Your swanky Online Business is now live. You’re the new cool kid on the block that’s offering something unique in Clothing, Wedding Dresses, Travel, Mobile Covers, Superhero printed merchandise, non-conventional home décor and so on. You’ve worked very hard in setting up the business, and now you’re working equally hard in promoting the value it offers, and building awareness.
You (The Founder or Marketing Head) have heard and seen a lot of Startups resorting to launching an Affiliate Program. Knowing that Affiliate Marketing is performance oriented, which basically means you shell out Marketing Rupee only on results, you decide to set up an Affiliate Program for your business.
All that done, you see a barrage of Affiliates signing up for your program, which is translating into traffic, but you are still left unsatisfied with your conversions graph.
Sounds familiar? Poor Affiliate Recruitment could be impeding your growth.
The Current Situation With Affiliate Programs
A majority of Online Startups who’ve setup an Affiliate Program, or are in the process of setting up one, believe that a large amount of the tough work is behind them once their Affiliate Program is live.
The above presumption is based on the fact that since signing up for the Affiliate Program is free, which should be the ideal and only case for every Startups Affiliate Program, we should effortlessly be swamped by Affiliates who’re dying to promote our service.
This is by far the biggest misconception any Startup could have. Once you’ve managed to technically set up the Affiliate Program whether outsourced to an Affiliate Network or Agency, or operating the program in-house, the most essential job of your Affiliate Program starts thereafter i.e. Affiliate Recruitment.
Affiliate Recruitment – An Ongoing Process
Geno Prussakov, one of the most recognized Affiliate Marketing Consultants globally, suggests that a Business/Affiliate Manager responsible for an Affiliate Program should invest around 80% of their time into Affiliate Recruitment and Affiliate Activation.
Hiring the relevant Affiliates for your program will ensure that meeting your objectives whether that is generating awareness about a special promotion, or achieving the forecasted Sales or Lead numbers is made possible.
I am dividing this into a two part article that talks about the two different styles of Affiliate recruitment that can be used by the Startup Founder, Marketing Head or the Affiliate Manager while recruiting Affiliates for your program. I am also including my personal tips, tricks and suggestions that can be employed to strategically recruit the most relevant and well performing Affiliates for your program.
So without expending more time let’s begin with –
Style 1 – Active Affiliate Recruitment
This form of Affiliate Recruitment involves having the business reach out to the Affiliate, and proactively invite them to be a part of their Affiliate Program.
1) Indiblogger – one of the largest blog networks in India this website serves as a reservoir for some of the best Content Writers aka Blogs in India. Sourcing the right blogs is as easy as searching for them using a Keyword important for you.
For instance, if I am in the niche business of selling wedding dresses online, then I could head over to Indiblogger, go to the Search Bar on the top right corner which says “Search Indiblogger” and search for relevant Blogs using keywords such as Wedding Destination, Weddings, Wedding Preparation, Wedding Dresses, Beach Wedding, Wedding Games and so on.
You’ll be presented with an array of Blogs that you can then sift through, filter, and pick out the one most relevant for your business.
2) Competitor Backlinks – when an Affiliate promotes a product or a service they’re essentially using a special tracking equipped link to direct the reader to the Merchants website. This is also referred to as a backlink for the Merchant.
Most of the backlinks that your competitor receives could/would be through their Affiliates. Identifying the source of these links means identifying some of the well performing Affiliates of your competitor. Once you have a list of these referral websites, you can connect with them personally. When you manage to make contact do not bad mouth your competitor, or bluntly exclaim how great your business is in comparison since this could be a turn off. Rather explain how you feel your product or service could provide additional value to the Affiliates reader base; including an exclusive discount could serve as an added advantage.
You can use Open Site Explorer to fetch a list of backlinks to your competition. Just type in the name of the website and hit enter; it will display an extensive list of backlinks received by your competitor.
3) Simple Google Search – well it does require one extra step before you can perform a search, but the process still remains simple. Before you start searching for Affiliates using your target keywords, you should also consider the range of alternate search queries that exist. By alternate search queries I am referring to different queries being used to get similar search results.
So if you retain the example used above of a business that sells Indian Wedding Dresses online, you could use the Google Trends Explore tool to search for similar queries specific to your targeted keyword. Just scroll to the bottom for the results.
You should then enter the search queries in an excel sheet in one column, and enter the most relevant results that come out of for those specific search queries in the subsequent column. A relevant result in this case more often than not would be a Blog.
4) Get Social – generally you’ll find Affiliates being a part of communities, or groups related to services or topics that they Blog about. This is to stay on top of the latest advancements happening in that category, and it helps facilitate really good engagement and discussions.
It’s a good idea to be a part of, and engage in such communities since Affiliates are noticing your Startup and research about it discreetly. Ideally topics about business are discussed more frequently on LinkedIn Communities, and customer focused topics find more conversations happening on Facebook Groups.
In either case, it’s essential to have a perfectly structured Affiliate page with an inconspicuous link on the Home Page, so the researching Affiliate gets the necessary information conveniently. The Affiliate page needs to gives clear information on the Commission Structure, Conversion Percentages (Highlighted Strong Point), Terms & Conditions Links, FAQ Link, Contact Information and an easy to Signup form which just the essential parameters that is Name, Email Address & Website. Everything else is useless, redundant, unnecessary, and a complete turn off for the Affiliate
5) References & Introductions – while recruiting your Super Affiliates there could be an instance where you’ve tried every method to make contact with Affiliate X, but are finding it tough to connect with him/her. They haven’t been responding to emails, telephone calls, or your posts to them on Social Channels.
In such a case see if your current Affiliates can help you with an introduction. When it comes to Affiliates, they have a strong network and are usually connected with other Affiliates from a specific category. This helps them with networking, learning something new, or just staying in touch.
Almost every time you get stuck with connecting to a specific Affiliate, you should be able to have one of your current Affiliates help you with a reference or introduction.
6) Existing Customers – your Customers are your businesses best evangelists. Send out a mail to some of your most happiest customers, I am sure you know who they’re, asking them if they would be willing to promote your services to other individuals or business who would also gain from using their Product or Service.
Incase your Customers’ love for your business knows no bounds, they might just do it for Free.
7) Conferences – there are offline mediums that you could use to source your star affiliates. You could attend Blogger conferences like the IndiBlogger Conference, WordPress Meetups (Tech Oriented) or connect with Meetup Groups related to your category.
These are some of my personal tips that can be considered while actively recruiting Affiliates for your program. In my next article I have discussed about Passive Affiliate Recruitment and how to go about doing that.
Conclusion: In one of my previous articles I have discussed how Affiliate Marketing can help increase Customer Acquisition by around 30%. However, it’s essential to understand that how hiring the perfect team is integral for the success of a business, similarly investing time in recruiting the right Affiliates is imperative for the success of an Affiliate Program, and the overall success of a Startup.
What are your thoughts on the tips listed? Are there other uber cool methods that you use while carrying out Affiliate Recruitment? What are some of your pain points experienced while recruiting Affiliates for your program?