So, you want to dip your toes into the waters of affiliate marketing? Then you’ve come to the right place! This guide is the perfect start to testing out the waters.
How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business
Now, before we get into the process, it is critical to first truly understand what affiliate marketing is. Join this free 5-day email course on 5-Day Master Affiliate Marketing for additional resources.
The first step to becoming an expert is to know all the ins and outs of the business. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income defines affiliate marketing as, “the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products.
You find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.” Pretty simple, right? But wait, there’s more!
There are four primary parties involved in the process of affiliate marketing:
- The merchant
- The affiliate/publisher
- The consumer
- The network
Part of finding success in affiliate marketing is familiarizing yourself with the role each party plays.
1. The Merchant
Pretty self explanatory, the merchant is the producer of the product/service that is being sold and they share a portion of the proceeds from sales with the affiliate.
Merchants can be large brands such as Nike and Target, or individuals like Elaine Rau, the founder of this blog (here is the link to become an affiliate for her products)! Anyone with something to sell has the potential to be a merchant!
2. The Affiliate/Publisher
The affiliate’s main responsibility is to promote the merchant’s products/services to their audience. This is done by appealing to the value of the products/services and ultimately encouraging viewers to make a purchase.
A portion of the profits from any orders made through the affiliate will go to them. Therefore, the affiliate’s end goal is the purchase of the promoted product/service; no purchase, no revenue!
3. The Consumer
The consumer is the customer, the one making the purchase that puts money into the pockets of the merchant and affiliate. Whether or not the consumer realizes that they are playing a role in this marketing process is often up to the publisher. We’ll talk more about this and disclaimers further on in the guide.
4. The Network
The network is the middle-man that connects the merchants and affiliates together. While it is possible for these parties to link up on their own, a network, also known as an Affiliate Program, can simplify the process.
An example of this kind of network is Awin, which is one of the most trusted networks around. All you do is sign up for $5 (you get this back after your first campaign), and you’ll get access to thousands of brands lined up and ready for you to become their affiliate.
Some brands manage their affiliate programs strictly through networks, so it’s important for the affiliate to be familiar with them.
Now that you have the basic knowledge of affiliate marketing, the rest of this guide will take you through the steps you’ll need to take to become a merchant as well as an affiliate.
Each role comes with its unique pros and cons, and by the end of this guide you’ll be equipped with the necessary knowledge to start your journey as either a merchant or an affiliate!
BECOME A MERCHANT
Whether you’re a small business owner who’s looking for another way to promote your product/service, or you’re just starting the process of product/service development, you’re in the right place!
The following steps will help you in joining the affiliate market in order to take your business to the next level. However, it is important to remember that the role of a merchant isn’t for everyone.
It requires a great deal of creativity and perseverance. But with some careful research and consideration, you can be well on your way to selling your own product with the help of affiliates! To become a merchant you will need to:
- Determine Your Niche
- Develop Your Product/Service
- Find Affiliate Partners
Now let’s get into it!
1. Determine Your Niche
Before you can begin developing your product/service, it’s necessary to determine your niche. Choosing a niche will help guide you when you begin developing ideas for your product/service. For example, if you decide to focus on “self-improvement,” then you will need to think about a product/service that will serve that purpose.
This will differ greatly if your niche is that of “fitness and weight loss.” If you need help deciding which niche you want to enter, you can check out these 12 most profitable niches and even take this quiz to help show you which fits your interests best. Once you’ve chosen that it’s time to…
2. Develop Your Product/Service
The easiest way to go about developing a product/service is not to create a brand new one, but to expand on and improve upon existing ones.
First you will need to investigate what’s popular amongst your audience. An excellent tool to help begin your investigation is Buzzsumo, which will show you what people are interested in based on social media shares. You can search your niche and see what your audience is passionate about.
For example, if you search “fitness,” you will get many results related to muscle building. Now you can take it a step further to find out what products/services exist specifically for muscle building. Keep these questions in mind when researching:
- What are people saying about these products/services?
- What are the pros and cons?
- Is there a way you can address these issues?
As you process through these questions, you will start to get closer and closer to a tangible product/service to sell yourself. If it’s your first time developing a product/service, consider creating a digital one such as an online course or e-book. This will save you a great deal of time and money, while still letting you experience the process of product development and sales.
Alright, so now you have your niche down, your product/service fabricated, and you’re finally ready to…
3. Find Affiliate Partners
There are two ways you can go about doing this. The first is to join an affiliate network (remember when we talked about those earlier?). When you join a network as a merchant (or advertiser), you’re essentially putting your business out there for publishers to see.
Affiliates in your network will have access to your business as they search for new services to try out and potentially promote. Some popular affiliate programs include ShareASale, Awin, and MaxBounty. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that a good deal of affiliate networks will charge a fee for being a part of their program.
The second option you have is to set up your own affiliate program using websites such as Gumroad and Digital Product Delivery or Teachable (if you’re creating an online course), and then find affiliate partners yourself.
Maybe you’re an avid follower of this one blogger or YouTuber in your same niche who may potentially be interested in promoting your product/service. Reach out to them! Pitch your product to them (maybe even throw in a free sample!) and inquire if they’d be interested in joining your affiliate program. If you currently don’t know of any potential affiliates, then take to Google and search for them.
While taking this route will allow you a little more flexibility and autonomy with commission rates, it requires you to be a little more active in searching for your partners, so be prepared to put in a little more effort!
And there it is! You’re a merchant in the process of affiliate marketing! But remember, these are just the basics of the business. There is plenty of room to expand and improve upon the above tips, and in order for your affiliate program to continue thriving it’s important to do your research. Here are a few resources to get you started:
- AM Navigator: Online Guide to Affiliate Marketing [for Merchants]
- PracticalEcommerce: A Brief Introduction to Affiliate Marketing for Ecommerce
- eMarketing Institute: 9 Rules of Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
BECOME AN AFFILIATE
So what if product creation is not your forte, but you still want to make money selling something that someone else offers? Then affiliate is the role for you! To become an affiliate you’ll need to:
- Establish Yourself as an Expert
- Choose a Product/Service
1. Establish Yourself as an Expert
First, you’ll need to determine what you’re establishing yourself as an expert in. This brings us back to the idea of choosing a niche. When you choose a niche, you narrow down your focus area, making it that much easier to become an expert.
Next, you’ll want to develop a platform where you demonstrate your extensive knowledge of this specific area. This can be anything from a blog, Youtube channel, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site in which you can adequately demonstrate your expertise.
Then you’ll want to produce excellent content that convinces your audience that you know all that there is to know about your niche! Once you’ve completed all that it’s about time to…
2. Choose a Product/Service
While it may be tempting to choose whatever product/service interests you, you have to keep in mind that you’re selling to an audience. That means you have to select a particular product/service that will benefit them, something they will want to spend money on.
Remember, at the end of the day your profit depends on your viewers’ purchases, so you’ll need to cater to their needs. This may require a bit of research into the demand of your audience as well as up-to-date knowledge on trends in your specific area of expertise.
Once you’ve determined what product/service your audience is willing to dish out the big bucks for, you’ll need to find an affiliate program that has the product/service you are wanting to promote. There are two ways you can go about finding these programs.
1. The first is going straight to the source: the business or company.
For example, LadyBossBlogger founder, Elaine Rau, has an affiliate program for her digital courses on making money online, and to join all you need to do is follow these simple instructions. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
2. The second option is to join an affiliate network.
This may be your best course of action if 1) the business you’re interested in handles their affiliate marketing only through networks, or 2) you still need a little help in choosing the best product/service to promote.
Popular affiliate networks such as Awin, ShareASale, Maxbounty, and Amazon, have a plethora of available business partners selling a variety of products/services. You can browse through them based on category and potentially find the perfect product that you will…
If you’re promoting a product/service that you’ve used on the regular, promoting it is easy because:
- You already have the product and
- You already know which qualities you like, dislike, how you use it, what it’s best for, etc.
However, if it’s a product/service you’re new to, you’ll need to buy it or ask the company to send a sample for you to try it out for free. Remember to be truthful in your review!
If you have a certain issue with the product/service, let your viewers know while also including how you deal with the problem. This will enhance your image as an affiliate by further establishing your credibility because your audience will know you’re telling them your sincere opinion.
How are your sales tracked?
You will most likely be given a unique affiliate link to use.
This is how the company you’re working with will keep track of how many patrons you bring in specifically (and, consequently, how much commission is due to you!), so you’ll want to include this link in whatever content you post related to the product/service.
Your affiliate link will look something like this: https://ladybossblogger.teachable.com/?affcode=238290_016397ok. It’s a little long and difficult to smoothly incorporate into a social media post, so you may want to include it as hyperlinked text like this: How To Start Your Own Online Business Course.
Right about now you might be thinking, “Well isn’t that a little deceptive? Shouldn’t I let my audience know it’s an affiliate link?” And the answer is yes! That’s where your disclaimer comes in. When you include a disclaimer to your content, you’re letting your audience know that you’re using affiliate links and will receive some of the proceeds of any purchases made using your link.
Once you’ve completed all of those steps, congratulations! You’re an official affiliate!
Whether as a merchant or an affiliate, you’ve waded the waters of affiliate marketing, and now you are well on your way to diving all the way in! Here are additional resources to help you sharpen your skills and create stellar affiliate marketing strategies:
- LadyBossBlogger: What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does it Work?
- LadyBossBlogger: How to Make Money Using ShareASale Affiliate Links
- LadyBossBlogger: How to Create a Successful Affiliate Marketing Strategy
- AuthorityHacker: The 55 Best Affiliate Programs & Networks for Bloggers in 2019
- Affiliate Marketing Angles: A Step-by-Step Guide to Standing Out
Sarai Lopez is a senior at Wheaton College (IL) studying Spanish and Communications with a focus in rhetoric & culture. She loves learning, sharing her knowledge, eating just about any sort of chocolate dessert, and listening to all genres of music. One day she hopes to create a children’s animated series as well as open her very own bakery.