Affiliate marketing was key to much of my early success online.
As I was building my own business and brand, I marketed and sold other people’s products to my audience, earning a commission on each sale. These commissions helped fund my business and bring in revenue during a critical growth stage in my business.
But affiliate marketing is not something that will work equally well for everyone, in every business, at every stage.
In fact, affiliate marketing and sales can be just as difficult and time consuming as selling your own products. You still have to be dedicated and passionate about what you’re selling. It requires time and patience to research, plan, and execute a successful marketing campaign.
At the end of the day, however, you can see significant revenue and add new revenue streams to your business without having to create new products or services. It can help you serve clients who aren’t quite ready to work with your or have moved beyond where you can help them. And it can allow you to get paid for making heartfelt recommendations to your audience of products that will serve them.
So how do you know if affiliate marketing is right for you and your business?
First, you need to do some research. Start by clicking here to download my Affiliate Program Tracking Sheet which will help you research and compare affiliate programs — then read on.
Do you have an audience?
The most important asset you can have before starting an affiliate marketing campaign is an engaged audience. Whether you’ve built that audience on one or more social media channels or with a website and an email list isn’t as important as having a way to regularly reach a number of potential customers interested in what you have to say — and sell.
How many people do you need in your audience? There’s no one right answer. Some people would say a thousand, some people 10,000, some more…
The truth is, you can start an affiliate marketing campaign with an audience of any size — but you need to scale your expectations and plan your marketing to match. For example, if you only have 100 people on your email list, you aren’t going to make a lot of money earning a 3% commission off $10 products on Amazon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it — but rather that you should simply understand the rate of return on your efforts will be relatively low.
Do you have a product or service you can wholeheartedly recommend?
Some businesses are built solely around creating content with embedded affiliate links — to anything and everything that will pay a commission on a sale.
While that’s certainly one way to go about it, I prefer to be more selective about what I promote. After all, I’m trading on my reputation and my audience’s trust in me when I recommend a product, so I don’t want to bombard them with junk offers!
Instead, I look at products and services I already use and love — and then find out if they have an affiliate program. A full 81% of brands do offer affiliate programs, so my chances are very good! (And if the brand doesn’t have a public affiliate program, you can always contact them and ask if they’d be interested in a partnership.)
My other criteria for choosing affiliate partners is whether a product or service is both useful to my audience and complimentary to my product or service. Obviously it’s probably not a good brand strategy to promote a direct competitor; but it’s also not good for your brand to promote products and services that have nothing to do with your own.
For example, a fitness coach could absolutely promote her favorite water bottle, yoga mat, or nutrition app. But it might dilute her brand if she started promoting her best friend’s pottery line, or her favorite Instagram marketing course if those things aren’t in line with her brand and her audience.
Do you have the bandwidth?
This is an important consideration. Just because your favorite course is about to start its launch cycle (with a generous affiliate payout) doesn’t mean it’s the right time for you to promote it. It might be too close to one of your product launches, or even overlap with a promotion you want to do for your own business. You might be busy planning or executing other things in your business. Or you might be traveling for work or pleasure.
The best thing to do is to make a list of all the products, services, and courses you love and think your audience might love, and then do a little research. (My Affiliate Program Tracking Sheet comes in very handy here — click here to download it now.) Make a note of when each program you’re interested in has its big promotions or sales (if applicable).
Then, check your own marketing calendar for the year. Are there times in between your own launches and sales cycles that you could fill with an affiliate promotion?
The other thing to consider around bandwidth is whether you will have the time and energy to devote to promoting this product as if it were your own. The most successful affiliate campaigns I’ve ever seen or been a part of have been when the affiliate partner approached the marketing as though they were promoting their own product.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that an affiliate marketing campaign is easier than launching or marketing your own products. While affiliate marketing saves you the time, energy, and R&D costs of developing and producing a new product of your own, the most successful affiliate marketing campaigns are just as complex and intensive as any marketing campaign for your own products.
If you can answer yes to these three important questions — congratulations! Affiliate marketing may be a great way for you to add more revenue to your business. In fact, I’ve created an entire Destination Guide inside Business Class to help serious affiliate marketers make more money and boost their revenue stream.
Be sure to start by downloading my Affiliate Program Tracking Sheet for free; it’s one of the resources included in the Boost Revenue with Affiliate Sales Destination Guide, and it’s a great place to start your research and find an affiliate marketing program that’s a great fit for you.