This is chapter 6, Getting the Word Out, of Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants.
I’ve got a handful of steps on how to promote your affiliate program, to get some awareness of the affiliate program and recruit for it.
The first step is that you’ve got to craft your message to sell your affiliate program. Put that message into the language of affiliates. Don’t just say you’ve got a great affiliate program that will earn fortunes for affiliates. Be honest when promoting your affiliate program.
Provide affiliates with hard numbers they can consider when looking at your affiliate program. Tell the affiliates your average order size, overall EPC, and any other relevant metrics that can help them determine the potential of your affiliate program for them.
Affiliates don’t fall for those proclamations that you offer the best affiliate program in the world. Give them some credit and sell the real attributes of your program.
The second step is building your list. For some reason, a lot of affiliate managers seem to think it’s acceptable to collect a bunch of e-mail addresses and Spam them about joining affiliate programs. It’s not.
Instead, develop a contact list of prospective affiliates. There are lots of methods for doing this. Personally, I use a program called Link Capture, which enables me to run queries on the various search engines for keywords to see which sites are ranking well.
It also enables me to see which sites are linking to other sites, and that can be helpful sometimes to determine who some of the affiliates are for your competition.
The results from queries on Link Capture can be exported. This includes the WHOIS information for the domain and other useful pieces of data. When you’ve gathered this contact information, I’d recommend phoning or snail mailing the prospective affiliates.
I’ve sent out lots of direct mail over time, including postcards that tout the attributes of affiliate programs, as well as hand-written notes to the target affiliates. Follow up with a phone call.
While it’s tempting to mass market your affiliate program, it’s far more effective to have the personal touch. In the end, you’ll begin some real relationships with qualified affiliates, rather than a bunch of random strangers in your affiliate program.
The third step is to look into affiliate directories. Now this is listed in my book, because directories were a useful resource back in 2000 when I wrote it. Up until recently, I had an affiliate directory myself, but the affiliate directory is something of an antiquated approach for recruiting affiliates.
Affiliates just aren’t using the directories much anymore. You should definitely not use one of those submission services to submit your affiliate program to the “top 50 affiliate directories” or whatever. It’s a joke that there are even 50 affiliate directories of any value.
The fourth step is affiliate recruiting, and it takes a lot of different forms. Visibility is a great advertisement for your affiliate program. Work on building a good reputation and that will help to sell the affiliate program. Affiliates will find the top affiliate programs.
They don’t necessarily want to be found by you. Affiliates will hear about your program in forums and blogs and by word of mouth. So you can be pretty successful by being a passive recruiter and putting some focus on branding your affiliate program and yourself.
The fifth and final step is to do some PR and advertising. Sponsor the places where affiliates are going, such as blogs and forums. Targeted newsletters are a good place to advertise your affiliate program, too. One of my favorite places to advertise is on the pay per click search engines.
And conference sponsorships can have a big impact for you. That provides a chance to get in front of hundreds of the bigger affiliates.
One thing you shouldn’t do is to issue a press release that simply announces that your affiliate program exists. So what? Where’s the story there?
If you’re going to put out a press release, and you should, have a story to tell. Don’t tell how you have this great affiliate program that is paying 7% commission – that’s so bland and it won’t get picked up by anybody. Have a story behind your press release and make it interesting.
Also, realize that recruiting is an ongoing effort. It’s not something you just do for a couple months and then magically get quality affiliates organically after you’ve pulled back your recruiting.
Always think about new ways you can get the word out about your affiliate program, and make it a point to tweak and improve your affiliate program all the time.