So Just What is Affiliate Marketing?

I had a conversation with a friend today about a new web site that we're planning for him. I brought up the subject of "Affiliate Marketing" and suggested that we incorporated that into his new site.

His response was familiar, as I find that most people do not really understand what affiliate marketing is and how it can add revenue to your bottom line. Here is this article to try and shed a little light on the subject.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing, simply put, is when you Sell Other People's Stuff (SOPS). This can really be as simple as making a recommendation on your web site and getting rewarded for it.

Now, word-of-mouth-marketing has been around forever. Think about how many times you go to see a good movie or eat at a great new restaurant and then tell your friends about it. This is all great and happens everyday. Unfortunately in most cases, however, there is no easy way for that movie theater, restaurant, (or any other brick and mortar business) to track your referral and reward you for it. Would not it be great if they could, and they would send you some money for every referral you sent them ??

Affiliate Marketing works in an online world because technology allows the online merchant to track the referrals that you send to their web site through a special link, and if that referral purchases something … the merchant can then compensate you for the referral.

Let's take Amazon.com as an example. Obviously Amazon.com sells a lot of things, so a lot of different types of companies could benefit from their selection. You can sign up for their affiliate program (Amazon calls it Associates Program). Once you sign up, their system allows you to create special links to specific products on their site or groups of products. This special link has your affiliate ID in it – so it knows who is sending them business.

You can then take that link and put it somewhere on your web site. It can be part of a product review, it could have been embedded in a blog post, or it could have been a banner too. Lots of options.

If someone clicks on that special link and purchases a product from Amazon.com – you get referral credit and they pay you a commission. You simply provided the recommendation and the link – and Amazon took the order, ships the product and handles all the customer service. How cool is that?

There are thousands of merchants who have affiliate programs. Usually you look for a link called Affliate Program or something along those lines. You do not even have to have a web site to participate in some affiliate programs. You can send out your special affiliate link in an email newsletter or post it on your social networking sites or use a Pay per click campaign. Again, the link contains all the information the online merchant needs to track your referrals and pay you if your referral makes a purchase.

Why am I a believer in Affiliate Marketing?

Because I've seen it can be a very important part of a company's revenue stream – on both ends of the spectrum. I've built ecommerce businesses using Affiliate Marketing as the main marketing tool, and I also currently receive a nice portion of my revenue every month from promoting other people's stuff.

So here's how to get started;

* identify merchants that have affiliate marketing programs and products within your industry and sign up for their programs. Continuity programs are great too (like our membership training program) – where you get paid every month for referring someone.

* you can also join affiliate networks such as Linkshare.com or Commission Junction, or clickbank.com. These networks represent hundreds of merchants in one place, so it is easier to join programs and manage links.

* setup a website so you have somewhere to put product reviews and of course the special links (recommended, but not always necessary).

* create the links to specific products or sites using the merchants affiliate marketing tools.

* Place these links on your website, in your email newsletter, on your social networking sites, etc.

* Do not spam, especially on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I've seen people post their same affiliate link on their Twitter profile 10-15 times in a row – to the point of making you want to unfollow them in a hurry. Instead, add value in other ways, be part of the community, and every once in a while post an affiliate link.