What Is Affiliate Marketing? Here’s the Ultimate Guide

Picture this: you’re sun tanning off the coast of the Fiji islands, watching the ocean dance under a gorgeous evening sky. The handsome hotel waiter comes by to offer you an evening mimosa, you decide to treat yourself.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, sure, but I’ll never be able to quit my 9-5.” Don’t discount the idea just yet.

Have you ever thought of starting a blog, but are worried it might not be a success? Already have a blog that you can’t seem to get off the ground? Are you ready to start your 4-hour work week?

You should try your hand at affiliate marketing.

Okay, but what is affiliate marketing?

We’re going to take you through the basics. What is it? Who can do it? Where’s the money in it? Some things to watch out for, and how you can get started.

Read on if you’re ready to break-up with your 9-5.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an online sales technique that allows a merchant to broaden their consumer base through affiliates with a similar audience. Think of the old saying, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Affiliate marketing helps both parties. The affiliate (you) will recommend certain products or services in exchange for a piece of commission. Sounds pretty simple, right? It is.

Affiliate vs. Merchant

Affiliate: An affiliate is a person who is registered with any kind of an affiliate network. This could be anybody with a website, even that grandma down the street with the best chocolate chip cookies.

The affiliate uses tools and product placement to direct consumer traffic to the merchant. Once the consumer makes a purchase, it’s payday.

Being an affiliate has its advantages. Have you ever wanted to start a business, but just didn’t know what to sell? Or maybe you didn’t have the money to cover start-up costs? Affiliate marketing is a way for you to sell anything you want without the hassle of manufacturing, shipping, or even storing stock.

Free trials and samples are another huge advantages of affiliate marketing. If you can manage to give companies enough business, they’ll be begging you to try their products, and in turn, tell your customers to try them.

Remember when we talked about that trip to Fiji? What if I told you that not only could you afford the trip, but you can also keep earning money while you’re there! This marketing strategy gives you the freedom to work any time, anywhere.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Merchant: A merchant is the owner of whichever product or service the affiliate is advertising.

Let’s look at an example to help you understand.

Remember the grandma selling cookies? How did you hear about her? Maybe you saw a sign hanging up at the local farmers market, or a local restaurant? You pull the little tab off the sign that says “show this coupon for a special discount” and bring it to grandma.

In this case, grandma is the merchant. She pays the affiliate (farmers market or restaurant) a commision for each person that shows up with the coupon. This is how she tracks the how much business that affiliate is trafficking.

The coupon in this example represents how the network tracks the consumers coming from the affiliate website. However, instead of using coupons, they use internet cookies (no, not the chocolate chip ones).

I’m sure you’ve noticed that little pop-up window that warns you about potential cookies, but most of us ignore it and continue on.

Cookies are text-only files that act as little trackers. They are stored on your computer and alert the website when you visit the site again. Cookies can only be viewed by the website that created them.

Network vs. Consumer

Network: Networks are affiliate marketing platforms that a string of merchants will join in order to extend their offers.

Joining a network is one of the most important steps you’re going to have to take when setting up your affiliate marketing business.

Before you are able to apply for a network, you’re going to want to have a strong relationship with your followers. If you’re not careful how you present the new product you can potentially lose followers. A good way to prevent this is to make sure that you have an emotional connection with them, but we’ll talk about that next.

Once you’re connected with a network, they will handle the payment and middleman tasks. They will provide you with the specific links you need in order for you to make the sale. This is especially helpful when your goal is to turn this into passive income.

The more work they do, the less work you have to do.

Consumer: The consumer is the targeted audience that you are marketing towards.

The reality is that the consumer makes or breaks your marketing career. Your consumer is your life support if you will.

This is where the emotional connection we mentioned comes in handy. Emotion concretes a memory.

The first step in securing that emotional connection is to tell your story. Did you suffer through something before you made it? Maybe you’re still suffering? Are you a struggling underdog trying to claw your way out of what seems like forever sinking sand?

Tell it.

Be honest and watch your audience fall in love with you, pouring in their support. This is what Russell Brunson was talking about when he said to have an Attractive Character.

Now that you have your audience interested in you, you’ll need to nurture them. Develop them to grow with you. If they feel like they’ve grown with you, they will take a failure personally.

Reach out to them.

Remind them that you are a person. Reply to their comments, give them shout outs. In 2018 everyone owns a computer and everyone is on some sort of social media. Take advantage of it.

What you’re trying to do here is break down any barriers and create trust through a bridge of communication. If your contact us page is supported through automatic replies and pre-programmed prompts, then you’re creating a serious barrier.

Try doing some surveys. Consumers want to know that you care about them before they will even begin to care about you. Make their voices heard.

Would they like to have an instant chat window for questions instead of having to send an email and wait for your reply? Remember to only put options that you know you can support, promising something and then not delivering is a fast way to lose viewers.

The more you nurture and train your audience, the more they will believe you and purchase the products that you tell them are good.

Who Can Do It?

Anyone can be an affiliate marketer. Grandma did it, and so can you. Once you’ve started your blog and grouped a following, the hardest part is over.

“Does this mean I can flip the bird to my boss tomorrow?” Not quite. While the process seems easy, it’s not an overnight deal. It does require a lot of patience and commitment. It can even sometimes take years to get where you want to be, especially for a beginner.

This is not a pyramid scheme.

This is a commitment and a career goal. Affiliate marketing is typically something you’ll want to start off as a side job, eventually transitioning it into a full-time profession.

Don’t think that this means you’ll need to go sign up for a college course on marketing to be successful! There is no formal training necessary. Remember the 3 P’s: patience, persistence, and perseverance.

Where’s The Money?

Okay here’s the fun part. Let’s talk about the money. How much can you make?

You may want to sit down for this. There are virtually no limitations to how much money you can make. The more you invest yourself into your work, the more you’re going to make.

This doesn’t mean that just because you spend a lot of time on your website that you’ll be making a butt load of money. Make sure that you’re being smart about it.

Know your audience. Know what products to push.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Are you a travel blogger? You wouldn’t want to be pushing services for lawn care, would you? That would just annoy your readers and end up being counterintuitive.

Try instead pushing products like makeup travel kits, or specific airlines. You’ll want to make the products relative to your blog, so you know your readers are interested.

How about a makeup vlogger? Are you really good at applying makeup, and love to do tutorials? Wouldn’t you love for your favorite companies to send you free makeup samples?

This is a fantastic opportunity to make money. It will be easy to tell your followers that you enjoyed a certain product, and let them follow the link to purchase it for themselves.

It’s also important to learn about your audience. There are two kinds of buyers: Logical and emotional.

Logical Buyers – These buyers want to hear facts. They make their decisions based off of logical reasons, and technical analysis. You’ll reach them with cold-hard facts. They don’t believe in you, they believe in research.

Emotional Buyers – These are the easiest type of buyers to sell to. They make impulsive buys based on emotion. You know all of those commercials that show the sad puppies and ask for donations? Emotional buyers are their target market.

You’ll want to figure out which type of buyer you primarily have, but ultimately you need to target both. Being able to reach both kinds of buyers will not only broaden your market, but it will entice more of your readers to return to your site.

What to Watch Out For

Many people try to get their hands in affiliate marketing, but end up only dipping their big toe in the pool. It’s easy to jump into something with high ambitions of earning $50,000.

Once these bloggers realize that it’s a lot harder than jumping on the computer and sipping some wine, they quit.

Here are a few reasons that people are likely to fail:

  1. No patience. Like I said, they start out hoping to quit their jobs in 6 months and quickly find out that it takes a bit more work than that. Not only work, but it takes time to build a strong consumer base before even beginning to market.
  2. Promoting the wrong products to the wrong consumers. Would you buy a new computer based off of something that a makeup artist said? I would hope not. You would search for a blog about technology and look into what products they suggest.
  3. Lack of quality. In the same way that you wouldn’t take technical advice from a beauty specialist, you also wouldn’t take beauty advice from someone who can’t even apply the right kind of foundation. You wouldn’t take gym equipment advice from someone who looks like they’ve never worked out a day in their life.

Make your content relatable. Make your content memorable.

Your clients want to know that you know what you’re talking about and that you aren’t steering them in the wrong direction.

Keep an eye out to make sure these things don’t start to happen to you.

Get Started

Are you ready to get on your way to good looking waiters and mimosas?

If you haven’t even started your blog yet, that’s ok! We’re here to help. Checkout out our how to start a blog video to help you get started. We keep it right on the homepage so it’s fast and convenient.

Once you’ve got your blog going, don’t forget to use our SEO Audit Tool to make sure you’re getting the most views.

Make sure you explore our website if you have any questions left unanswered. You will be ready for the next time someone asks, “what is affiliate marketing?”