I believe affiliate marketing is a great way to add a new revenue stream into your businesses so that your cashflow is balanced by direct and indirect income, recurring and one-off payments.
I like it because it takes relatively little effort to manage, making it an ideal secondary (passive) income source.
Affiliate marketing may seem like it was invented by online businesses, but the core idea has been around for as long as people have been finding new ways to promote their brands.
BUT… there’s a right way of doing it and many wrong ways!
One of the absolute worst is visiting a website, such a food blogger’s site with lots of great recipes, only to find it so jam-packed with ads that the site takes forever to load and you almost bail out. Then once it does load, there’s so many ads all over the page that it’s hard to find the recipe I came for in the first place.
User experience = terrible. Which means I’m unlikely to come back again.
And were all those ads worth it? No! I doubt they’re making a single dollar from them because they’re simply annoying, not adding any value at all and therefore who would bother clicking one?
Right (rant over!)… let’s move onto talking about how you can use it effectively and create a great experience for your audience at the same time!
What is affiliate marketing?
In a nutshell, it’s a business partnership where one business receives a commission from another business for assisting with a sale of their product or service.
As an affiliate, you’re essentially acting as an external marketing agent or salesperson for someone else’s product. You’re earning revenue from a product (or service) you don’t have to deliver, and providing value to your audience by helping them make choices or providing extra bonuses they wouldn’t normally have access to.
And for businesses, you’re expanding your sales team without hiring any staff, reaching a much bigger portion of your target market and generating easier sales without doing as much marketing.
Affiliate marketing is most commonly used by businesses that operate online because it’s easy to track referrals and automate paying out commission to the affiliate partner.
When it’s done well, affiliate marketing delivers great outcomes for the business owner, the affiliate partner and the end customer!
How YOU can become an affiliate partner
There are thousands of affiliate programs out there!
Some companies run their own program directly, while others run it through an affiliate platform, such as Australian agency: Commission Factory.
But, the simplest and easiest way to find out if your favourite brand has an affiliate program is to Google their name and add “affiliate” at the end.
Types of things you can be an affiliate for…
– Products that are sold online – this can be almost anything! From books to baby monitors to homewares or car parts! Some online megastores like Amazon have an affiliate program which means that you can earn commission for sales of anything they sell.
– Online apps and software – think about all the online platforms you use in your business, most of them would have an affiliate program!
– Online courses, coaching programs – coaches who run courses or programs often invite previous clients to be affiliates because they’re advocates and can give a genuine referral to the right type of client.
TIP: think about the products and services you already use and love, so you can give a genuine recommendation for it to your audience.
How affiliate programs work
You’ll need to apply to be an affiliate, some programs have specific requirements to be accepted while others are less fussy.
[Hint: if the requirements are strict, it’s probably a better program!]
Once you’re accepted into an affiliate program, you’ll be given a unique referral link for the website or product, which has a unique code to track a sale from anyone who’s used your link. Often the sale window is 30 days from the time the link is first accessed by that person!
Some affiliate programs provide additional marketing tools for their affiliates to use such as website banners, videos and access to demonstration.
There’s quite a lot of different ways affiliate partnerships can work, and ways you can choose to promote your affiliate links.
The important thing to remember is that it’s best to use them in a way that’s relevant for your audience, where they’re getting value from your recommendation.
Here’s some examples to consider…
– Text links on your website – you could have a page listing your recommended tech tools, or partnerships, where you link to your affiliate partners websites.
– Banners – you can place graphic banners on your site, acting as an advert with your affiliate link behind it.
– Marketplace – you can add products to your online store where the “Buy Now” button goes to the affiliate website product page to complete the purchase.
– Blog posts – you can write a recommendation or review where you mention your affiliate products or services, providing your affiliate link in the body of the post, or as a call to action.
– Email – similar to a blog post, you might give your audience some relevant tip or advice and include a link to an affiliate product.
– Social media – you can post reviews, recommendations, tips, or simply just promote a product.
It’s best practice (and law in the US) to state very clearly that you have a business relationship and may receive a payment if they use your link to make a purchase.
How to win at affiliate marketing
I see so many poor examples of people using their affiliate partnerships (and getting zero commission), that this is for me the most important part to really pay attention to.
Build an audience who trust you
Firstly, do you have an audience? Building an audience that trusts you is step 1 of being a good affiliate, and unfortunately this is the step many people overlook!
You’re going to make a lot more sales of the affiliate products if your audience trusts your recommendation. That means, you’ll need to establish a brand reputation for some expertise in your field to earn their trust.
Always be upfront about the fact you’re an affiliate
There’s so many ways you can say this, but I think it’s always best to use normal language and explain why you’re recommending the product or service.
If you only have it because you can get money to sell it – this isn’t a great affiliate partnership for you! Your audience won’t appreciate being bombarded with ‘ads’ and you’ll lose your trust with them.
Give real life examples of why this product/service is good
If you use the product yourself, give a first hand experience of why it’s better than others out there.
Or, you can give a very objective review of its pros and cons against competitor products. Your recommendation/ review has so much more weight to it, and will generate more sales than if you simply place an advertising banner on your website.
Put your customer (or audience) first
If you’re going to be successful, the experience for your audience is super important.
Think about why you’re acting as an agent for your affiliate partner: Why is this product relevant for your audience? How will it help them? Why is it good (for them)?
You should be answering all of these questions when you’re promoting an affiliate product.
This is why I prefer to use my blogs and emails as the avenues to promote my few affiliate products. I explain how I use them, why they’re good, and I only talk about services that are relevant to my audience.
Is it adding value to your audience?
Are you adding value by giving them the recommendation? If you’re saving them time and giving them an honest, authentic review of the options available, you’re providing value.
I’m an affiliate for Active Campaign, my email marketing platform that I use and LOVE! I chose to become an affiliate because Active Campaign is a product I already recommend to my customers and audience.
I teach my clients about email marketing and automation using examples and tutorials recorded on their platform. I’d recommend it regardless of any commission, because I can show them how great Active Campaign is for managing customer journeys and automating a marketing funnel.
Sometimes there are special benefits I can pass on to my customers through my affiliate status, such as a longer trial period that they wouldn’t get if they go directly to Active Campaign.
What to be aware of and what to avoid at all costs!
Protect your own brand reputation by choosing the right partnerships. Be selective and make sure you’re only recommending brands and products that you TRUST to deliver a great outcome.
You want to have confidence that something you’re recommending is good quality and will live up to expectations. If your affiliate partner delivers a poor experience, that negative outcome will also be attached to you as the person who recommended it.
Less is more – always choose quality over quantity
Choose just a few good affiliate programs that are most suited to your audience and provide a good commission – and put your efforts into them.
You’re much better off using your time to properly promote a quality affiliate product that earns you a decent commission, than to start selling anything you think is remotely suitable for your audience.
Don’t become an online junk mail catalogue
I’ve seen some online businesses who have gone crazy on the “affiliate juice” and stuffed their website with advertising!
Sometimes they have both affiliate banners and ads from Google Adsense (the most basic type of affiliate program where you’re just providing ad space on your site).
Don’t do this:
Why shouldn’t you maximise ad space on your website?
I get why they’re doing it – they’re trying to earn revenue from the traffic they get to their website, who are coming for the awesome free content they put out there.
In their minds – more ads mean more chances someone will see something they want to buy, and therefore they’ll earn more commission – BUT, it’s actually doing the opposite!
– It’s a terrible experience for your audience. When I’m looking for a recipe and have to scroll a page that’s a million miles long, stuffed with ads, before I get to the recipe, it’s not only annoying, but sometimes it’s so hard to find the recipe that I just give up and go back to Google.
– The ads become like wallpaper and nobody notices them. No clicks mean no sales! When you have too many promos on your site, it becomes an advertising catalogue. People don’t look at them because there’s so many of them. So you’ll end up making less sales, and the exact opposite of why you’re doing this in the first place!
– Slows down your website speed. The more elements that need to load in your page, the slower it will load. When your site is slow, you’re creating a poor user experience. People often won’t wait for it to load and will just bounce back to what they were doing before.
PLUS a slow loading site gives you a low quality score for Google and Facebook, meaning you’ll struggle to get good results with ads and SEO.
My final word
Affiliate marketing has often been tarnished with a dirty brush because of people who’ve spammed us with irrelevant ads to make a quick buck.
But being strategic about it and selecting the right partnerships isn’t icky or dirty, in fact it’s a highly effective way to do business and beneficial for everyone.
Follow my tips above to add a consistent revenue stream with affiliate marketing!
Free resources to help you
Ultimate Customer Avatar Worksheet – to really understand your customer persona so you can do affiliate marketing the right way