What is affiliate marketing? How to succeed!
Passive income! There’s nothing more mesmerising than this for anyone looking to make money online.
Of course, the ability to earn more money with much little work is certainly attractive.
Affiliate Marketing is one such income stream where you can earn money literally while you sleep – doesn’t that sound too good to be true?
While there are numerous ways to earn money online affiliate marketing has gained the interest of a lot of internet marketers for many obvious reasons (more on that below).
What is affiliate marketing?
So let’s see what is affiliate marketing – the definition!
Affiliate marketing is an opportunity where you earn money by promoting other’s product or services. Basically when you come across a product or a service you like, you can promote it to your readers.
While doing so, you can earn a commission! And that’s the beauty of affiliate marketing.
You share something you like and when people go by your recommendation, you earn a commission!
Product owners like to spread the word about their products.
Instead of them selling their product as a one man army, if there is a group of affiliate marketers promoting a particular product, it is a lot easier for the product owner to get many more sales as compared to doing it all alone.
And for this comfort, product owners pay a certain percentage of the sale to the affiliate marketers for their work (recommendation of the product/spreading the word about the product).
So it is a win-win for the product owner and the affiliate marketer.
So how does this work as a “system”?
A product owner cannot simply let others promote a product without monitoring the sale numbers made by the affiliates.
The same is the case for the affiliate marketers – they need to know how many sales they made and how much commission they have earned.
There needs to be a “system” – a system to generate unique affiliate links for each affiliate marketer; to track each sale performed by an affiliate marketer, to calculate commission, to make the payouts and so on!
Usually when the product owners launch their products via a platform the “sale” platform integrates the affiliate system as well.
For instance if we are talking about an online course, there are a few ways in which you can launch it as a product owner – I mean you can use any of the available tools.
As an example, if you end up using a membership software like Digital Access Pass it has built-in affiliate features.
So you can launch your course along with an affiliate program and have others promote your course and you can pay your affiliates for each sale they get you!
As an affiliate marketer, if you are going to promote a tool, a theme, a software or anything – usually either the company has their own affiliate system, or they have tie up with other affiliate marketing systems.
As an example, I’m an affiliate of Evernote – and each time I promote it, I get “points” which I can use to redeem pro account for myself or as a gift to others.
This is Evernote’s very own affiliate system.
Shareasale is an affiliate marketing network that hosts a varied range of products and connects product owners and affiliate marketers. Clickbank is another such network.
As an affiliate marketer, you will have to “join” these networks in order to get access to your specific affiliate link
The advantages of affiliate marketing
Talking about the advantages, or why many internet marketers like this particular income stream – you don’t have to create a product or offer a service in order to make money.
This also makes you free from other headaches like product delivery, support, updates and other issues related to the product that needs to be handled.
Any product needs to be developed first (which is a BIG step to getting it out and making money from it). And then you need to find a way to deliver it to your clients.
The systems to host a downloadable product or to host a membership like-site with the software and other fancy stuff definitely costs quite some money.
And then once people get to buy your product, it doesn’t end there. There will be queries, and support issues that you will need to handle.
And, I forgot about the challenges you might face with the payment processing systems while you launch your product for sale.
With affiliate marketing you don’t have to deal with any of these!
You don’t have to create a product, you don’t have to worry about hosting it or wonder how to deliver it to your audience, and you don’t have to deal with any support issues.
Do I encourage you to stay away from creating your own product? A BIG NO!
But it is quite understandable and obvious that affiliate marketing is a relatively easier way to make money – and mostly as passive income.
Having said that, you should not completely rely on affiliate marketing for your revenue. I always believe in NOT putting all your eggs in one basket.
How to get started with affiliate marketing?
In order to become an affiliate marketer you need get started the right way! If you get that right, and follow some basic, yet crucial strategies, it is not rocket science to earn via affiliate marketing.
Now there are a couple of ways in which you can go by this! You can either have a website, or you can do it without even having a website.
But I highly recommend having a website since that is the only way in which you can provide some useful information to your readers/customers rather than merely posting your affiliate links in social media platforms as status updates!
Setting up your niche website
Next, let’s talk about niche. Once again, there are a couple of ways to go by this.
You can either start a niche site – specific to one particular super-focused niche where you only promote products from that niche.
A good example is this:
In such a case, you set up a niche website, write a handful of helpful articles about the products you would like to promote, and basically also publish reviews about the products.
Amazon niche sites fall into this category.
Setting up your email marketing forte
You will need to collect email addresses of the traffic you receive – build an email list – so you have an asset!
If you think about delaying your list building, think again. The faster you do it, the better.
The more you delay building your email list, the more money you leave on the table.
You have to make sure you capture the email ids of your “casual” visitors if you want to make them your repeat visitors.
Here are the steps involved in building your email list –
(a) Choose an email autoresponder service
There are quite a few options in choosing your email list building service. It totally depends on what features you would absolutely require for your kind of business!
Aweber worked for me.
So did GetResponse. Some might find Mailchimp to be the right option.
Whatever you decide to choose make sure you weigh in your requirements or read comparative reviews by others who have used it (here’s a comparison of Aweber and Mailchimp).
You don’t have to choose an autoresponder service just because it is popular, or just because it is recommended by a popular blogger. Only you know better.
In any case, you will have to sign up for an account (free or paid). And then set up your “list” – the list is where you will collect the email addresses.
(b) Put up sign up forms
In order to make your readers sign up, you will need to put up sign up forms on your website.
You can simply grab the forms from your email autoresponder service or you could use a plugin like Thrive Leads to get it done.
You will need to entice your audience to sign up – you can do this by providing a free e-book, or a course or anything that works for your kind of audience.
(c) Keep your list subscribers engaged
By building your list, you turn your casual visitors into your list subscribers. But that doesn’t mean they are yours forever.
You should continue to offer value to your list subscribers.
In particular, if you are into promoting your affiliate products to them, merely sending out promotional emails will only annoy them.
Sooner or later (usually instantly), they will unsubscribe.
How to choose the best affiliate marketing programs?
When there are too many choices it often leads to confusion, right? Right.
But it also means that you can make your choice that exactly suits your needs from the wide range of options available.
When it comes to choosing the right affiliate marketing program for you, rather than looking at the affiliate programs available you have to analyse the features.
What affiliate marketing features should you look at?
Here are the ones:
- The commission structure
- The commission value
- The affiliate system (and its structure)
Of course, since I am talking about the features of the affiliate marketing system, I have stopped with these. In fact, above all these come the “quality” of the product you are going to recommend.
That comes first, remember that.
(a) The commission structure
As an affiliate marketer, you focus on money and that’s totally OK. To make the most out of your affiliate marketing efforts you have to choose those products that offer you a good commission structure.
There are products that have a one-time fixed commission.
And there are recurring commissions.
And then, there are tiered commissions.
A recurring commission is more profitable than a one-time commission for sure. But you have to consider other factors as well (more on this below).
Tiered commissions are certainly cool, as long as the product you promote stands up to the value!
(b) The commission value
The commission value is the actual amount you earn per sale. And you need to get into the “calculator” mode in order to avoid the looks deceiving you.
For instance, a 30% commission on a $200 product is much more valuable than a 60% commission on a $30 product.
A one-off $200 commission might look like a big thing; but a $30 recurring commission for life is much more valuable, right?
So you have to do the math right!
(c) The affiliate system
When it comes to the affiliate marketing system, you have to make your choice very wisely.
You will have to go for a system that is first of all easy to sign up and get going.
There are affiliate programs that require manual approval – this may sound like a tedious step but such programs usually have high class affiliate marketers in their team, which is a plus.
You should also see that the system provides you with the stuff you need to promote their product – graphics, and promo materials.
Tracking is a crucial thing and hence you should see that the affiliate marketing system has a neat tracking system available!
Usually tracking is done via a dedicated affiliate link. A dashboard with earning stats (as to which of your campaigns resulted in more sales) is definitely a plus.
Finally, and more importantly, the payout system! You have to see that the minimum payout is not a BIG amount so you wait endlessly to get paid.
Also you should see the mode of payment or the payment options available to you. Is it via Paypal, Cheque or a direct bank transfer?
Are there any bank/transaction charges involved, and what is the cut?
You have to analyse things like these before choosing an affiliate program!
What are the key factors to succeed with affiliate marketing?
Now, here comes the crucial part – the key to succeeding with affiliate marketing.
So you find a product you like. No, wait. You find a product that has an affiliate program which pays you a decent amount of money in affiliate commission.
Let me wake you up from the dream – because that’s what most bloggers think affiliate marketing is. This is NOT affiliate marketing or how it works as long as you want to succeed.
Here are the key things you need to succeed as an affiliate marketer.
(a) Only promote high quality products (no compromise on this)
When you look for affiliate programs to join, don’t settle down for mediocre products.
Of course, the money might look a lot tempting, but by promoting a sub-standard product you will ruin your reputation.
And certainly, you cannot succeed long term going that route.
So don’t ever compromise on the quality of the product you choose to promote as an affiliate.
(b) Be helpful
This is why I highly recommend having a website (a blog, to be precise).
Of course, you can join a handful of affiliate programs, grab your affiliate links and post them on social media or distribute via email.
But this does not help the end user who you expect to click on your affiliate link and buy that product.
Writing a product review will help. Making a comparison among the leading products in a niche will be much better.
Here’s an example by Adam of Blogging Wizard.
Writing a few tutorials on how to use the product will be much more useful.
Here’s an example by Fabrizio of Magnet 4 Blogging.
Publishing detailed tutorials on using the product will help readers take a look at the backend of the product before actually buying it.
Such tutorials will also help your readers with any questions they have about using the product after they’ve purchased it.
(c) Build trust
With affiliate marketing, trust is the key to succeed. It helps you with succeeding in the long term.
If you are someone who promotes crappy products for the sake of commission you will easily ruin the trust your readers have on you.
And trust is something that takes years to build but seconds to lose/ruin. Once your readers stop trusting you, there’s no turning back.
Remember, your affiliate marketing success depends a lot on the trust your readers have on you.
They have to trust you on your recommendations – otherwise, even if they are a little doubtful, they won’t be clicking on your affiliate links to make any purchases.
(d) It is not about the money
Although affiliate marketing is a cool income stream you should not be too focused on money.
Of course it is natural to look at the commission – even in this post, I’ve shared how to choose the best affiliate programs that have great commission schemes.
However, remember it is not all about the money. Quality comes first. That will lead your readers to trust you and that’s BIG.
That’s the key to your affiliate marketing success.
Building trust is so hard if you are so focused on money because not all affiliate programs that give you great commissions have great products.
So you have to be very careful about choosing the products. Also you have to be strategic with your promotional efforts!
Punching your readers in the face with your promotions clearly tells them that all you want is their money. That being the case, you ain’t getting that money.
When your readers can clearly see that you are after their money, this will repel them away from your blog.
Maintain a good balance between offering value and promoting stuff!
There you go – I really hope this post will help you understand what affiliate marketing is and how to get started with it. I have also shared the keys to succeed with affiliate marketing.
Now, all you have to do is to get started with affiliate marketing and succeed!