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Any advice is appreciated.
I read your post and understand your dilemma. You need to identify who the 'players' are in your market. Start by entering the name of your competitor(s) in Google as an example, and see who is linking to them - you will learn what affiliates are participating in your competitors' program. Be aware however, that at the end of the day it will be to your benefit to optimize your site, referrals from natural searches are free.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.
Find out who the affiliates of your competitors are and contact them directly and try to convince them to promote your products.
Not to 'jack his/her post, but a question I've always wondered is how to pull this off without coming off as a spammer, telemarketer, or (deity forbid) a solicitor? Is it just finesse, charisma, or is there a good method to use that doesn't offend in this way?
I understand what you mean. Usually, when I approach a webmaster I explain that I manage the affiliate program for X merchant and that I believe he/she would do very well with our program. I then go into general details on the merchandise we sell and specifics on commissions, creative, etc. This has worked very for me and I have had quite a few sites join the program.
In the subject line of the email I always enter "Invitation to join "X" Merchant affiliate program. This usually gets their attention.