The ABC's of Affiliate Marketing and How to Get Started

If I said there was a marketing strategy that was expected to grow $6.8 billion by 2020 would I have your attention? How about if I told you that 81% of brands are already using it and it can produce monster gains in your ROI?

That perked you up, didn’t it?

The marketing strategy that I’m talking about is affiliate marketing, also known as performance marketing, and it can be the singular most effective strategy in your playbook. Did I mention that it’s also makes it incredibly easy to maintain a continuous stream of income? It just keeps getting better.

Affiliate marketing is a way of having others, typically influencers in your market niche, promote your product or services for you. Due to the popularity of social media influencers and high traffic blogs, putting your brand into the hands of the internet’s powerful voices can produce greater success for you than even the most extensive marketing strategies.

Sound great, right? So, let’s get started.

Start with Some Goals

The first thing you need to do before jumping into affiliate marketing is to ask yourself what your goal here is. Maybe you’re looking to generate more brand awareness, or you want to see some serious jumps in conversions. Whatever your goal, it’s important to identify it before you get started.

Affiliate marketing goals generally fall into one, or more, of these three categories.

  • Increased Traffic: Generating greater traffic, especially if you have an e-commerce business, can be the key to success for your brand. Affiliate marketing is a great way of driving traffic to your site. Affiliate marketing can also help you increase traffic from a specific geographical location or market niche by using affiliates that are closely connected or influential to those audiences.
  • Increased Revenue: It almost seems unnecessary to mention this because who doesn’t want increased revenue? The key here is to recognize if this is your only goal. You are going to want to set both long and short-term goals for revenue growth that will help you plan your affiliate marketing strategy and adapt it for greater success along the way.
  • Marketing Budget and Performance: If your marketing budget is on the lean side and you want the most bang for your buck, affiliate marketing is the way to go. Affiliate marketing is performance based, so you only pay for results. It is up to you to decide if you want to pay for traffic generation or actual sales. There are pros and cons to each.


For example, it might make more sense to you to only pay for clicks that lead directly to a sale. That’s a guaranteed return on your investment. But, you are also likely paying more for each of those clicks and your affiliate is going to promote your product in a way that is meant to generate sales rather than just increased traffic.

So, you might be missing out on the chance to generate more leads that you can then convert for yourself. Think carefully about how to best achieve your goals with your marketing budget.

Ready, Set, Find Your Affiliates

Now that you have your feet firmly planted on the idea of affiliate marketing, it’s time to actually get out there and find the affiliates that will help explode your growth. There are three main ways of finding affiliates to promote your brand. You can either find and contact them yourself, hire an affiliate manager or use an affiliate network.

We will go over all three options in just a second, but first, let’s talk a bit about who you want to be promoting your brand.

Before you set out to find affiliates, have an idea of what type of personality you want attached to your brand. A great affiliate influencer can build your brands reputation, while the wrong affiliate can tarnish it. You also want to keep in mind the audience you want to attract. You might find a successful affiliate, but if their market doesn’t match yours, or is at least vertical to yours, you are only going to be disappointed in the results.

This is also a good time to think about how you want your brand promoted. Are you looking to work with affiliates on social media or blogs? You have other options such as email publishers and loyalty pages. It’s good to think outside of the box here and consider all your options before signing on.

Ok, now back to finding those affiliates.

The Search is On

Your first option for connection to affiliates is to get out there and find them yourself. This will require the most footwork on your part, but it’s also the most cost effective since you won’t be paying a manager or network to do the work for you. There are many avenues for finding your own affiliates. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Use Your Website: Want to know who makes the best affiliates? People who are already familiar with your brand. You can advertise your interest in affiliates right on your webpage. Keep it in a prominent location with a link that provides more information.
  • Direct Contact: You can contact people you would like to have as an affiliate yourself, but it’s a good idea to build a relationship with them first. Start by subscribing to blogs or social media pages and interacting with them. Get a feel for their audience. Personalities or brands that market to a vertical niche can make great affiliates.
  • Use Your Platforms: Do you have a high revenue blog or high trafficked social media account? Use it to promote the fact that you are looking for affiliates.
  • Word of Mouth: This strategy hardly ever fails. Chances are you know someone who knows someone, who knows…. You get the picture. I wouldn’t use this as your only strategy, but simply getting the word out there is bound to produce some results.

Connect with Affiliate Managers and Networks

Your second option is to hire someone who will do the work for you. Affiliate managers and networks like Refersion will help you find the best affiliates and manage a chunk of the work. The immediate downside to this is that these types of services do cost money, but they can often produce better results than you could on your own, so your ROI will be nothing to be ashamed of.

Affiliate managers and networks can connect you to affiliates that have a proven track record or provide a platform for success. They also have analytical tools and metric standards for analyzing the effectiveness of your affiliate strategy and help to adapt your campaign toward success.

Policies, Procedures and Small Print

You’re about to put your brand into someone else’s hands. Are you going to do this without some sort of guidelines about how the process should be handled? We didn’t think so.

Your affiliate relationship is a working relationship, and with it will come certain expectations about how your brand image should be handled and promoted. You should also have a clearly defined contract of payment between you and your affiliates. For which actions will payment be made, it what form will it be made and how often.

Also, affiliate marketing comes with its own set of legalities to consider. For the protection of you, your brand and your affiliates, you need to have a solid understanding of any and all legal regulations on affiliate relationships. Even those pertaining solely to your affiliates should be outlined in a contract so that your brand doesn’t inadvertently get tangled up in a messy misunderstanding.

Get Ready for Success

There you have the basics of getting started with affiliate marketing. What’s the one thing that you have left to do? Get yourself ready for success! The right affiliate relationship is going to generate traffic and drive conversions are going to make your brand more successful than ever. Get out there and get started today!


The Author Jon Clark is the founder of Fuze SEO, a boutique digital marketing company in New York. He writes regularly providing thought leadership on SEO and social media best practices. When not working or writing, Jon enjoys documenting his travels on his travel blog 1 Way to Wanderlust. You can follow him on Twitter @jonleeclark.

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