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What Is Affiliate Marketing?

The rise of influencer marketing and social media as a whole, has made it easier than ever for brands to connect with their customers—but like many things, it can be a double-edged sword. With so many businesses across the world vying for attention, the competition can be fierce! That’s where affiliate marketing comes into play. Affiliate marketing has become a popular way for businesses to get ahead of competition by offering compensation all while growing sales, driving traffic to their website, increasing reach, and/or generating leads.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a form of marketing where third parties promote a brands’ products to their friends, family, or followers and earn commissions on any sales generated from their unique URLs.

You’ll hear different terms when talking about affiliate marketing:

Affiliates, publishers, creators, or third parties - the person or people that will promote the products.

Brand or merchant - a business that sells the product being promoted via affiliate marketing.

Affiliates have the freedom to choose how and when they promote your products. Brands can partner with social media influencers, media (like TV talk shows, newspapers, TV news segments, or magazines), bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and anyone else who has an online presence for affiliate marketing.

Why is affiliate marketing important for your business?

83% of advertisers used affiliate marketing to increase brand recognition. If your competitors are doing it, it’s always a good idea to learn more to see if you want to implement it too.

Affiliate marketing is just one piece of the marketing pie but it could be a very impactful one for your business. Affiliate marketing can help your brand in 4 distinct ways:


Passive income

Once you’ve selected and onboarded your affiliate marketing platform, a big chunk of the work is done for you already! Sure, you’ll need to recruit affiliates and review any inbound requests, but the rest of the process is automated. From there your affiliates will take care of most of the work, the sharing and promoting your products, creating passive income for your brand. And you can have as many or as few affiliates as you’d like.


No overhead

Since your affiliates aren’t considered employees, there’s no salary to provide, overhead (think office space, utilities, computers, office supplies, HR services, etc.), and you don’t need to worry about providing healthcare benefits. This can result in a huge savings over traditional sales employees.


Low risk

The benefits of affiliate marketing far outweigh any risks you might face. If an affiliate doesn’t generate any sales, it won’t cost you anything because affiliate commissions are based solely on sales.


It’s becoming more of a requirement

Most media—and a lot of social media influencers—now require you to have an affiliate program if you want to work with them. Many people recognize the mutual benefits of this type of relationship, and having a program in place helps to streamline and automate the process to be totally hands-off.

How can I start selling products with affiliate marketing?

Most brands opt for an affiliate marketing platform to do it right. As a business, you cover the cost of the affiliate platform and the commissions paid to affiliates. There are a lot of options when it comes to affiliate marketing platforms but here are a couple of the biggest players:

Affilio allows for unlimited affiliates, unlimited promo codes, unlimited orders, and they pay out to affiliates via PayPal. The cost is low and you don’t get a lot of bells and whistles, which could be a good thing for a business new to affiliate marketing.

Platform Cost: $24 a month

LeadDyno offers pricing based on the traffic your website gets, with the smallest package for 3,000 unique visitors per month. This affiliate marketing platform offers a lot more than just that. You are able to track orders from coupons, affiliate referral links, email marketing, social media, and paid ads from one comprehensive dashboard. You can also send affiliate newsletters and make temporary incentives as well. They offer a 30 day free trial and month-to-month billing.

Platform Cost: $49 to $79 a month

Distributed by rewardStyle, is perhaps the most well known affiliate platform in the influencer marketing space. This mobile-first platform is invite-only and their focus remains in the fashion, beauty, lifestyle industries where people can click to find the outfits or decor influencers featured in their posts and they receive 5-15% commission on purchases.

Platform Cost: Varies depending on services selected.

ShareASale uses a database for affiliates to search for brands they want to promote and apply directly within the platform. They also offer user-friendly reporting, automated marketing emails, and application rules to increase sales within the platform.

Platform Cost: One time set up fee of $550 and a transaction fee of 20% of the commission amount (minimum of $35 a month).

This one's a little different, where the affiliate signs up for Amazon Associates (Amazon’s affiliate program) and will link to your products being sold on Amazon. As a brand - you don’t need to pay for or sign up for an affiliate program, the affiliate does. While it is free to use, you do not get to determine the commission structure and have no control over which affiliates are approved to represent your brand. Amazon affiliate program commissions vary based on the product type but go up to 10%. They also offer an Amazon Influencer program for established social media influencers where there are a couple more perks.

Platform Cost: Free

Target’s affiliate program is similar to Amazon, where a brand has little control but can always offer it as an option to affiliates if your products are sold there.

Platform Cost: Free

Spend some time doing research to choose one that works best for your business and budget!

The bottom line

There’s a lot to love about affiliate marketing. It’s a low-risk venture with tons of flexibility and the potential for a huge ROI. If you haven’t made affiliate marketing part of your overall strategy, now’s the time to jump in!

Need help navigating affiliate marketing and finding the best, most influential, social media influencers to help promote your products? Contact us today to see how Thrive Marketing Consultants can help!


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