Why You Should Treat Partner and Customer Acquisition the Same Way

Acquiring both customers and partners is vital to any company’s success, but many pursue the two groups differently. While customer acquisition usually commands extensive strategy, partners and affiliates are often brought on passively.

If a lack of time, resources, or understanding keeps you from actively seeking out affiliates, you’re missing a significant opportunity. Affiliate marketing is outpacing social commerce and display advertising as a source of ecommerce purchases, matching the effectiveness of email efforts by driving 16% of those orders according to BI Intelligence.

Securing quality partnerships means devoting as much time and attention to your affiliate recruitment as customer outreach. Proactive affiliate recruiting strategies rely on standard customer acquisition tactics.

In this blog, I’ll show you strategies to create partner and affiliate relationships that perform.

Pursuing High-Performance Partners

Waiting for affiliates to come to you reduces your chances of landing quality partnerships. Though this is the most common recruiting method for affiliates, it is not necessarily the most effective strategy to land what you’re looking for. Likely, you’ll get hits from affiliate programs that offer discount prices in exchange for display on their platform. These coupon sites don’t really support your brand because they get paid just for passing along offers. So, taking a passive approach may garner misplaced attention from affiliates who can’t do much for you.

A little more effort yields significantly more brand-aligned partners. The ways you use paid search, Facebook, email, and other channels to acquire customers can also be applied to affiliate partnerships. Like customers, affiliates are people who are interested in your company and want to work with you. Why would you recruit them differently?

Putting Acquisition Into Action

A proactive affiliate acquisition plan combines traditional recruiting methods with the digital marketing channels that are typically used to reach customers. Integrating the two will help you find affiliate partners who are the right fit for your business.

When one of our clients challenged us with an aggressive affiliate recruitment initiative this year, this method worked well. Although our clients sought quantity, they were adamant about only accepting quality, brand-aligned affiliates into their program. To meet this lofty goal, our team approached recruitment in the same way other teams bring on new customers.

In addition to traditional tactics, such as cross-recruitment with other client programs and personalized email communications to prospective affiliates, our team leveraged:

Ultimately, any tactic used to acquire customers can also be used for affiliates. To illustrate: Just as you would retarget a customer, you can run Facebook ads and retarget affiliates when they come to your site for information but don’t sign up. You can also use referral bonuses for affiliates, just as you do for customer referrals. Offer a credit or a kickback to partners who refer others.

Because you’re engaging on various platforms, make sure you involve other departments in your affiliate marketing efforts to get your social media, paid marketing, organic search, and business development teams on board. Understand how those teams leverage their channels and how affiliate marketing assists their efforts to build a unified, multichannel approach.

Qualifying Your Strategy

Finally, maximize your plan by gathering feedback about your methods and measuring progress toward your goals. Testing is imperative. Our team continuously refined its approach based on incoming data, including A/B testing of content and subject lines and optimizing landing pages to enhance and scale acquisition.

Be sure to test the quality of affiliates by calculating the lifetime value of the partnership. Measure your affiliate performance by determining how much revenue each affiliate has driven, then compare that to the cost per acquisition to determine the return on your investment. While all companies want more (and better) partners, they’re not all actively looking for them. An acquisition strategy for recruiting affiliates that mirrors how you acquire new customers will make your program more productive, profitable, and performance-focused.

Do you have a strategy specifically for attaining new partners? Do your methods differ from mine? Tell me about your process in the comments. I’d love to hear about it and keep the conversation going.