Many Internet marketers, myself included, started out in perhaps the easiest way possible… by becoming an affiliate for one or more merchants that had products that allowed other to promote.
Well, I say easy, but in reality I had to learn a lot of painful and frustrating lessons along the way, many of which I hope to be able to teach you so that you don’t have so much pain and frustration.
This particular lesson is more geared to those who aren’t already familiar with what affiliate marketing is all about. If you’ve been an IM’er for a while, you’re probably already familiar with what I’m going to say today, but if not, I think you’ll become very excited with what lies in store for you.
An affiliate is like a salesperson. He or she finds products that would benefit the market that they’re in, and recommends that their readers consider purchasing that or those products. For that referral, they earn a referral, sometimes just a one-off one, but sometimes, they will also earn future commissions from that same customer that they’ve brought to the merchant.
An affiliate is able to earn income because the merchant is willing to pay part of the purchase price for their products to the affiliate that brings them a customer.
This is done all the time, in all sorts of businesses. Most major corporations have marketing staffs and sales people whose job it is to find customers. They’re paid salaries, and usually commissions as well, based on how much business they bring in.
Of course you’re familiar with department stores and auto dealerships and just about any business that you walk into. Those people who take you from your walk through the door all the way to the cash register are actually sales people, and many of them earn commissions on your purchases, depending on how their salary is structured.
Online businesses have found that recruiting affiliates is a dream come true. They can reward those who bring them customers, but they don’t have to deal with the fact that those who aren’t quite so good at the job don’t have to still be carried on the payroll with a base salary, fringe benefits, payroll taxes, office space, etc.
Affiliates only get paid if they bring in customers who spend money.
So it’s feasible for a big Internet company to have many thousands, perhaps millions, of affiliates, where that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Amazon, for example, and perhaps the first online business to set up a major affiliate program, has several million affiliates, and their payout on individual purchases is relatively small (typically from 4% to 10% of the purchase price). Also, their terms are relatively non-affiliate-friendly (they only pay for purchases made from the referred customer within 24 hours).
Still, since Amazon has so much merchandise to offer customers, and since so many people are very comfortable shopping on Amazon, many affiliates just absolutely love promoting their site.
On the other hand, many marketers that sell infoproducts typically pay 50% or more (sometimes 100%), and often track sales from referred customers for life.
When I was starting to create products, I couldn’t understand how someone could pay 100% on a product that they worked long and hard to create, but it’s very common now to do so. The benefit for the product creator is they get to add the person that the affiliate sent them to their email list, as a buyer, which is a very profitable business asset to have.
In fact, I’ve seen instances where sellers pay as much as 200% commissions on the initial sale (yes, that’s not a typo), because they know that once the customer enters their “sales funnel”, they’ll spend much more in the future, on average.
So what does this all have to do with you?
Well, first of all, it means that there never will be a situation where a company that has great products will have “too many” affiliates. They’ll welcome you with open arms, trust me, and if they don’t, there are plenty of alternatives.
That being said, the challenge is, where do you start?
Affiliates who do well typically have a large list of email subscribers, but if you are just starting, you don’t have a large list… yet.
Don’t worry, that’s not the only way to profit as an affiliate, but you do want to keep that in mind, and start building up your own email list if you want to maximize your affiliate income in the future.
In order to do that, you want to set up your own blog, on your own domain, and write content that will soon start attracting readers. You also have to have something that will convince those readers to sign up for your email list, so that means starting to brainstorm topics that you can write about in your niche (which is another decision to make) that will have enough value that people will trust you with their email address.
That also means that you have to sign up with an autoresponder service like Aweber or Getresponse, so that your email subscribers are handled securely and professionally.
So yes, there are costs involved… domain name, hosting, autoresponder service. None of those are overly expensive, but the hosting and autoresponder service are paid each month, so it’s a commitment that you need to make.
After signing up with the autoresponder service, you need to set up what’s called a squeeze page, which is a place for your readers to enter their name and email address, in return for the benefit that you promised (typically a free report or product).
One by one, your list will grow, and as you start building a relationship with the people on your list, they’ll begin (hopefully) to listen to your recommendations about products that you feel are in their best interest.
Rule number one for affiliate marketers: never abuse that trust.
Many make the assumption that the larger a marketer’s list is, the more money they will make from it, but that’s entirely false. I had a pleasant awakening as far as that theory early on in my IM career when I was promoting someone’s product, and there was an affiliate contest to reward the most successful affiliates. In that contest I beat out “gurus” that had hundreds of thousands of people on their list, and I was a virtual unknown and had a very low number of subscribers.
That was the day when my whole mindset changed.
But still, when you have just started building your list, and it’s a very small number (as little as 0), your chance of a large monthly income surge is very limited.
Just remember that every marketer starts with a list size of 0.
Day by day, that number will grow, and so will your income.
Fortunately there are other ways to refer customers to merchants and in this site we’ll cover them, all in good time.
For now, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that affiliate marketing has merit and that you should consider it, you should be doing several things that you weren’t doing before you learned of this opportunity...
First, you want to start paying attention to products in the marketplace, typically online since that’s where you’ll be marketing, that have affiliate programs. For example, Amazon, which has an amazing assortment of products available.
They’re not the only company, obviously. That hosting company that you signed up with, and that autoresponder service that you joined… they have affiliate programs and will pay you to refer those who trust your recommendation.
Chances are, just about everything that you purchase online will have an affiliate program in place.
So you want to get yourself in a place also where you can take advantage of those programs. I mentioned before that you’ll need to have a domain name, but before that you’ll need to decide on what market you’ll be entering (your niche).
Then you’ll need to select your hosting provider, which will be where your domain actually resides in cyberspace. Then you’ll need to set up the pages on your site. Nowadays most do that with WordPress, and your host will probably have an easy way to install WordPress on your own domain.
Then you’ll need content to start attracting search engines so that people can find you.
You’ll need the autoresponder service where your list will reside, as well as the emails that you write, and you’ll learn through their tutorials (or on YouTube) how to set up your email lists and forms and how to communicate to the people on your list.
You’ll need something to entice people with, to convince them to sign up onto your list, and you’ll need the squeeze page so that they can do just that.
And then you’ll need to keep in touch with those people on a regular basis so that they don’t forget who you are. Those emails will serve to build up the “know, like, and trust” factor of you in their eyes.
Does that sound like a lot? Maybe it is, but as you take step by step, you’ll get to the end sooner that you might expect if you’re reading these words as a total newbie.
One of my online friends, Connie Ragen Green, began list building several years ago, and by the time that she had around 650 people on her list, she was earning over $100,000 per year, much of it from affiliate promotions.
True, that result isn’t typical, but it’s possible.
So take it slowly, do it right, and you’ll find that affiliate marketing is a wonderful way to earn a nice income.
However, I’m not recommending that you limit yourself. Most veteran marketers, like myself, diversify their income streams. For example, in addition to my income from being an affiliate from several companies, I have my own products, my own affiliate platform for my products of course, books that I’ve self published, and lots of friends and followers that I’ve met over the years on forums, social media, and elsewhere.
It all began by doing the steps that I’ve listed above. My first list had 0 people on it at one time, and now it’s a lot more. I love to talk about making incremental progress, and this is a perfect example.
Inside The IM Inside Track, we have an entire category devoted to affiliate marketing, which will give you more ideas about methods of driving traffic to your affiliate offers above and beyond your own email list, what products you should consider promoting, how to increase your conversions (the ratio of clicks from your affiliate link to sales from those clicks), how to select merchants who have the most income-generating potential, and more.