Commission-only affiliate sales is the ultimate dream for most brands. Zero risk: only pay acquisition costs once you make a sale. I don't need to persuade you of the benefits.
But recruiting affiliates is easier said than done. How do you recruit affiliates? Where should you look? How do you reach out & persuade them to spend their time promoting your brand? How do you make sure new affiliates become active? Let's find out 🙂.
6 ways to find affiliates for your business
To recruit affiliates, the first step is finding prospective partners.
When looking for affiliates, focus on the ones with a similar audience to yours who have a high level of trust and engagement. You should also see if their personality, style, and tone match how you want to present your brand.
Now, let’s look at seven ways to find relevant affiliates for your brand.
1. Search for relevant social media influencers
Social media influencers have a dedicated audience looking towards them to guide them on the best products and services.
And you can reach out to them and work with them as affiliates.
So, how do you find the right influencers for your affiliate campaign? Using an influencer discovery tool like Modash will help you find, analyze, and shortlist the most relevant creators for your brand.
Here's an example. I'm going to focus on finding YouTubers, because Youtube videos tend to get recurring traffic over time, which lends itself well to an affiliate model.
First, we select the platform in Modash (YouTube), and apply filters relating to the channel itself. E.g. where the creator is located, how many subscribers they have, their average views, engagement rate, topics covered, and more.
Second we can also apply audience filters. For example, we might want to reach channels who's subscribers are in the USA, and predominantly male.
Then, run your search. Using this example, we get a couple of hundred YouTubers who mention Artificial Intelligence in their videos, with a US male audience, 1%+ engagement rate, and 5k-25k subscribers.
You can open up any of the profiles to analyze the creator. You'll find their performance metrics (e.g. engagement rate, avg. views), top content, audience demographics (ages, genders, locations) and more to confirm that they're a good find. Lastly, Modash can find their YouTube channel email in one click ready for outreach later.
Modash has a 14-day trial if you want to give it a spin for finding affiliates.
2. Seek out other niche content creators & experts
Outside of typical social media channels like, there are probably quality content creators in your niche. They might be YouTubers, but they could also be bloggers, newsletter writers, and a whole host of other content mediums.
Like with the first example using social media affiliates, the advantage of collaborating with these niche influencers is that they already have a built-in audience who actively listen to their product recommendations and whose purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by these creators. Here are some other places you might find influential experts & content creators:
- Attend industry events: Take note of the experts speaking at relevant events. Your target audience trusts these people and listens to them. Reach out to them during the event, build a relationship, and take it from there.
- Check industry-related newsletters: You can find newsletters for every industry — from B2B SaaS to fashion and lifestyle. Search on Google for these newsletters, and you’ll find various thought leaders with a significant audience.
- Ask customers: You can also create a survey for your customers to ask if they take someone’s recommendations when buying products. This way, you might stumble upon someone new to you.
Here's an example. Ashley R. Cummings is a freelance writer with a weekly newsletter, Content Contact, focused on expert tips for freelancers. She mentioned that she was looking for new companies to collaborate with in her newsletter — which can be an excellent opportunity for a brand who wants to sell to writers/marketers to offer an affiliate deal.
3. Create a dedicated affiliate program to drive inbound interest
Launching an affiliate program is one of the best ways to attract top affiliates. And for that, you need a dedicated landing page to capture inbound interest in case people search '[your brand] + affiliate program', or even '[your niche] + affiliate programs'.
Here’s how you can optimize your affiliate landing page:
1. Make it simple and direct: Add all the essential details of the affiliate program clearly. Don’t add fluff but speak directly to your potential affiliates and tell them why they should join the program and the benefits they will get from it.
Sephora has one of the simplest and brief landing pages for its affiliate program. It’s direct and without any fluff.
2. Talk about your brand: Don’t just mention the affiliate program. Mention your brand values and highlight how you’re different from your competitors. You can also mention the perks and benefits your affiliates will get.
Adidas does a great job of highlighting the characteristics of great affiliates who will be perfect for the brand.
3. Add an FAQ section: Address all the common questions you get in a dedicated section so you won’t have to waste time and resources answering common queries over and over.
Look at eBay’s affiliate program landing page. It’s entirely focused on frequently asked questions with a simple layout.
4. Show testimonials: You can add case studies and quotes from affiliates working with your brand and highlight the benefits they’ve gotten through the partnership.
5. Optimize it for SEO: 25% of affiliates learn about programs through a company’s website. Sprinkle keywords throughout your landing page, optimize it, and promote your page through social media and email newsletters.
You can make your affiliate program as simple as possible for affiliates to sign up. Instead of creating a landing page, you can create a Google form and easily log in everyone’s responses.
Katari, a skincare brand, asks its audience to sign up for the affiliate program through a form.
4. Ask your brand ambassadors
If you’ve a good brand ambassador program in place, you can combine your affiliate marketing with it.
Your brand ambassadors are already enthusiastically promoting your brand to their audience, which makes them great affiliates.
Offer your top-performing or most influential brand ambassadors a sales-based commission and recruit them as your brand’s affiliates.
Pura Vida, a jewelry brand, offers a 10% cut to all its brand ambassadors when they join its ambassador program.
5. Analyze your competitors
Competitor insights will help you analyze if you’re missing anything from your strategy or give you new ideas to try.
You can reach out to your competitors’ affiliates and offer them a better sales commission or find similar influencers for your brand. Let’s have a look at how.
Finding competitor’s social media affiliates
Social media content creators typically use branded hashtags to show affiliate partnerships. You can search those hashtags to find and look through relevant profiles.
Or you can use Modash to track your competitor’s branded and other affiliate hashtags. For example, suppose you're in the cosmetics industry, and one of your competitors is Sephora. In that case, you can add #SephoraSquad and mentions of Sephora’s social media account to track any content that meets those criteria.
Instead of contacting the same influencers, you can look for similar accounts with the influencer lookalike tool. Suppose you’re looking to work with affiliates like celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Van Ness. Just type in the username, and Modash will show you similar influencers.
Finding your competitor’s website and blog affiliates
The easiest way to do that is by looking at their backlinks. This way, you will find out who their affiliates are and how and where those affiliates are promoting the competitor brand.
Use a tool like Ahrefs to track your competitor’s backlinks. For example, to find Amazon’s affiliate links, look for amzn.to in their backlink profile.
You can export a CSV file of these affiliates and filter them out based on the traffic volume and engagement.
6. Partner with customers
Customer advocacy marketing involves encouraging satisfied customers to spread the word about your product.
But what’s that got to with affiliates?
You can ask your loyal customers to join your affiliate program, as they will feel valued by getting a percentage of sales every time they recommend your products to people around them.
So how do you find these customers?
- Share the details of your affiliate program in newsletters and social media. Invite customers to join the program by sharing step-by-step instructions to make completing the process easier.
- Keep a look at who’s tagging you on social media. Delighted customers often share with their followers how happy they’re with a brand and its products.
- You can also reach out to long-term customers who repeatedly order from you. Ask them if they’re interested in joining your affiliate program. It’d be amazing if they have an excellent social media following with an audience relevant to your target customers. You can check all that and more on Modash’s influencer analytics platform by typing in their username.
Harlow, a management tool for freelancers, introduced its referral program for customers. Instead of focusing on finding affiliates, the brand gave its customers a chance to earn rewards through the affiliate program.
How to reach out to affiliates
You’ve found your ideal affiliates after following one (or more) of the methods mentioned above.
What’s next? Reaching out to them to onboard them.
But before you send them an outreach message, here’re a few things to look for to ensure you’re reaching out to the right affiliates.
- Brand alignment: You want to work with affiliates whose values are aligned with your brand. Always remember that your affiliates represent your brand and that the partnership will impact your brand perception.
- Metrics: When looking for influencers, in-depth analysis and profile reviews are extremely important to determine the likelihood of success. But when recruiting commission-only affiliates with zero up-front cost, affiliate analysis is much less important. You’re paying nothing unless they drive sales.
Sending a personalized outreach email is the best way to reach affiliates. You can use DMs & comments too as part of the follow up process, but I recommend starting with email.
It's pretty straightforward to find email addresses these one by one manually (e.g. in bios, or 'contact' website pages), but if you're looking for scale, Modash has a tool for finding influencer emails in bulk.
You can either create a list of influencers using the search tool, or import a list. Then, export again to get a new .csv enriched with all publicly available emails.
After getting the email address, it’s time to send them a personalized and compelling outreach email. Here’re a few tips for nailing your outreach email:
- Be creative: Show them why you’re reaching out to them and use humor and creativity to stand out in the inbox.
- Highlight the benefits: Emphasize the benefits they’ll get from the partnership and the perks of joining your affiliate program. You can also name-drop other affiliates you’ve worked with in the past.
- Optimize the subject line: Try to invoke curiosity with your subject lines and avoid using spam words. A/B test your subject lines to see which one gives you better results.
Base, a health tracking technology, sent the following email for affiliate recruitment. The email hits all the critical points — benefits of joining the program, a testimonial from a customer, and a mention of the ideal affiliates the company would like to work with.
Don’t forget to send follow-ups and be persistent in getting a reply. We recommend sending five email follow-ups in the initial outreach over two weeks.
If you still don’t get a response, take a 6-month pause before reaching out again with two additional follow-ups.
Check out these free email outreach templates you can personalize and send.
Setting up an affiliate tracking tool
Once you've recruited your first affiliates (or, even before), you're going to need an affiliate tracking software to manage all your affiliates, conversions, and payouts.
An affiliate tracking software can perform a few key functions:
- Lets affiliates create their unique tracking link(s)
- Lets affiliates see reports on clicks, conversions, and conversion values
- Lets you manage payouts
- Lets you make assets & materials available
- Helps you handle T&Cs
- Send emails to affiliates
- Change policies like the cookie window or attribution model
- Create an affiliate sign up page
Using affiliate software streamlines the process of affiliate activation. The first part of affiliate activation is to get your affiliates on board with your affiliate tracking software so they can review all the assets you provide, get their tracking link, sign the contract and get to work.
For a SaaS product, FirstPromoter or Rewardful are popular choices. For e-commerce, it may depend on your platform (Shopify, Wordpress, BigCommerce, etc.).
Now that your affiliates are on board with the tracking tool, let's look at what else you can do to make sure those affiliates you've worked so hard to recruit will actually promote your brand.
6 ways to nail affiliate activation
Most affiliates you recruit will never make a single sale. So, how do you maximize the number who do and increase sales? Let’s have a look at six tips to nail affiliate activation.
1. Send an action-oriented welcome email
Your activation efforts need to start the minute an affiliate is accepted into your program, and sending a detailed welcome email is a great way to kick things off.
Most welcome emails just mention that you have been approved into our affiliate program, which does little to incite action.
Your welcome email should immediately encourage them to start promoting your brand. Customize your email and provide tools and resources to help them get started.
You can also include some media like banner ads, a list of your bestselling products, or other promotional material. Ensure you have set your affiliates for success, and they’ll be more enthusiastic about promoting your brand.
Look at this email by INK, an AI content marketing service — it’s simple, effective, and highlights commissions right off the bat.
2. Set up automated drip email campaigns
Many brands miss the opportunity of regular check-ins with their affiliates. Having an automated email drip campaign solves that problem for you.
Regular check-ins keep affiliates motivated and your brand on top of their mind. You can follow a schedule like this:
- Day 1: Welcome and onboarding emails
- Day 2: Details about the program
- Day 3: Helpful resources
- Day 7: Affiliate challenge
- Day 14: 2-week check-in
- Day 20: More helpful material like promotional tactics or case studies
- Day 30: One-month check-in
Don’t forget to experiment and see what works for your brand. Map out different email cadences and see which drives the best engagement from your affiliates.
Look at this email by the video editing tool Descript. To promote its new AI feature, Descript encourages its affiliates to help spread the word in their YouTube videos. The email details all the relevant instructions to help affiliates promote the new features.
3. Share useful resources
Affiliates are in the business of making money, and they try their best to generate links and sales for your business.
And one way to encourage affiliate partners is by sending them monetization tips and strategies for their business. You can give guidance on the following:
- Article keyword intent
- More compelling landing pages
- Working on hooks for videos
- Pop-ups, banners, etc.
This email by Flodesk, an email marketing platform, is an excellent example of affiliate activation. The email is all about encouraging affiliates by providing them with an "Affiliate Success Kit" to promote the brand.
4. Launch affiliate program challenges
When affiliates join a program, they’re incredibly excited to promote a brand and earn a commission. But they might lose interest after a while.
To keep them motivated, you can come up with different creative challenges like:
- One-time placement fee: In return, the affiliate will include you in their media property (blog, newsletter, etc.)
- Generate X customers: One-time payment to affiliates who bring you X number of customers through a link.
- Time-sensitive offers: Affiliates can give out coupon codes or other time-restricted offers to their audience.
- Increase commission: Increased commission if they bring a certain number of customers within a given time. This is an example of a long-term partnership.
Let’s have a look at the affiliate program of QuickBooks. To encourage affiliates, the brand introduced multiple challenges.
5. Introduce tiered affiliate categories
A tiered affiliate program rewards everyone based on performance and doesn’t follow the one size fits all approach.
Higher commission rates are dedicated to affiliates with higher sales volume. This type of program encourages affiliates to increase their efforts to generate more sales for your brand. It also keeps them motivated to strive for a higher tier.
Fiverr offers a tiered affiliate program that offers different rewards for different affiliates.
6. Regularly communicate with your affiliates
Affiliate activation efforts never stop.
You shouldn’t stop communicating with your affiliates after a welcome email or an email drip campaign.
By continually engaging with your affiliates, you ensure your brand remains at the top of their mind, and you’ll likely see multiple posts and product placements — increasing traffic and sales.
You can also establish a communication schedule.
For example, you can send a dedicated newsletter to your affiliates every week or after two weeks. Keep communication open with your affiliates and encourage them to reach out to you in case of any queries.
Start scaling your affiliate program today!
Finding and recruiting affiliates is the initial step toward building a successful affiliate program.
Focus on affiliates with an engaged audience relevant to your target customers who align with your brand.
Modash provides you with the platform to find affiliates through several filters and track your recruitment offers. Sign up for a 14-day free trial today!