By now, you know what affiliate marketing is and how some of the world’s global businesses benefit from its simple, measurable framework. You know how to select affiliates that will help you grow your business as well as the best time to start your affiliate marketing program.
If you’ve not spent much time thinking through all these steps, that’s okay.
In this article, we’ll help you understand the steps, give you access to simple, step-by-step, start-up resources, and guide you through the process of finding the best affiliates for your business.
What’s so great about Affiliate Marketing?
For many small businesses, affiliate marketing is a simple process of finding reviewers and influencers to post blogs/vlogs/video ads, setting up the trackers, and paying a commission.
However, to truly succeed, you need to consider affiliate marketing in terms of what you’re getting versus what you’re giving when all is said and done. Ultimately, you should aim to get cost effective, measurable, post-paid distribution for your products, services, and brand.
On the other hand, you should try to give a brand that has deep, meaningful, and considerable value to your affiliates, and customers.
Companies such as Amazon and Allstate have mastered this art, and generate billions of dollars every year from their affiliate marketing programs.
Once you master the process and follow the right steps, you can achieve your sales goals, scale your business and become financially independent.
What should I do to grow a profitable Affiliate marketing program? (Skip this step if you already know)
Find below, steps and detailed, free resources that will help you formulate the right questions for your brand new, affiliate marketing program.
- What is affiliate marketing? Get free, detailed resources here.
- How do global brands use affiliate marketing? Get free, detailed resources here.
- When should I start my affiliate marketing program? Get free, detailed resources here.
- What should I look out for when using affiliates? Get free, detailed resources here.
- What are 5 things that will determine success or failure? Get free, detailed resources here.
How to pick an awesome affiliate? (Skip if you already know)
If you hope to succeed in your affiliate marketing efforts, you need great affiliates. Great affiliates have the following qualities.
A – Actively strives towards an ideal
- Is your affiliate trying to solve a problem?
- Is their solution aimed towards a better future?
F – Follows a consistent theme
- Is your affiliate consistent in their messaging?
- Do they focus on specific areas of expertise?
F – Fetches a considerable amount of traffic on their channels
- Do they have an audience of listeners, contributors, friends, and well-wishers?
- Does the audience derive entertainment, education, and (information) from the affiliate?
I – Interested in the genuine improvement of their audience
- Are they solving a real-world problem for your target audience?
- Does the solution have economic or social value to your target audience?
L- Leads thought and conversations among a niche of people
- Do they lead or moderate any topical conversation in the culture?
- Do their contributions improve their brand or disparage it?
I- Incisive in their knowledge of their niche
- What is the basis of their knowledge or claim to a meaningful exploration?
- Is it credible based on influence, education, and (or) attractiveness?
A- Action-oriented and creative in their approach
- Are they creating new forms of their art or relying on previously successful ones?
- Is their style useful/meaningful to your target audience?
T- Tenacious in their brand-building efforts
- What is the YOY website/channel traffic growth?
- Do they capture a popular sentiment or espouse topical values?
- Do they have a moral code?
- Do they adhere to their moral code?
- Is their moral code acceptable to your target audience?
Although not exhaustive, this acronym provides a framework of ideas that will help you select the right affiliates.
Where are all the awesome affiliates?
To do this successfully, you should own a business. You need to have a record of sales to justify your product value, a few testimonials from customers who love your brand, and a deep understanding of all the different channels and how to leverage them.
If you own a fairly successful business, it means you have sales, testimonials, and some brand credibility. Next, you need to understand the different channels and how they can help your business. To understand online channels, you’ll need to conduct your own paid traffic experiment first.
A paid traffic experiment refers to small, varying deliveries of sales copy, images, videos, or a combination that addresses one or more of the steps in the customer’s discovery journey.
How to conduct a paid traffic experiment (3 step guide)
- Develop sales and marketing multimedia
- Run Ads in the A/B testing method against different segments of your target audience
- Measure your results in likes, comments, and shares to assess the quality of your advertisement
To learn more about these three steps, click the links and you’ll get a detailed step-by-step process of how to achieve your goal.
Once you’ve successfully completed your paid experiment, you’ll have data about who clicked, liked, and shared your advertisement.
The next step is to convince high-quality affiliates to review/advertise your products by giving them metrics about conversion (CTA clicks), inferences on how your test translates into earnings for them (earnings per click), and where you’ve had the most success.
Having this information is crucial to getting the very best affiliates in the world to list your products and review them. Since affiliates trade on trust, they need to know that your target audience will appreciate reading about/watching your product on their channel.
Having this data on hand, either in great copy, images, or as a one-page pitch to your potential affiliates (especially if you have a local brand) will show preparedness and increase the probability that they will list and review your product.
Once you’ve completed this part, you’ll need to speak to affiliates about your data. Affiliate networks are a great place to start.
What are affiliate networks?
Affiliate networks connect bloggers/influencers and entrepreneurs who own a channel (website, YouTube, Twitch, etc.) with companies such as yours that are offering an affiliate program. They also provide tools for multimedia generation and data tracking too.
In a nutshell, affiliate networks help you scale your fully-refined affiliate marketing programs to millions of publishers who will then bid to join your program.
By providing you with a ready marketplace of high-quality affiliates, affiliate networks like Clickbank and Amazon associates save you time and money in your affiliate outreach process.
Since 1998, Clickbank has paid out well over 2 billion dollars to its affiliates in commissions for products sold. For one, this means that businesses like yours made many multiples of that number, it also means that you could be one of them.
One key advantage of using an affiliate network is that it solves the problem of where to find affiliates well. Since there are so many other businesses, there is also a high supply of affiliates.
Also, it provides battle-tested IT infrastructure for everything from cookie tracking, data collection, support, and even affiliate payments.
However, there is extremely stiff competition among merchants for the best affiliates, and also affiliate networks have no real guarantee of quality. Affiliate networks will work well for you if you’re just starting out and have no infrastructure.
It’s also great if you’ve had some success already and want to scale your efforts.
However, without some success or a strong brand, you may struggle to attract the right prospects on an affiliate network. If this is a problem for you, you should consider direct marketing for your affiliate marketing program.
As a small business owner, if you decide to go offer your affiliate program directly without any intermediaries, it means your program is directly targeted to affiliates.
If you opt for this system, you’ll need to build out your own affiliate marketing infrastructure. Once you do, you’ll need to take stock of minimum payouts, cookie tracking, commissions, and other key variables internally.
This means that you’ll need to hire affiliate managers and IT personnel who will ensure that your software and relationships serve each other well.
If you’re a small business with few resources, committing thousands of dollars to your direct strategy is not the best for you. While there’s more visibility and uniqueness, you’ll also need to deal with significant upfront costs.
If your business has a solid offline presence, impressive sales numbers and a very well-defined audience of customers, direct affiliate marketing will work for you.
If you settle for direct affiliate marketing, you’ll need to do some outreach yourself. Forums are a great place to find affiliate marketing talent.
Forums are a virtual venue where niche topics are discussed in great detail. They’re great because, unlike blogs that offer a uni-directional flow of information in most cases, the body of work is exploratory in nature and thrives around a community.
People are motivated to participate in a forum because niche subjects are covered by experts or passionate hobbyists and the content is generated in a non-structured, spontaneous manner.
Although you cannot attribute the information to any authority, they’re a great place to study customer motivations in real-time.
For business owners, forums are a great scouting ground for raw affiliate marketing talent. Usually, forums have leaders, moderators, and other key characters that guide the conversation. These individuals can make excellent affiliate marketers if your product solves a problem for the audience.
Blogs and websites in your niche
Unlike forums, blogs and websites are not the result of user-generated content (in most cases) or spontaneous conversation. They’re usually pre-planned around a specific subject, topics, or industries that the blogger intends to investigate, demystify or contribute to.
Usually, people become drawn to a blogger when they’ve consistently shown expertise in a specific area of thought. They may have real-world achievements that they communicate or explain through the blog or a sizeable audience that is interested in their creative form.
Although popular blogs are a great option for direct affiliate marketing, they’re also obvious and likely to put your business in competition with other businesses for merchant slots if they’re a high-quality blogger.
For a business owner, blogs can help you get your business in front of a pre-qualified group of people who will try your product based on the trust they’ve developed over time but they’re more difficult to convince too.
As you develop your affiliate marketing strategy, you’ve most likely generated some primary data from ads, forums, focus groups, etc. However, marketing conditions are constantly changing and as a business owner, you need to keep track of who is making the money and how.
Prospecting tools such as Adplexity allow you to see what other merchants are doing and simply copy tried and tested methods for your affiliate marketing program.
You’ll be able to see landing pages, commissions, traffic sources, and most importantly, analyze trends that are driving your niche in real-time.
As a business owner, understanding what works for the market is a potent weapon competitively, and knowing who is making all the sales will give you a solid idea of which affiliates can help to move the needle for your sales efforts online.
Although these tools are fantastic, they cost you monthly fees to maintain and have a learning curve that you’ll need to overcome to make sense of the data.
If you’re a small business and have little or no resources, using the google search engine can be a good way to start.
Google search engine
As I write this text, roughly four million unique identities will have completed a search on Google. In today’s digital world, the first page of the google search engine is the authoritative source for what matters to your customers.
As more people link to, share, and search for resources online, google’s algorithm ensures that those resources are easier to find, thereby amplifying the process in a flywheel gone berserk.
Simply put, google displays what people care about first and most prominently. If you plan to start an affiliate program, having this data is gold.
For one, by simply searching for relevant keywords in your niche, you’ll immediately see who the dominant players are and how their messaging is crafted.
You’ll also be able to track their campaigns and see who their affiliates are with cheap tools such as Ubersuggest or comprehensive options such as SEMrush.
Also, you can find adjacent businesses that sell to people who may consider your offers and propose mutually beneficial partnerships.
For example, if you sell kitchenware, finding the number one cooking show in your local district can improve your odds of success. For one, they’re not in direct competition with you, and also, you can include their assets on your website and cross-sell/market their offers. The potential earnings of each sale you make are also an extra incentive for them to partner with you.
Having access to the google search engine will help you track and pitch to affiliates who have a ready audience, and history of conversions in your niche. You’ll also be able to find and pitch websites and businesses that have an audience in adjacent industries.
While most of this is free (except your mobile data/ WiFi costs), to truly benefit from this form of market research, having tools like Surfer SEO, Ubersuggest or Ahrefs is important.
On Facebook, there are over 620 million groups which put the figure at just under 2.0 groups per user. For you, this means that if your target audience is active on Facebook, they most probably belong to one group or the other.
As young people continue to boycott Facebook, groups have become a central part of the experience as the quality of newsfeeds declines organically over time.
One way to target groups with your offer is through the advertising machinery but a more effective way might be through Facebook group admins. Usually, these individuals have created and nurtured their digital communities for many years and are very passionate about them.
In most cases, sending a few free samples and having a hearty conversation can help you get free advertisements in the groups for your products or services. If you offer to pay a commission, they will be a lot more willing to work with you.
However, your products need to match the social and economic norms of the group in question. For example, if you’re targeting Facebook gardening groups in the Hamptons, you’ll need to come with a premium product as your consumers are generally affluent in their tastes.
On the other hand, Facebook admins are moderators for the most part and so, they may not suffice as a steady source of leads or advertisements.
Being methodical about your affiliate marketing program is important for your success. Once you’ve gone through all the key preliminary steps to determine your affiliate marketing program readiness, the next steps involve finding your affiliates.
In your outreach efforts, you can decide to use an affiliate network or go directly to your potential affiliates. While affiliate networks are good for unproven upstarts with little resources, direct affiliate programs will give you a lot of power and flexibility at the cost of software and personnel expenses.
The sections above provide incredible detail of how to navigate your decision-making process and the things you should consider in each situation. Until the next time, have a very profitable day!