How Companies Can Successfully Leverage Affiliate Marketing

A version of this article was first published on The Commit Agency Blog

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In today’s competitive landscape, businesses are looking for every advantage. This is especially true in marketing, where entire industries are undergoing dramatic transformations. Where companies once sought the biggest and most visible stages for their latest ads, marketers now see that they can do just as well, if not better, targeting niche audiences with high levels of loyalty. It’s this environment that has enabled affiliate marketing to become such a force to be leveraged.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

You’ve no doubt seen affiliate marketing taking place all around you, even if you weren’t aware of what it was called. That promo code you heard in the middle of your favorite podcast, the social media endorsement you saw, the blog post reviewing a product — these are all examples of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing occurs when businesses work with content creators — also known as affiliates — to promote their goods and services. The affiliate creates a call to action to entice their audience to click a link or use a promo code. If the call to action directly results in a sale by use of that link or promo code, the affiliate receives a portion of the sale of that product.

Why is Affiliate Marketing Beneficial?

When done correctly, affiliate marketing is a win-win. For the company promoting products, it’s a cost-effective way to advertise. Affiliates are only paid if a purchase is made directly from the affiliate link, so there’s no cost to the company if the consumer doesn’t buy. Affiliate marketing also gives those businesses an added boost of credibility. While modern customers are notoriously skeptical of traditional marketing, they’re more eager than ever to buy from people and businesses they trust. The right match of business and affiliate will enhance the stature of that company, rather than detract from it.

At the same time, the affiliates themselves benefit. Many affiliates are organic content creators that are happy to make a little money to supplement their hobby. Some people have managed to create careers or even their own companies based on affiliate marketing. These affiliates also enjoy the rub of working with larger companies, particularly if the values of their partner companies match their own. And although the temptation does exist for affiliates to devolve from content creation into blatant advertising, most affiliates quickly find the right balance of sticking to their principles while also generating passive income through natural partnerships and promotional opportunities.

Examples of Affiliate Marketing

One of the best things about affiliate marketing is that it often barely feels like advertising. The most practical uses of affiliate marketing serve to benefit the purchaser, with the affiliate serving as a natural conduit between manufacturer and buyer.

One great example of this is RetailMeNot, a popular site that compiles promo codes for online purchases. Everyone loves a great deal, and RetailMeNot is there to assist. It takes literally seconds for a buyer to find a promo code that can knock a significant amount off their purchase, and a reputable site like RetailMeNot sees tremendous traffic from opportunistic shoppers. Brands are very aware of this, and they’ve begun uploading their own promo codes and sales to RetailMeNot. Everyone benefits from this type of arrangement. The customer gets a great detail, the manufacturer gets additional sales and RetailMeNot gets plenty of affiliate revenue and consumer goodwill.

A more modern application of affiliate marketing is influencer marketing. As we said earlier, marketing is evolving to focus more on niches than on one-size-fits-all messages. Within every niche, there’s an influencer or thought leader that is very popular within that segment. Marketers can work with those influencers to advertise their products and services. The end result is a highly motivated group of shoppers that have concrete proof that the product in question will enrich their lives. Even if those consumers don’t make a purchase, it still increases brand awareness — and that brand awareness to non-buying individuals comes at no cost.

There are other less obvious examples of affiliate marketing all around us. Podcasts use affiliate marketing partnerships with businesses to promote certain products; they also provide podcast-specific Amazon links so that all Amazon purchases made directly from that link benefit the podcast. YouTubers include ads in their videos that direct viewers to ecommerce sites, where their promo code brings in affiliate marketing revenue. Bloggers, the traditional archetype of affiliate marketing, continue to receive passive income as a result of product reviews and sponsored content.

The byproduct of all of this exposure to affiliate marketing means that affiliate marketing is hardly the scam it’s sometimes portrayed to be. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Affiliate marketing is normalized and legitimate. And it can help your business tremendously.

Incorporating Affiliate Marketing

Even if you’ve never used affiliate marketing, you can start to utilize it to help your business in short order. Here are some ways you can leverage affiliate marketing to achieve your goals.

Influencer Marketing

The most obvious application of affiliate marketing is one we just discussed. If you have a thorough understanding of your audience and what speaks to them, you can identify an influencer that carries significant favor with that audience and sign them up as an affiliate.

The best thing about affiliate-based influencer marketing is that you don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a celebrity influencer in the hopes that they’ll make a difference. Now, you’ll only pay if followers of that influencer make a purchase. And whether or not a sale is made, you’ll increase your credibility with that segment by associating your business with your influencer of choice.

Influencers, by the way, aren’t limited to Instagram models. Influencers can be anyone — YouTubers, motivational speakers, writers, or anyone else you can conceive. As long as they’re an important figure to the audience you’re trying to target, they’re an influencer worth working with.

Product Reviews

There’s never been more information at the disposal of consumers. Unfortunately, that also means there’s never been more fake information available. One bad review spoils the whole bunch of otherwise positive reviews, regardless of whether that review was legitimate or simply a troll attempt.

Working with reputable product reviewers, such as mom bloggers or YouTubers, is a great way to ensure that potential consumers have the chance to get the truth about your products. While this can be seen as an extension of influencer marketing, this approach allows an affiliate to go really in-depth about your products, highlighting the best features about your items in a way that a traditional influencer post might not be able to accomplish. An affiliate link then provides income to the reviewer while incentivizing viewers to buy directly from your site.

This approach also helps from an SEO perspective. The review doubles as a resource for anyone searching for your product, giving consumers much-needed insight as they move through the buying process.

Sell Less Popular Merchandise

Suppose you’re a business that has one major item that’s proven very popular with your audience. However, you have a few other products that you feel are just as good, but they haven’t caught on with consumers just yet.

Affiliate marketing provides the opportunity to get those products pushed like never before. Again, you’re relying on a niche audience and the expertise of those that know that audience particularly well. Those individuals can leverage the popularity of your cash cow product and get people interested in your other offerings. If it doesn’t work, you don’t lose anything. But if you do gain traction with these products, you’ll gain considerable revenue.

High Ticket Affiliate Marketing

While most affiliate marketing campaigns revolve around average-priced items, affiliate marketing can also help move more expensive items as well. High ticket affiliate marketing can motivate affiliates to promote and sell those products on your behalf.

The name “high ticket” comes from the commissions paid to affiliates. A typical affiliate marketing purchase nets the affiliate a relatively small commission, with the idea being that a smaller commission across many sales will add up to a large amount of money. High ticket affiliate marketing flips the script, instead providing very large commissions of $1,000 or more over a small volume.

This approach isn’t for every business, of course. A high-end audio retailer, for example, may benefit from high ticket affiliate marketing because their affiliates can speak to the premium quality of the company’s audio products in an authentic and relatable way. It’s a unique and effective method for moving expensive merchandise to niche audiences.

User-Generated Content

All of these affiliate marketing types will advertise your products to the audience you’re looking to attract. But the content associated with these affiliate marketing campaigns will also be seen by countless others.

User-generated content is very popular with marketers because it conveys passion and authenticity with minimal investment by the marketers themselves. Affiliate marketing is another such example. The affiliates will do most of the heavy lifting, but the brand can then utilize that content for other purposes. Custom graphics, for example, can be utilized on the company website or on social media feeds. The brand can link to articles or reviews done as part of affiliate marketing campaigns. Anything that’s done by affiliates to sell products can be turned into valuable marketing assets of the brand itself, regardless of how many products are sold through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing has the potential to help your business reach new audiences and to enrich your relationships with your strongest brand advocates. To learn more about getting started with affiliate marketing, contact us at Commit Agency today.

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