Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. A very simplified model would work like this: you find a product or service that you want to recommend, and you sign up to become an affiliate. You receive an “affiliate link” which you share with others. If people click through that link and end up buying that product or service, you will receive a percentage of the sale.
Affiliate marketing, when used appropriately, can help you position yourself as a go-to resource for your clients, bridge the gap in your product or service offerings without having to create everything yourself from the get-go, and start an extra stream of income. If you genuinely think that the products or services can benefit your audience, and you stand by the quality of the products or services, the process will not feel sales-y, yucky, or pushy – in fact, it can be very satisfying because you know your audience is getting something that can help solve their problems.
Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown even goes as far as recommending starting a business with a target market, an email newsletter and a list, then creating income through affiliate marketing offering products and services appropriate for the audience, while concurrently developing your own products.
There are a few things to pay attention to when integrating affiliate marketing into your business, so that the products can serve your clients, position yourself as a great resource, while creating income for you.
- Partner selection – ideally you have used the products and services, or have participated in the program (with great results!) before you make your recommendation. The very least, you should have experienced other products or services from the same provider and were satisfied with the outcome. Remember, you are the one sharing the information with your clients, so you are putting your reputation behind it.
- Complementary products/services/programs, not direct competition – use the affiliate products/services/programs to fill the gap in your business model and offerings, but not in direct competition with what you offer. E.g. I am an affiliate for the Sculpted Social Media program – I know my target market wants to learn about social media, and I don’t currently offer a product or program on this particular subject.
- Be transparent – when you promote these products/services/programs on your website, it’s best to be transparent about the affiliate relationship and add a disclaimer on the page. One discreet way to do so is to create a page called “[your name] Recommends” on your website, and put a little footnote at the bottom – you can see my example here.
- Promote it like you mean it – that’s why you get paid! Share the info on your website, in your blog (e.g. product review), in social media etc. However, just sharing the link is simply not enough to entice people to check out the product or the program. In your promotion materials or website copy, you need to succinctly describe the product, the BENEFITS, and maybe share a little bit about your results and what you liked about it. Even better, create your own content around the topic and let people know how they can learn more (by clicking on the affiliate link, of course!)
Some people even throw in their own complementary products or programs at a discount for those who purchase through their affiliate links (you have to make sure there is a way to track the purchase if you choose to do so) to sweeten the deal.