Are you looking for ways to grow your business? Have you been wondering whether or not affiliate marketing will do the trick for you? If yes, then this article is for you! Hi, my name is Francisco, and I am the owner of Planet Marketing, a Digital Marketing agency. My company specializes in Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Affiliate Marketing and Remarketing. I have been in business for over two decades and in all that time, I can safely say that I have seen it all! Affiliate Marketing is a topic that I am very familiar with. I am an affiliate for tens of companies whose products and services I sell through my blog. Not only that, but I also run my own affiliate marketing program. So, I know what I am talking about here. I know all the tips and tricks as far as using affiliate marketing to achieve growth for businesses is concerned. In this article, I am going to;
- Give you the basics of affiliate marketing.
- Show you how to use Affiliate Marketing to help grow your business.
Affiliate Marketing Basics
Affiliate marketing, in spite of what you may have heard, is nothing new. For as long as there has been business, there have always been people who were willing to carry out marketing for a commission. That, by the way, is the definition of affiliate marketing; a system where brands engage the services of publishers to sell goods and services for a commission.
The fundamental issue, when it comes to marketing in general, is that you can either do it on your own, or you can engage the services of others to do the work on your behalf. Doing it yourself means retaining all the profits. However, you are probably not going to reach as wide an audience as you would using others.
Marketing before the digital age
Let me repeat here that affiliate marketing has always been there. Even before the advent of the digital age, there were salesmen who went around the neighborhood, annoying the hell out of housewives while trying to get them to buy this or that item. The following were some of the characteristics of this kind of marketing;
- First, there was the company that came up with a product that it needed to put onto the market. It was from the brand that everything else flowed, so the brand stood at the very top of the entire system.
- The product itself was an important part of the matrix. This could be anything, from the newfangled black and white television to the finest imitation Persian rug.
- Then, there was the salesman. The salesman was the middle man. In most cases, he didn’t actually own the product that he was selling. He was just a middleman. And his main task, in the 40s, the 50s and the 60s was to engage in a subtle form of subterfuge. The main aim here was to highlight a product’s positives to such an extent that people were actually convinced to buy.
- Marketing then, as it is now, could only work if there was a customer. This is the person on whom the pitch was made. It does not mean, however, that if you are a seller, you are not going to become a buyer at some point in time. Though a few are sellers, we are all buyers.
Affiliate Marketing Today
If you take a look at the above outline, you will realize that it can be used to describe the way that affiliate marketing works in today’s world. It’s why I have been repeating here that affiliate marketing is as old as marketing. To further illustrate the point, consider the following key components of affiliate marketing;
- The brand: The brand is also referred to as the vendor or the merchant. It’s the entity that’s responsible for coming up with a product or service.
- The product: Affiliate Marketing only works if there is a product. The product can be almost anything. It can be a digital marketing product, such as the Facebook Ads Setup Plan that I sell, or it can be a physical product such as a laptop.
- The affiliate: This is the modern day salesman. Only instead of totting around suitcases full of merchandise, the modern day salesperson uses a wide range of internet based tools to reach out to potential customers. I will look at these tools in a short while.
- The affiliate network: In affiliate marketing, one of the key entities is the affiliate network. To be frank, the world is overflowing with people who are trying to sell something. However, nobody is going to be able to sell everything. So, to give yourself a chance, if you are an affiliate, you actually need to focus on a narrow area. Once you have done that, you could then start moving around (on the internet) trying to find appropriate brands to market through your channel. Trying to do this is not very practical, however. This is where affiliate networks come into play. They make the job easy by bringing together affiliates and merchants. So, instead of approaching a hundred companies individually, you will get everything that you are looking for once you have signed up with an affiliate network.
- The Customer: It would be a travesty to talk about affiliate marketing without mentioning the customer. Now, most people think that the customer really doesn’t have a say in the whole affiliate marketing matrix. Well, the customer, as it turns out, actually has the biggest say. He or she is the person that has to be convinced to buy a product or service. There are many ways through which this can be achieved. However, the main one of these is through price reduction. So, the customer actually ends up benefiting, at the end of the day, through discounts and other promotions. If you think I am just talking about things that I do not know about, here is an example to set you straight; See, I am an affiliate of a wide range of companies, as already mentioned. One of these is Shopper Approved. Now, I have been sending people over to Shopper Approved for a long time. One of the advantages of this is that I was able to negotiate a discount on behalf of my customers. So, the customer actually benefits from affiliate marketing .
How does affiliate marketing work?
Now that I have shown you the main elements in affiliate marketing, it’s time to show you how they mesh together;
- Businesses come up with a product or service that they wish to bring to the market. They may also look to promote an existing product or service.
- When an affiliate signs up for an affiliate marketing program, either directly or through an affiliate network, they get an affiliate link. This links is used to track who is bringing what business.
- Affiliates then produce content in which they market the product or service. They use a wide range of channels to market the product or service. You can check them out in the next section.
- People click on the links and they go on to purchase the product or service. The desired outcome may also be something else, such as signing up for a service.
- The affiliate networks records the sale and the customer receives a commission.
What channels are used by affiliates?
Affiliate marketing is all around us. You may not notice the fact, but there is always a guy hanging by the wings somewhere trying to sell you something. This guy gets paid a commission per sale, so he can be unrelenting. Then the entire thing becomes cringe-worth, but that’s not what we are talking about here. Now, affiliates have a number of tools that they use to reach out to potential customers on behalf of brands. The following are some of these tools;
The majority of affiliate marketing, it is safe to say, takes place on blogs. The beauty of it all is that it has become so easy to create and launch a website. Thousands of sites, as a result, are added to the lot on a daily basis. They are all created by people who have the remote idea that they are going to turn their sites into profit. And affiliate marketing tends to be the go to solution when it comes to website monetization.
However, the truth of the matter is that it’s not so easy to monetize one’s website. The trick, in any case, lies in having great content on the site. Do that, and Search engines will take notice. Another trick lies in narrowing down your focus. The world is full of good stuff, and you are not going to be able to cover everything on your site. Also, trying to do everything at once is a good way of creating a site that does not get a loyal following. What you need is to focus on a particular topic. Do that, and you will get a multitude of fans.
But, what do I mean by that? Well, if, as an example, you are into baseball, you may wish to create a site that focuses on the sale of baseball regalia. You would then monetize the site using Amazon Associates. Doing this allows you to create a loyal following that is composed of people who have the same interests. But, what would happen should you decide to produce content on Digital Marketing on your site? What if you start writing about Search Engine Optimization and Facebook Advertising? Well, the thing is, you will likely lose a lot of your followers. People that follow you blog are probably not interested in SEO. They will go elsewhere and you will have to rely on Search Engines for your traffic. And search engines are notoriously fickle…!
YouTube has been trending over the past few years. The thing about YouTube is that it’s practically a free for all. Anybody can upload a video onto the platform. And if your uploads are interesting enough, you may just get a huge following. Once you have this, it’s easy enough to turn these followers into a steady stream of income using affiliate marketing. YouTube is, therefore, one of the tools that are used in affiliate marketing.
What kind of content works great for YouTube?
Thing is, most of the videos that are left on YouTube fall flat on their unedited faces. They only get a few visitors every now and then, and that’s the end of the story. If you really wish to achieve success on YouTube, you should consider producing the following types of content;
- Humorous content such as fails
- How to videos
- Unboxing videos
c) Social Media
Social Media is great for affiliate marketing because we all spend our days on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter these days. Facebook, as an example, currently has over 2.5 billion monthly active users. It’s possible for you, if you are interesting enough, to build up your own loyal following on the platform. And if your following is big enough, you may turn it into a source of income using affiliate marketing.
Email is another tool that is used by affiliates to reach out to people. Again, it will only work if you have the critical mass in terms of contacts. If you have a blog, one of the things that you may wish to do on an ongoing basis is build up your mailing list. There are many ways of doing this, including by offering freebies to people who choose to subscribe to your site. Once you have build up an audience that is large enough, you can then sell various products and services to them.
How to use affiliate marketing to grow your business
So, how do you use affiliate marketing for your business? How can affiliate marketing be used to help leverage growth for your brand? Well, the following tips should help get you on your way;
1. Consider doing it in-house
One of your options, when it comes to affiliate marketing, is to do it in-house. But what does this mean? Well, when you decide to run an in-house affiliate marketing program, it means you will be responsible for looking for and hiring your own affiliates. The assumption is that you will already have your own website and/or a social media following. You can then use these to reach out to people who are willing to become ambassadors for you brand.
At Planet Marketing, I use this option for my affiliate marketing program. My website is runs on WordPress and the platform has a wide range of plugins that you can use to create and launch your own affiliate marketing program.
Advantages of doing affiliate marketing in-house
Doing affiliate marketing in-house comes with a number of advantages. For one thing, you eliminate the middleman, meaning you will not need to pay as much as you would should you choose to join one of the many affiliate networks that are out there. Another advantage is that you can choose who joins and does not join your program, which is not always the case with affiliate networks.
Disadvantages of running an affiliate program in-house
The one major disadvantage of running an affiliate marketing program in-house is that you don’t get as much reach in terms of signing on high quality affiliates. As such, your program is going to be rather limited.
2. You can join an affiliate marketing network
Doing your own thing is great, in terms of eliminating the middleman, but it is not always the best choice. If you really want to grow your business using affiliate marketing, you may need to join one of the many affiliate marketing programs that are out there. The great thing about these platforms is that they bring together thousands of affiliates and merchants. What’s more, these people are scattered throughout the world. This gives you the kind of exposure that you need to really grow you business. I have already mentioned that affiliate networks act as the middle ground between affiliates and brands. The following are some of the affiliate networks that you should consider joining;
- CJ Affiliates
3. You are allowed to use a hybrid approach
Here is another tip if you are looking to use affiliate marketing for your business; you do not really need to restrict yourself to using EITHER an in-house affiliate marketing program or joining an affiliate marketing. That’s because there is really nothing stopping you from using both. In fact, most of the big brands that are out there adopt this method. They have teams that are dedicated to running in-house affiliate programs. Not only that, but they have a presence on such platforms as CJ Affiliates. Web hosting is one of the industries that adopt this method.
4. Try to target your product at a specific niche
I have already mentioned that affiliates need to narrow down their focus if they are going to have marketing success. Well, the same thing applies for a business that is coming up with a product for the market. If your product is directed at everyone, then it’s going to be very difficult to market. That’s why you often seen brands selling products as something meant for “kids,” or for “stay at home moms.” The product may actually be the same, but the idea is that focus needs to be directed at one particular section of the market. This makes creating marketing opportunities simpler. It also makes it easy for you to reach out to relevant affiliates to do marketing on your behalf.
5. Decide on the payment method that you are going to use
Which payment method are you going to use for people who join your affiliate marketing program? There are, in essence, two payment methods that you can use;
Once off payments
You can, first of all, choose to pay affiliates once off figures. This mode of payment is widely used in affiliate marketing. What happens is that when a person brings a customer to your business, you pay them an agreed to amount. Once that payment has been made, your dept to the affiliate falls off. You will only pay them again should they continue to bring new customers to your business. The Web Hosting industry uses this payment method. When someone brings a customer to a company within the industry, they get paid an amount that averages $100.
This is the second option when it comes to affiliate payments. What happens here is that when someone brings customers to your business, you continue paying them a recurring amount for the lifetime of the customer. One industry that uses this method is the online reviews industry. If, as an example, you get people to sign up for Shopper Approved, the company will continue paying you for as long as the customer continues to settle their monthly subscriptions. The recurring method of payment is very popular among affiliates. You may actually be forced to use it if you are looking to attract the right kind of affiliate to your program.
6. Run Incentives to get People to Join your program
Fact is, there are millions of affiliate out there. However, not all of them are going to be effective for your particular line of business. Another fact is that your competitors are probably also on the hunt for the same type of affiliate that you are looking for. This makes the industry rather competitive. What you need to do in order to get ahead is incentivize the joining of your program. You may, as an example, run a competition in which you give a reward, such as a car, to the first person that refers a certain number of people to your program. So, why is this so effective?
Well, here is the thing; when you run a competition such as the one that we have just been describing, you motivate thousands of people to join your program and sell your products. They do a lot of marketing for you. However, you only get to pay the winner. Meaning the rest of the effort that you get is free. Or perhaps, it’s not free, because you pay the normal affiliate rates. However, the increased exposure as people look to win the completion comes free of charge. Competitions also ensures that affiliates focus on your products and services, instead of on those of your competitors.
7. Create marketing materials for your affiliates
Most brands make the mistake of neglecting to create high quality marketing tools for their affiliates. The thing to remember, however, is that affiliates may be good content producers, but they are probably not the best graphics designers. So, if they are going to put up banners featuring your business on their sites, you need to make sure that these banners are up to standard. Also continuously encourage your affiliates to create high quality content that sells. You may actually need to run courses and webinars to fully equip your affiliates to market your business.
8. Give affiliates access
One of the reasons why some affiliate programs fall flat is that brands are unwilling to grant free access to their affiliates. I mean, as an affiliate myself, the kind of program that I do justice to in terms of marketing is one that I am fully familiar with. Let’s say I have joined an affiliate marketing program being run by a company that offers software for Google rank checking. There are two ways in which I can produce marketing content for the company. I can either go onto their website and try and write content based on what they are saying about themselves. Or I can join the program and use the program to fully understand what is on offer. The second method is the preferred method. Let them use the program for free, and they will produce content that is not shallow.
9. Be appreciative of your affiliates
Your affiliates spend a lot of time and effort marketing your business. The least that you can do is appreciate them once in a while. This may be in the form of a simple message, or through a bonus payment for the best affiliates. Doing this gives them the motivation that they need to keep ringing the bells on your behalf. Thing is, you need to be fair in your treatment of affiliates. Make sure that all their sales are recorded and rewarded. Otherwise they will move to a better paying program!
10. Hand pick your affiliates
Another thing that you may need to do is to hand pick your affiliates. A lot of people are going to apply to join, but not all of them are going to be the best in terms of the products and services that you are offering. Handpicking your affiliates ensures that you are only getting the best of the best.