account, start a Facebook fan page, and start
interacting with other affiliate marketers. It is also good to
participate in discussions sharing your thoughts under blog
posts of other digital and affiliate marketers. This will get
you known in the affiliate marketing industry and help you
make valuable connections. With time, you will also want
to start video sharing (recording both instructional and
announcement-type videos) and podcasting or participating
in podcasts of others.

It is essential to remember the principal difference between
“traditional” and social media. The former has been a
broadcasting/monologue type (there was no effective way to
communicate to your TV or newspaper), while the latter is a
dialogue/interaction type. Instead of pushing your proposition
at potential customers, you want them to notice you
and come to your blog, follow you on Twitter, friend you on
Facebook, subscribe to your YouTube channel, and so on.

It is the same when using social media for your affiliate
program. You want to provide your affiliate readers, friends,
followers, and listeners with engaging content. You want to
interact with them on an individual basis, thereby building
relationships with current and prospective affiliates — the
relationships that so much in affiliate marketing is based on.

Affiliate Networks
Many merchants don’t know this and consequently aren’t
taking full advantage of the opportunity, but when a program
goes live on an affiliate network, it almost always gets
a free listing in a “new programs” category in addition to the
main category you choose during the setup phase.

This is why having a great program description with a
time-sensitive join-and-activate program launch promo is
a must. Affiliates do look through the lists of the newly
launched programs, and this is your chance to stand out and
attract them. Since you will have no (or little) performance
statistics reported for your program, your program description
is your main weapon now. Make sure that it shines!

Press Release Websites
I am not a big fan of press release distribution websites,
but if you have a good relationship with a press release distribution
agency that you’re using for other marketing purposes,
you might as well announce your program through a
press release too.

I’m not going to pause on this point any further. I
have seen merchants (large and small) announcing their
programs via this way, but since the main goal of this announcement
is to reach the ear of your prospective affiliate,
I believe this particular method to be one of the weakest out
of the five.

Affiliate Recruitment Tools & Techniques
Once you have effectively announced your new affiliate
program to the world, it is time to begin actively recruit-
ing affiliates. Affiliate recruitment is probably the most
important duty of every affiliate program manager, after all,
if there are no affiliates in the program, there is no point
having/maintaining the program itself. Affiliates are your
main sales force, and the more quality affiliates you partner
with, the more successful the affiliate program you will be
able to build. Let’s look into this below.

Direct Contact
Direct-contact is the most effective affiliate recruitment
technique utilized by savvy affiliate managers. It may take
place in the following three ways:
• Electronic message
• Regular mail (postcard or similar invitation)
• Face-to-face contact (at a conference or other meeting)
Out of all of these, electronic messages are by far the most
widely used method of a merchant or manager coming into
direct contact with a prospective affiliate (with a view to
inviting them into an affiliate program). In this category,
I include both traditional emails and direct messages sent
via an instant messenger, affiliate network, social-media
platform, or other messaging options. The latter basically
represents a condensed form of email invitation.

Regular mail as a direct-contact method of affiliate
recruitment is without a doubt the most underused method,
which gives it the edge most prospective affiliates will
appreciate. Most of my following recommendations about
email recruitment can be also applied in postal invitations.

Finally, suggestions about industry-specific conferences
for face-to-face contact will be made closer to the end of this
article.

5 Free Recruitment Tools
Now, let’s start by looking at things through the eyes of
smaller merchants or those that work on tight budgets (and
do not have much room for investment into affiliate recruitment
tools) and list a few good tools that can be used for affiliate
recruitment virtually without any initial investment.
Merchants on limited or nonexisting budgets can start
with the following five tools:
1. Search engines: Search them to find potential affiliate
partners.
2. Twitter.com: Follow relevant hash tags, use the search
function, and maintain a dedicated Twitter account for
your affiliate program.
3. Internet Success Spider: See www.grabthespider.com.
4. Your affiliate program’s blog.
5. Affiliate program directories, as discussed earlier.

Carefully crafting and implementing your recruitment
strategy while incorporating these five tools will help you
cover as much as 63% of the avenues that affiliates routinely
use for finding and joining affiliate programs.

The key rule to remember throughout using these five
tools is thou shall not spam. Seriously. Respect your potential
partners, and they will respect you in return.

6 “S” Factors Of Affiliate Recruitment
The key to building a successful affiliate recruitment campaign
is a thorough and well-organized strategy. The tools
and techniques that you can employ to serve the purpose of
affiliate recruitment can be divided into six categories, all
beginning with the letter S:
1. Software
2. Social media
3. Second-tier affiliates
4. Summits and symposiums
5. Symbiotic methods
6. Structure-based recruitment

1. Software
Software applications can help you find prospective affiliates
that either already work with competing affiliate
programs or run websites that target the traffic you’re after.

I have personally used IBP’s Arelis Link Manager and
have heard of other affiliate program managers successfully
working with LinkCapture (and other link-building solutions)
on the same objective. Both of these applications can
be great when used wisely. They help you quickly search the
Internet, pulling websites that may be good affiliate partners
(either because they are working in the niche you’re
working in or because they link/write about your competitors
or maybe even already working as affiliates of your
competitors), together with information on their website
and their contact information. Improper use of such applications
can also ruin your affiliate recruitment campaign.
That is if you end up spamming those who should be treated
as potential business partners.

Once you have obtained the contact information of the
prospective affiliates, do not rush to send out the same
email to thousands of them. Unsolicited email is still called
spam. First, do a careful prescreening of all webmasters the
software finds for you. Make sure you do not contact those
who you do not want to contact. Second, take your time to
personalize your emails or even try to approach them via
snail mail. Innovation pays off. Finally, remember to have a
working “unsubscribe” mechanism in place.

In addition to link exchange and website promotion
software and if your budget allows it, you may also want to
have a look into such solutions as AffiliateRecruitment.com
and Syntryx. These are robust platforms which are worth
your try.

2. Social Media
In addition to software, you should also dive into the
social media of affiliate marketing. There are numerous
blogs and forums, Facebook and Linkedin groups, and other
online communities where your potential affiliates “hang
out.”

Any merchant/affiliate manager should focus on two
types of forums: those for affiliates and those that are industry-
specific. These can be found easily with the help of any
major search engine. For example, if you are selling digital
cameras and you have an affiliate program, you would want
to make sure you’re registered with the major online affiliate
marketing forums, as well as photography forums and,
more specifically, digital photography forums. These forums
offer you multiple options for affiliate recruitment, starting
from affiliate program announcement and inclusion of your
sign-up URL in your signature to running your own affiliate
support forums.

Professional forums may also offer you some options to
push your affiliate program. However, please abide by the
forum’s rules by not blatantly promoting your own affiliate
program.

There are two rules to remember while marketing your
affiliate program through any social media channel: the
above-mentioned “thou shalt not spam”, and also: “thou
shalt not take more than thee have given.” The first rule is
pretty self-explanatory. The second rule is the secret of successful
social-media usage: you cannot take more than you
have contributed in the first place. If and when you are of
genuine help to the community, blog, or forum, you will be
warmly accepted and collaborated with.

3. Second-Tier Affiliates
Although I normally do not recommend having a secondtier
commission and recommend paying as much as possible
on the first tier, it makes sense to pay a bounty on new affiliate
referrals. In fact, some “affiliates” (especially, like the
affiliate program directories mentioned above) are making
this their main business. There are also quite a few mainstream
affiliates that are open to similar relationships with
merchants.

4. Summits and Symposiums
Any type of conference or convention attended by affiliates
is a great place to recruit. Affiliate Summit is a must;
and when you go, make sure you get at least a table at the
Meet Market that is held on the first day of the summit. In
the United States, the Affiliate Summit is being held biannually:
in Las Vegas during the winter and on the East Coast
during the summer. In Europe, a4uexpo is the conference to
attend.

Additionally, many affiliate networks (particularly Link-
Share, Commission Junction, Google Affiliate Network, and
ShareASale) have their own (closed) affiliate conferences. If
your affiliate network has one, this is another great place to
make contact with affiliates.

5. Symbiotic Methods
Webster’s Dictionary defines symbiosis as a “cooperative
relationship (as between two persons or groups).” What I am
referring to is promoting your affiliate program on a crossprogram
basis. You can form short- or long-term cross-program
recruitment relationships with affiliate programs run
by merchants that sell related (but not competing) products
or services. You announce their affiliate program to your
pool of affiliates, while they do the same for you in the circular
sent out to their affiliates. If you go with cross-program
promotions, remember to respect your affiliates’ privacy and
not abuse their trust. When they agree to receive your affiliate
newsletter, they agree to receive the information that
will help them succeed with your program and may consider
your aggressive pushing of some other affiliate program a
spam. So, if you do a cross-program promo with another affiliate
program, make sure to handle it gently.
Additionally, while getting involved in cross-program
promotions, you want to beware that if you are on an affiliate
network, such promotions may be in violation of
the network’s terms and conditions. Check them carefully
beforehand.

6. Structure-Based Recruitment
In addition to the previous five, most affiliate networks
offer their merchants an array of internal affiliate recruitment
options. Some of them are actually free if you have
something truly interesting to offer to your affiliates. In
the past, for example, I’ve had numerous affiliate networks
(from buy.at in the UK to Avangate in the Netherlands, to
ShareASale in the U.S.) agree to include unusual promotional
offers in the weekly network newsletter that goes out
to all affiliates in the network.

Many affiliate networks also have an array of paid affiliate
recruitment options. Normally, these can be utilized
right from within your merchant interface and are quite
self-explanatory.

Conclusion
In closing, remember that whichever method(s) of affiliate
recruitment you utilize, you should make sure to also
continuously work on building your own affiliate list by
cataloging contact information of affiliates (both current
and prospective ones). You can use lead generation techniques
such as downloadable white papers, host a “subscribe
to affiliate newsletter” form on your website, and other
similar methods. Even if an affiliate isn’t ready to work with
you just yet, they may be open to staying updated on your
affiliate program. It doesn’t hurt to ask and it pays to always
be placing your program in front of potential recruits.

Good luck with your affiliate recruitment!

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About Evgenii Prussakov

Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov is an author, blogger, speaker and affiliate marketing consultant. He is also founder and chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, and owner of AM Navigator, an affiliate program management and consulting company.

View all posts by Evgenii Prussakov

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