Why ongoing affiliate recruitment is non-negotiable for your affiliate program

Publication date
Imogen Beech
Reading time
7 minute read

The stats behind affiliate marketing are impressive. In fact, affiliate marketing in the UK has an outstanding ROI ratio of 1:16, according to Awin

So, it’s no surprise that businesses all over the world are hopping on the bandwagon. Influencer Marketing Hub’s Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report for 2022 revealed that 80% of advertisers run an affiliate program, and the affiliate marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $15.7 Billion by 2024.

However, for brands who create an affiliate program for their business, it can be tempting to adopt a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ mindset. 

Brands that adopt this attitude won’t find success and will instead miss out on a wealth of untapped opportunities. An affiliate program requires ongoing maintenance and attention – in particular when it comes to recruitment. Here, we’ll reveal why continuous publisher recruitment is essential, and the stats behind it.

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Why is continuous affiliate recruitment so important?

According to figures from IAB Australia’s Advertiser Industry Review 2022, 83% of advertisers add affiliates to their program monthly. This is a promising figure which is expected to rise still further in 2023, as we move into a post-pandemic growth phase.

Here’s why these savvy brands are those that will win big when it comes to affiliate marketing, both in the long and short term.

The affiliate landscape keeps changing

Affiliate marketing is an industry that’s constantly evolving and shifting to take into account new consumer behaviours and technologies. Brands that continuously recruit partners to their programs will be best placed to take advantage of new affiliate industry trends

Consider how valuable influencers are today. 59% of companies now use influencers for affiliate marketing (according to Kinsta) – yet they weren’t at all prevalent in their current form at the inception of affiliate marketing.

Similarly, the last decade has seen a boom in eCommerce and smartphones – both of which have hugely impacted affiliate tactics and the ways that consumers absorb content online.

As the evolution of partner marketing continues, brands that continuously seek out affiliates that are pushing industry boundaries will be able to get ahead of their competitors.

Just look at the big growth we saw in areas like behavioural targeting. Affiliates who were happy to work on a CPA basis became a great way for brands to test a relatively new concept with little risk or upfront investment.

Affiliates come and go

Affiliates are constantly entering and leaving the industry. The big earners for your affiliate program today won’t necessarily be your big earners tomorrow.

As revealed in our bumper selection of strategic partnership stats, 80% of sales generated from affiliate marketing are made by just 20% of affiliates. However, that doesn’t mean that the same entities will remain in that 20% year after year.

You want to make sure that the biggest volume drivers are on your program this year, but also next year and the year after. 

Imagine your affiliate program is a ship that’s sprung a leak. By constantly adding new affiliates to your program, you’ll be able to keep it afloat and keep your conversions via affiliate marketing on target.

It’s also worth remembering that failing to recruit new affiliates who enter your niche won’t just mean you miss out on potential conversions. It will also mean giving your competitors a leg up as any affiliates you don’t recruit could quickly partner up with competitor brands.

Hedge your bets

You want your affiliate program to contain a diverse range of affiliates who use different tactics to promote your brand and gain conversions.

Just think: 15 or so years ago, PPC affiliates were the major volume drivers, but this was short-lived. Imagine what it must have been like for all those brands whose affiliate programs were bursting with affiliates using these tactics.

Similarly, up until relatively recently, voucher code sites were the dominant affiliates. However, they now sit alongside many other types, from social media influencers to bloggers and comparison sites using SEO to gain traffic. Longtail affiliates who have a smaller following and a very specific affiliate niche have in particular risen in prominence by promoting a brand’s products to a small but highly-targeted audience.

Making sure that your affiliate program contains a spread of all these different affiliates will prevent you from being over-reliant on one type, which is crucial to long-term success. It will also ensure you make the most of all the diverse opportunities out there. 

Unfortunately, brands that don’t actively recruit affiliates on an ongoing basis are likely to end up with a high proportion of voucher and coupon sites in their affiliate programs, as these are the affiliates most likely to find your program passively. We’ll explain why a bit later, when we delve into the ins and outs of passive versus active publisher recruitment. 

Respond to your brand’s needs

We’ve talked a lot about the changing affiliate marketing landscape. But what about your brand? We’d be surprised if your goals and targets today remained the same next quarter, let alone next year!

Your affiliate strategy should reflect the needs of your brand and help you reach your company-wide long and short-term objectives. 

For instance, which products or services are you looking to push? Are you hoping to expand into any specific markets? What stage of the customer journey and lifecycle do you need to optimise?

While affiliate program success typically gets measured based on revenue, success for your brand might be something different entirely. You might, for example, want to look at new versus returning customers, or the number of leads sourced by affiliates (as opposed to conversions). Our blog on strategic partnership KPIs goes into this in a little more detail.

It’s important that you recruit affiliates continuously to reflect your brand’s changing goals.

You’ll also want to regularly analyse your affiliate program itself to assess what’s working and what isn’t. This includes noting which partners are earning the most for your brand, as well as which tend to be the most happy and engaged affiliates. You can use these learnings to focus your ongoing recruitment efforts on affiliates that are likely to add the most value to your brand.

Another positive that will come from regularly analysing your program’s performance is that you’ll notice any important changes, like a key affiliate dropping down the charts. This will allow you to quickly spot major players that are changing their allegiances to your competitors!

Publisher recruitment

The stats behind ongoing publisher recruitment

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for… the stats to back us up!

Commission Junction looked at network data over the course of five years to measure exactly what impact continuous affiliate recruitment has on business growth. So, what did they find?

  • 60% of a business’ affiliate program revenue comes from affiliates who are recruited after the first year.
  • Affiliate programs that are actively recruiting publishers see on average 2x the growth rate in a five-year period.

In other words, yes, the brands’ pre-existing affiliates did contribute a good percentage of revenue. But most of the revenue generated through the brands’ affiliate programs came directly from publishers that were recruited more recently.

The learning? The affiliates you recruit most recently have the best chance of earning highly for your program. Pause your affiliate recruitment and you’ll miss out on a ton of revenue!

Additionally, note how the affiliate programs that grew the most were those that were actively recruiting. So, if your goal is to grow your affiliate program (hint: it should be if you want to maximise its earning potential), affiliate recruitment needs to be a core investment.

But what do we mean by actively recruiting?

Passive versus active recruitment for your affiliate program

Passive recruitment is when an affiliate discovers your affiliate program on their own. In other words, they find you

On the other hand, active recruitment is when an affiliate discovers your affiliate program because of your recruitment methods – essentially, you’ve found them and recruited them to your program.

We know what you’re thinking: wow, there’s a way to get affiliates to join my program without having to invest time and money into recruitment? Sounds like a done deal!

Well, not exactly. The problem is that if you rely on passive recruitment – ie. twiddling your thumbs while you wait for affiliates to join your program – you’ll end up with a disproportionate number of voucher and coupon sites in your affiliate program.

AM Navigator turned off active recruitment on a non-paying client’s affiliate program and recorded what happened. While they still received around one application per day, the balance was massively skewed in favour of coupon sites:

  • Coupons: 53%
  • Content: 17%
  • Social: 12%
  • Directories: 12%
  • Cashback: 6%

Now, having coupon or deal sites on your affiliate program is no bad thing, but you want to make sure that they’re balanced out by other kinds of affiliates too. 

Remember what we said earlier: it’s important to have a diverse range of affiliates who use a variety of tactics to promote your products and brand. That way, you can avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, and minimise untapped opportunities.

Affiliates who use social media, content and paid search are less likely to find you passively. So, it’s vital that you proactively find them and recruit them to your program. 

Just bear in mind that these affiliates will all have different needs and business models. They’re also likely to be bombarded with generic messages asking them to join various affiliate programs and platforms. So, sending out a non-personalised drip campaign just won’t cut it.

Instead, you’ll need to put some effort into identifying prospective partners across a range of categories, and recruiting them in a way that’s personal and meets their needs. That’s where Breezy comes in! 

Our powerful partner search engine can help you quickly and easily pinpoint a variety of prospective affiliates, group them according to key characteristics, and request their contact information ready for outreach.

Recruitment affiliate program

Affiliate recruitment key takeaways

Ongoing affiliate recruitment is absolutely essential if you want to grow your affiliate program. But with the industry evolving so quickly and 60% of an affiliate program’s revenue coming from affiliates who’ve been recruited within the last five years, continuous recruitment is also a non-negotiable if you’re going to keep your conversions via affiliates in the right zone to meet targets.

Remember also that affiliates are constantly entering the industry. Recruiting on an ongoing basis will ensure that you’re keeping up with affiliate industry trends and that new affiliates’ skills are used to bring revenue to your business, rather than your competitors!

Convinced? Good! Then all that’s left is to go out there and find affiliate marketers. And then go out there and find some more!

Luckily, Breezy can help. Our partner intelligence and discovery platform can save you hours on affiliate discovery. It’s also packed with features that will ensure you make the most of all your untapped potential, from powerful gap analysis to data on niche ecosystems. 

Simply book a demo to learn how we can help make your affiliate recruitment (much!) easier and more effective.

Speak to us to level up your partner discovery.

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Imogen Beech

Imogen is a copywriter and content writer with over two years’ experience writing about the exciting world of strategic partnerships, as well as running her own business. She loves learning about new topics as she writes, and has enjoyed penning articles on industries ranging from mortgages to events, theatre to home improvements and everything in between.

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