Nick Cucci

Nick Cucci

June 22, 2020

Affiliate marketing 101

Simply put, affiliate marketing is when you are promoting products from one or more companies and making commissions off the sales. As a "partner" you're essentially a sales representative for the company. You make a sale; the company rewards you. One of the attractions of affiliate marketing is how scalable it is. You can promote the products of one company or many companies in a bundle when necessary.

Given the current state of the economy and COVID-19, I believe we will see a spike in affiliate partner programs. Why? Look at the large shift already happening to ecommerce platforms during this pandemic. Terminal-based companies have taken a decent hit with low-risk merchants (mom-and-pop shops); other merchants, grocery stores for example, are experiencing a surge.

However, people have even begun to order household items like groceries online. This is a shift I don't see going away anytime soon. What is someone's most valuable asset? It's not money, but time. Time is something you can never get back. People can set up and generate a revenue stream from affiliate marketing with relative ease and speed. Small drops fill up a large bucket rather quickly.

How much can you make?

When it comes to how much income you can generate through affiliate marketing, the honest answer is it depends on you. Nothing comes easy. The payout will equate to the amount of work you put in. In the payments space, many opportunities enable you to""white label" or privately brand certain products to fit your brand. The amount you make depends 100 percent on how much value you provide to your customers. It seems when you're worried about how much money you're going to make (or in some cases lose), you typically don't have funds to spare. But when you're concerned about doing the best work for your customer and you focus on others rather than yourself, you can earn barrels of money.

The revenue you generate is dependent on your business model and the number of products you offer. Partners that understand their affiliates' products make a ton more than those who just go through the motions. Have a plan of action before asking how much you can make.

If this sounds good to you, you're in luck, because there are clear steps to take to become an affiliate partner: decide on a product and/or platform; choose your vertical(s); conduct research and select a company that fits your needs; create compelling content; and drive clicks and sales.

Choosing your platform or product

Picking a platform is a crucial step. When selecting a platform or product(s), keep in mind the complexity of what you are trying to do. Find an industry or company that can help you navigate the waters for your future clients. For example, in the payments industry, most merchants aren't capable of navigating the complicated nature of industry and are unable to determine which products to use to maximize efficiency, security and growth. The penalty for not knowing the industry is significant—and for some companies, disastrous.

To decide a platform in the payments space, whether it be underwriting, gateways, risk, etc., look for an organization that doesn't compete with its partners. Find a partner-centric company that lets its partners take the applause. If you are an affiliate partner, you should have no competition from the source and should be the only one in front of your clients. This will enable the company to focus on priorities like developing new exciting products, for you to offer.

After you have found the company, figure out if co-branding your product/service makes sense versus managing your own brand. This will depend on your available resources and how much time you have to devote to a brand. If you are OK with sharing the spotlight with said company then co-branding may be your option.

Finding your niche

Evaluate the products and services offered on a specific criterion. How does each product solve the challenge you selected? Also, never choose a product or company before you try it out. Get a live demo, and learn about the people behind the product. Who are they? What type of experience do they have? Most importantly, after researching, can you truly believe in the product? Consider commissions as well. Will you receive a percentage or flat rate? And how much can you control? Will it be scalable enough for both small and large clients?

It's essential to determine where you believe your product or service will fit best. Will it be healthcare, firearms, government, etc.? If you will be the main content creator, the task will be much easier to sustain if you select an area you are interested in. Get granular when selecting, too. For instance, "firearms" is a generic category. What's the challenge you are trying to solve? Is it grips, a custom slide or triggers? And remember to document everything. People are interested in your journey; anything you've learned or are learning will be of interest. It does matter.

Creating content, generating buzz

When setting up your brand or website, content is key. Identify the value proposition. Your website should address such questions as why you are in business and how you will provide what customers need. It should also have a call to action. Target your audience. Instead of what consulting firms believe customers want, think about what they actually want to hear. What would you want to hear? This is probably one of the hardest items to tackle in marketing. It is essential to think like a consumer.

Also, map the customer lifecycle from inception to recurring. How do you plan on keeping your customers? How often should a customer touch your company? Is there recurring purchase or is it a one-time purchase with perhaps a second follow up purchase 60 to 90 days later?

The more content you place on your website the better your SEO will be. Speak the same language as your audience. Avoid industry jargon and use words your audience will comprehend. Develop a content schedule, as well, to keep your website fresh. Your content should rotate every 30 days. This can be as simple as adding one blog post per month or having a press release every 30 days, when applicable.

In addition to building your website, start a newsletter or podcast so you can stay in front of your clients and potential clients. You have a few ways to drive traffic: paid traffic, search engine optimization, and email lists/newsletters. SEO has three main purposes: creating content around the topic, understanding what your customers may be searching for, and posting enough technical information to push these pages higher in the search rankings (link-building or sharing).

Now you know the fundamentals of beginning an affiliate partner program. Affiliate marketing takes time, but once the product/service begins to spool up it rarely will slow down. Enjoy the ride and stay humble. The only question is, What will you pick?