A crucial part of running a successful affiliate program is having great affiliates. Determining how many affiliates you need is all based on your specific product or service. There is no magic number; however there are a few guidelines to help you in the process.
Typically, those businesses with mass market or consumer goods (think apparel or electronics) tend to have a large stable of affiliates, while those focused on a very small niche (like collectable china figurines) may have a smaller program.
Fewer affiliates don’t necessarily equal fewer sales. In fact, it might mean those affiliates are intensely focused on your niche and working even harder for you.
You’ll also need to evaluate the goals of the affiliate program to get the right mix of affiliates. Are you trying to drive sales? Do you need more leads? Are you attempting to get new subscribers? Do you want people to sign up for your newsletter?
Every program will vary and understanding your goals will help you best determine your recruiting strategy. With those goals in mind, you’ll need to start recruiting seasoned affiliates that can deliver quickly.
It’s a good idea to look for so-called “super affiliates”, the ones that have status as proven performers. While there is no formal list of such folks, many of these successful affiliates are well-known in the industry. You’ll like find out who they are by doing searches and talking with people in the same space.
Create a list of affiliates that you want to specifically target and then reach out to them individually. A lot of merchants are also attempting to woo these affiliates so you’ll need to be ready to get their attention. You’ll likely need to use multiple methods such as email, Facebook, direct Twitter messages to do so.
Some affiliate manager’s also suggest sending a special package to these sought-after affiliates. For example: if you are a merchant selling candy and chocolate, it might be a good idea to create a nice basket of goodies along with details about your program and a personal note to these top affiliates. It’s likely to get their attention and at least make them respond to you. However, nothing gets more attention than offering them a sweet deal and perhaps offering them special commission rates. These affiliates are good at making money and it may be worth it to pay them more. (See Determining Affiliate Commissions.)
You can also leverage your social media channels to reach out to potential affiliate recruits (See Using Social Media to Promote Your Brand.) Be sure to follow those affiliates you are interested recruiting. You can also look at your competitors and see if they are following people that you need to be in touch with. Then, you can begin sending out general tweets about the new program or recruiting affiliates. You may also want to direct message (DM) certain affiliates – especially if you plan to offer them special commission rates. (See Determining Affiliate Commissions.)
You should also think about using tradeshows and conference to recruit affiliates. Look for shows that have a large number affiliates attending. Consider getting a booth in the exposition hall to gain exposure. (See Resources.)
A key decision you will need to make is how to approve affiliates. This is often a point of great debate. Some say that having auto-approve is the way to go. While having an automated system makes it much easier on the affiliate manager, it doesn’t insure that everyone approved is ethical, worthy of being in your program or a good fit. The flip side is manually approving each and every affiliate. This will insure quality as you can screen out those not appropriate for the program, but it can be very time consuming. However it helps you weed out the bad affiliates and fight fraud. (See Fighting Fraud in Your Affiliate Program.)
However, keep in mind that affiliates frequently apply to a program they are excited about and then move on to something else if they don’t hear back immediately about their approval. You may risk losing good performing highly motivated affiliates.
While there are many tactics for luring affiliates to work with you, nothing beats great communication and a well-run, high-performing program.
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