How To Get Affiliates To Promote Your Product
So you've got an affiliate program (or are thinking of starting one) and want to know how to get affiliates to promote your products.
This is really a 3 stage process - finding affiliates, getting them started and then keeping them motivated. Most companies fail on at least one of these!
So let's get stuck in.
1. Where to Look for Affiliates
There are lots of places to look for the right affiliates to promote your products. These are mostly a trade-off between time and cost - and are split between affiliates that are actively looking for your type of products and those that aren't but would make good partners.
Bear in mind that you don't necessarily need (or even want) hundreds or thousands of affiliates. Depending on your business model you may be much better off with a handful of the right affiliates who you can work closely with.
Join Affiliate Networks
Pretty obvious, but affiliate networks come with a ready made audience of affiliates looking for products to promote. They will also handle all the tracking and technical side. Of course you will pay generously for this.
Affiliate networks are not a magic solution though, and they are certainly not all created equally. They will all tell you how fantastic they are, how easy it is and how your program will be featured and promoted in so many ways. The reality may be that your program is practically invisible amongst thousands of others, and you actually promoting it on your own website is the only way people find it. So choose carefully.
Tip: look at your direct competitors, and also at websites that sell related products, to find out what affiliate network they use. Try to choose a network where affiliates are already promoting similar products. You might think being the only green widget seller on a network makes you stand out, when it most probably means nobody on that network is interested in selling your widgets.
Look For Relevant Influencers
You know your customers best - so where do they hang out when they are not on your website? Are they on Instagram or Facebook? YouTube or Twitch? Twitter or Snapchat?
These platforms appeal to very different demographics so you need to know where your audience spend their time. Then you can start to figure out who they all follow. Because those people are your potential affiliate partners. If they have large followings then they already know how all this works - you just need to make contact. Don't neglect those with smaller followings though if they reach the right people.
If you're stuck for who these people are - ask your customers! Do a short survey asking what platforms they are on, and what their favorite people or channels are.
List In Affiliate Program Directories
Submit your program to affiliate program directories. It doesn't take long and most directories don't charge for listing. Some directories get a lot of traffic and/or have a large following. Others don't but may appeal to a niche market of affiliates that could be very relevant to your business.
Don't just blindly submit to everywhere though, make sure your program is relevant before submitting, e.g. there are directories for ethical and green affiliate programs or for programs with lifetime commissions.
What you submit matters too. Put some effort into the basic description, but don't waffle or make it a sales pitch. Also be prepared to respond promptly and enthusiastically to follow up questions.
It's never been easier to build your own website, so fans and enthusiasts of every kind create their own websites. Often just for fun, sometimes with profit in mind (sometimes that arrives later). So unless you happen to be in a very obscure industry there are plenty of people already writing about what you sell.
To find them, just search for the kind of topics your customers search for. Type the questions they commonly ask into Google. Work through the top few pages for each search. You'll very quickly figure out the good sites that are worth contacting.
Dig a bit deeper before you make contact though - look at their sites, see if they have advertising on there already, see if they are writing product reviews and if they are linking to competitors. Are they already using affiliate programs?
Then you can personalize your contact and be much more likely to get a positive response.
Your Own Website
Whatever else you do, also add an 'affiliate program' page to your own website. Why? Because this gives people who are talking about your affiliate program something to link to (i.e. affiliate directories and other websites talking about affiliate niches and relevant programs). It also gives something for affiliates actively looking for your type of product something to find! Established and experienced affiliates will actively look for affiliate programs that sell what their audience are interested in.
This page should explain what you do/sell, give all the basics of the program and provide an application form or details of how to join.
These can actually be some of the best affiliates, because they know what their market wants and they specifically came looking for you.
2. How To Get Affiliates To Sell My Product
Now you've got affiliates starting to join your program, you have a choice... you could just kick back and hope things take off.
Or you could capitalize on your new affiliates motivation and help them get started.
It would be wiser to take the second approach. :-)
Get The Basics To Them Fast
Obviously your new affiliate has some basic immediate needs. They need a referral link and maybe some banner ads/images they can use. These should be instantly available and easily found.
Don't leave it at that though. Send them an email - here's your main referral link, here's where to download a zip of banner ads and other images you can use.
Most affiliates don't want to link to your sites homepage - they want to link to the specific product page they are talking about (which is much more effective for sales conversion anyway). Tell them how they can do that. They may want to create tracking links so they can tell which website/advert/page generated clicks/sales. Tell them how.
If you make this initial set up stage super easy for them, not only will new affiliates appreciate it and get stuff done, they will start to remember you as being easy to work with. That's a good thing.
Also give them a personal contact or affiliate manager and make sure that person responds fast with answers to their questions.
Actively Get Them Started
You want to capitalize on your new affiliates motivation. While they are still excited about working with you, go above and beyond to help them get started.
Think about what they may need. Be proactive and use your expertise to help them decide how to promote your products.
This can be as simple as asking an influencer if they would like to 'try product A or product B first'? Don't just send them a box of stuff - get them to express an interest in something specific.
Or if an affiliate has their own website, take a look at it to see how you best fit in. If they've already reviewed a group of similar products - would they be interested in adding your 'product C' to that established review? Or maybe you notice they use banner adverts but the main one is an unusual size - offer to have one created especially for them.
Keep this dialogue going for the first few weeks - to really find out how they work and where you might fit in to that. This is how to make money through affiliates - it's a partnership where both sides work together for mutual benefit.
3. How To Keep Affiliates Selling My Product
Now you've got your affiliates off to good start, it's important to keep that momentum going. Keep your affiliates motivated and they'll keep bringing in new customers.
Pay Them & Tell Them You Paid Them!
Whatever payment cycle you use or your affiliates have chosen make sure you stick to it reliably, and tell them if there is a delay for any reason. You're trying to build a level of trust between you and your affiliates and reliable payouts greatly reinforce that trust.
Don't just let your payment system or network automate the payments and think that's 'job done'. Make a fanfare of it - your affiliate reached a payment threshold and earned a payout. Send them an email to say thank you and let them know the payment has been made. Even if it's a small payment. It may not be a big deal to your company but it might be to them.
If the amount jumped up larger than usual, acknowledge that and congratulate them. Maybe you knew it was going to happen because you helped them with a specific promotion. So personalise the message, acknowledge how well things worked and maybe even come up with some more ideas or ways it could be even better next time.
If you have a tiered commission system then send out a reminder before the end of the payment cycle - particularly for those affiliates who have nearly reached higher levels.
Actively Look For Problems
Sometimes stuff happens. Products go out of stock, get withdrawn or replaced. That's normal in business, but it's not hard to check who is sending clicks to a product that is no longer available. To then send them a message to say "don't worry, it's back in stock in 5 days". Or "product X is no longer available but has now been replaced with product Y which is even better" and here's an updated link, and here's your page where you need to update that link!
This is a lot more appreciated than letting them send clicks to a 'no longer available' page (or even worse a 'page not found' error!) for weeks or even months while they wonder why their commissions have dropped.
A similar thing applies if you notice sales drop off for an affiliate. Get in touch to see if you can help. Or look at their site to see what's happened - maybe their site is down/broken and they didn't even notice. Maybe they replaced your link with one for a competitor without realising that your product is better (for 'all these reasons'... and also converts better since you did x, y, z...).
Regular (Useful) Newsletters
If you have special promotions coming up, coupon codes, new products, improved products etc tell your affiliates. This gives them a reason to contact their emails lists or share whatever it is with their following. You'll see a spike in sales every time there is something newsworthy you can give them to share.
Give them plenty of notice though, and then remind them again closer to the time. Again, don't make them work harder than they need to - provide everything they need right there in the email (their referral link to the new product, a link to download images, a bullet list of benefits and key facts about the new product).
This is also a great place to feature what is working for other affiliates (without breaching any confidentiality). It's also a place to make a big deal of other things you are doing to make their life better - increased cookie times, improved conversion rates or added better checkout process.
If you don't have anything relevant to say then you're probably not working hard enough on things that matter to affiliates. :-)
There is more to making money through affiliates than just getting them signed up. If you want to get affiliates to promote your product and keep promoting then you also need to help them get started quickly and keep that momentum going. Build the trust by demonstrating that you actually care about this business relationship you've just created and it will grow to be mutually profitable for years to come.