This post is based on a conference session at the recent PMA Fall Conference titled
"Getting the Basics of Affiliate Recruitment Right"
The session content was a distillation of a lot of recent conversations with our users, partner agencies and affiliate networks using Publisher Discovery.
Starting with the basics
We've had a lot if conversations with our users over recent months on the subjects around affiliate recruitment. Our objective of course has been to make sure our development schedule is aligned with users' needs. It's all about making it easy for affiliate managers to find the most relevant new affiliates.
Seeing so many new entrants into the affiliate world over the last year or so we felt it useful to give this simple grounding in the form of 10 tips (as who doesn't like a list!). If you need to go further, there's more in-depth information in our Affiliate 101 and Affiliate Glossary pages.
So here's 10 of the key topics in the session recording to consider in your affiliate recruitment. There's lots more in the seminar presentation, which you can watch online.
1 - Understand your affiliates
Understand the different types of affiliate, how they run promotions - website, blog, social media, email marketing and more. Understand that the term gets used in several contexts completely separate to our own industry; see more on the Affiliate Glossary pages.
Also have regard the hugely varying size of each 'affiliate'; they can be anything from a solopreneur, through agile web developer companies right up to global traditional media houses. See and hear a lot more detail in the recording.
2 - Your affiliate team
It's important that as well as understanding who they are, that you manage the process of accepting and recruiting affiliates that are the right fit for your business. And think of them as part of your team, your online sales force.
The recording covers examples such as the case of a high-end fashion brand; appropriate influencers and bloggers can be a great fit - whereas coupon and cash-back may not be if premium pricing is a central element of the brand.
3 - Get your mindset right
With a lot of new entrants into the affiliate world in the last year or so, it's important to get the affiliate model clear in your mind. It's not just another media purchase and building relationships (like a team) is the best way to develop a new program. Think partnership rather than media when approaching affiliate recruitment.
Don't just 'poke it with a stick' as most networks advise; make sure your program is expertly managed. There are a lot of moving parts to running a successful program and really needs proper attention to drive success - and quality conversions.
4 - Be clear on what you're asking
You're asking affiliates to represent your brand - so make them feel part of your business. A synergy comes when merchant and publisher expectations are aligned, with mutual trust - and that shows up in program results.
If you've just started a program, remember you're asking affiliates to take a leap of faith to promote your brand over a competitor. Make it worth their while...
5 - Get your offering right
Make sure the program and commissions are structured appropriately. The presentation covers this with examples, along with hints on ensuring your have datafeeds and apis set up - and quality content for affiliates to work with to promote your brand.
And share your conversion rates and ABV, so affiliates know what to expect in return for them directing their readers and audience to engage with your brand. Set that out in a pdf one-pager to give a good snapshot they can easily understand.
6 - Use analysis in recruiting
Ongoing analysis of your program and affiliates is crucial. Keep an eye and identify trends in your program stats. That can alert you to a publisher dropping down the referral charts - or whether they have changed their allegiance to your competitors!
Use tools like Publisher Discovery (of course!) to identify new potential affiliate partners. See more in the Finding Affiliates pages. This gives a powerful shortcut over keyword searches in Google - or trawling through SEO platforms which show all linking websites. Publisher Discovery just shows websites using affiliate linking, saving hours in searching.
7 - Manage the contacting right
As one of the main channels for outreach in affiliate recruitment, make sure you're emailing efficiently. There are plenty of generalist online resource guides for this. The presentation covers several tips to help with this - and talks about how you can 'get under the email radar' to get a response to your invitation.
From the panel session on 'Recruiting for Excellence', there were also some great points made on words to use. The panel suggested to avoid calling your offer an "opportunity" as it sounds like hard work; it can also be worth avoiding "affiliate" and make the request about a partnership.
Cultivate social media connections and connect with your target affiliates. Use social channels for recruiting as well - follow affiliates you're keen to engage with in the channel they're using. If you're managing a Fashion or Beauty program, engage via Instagram - or even TikTok - if you're in flights, engage in travel forums.
8 - Concentrate on program growth
It's important that you keep recruiting as well. Think of your program as a leaky bucket you need to keep topping up. Affiliates and their referrals may well fluctuate, so adding new partners helps to keep your conversions via affiliates in the right zone to meet targets.
Don't forget to look outside your immediate vertical niche as well. You may discover some great potential partners in related areas - an example is in car hire advertisers looking for flights or rail bloggers; people flying may well look to hire a car at their destination. This kind of approach helps you tap into wider audiences.
9 - Keep the relationship fresh
Keeping communications active and real also helps to make sure your affiliates feel included. Go beyond that and make sure there's regular product updates and where practical, meet up with your leading partners.
Meet up with as many publishers as you can at the industry conferences, such as PI Live or Affiliate Summit. Don't forget to engage at local events organised by your own network as well as major events such as CJU.
10 - Rinse and repeat for success
May sure you don't think of affiliate recruitment as a 'one and done' activity. You need to build it into your regular workflow. It takes a while for an affiliate to 'bed in', so if you're only starting to recruit at a time of need, you'll not meet your program objectives - make sure you're looking for affiliates on an ongoing basis.
There's plenty of other resources available and we've collected many of these on our own Resources Page >.
View the recording online
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The PMA’s mission is to grow the affiliate industry -
- by providing best practices,
- by establishing standards that improve effectiveness,
- by confronting challenging industry issues and
- by providing information on the latest success strategies.
This is done in consultation with the members and their involvement in PMA Councils for affiliate recruitment, industry advancement, coupons and more. These include members from across advertisers, OPMs, Networks and SaaS providers and they are keen to get input and feedback to add in to the advice and best practice guidelines.
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