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Ask an Affiliate Manager: How to Attract Top Quality Affiliates to Your Affiliate Program?

Rewardful Team

Before we dig in, let's start with the good news: at the bottom of this article, you'll find an eBook that compiles the best active and passive strategies to recruit top-quality affiliates. It's free (and ungated 😉). Enjoy!

In affiliate marketing, success lies in recruiting the ‘right’ affiliates. You’ll want to search for affiliates who match your target audience, have a strong influence in their niche, and truly enjoy using your products.

So, what are some effective strategies to recruit top-quality affiliates? 

We've sat together with three leading experts in the affiliate marketing industry and tapped into their expertise in recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing affiliates.

Nancy Mai Harnett - Head of Affiliate Marketing at HubSpot

Nancy is the Head of Affiliate Marketing at HubSpot, an easy-to-use CRM that helps businesses scale. Nancy specializes in launching, growing, and diversifying affiliate and referral programs to ensure success and positive ROI for the business.

Yash Chavan - Founder at SARAL

Yash is the founder of SARAL, the influencer marketing platform for ecommerce businesses. He helps brands connect directly with creators and has extensive experience in influencer affiliate marketing. 

Emmet Gibney - CEO at Rewardful

Emmet is the CEO of Rewardful, an all-in-one affiliate management software for SaaS. He has coached hundreds of people in developing affiliate programs in the SaaS industry and possesses a deep understanding of what works and what doesn't in affiliate marketing.

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Step 1: Define Your Ideal Affiliate Profile

Knowing your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the basics of marketing. This allows you to customize your marketing strategies for specific target groups, maximizing impact over scattershot efforts.

Just as you tailor your products or services to meet your ICP’s needs, finding affiliates who can consistently reach your target audience is key to achieving your business goals. Therefore, you must define your Ideal Affiliate Profile when recruiting affiliates. Typically, your Ideal Affiliate Profiles are people who interact with your ICP.

"Who your ideal affiliate profile is going to be will vary a lot based on who your ICP is. So, for example, if your ICP is a solopreneur who's building a SaaS business, then you want to find affiliates who can put you in front of these people, right? Ultimately, you want affiliates who can consistently get your offer in front of your ICP."

Emmet Gibney
CEO at Rewardful

There are two types of affiliate profiles: generalist affiliates and specialist affiliates.

Generalist affiliates are like deal-making experts, driven primarily by profit motives and experienced at leveraging various online channels such as PPC ads or SEO content sites. They search for profitable opportunities where they can maximize returns with minimal effort.

Specialist affiliates, on the other hand, are often influencers or niche content creators. They are genuinely interested in specific topics relevant to their audience, prioritizing content quality over monetary gains. For them, content relevance is key. Whether it's a fishing YouTuber promoting fishing gear or a videographer reviewing camera equipment, aligning affiliate offers with audience interests is essential for driving engagement and conversions.

Just as a well-defined ICP is crucial for successful marketing campaigns, understanding your Ideal Affiliate Profile is essential for maximizing your affiliate program, particularly in the SaaS industry. By aligning your affiliate partnerships with your target audience and business objectives, you can unlock the full potential of your affiliate program.

Additionally,  it's crucial to understand the different affiliate types and cater your recruitment strategies to their preferences and priorities. By doing so, you can establish mutually beneficial collaborations that drive traffic, conversions, and revenue.

Step 2: Maximize Affiliate Recruitment with Inbound and Outbound Strategies

To get the most out of your affiliate recruitment efforts, use both inbound and outbound marketing strategies.

Inbound strategies are ideal for established brands leveraging their reputation to attract affiliates. For instance, big-name brands like HubSpot can capitalize on their strong brand recognition to create affiliate program campaign names like “HubSpot affiliate program” or “HubSpot referral program.”However, for smaller brands that lack such recognition, a different approach is necessary.

Joining marketplaces or networks can be a good option for smaller brands. That said, it's important to be cautious. Prioritizing quality partners over quantity is crucial. You need to establish strong application criteria that align with your Ideal Affiliate Profile and a seamless onboarding process.

You can start by encouraging your current partners to refer potential affiliates. This fosters a culture of trust and quality within affiliate communities. 

Another common strategy is attending industry events, such as affiliate marketing conferences. This can enhance inbound efforts via face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities.

"We will attend these events with a very clear plan in place. We want to ensure that we're meeting the right people and that we're spending our time efficiently and effectively."

Nancy Mai Harnett
Head of Affiliate Marketing at HubSpot

As your inbound marketing efforts start to gain momentum, it's important to consider implementing outbound strategies to further boost your program's success.

Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can be incredibly useful in identifying relevant websites and keywords related to your Ideal Affiliate Profile or business. By leveraging these tools, you'll be able to identify partnership opportunities that might fly under the radar with inbound strategies alone.

You can also use tools like Publisher Discovery and Breezy to gain insights into affiliate links of competitors for strategic outreach, ensuring efficiency through marketplaces or industry events.

To sum up, inbound and outbound strategies play a crucial role in building a successful affiliate program. You can start by promoting your affiliate programs within your community and current customers, and start reaching outside by doing outreach campaigns, attending conferences, or doing cold emailing.

Step 3: Onboard and Activate Affiliates Effectively

Recruiting affiliates is just the beginning. A well-planned onboarding and activation process are the keys to ensuring long-term success with your partners.

For example, in your welcome email, encourage the newly joined affiliates to go through their onboarding journey, ideally within days. Provide your affiliates with comprehensive information about your affiliate program, its policies, marketing assets, and relevant links. These will help them hit the ground running from day one.

Activation plans are equally crucial. Ideally, after the onboarding phase, your affiliates should start promoting your brand. You can schedule a check-in call to see their progress after a few weeks. Furthermore, send them emails about their performance review (monthly or quarterly), and remind them of the lucrative incentives they can get from being your top-performing affiliates. This will help them stay motivated and feel supported. 

Affiliate marketing isn’t a set-and-forget campaign. Establishing and nurturing relationships with affiliates is fundamental. Recognizing affiliates as integral members of the sales team underscores their value in promoting and representing the brand effectively.

"As I mentioned before, a lot of programs make the big mistake of setting and forgetting. It is a relationship business and a lot of people forget that these affiliate partners are essentially an extension of your sales team. You need to remember that they're not just someone behind the link anymore."

Nancy Mai Harnett
Head of Affiliate Marketing at HubSpot

Ultimately, prioritizing thorough onboarding and activation processes not only empowers affiliates but also strengthens the relationship between brands and their partners.

Step 4: Offer Attractive Affiliate Incentives

Crafting enticing affiliate offers is an essential ingredient in any successful affiliate marketing strategy. But, if you want to take your program to the next level, you need to go beyond generalized offers and create special incentives.This approach can significantly enhance your program's effectiveness, leading to increased affiliate engagement and strengthened customer acquisition. 

For instance, instead of only rewarding affiliates financially, brands can offer opportunities to co-create content, develop new features based on their suggestions, or organize a competition. This can create an engaging atmosphere where affiliates feel respected and motivated to promote the brand's products more enthusiastically. By recognizing and rewarding top performers, brands can build a community of loyal supporters who are excited to spread the word about their products.

Equally important is providing specialized offers tailored to the affiliate's audience. This may involve extending free trials, providing exclusive discounts, or offering additional perks unavailable elsewhere. By aligning these offers with affiliate audiences' interests and preferences, brands can improve conversion rates and foster stronger affiliate relationships.

"Someone had a question about how to ensure correct attribution in a world where cookies are being banned, and where people's conversion behavior may not necessarily involve clicking on an affiliate link to make an immediate conversion. In that case, it's actually fair to your affiliates if you have a proper perk for their audience because what happens is they can't get that elsewhere."

Yash Chavan
Founder at SARAL

By looking beyond the traditional commission structures, we can effectively motivate affiliates and provide them with tangible rewards for their efforts. 

Final Thoughts

The success of affiliate marketing lies in understanding your audience and tailoring strategies to meet their needs. By defining an Ideal Affiliate Profile and employing both inbound and outbound recruitment methods, brands can expand their reach strategically.

Combine these with seamless onboarding, quick activation, and enticing incentives to cultivate lasting partnerships. Then, as you grow, adjust your affiliate recruitment strategies adapted to the evolving needs of your partners, business, and the market landscape.

"You're not going to find the best people to promote you by accident. You need to go out and find the people who are going to be a really good audience and who will be interested in the product."

Emmet Gibney
CEO at Rewardful

Are you ready to recruit your top-performing affiliate? Start your journey with Rewardful, the all-in-one affiliate management software. You can streamline everything from onboarding to customizing commissions and handling payouts. Give Rewardful a try today!

Download Your eBook on How to Recruit Top-Quality Affiliates

In this mini-eBook, you will learn the most effective active and passive strategies to recruit top-quality affiliates, as well as how to nurture them to build and grow your affiliate program successfully.

Download your free eBook
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