An Easy Guide on How to Find Affiliates Who Are the Perfect Fit for Your Brand

affiliate marketing

By Sam O’Brien

You know affiliate marketing is powerful. You see it all over social media. With the affiliate market having grown to over $8bn in 2022, it’s a no-brainer. You should be building an affiliate marketing program for your own company.

But if you don’t know how to find affiliates from experience, it can be hard to find out where to start. There’s plenty of software that’ll help you manage your own networks, but would you be better off just paying an affiliate agency to do the hard work for you?

Let’s look at ways to find affiliates using a few different methods and channels and see how you can turn this hard work into a virtuous cycle that has influencers coming to you first.

affiliate marketing

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What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is when you partner with websites, bloggers, and social media influencers to market to their audience. Often this involves them creating sponsored content promoting your product. They’ll also include affiliate links in their posts that track how many sales they’ve helped you make. Their audience is an asset that you want to access and that they want to monetize, so the relationship is mutually beneficial.

How to find affiliates

To get started with affiliate marketing, you’ll need SEO/keyword research software, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. You’ll need an email marketing service with some degree of automation, like Mailchimp, and a way to keep track of your contacts and conversations. If you have an existing CRM for this, like Salesforce or Pipedrive, you can use that, but even a simple spreadsheet will suffice.

You’ll use your research software to refine your audience targeting and figure out which potential affiliates are worth reaching out to. Once you have a list of them in your spreadsheet or CRM, you can plug that into your email service and reach out to affiliates at scale. After you’ve had some replies, you can use your CRM to keep track of affiliate links, conversations, and relationships if and when they develop in the long term.

affiliate marketing

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Research affiliates

Once you have the tools you’ll need, you need to know how to find affiliates. Contrary to what a cursory Google search will tell you… maybe you shouldn’t use an affiliate network.

Affiliate marketing can involve a lot of legwork, especially in the beginning. And networks are happy to do that work for you if you don’t know how to find affiliates. But when these companies are charging a “finder’s fee” of up to 30%, you’re in the same situation as you are with social media. You’re renting access to an audience you could own entirely.

By putting in some work now, doing your own research, and setting your own ways of working, your team can build up affiliate marketing “muscles” that’ll help you stay successful in an ever-changing market. The knowledge you’ll gain by doing this work yourself will more than pay for itself.

If you’re a B2B company, you can start looking for affiliates in industry-focused groups online. If you’re a legal technology company, you’ll be looking at sites aimed at the legal profession. If you’re a B2C standing desk company, you’ll look to productivity sites and podcasts, etc.

Groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Reddit are also good places to start observing your target audience; take note of the sites and blog posts they’re sharing and recommending to each other. Make a list of these, and run them through SEO tools, like Ahrefs or SEMrush, to figure out which sites are the most popular overall, and gather contact information wherever you can in your spreadsheet or CRM.

Reach out to niche bloggers and influencers

The most successful niche bloggers and outlets in your target market should give you a better return on ad spend than the most well-targeted online advertising. These outlets have an engaged audience who readily trusts their opinions, and, if they link to your site after writing approvingly of your product, you can consider anyone who clicks through a warm lead. 

These bloggers and sites have spent years optimizing their SEO, advertising, networks, and audience for success. That’s a lot of work they’ve done on your behalf to cultivate an audience worth advertising to.

affiliate marketing

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One tip for how to find affiliates in your niche is to simply look at who’s promoting your competitors. You’ll know for a fact they’re taking affiliate offers. Your competitors have done most of the work of researching good affiliates and qualifying their sites and audiences.

You can qualify a potential partner with metrics like their domain authority ranking, number of social media shares per post, and comments per post. Once you’ve found emails for a number of good candidates, you can use your email software to reach out to many of them at once. With some simple automation, you can even have a follow-up email go out automatically to anyone who hasn’t opened or replied to the first.

Your site should have a landing page for signing up for your affiliate program. When you get an email showing any interest in your program, you can refer people to this page to establish contact with them and let the site do most of the work of selling them on it.

Reach out to customers

People often make the mistake of calling programs “referral marketing” and “affiliate marketing” interchangeably. But referral marketing specifically means trying to get your customers to refer a friend, family member, or colleague to your site.

From there, you can lead them down your marketing funnel and hopefully make a sale. If you do, the customer who referred the new sale will get a little bonus, like a gift card or their monthly subscription fee waived for a while.

Your affiliate marketing program might be high-touch, with you keeping in regular contact with each affiliate up to regular video calls and small campaigns tailored to them. But a successful referral marketing program will require referral marketing software for you to be able to automatically process referral links and payments at scale.

Engage with communities

You’ll have spent some time researching online communities in your niche to find affiliates. But you should spend some time engaging in those communities as well. There are industry-specific Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Reddit subreddits, etc. But we can consider a social media hashtag a kind of community too. It’s a hub full of people who have at least one thing in common.

You can use software or your own observation to find which users and pages are influential in those hashtags and pitch them on a partnership. It’s worth engaging in these groups, forums, and hashtags anyway, so you should take part in them and build a rapport with potential customers here while also using them as a way to find affiliates.

Engage with communities

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Create an onboarding flow

It’ll be great once you know how to find affiliates, but you don’t want to spend your days chasing after new leads. Eventually, you’re going to have to make them come to you.

Your affiliate landing page will be the center of your inbound affiliate marketing strategy. After countless emails back and forth getting potential affiliates to sign on, you’ll know what you need to offer them to close the deal. Use this to inform your web copy and A/B test to find out what gets the most conversions.

As your brand becomes more visible, you’ll become well-known in affiliate circles within your industry, and they’ll actively seek you out. Your landing page should make your affiliate program sound as appealing as possible, and cover:

  • The commission rates you offer on every successful sale your affiliates help you make.
  • What bonuses there are for good performance, if any.
  • What affiliates have to do to earn the commission.
  • Any unique benefits/bonuses of joining your affiliate program.
  • How affiliates can apply to your program.
  • Any terms and conditions they need to meet to qualify.

Once you have your page set up, you can promote it far and wide. If you have a navigation menu at the bottom of your site, link it there. Affiliates who are interested in you will know where to look. Optimize your copy for at least one industry-specific, relevant keyword and link to it wherever makes sense.

Traditional social commerce, such as in-feed adverts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, will help you reach out to potential affiliates and customers willing to refer to your product. You can target influential accounts in your niche as potential affiliates, and you can target your own engaged followers to let them know about your referral program.

affiliate marketing

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Building an affiliate marketing machine

Once you know how to find affiliates, without paying through the nose for an agency, you’ll build up more and more of the experience you need to turn your outbound affiliate program into an inbound one.

Rather than chasing influencers all day, you can set up a page, automate your workflows, and relax as new affiliates come to you for a chance to represent your brand. As you build up an affiliate network and grow a real audience, you’ll see more and more influencers trying to access your following rather than the other way around.

About the Author

Sam O’Brien

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. He has written for sites such as Brightpearl and SimplyBook.

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