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Attracting new partners has always been a challenge for brands. Most established programs need to continue to feed their pipeline, in the hopes of potentially finding a diamond in the rough. After all, that’s how affiliate networks originally got their start: Their main allure was gathering possible partners together in one place, to run a list for a powerful recruitment play. Even with less reliance today on affiliate networks, with the vast and ever-changing number of websites, blogs and influencers out there, finding and “wooing” the right partners remains a problem that must be solved.

There’s Google, you say? Sure, online searching is a genuinely strong and effective way to build a recruitment list. If you’re selling running shoes, for instance, where are potential customers hanging out? You can look at running clubs where people go for advice on how to become a better runner. Or blogs about running with a highly-targeted readership.

But searching is a time-consuming strategy. It’s also not nearly enough. Developing a good list is one thing, but lists are not relationships. Vetting partners; building ongoing, long-lasting connections; and creating value on both sides is a whole other effort.

So how can you nurture your budding partner relationships in ways affiliate networks never did?

Here are five ways that work to charm and court your potential partners:

  1. Offer direct signup links. Traditional affiliate networks typically only offer potential partners the option to sign up to the entire network, so potential partners may be forced into an entire network of options — including, potentially, your competition. The right platform can offer a direct, unique signup link on your homepage, which makes it easy for them to sign up specifically for your program.
  2. Provide flexibility in tracking and commissions. In the past, traditional affiliate networks offered limited, restrictive payout options (a link or a click to one type of payment, for instance), the latest technology platforms provide many more possibilities. You can choose how you want to work with your partners (and how they might like to work with you), which makes it easier when you find or attract non-traditional partners.
  3. Be available and responsive. Many partners apply to programs and assume they will just end up in a black hole of applications. Some brands may, indeed, forget to manage their applications regularly, so potential partners don’t get a prompt response. But making sure partners can find and reach you is a simple way to attract the best ones. Make your contact information available and respond to outreach ASAP.
  4. Offer transparent payouts. Partners appreciate clarity. So being crystal-clear about how you’re going to pay and what you’re going to pay out on is a must for a good partner relationship. That means defining what’s valuable to your program and paying accordingly. With the right technology platform you can set payouts to optimize for those high-value elements and attract partners who can rise to the challenge.
  5. Consider feel-good payment offerings. What are others in your vertical offering when it comes to payment? Can you sweeten their offer in a way that keeps your own costs down? For example, one low-cost, feel-good opportunity to consider is expanding your cookie duration, or the amount of time that a partner has to convert a customer to make a sale. If others are offering 15 days, you can offer 25. Keep in mind, most people purchase within just a few days of clicking, so while such an offer builds trust, it may not cost extra money.

There’s no doubt that drawing the right partners to your program is a challenge you can’t afford to ignore. Finding and attracting new partners that drive revenue is vital to the growth of your brand, but creating a list — even if it’s a good list — is far from enough. Instead, ease, flexibility, responsiveness, transparency and fair payment structure are the key to wooing your best partners (and you don’t even have to buy roses!).

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