How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

So, do you want to start with affiliate marketing but don't know where to start?

Well, let's take care of that minor roadblock.

Chances are that you have heard the term thrown around a bit. After all, it is the most popular starting point for digital entrepreneurs.

But before we can delve too deep, we need to understand what affiliate marketing is and is not.

Affiliate marketing is one of the best things you can do to make money online.

In short, it is a proven way that you can make money by promoting products to your audience and followers.

Affiliate marketing is a business partnership between a merchant (vendor, retailer, someone selling something) and a publisher (aka. “affiliate“).

It is known as a type of performance-based marketing.

With performance-based marketing, a merchant only pays when there are genuine, measurable results (typically product sales).

The merchant pays a commission to the publisher for traffic and sales that are generated by their referrals.

If the publisher does not complete the task of driving traffic that converts to sales, the publisher does not get a commission as a result.

Seems doable, right?

The Four Core Players of Affiliate Marketing

Before you can get started with affiliate marketing, you need to understand its structure. According to Wikipedia, the affiliate marketing process has four core players:

1. The Merchant

First, we start with the merchant.

The merchant or vendor is the seller of a particular product or service. Also known as the retailer or brand. The merchant is responsible for bringing a product to the eCommerce market and is the beginning piece of the affiliate marketing process.

Simply put, without products, there is nothing for publishers to promote.

2. The Publisher

Second, we have the publisher, or affiliate.

The publisher is an individual or entity that promotes a product through online promotional material.

Typically, affiliates are paid commissions on sales that they facilitate from their online publications. Publications can be emails, blogs, social media posts, videos, paid ads, forums, etc.

The publisher is essential to the affiliate marketing system. Publishers drive customers to the product or service being sold by the merchant.  

3. The Affiliate Network

Third, we have an affiliate network.

The affiliate network is similar to a broker in that it facilitates the relationship or connection between the merchant and the publisher.

When a publisher joins an affiliate network, they gain access to a variety of affiliate programs offered by merchants.

When a merchant joins the affiliate network, they gain access to publishers willing to promote their product or service.

The network is not critical to the affiliate marketing process, but it dramatically improves the efficiency of the whole process. It does this by facilitating a single point of contact between the merchant and publisher.

4. The Customer

Last but not least, we have the customer.

The customer is the most important part of the affiliate marketing system. Without the customer, you have something akin to a Tesla Roadster without an electricity source.

Customers are the key element that makes everything work. Simply put, without customers, you have no market or sales. And without sales, you have no business.

Now that you understand the core players in an affiliate marketing system, we can explore how you can get started as an affiliate marketer.

What Affiliate Marketing is Not

Before you get started as an affiliate marketer, it is important to understand that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

You will need to build a large audience that is interested in your offers.

This takes time and lots (and lots) of patience.

You will need a lot of patience starting out as an affiliate marketer. Did I say that twice?

Maybe I should say it a third time for emphasis: it takes lots of patience to become successful.

Often, you will need to promote content over a very long period of time before you start to see sales commissions.

You're going to need to sell hundreds or even thousands of products before you see a decent regular income.

If you need a reliable source of income immediately, affiliate marketing is not necessarily the answer.

Quite often, affiliate marketing income can be sporadic or short-term. Trends and buying habits can and do change. It can take several years before you start to see consistent monthly returns.

In other words, don't quit your day job (just yet).

Affiliate Marketing
Image Copyright: Marina Putilova

Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing

By now, you are likely wondering what it takes to get started.

To get started as an affiliate marketer, we must first cover some basic requirements.

These requirements must be in place before you can begin offering your audience products and ultimately earn income.

1. Realistic Expectations

Forget all of the grandiose claims that you have seen online. Contrary to those claims, you will most likely not make thousands of dollars daily or even monthly when starting out.

In all likelihood, the amount that you will make starting out is closer to $0.

That is to say, affiliate marketing is all about the long game.

To be more precise, success in affiliate marketing comes from momentum, dedication, and lots of patience. Deja vu? Yes, I said it again.

2. A Website or Blog

Before you can begin promoting offers, you need to have a place to do so. First, you will need an established website or blog site up and running. Or some other digital real estate asset from which you can leverage landing pages.

And second, you will need enough content on that site to attract an audience and keep their attention.

We aren't talking about Pulitzer Prize-winning content, but it should be relevant to your audience and the type of offers you wish to market to your audience.

3. Passion and Drive

To be successful, you must have passion in your business endeavor as an affiliate marketer.

And must be driven to provide value to your audience.

If not, they will figure it out very quickly and go elsewhere. That is the last thing you want to happen.

You must constantly work on your digital assets to improve their value to your audience.

As a result, you will build loyalty with your audience.

4. Enthusiasm

In the same vein, you must bring your excitement and enthusiasm.

People want to engage with enthusiastic content creators. And ultimately, buy products that give them value and make them feel good about their purchase decision.

So, you must find a niche that you can naturally inject your excitement and enthusiasm into and appeal to your audience.

If you aren't excited about what you are doing, why should your audience be excited about it? Enthusiasm in your content will compel your audience to become customers as a result.

5. A Reputable Affiliate Network

To be an affiliate marketer, you must have offers that provide value to your audience.

After all, your reputation is at stake.

So, you want to provide your audience with quality offers that will benefit them as much as they benefit you.

Your goal should be offering them a quality product they may not have found without your help.

A reputable affiliate network will help you to facilitate quality offers for your audience.

There are a growing number of reputable affiliate networks that provide quality offers. For example Amazon Associates, ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, eBay Partners, Impact Radius, MaxBounty, Rakuten Marketing Affiliates, ShareASale, and Shopify Affiliate Program.

That list is far from comprehensive but should get you started on your journey.

Affiliate Marketing
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Closing Thoughts

Affiliate marketing is a great way to make extra income.

And it can be fun.

Additionally, you get to promote what you or your audience loves.

Look for reputable partnerships with reputable networks and merchants, give you a decent commission, and provide your audience with amazing value.

As a result, you will be credited with providing amazing value.

After that, don’t be afraid to market to your audience.

Just be honest with them and strive to provide them with value in your offers.

Above all, promote offers that you have tested and that you truly believe will provide them with the best value as your audience.

Probably the most important detail to remember, be patient.

You won't get rich off the first few sales. It will take hundreds if not thousands of sales to make a major difference in your income.

The silver lining?

As a result of your hard work and patience, you will become much more efficient with your offers and reach a much larger audience over the long haul.

To sum up, play the long game.

Create amazing content from which people truly obtain value.

Establish and nurture your audience’s trust.

Finally, work on building your income streams when that is all in place.

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