We attended Affiliate Summit West last weekend and had the privilege of sitting through James Martel’s session on “Affiliate Marketing for Beginners”. I originally attended the session in hopes of picking up a few new affiliates, but figured the session to be a fantastic refresher on the basics of Affiliate Marketing and the principles of the channel and how they apply. The session was fantastic and my favorite session from the “Meet Market” workshops. As I sat through the session, I made a note to summarize the presentation in a future blog to help potential clients and colleagues better understand the foundation of Affiliate Marketing and how the 5 main players in the channel work together to increase revenues online.
1. The Merchant/Advertiser
The Merchant or Advertiser is a website selling the product or service. Companies like ecampus.com or burkedecor.com typically favor affiliate programs because it allows them to leverage a group of online marketers (affiliates) to promote their brand using a “pay per performance model” or Cost per Action model (CPA) to drive visits and revenues. A merchant will establish a reasonable commission or bounty working inside their margin to pay for a sale or lead on the site. It has become extremely popular in the last 8 to 10 years because it is a low-risk form of online marketing..
2. The Publisher/Affiliate
Affiliates are typically online marketers that are experienced in driving traffic to websites. They typically carry no actual products, but leverage their site traffic to earn commissions or bounties from the merchant they have partnered with. Affiliates typically work with several merchants and offer deals, incentives or content to push their users to the merchant site using a special link that is specific to them and allows the merchant to track referrals and allocate the set commission accordingly.
The most popular types of affiliate sites are:
- Comparison Shopping Sites
- Coupon and Deal Sites
- Loyalty and Reward Sites
- Niche Content Sites
- Email and Newsletter Sites
- Shopping Directories
3. The Network
Networks are secure sites that serve as the liaison between affiliates and merchants. Sites like www.shareasale.com and www.cj.com provide a user interface for affiliates and merchants to find one another. They also allow merchants to create links and creative for affiliates to use on their sites. Networks also mange the distribution of individual tracking links and reporting tools that both parties can use to track performance. Another great benefit of working with networks is the fact that they handle all payouts and accounting, simplifying the payment process for both merchant and affiliate.
4. The Agency
Agencies, also known as OPM’s are companies dedicated to the management of an affiliate program. Bluewire Group is an agency that helps merchants create, launch, manage and grow their affiliate programs. This is a great formula for mid-level companies looking to leverage marketing professionals familiar with this channel to improve results.
5. The Customer
The last and most valuable piece to affiliate marketing is the customer. Customers navigate through the funnel from affiliate site to merchant and purchase the desired product or service. Customers must be the focal point for all parties involved in affiliate marketing to make the recipe work. From first touch to conversion, the affiliate marketing partnership between merchant and affiliate has the responsibility to provide exceptional customer experience.
As Affiliate Marketing continues to become a viable and affordable way for marketers to make money online, room for expansion will continue to grow as well. There are tons of opportunities out there and resources available to jump in and start earning. It is never too late. Get to work.