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Affiliates, publishers, and other referral partners like you are always looking to work with the best brands to increase your revenue opportunities. But getting on retail partners’ radars and joining their programs can be a challenge even if you’re well-established and have executed high-performing campaigns in the past. It’s even more of a challenge for long-tail and mid-size content sites that are looking to either start working as referral partners, or to get the attention of bigger brands that have larger payouts.

Some brands are willing to accept any kind of content partner into their programs, while others take a little bit of time to be won over. Some are following the cyclical nature of the partnership life cycle and actively recruiting, while others will engage in recruitment efforts just once a quarter.

No matter the merchant partner’s prerogative, there are several ways that mid-size and long-tail content partners can position themselves to get their attention. There are three different levers that you should look to use to get on a brand’s radar: recognition, money, and time.

1. Name recognition can break the ice

Having name recognition is the most helpful factor for getting noticed by merchant partners. After all, the people who run their partnership programs are consumers too, so they’ll recognize the content and affiliate sites that they actively visit, or have at least heard of. Sites like Rakuten Rewards (formerly Ebates) or companies like Cartera have plenty of name recognition.

Name recognition by association can be powerful, too. If you’ve seen success as a publisher working on other credible platforms or with other noteworthy retailers in complementary verticals, dropping their names can help legitimize your proposition. 

2. Value exchange: It’s about more than money

If you lack name recognition, the next best option is to promote the value exchange that brands will receive by working with your site. Retailers who are having trouble getting partners to work with them can often buy their way into paid placements. Publishers don’t have that luxury. Instead of money, you need to show that you can bring your brand partners traffic volume and conversions.

Retailers who are having trouble getting partners to work with them can often buy their way into paid placements. Publishers don’t have that luxury. Instead of money, you need to show that you can bring your brand partners traffic… Click To Tweet

This can be an especially powerful value add for niche partners to promote. While merchant brands are typically evaluating potential partner sites against the rest of the internet, smaller niche content sites can prove their value by explaining just how much of the traffic they hold in their domain of expertise. For example, if your site specializes in rock climbing and is the third most-visited site in the rocking-climbing community, that gives you leverage when trying to get on the radar of brands that might want to gain exposure to rock climbers or adventure enthusiasts.

Along with traffic, promote conversion rate stats. If you can show that your niche audience converts at a very high rate, then experienced partnership managers will understand that this kind of engaged community could be lucrative for their brand. Even if you’ve only been participating in content and affiliate partnerships for a short period of time, promote your successes. That’s a great way to gain attention as a valuable partner.

3. Time: If you have it, use it.

The final piece is time, and if you’re lacking both brand recognition and a performance history, then you need to devote lots of time to getting on brands’ radar. Whether you’re just starting out participating in partnership programs or looking to partner with bigger brands, you need to devote time to hitting the phones, emailing potential partners, and applying to partnership programs.

Putting in that time can pay off in a big way. Affiliate and content partners that use Impact’s UI to apply for partnership programs can access brand contact information. Even if you have not been accepted to a program yet, you can download pending insertion order lists, which include brand contact information.

Armed with this list of contacts, you can execute a drip campaign for getting noticed by the partner brand, tracking how many times you’ve emailed or called the prospective brands. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and making contact with a brand partnership program manager makes it more likely that they’ll give you a chance (this is especially true for retail brands, where there is little risk in adding more partner sites). Other brands may not recruit you quite as easily, but making contact with them creates an opportunity for them to explain their criteria, and give you feedback on how to improve and get on their radar in the near future. In the event that your application is denied at first, use this same process to follow up — you’ll be able to make your case and demonstrate your engagement, which can be grounds enough for their reconsideration.

Ideally, you will be able to push all three of these levers in order to get noticed by merchant partners. But having just one could make enough of a difference to impress a brand and get on the road to earning more revenue and becoming a valuable part of their program. Freshly launched sites or those that are relatively new to partnerships may lack the name recognition or a track record of providing value, and as a result will have to fall back on using as much time as possible to get on the map. 

Want more tips on getting connected to brands? Contact a growth technologist at welcome@impact.com and we’ll give you ideas geared toward your personal circumstances. 

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