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How to Automatically Collect W-9s from Affiliates & Referral Partners

by Paul Sokol

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Tax season is upon us and if you are paying commissions to affiliates or referral partners, you must have a W-9 on file for each of them. A W-9 form is a ‘Request for Taxpayer Identification Number‘ provided by the IRS, which is basically the formal way for you to collect a TIN/EIN so you can properly get affiliates their tax documents.

Individuals have to report their income and you need to make sure that you’ve collected all the necessary paperwork so you or your affiliates don’t become an unsuspecting target of the IRS. This isn’t difficult if you have Infusionsoft. Here’s a tutorial on how to automate this process.

Collecting this information is an often overlooked business process until the tax man comes. Small businesses have to make a mad scramble to get this from their referral partners.

If you just had a mild heart attack because you just realized you need to do this, I strongly recommend to continue reading this post and then implement what I’m about to teach. Pssst, go open up Infusionsoft in another browser window and build this as you read.

How to Automatically Collect a W-9 From Referral Partners

We’re going to use the visual Campaign Builder to automate the collection of W-9 forms from referral partners. It’s actually quite easy and will scale with your business as you grow. The campaign I’ll share can be used now for your 2012 taxes and then easily integrated into your referral partner sign-up process to easily collect the W-9 from new ones moving forward.

You might be thinking, “How can I automatically collect a W-9 through Infusionsoft even though it is an IRS document?”

The answer is that we will track as much as we can and optimize any manual steps. Once you get a W-9, the only thing you need to do is leave a note that you’ve received it.

The idea is simple: Once you’ve identified someone who you need to collect a W-9 from, send them an email with a link directly to the W-9 PDF on the IRS website. Track when they click to download the PDF and follow-up after the download to remind them to send it in. When you receive it, just put a Note on their record.

Collect Affiliate W-9 Campaign

(Click to view a full-size image.)

Pictured above, I created this with a user earlier this year.  It is a very linear process with only three campaign goals:

  1. Tag goal to kick off the entire campaign.
  2. Link Click goal to track the PDF download from referral partners.
  3. Note goal to apply upon W-9 submission.

You can build this quickly!

Before building this automated workflow, there are only two things you need to do:

  1. Download this .csv file with the campaign’s tags.
  2. Import the tags — here’s a helpful tutorial.

Now let’s hop into the Campaign Builder and make it happen!

The first goal is a Tag applied goal. Which tag kicks off this sequence? You guessed it, the ‘Referral Partner > Need W-9’ tag we just imported.

This can be used in two ways. Right now, you can find the list of referral partners and apply this tag to collect their W-9. Then, go into your referral partner sign-up process and have this tag applied once they sign-up as a new affiliate.

Sequence model for Need Your W-9 Sequence

The ‘Need Your W-9′ sequence itself has two emails. I’ve got these to go out a week apart but you can set it up however you want.

Download W-9 Goal Configuration

Don’t forget to link to the W-9 and configure the Download W-9 Link Click goals!

The critical piece is that inside each of these emails there is a link to the IRS W-9 PDF; these links need to be selected in to the Download W-9 link click goal in the campaign. You’ll also want to give people clear instructions on where to send their completed form. I feel the simplest idea is to have them reply to the email and attach it.

Send W-9 Sequence Model

The ‘Send In W-9′ sequence has two emails as well. There is a one-day delay since this sequence will be triggered immediately once they click to download the W-9 PDF. We want to give them time to send it in and for you to leave that note on their record. Feel free to include the link to the W-9 PDF again in these emails just in case.

Sequence Model for Tag as W-9 on File

Inside the ‘Tag as W-9 on File’ sequence, the only thing we are doing is switching the ‘Need W-9′ tag with ‘W-9 On File’. You can even include a thank-you email if you so desire. You may also upload the submitted W-9 to their contact record using the Filebox for future reference.

If you want to make this easy to manage, create a Saved Search for people who have the ‘Need W-9′ tag. You can even put that search on your homepage to keep your finger on the pulse.

I can read your mind: “I don’t have time to write any emails!”

Many small business owners like yourself wear fifty different hats. To help you actually do this in the next 27 seconds (because you’ll be done reading by then), I’ve had one of our resident copywriters Lisa create some copy templates that you can just plug and play, or change to your liking: Download the Collect W-9 Sample Copy.

Heart attack averted!

Do you have any ideas on how you can take this campaign and beef it up? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

  • Chris Brisson

    Funny, we do something like this using where after they apply to become an affiliate, the second page is an online form they fill out to complete their W-9.

    You can see the process here:

    • Paul Sokol

      Very cool Chris!

      Is that multi-stage form connected to Infusionsoft on the backend?

      • Chris Brisson

        There is no postback to Infusionsoft in our setup, we just get it and tag them as received. I’m sure with their API there’s a way, but it’s not a big priority.

        • Joseph Manna

          If one really wanted to, they could build a HTML + CSS Web Form that really points to Infusionsoft, but has all the copy and text of the W-9. Hah but that would be wayyyy overkill. :)

        • Paul Sokol

          There is now an API Goal in the Campaign Builder so it should be much easier than it might have been in the past :)

    • Mark Ellingson

      I like that form. that’s pretty cool.

      • Chris Brisson

        Just snag an iframe and boom, you’re good to go.

    • Joseph Manna

      Well done, Chris! ;-)

  • BrettB

    This is pretty awesome and I’m impressed that you would provide a slick guide like this. I’d love to see more of them!

    • Paul Sokol

      I’d love to provide more of them Brett!

      Any specific topics you’d like to see?

  • Sstevin

    Now you’re talkin! LOVE this – easy step by step and cheat sheet emails. This is truly easy! Thanks! Do more , do more, do more like this!

  • Nidal

    Corrections: In the Copy you have the field set to

    ~Customer.FirstName~. but in Infusion soft the field name is ~Contact.FirstName~

    I know that this is easy to fix but if someone is new they may not know why it does nto work and support will get many calls :)

    • Paul Sokol

      Whoops >_<

      Looks like the first two emails are fine the but last two had this mistake.

      I've updated the copy resource with the two fixes :)

      Thanks SO MUCH for leaving a comment Nidal!!!!

  • Nidal

    I have also added a box of State on the Dashboard, called it Missing W9 forms. It give me a count of how many people I still waiting on :).

    Another Implementation is the California Sales Tax Resell Certificate. Same Implementation but different form.

    • Paul Sokol

      Great enhancement to this starting point Nidal!

  • Heather


    • Paul Sokol


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