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Cold Email Affiliate Marketing: 5 Best Strategies and Templates

Cold email affiliate marketing is a spectacular way to make more sales — and they’re lucrative sales, since generally your cold emails will generally promote high-paying software products with recurring revenue.

But… affiliate marketing with cold email is really hard for most people to do.

It doesn’t have to be.

In this article:

  • I’ll cover the four big things you need to know before you start promoting affiliate offers with cold email.
  • I’ll share five strategies for a successful affiliate outreach campaign — tips I’ve gotten from experts themselves.
  • I’ll also share five sample templates you can adapt for your affiliate email marketing campaigns.
  • And finally, I’ll show you how to set up your campaigns in GMass so you can send personalized cold email outreach at scale.

Quick plug! GMass has a fantastic affiliate program. Get extremely high recurring payments (50% year one for individual plans, 20% of years two and three) with instant approval into the program.

And you can use all the techniques in this article, since we allow for cold emailing promotions.

Cold Email Affiliate Marketing: Table of Contents

What Is Cold Emailing for Affiliate Marketers?

Cold email for affiliate marketers is outreach to a potential customer who would have an interest in purchasing the affiliate product you’re promoting.

It’s “cold” because you don’t have a prior relationship with the people you’re contacting. Much like cold calling, you’re reaching out to targeted prospects who have a clear need for what you’re promoting.

Cold emails are not spam emails when you’re sending a personalized and relevant message to each prospect.

4 Essential Things You Need to Know Before You Promote Affiliate Products in an Cold Email Campaign

1. If you’re a cold email veteran, promoting affiliate products is different than what you’re used to

The vast majority of cold outreach pros are promoting their own product (or their own company’s product) or service. Cold emailers understand how to do that.

Promoting a third-party product? That requires a whole different approach.

One that catches cold emailers totally off guard.

As you’ll see in the tips below, a cold affiliate promotion can be confusing to recipients — why are you sending an email trying to get them to buy someone else’s product? It’s suspicious.

So your cold email template will need to address that elephant in the room (on top of all the other things a cold outreach message needs to do).

Also, I know lots of cold emailers are terrified of including links in messages out of email deliverability concerns. In this situation, you’ll need to include your affiliate link — so brace yourself.

2. If you’re an affiliate marketer, promoting via cold outreach is different than what you’re used to

You may be a master of promoting via blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, or even a traditional opt-in email marketing campaign.

Cold email is different. You’re sending a succinct, unannounced sales email where you have about 150 words or less to convince someone to buy someone else’s product based on the recommendation from you, a stranger.

Oh, and it needs to feel like a personalized email not just a mass email or generic marketing automation.

You’ll need a whole new bag of tricks and techniques here.

3. You need to make sure the affiliate program you’re promoting allows for cold email

Not every company wants you promoting their product or service through an outreach campaign.

Amazon, which is the world’s most popular affiliate partner program, famously doesn’t allow you to put an affiliate link in email — cold or from an opt-in email list.

Plenty of other programs have similar rules; make sure you aren’t running afoul of a program’s rules with your affiliate marketing cold email.

Note: The GMass affiliate program is one that allows for you to sell via cold email. (But NOT spam.)

4. Cold affiliate outreach needs to be B2B only

As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible for your cold campaign to cross a line — and get swept up by the spam filters — if you’re not really speaking to an engaged, receptive target audience.

Doing B2C cold affiliate marketing can get you in trouble; B2B is a much safer bet from a legal perspective. (I’m not a lawyer, though — make sure you understand local laws and consult your own attorney before you get started.)

Alright.

Now that we’ve covered all that, let’s talk strategy.

Here are the tips I’ve learned from my own experiences and from talking to experts who have found success in promoting an affiliate offer via a cold email campaign.

I’ve also included a sample cold email template with each strategy — make sure to adapt these to make them your own and don’t use them word-for-word.

Strategy #1. Be clear and honest about your relationship to your offer

Who are you and why are you promoting someone else’s product or software? It doesn’t make sense on the surface.

Though many cold emailers have lost this thread, at its core, effective cold email marketing is about establishing a genuine, honest, personal business relationship with your recipient.

And in the affiliate situation, you need to be honest and clear: You’re not promoting this software out of the kindness of your heart.

Make sure to pick the right language. You don’t need to say, “I’m an affiliate marketer.” Use better language like “I’m a partner” or “My job is matching up companies with software that’s a perfect fit.”

When you lay your cards on the table, you disarm your prospect because it no longer looks like you’re trying to fool them.

You’re making it clear you’re selling something — and then, as we’ll cover, you’ll establish why you’re selling it and why they should buy it from you.

Sample affiliate email marketing template focusing on honesty about who you are

Hi {FirstName|auto-first|there}!

I saw {BusinessName} is having everyone return to the office… which isn’t always the most popular decision.

One way to make that transition a little happier: Make your staff even more comfortable than they were at home.

I’m a partner for Steelbeam, which makes the most comfortable (yet affordable!) office chairs ever. I would know. I only decided to start promoting their chairs after I bought one… and never wanted to stand up.

You can check out their chairs on the Steelbeam website. I recommend the Steel Jump. I’m sitting on it as I write this to you right now!

Jeff Smith

Partner, Steelbeam Chairs

Cold email affiliate marketing template 1

Setting this up in GMass

The email above is pretty basic, so it’s not going to take much to set it up in GMass.

You’ll want to create a Google Sheet of prospects with columns for their email addresses, first names, and business names — that way you can do a Google Sheets mail merge.

Make a Google Sheet with prospects

(Don’t worry if you can’t find their first names. I used GMass’s auto-first option in my template, which automatically tried to detect a prospect’s name from their email. I also have the fallback of “there” in case you don’t have the first name and GMass can’t detect one.)

Connect your Google Sheet to a new GMass campaign.

Write up your template using the mail merge tags. You can always reference the mail merge options from your Google Sheet by typing a left curly brace.

Use a left curly brace to bring up mail merge options

And once the email is all done, you can send it by pressing the GMass button.

Strategy #2. Find potential customers who are using expensive/flawed competitors

It’s tough to break product loyalty. Even if someone isn’t enamored of a product, the process of switching to something new feels like work.

However, if you can make a compelling case why someone should switch products, you just might be able to get them interested in making the leap.

This is another case where you need to make it clear in your marketing email who you are and why you’re advocating for the product.

It’s also helpful to have a few killer stats that demonstrate the difference between your prospect’s current product and the one you’re selling.

You should get creative with your prospecting to find people using competitor products.

If you’re selling anything website-related, BuiltWith is a great way to find who’s using competitors’ tech. You can also run searches on reviews, job postings, and social media to source more candidates who could be interested in switching.

Sample affiliate email marketing template to prospects using a competitor

Hello!

I was watching one of your YouTube videos today (the one about {YouTubeTopic}) and I noticed your audio had some static and muffling.

I’m guessing you haven’t upgraded mics because good ones get really expensive.

You should check out the lavalier mic pack from AudioWiz. (Yes, I work as a partner for them — but I promise they’re the best. Which is actually why I decided to start working with them.)

It should improve your sound quality significantly — and it’s a fraction of the price of the $1,000+ pro mics you’ve probably seen.

Let me know if you have any questions about them and I can help you out.

Jeff Smith

Audiophile and Partner, AudioWiz

Cold email for affiliate marketing template 2

Setting this up in GMass

There’s nothing too complicated about setting up this email in GMass — it’s a straightforward mail merge. You would need a column of conversational descriptions of YouTube videos in your Google Sheet — that element makes this feel much more personal than linking to a video.

This email is a great situation for auto follow-ups that continue until someone clicks or replies.

You can set up your automated follow-up messages in the GMass settings. And choose to keep sending if No Click or Reply.

Using no reply or click

The goal with these follow-ups is to continue breaking down the “five common sales objections” — since getting someone to switch from their current product to a new one is fertile ground for objections.

Strategy #3. Demonstrate your expertise on the affiliate product and connect it to your prospect

These next three strategies all focus on the biggest remaining sticking points of cold email outreach:

  • Why should they buy from YOU and not just go to the company’s website directly without you?
  • Why are YOU promoting this product beyond just wanting a commission — what makes you the right person to connect their business with this product?

So as you put together your outreach message, you need to show you’ve considered the needs of your prospect and specifically addressed them with the product you’re promoting.

How can you demonstrate your expertise and tie it back to your prospect?

Case studies are always incredibly powerful in cold email. Do you have a case study where you helped a similar company? If so, share it.

Do you have a website or social media where you do product reviews or evaluations to show your expertise in the product niche? Point to that… then explain why the particular product you’re promoting is a good fit for this specific company.

Do you have other credible social proof you can show off? How many customers have you worked with? Do you have testimonials? What can you share that shows off your experience?

Or… were you once in the prospect’s shoes and now life is better thanks to the product you’re selling? In that case, you can tell a first-person story and use yourself as the case study.

What if you don’t have any case studies or track record? Hope is not lost! You could put together a demo (or screenshot) connecting the company to the product. This takes more time and effort — but when you don’t have a track record, you will have to work a bit harder.

You can also use the other two strategies I’ll cover next in this article — they use enhanced offers to offset a lack of social proof.

Sample cold email template for affiliate marketing by product experts

Hello!

I got your newsletter today (the one about {NewsletterTopic} and, unfortunately… it went to my spam folder.

That shouldn’t happen.

And I know it… because it used to happen to me.

I switched to GMass about a year ago and since then, my deliverability has been incredible — and my open and click rates are almost double what they used to be.

They have all sorts of genius ways they help with deliverability, plus it’s the easiest email marketing platform to switch to since it actually works inside Gmail.

It’s been so good I decided to become a sales partner, so I could reach out to more places like {CompanyName}.

You should definitely check out what makes GMass different (and have a look at that deliverability section)!

Let me know if you have any questions about it as well and I’d be happy to help you out.

Jeff Smith

(And yes, I sent this email with GMass.)

Affiliate marketing for cold email template 3

Setting this up in GMass

When you send a message that talks about hitting the inbox… you’d better hit the inbox. (And even if your cold emails aren’t about deliverability, you’re still trying to hit the inbox.)

So before you hit the GMass button to send a message like this, you should take advantage of GMass’s deliverability tools.

Make sure you set up a custom tracking domain. It only takes a few minutes, but it gets you away from shared open/click tracking domains — where other senders’ reputations can affect your deliverability.

Setting up a custom tracking link

Plus GMass is one of the few email platforms that adds a free SSL certificate to your custom tracking domain — and that security is even better for deliverability.

You should also run your campaigns through GMass’s Spam Solver before you send. It will send your message to 20 seed accounts and analyze your inbox versus spam placement. And then, it will help you tweak your message until it’s hitting the inbox every time.

And before you send, check the box in the Advanced section of the settings to have GMass validate your recipients’ email addresses to avoid hard bounces.

Verify emails before sending

Strategy #4. Create a free downloadable product to supplement your offer

You want everyone who receives your affiliate emails to purchase through your link and not to go through the product’s official website.

(Or, in the case of physical products, third-party sellers like Amazon or other distributors.)

One way to get people to purchase through you is to offer them a free downloadable digital product related to what you’re selling.

For instance, if you’re part of the GMass affiliate program, you could…

  • Create a guide to switching from Mailchimp (or any other email marketing software) to GMass.
  • Offer a checklist to improve deliverability.
  • Provide a few Gmail-friendly HTML email templates.
  • Or write a step-by-step guide to setting up Amazon SES, SendGrid, or any other SMTP provider to break Gmail’s limits with GMass.

A free downloadable guide will take some time to create — no question about it. (Then again, you could just use a recent post on your blog or social media and turn that into a downloadable with a lot less work.)

But there are three enormous benefits to offering one:

  1. Establish your expertise. You’re not just an affiliate marketer or product advocate — the downloadable guide sends the signal you’ve got topical expertise. That makes someone more likely to trust your opinion and see your recommendation as credible.
  2. Eliminate switching friction. As I said earlier, people are largely reluctant to switch products. And one major reason is the effort: Learning to use something new, getting it set up to work as well as their incumbent, and mastering it going forward. The right downloadable guide can walk your prospects through that — showing them it’s not that tough and taking them step-by-step through the process.
  3. Encourages reciprocation. It’s human nature to reciprocate when someone does us a favor. When you give someone a gift, it makes them more likely to return the favor by (at the very least) replying to you. Though you’re looking for sales, not just a high response rate, those things are generally pretty correlated.

Sample template for affiliate marketers offering a downloadable guide

Hello there,

I was checking out {StoreName} a little while back (I’m planning to buy {ProductName} as a gift this Christmas) — but unfortunately, I had to add you to my list of stores with long checkout flows.

Today I’m finally emailing my list to share a really great WooCommerce plugin I work with: Speed Checkout.

It uses a statistically-proven method to increase conversions by an average of 23% by reducing the number of steps in checkout and using psychological tricks to keep customers from abandoning their carts.

Plus… when you go to their website, I’ll instantly send you a guide I created with step-by-step instructions for Speed Checkout installation and setup!

Let’s boost your conversions ASAP. Even though I’m going to convert on {ProductName} either way.

Jeff Smith

eCommerce CRO Consultant and Speed Checkout partner

Cold email affiliate marketing template 4

Setting this up in GMass

I used GMass’s unique Triggered Emails feature in this campaign. With Triggered Emails, you can automatically send recipients another email when they open or click your message.

So you can set up a triggered email with your downloadable PDF attached (or a link to your PDF) that goes out immediately when they click your affiliate link.

Using triggered email on click

It’s an excellent way to increase affiliate link click-through rate and gives you a second email touchpoint with your prospect where you can keep selling the affiliate product.

Strategy #5. Enhance the offer by including white glove onboarding

Yes, you’re selling affiliate products — but there’s no rule that says you can only sell those products.

Separate yourself from other potential affiliates selling the same product by offering to personally help your prospects get started.

Yes, that’s a lot of extra work, so it only makes sense on more lucrative products. But on programs with recurring revenue (like web hosting, email marketing software, VPNs, subscriptions, SaaS products, and so on), it’s worth your time.

Plus, your onboarding efforts should translate to your customers using the product for a longer time — which means more recurring payments.

There’s another bonus too. If you do a good job, you can end your onboarding by offering ongoing consulting services — and charge far more per hour than you’re making from affiliate sales.

Sample cold emailing template for affiliate marketing plus onboarding

Hello!

You’ve probably been thinking about switching off {EmailProvider} for a long time. It’s way more expensive than you thought, it’s missing some important features, and you’re pretty sure a lot of your emails are going to spam.

But the idea of switching sounds like a HUGE project — one you don’t have the time or mental energy for.

So I’m here to help you.

I work as a partner with GMass. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of the most popular email marketing platforms out there — and it works entirely inside Gmail. It’s more cost-effective, has more features, and better deliverability than {EmailProvider}.

And to make the switch painless… I’ll personally help you move all your email lists, automation flows, and templates over from {EmailProvider} to GMass.

You can dig into GMass here. And I’ll send you another email to schedule a time for me to help answer your questions and guide the migration.

Jeff Smith

Partner, GMass

Cold emailing for affiliate marketing template 5

Setting this up in GMass

This is another campaign that uses triggered emails. In this case, I’m sending the triggered email with a scheduling link once they click on my affiliate link.

This is also a good case for GMass’s segmented campaigns feature.

After you’ve let this campaign run for a few days, you could send a follow-up campaign just to people who opened… but didn’t click. It’s clear they’re interested, but just weren’t quite convinced enough.

Using segmented campaigns in GMass

So try to entice them with another message about why they should use the product you’re selling (and take advantage of your onboarding offer).

Cold Email for Affiliate Marketing: Takeaways and Next Steps

Affiliate marketing is an unsaturated cold email niche — in no small part because it can be challenging to effectively and credibly sell someone else’s product.

Before you dive into cold emailing your affiliate offers, you should be aware:

  • It’s not like other cold outreach. It requires a step of explaining who you are and why you’re selling the product — plus why someone should buy from you.
  • It’s not like other affiliate promotions. Cold email requires being succinct, credible, and personal — it’s different from blogging, social media, videos, and even traditional email marketing.
  • Not all companies allow affiliates to use it. The many, many “spammer” cold emailers of the world have hurt cold email’s reputation — so some companies won’t allow you to promote their products that way.
  • These promotions are for B2B only. Cold email needs to come from a business (you) to another business with a legitimate interest or need in what you’re offering.

Once you’re ready to start sending campaigns, there are five strategies to keep in mind.

  • Be clear and honest about why you’re selling this product. You don’t have to use the word “affiliate” — but also clear up who you are.
  • Find customers using flawed competitors to the product you’re selling. If you can make a compelling case why your product is significantly better than what they’re using, you can entice people to switch.
  • Demonstrate your expertise. How can you prove you are an expert on the product you’re selling — an expert whose advice is worth taking?
  • Create a free downloadable supplement. Offer a free downloadable supplement about the product to improve your credibility, eliminate the friction of switching, and trigger a reciprocity instinct.
  • Offer to help with onboarding. Separate yourself from the pack by offering to help your prospects set up the product. Plus, that could lead to high-paying consulting work once you’re done.

If you’re looking for a great email platform to use to send your affiliate cold emails, definitely take a look at GMass.

GMass works directly inside Gmail/Google Workspace so you won’t have to learn a whole new platform. And GMass makes it easier than any other software to set up things like A/B tests, automated follow-ups, and triggered emails that go out when a prospect opens or clicks.

You can get started by installing the Chrome extension — no credit card required, and not even a form to fill out! — and you’ll be up and running in a matter of minutes for free.

Also… if you’re looking for a great affiliate program to promote over cold email (or any other way), check out what we’re offering at GMass.

Big recurring commissions (including the most generous year-one commission you’ll find), instant approval, a popular product with plenty of differentiators, and, yes, you can promote it over cold email.

See why GMass has 300k+ users and 7,500+ 5-star reviews


Email marketing. Cold email. Mail merge. Avoid the spam folder. Easy to learn and use. All inside Gmail.


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