Like many things, there’s a right way and an “okay” way to onboard new affiliates. Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re interested in learning how to bring on affiliate partners in such a way that they will be extremely motivated to sell your products. Want affiliate rockstars? READ ON…

How to onboard affiliates the right way

Who Is This Article For?

So, you’ve got some new affiliates interested in promoting you.

Now what?

How do you transform them into superstars who will do EVERYTHING they can to sell your products?

That’s what today’s post is all about…helping your affiliates BLAST OFF the launch pad!

Quick story before we get going…

My friend, Alan Thomas, came to me the other day. I had referred some people to him as affiliates.

Alan has his own business. He coaches men on losing weight and, although he’s doing well, he wants to get his message out to more people. He’s got his sights set on Mick Jagger and Gene Simmons status…

So he says to me…

“Matt, you sent me all these affiliates. Thank you. But how can I get them laser-focused on selling my product?”

I told him I’d be happy to share my recipe and then…completely forgot to do it!

So Alan, this post is for you and anyone else who wants to bring on affiliates in a way that almost GUARANTEES a ‘win-win’ profitable relationship.

NOTE: If you are interested in partnering with Alan, check out this affiliate program here.

What’s Your Starting Point?

Your affiliate onboarding strategy will depend on where you’re at.

If your program is brand new, you’re likely getting an average of one affiliate per day. At that rate, you can easily hop on the phone and welcome them aboard personally. However, if you have an established program, you’re probably bringing on 10 new affiliates daily. That calls for a different strategy.

When I ran the affiliate programs for Shutterfly and Adidas, we were getting 300-400 affiliates per day…especially from November 1st through Christmas. It was crazy. There was no way I could get on the phone with many of them, so that wasn’t an option.

But for most of you, it is. So do it!

So, I’m going to take you through an onboarding journey today – whether you have a beginner affiliate program or you’ve been up and running for a while.

Many of the strategies apply to either situation.

Regardless of where you’re starting from, the key is to “wow” your new affiliates!

Why You Should Become an Affiliate Yourself

The key is: always be looking at things from your affiliates’ perspective.

What do THEY want?

A good way to understand this better is to become an affiliate yourself. I’m a MUCH better affiliate manager now because I’ve walked in those shoes.

That’s how I learned that speed and ease of use are paramount.

All set? Okay, let’s walk through the steps for making your affiliates feel like they’re an important part of your team. (Alan, this one’s for you, bud!)

If you are ready to take your business to the next level and start an affiliate program, start with my free report, Your First 100 Affiliates. This report takes nearly two decades of experience, trial and error, and lessons learned about finding top affiliates in nearly every conceivable niche and puts them all into one report. Grab your copy here!

10 Steps For Onboarding Affiliates The RIGHT Way!

1) Be prepared to help them to set up.

Kind of a no-brainer, right? Especially for the early ones who join your program. Some may be affiliates in other programs. You want them to see that you handle the onboarding process in a far superior way than anyone else. Give them the “white-glove” treatment.

Remember the golden rule: Treat your affiliate how you would like to be treated.

Sure you could just fire off a link and say, ‘go fill this out’.

Not sure about you but THAT ticks me off when someone takes that approach. I’m busy. This is not an ego thing. I might not be able to get the form filled out at that time. I might forget about it. Four days later, I might still not be signed up. To me, that’s YOUR fault as the affiliate manager, not mine.

Around here, we white-glove it…we sign them up, we set up their account, and we get them their links. WE do all that. And we help them on the tech side as well adding them to relevant Google sheets or Excel spreadsheets or databases.

Do we have to? Nope! Does it make a difference in how they perceive us? You bet!

One of the things that I highly recommend is NOT using a system to send most of the emails. For example, if they’re in Infusionsoft, we don’t email them through Infusionsoft. Same for ConvertKit or any other email provider.

Here’s why…if they unsubscribe from my main list, they’re also unsubscribing from affiliate updates. They may not want to do that.

Here’s a really good example of what I mean: I’m on Jeff Walker’s list. I’ve subscribed to it two separate times. I had an affiliate account and had opted into some stuff using that email. Then, I had my regular subscriber account.

Every time he sent an email to his list, I got two of them. I clicked unsubscribe. I no longer got affiliate updates.

And I have seen this happen time and time again. That’s why we don’t use the system.

We use a mail merge tool called GMass. We also use second one. I don’t recommend one over the other. We use both of them pretty interchangeably. There are things I like about both, but we use those tools and we email them through a spreadsheet.

Now, if you’ve got 300,000 affiliates like we had at Shutterfly and Adidas, you can’t do that in a controlled way.

Bottom line: you need to add them to whatever database you’re using in addition to your regular system.

2) You need to send them a welcome message.

New Job Dance GIF by GreetPool

Who DOESN’T like a warm and inviting expression of welcome? The key is to make new affiliates FEEL like you’re really glad that they’re a part of your affiliate program. It’s called a “welcome” message for a reason. Think of how you would welcome someone into your home.

Forget the corporate-speak approach of  “Dear, sir. Thank you for being a part of our affiliate program.
We are honored and humbled.”

Really? I could write an entire article where I critique so-called “welcome” emails that affiliate managers send.

Make sure your welcome message FEELS like one.

3) You need to equip them with SUCCESS tools.

I’ve written an entire article on what affiliates need to succeed (and I highly recommend checking that out) but if you don’t read the article, at least know that the #1 tool affiliates need is SWIPE COPY!

KILLER swipe copy. They can use for every part of your promotion, whether it’s a launch or whatever. And puh-leeeeeease…hire a copywriter who can write it up objectively. You’re too close to the product to be objective.

Make sure your swipe copy includes images they might need.

And, send them different versions of your swipe copy for different target audiences.

Include links to different types of swipe copy. Some will go to short to 300-word emails. You’ll need some thousand-word emails. And then, you need some blurbs for things like newsletters, right?

Finally, teach your affiliates that swipe copy is to be used as a guide only. Don’t simply copy and paste the swipe copy as an affiliate. Otherwise, you could end up with a large number of affiliates all sending the exact same identical emails. Advise them to make the emails personal. Explain that they should use the swipe copy as a starting point.

Swipe copy arms your affiliates with the selling ammunition they need to succeed.


How to Write Swipe Copy for Your Affiliates

How to use Swipe Copy as an Affiliate

4) You need to build affiliate relationships.

Much success in business relies on nurturing relationships. LEARN about your affiliates. Get to know them. Visit their websites and research their promotional methods.

When I think back to my early affiliates…I can still name them. I can still tell you stories about them.

Obviously, as my programs got bigger, I began to be less and less involved but, in the early going, I made it a point to learn about them. Keep a database where you can record their spouses’ and children’s names. What sports did their kids play? What activities are they in? Where do they live?

If you’re talking to an affiliate for the fifth time, you shouldn’t need to be reminded of what part of the country they live in or if they are married or have kids. You should KNOW them really well.

Check out my podcast episode “How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Affiliates” to learn how.

5) Learn how they like to communicate.

You need to learn their preferred method of communication. I work with affiliates who only do WhatsApp. That’s ALL they use. So, I use it when I’m communicating with them.  I’ve got a couple of Skype users. For them, Skype it is. Then, there’s Voxer, email and text…Some people like getting phone calls. Others prefer Facebook, DMs, or Instagram DMs, things like that.

The easiest way to find out how they like to communicate is just to ask them. Do a quick survey.

When you take time to identify an affiliate’s preferred method of communication, you’re going to get better replies that way, which is going to benefit everyone.

6) Make sure they understand the basics.

The basics cover your program’s rules. They identify what affiliates are they allowed to do and not allowed to do.

  • For instance, are there any particular commission structures, any nuances, special commissions?  Like 50% on core sales, 30% on the membership, things like that. Not sure what commission structure to use? Check out this podcast episode to learn!
  • They need to know the products and the pricing. If you have ranges of prices, they need to know that. That’s going to allow them to market your product better and result in fewer questions on the back end.
  • Affiliates need to know important dates and time periods. And of course, if it’s a launch, they need to know not only when the launch starts but when the PROMOTION for the launch should get underway. Say the launch starts April 21st, the promotion may start on April 10th. What about the warm up period? Maybe late March? They need to know those things. You need to tell them and be clear about that.
  • What about commission payouts? Do you pay monthly for the previous month? Do you pay on the 15th? Do you pay, net 30? When do you pay, how do you pay?

They also need to know if there are bonuses are up for grabs. And, if you’re going to offer bonuses along with prizes and contests, they need to know how to contact you. Try to give them two ways to contact you…in addition to email.

7) Get on a strategy call with them.

One of the best things you can do to get your affiliates to promote early and mail more is to create a personal promotion plan with them.

Meet with your affiliates, one-on-one BEFORE the promotion and craft a custom plan. We actually call it a COMMITMENT plan. When the principles of commitment and consistency are invoked, people tend to follow through.

Usually what we found is that if we can get them to commit to a plan, they agree to do at least a few extra emails in addition to what they previously planned on sending.

The idea is to help them craft a personalized plan.

You can get the EXACT template we use to get affiliates to mail more here.

Putting together a personal plan works best when your affiliate program is smaller or when you’re only picking up a few affiliates. You might be able to stretch it to your top 20 or 30 over time. It’s hard to do with more than two people a day. That gets a little bit out of hand.

If your program is bigger, do them once or twice a week in small groups. That way, everybody who signed up in a given week gets together to do a promotion plan.

8) Use a quick start guide to onboard people.

Put together a short document that gets people going quickly…a quick start guide.

Ideally, it should be about two pages. If it dips into a third page, that’s fine.

The idea is to direct affiliates QUICKLY to things they want to know.

  • How do I get my links?
  • How do I create custom links?
  • How do I find a swipe copy?
  • How do I find images?
  • How do I find a blank?
  • How do I access my stats?
  • How do I log in?
  • How do I contact you?
  • What are the basic no-nos?
  • What’s working for others?
  • What are the mailing plans?
  • What’s the commission?

When the links to need-to-know information are all in one spot, it’s easy for affiliates to find what they’re looking for.

Get my #1 affiliate recruiting email (the one I’ve personally used to recruit thousands of affiliates in dozens of niches). Grab your copy here!

Affiliate Recruiting Email Template

9) Help affiliates get their first sale quickly.

You want an affiliate to make the first sale ASAP.

Obviously, if it’s a launch and you’re launching in April, and it’s January…you can’t really do anything for them there. But if it’s a regular program, use an incentive to help them get on the board.

For example, you could make an offer like this…’If you make your first sale within 10 days, I’m going to give you a hundred percent commission or a double commission…something like that. You need to decide what works for you but try to come up with something that will motivate them tt get that first sale.

I don’t mind if I lose a few bucks on the first sale. If you make three sales in your first month, I might give an affiliate a thousand dollar bonus if the numbers work.

Basically, you’re going to make almost no money on those three sales. That’s fine. It gets them going, right?

You want to give them a low barrier so they can gain some momentum. If you have enough affiliates, it’s actually costing you less money, but again, low barrier, fast-moving. That’s what we’re trying to get them to do.

10) You need to make it clear that you are there to help.

In today’s often impersonal world, there are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate you’re someone who “goes the extra mile.”

And it’s not hard to do.

Not only that, it’s the RIGHT thing to do when your working with affiliates who are in position to help you succeed.

All it takes is an awareness that your affiliates will appreciate being treated like the valued partners they are.

Be available beyond the multiple channels like we talked about. When they email, reply quickly. SHOW them you’re there to help. Be constantly on the lookout for ways to serve them. Make it abundantly clear that you are there to serve.

So now, you’ve got the onboarding plan.

You’re equipped to bring on affiliates the RIGHT way.


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

Or…check out some of my free reports to help you get on the right track:

Find Your First 100 Affiliates

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Affiliate Program Terms & Conditions Template

email for recruiting affiliates

Get My #1 Affiliate Recruiting Email

top mistakes to avoid with your affiliate program

Avoid The Top 20 Affiliate Program Mistakes

email templates for activating affiliates

Turn Inactive Affiliates into Your Best Affiliates

Affiliate email template for affiliate managers

Get My Template for Writing Affiliate Emails

Sales secrets of successful affiliate marketers

Affiliate Marketing Sales Secrets

Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing with a resources page

Learn How to Create a Resources Page

guide on how to write a product review with affiliate marketing

Learn How to Write a Product Review

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