You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Start with the market, not the product.’ It means that you shouldn’t create a product (which is expensive and time-consuming) without first making sure there will be customers who will buy it — and in enough numbers to make it worthwhile. You’re interested in starting an online business to make money, right? If you create a product without determining if people will buy it, you could make a very expensive mistake.
Fortunately, there is a way you can start your business without this risk. You don’t have to invest in creating and manufacturing a product. You don’t even have to waste time on doing market testing or other research to figure out if a specific product will work. In this approach, the products are proven sellers. And you can be in any of thousands of niches. There’s sure to be one that fits your interests.
It’s called affiliate marketing. And a reported 80% of brands use affiliate marketing to sell their products. You’ve probably been part of this type of online business, even if you didn’t realize it… on the customer side, anyway.
With said said, let’s discuss the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, which is one of the fastest, easest, and most profitable ways to make money with an onine business.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
On a basic level, here’s how affiliate marketing works. As an internet entrepreneur, you have your own web presence: your website, blog, social media, landing pages, sales pages, banner ads, and e-commerce site. But instead of selling your own products, you promote and sell the products of other companies. You display the products on your website or sales page. You market them and try to make the sale. When your prospect is ready to order, they click the button or link and then are sent to your affiliate partner’s site to complete the order.
The customers you send them are tracked using special codes on the order links on your website. You get credit for every sale. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. It’s simple cut-and-paste.
Every time you make a sale, you get a percentage — a commission, in other words. That percentage can range from 5 percent to 25 percent (sometimes even higher), depending on the company and the product. It may not sound like much, but for high-ticket items, even 5 percent can be quite a lot. When you make hundreds of sales, the amount can certainly add up. Some of the highest commissions can be earned when you promote digital information products as an affiliate.
The advantages of affiliate marketing are numerous:
- You won’t invest your time in money in creating a product that might not work.
- You don’t have to store the products you sell or ship them.
- You don’t have to worry about customer service or returns — the affiliate partner does that.
Essentially, you get to do the fun part — selling. Your affiliate partner has to do the grunt work.
Affiliate Marketing in Action
Let’s give you an example to get you up to speed. Let’s say you’ve started a blog focused on snowboarding. You have a blog about the sport where you discuss industry news and trends and review new products. Or maybe you simply have an e-commerce website where you have all sorts of snowboarding-related products for sale like snowboards, helmets, gloves, jackets, pants, boots, goggles, instructional videos, the works.
You’re passionate about snowboarding; this is your dream business. So you simply do what you do best: talk to your prospects about snowboarding and the quality of the products you have for sale. People visit your site, and they buy the products you have listed. They click on the link, order the product, and you get paid a commission for that sale.
As far as the content you create on your website, this can be articles you write (also known as blog posts), it could be audios of you talking or interviewing other enthusiasts or experts, or you could create videos.
By creating this content on your website you’ll get found in the search engined and build a following on of people who are interested in your content. You’ll build trust with this audience and they’ll begin to trust you and trust the products and services you recommend. We’ll discuss more about how to do that below.
For now, all you need to realize is that when you recommend a product, usually your affiliate partner will have a special account set up so you can track sales and see what money is due to you. You could be paid monthly or quarterly — it depends on the affiliate partner.
What You Can Sell
There are many products you can sell as an affiliate: information products, books, movies, power tools, supplements, alternative health cures, videos, sports equipment, clothing, shoes, home improvement products, just about anything you can think of. Really just about every type of product or service is available for you to sell as an affilaite.
Regardless of the type of actual product you recommend and sell as an affiliate, the most important factor will be that it’s a product or service that is relevant and useful to your audience.
The Best Affiliate Networks
There are many affiliate marketing networks and partners available to you. Here are some of the most common ways to get started with affiliate marketing and the best networks to start with:
- Clickbank (http://www.clickbank.com): Once focused on stricly on information products, they now offer products of all kinds in hundreds of different niches. The great thing about digital information products is they offer very high comissions (50%+).
- CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction: http://www.cj.com): This is a big daddy affiliate network with billions of dollars in sales per year from major brands and retailers.
- Amazon (www.amazon.com): This is the world’s biggest internet retailer. But they also have a huge affiliate marketing program you can take advantage of too. Just about any Amazon product you can sell as an affiliate. By the way, of Amazon’s $100 billion in revenues in 2015, it’s estimated that $10 billion of that was generated by its affiliate marketing partners. Another great featuere of Amazon’s affiliate program is that you get credit for every sale made on Amazon during your visitor’s transaction.
Be Selective About What You Sell as an Affiliate
Just because there are so many affiliate marketing programs available, it doesn’t mean you want to join all of them. As with everything in a new online business, start small.
It’s an essential part of your success that you focus on just one niche at a time. Here’s what I mean. Don’t try to be like Amazon, selling thousands of different types of products. It may seem counterintuitive but promoting many products across many niches is not the best approach for first-time online entrepreneurs. To be honest, you can’t compete against Amazon or other catch-all internet retailers. You have a much better chance focusing on a niche market.
For starters, you don’t have the millions or billions in start-up venture capital to make it happen. You want to invest little or nothing in creating your business. That’s possible. But in that case, variety is your enemy. By instead focusing one niche, one type of product, you can focus your marketing efforts. You can appeal to your specific target market.
Join one or two affiliate programs. Promote just a few products at first — stay focused on your niche by only promoting products that would appeal to your target market. Get used to the affiliate marketing model. Test which products appeals to your email list and your potential customers.
Once you find a winning combination, build on that, make a profit, and increase your revenue. Eventually, you can build on your success and start offering other products and maybe even other niches down the road. But the important thing is to start small.
That brings me to an important point. Tracking your results is an essential part of determining which product or niche is successful. For your marketing campaigns, track what elements bring in the most prospects and what efforts drive the most traffic to your e-commerce platform. You want to know what specific website copy, and which particular offer is most effective in grabbing the attention of your prospects and compelling them to buy.
A key part of this is tracking your sales and their origin. Remember that you won’t be able to monitor every single sale that comes in by hand — there will be too many, hopefully. You must have automatic tracking that shows you which particular products and which specific marketing efforts resulted in the most sales. That’s key for dialing in which products you should promote in the future and which marketing approach you should run with.
Your Marketing Approach
There’s something important to remember if you are an affiliate marketer. Just because you are promoting other people’s products doesn’t mean you can skimp on the marketing. You must take the promotion just as seriously as you would any other.
That means a multi-channel approach with a consistent marketing message across all channels. Use your blog, pay-per-click ad campaigns that link to squeeze pages and sales page, market to your email list, comment in forums and on Facebook pages, use social media to build a following and get your message out — maybe even make it go viral, promote with online video… be creative in how you market these affiliate products. Be sure to dial in your marketing efforts to reach your specific target market.
Use quality copy to promote these products. You want to paint an effective picture that shows how your product will change the lives of your prospects. You must clearly show the features and benefits. In other words, give the prospects a reason to buy the products you are promoting rather than from somebody else.
A good approach as an affiliate marketer is to create reviews. You showcase several different products of the same type on your website. For example, you could include your opinions and technical specifications on several different types of Bluetooth portable speakers. You give your opinion and list the pros and cons of each. Then you include a link for each… to buy that particular speaker. The trick is, whichever speaker your prospect chooses and buys, you make a commission.
Of course, you don’t have to go it alone. With affiliate marketing, the company’s you partner and will often have marketing materials ready to go. These are proven landing pages, sales emails, banner ads, and other bits of copy that you can use in your own marketing efforts.
Putting It All Together
Affiliate marketing is the hands-down one of the fastest and easiest ways to get started making money online. The upfront investment is minimal. You don’t have to worry about creating products — you have proven sellers available in thousands of different niches. It’s a great way to learn the ropes of e-commerce, perfect your marketing approach, and build your new internet business.