An In-Depth Guide to Affiliate Marketing
With the rise of eCommerce, more and more avenues for making money have emerged. One heavily sought-after option for earning money today is affiliate marketing. Once mastered, this passive income model allows you to make money with a very minimal time investment. Discover how it works, what its benefits are, and what you need to do to get started below.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
At the most basic level, affiliate marketing is the act of promoting someone else’s products, typically through an affiliate network. When your marketing efforts contribute to a sale, you earn a small part of the profit. This is called revenue sharing.
For both brands and their affiliates, revenue sharing is a win-win. When you want to drive sales for your product, you can enlist the help of promoters by offering a financial incentive. On the other hand, if you want to make money but don’t have a product to sell, you can join an affiliate program and promoting a product you like for a commission.
What’s Involved in an Affiliate Marketing System?
An effective affiliate marketing framework needs a few key elements. Obviously, there must be a merchant with a product, as well as the affiliate marketer. There must also be a consumer – after all, someone needs to purchase the products to make a profit for the merchant, and to provide a commission for the affiliate.
Thus, there are three parties involved in affiliate marketing: the merchant/advertiser, the affiliate (sometimes referred to as the publisher), and the customer, or target audience. In some cases, however, there’s actually a fourth party: the affiliate network.
What is an Affiliate Network?
Affiliate networks act as links between the advertisers and affiliates. They can manage affiliate programs for many different merchants at once. If you choose to promote a product sold by a company that uses an affiliate network, you won’t interact directly with the merchant. Instead, the affiliate network will act as an intermediary that will cover everything from tracking sales to paying you commissions.
Some examples of affiliate marketing networks are ClickBank and Share-A-Sale. Advertisers join the platform in search of publishers to promote their products, which is precisely where you come in. You join the program and receive links to promote. Through these platforms, you’ll be able to track your sales and commissions.
Examples of Affiliate Marketing
By this point, you may be wondering what you actually need to do in order to market products on behalf of merchants/advertisers. In other words, how do you actually get the products you’re promoting in front of an audience?
Perhaps you’re a makeup artist who has a vlog for tutorials. And perhaps you talk about your favorite makeup brushes. You can promote these brushes, and if the brand uses affiliate marketing, they’ll supply you with your own affiliate link that you can post in your bio, or in the video’s description. Every time a person clicks on the link and purchases the brushes through it, you earn a commission.
By now, you may have guessed that one of the must-have elements in successful affiliate marketing is a broad audience. This brings us to our next point, the pros and cons of affiliate marketing.
The Pros & Cons of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has a number of advantages, including:
- Low Cost: Because you’re not creating a product, holding any inventory, or paying for advertising yourself, there’s little to no cost involved. While you will need a platform through which you’ll interact with your audience, this, too, can be achieved for a minimal investment – or completely free.
- Low Risk: Again, you’re not holding any physical products, and if an affiliate program for a particular brand doesn’t seem to be working out, you can always try a different route. In fact, virtually every product being sold online has an affiliate marketing program.
- Low Maintenance: If your post, video, or other piece of content amasses a lot of views, you could potentially continue to earn commission from its accompanying affiliate link for weeks, months, and potentially even years into the future.
- High Commissions: Some affiliate programs offer commissions as high as 50%. This is especially true of digital products, and remember, you have the freedom to be picky with the products you choose to promote.
With that said, it does have its cons, too:
- Slow to Start: It takes time to establish trust among an audience of subscribers. More importantly, it can also take a while to gain traffic and/or followers.
- You’ll Need to Trust the Brand: Once you’ve amassed a following, you’ll want to retain your audience’s trust so you can promote more items down the road. Yet, if they have a bad experience with a product you’ve promoted, you run the risk of losing credibility. It’s therefore critically important to work with reputable, quality brands.
- Competition is Fierce: Many affiliate programs have lots of affiliates, and it can be difficult to stand out against others.
- You Could Lose Commissions: It’s possible for your followers to hear about a product through you, then wait to purchase it until later. You only receive a commission if they purchase it through your link, however.
With these considerations in mind, many people still feel that they’ve got nothing to lose when it comes to affiliate marketing. If you fall into this camp, read on to find out how you can get started.
How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
Getting started with affiliate marketing is simple. Join an affiliate program, receive your links, and share them with your audience.
Of course, there are countless ways to do this. You’ll need a way to communicate with people, and for most, the best way is through a blog. While you can use social media to drive traffic to your blog, your affiliate program shouldn’t live on these platforms. That’s because social media platforms can change rules about promotions all the time, but with a website, you’re in control.
You’ll need to drive traffic to your site, post regularly, and gain your audience’s trust by delivering authentic, well-developed content. Start with a blog, add an email list, and go from there. And remember, since you’ll need to generate a fair amount of content to market to an audience of target consumers, it will be helpful if you really know your stuff. It’s therefore a good idea to promote products you believe in and can recommend wholeheartedly.