Editor’s Note: Meet Carolyn Kmet at Ignite 2015, our conference on Sept. 16 and 17 in Dallas, where she’ll present two sessions: “Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing” and “Affiliate Marketing: How to Recruit High-producing Affiliates.”
A good affiliate marketing program never stops growing. By continually recruiting and engaging new affiliates, you can produce new traffic and new customers. However, you must first decide which type of affiliates to recruit.
For example, content affiliates create or facilitate the exchange of unique and original content with the goal of attracting an audience. Blogs and online forums fall under this category. There are coupon or deal sites with unique offers that may or may not be curated. And there are search affiliates that specialize in running pay-per-click campaigns; they may not even own a website.
Mature affiliate programs should have solid affiliates in every category, because each brings in a different type of consumer. Content sites tend to create and influence consumer demand. They can drive new customer acquisition. An individual may not even be in the market for something, then he’ll read a blog post or come across a product review that prompts his purchase.
Coupon and deal affiliates typically have significant amounts of traffic that can drive new customers. But a customer from a coupon site may be more price sensitive and deal driven, versus one that was driven by a content affiliate.
5 Steps to Identify and Recruit Affiliates
1. Determine the current makeup of your affiliate base. What percentage of affiliates are content, coupon-deal, and search? Prioritize the segments you want to grow.
To develop an effective recruiting strategy, look at the composition of your existing affiliates. Which type of affiliate drives the most revenue? Which has the best new customer acquisition ratio? Do you over-rely on coupon and deal affiliates? By understanding the current state of your affiliate base, you can prioritize your recruiting strategy.
2. Layer in seasonality. Once you know the type affiliates to recruit, the next step is to layer in your seasonality. If back-to-school is a strong season for your business, structure your recruiting strategy to go after relevant content affiliates at least three months in advance, to give them time to develop content and campaigns.
Conversely, deal and coupon affiliates will not need as much lead time, as they are typically already integrated with your affiliate network or with other deal feeds, and will automatically pull in your promotions once you are launched on their site.
3. Create a 6-month plan to identify affiliates and promotions. At this point, you know the types of affiliates to recruit into your program, and what your seasonal focus is. The next step is to create a 6-month action plan to focus your recruiting efforts.
Say back-to-school season is important for your business. You want to grow content affiliates in your program. To be ready for the August selling season, plan to go after content affiliates with a strong back-to-school relevance in May. Similarly, if traffic and sales from existing coupon and deal affiliates spike in November, begin to recruit new coupon-deal sites in September or October.
In other words, once you know which types of affiliates to recruit, develop targeted recruiting promotions with financial incentives, such as a commission bump for the first month after they join our program, or a first- or second-sale bonus. If you are recruiting bloggers, consider providing actual products to support a giveaway for readers.
4. Identify specific affiliate targets. What websites or affiliates fall within your monthly targets?
There are several different tools and techniques to identify websites or affiliates to recruit. NerdyData is an example. You can use it to identify sites that use specific keywords, or that link to specific sites. You could also hire an outsourced program manager or agency to build lists, and even recruit. Or, you can use good old elbow grease and enter key search terms into the search engines to identify which sites rank high for those terms.
If you are going after content sites, checking the blog rolls of prospective sites is another way to find new ones. Many bloggers will link to or feature other blogs. Since bloggers typically value their credibility, blogs listed on their sites will be relevant.
Additionally, don’t forget the leading social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. These channels generate active content, with a built-in way to contact the potential recruit directly.
5. Execute and evaluate. When you recruit a new affiliate into your program, it’s helpful to identify it with some sort of tag that enables you to run performance reports. This way, you can gauge the effectiveness of your recruiting tactics. For each month’s cohort of new recruits, you can track traffic and sales.
Follow these five steps to bring in new affiliates, and grow your program.