Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: Tips for Your New Revenue Stream
Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply refer a friend to another company, benefiting both of them while earning yourself a commission on top of that? Today, it really is just about that easy! We’re talking about affiliate marketing programs, which are similar to referral marketing programs but didn’t really become a marketing technique until the mid-’90s.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at affiliate marketing programs, considerations when joining one, tips for increasing your affiliate earnings, and more.
QUICK LINKSWhat Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing
How Much Can I Make as an Affiliate?
Top Reasons To Become an Affiliate Partner
Factors to Consider When Joining a Program
How To Earn More in an Affiliate Program
Affiliate Marketing with The Fulfillment Lab
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
It’s estimated that more than 80% of marketers and almost 85% of publishers leverage the power of affiliate marketing. According to Forbes, affiliate marketing is now responsible for more than 15% of e-commerce sales. That puts it in the same league as email marketing and ahead of social commerce and display advertising—whoa!
So what exactly is affiliate marketing? Pat Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income (SPI), offers the following definition, and we think it’s spot-on:
“Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.”
Here’s another way to think of it. Let’s say your company specializes in selling products in bulk to other businesses using a particular fulfillment company. These businesses will likely need fulfillment services to get the products they create into the hands of their customers. Since you don’t provide fulfillment services yourself, you can refer them to your fulfillment company as part of an affiliate partner program. More value for your customer, and money in your pocket. Cha-ching!
Now, different affiliate programs will have different structures (for example, one may pay affiliates for generating website traffic, while another may require that leads make a purchase). The bottom line, though, is that anyone can be an affiliate—you don’t have to be an affiliate marketing expert. All you need is to know one right person to get started!
Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing
Referral marketing is a fancy way of saying referral program; it is a deliberate, structured way for companies to get other people to make referrals to their business. It’s also sometimes called word-of-mouth marketing because it rewards existing customers for getting new customers to purchase a product or service from a company they may otherwise have not done business with.
These rewards usually come by way of referral incentives, such as product or service discounts or free access to an app or program that would otherwise cost money. While there are upfront costs to companies initiating a referral program in order to cover the cost of the reward, it can greatly increase long-term revenue by making loyal customers from an existing customer base and by bringing in new customers (who, in turn, may refer friends as well).
For those doing the referring, however, it doesn’t cost a thing. So why would a company hand out money or other incentives just for a referral? According to data from the Wharton School of Business, companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth compared to those without. So, when someone refers a friend, it can be extremely lucrative for them!
How Much Can I Make as an Affiliate?
We mentioned earlier that the sky's the limit when it comes to affiliate marketing. To see this type of advanced affiliate marketing in action, you need not look any farther than Jason Stone. He got started as an affiliate in 2014, and today—just six years later—he’s amassed an incredible six million followers, earning himself the nickname the “Millionaire Mentor.” At one point, he managed to earn $7 million in sales in just 18 months, without ever selling his own product!
Of course, many affiliate partners are simply looking for a steady, reliable income (about half of affiliate marketers make less than $20,000 per year), and we think that’s great too! It’s whatever is up to the affiliate.
Top Reasons To Become an Affiliate Marketer
We’ve covered a lot of affiliate marketing benefits, but let’s recap:
- It’s easy money. Affiliate programs create a passive revenue stream without having to invest in new products/services. Many affiliate programs provide free marketing support too; after all, you’re helping them too!
- It grows your business. An affiliate marketing revenue source for your business offers additional capital that you can invest back into your company to gain a competitive advantage over others while offsetting growth costs.
- It offers value to your contacts. Why let your customers look for a product or service you don’t offer when you can refer them to one that will pay you? That’s the beauty of affiliate marketing!
- It provides differentiation. Joining an affiliate program can differentiate your company from competitors by providing additional value, connecting them with the products and services that your affiliate partner offers—without having to take on the effort, cost, and hassle of providing them yourself.
- It broadens your audience. There are affiliates in almost all markets and product categories. So, whether you want to make a name for yourself in retail or carve out a niche elsewhere, there’s a relevant website to align with that already has an established visitor base that you can tap into.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Affiliate Marketing Partnerships
Joining an affiliate marketing or referral program can be a great way to provide your customers with the products and services they need to business successfully—without having to take on the costs and hassles of supplying them yourself.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that any old referral program won’t do the trick. Your customers won’t be satisfied and you won’t make high commissions if you don’t select the right affiliate partnership in the first place.
But how can you know which affiliate partnership will yield the results you and your customers want when there are so many options out there? Start by checking out our list of five key factors you should be looking out for in your next affiliate partnership!
1. Affiliate Commission Structure
Different referral programs will offer different types of affiliate commission structures. Some may give a one-time-only payout when one of your contacts signs a new deal, while some will continue to give lifetime commissions each and every time that contact makes a purchase.
Beyond just inquiring about the commission structure of a particular referral program, be sure to also confirm their payment terms before signing up. For example, would your contact have to be a customer for a certain amount of time before you get your payout, or do you get your commission immediately when they sign up and make a purchase? It’s important to be clear about expectations before entering into an affiliate partnership so both you, your customers, and your affiliate partner are on the same page.
At The Fulfillment Lab, we offer mass volume profit sharing, so once one of your contacts gets set up with our services through your unique affiliate code, you’ll continue to earn a piece of the profit from every single item shipped. The more your contacts ship with us, the more you earn—it’s just that simple.
2. Fulfillment Integrations
It’s important that an affiliate marketing partner works well with any platforms, plugins, eCommerce carts, or communication tools that you or your customers use. This way, it’s easier for you to manage your affiliate marketing initiatives effectively, and easier for your customers to get signed up and start utilizing the products or services they’re looking for.
At The Fulfillment Lab, our Global Fulfillment Software™ dynamically integrates with all kinds of eCommerce shopping carts in minutes, not days. In fact, we integrate faster than anyone in the fulfillment industry. This way, your customers can stop sweating the details and start shipping faster—meaning more profits for you, them, and us! We work with Shopify, Squarespace, Limelight, Magento, Ultracart, and many many more! If your customers need a fulfillment solution, they’ll be able to get it with unmatched speed and ease. All they have to do is create an account from the link you send with your affiliate code, select some settings and customizations, and click a few buttons to go live!
3. Ease of Use
You’re already super busy, so you want to make sure you’re joining an affiliate partnership that’s going to be easy for you to take advantage of. After all, it can often take weeks of back and forth with a potential affiliate partner to go over details, payment terms, and get paperwork filled out. If this is the case, their processes are likely going to be just as messy once you’re actually in the program.
That’s why The Fulfillment Lab has made our referral program incredibly easy. We’ll set you up with your own affiliate code that is automatically populated and easy to forward and share with your contacts. Then, when one of your contacts signs up for our services and makes a purchase using your unique code, you’ll be automatically credit and start earning lifetime commissions every time they ship with us.
You’ll want to make sure you’re entering into an affiliate partnership with end-to-end visibility. Are they upfront about the terms and conditions of their referral program? Are they trustworthy, and can you count on the fact that they’ll be consistent and honest with the way they calculate your affiliate commissions?
Do your research and ask questions before you agree to join the affiliate partnership. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the vendor’s conditions, payment terms, and what will be expected from you as an affiliate.
This is so important because a simple miscommunication can lead to a failed affiliate partnership. If you want to see success with affiliate marketing, take the time to vet your potential new affiliate partner to be sure they’re someone you actually want to work with.
5. Clear Dashboards and Reporting
Look for an affiliate partner that provides you with access to a dashboard that has clear and up-to-date reports. This way, you can quickly see your affiliate commissions both in real-time or over a given time period. If this isn’t your first rodeo with affiliate marketing, you likely know how to track this data on your own, but it’s always a good sign if your affiliate partner already has this already set up on their end.
Not only is this a more convenient way to track your progress and earnings, but being able to see these numbers will motivate you to improve your performance as an affiliate partner and get more contacts signed up so you can make more residual income!
That’s why at The Fulfillment Lab, we created a portal just for our affiliate partners. This way, you’ll be able to login at any time and quickly and clearly see how many companies you’ve referred to and your total amount of commissions earned to date. This helps keep us both accountable, on track, and working towards our mutual future goals!
How To Earn More Money in an Affiliate Marketing Program
Now that you’re considering joining an affiliate program, you’re probably wondering, “How can I make more money with my affiliate program?” So, on with the affiliate marketing tips and tricks!
1. Choose Affiliate Programs Strategically
Not every affiliate program is created equally, and not every affiliate program will make sense for your customer base (we’ll cover that in more detail in section two). In addition to those factors, there are other considerations you’ll want to make:
- Choosing quality over money. Sure, you can probably make a higher commission if you sell a lower quality product, but people will probably be less likely to buy because most have wised up to cheap products. Plus, promoting junk can seriously damage your credibility.
- Consider promoting digital products. Some of the best affiliate programs to make money are online. These often have high conversion rates because they provide instant access and instant gratification to purchasers.
- Consider promoting products that renew monthly. It’s okay to promote products or services that generate a single commission, but receiving a monthly recurring commission makes your affiliate business more predictable and stable.
- Choose vendors that will negotiate. Find vendors who will renegotiate your commission if you start to consistently generate a lot of affiliate sales for them.
- Choose vendors with a good landing page. Reconsider the partnership if landing pages have an outdated design, are full of ads, contain far too much text and spelling and grammatical errors, have too many calls to action, or contain a phone number (you probably won’t get a commission if orders are placed on the phone). Remember, if a page turns you off, it will turn off your visitors too.
- Look for programs with lifetime payouts. With these affiliate campaigns, you make money if a visitor continues to purchase from the affiliate vendor even if they never come back to your site again!
2. Understand Your Audience
Studies show that people don’t hate ads—they hate bad ads. One aspect of a bad ad is irrelevance. Let’s say you run a fishing website. It wouldn’t make sense to run affiliate ads for a computer just because almost everyone probably has a computer at home. Your customers aren’t there for this type of content; it will confuse them, annoy them, make them think you’ve run out of content or, worst of all, make them think you’re trying to sell something shoddy to make a quick buck.
Successful affiliate marketing means promoting only items that match the immediate needs and wants of your audience. The more relevant the product or service, the more likely they are to buy; in addition, educating them on relevant products or services can be considered value-added content, not weird or unexpected advertising. So, always think about why people are coming to your site, joining your email marketing list, or following you on social media.
3. Be Trustworthy
Some people use affiliate marketing only for profit, not to benefit their customers. Some will even mislead their audience with spammy, dishonest affiliate ads and promotions, or they try to hide the fact that it’s an affiliate link. Here’s a tip: most readers can smell them a mile away—and that’s okay if you’re honest about the intent!
If the product or service you're promoting is relevant to your audience, they won’t mind the content. However, if they feel you are trying to scam them or take advantage of their readership with too many irrelevant ads, they’re liable to leave and not come back.
Remember, it is your repeat visitors who are most valuable to you; they are the ones who will give you linkbacks and recommend your site, growing your customer base—not the ones you lured in one time by misleading them. You need to be honest and ethical with your customers, building relationships with genuine content. If all they see is a profit motive—that you don’t ultimately have their best interests at heart—they won’t be back.
Pro Tip: One way to show your trustworthiness is to address any weaknesses of your affiliate product or service. Wait...what? It’s true! If you advertise something as too good to be true, they’ll never believe it. Instead, highlight the strengths, then address a weakness to gain trust (but, always include a work-around to show how you make it work regardless of the weakness, or note that almost all similar products or services share this weakness, etc.).
4. Offer a Bonus
When you disclose an affiliate relationship—and you should, because as we already noted, building trust is a must—consumers will appreciate your honesty and won’t mind contributing to your bottom line by using your link (the opposite can be true; if they feel you’re not being honest about your affiliations, they may go directly to the vendor just to avoid giving you the referral credit!).
Of course, by disclosing an affiliate, they still have the opportunity to go directly to the vendor (and they’ll know that other sites are probably hosting the affiliate link too). So, consider offering an incentive to use your affiliate link. This is a great way to give your affiliate sales a boost and differentiate yourself from the other competing affiliates out there!
5. Create a Variety of Ads
Typically, a vendor will provide you with a variety of ads to use on your website, social channels, and through email. If they don’t, you’ll have to do all the work, so keep that in mind. However, even if they provide you with some assets, you’ll still want to create your own ads (if they allow it) so that you can stand apart from the affiliate competition.
Once you have a good arsenal of ads, you’ll want to change them up frequently and test different versions to see which are most effective with your customers. It may take some time before you figure out the best formula, and you may also find that you need to continually rotate ads to attract more attention.
Pro Tip: Easily rotate your ads with an ad rotator plugin. These plugins will automatically rotate ads and track clicks so you can eliminate those that aren’t earning you money—freeing up space for the ads that are profitable (as well as any new ones you think up).
6. Keep Your Ad Strategy Relevent
Don’t be complacent when it comes to your affiliate ad strategy. Keep up to date on the latest product and service offerings of your affiliate programs and swap out ads as soon as they become available (or create one yourself if you’re allowed).
Also, stay on top of the current trends and always be willing to explore new opportunities. For example, if those hot weight-loss pills have cooled off, or a particular clothing trend has died out, replace that content with something new and popular to reflect your timeliness.
Finally, you should always be on the lookout for new products that are useful and relevant to your audience; the more you can promote, the more you can earn.
7. Create Great Content
They say content is king, and it’s true! Content is what gets people to your site—and then take notice of your affiliate ads. There are some things to remember when it comes to content:
- Create timeless content that will always be valuable. You may occasionally update links, specific information or dates, etc., but for the most part, the content you create should be “evergreen.”
- Create new content on topics that are trending. If your platform allows it, this should appear in a “most recent” or “most popular” section.
- Create content around your affiliate products or services… but only if it’s relevant and may be entertaining, useful, and/or informative. You might consider a product or service review, a personal testimonial or case study, or even an interview with someone directly involved with the product or service. Just don’t compromise your content to cater to the affiliate programs or you will lose your customers.
Affiliate Marketing with The Fulfillment Lab
Not every affiliate program will be right for you; if one isn’t working out, try another one. By continually testing different programs, you'll discover which convert the best and which earn you the most money! Of course, remember that patience pays off as well; most affiliate revenue builds up over time, so don’t jump ship just because you haven’t earned money in the first few months.
Hopefully, these affiliate marketing tips and techniques will help you to earn more commissions with your vendors or The Fulfillment Lab. Not yet one of our affiliate partners? Read all about our affiliate program here. We pride ourselves on offering one of the best affiliate marketing programs online, and it’s easy to get started! You can sign up now or book a strategy call