Bootstrapping Your Affiliate Marketing Program: A Quick Guide to Getting Your First Affiliates

In this guide, we’ll look at how bootstrapping your affiliate marketing program can help you get your business up and running. We’ll also share tips on how to recruit your first affiliates so you can successfully implement effective affiliate marketing on a budget.


Affiliate marketing is a relatively straightforward way to jumpstart your growth journey. When done well, it’s one of the most effective marketing strategies businesses use to promote their offerings and bring them closer to potential customers.

In this guide, we’ll look at how bootstrapping your affiliate marketing program can help you get your business up and running. We’ll also share tips on how to recruit your first affiliates so you can successfully implement effective affiliate marketing on a budget

A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your First Affiliates

Over 80% of advertisers already use affiliate marketing to grow their businesses, and close to 10,000 affiliate-related services and companies will exist in 2023. Furthermore, as a global industry worth billions of dollars, affiliate marketing is projected to grow even bigger in the coming years, with affiliate marketing spending estimated to reach $15.7 billion by 2024.

However, getting started on affiliate marketing on a budget can be tricky, especially if you don’t know how to get started and recruit first affiliates. Bootstrapping your affiliate marketing program means cultivating strategic partnerships with non-competing businesses and partners with similar audiences or shared objectives. Through such collaborations, you can gain access to new markets, grow your brand’s exposure, and leverage shared resources while conserving resources. Below is a quick guide on how to bootstrap your affiliate network, recruit first affiliates, and create an effective affiliate marketing program on a budget.

Build a Good Foundation for Your Affiliate Program

David Kemmerer used affiliate marketing to generate funds and bootstrap his SaaS start-up. He and his partners started their bootstrapping journey by identifying popular products in their niche that shared the same target market and already had profitable affiliate programs.

You can also get off to a strong start with a solid foundation for your affiliate program. Before identifying and reaching out to affiliates, build a compelling affiliate program structure and implement a user-friendly affiliate tracking solution like trackdesk. When it comes to your commission structure, it’s best to consider the needs of your affiliates and your business to ensure that your offer remains competitive. What type of commission model will be most beneficial for you and your affiliates? 

What are your targets when it comes to metrics like retention rates and customer acquisition costs? Using the best affiliate network software can help streamline this process and provide the necessary tools for success.

Identify Your Ideal Potential Affiliates

Finding the right affiliate partners unlocks several benefits, such as boosting your brand credibility, reaching your target audience, driving conversions, and gaining high-quality leads. To identify the ideal partners for your brand, start by creating a profile of your ideal affiliate partner based on data, such as their demographics and metrics like follower count and engagement rates. If you already have existing affiliates, consider asking them for referrals. Trackdesk’s referral program is a great way to start finding potential affiliates.

You can also leverage affiliate networks or agencies to find affiliate partners. Working with affiliate networks like ShareASale helps you save time, given that they usually take care of activities like running your affiliate program, negotiating with affiliates, and tracking their performance. As an affiliate network, ShareASale provides solutions for affiliates, merchants, and agencies.


You can also use social media to find potential affiliates. You can start by using hashtags to find relevant content in your niche. When reaching out to potential partners using social media, it’s best to craft a personalised message to help you stand out. Include details like why you contacted them and why you think they’re a good fit for your brand. Give them a glimpse of the benefits of working with you.

Reach Out to Affiliates

One of the best ways to reach out to potential affiliate partners is to create engaging campaigns to encourage them to sign up for your program. You can do this by highlighting your program’s benefits, competitive commission structure, and incentives. Plus, having a well-designed affiliate program landing page helps attract potential partners and makes your affiliate program more visible. A good landing page for affiliates should have the right information, such as what affiliates need to do to start earning and clearly worded program terms and conditions. Your landing page should also be responsive regardless of the device affiliates are using.

Nurture Your Affiliate Marketers and Continue to Engage Them

Keeping your affiliates engaged not only helps with their performance but it also means making your affiliate program sustainable. Support your affiliates and help them grow by rewarding top performers and providing them with ongoing training to enhance their skills. Check-in with them regularly, ask for their feedback, and pay them correctly and on time. Keep them engaged by making useful resources easily accessible and making sure to keep them in the loop by sharing updates, any changes to your affiliate program, and relevant promotions with them.

Optimise and Grow Your Affiliate Program

A successful affiliate program is one that continues to find ways to improve. You can do this by tracking key metrics, monitoring affiliate performance, and tweaking your strategies based on data and feedback from your affiliates. It’s also crucial that you regularly test your landing page, as well as your offers. This helps you determine if they’re effective or if there are any areas for improvement. You can also look into using affiliate marketing software to make it easier for you to track and manage your affiliates and campaigns.

Common Challenges When You Recruit First Affiliates

Affiliate marketing on a budget can be a challenging feat, but it’s not impossible. However, for bootstrappers, it’s important to be aware of some of the biggest challenges you might be facing when bootstrapping your affiliate marketing program. Here, we’ll share some of the common challenges that plague bootstrappers and how you can address them.

Evolving Consumer Behaviours

Today’s consumers are less receptive to traditional marketing techniques, such as using high-pressure sales tactics or making grand promises. For brands and affiliate marketers, it’s becoming harder than ever to make believable claims and cut through the noise to get their products and services noticed by their target audience.

To effectively leverage affiliate marketing to bootstrap your company, you need to employ a different approach and perspective. Start by viewing affiliate marketing as a strategy for customer retention and not just a way to market your offerings. You also need to craft a consistent message and take proactive measures to keep your target audience engaged at different touchpoints to encourage them to take action.

How to Find the Right Affiliate Partners

Identify potential affiliate partners who best fit your brand. These include finding affiliates who match your business goals, culture, and mission. These are the brands or people who can help you achieve your business goals, share your target market, and who can effectively promote your product or service.

Setting Up a Competitive Rewards Program

Having a competitive rewards program is enticing to potential partners and is a great way to reward their efforts. Without an appealing rewards program, you might have a hard time finding the right affiliates for your brand or the current affiliates you’re working with might end up demotivated.

Look into offering different types of commissions, such as percentage-based commissions, flat fees, or special deals like discounts or free merchandise. You can also consider offering tiered rewards to incentivise top-performing affiliates or being flexible with your commission structures. Consider working with an experienced partnership manager who can help you develop your affiliate program, find the right affiliate partners for your brand, and build a proprietary affiliate partners pool.

How to Maintain Consistency in Branding and Messaging

Because you’ll be working with several partners, ensuring that your branding and messaging are consistent will be challenging. The risks of inconsistent branding and messaging include confusing or misleading consumers and the inability to build credibility for your brand.

Creating a comprehensive guidebook can help you and your affiliate partners maintain consistency in branding and messaging. Your brand guidebook may include tips on how affiliates should use your branding assets in their content, how they can customise their assets to fit your branding, and how affiliates can use your affiliate links in their content.

Creating a Budget for Affiliate Marketing Expenses

One of the biggest challenges for businesses with a limited budget is creating a budget for their affiliate marketing program. When you bootstrap your affiliate network, you’ll face many expenses, such as the cost of creative assets and determining a commission structure that won’t break the bank.

Stretch your affiliate marketing budget by using social media and email marketing to reach out to potential affiliates, implementing a tiered commission structure or a performance-based commission model instead of a fixed commission rate, and utilising user-generated content.

Trackdesk lets you establish your affiliate revenue stream with no upfront costs. In just three simple steps, you can get started crafting and launching your own affiliate program. Discover how trackdesk equips your affiliate program for success. Start for free.

How to Manage Affiliates

If you’re working with several affiliates, monitoring their performance and keeping them engaged can get tricky. Effective affiliate management means that your partners get paid on time, have access to useful resources, are engaged, and have their concerns addressed promptly. Your brand is also protected from fraudulent activities.

To properly manage your affiliates, you can look into hiring an experienced and skilled affiliate manager.  Trackdesk’s Partnership Managers Marketplace connects you with top-notch partnership managers who will help you set up, manage, and grow your affiliate program.

You can also use affiliate tracking software like trackdesk, which lets you easily set up affiliate tracking, create custom offers, and expand your affiliate network through branded registration forms for affiliates.


Affiliate Marketing on a Budget: How Bootstrapping Your Affiliate Marketing Program Can Lead to Success

Many companies have benefitted from bootstrapping their affiliate marketing program. For instance, Stephan Goss, the Founder and CEO of Zeeto, a self-serve lead generation platform, could bootstrap a traffic arbitrage business thanks partly to affiliate marketing. Another example of a bootstrapping success story is Alec Rose. Rose is an affiliate marketer who created websites and sold them for a significant amount of money. He created a second website using the funds he earned from recurring affiliate commissions. He hired an expert writer who could help him market a more expensive product offering and convert audiences into paying customers.

Another way affiliate marketing programs can help bootstrap a business or start-up and generate funds even without initial external investors is through working with other businesses so that you can earn commissions while developing your product.

An affiliate tracking software like trackdesk helps you kickstart your affiliate program and grow your business. Whether a SaaS company or a start-up, you can use trackdesk for affiliate tracking, affiliate management, and creating custom commissions.

Final Thoughts

Bootstrapping your affiliate marketing program can help you launch and grow your business. A bootstrap affiliate network is a great way to generate funds for your business, build relationships with affiliates who can promote your offerings, and bring your brand closer to your target audience. While getting started on affiliate marketing on a budget and learning how to recruit first affiliates can be complex, using an affiliate tracking platform like trackdesk can help you develop and manage your affiliate program more effectively. With trackdesk, you can launch and grow your affiliate program with no upfront costs. Discover how trackdesk’s features can empower your business today.

Geri Mileva

I have a passion for storytelling. I believe that a good story delivers value while capturing, influencing, and sustaining its intended audience. This has always been, and always will be, my primary aim as a writer.

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