If you've already chosen which Shopify affiliate app to use and determined your commission rate, you may be wondering how to find and recruit affiliates to your program. Recruiting quality affiliates to sell your products is no easy task and there's no shortcuts. Here's my advice to get you started building your affiliate base.
Best places to find affiliates for your business
#1) Your Fans. Who are your most active followers on social media – the ones who are constantly liking and engaging with your posts? Do they have large followings? This is a great group of people to reach out to because they already love your brand. It takes less time to educate them about your business because they are already familiar with your products, and the relationship already exists so it's easy to reach them.
Don't waste your time with customers who have 200 followers and just want to post your link on their Facebook wall once. I'm not hating on that group – they are excellent customers so continue to take care of them as such. But they aren't the best affiliates. The tighter you keep your affiliate network the better (especially at the beginning).
Keep in mind that an affiliate program is different than a referral program or a customer loyalty program, which turn your customers into referral agents (usually via one click product sharing after purchase). In those types of programs, the reward is often gift certificates to the store instead cash. An affiliate program is different than converting every customer into a referral agent. Both types of program can be effective but they are structured differently.
I often recommend starting with this group when beginning a new affiliate program because it's the lowest hanging fruit. You're inevitably going to have to work out some technical kinks and growing pains of being a new affiliate manager. And this group of new affiliates, who already love you, are going to be the most patient with you while you do that.
#2) Bloggers & Social Influencers. This is going to be your best source of affiliate partners, but also your most difficult to acquire because you're building relationships from scratch. For one of my businesses, my partner and I seek out potential partners who have audiences that match our target demographic and write them personal e-mails introducing ourselves and our business. The process is time consuming and it's a numbers game, but we never spam the same message to everyone. That'd be a bigger waste of time than time saver. We always write personal messages to people that we've previously engaged with in some other way (like on social media). The first time they see our name isn't in an e-mail requesting them to join our affiliate program. Sometimes it is, but usually we try to build up a little name recognition through engagement instead of a cold approach.
My preferred method of communication is e-mail if they have one listed, but if not I'll direct message on a social platform to start a conversation. We're typically asking if they'd be interested in us providing a discount code to our store for their followers because we think that their audience is a perfect fit for our products. But what works for your business may be different than what works for us. If you can afford it, you might want to send samples of your products for them to check out with no obligation on their part, and go from there. I read about one company who sent two of the same product to each influencer – one for them and one to give to a friend – which proved to be a great way to generate some word of mouth marketing.
This group of bloggers and social influencers could be your best source of partners because there's often unlimited untapped people to reach out to depending on your industry. And while certainly it's fun to focus on the social influencers with 1M followers, the ones with 25k-100k followers might be more obtainable at the beginning. And it only takes so many of them to reach an audience of 1 million.
#3) Look within your organization to staff, vendors, and partners. People within your organization can be awesome ambassadors to your business. Realistically, they may not be a huge source of revenue, because your average person doesn't have a huge fan base. But they're a great group to invite into your affiliate program because they have the most incentive to see you succeed. And similar to your followers, this group will be willing to go through the growing pains with you of starting a new affiliate program.
#4) Advertise your affiliate program on your website – Don't forget to publicize your affiliate program at the bottom of your website. Typically I go straight to the Footer of a website when I'm looking to see if a company offers an affiliate program. Many experienced publishers seek out companies who they'd like to endorse, so make it easy for this group to find your affiliate program.
#5) Who do you follow? Lastly, don't forget to think about the places you go to for industry news. The people in your industry that you follow could make great affiliates for your products too.