How to Get Top-Performing Affiliates to Join Your Referral Program

Affiliate marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your project, and also brings some of the highest conversion rates. People that hear about your project through a referral are more likely to back it.

According to a study done by Nielsen, 84% of people trust purchase recommendations from friends and family over any other form of advertising. 

So, how do you encourage bloggers, publications, influencers, or even your customers to share your project with their networks?

You offer them something in return. 

With Kickbooster, you can offer your supporters and affiliates a commission on every referral they send you that leads to a pledge. So, for those that need a little extra encouragement to help you spread the word, you can incentivize them with a cash kickback on the funds they help you raise. And for those that were prepared to help you out for free— it’s a nice way to say thanks for their efforts! 

This blog will provide an overview of the types of affiliates you can work with, how to approach them, and what you can offer them, as well as a few tips and tricks on getting affiliates to join your referral program. 

Who should join your referral program?

Everyone will tell you to ask your friends and family first because, well, they’re your friends and family— they have to support you! But do you really think your retired mother’s book club is your ideal target market for your innovative new gadget? Maybe, but probably not.

Instead of focusing on getting a lot of people to participate in your referral program, channel your effort and energy into finding the right people.

We’ve worked with THOUSANDS of crowdfunding campaigns, and always see the same things. The most successful campaigns start preparing their marketing strategy and building a list of prospective backers and promotional partners months before their campaign is set to launch.

These creators are strategic with who they work with; they identify individuals and brands that share the same target demographic and seek opportunities to collaborate.

Here are the types of affiliates you should focus your energy on securing, and how you should approach them:

Content Creators

The media: press, publishers, bloggers

Getting participation from media outlets can be challenging, but can also have one of the highest impacts given their extensive, targeted reach. Do some research to find publications that appeal to audiences that are similar to your target customer. Compile a list of your top choices and begin reaching out. You can increase your chances of getting coverage by doing the following:

1. Write a press release

Press releases are brief news stories that relay the most important information and facts that media outlets can use to reproduce your story for their audience. Reporters and writers are much more likely to cover your story if you make it easy for them to do so— a press release is a great way to accomplish this! 

Check out this blog to learn how to get press coverage for your crowdfunding campaign, and to download a free press release template.

2. Create a media kit

Providing a full media kit makes it even easier for the press to write about you. This way, they don’t have to waste time digging for information and assets across all of your digital channels to piece together a story. This also allows you to have more control over how you and your project are portrayed by the media. You can provide assets that are reflective of your brand, images and videos that beautifully display your project, and any other relevant information to ensure they get it right. 

Your media kit should include:

  • Your press release
  • Your campaign images
  • Fact sheets
  • Spec sheets
  • Your company / team information
  • Your contact information

3. Send in a sample

Including a sample of your product with your media kit and sending it to your top press choices is sure to garner some attention! Your recipient will feel far more connected to you and your project if they have had the opportunity to hold something tangible in their hands and experience it themselves. 

It is important to set a certain number of samples aside for this purpose ahead of time. You don’t want to lose out on a partnership opportunity because you couldn’t get your product into the hands of your recipient in time.

4. Offer a commission 

Bloggers, publications, and other media outlets are always looking for a way to monetize their content, while writing and recommending products that are suitable for their audience. Build relationships with relevant content creators and offer them an incentive for helping get your product in front of the audience they worked so hard to build. Content creators will be more receptive to your request for coverage if they know they can benefit from it too.

Instead of offering to pay a set amount for a feature with no guarantee of a return on your investment, allow your content partner to grab their own Kickbooster tracking link to use in their story, and offer them a cash commission on any pledge you get through that link. Both you and your content partner will be able to monitor the results in your very own dashboards, providing complete transparency. The uncapped earning potential for your content partner will inspire a favourable story and encourage them to help push your project. After all, they only get paid when you do! 


Partnering with influencers in your industry is easily the most effective marketing strategy. In fact, nearly 90% of marketers report that their ROI from influencer marketing meets or exceeds other marketing channels (source).

An influencer is anyone who has the power to affect the purchase decisions of others. Their influence on others can be a result of authority, expertise, status, or their relationship with their audience. An influencer can often be identified by a large following on social media— but don’t be fooled! A smaller, niche following usually has a greater impact than a large, broad following. 

Vloggers on platforms like YouTube tend to be very effective influencers for crowdfunding campaigns. Searching for YouTube reviews of products that are similar to yours is a great way to identify these influencers. 

For example, if you are running a Kickstarter campaign for a cool new tripod you should consider searching for photographers and videographers with large, niche followings. Search for terms like “the best camera accessories” and see who ranks in the top results. 

YouTube influencers

Visit these creators’ profiles to find contact information or links to their other social media profiles. 

A similar method can be used to find niche bloggers and social media influencers. Try searching for similar products in Google, and see who is already writing about them.

In order for these influencers to do a real, honest review, they will need a physical sample. This a great way to get a foot in the door and avoid a hard “ask”. Contact the influencer to tell them about your project and your upcoming campaign, and ask if you could get their feedback on your product. Once they have had a chance to try it out, let them know about your referral program. 

The influencer will feel much more motivated to put the time into creating an attractive review if they know the quality of their content will have an impact on the amount they earn in return for helping you promote your project. 

Remember: coordinating samples and influencer partnerships should be done weeks, if not months, before your campaign goes live. Plan ahead and be prepared!


Past and present customers are great ambassadors for your brand. If you already sell products or have even tested out the product in your campaign with a group of people, you should consider inviting them to participate in your referral program. This group can speak directly to the quality of the product, or if they haven’t tried the product you’re crowdfunding, they can at least speak to their experience of doing business with you.

Reach out to your customer list through an email newsletter or by direct invite and let them know that you’re offering an opportunity for them to earn some extra cash for helping you promote your project. You may even want to consider offering your customers a higher commission rate for their efforts to show your appreciation. 

This leads us to our next question…

How much should you offer your affiliates? 

The amount you offer your affiliates is ultimately up to you. Your commission rate offer should fall within the boundaries of two important numbers:

  1. The cost of creating your product; and
  2. The price you are selling your product for

For example, if you are raising funds for your innovative take on a smartwatch which costs you $120 (including labour, overhead, etc.) to make and plan to sell it for $160, you have a $40 profit margin (or 25%) to pull from. 

Net profit margin = (net sales – cost of goods sold) / net sales

The highest commission you could offer your affiliates in this scenario is 25%, which would allow you to break even. Obviously, you want to make a bit of money! You could offer your affiliates a 10% commission, and still take home 15%. 

Instead of offering one standard commission rate to all of your affiliates, you could also offer tiered rates to your different types of affiliates like SwitchPod did for their Kickstarter campaign

The first tier of SwitchPod’s affiliates received the highest commission rate and was reserved for influencers. The second tier received the second highest rate, and was intended for friends and family members that wanted to help support the project. The third and final tier was open to anyone who loved the product and wanted to help spread the word about the campaign.

This model allowed SwitchPod to incentivize bigger influencers to help them promote their project, while still saying thanks to their friends, family, and community members that showed up to support them.

Additional ways to promote your referral program.

While direct contact is always a safe bet for inviting affiliates to participate in your referral program, there is more you can do to help improve your program’s visibility:

1. Share it everywhere! Include a blurb about, and a link to, your referral program:

  • On your website
  • On your social media profiles
  • On your Kickstarter or Indiegogo page
    (download a Kickbooster banner)
  • In your email newsletters
  • In your email signature
  • And anywhere else your brand exists!

2. Talk to vendors who supply complementary products.

If a company sells products that pair well with yours, you should invite them to join your referral program to share your project with their customers. 

For example, if you are raising funds for an awesome photography travel bag that fits camera gear perfectly, you may want to approach a company that sells cameras. The company can send an email about your campaign to their customers, and get a cash Kickback on every pledge they help you raise!

3. Write about it. 

Whether you share it on a blog, your social media, or in an email, you should explain what your referral program is all about and make a compelling argument for why people should join. They won’t know if you don’t tell them! 

4. Run online advertisements. 

You can run paid online advertisements to target those who may be interested in backing or helping promote your project. There are a few different audiences you should consider targeting with ads:

  1. Past customers. Platforms like Facebook allow you to upload your customer list with unique identifiers, like an email address. Facebook will take the contact information you provide and match it with profiles on their platform, allowing you to run ads exclusively to your customers.
  2. Lookalike audiences. You can target people who are similar to your customers by creating a “lookalike” audience. Facebook will examine your customer list to find similar attributes like common interests, age range, gender, or geographic location, and find others on the platform that also share these characteristics. Here’s how to set this up.
  3. Engaged audiences. You can also serve ads to people who have engaged with your content in the past. An “engagement” could be classified as a comment on your post, a view of your video, a visit to your website, etcetera. The level of engagement you want to target is up to you, and can be adjusted in your selected platform’s ad manager.
  4. Industry or niche audiences. Targeting people that are interested in your industry is another great way to seek prospective affiliates. For example, if you’ve created a cool new mechanical gaming keyboard, you should consider serving ads to people who are interested in things like PC gaming, roleplaying games, World of Warcraft, etc.

5. Piggyback your other marketing efforts.

If you are already producing videos, ads, or other marketing pieces for your campaign, you should include a bit of info about your referral program. Why do extra work when you can just incorporate it into what you are already doing? 

6. Offer an additional incentive.

You can create fun competitions for your affiliates to compete for special perks! For example, you could offer the top 10 affiliates that helped you raise the most money an early shipment date so they get to enjoy your product before anyone else. 

Key takeaways

If done correctly, affiliate marketing can be extremely lucrative. Thanks to tools like Kickbooster, it is now easier than ever to set up a referral program and run it with minimal effort and maintenance. 

Think of affiliate marketing like word-of-mouth advertising— with incentives. Offering a referral program encourages your customers, supporters, and even industry influencers to share your project with their respective audiences in exchange for a reward. It’s win-win: they do all the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting your project, you get the pledge, and they get a kickback to thank them for their efforts. It is important to remember that it is up to you to get people to participate in your referral program. If they don’t know about it, they can’t help you! 

Another critical element that will influence the success of your campaign is your preparedness.

It’s no secret, and it certainly isn’t magic— campaigns that perform well and crush their funding goal are prepared.

Start early, build your email list, and have your affiliates lined up BEFORE your crowdfunding campaign launches. Use the tips and tricks in this article to get the right affiliates in your referral program, and more backers for your campaign!