One true super affiliate could be worth thousands of dollars to your business, so it's worth spending time and money to locate and recruit them.
I'll assume you've read my article How to find and recruit affiliates. I won't repeat those tips.
Here are good ways to hunt down and recruit super affiliates:
Attend Internet marketing conferences
Internet marketing conferences and seminars are one of the best places to recruit serious affiliates – especially if the conference is expensive. There's nothing like a face-to-face meeting if you want to make a good impression.
Prepare a brief “elevator speech” – two or three sentences which grab the affiliate's attention. I remember an affiliate merchant coming up to me at a conference and saying something like this…
“I have a product your readers would love. Our affiliates are getting fantastic conversion rates. Shall I tell you more about it?”
If you're in a position to say magical words like “high conversion rates”, “generous commissions” and “residual income”, they'll help you make a strong impression.
Do your homework. Ask around. If possible, find out details about affiliates who are attending BEFORE you talk to them.
Re-read Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People – especially the part about finding something you can genuinely, honestly praise. People hate cheap flattery but they love honest praise. Be sure you understand the difference.
Identify key people
Look for key people in key places. You want people who are in a good position to influence other people. You want affiliates who are respected by their peers. Have a good think about who these people are in your industry.
They probably own influential newsletters, websites, blogs or MySpace pages.
Ask them what incentives they want.
If you win them over to your product, they'll spread the word strongly.
Big newsletter publishers
For example, find newsletters or mailing lists that have a large number of subscribers. One authoritative, paid resource is Charlie Page's Directory of Ezines, which is updated frequently. It's the premier source on the Internet for advertising in ezines. You'll save time by going straight to this resource.
If you have plenty of time available, you can search through free directories. Search Google for “newsletter directory”, “newsletter directories” or “yourindustry newsletter”.
Study AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing for pay-per-click ads in your industry. If the same ads keep running month after month, then those ads are probably making money.
Some of those ads will be paid for by affiliates using well constructed landing pages. By checking the whois information of the websites, you may be able to track down some affiliates who are prepared to advertise your product. (Unfortunately, often the whois info will be private.)
Some affiliates spend HUGE sums on advertising, so it's worth while doing this research.
Prepare an extensive keyword list to help affiliates who use PPC advertising. For solid, very thoroughly researched advice on research research tools, see Jay Stockwell's research at KeywordWorkop.com. There's nothing like it anywhere else on the Net.
Once you've identified a website which you think may be doing serious AdWords advertising, you can spy on its advertising by using SpyFu.
You can use the mainly free SpyFu research tool to find the keywords your competitors (and affiliates) are buying in AdWords, get ideas for niche sites, find phrases for SEO targeting, and for brainstorming.
Give super affiliates a quick start
If there's a top affiliate you're really keen to sign up, for example one who owns a very good website or popular newsletter in your niche, consider making the usual approach (praising his/her website or newsletter) and then saying something like this in your email…
“To make it easy for you, I've already signed you up for our affiliate program. Here's your affiliate link. You can use it today. Here's the login information. Please login and update the details.”
To help lure a really top affiliate, say…
“Here's an email promotion I've written just for you. No one else will be receiving this. I've tried to imitate your writing style, although no one can write exactly like YOU. Of course you're free to edit it in any way or throw it away.”
Does this sound like too much trouble? Well, what if that affiliate has 50,000 or 100,000 newsletter subscribers and can be persuaded to promote your company today? Is it REALLY too much trouble?
Reminder: Your affiliate manager needs excellent writing skills.
Consider using multiple affiliate networks
Affiliates often prefer to work with a particular affiliate network. If your program isn't listed there, the affiliate won't see it. If you're not using Shareasale, for example, consider adding your program there. It's run by people who know what they're doing and is a favorite of many affiliates.
Find super affiliates who rank highly in search engines
You can hunt manually in search engines to see who ranks well in your industry. Often those people will be super affiliates and can make excellent affiliates.
Here's a good way to speed up this research.
Neil Shearing hired a talented Perl programmer to write a Spider script which hunts down super affiliates.
However, as affiliate program managers know, just finding super affiliates isn't enough. You also need to know how to charm them into promoting your products.
Neil has that covered, too. His “Irresistible Formula”, which comes as a bonus with the Spider, shows you exactly how to charm super affiliates. Neil is really good at this.
His “Spider” and “Irresistible Formula” make a powerful combination.
Here are some ways you can use it:
You can use it to locate successful affiliates and learn from their techniques.
You can use it to find competitors' super affiliates and offer them a better deal with your affiliate program.
You can use it to spy on your competitors' joint venture partners and link campaigns.
You can identify super affiliates or “hub” sites and persuade them to link to you, improving your rankings in search engines.
Note, this isn't totally magical. The Spider does NOT hand you a list of the top 10 affiliates, ranked according to how much money they're making.
Not all successful affiliates have a large number of links to their sites. For example, some simply buy traffic from pay-per-click search engines. If that's all they do, the Spider won't find them.
However, it IS a remarkably useful research tool. It quickly finds sites which cover a particular topic, theme, industry, or whatever – it's your choice – and then gives you a simple way of deciding which of those sites are important.
It's no coincidence that massively popular portals top the list while sites with peculiar names and amateurish web design are usually near the bottom of the list. (Brand new sites may be there, too.)
Use the phone
Once you've identified a super affiliate, consider picking up the phone. I don't like the phone, but most affiliates aren't like me. When you phone, you know for sure that your message is being delivered and being heard. Affiliates are much less likely to ignore a phone call.
Before you make the call, take a few notes of the main points. Think “elevator speech”. You want to get across your most persuasive points very quickly. Decide what your most wanted response is. Are you trying to persuade the affiliate to look at a web page for more information? Are you asking for permission to send details. Both? Don't just provide information. You want the affiliate to do something. So ask him/her to do it.
Send a letter or postcard. Because this tactic is used so rarely, you'll stand out from the crowd. It's more expensive, so naturally you'll want to try it only for a very carefully chosen list of potential super affiliates.
Higher than usual commissions
As the Internet marketing arena becomes even more intensely competitive, some canny affiliate merchants pay key people in key places much higher than usual commissions. For example, 70% commissions and even 100% commissions are not uncommon.
You may recoil at the thought. If so, re-examine your marketing funnel. You should be feeding your customers into a marketing funnel which encourages them to buy more of your products, usually at gradually increasing prices, and perhaps earning you monthly membership fees.
If you have your back-end system carefully planned, you can afford to reward your affiliates generously for finding your customers.
Give them cash!
Here's a bold twist on an old idea. Years ago, I received a sales spiel in the mail from an affiliate merchant who was trying to persuade me to promote his product. To help attract attention to his offer, he had clipped a $1 banknote to the letter. I treated the offer seriously enough to read it through to the end.
Recently, I saw a modern update of that technique. I received an email from PayPal and the subject line was: “Here's $10 from ……” Now THAT made me sit up and take notice! Of course, this is a technique you'd want to use only on top affiliates you were really determined to lure, and you'd want to make sure you sent them to a VERY convincing web page where they could learn about you product and sign up.
UPDATE: How to recruit, motivate and manage your affiliates
Neil Durrant, Shawn Collins and Anik Singal have all written books or courses on how to create and run an affiliate program. However, those products are all now either out of date or off the market.
Now at last there's a really good, up-to-date course for affiliate managers which IS available.
It's Sales Army Secrets, in which highly successful affiliate merchant Jimmy D. Brown describes how to recruit, motivate and manage affiliates. It includes a description of 20 ways to recruit affiliates and a heap of really good tips on how to help and motivate them. It's superb value, written by a guy who is really good at this stuff. This is a MUST-HAVE book for all affiliate merchants.