eCommerce Performance Marketing – How to Recruit Affiliates

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Would you like to expand your eCommerce marketing channels and bring in new business? Who wouldn’t? How about a freelance team of seasoned marketers promoting your products and bringing sales in for a commission? If both of those sound great (and they should) you may want to consider creating an affiliate program for your eCommerce business.

An affiliate program is simply a performance marketing program where other brands promote your products in exchange for a commission that you define and they agree to when you enter into your partnership. Affiliate marketing generates more than $5 billion in sales per year.

However, there are a lot of quirks that come with running an affiliate program that you have to take into account before diving in head first. It’s best to go into launching your own affiliate program with a solid plan in place.

In this article, we’ll detail what an affiliate program is, how eCommerce companies can go about recruiting affiliates, and how they can set them up for long term success in promoting their products.

What is an Affiliate Program?

Affiliate marketing is referral marketing that is built for the internet. Affiliate marketing has been around in its earliest implementations since the early days of the internet but really took off in popularity when Amazon debuted their Amazon Associates Program. The program allowed people to promote products sold on Amazon and earn a commission on those sales. It quickly became the world’s largest affiliate program in short order.

Since that time, affiliate marketing has continued to grow at a rapid pace. In fact, today 81% of all brands use some type of performance marketing to acquire more customers. It’s not just the biggest companies in the world, either. Small eCommerce companies can leverage affiliate marketing to their benefit as well. In fact, more than 16% of all eCommerce sales come through affiliates.

Affiliate-style performance marketing can be a huge boon to small and mid-sized businesses. First, it allows you to offload some of your marketing to third-parties. Yes, that does mean that you’ll have to monitor the way that they promote your products to ensure that it is in line with your brand guidelines. But, customers that are referred through affiliates are good customers. In fact, they average a higher average order value than customers acquired through other channels.

There are many platforms and software suites that you can use to manage and monitor your affiliate programs. Naturally, as one of those platforms, we like it when eCommerce companies consider using LinkTrust as their affiliate marketing platform. A trustworthy affiliate marketing platform can help you to manage your complete affiliate-based performance marketing operation, by generating personalized links for your affiliates to promote your product through, tracking commissions, and providing oversight and management features that would be impossible to replicate on your own.

However, one of the biggest problems that companies that are just getting into affiliate marketing or the first time often run into is recruiting affiliates. Let’s dive into some of the different ways you can find reliable people to promote your products on a performance basis.

How To Recruit Affiliates

You can’t have an affiliate program without affiliates to promote your products. But finding affiliates can be difficult, especially when you have never actively pursued them before.

Affiliates come in all forms. Ideally, they’ll have an audience that closely resembles your own, so the people that they are promoting your products to are interested buyers and willing to engage with your marketing materials. It’s less important how they interact with that audience — whether through social media, their blog, or email — than it is that the audience closely aligns with your customer base.

The common types of affiliates that you could target include:

  • Industry Publications. Online and print magazines that regularly publish information about your industry. These types of publications make for great partners because they have an audience that already closely resembles your customer base. For publishers, affiliate marketing represents more than 20% of the industry’s revenue.
  • Solo marketers. Freelance and solo marketers that work as a professional affiliate, usually working with several different companies. These affiliates may own their own website, brand, or use PPC to promote products.
  • Influencers. Those with large social media followings that they can use to promote your products to. For instance, a fitness eCommerce company could work with a fitness Instagram influencer to promote their products on the platform.

There are a few steps that every company should take when setting up their first affiliate program to attract affiliates and facilitate growth through the channel:

1. Lean on Your Performance Marketing Platform

Depending on what solution you choose to go with for managing and monitoring your affiliate program, you may have the option of recruiting affiliates directly through the platform.

Some platforms provide direct links to affiliates. Others may not provide a way to contact potential affiliates, but the people within the company may have connections within the industry that can help to point you in the right direction. When you have questions, make sure to lean on the experts.

2. See Who Is Promoting the Competition

Do any of your competitors currently offer an affiliate program? If they do, this could be a perfect opportunity to scout out some prospects that are driving measurable sales to their business. Remember, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to publishers that are already working with your competition as an affiliate. There is nothing that stops them from promoting products from two companies at the same time.

A great way to identify the affiliates that are promoting your competition’s product is to use a tool like AHrefs to see what domains are linking to your competition. With that information, you can see who is linking to their products and build a list of potential affiliates to contact.

3. Use Google

Google can be a great source of untapped affiliate sources within your market. Many publications are unlikely to have sought out affiliate opportunities and reaching out to them directly can be a great way to break the ice and grow your affiliate base.

Creating a long list of companies that publish content within your market is a good place to start. Each publisher represents a potentially great partner for a performance marketing program, and you can start building relationships now.

4. Ask Existing Customers

Some of your existing customers might have their own social followings or just want to promote your products for commission since they enjoy them themselves. They are likely to be some of your biggest and most genuine advocates.

Try sending out an email to your current customers informing them about your affiliate program. Break down exactly how it works so they have a complete understanding. Typically, customers are going to be much smaller affiliates than publishers. But, if you are able to partner with enough of them, they can produce measurable sales as well.

5. Scour Social Media

Social media can be an excellent tool for promoting new affiliates. In fact, there are probably a good number of influencers that are out there promoting your competition right now. Take a look around the different platforms and see who some of the larger influencers in your industry are. Some may be individuals. Others might be brands. The important thing is that they have a large following of people that would have an interest in your products and services — even if it is only tangentially

Final Thoughts

Running an affiliate program can be hugely profitable for eCommerce companies. In performance marketing, your affiliates are the ones that spend their money testing and optimizing campaigns and the only expense that you have to worry about is the commission that they earn on the sales that they generate. Still, recruiting affiliates can be a long and arduous process. You’ll have to get your hands dirty and approach publishers that closely align with your audience to grow your affiliate base and create a reliable marketing channel for your eCommerce brand.


LinkTrust can help you launch your affiliate program. Click Here to Schedule Your FREE Demo Today.