Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. The industry has four core players: the merchant (also known as ‘retailer’ or ‘brand’), the network (that contains offers for the affiliate to choose from and also takes care of the payments), the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate’), and the customer. The market has grown in complexity, resulting in the emergence of a secondary tier of players, including affiliate management agencies, super-affiliates and specialized third party vendors.
Affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because affiliates often use regular advertisingmethods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketing, content marketing and in some sense display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. However, both are distinct forms of marketing and the main difference between them is that affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations to drive sales while referral marketing relies on trust and personal relationships to drive sales.
Affiliate marketing is frequently overlooked by advertisers. While search engines, e-mail, and website syndication capture much of the attention of online retailers, affiliate marketing carries a much lower profile. Still, affiliates continue to play a significant role in e-retailers’ marketing strategies.
There are two ways to approach affiliate marketing: You can offer an affiliate program to others or you can sign up to be another business’s affiliate. As the business driving an affiliate program, you’ll pay your affiliates a commission fee for every lead or sale they drive to your website. Your main goal should be to find affiliates who’ll reach untapped markets. For example, a company with an e-zine may make a good affiliate because its subscribers are hungry for resources. So introducing your offer through a “trusted” company can grab the attention of prospects you might not have otherwise reached.
You should also make sure you aren’t competing with your own affiliates for eyeballs. Any marketing channels you’re using, such as search engines, content sites or e-mail lists, should be off limits to your affiliates. Put marketing restrictions into your affiliate agreement and notify partners immediately. It’s your program–you set the rules. Or, if you prefer, you can let your affiliates run the majority of your internet marketing.
As the old 80/20 adage implies, most of your revenue will come from a very small percentage of your affiliates. Because it can be time-consuming to manage a larger affiliate network, consider selecting only a few companies initially, and interview them before signing them on. Affiliates are an extension of your sales force and represent your online brand, so choose partners carefully.
And what about joining another company’s affiliate program? It’s all about extra revenue. Think about your customers’ needs: What other products or services would interest your site visitors? Join those affiliate programs. Affiliate programs can increase your sales with no upfront cost to you. It just takes a little time to plan your strategy and select the partners that will have the greatest impact on your business.
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