One of the best things you can do for your passive income goals is to learn how to become an affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing is one of those things… like how bees make honey, or how geese don’t get lost when they migrate south, or how the tides changes… a lot of people kind of get it, but few people can actually describe the process completely and accurately.
The good thing is, affiliate marketing is definitely not as intimidating as taking a course in oceanography or apicology (which is the study of bees… in case you didn’t know–we didn’t). However, if you go to Google for answers about affiliate marketing, you might end up more confused than when you started. You’ll get results ranging from “How Affiliate Marketing Changed My Life,” to “How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing in 2020.” But you might not find out exactly what affiliate marketing is or how to get started as an affiliate. So, let’s begin with the basics.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an arrangement between a merchant (also known as a “vendor” or a “retailer” or a “brand” or “someone who is selling something”) and a publisher (also known as an “affiliate”), to whom they pay commission to for traffic and/or sales generated from their referrals. According to Wikipedia, this process has four key players: the merchant, the publisher, the network, and the customer.
The merchant, or vendor, is the seller. They are responsible for bringing a product to the ecommerce market and are quintessential in the affiliate marketing process. Without a product, there is nothing for publishers to promote .
The publisher, or affiliate, is an individual who is referring a product through online promotional material. Typically, affiliates are only paid commission on sales that they facilitate from their online publications. Publications can be emails, blogs, social media posts, forums, etc. Like the merchant, the publisher is also quintessential to the affiliate marketing system.
The affiliate network is like a broker that facilitates the connection between the publisher and the merchant. When a publisher joins the affiliate network, they gain access to affiliate programs offered by merchants; and when merchants join the network, they gain access to publishers willing to promote their product for commission. The network is not an essential element; however, it improves the functionality of the process immensely.
The final (and most important part) of the affiliate marketing system is the customer. The customer is to the affiliate marketing system what water is to a mill. You can build the mechanism, but it will not yield productivity without water moving through it.
Once you understand the key players and their roles, the process makes more sense. Because there are economic incentives offered to all involved, it behooves everyone to work hard and attract more customers to convert more sales.
With all this in mind, you may be wondering how affiliate marketing got started in the first place…
A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has been around a lot longer than people think it has. In 1994, only four years after the advent of the internet, William J. Tobin launched PC Flowers and Gifts and developed the business model for paying a commission on ecommerce sales. In 1996, he applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing. Since then, the industry has evolved immensely.
Since A-listers like Amazon and Geffen Records kicked things off and set precedence for affiliate marketing in the 90s, there has been nearly three decades of businesses striving to make this particular market and income earning arena accessible to laymen. And now, more so than ever, it is. Anybody literally anybody can be an affiliate marketer. But like anything worth doing, success comes with trial, error, and hard work.
How to Get Started as an Affiliate Marketer
Now that you know what it is and how it came to be, are you ready to get started as an affiliate marketer? Here’s the “must have” checklist before you begin:
1. Realistic Expectations
Contrary to what some websites may claim, it is highly unlikely that you will make thousands of dollars on your first day as an affiliate marketer. You might make $7. But it is more probable that you will make $0.
It’s important to come into affiliate marketing with your mind on the long game. Knowing that success in affiliate marketing involves momentum, resilience, and dedication will help you manage the inevitable setbacks along the way and keep you going when you feel defeated.
2. Some Sort of Website
You might get pretty frustrated if you’re trying to figure out how to get a website up and running and make money as an affiliate marketer at the same time. Before you hop into any affiliate networks, have your website or blog ready. This doesn’t mean that your content needs to be winning Nobel Prizes; it just means that you should have a functioning space to put referral links for products your passionate about so you can start driving traffic.
3. Some Skin in the Game
All business involves risk. That’s why it’s so appealing. When you put a little money or time into something, the stakes immediately get higher. If you want to keep costs low, treat your time like a commodity. If you have the funds, pay a photographer to help get some images for your blog, or hire a graphic designer to help define your brand. Pick a way to up the ante for yourself and play the game like you have something to lose.
If you’re going to get into affiliate marketing, you have to bring the excitement. People want to buy products that are life changing. If you’re not the Don Draper of creating ad content, you’re going to need to find a niche that you get absolutely stoked over when you tell your friends about it. This enthusiasm will translate into your content and compel customers to buy, thus increasing sales for the vendor and commission for you.
5. A Time-Tried and Trusted Affiliate Network
Of course, you can try to be an affiliate marketer without an affiliate network, but nobody in the industry would recommend it. A network is not essential to the affiliate marketing process in the same way you could light your house with candles, but why not just use electricity instead? For one, it’s a thousand times safer and two, there is an obvious and highly accessible better way to achieve the objective.
Since affiliate marketing is becoming more mainstream, there are several affiliate networks to choose from. You’ll want to pick one that’s trusted and established. ClickBank is both of those things. We’ve been doing this for a long time, so we know how to do it right. We might not know everything (Like: How do octopi know what color to change to?), but we know affiliate marketing.