The below blog post has been put together by Sarah V Bundy, CEO of All Inclusive Marketing Inc., one of Canada’s leading outsourced affiliate program management companies, who is speaking at Affiliate Management Days (San Francisco 2012) on finding and recruiting super affiliates into affiliate programs [more]

The two most important elements to having a successful affiliate program are affiliate recruitment and affiliate activation. Without being able to effectively recruit affiliates into your program you will not have any performance based sales force promoting your product, service or brand. This is the essential first step to ensuring you have a program that performs and continues to grow.

I will be speaking on “How to Recruit “Super” Affiliates Into your Program” at the upcoming Affiliate Management Days conference in March which will cover many of these tips in more more depth, however here’s a sneak peak at five of the 14+ recruitment strategies we’ll go over in my discussion about effective affiliate recruitment in the next three weeks:

1. Target Niche Affiliate Groups

Before you begin your search, break your potential affiliate partners into groups. Think about all the possible niches that an affiliate could fall into that would compliment the product or service you sell. Think about their traffic and their audience. Ask the question, would someone visiting this site be interested in my product.

For example, we manage a program for They sell “Utterly Affordable Name-Brand Designer Sunglasses”. The obvious affiliate partners would have sites on fashion or eye care. But what about beaches and hot travel destinations? What about gardening and outdoor sport related sites. What about poker and gaming sites, where many players wear designer sunglasses to up their game?

Break down all the possible groups, related verticals and niches your potential affiliates could fall into, create tools specific to them, then begin your outreach to the ones you feel will get you the best exposure and highest sales first.

2. Utilize Search

A great number of affiliates select affiliate programs to join by doing their own research. They already know what type of program they are looking for and they don’t necessarily care which network they are listed in. Chances are they will compare several programs in several networks before they make their final decision.

One of the best ways for you to make sure you’re considered amongst these other programs is to be listed in the search engines both organically and through paid search. Affiliates will search for keywords such as “sunglasses affiliate program” or “eye wear affiliate programs” so by having an affiliate program bio page or blog that’s been properly optimized for the search engines, you’ll be able to better reach these affiliates and recruit them into your program.

3. Affiliate Directories Still Work

One strategy that’s often overlooked with the misconception that it’s not effective or an outdated method is to have your program listed with the free affiliate directories. A 2010 AffStat Report indicated that many affiliates still use affiliate directories to find their programs.

I personally don’t see a ton of affiliates logging into directories to do searches for programs there, however because many affiliate directories have been around for a while they have very strong rankings in the search engines if someone were to do a search for “sunglasses affiliate programs”. Any program that is listed with the high ranking affiliate directories has a good chance of showing up in the search results.

4. Check Competitor Backlinks

This is a strategy that can be done either with tools or manually, but the idea is if your competitor has an affiliate program, check to see who’s linking to them and contact them for placement as well (or instead). There are a variety of paid tools around to help in this effort, however the free version looks like this:

Go to Google and type in the search box “link:”. The results will spit out every website landing page that has a link to the competing site. All you have to do is go through them and check to see which ones would make good affiliate partners and get them into your program as well.

5. Get Social

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, affiliate forums, and industry related blogs are all great places to find affiliates. Though looking for sites that already exist is one strategy, some affiliates will actually buy a domain and build out a site just for your program if they like you and they see the long term earning potential.

By getting social and introducing yourself to a variety of different people, learning more about them and finding out their interests and needs, you’re more likely to find someone who could very well be, or turn into, your next super affiliate.
There are a variety of free and paid methods to promoting your affiliate marketing program and effectively recruiting affiliates. Some of the methods we’ll be discussing in the session are more advanced. Some are quick, easy and free to do yet equally effective. I encourage you to come find out what some of the industry’s leading affiliate managers do to recruit their top performing affiliates. Then it’s up to you to figure out the best ways to get and keep them active.

Sarah V Bundy is CEO of All Inclusive Marketing Inc., one of Canada’s leading outsourced affiliate program management companies. Sarah loves the business she’s in. As a passionate, high level thinking Internet Marketing Specialist, she has been a top performer for more than half a dozen corporations in her lifetime. Over the last decade, she has managed affiliate programs, lead sales teams, and written and implemented online marketing plans for several multimillion dollar corporations.. Come hear her speak on How to Find & Recruit Super Affiliates Into Your Program on March 8 at AM Days SF 2012.