In official definitions, Affiliate Marketing is “a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for sales generated from its referrals” but what does that even mean?
In real life (and business), affiliate marketing is getting paid to make recommendations that you’re probably already making. Recommending a solution to someone else’s problem is human nature, it’s just what we do! If someone tells you they have an itch, you’ll no doubt see someone recommending a cream that can help to soothe it. Affiliate marketing is basically you getting paid a percentage of the sale price if someone buys that cream…
How Does This Apply to Your Business?
In business, you’ll often make recommendations for other products or services that complement your own business, but you don’t sell; almost like an extension to the service you’re already providing. We do this naturally, but you can actually get paid for doing it.
These recommendations could be as simple as a book that reinforces the methodology of a treatment you provide or a software that will support the recommendations you’ve made as part of your service.
For example, if you sell handmade jewellery, you might consider offers like:
Cleaning products to keep your products in top condition
Storage solutions to keep your offers safe and cared for
Clothing lines that your customers can wear alongside your items to highlight their beauty
A web developer might consider:
Anti-virus software to protect your customers websites
Paid plugins or add-ons that you recommend
A course that teaches their customers how to maximise their website or improve their SEO
This is by no means an exhaustive list as your imagination is the limit, but remember, good affiliate marketing should be seamless and a natural next step for your customer.
How Does It Work?
Affiliate marketing sounds scary, because it involves cookies, URLs, programmes and other technical sounding stuff that could put you off. Don’t let it because it really is straight forward.
I want you to imagine that you’re eating a crumbly snack, let’s say, a cookie, and walking around your house (stick with me…)
If someone else was to come along, they would probably be able to follow the route you took around your home just based on the crumbs you’ve left in a trail behind you.
That’s what internet Cookies are, (you know the ones you spend your life accepting from the pop-ups on websites?) and that’s how affiliate marketing works.
How Do You Do It?
Once you’ve found something you’d like to recommend or share, you join the affiliate programme (retailer) and then share a unique link (URL) with your customers.
When someone clicks that link to follow your recommendation, they’re taken to a sales page for that product or service.
The cookies leave a trail behind the customer, showing the retailer where that click came from: you!
If that click results in a purchase being made then you will receive a percentage of the purchase price.
These cookies don’t disappear straight away either, they can stick around for any length of time from 1 hour up to 3 years, depending on what the retailer offer in their programme terms. This is great for you, because someone shopping on that website you sent them to, may well make a purchase at a later date and you will still be credited with that sale.
What’s In It for Them?
There are loads of reasons retailers add affiliate marketing to their larger marketing strategies:
The retailer (owner of the affiliate programme) gets to make sales they wouldn’t normally have made, because their products or services are being advertised by you.
The benefit for the retailers that run affiliate programmes like these is simple; they only pay for the advertising that generates actual sales, instead of forking out lots of cash for magazine ads, social media promotions and other similar advertising avenues that don’t guarantee a return. Instead, they pay you AFTER a sale has already been made.
The retailer benefits from an excellent reputation: affiliates are always going to say nice things about products and services they’re promoting.
The retailer benefits from traffic to their website without paying for advertising, whether sales are made or not. (This is good for their SEO).
The retailer benefits from backlinks, which is good for domain authority, which is also good for SEO.
What’s In It for You?
It’s understandable that you may be questioning why you’d want to consider this for your business? Well, I can tell you, there are lots of benefits to becoming an affiliate:
It can allow you to effectively extend the offers you have, without physically having to stock or manage new products. You don’t need to worry about stock levels, storage, purchasing, logistics, availability or any other of the day-to-day stuff associated with managing additional products.
You earn a percentage of the sale price for every purchase made from the website you send your customers to; and it usually* doesn’t have to be a purchase of the product you actually sent them to the website for.
The content you create with your affiliate links can be evergreen, meaning it has an exceptionally long lifespan on the internet. This means you can make a sale of a product you recommended years ago, without having created new content.
You usually* have lots of freedom to advertise as you wish (as long as it’s ethical!).
Most importantly, you can add an additional stream of income into your business that is entirely passive, meaning you create something once and see returns on that time and time again, all without having to create a product or service yourself.
*The terms and conditions of each affiliate programme may differ; ensure you read them thoroughly.
How To Get Started
Understanding the affiliate promotions that would be suitable for your audience is key to ensuring that not only will you be accepted to these programmes when you apply, but you also make sales.
As an example, my business is specifically focused on helping business owners add income streams to their existing business. If you came to my website or stumbled on my social media and I started to recommend shampoo, you’d think I’d lost my mind. Doing this confuses your potential customers and risks ruining your entire business and reputation. To avoid this fatal error (and trust me, I’ve seen people fall into this trap!) I’d suggest that you follow these few steps before diving into affiliate marketing:
Do your research: check back over previous blog posts or social media posts and make a note of the products or services that you have been recommending.
Think about conversations you’ve had historically with customers or clients: what have you recommended in the past?
List these out and think carefully about where it could be purchased – i.e., is it a specific brand that you’re promoting or is it a generic product that could be grabbed from general marketplaces like Amazon?
Consider value for money and customer experience for your customers above everything else. Your audience trusts you to recommend the best product and experience. The worst thing you can do for your business is promote something that turns out to be crap!
Next ask yourself if what you’ve already promoted is suitable to your niche and audience? Are you selling the right things that solve your customers problems? Is it the natural next step for them?
Double check your niche market and make sure you’ve really drilled down. What are your customers problems? Find out their pain points and solve them with your existing and affiliate offers.
Where Can You Share Affiliate Links?
Advertising the products and services that you become affiliated with does not need to be difficult and should integrate with your existing sales and marketing strategies. Here are some examples of where you could promote your links but remember, the terms and conditions of each affiliate programme may differ so ensure you read them thoroughly before promoting.
Post on social media
Create a ‘shop’ page on your own website
Write blogs (and drive traffic to them using your social media!)
Send mail shots to your email list
Create pins on Pinterest to advertise your own and affiliate products
Record vlogs talking about your recommendations and why you like them and use the link in your description
Talk about them on your podcasts and use your link in the description
How To Apply
Finding whether or not a product or service has an affiliate programme is as simple as Google. Literally type in “affiliate programme for….” and insert the product or service you want to promote. (Bear in mind that you may want to use both spellings of programme (program) to pick up all results)
If you know that lots of the items you’d like to promote are available from marketplaces like Amazon, then join those generic platforms.
Some programmes have larger application processes than others, so it’s a good idea to create a document that you can copy and paste into all your applications for ease and consistency.
Some companies don’t manage their own programmes, they use global networks or ‘umbrella’ companies to manage their programmes on their behalf. As an example, Awin (myaffiliate link) are a global affiliate marketing network that have over 100,000 active publishers promoting over 6000 advertisers (they’re the brands!) which gives you, as a publisher, the ability to find and partner with big and small brands. They have a vault of brands to work with; from beauty to finance, there is something for every niche available.
You may need a website to join some programmes. If you don’t have one, and plan on promoting via social media then you have two choices:
pick a different programme that doesn’t require a website
create a really basic, free website using sites like WordPress.Org, Wix or SquareSpace with a cover page that says, “website coming soon”. Do this first, then apply for the programme, you’re much more likely to be accepted.
Getting It Right
Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to joining and promoting affiliate links. You must declare that links are affiliate links, no matter where you share them. Depending which country you’re in, the rules are different, so make sure you know exactly what you can/can’t do legally.
You’ll be signing an agreement with a company, and they want you to make them look good too. They have a rep to protect just like you. Don’t be a spammy pammy! Share links appropriately, with helpful insight and with a mix of other, non-affiliated content. Constantly filling your Facebook newsfeed with sales pitches does nothing for your reputation or the company you’re promoting (this applies to selling your own stuff too!).
Be valuable! Provide so much good stuff, both free and paid, that people can’t help but love you! If they love you, they’ll buy from you, whether it’s your product or not.
When you do affiliate marketing right, you can open up the potential for matching or even out-earning your current income streams from your business. There are hundreds of examples of businesses earning 100% of their income from affiliations, and this is completely uncapped revenue that can stack into millions.
So, there you have it; an introduction to Affiliate Marketing. It’s pretty clear that promoting other people’s products that are complementary to your own, is definitely a way of boosting your business bottom line. If you have a blog, it’s an excellent way of monetising that content in a completely passive way. Also, if you have an online shop, you might consider throwing some affiliate products amongst your own. Otherwise, a slightly less passive way is to use social media. Facebook and Instagram posts tend to have more longevity than Twitter but test the water and see how you get on.
If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice on affiliate marketing, contact our expert* Joelle on:
*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.
Joelle Byrne Passive income expert Joelle is brilliant at helping SMEs spot and create opportunities to generate regular revenue from their businesses without having to trade their time for money!