What Is Affiliate Marketing?

What is an affiliate

You have a great product or service, but nobody knows about it. How do you find new customers? And how do they find you? The most common answers to these questions involve marketing and advertising campaigns ranging from small-scale approaches like putting fliers on cars in a parking lot, to multimillion-dollar commercials during the Super Bowl. Studies suggest that the average person is exposed to between three- to five-thousand types of advertisement each day. With so much information being blasted out, how can you be sure your message is received?

Have you ever had a friend or family member tell you about a cool product or rave about some new restaurant? Chances are you were more receptive to that information than from any amount of advertising you may have seen or heard. Even with all the flashy advertisements you may see in a single day, direct suggestions from a trusted friend are more likely to spur you to investigate a new product as opposed to some unsolicited advertisement during your daily commute.

Okay, but how do you get people to talk to their friends and family about your company’s products or services? Enter affiliate marketing.

Wikipedia tells us that affiliate marketing is a method of promotion “in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.” So what exactly does this mean? And how does it apply to business owners and consumers?

Basic Affiliate Marketing

At the most basic level, affiliate marketing involves a company paying a commission or some other bonus to a person (the affiliate) who promotes the company to a friend or acquaintance who then becomes a new customer of that company. As you can see, there are generally three key players in an affiliate marketing program: the merchant (the person or company selling something), the affiliate (the person promoting the product), and the customer (the person buying the product based on interaction with the affiliate). The affiliate is simply a customer telling his/her friends about a company, product, or service. As that promotion generates sales, the company then thanks the affiliate by providing some sort of perk or commission.

The customer is happy because they’ve discovered a product or service they hadn’t known about before. The affiliate is happy because they’ve earned a bonus. And the company is happy because they’ve increased sales with minimal marketing investment. It’s a win-win-win!

Everyone is online

These days, spreading information via word of mouth is easier than ever. Rather than waiting to talk about a company, service, or product in a face-to-face conversation, we can copy an Internet address and paste it into a personalized email, Facebook post, or tweet. Almost everybody is online and virtually connected. Recent Facebook reports claim that more than 50 percent of the adult population in the US has a Facebook account and that nearly 60 percent of Facebook users are connected to one hundred or more friends. And chances are that if an individual is not connected to Facebook or another social network, they live near or are closely associated with someone who is. Whether or not these figures are totally accurate, they illustrate that most people are connected online in one way or another.

Taking it to the Next Level

As a person starts to see commissions, it’s likely they’ll be more motivated to expand their referral process. An individual may even seek out affiliate marketing opportunities as a way to supplement income. Financially motivated individuals can take their affiliate marketing efforts to the next level by recommending products or services from their own commercial web presence, whether that be a professional blog, Facebook group, or multifaceted corporate web presence. Trusted commercial Internet professionals can easily recommend products and services for another company and increase revenue to both businesses—to one business through increased traffic and sales and to the other through commissions generated through the affiliate program. While personalized Facebook, Twitter, or email referrals will generally not extend beyond a person’s friends or family, a commercially minded affiliate will seek out ways to extend the reach of his or her referral link to as many people as possible, often referring customers he or she has never interacted with directly.

Getting Started

If you want to set up an affiliate marketing program, you’ll need to create and maintain a database of your affiliates, create and track their unique links, and integrate those custom links into your e-commerce process so you can pay them the appropriate commissions. Sound a bit daunting? Fortunately there’s Affiliate Royale—a full-featured plugin that helps you almost effortlessly launch an affiliate program on your WordPress site in just a matter of minutes. If you have a product or service along with any sort of online presence, chances are good that affiliate marketing will work for you. With just a few short clicks, you could have a free-form marketing team of affiliates working for you, driving your sales in ways you hadn’t thought possible.

What are your thoughts about Affiliate Marketing? Tell us what you think in the comments section.