If you believe Kevin Costner, you just need to build it, and they’ll come. Sure that may work for baseball parks out in the middle of midwest cornfields. But when it comes to your affiliate program, you need to aggressively go after affiliates.
Building an affiliate network or program is certainly your first step. And it’s a big one. But once you’re up and running, the real work begins. You need to build and grow your affiliate base. How do you find the right affiliates and where do you find them?
There are plenty of options available and the best answer is to try as many options as you can. See where you’re getting the most results and then focus more of your attention on those approaches that are getting you somewhere.
You’ve got to spend money to make money, right? Well, if you want people to know about your program, spend some Benjamins on advertising your program. Do some PPC advertising, using the words “affiliate network” and your site name, as well as your business’ most important keywords.
There are also a ton of industry websites you can consider advertising. Look for the top quality SEO and industry-related sites around and consider traditional banner or text-link advertising. Same goes for print publications like Website Magazine or Feedfront magazine.
Hit the Road
If you really want to make a splash, purchase a table or booth space at an industry event. There are tons of affiliate conferences around the country all year long. Attend a show and meet potential affiliates face to face. If you can’t afford even a table, at least get a pass to the show and do as much networking as you can. You can easily talk to affiliates that are just walking the floor of the exhibit hall, or attend more structured events like industry parties or various sessions.
Besides just walking the floors and schmoozing it up, a fantastic way to get the word out is by volunteering to be a speaker for a session. Not only will this set you up as an industry expert, but it will put your face (and your company’s) front and center in front of a captive audience.
Most cold calls these days are more like “cold emails,” but they’re just as effective. Do your research first and create a list of the top potential affiliates you’d like to see join your program. Then put together a short, concise and enticing description of your program (a.k.a. an elevator pitch), and email the site owners or business development team. Follow up with phone calls or more emails if you don’t hear back.
This may seem like a slow way to start affiliate growth, but it’s also a very solid one. Slow and steady can win you the race, so land a few huge affiliates and you’ll soon start to see others hunting you down, as everyone on the internet looks to competitors for advice. The more personal you can make each email, the better your chances of making a connection and getting a response.
Hire an Agency
Even if you don’t choose to use an affiliate management agency to run your affiliate program, you can still contact one to help you grow your business. Agencies (like iAffiliate Management!) work with tons of clients and thousands of affiliates across the country or even globally. They even have lists segmented by categories and affiliate types.
So you’re getting a direct pipeline to the top websites in your industry.
Build up Your Authority
Guest posting on other popular websites and blogs is a great way to not only build up your authority, but to tell the world about your program. Pick a hot topic related to your industry and offer up some big advice or analysis. Go after affiliate and SEO-type sites such as MarketingLand.com or ReveNews.com. Use as many real-world examples as you can, particularly from your own site and experience. It will just add credence to your points, as well as further push your company and website, without it seeming too spammy.
Create Another Affiliate Program
Yes, you already have an affiliate program. That’s what we’re talking about here, right? Well, go on and create an affiliate program for your affiliate program. Get affiliates to promote your affiliate program! Then pay them a finder’s fee bounty(CPA program) or try setting up a two-tier system where a smaller percentage of one affiliate’s commissions are given to the referrer.
Submit to Affiliate Directories
There are a number of popular affiliate directories that you can submit your program to. They’re generally free and just ask for your basic information about the program including commission rates, cookie length, industry, etc. Check out AffiliateSeeking.com or AffiliateGuide.com for a couple of examples.
Get Your Message Out on the Boards
Message boards are still a wonderful source of information and community spirit. There are a number of affiliate-themed forums like ABestWeb.com where you can pay to promote your site in its own forum, or just join in with the rest of the crowd, make a name for yourself and start spreading the word.
Besides forums, social networks are a wonderful resource as well. Look into appropriate groups on Facebook or LinkedIn to find a ton of potential affiliates. If you don’t see the exact affiliate group you’re looking for (which is hard to believe, considering how many there are out there!), go ahead and create your own!
If you have the time, money and resources, going after all the suggestions mentioned in this post are sure to put you on the map and then some. But if you can only pick a few, start small, see what works and then grow your approach as you grow your network.