Affiliate partners are not easy to connect with. Throughout my time in the industry, the most common question I hear is “how do I recruit affiliate partners?”
Well, the answer that not everyone likes to hear is: it takes hard work, dedication, determination, and grit. The process of recruiting just one affiliate partner takes 15 steps to success for an affiliate manager.
Demand for partnerships is growing quickly. As more companies continue to move away from traditional digital advertising channels and embrace the Partnership Economy, they will face increased competition in recruiting revenue-generating partners.
Companies that proactively recruit affiliate partners to attract greater partner engagement, develop stronger relationships, and ultimately enable more revenue through the partner channel. Those companies that want to see sustainable partner program growth must implement an ongoing strategy to recruit affiliates.
Before I start teaching the staples of recruiting affiliate partners, I’ll start by defining a few key aspects.
What is affiliate partner prospecting?
Affiliate partner prospecting (or partner discovery) is the process of developing new partnerships by researching third-party businesses, individuals, and publications to discover opportunities for win-win collaboration. The primary goal is to find good-fit prospects and nurture them through activation (i.e. revenue-generation).
Why is affiliate partner prospecting important?
If you want affiliate partners that matter, you have to go searching for them.
Too many businesses assume that partners will simply come knocking on their doors, ready to promote their products and services. In fact, over 67% of businesses that start a new partner program are unable to recruit a revenue-generating partner in the first three months.
This three-month period is the “realization phase”. It’s where companies discover that building a partner program is no walk in the park – and they will need to dedicate significant time and resources to recruit revenue-generating partners.
Many companies give up at this juncture and claim “affiliate doesn’t work for us.” But smart companies will recognize the importance of performance channels and double-down to find the experience that can make a difference.
Implementing an ongoing affiliate partner prospecting process is key to ensuring your program is always full of revenue-active, good-fit partners. Good-fit partners enable long-term revenue generation and quickly provide a positive ROI.
How to prospect for partners in 6 steps.
- Develop a target partner persona – it could be multiple personas.
- Create a system of record for tracking partner prospects – build your funnel.
- Determine the best channels for uncovering partners that meet your target persona.
- Qualify prospects and find contacts.
- Build outreach lists and email templates organized by channel, persona, and niche.
- Launch your partner recruitment campaign and nurture interest.
1. Develop a target partner persona – it could be multiple personas.
Take a look at our template below for Partner Persona.
You should be aiming to build out the archetype of a “good-fit” partner. Some attributes to consider:
- Partner Type. Are you looking for Channel Partners? Bloggers? Youtubers? Instagram Influencers?
- Traffic & Engagement. Do they receive strong engagement from their readers/subscribers/followers? Are the subscribers real or purchased?
- Target Job Titles. What do your target partners do for a living? Are they business development managers? Are they Editors? Influencers? Small Business Owners?
- Motivation for Partnership. Why would these personas want to partner with you? Is there brand alignment? Do they attract a similar audience as you? Do they need to monetize their content?
- Preferred Compensation Models. How does your target partner persona prefer to be compensated? Flat Fee? Performance Fee? Reselling? Content Swap?
It’s vital to get a strong understanding of who you will be prospecting before you get started. This exercise is a great first step in understanding your ideal partner prospect.
2. Create a system of record for tracking affiliate partner prospects.
This point is straightforward. When dealing with hundreds or even thousands of partner prospects you need a system of record for tracking partner prospects through the funnel.
Similar to the sales process, you need a relationship management solution for recording attributes about your partner prospects and nurturing them through your partner lifecycle pipeline.
Most partner or affiliate tracking solutions today lack tools for managing partner prospect relationships. For many of these tools, the partner relationship functionality starts at revenue activation. Yet anyone who’s done any partner prospecting knows the relationship starts far before that!
At Grovia, we typically break up the partner prospecting funnel into the following:
- Expressed Interest
- Call Scheduled
- Aligned on Terms
- Revenue Active
We keep track of SIX opportunity stages before Revenue Activation. If you’re overlooking the many stages of the partner prospect lifecycle, chances are you’re missing out on a ton of great partnership opportunities due to lack of nurturing.
So what should you do?
Today it’s not uncommon for companies new to partner prospecting to simply use spreadsheets. We, of course, recommend using Grovia’s Partner Discovery Tool.
With Grovia you can see all of your prospect data in one place, and manage the full lifecycle of partner prospecting. With our Opportunities module, you can track partners through the pipeline, and know exactly who needs additional nurturing to get to a revenue-active stage.
3. Determine the best channels for uncovering affiliate partners that meet your target persona.
Build a plan to find your target persona. Decide the channels you are going to focus on in your partner prospecting efforts. Here are some common examples:
If you’re looking for bloggers, publishers, and other content creators on the web, you can use Grovia Discovery to search for good-fit partners and find their content information. Using the Keyword Search or Competitive Query features, you can granularly find partners relevant to your brand and uncover what partners are already successfully promoting your competitors!
4. Qualify prospects and find contacts.
Once you’ve developed a system for uncovering prospective partners from your target channels, it’s vital to build a standardized process for qualification.
The goal here is to align prospects to the target persona you constructed in Step 1.
- Do they have adequate traffic? Check their Monthly Page Views and other traffic metrics such as Alexa Rank, follower count, engagement, etc.
- Are they your target partner type (i.e. Blogger, Youtuber, TikTok influencer)?
- Are they likely to partner with you?
- Is there brand alignment?
- Do they attract a similar audience as you?
- Do they have gaps in their content monetization strategy?
- Can you find a good contact? Is your contact job title a good fit for discussing a partnership?
- Are they likely to work as an affiliate partner or align with your compensation model and budget?
One of the biggest challenges in partner prospecting is uncovering contact information. You may have a partner you want to reach out to, but it can take time to uncover the right email address.
With Grovia Discovery, contact information is included directly in our partner search results so you can quickly build recruitment outreach lists.
5. Build outreach lists and email templates segmented by channel, persona, and niche.
Anyone with a background in email marketing or sales knows that list-building and email outreach is an artform. In the case of partner prospecting, building recruitment lists and email templates requires the segmentation of your partner prospects into groups. This is especially true if you are targeting multiple affiliate partner personas.
For example, if you are reaching out to both Agency Partners and Content Partners, it’s important that you are tailoring your messaging to each. Building separate lists is a good start, but tailoring a personalized pitch is the next step.
At Grovia – when it comes to partner outreach – we strive to balance personalization with automation wherever possible. In other words, we implement scalable recruitment processes that do not sacrifice personal touch.
Creating email templates that are designed to send on Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5 of a recruitment campaign are a great way to add scalability. A best practice is to create a base email template that includes the nuts and bolts of your partnership pitch – then later before sending you can customize every individual email to add a personal touch based on the target recipient.
Here’s a few steps you can take to ensure you’re setting yourself up for scalable partner recruitment:
- Segment outreach lists by channel, persona, niche, etc.
- Confirm that you have the right contact – check job title, email validity, and blacklist status.
- Build email templates for each list segment – be wary of sounding overly “robotic”. When it comes to building relationships, your emails should sound like how you’d meet someone in person! Approachable > Professional in this case. Take into account the persona and incorporate tailored messaging into your partnership pitch.
6. Launch your partner recruitment campaign and nurture interest
Here it is. The moment you’ve been waiting for. After narrowing in on your target personas, constructing your funnel, procuring your discovery tools, qualifying prospects, building outreach lists, and writing email templates it’s now time to launch your affiliate partner recruitment campaign!
In building your outreach campaign, we recommend scheduling 3-5 touchpoints over two weeks. This will maximize your engagement. These touchpoints can take the form of traditional email outreach, as well Linkedin Inmail or social media direct messaging. If you’re new to the world of sequential campaigns – there are a number of tools and services to help you out (including Grovia).
Once you’ve launched your campaign – you must nurture interest from your prospects. Stay tuned to open rates, click rates, and reply rates and adjust your messaging as needed. A/B testing is a great way to uncover what works and what doesn’t!
As partner prospects reply and express interest, be sure to keep track of where every candidate sits in the partner prospecting funnel we built in Step 2! This will enable you to manage 100s of concurrent conversations with partners, and know exactly where they sit in your pipeline.
Grovia’s Opportunities feature allows you to create your own funnel and visually track prospects as they traverse through your pipeline.
Wrap it up Dustin.
As you can see in this article, there is A LOT that goes into recruiting affiliate partners to your program. No step should be skipped, and all of them are difficult to master.
When prospects reach the Applied stage, it’s time to focus on Activation; but we’ll save that process for another article!
Hopefully these steps are able to point you in the right direction, but if you need any additional help finding partners, feel free to grab a slot on my calendar for a free 15-minute exploration call at a time that works for you. If I can’t help you, I can point you in the right direction.