It may sound obvious, but when launching your affiliate programme, undoubtedly the single biggest determinant in its success will be your ability to work with publishers who will drive the sales you’re after. The 80/20 principal is well known in the business and marketing world, and is just as relevant in the performance space – the majority of your affiliate sales will be driven by a small but strong core of publishers well-suited to promoting your brand. 

But how do you identify which publishers these are going to be for you? Let’s look at the steps you should take to find your best partners:

1. Reflect on your own brand and commercial objectives

Before embarking on a mission to maximise conversions through the affiliate channel, you’ll want to consider your wider commercial objectives, strengths, weaknesses, and position in the market to ensure you invest in the right partners to grow your business. 

Focused on new customer acquisition? Trying to increase your visibility in the search space? Struggling with low on-site conversion? Maybe you are looking to effectively re-target previous visitors? Perhaps you have a great product, but a small audience and what you really need is to increase your coverage and gain some strong exposure?

There are a many varied affiliates with their own specialisations operating in the industry, so whatever the challenges facing your business, or the specific objectives you’re trying to achieve, there is someone out there who can help you meet your goals.

2. Consider key stats and metrics 

An examination of some key metrics can give you a good indication of an affiliates capabilities as well as the potential volume they could drive. A good starting point is to look at unique monthly visitors, registered and active members, newsletter subscribers and social following, to give you an idea of the size of the audience your potential partner will provide you access to. 

Additionally, don’t overlook conversion rates, average order value and engagement measuring stats such as open rate and click-through to assess the likelihood your promotions will be engaged with and ultimately lead to conversions. All of this information should be available on your network’s interface.

3. Look at demographics and targeting ability

It’s said that the holy grail of advertising is to reach “the right person, at the right time, in the right place, with the right message”. 

It’s hard to understate the importance of getting your targeting right when it comes to traction and conversions, even more so if you are a particularly niche brand. A look at the demographics and behaviour of a potential partner’s audience, as well as their ability to isolate and target certain sectors of this audience can indicate how effective your promotions will be. Examples of traits to consider include age, gender, marital status, socio-economic group, profession, nationality or even location. Certain publishers will also keep track of listed user interests to help them get even more specific, whilst others are able to target based on user’s previous behaviour or activity. 

If you can reach the right audience with well targeted offers you’ll reap the rewards.

4. Competitor research and network insights

Competitor research is one of the most effective ways to find partners capable of effectively promoting your brand. If it’s working for similar merchants, then the likelihood is it will also work for you. 

If you are partnered with an affiliate network it is invaluable to consult with your account manager or point of contact – they can provide you with insights and advice on what has been tried, tested and proven to work within your particular vertical. If not, then you can conduct your own research by browsing affiliate sites within key publisher sectors to see which competitors are active and how they’re promoting.

5. Mix it up with a variety of publishers

Make sure you’re working with a variety of publishers, as different partners can target different audiences and target potential customers in an alternative way or at different points in the user journey. This can provide huge advantages for an advertiser.

Some of the main publisher sectors you’ll want to explore will include conversion experts such as cashback and voucher code sites. There are technology partners who can offer solutions ranging from increasing on-site conversion, email retargeting, programmatic display & retargeting and paid search. Editorial content sites including consumer champions and bloggers provide value that goes beyond conversion and can help to build brand trust and generate significant exposure. Comparison engines can also play a strong role in the consumer’s decision to buy. Beyond this, there is the loyalty sector and access to closed user groups through exclusive employee benefits programmes.

Besides diversifying your affiliate portfolio into different sectors, you should also consider working with several publishers from each sector (providing you have the resources to manage them) and by doing so, you can further increase your coverage to cover gaps in your programme.

Another advantage of a well-rounded affiliate programme is that it will be less reliant on any one particular publisher and will be less vulnerable to any sudden changes in the market.