Affiliate marketing is a rapidly growing niche, but it is one that the majority of people fail at. Understanding how affiliate marketing works is the first step towards becoming a successful affiliate – but if you want to make money at it (even just a little ‘pocket money’) then you will need to have a plan, and put time into marketing on a consistent basis.
Affiliate marketing involves promoting products offered by someone else (a merchant). You (the affiliate) earn commission either as a percentage of the amount you sell, or a payment per lead or per sale, depending on the type of products you are promoting and what agreement you have with the merchant.
Some affiliate programs will pay you commission on an ongoing basis for the lifetime of the customer that you refer to them. Others will only pay you for purchases that were made as a direct result of your referral, so the second or third purchases made by a given customer could either go to another affiliate or not have commission associated with them at all if the customer went directly to the merchant’s site to make them. That’s why its so important that you understand how affiliate marketing works with the program you are signing up for – so that you can optimise the conversion process, and know realistically how sustainable your income will be.
Leads Versus Sales
In some industries, you will get paid for generating qualified leads – so if someone reads information about a product and then applies for an account or calls to ask for more information, that is enough for you to earn money. In other niches, you actually have to make a sale. There is some good potential to make money even from relatively small affiliate programs, though – if you’re selling products that are consumable (printer cartridges or supplements, for example) and you know that you are going to have a regular audience of consumers for them, then even a few dollars commission per product will mount up.
Generating a Customer Base
The trick is getting a base of customers who want the products you are promoting. When you launch a website it has no traffic, no ‘authority’ and no brand associated with it. Why should anyone pay any attention to what you have to say?
Building up a brand will take some time – it’s a good idea to be active on social media and to engage with people in communities that relate to your niche. Comment on other people’s blogs, and post consistently on your site. Post a mixture of entertaining and informative articles and sales pitches, taking care not to go too sales-focused for too long, especially not in the early days. Get people to subscribe to your newsletter, and THEN start thinking about posting affiliate links. Even then, only post links to products and services that you wholeheartedly believe in – because those recommendations will shine through and your users will be more likely to convert.