Have you ever wondered what affiliate marketing actually is? Ever thought about becoming an affiliate of a company but didn’t know where to begin? Do you have your own business and want to start an affiliate marketing program of your own? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these scenarios, this article is for you.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
First, let’s talk really quickly about “affiliates”. An affiliate is a person or group that recommends a business or organization’s product or service to their community. In exchange for this recommendation, the affiliate will receive a monetary payment or some other exchange of value from the business.
The relationship generally begins with an application and approval process. When a company receives an affiliate application, they will take time to thoughtfully consider whether the applicant is a good fit for their program.
The application process can vary depending on the type of company you are hoping to work with. Some companies approve nearly all applicants, while others are a bit more scrutinizing.
Most companies who operate a closed Affiliate Program will consider:
- If the applicant is in a relevant industry. Will their recommendation of my product or service be perceived as trustworthy advice to their audience?
- The applicant’s planned outreach methods: social media accounts, website presence, mailing list size. Does the applicant have the power to deliver buyers?
- How the applicant portrays themself online and whether this aligns with or contradicts that company’s ethics. Will the applicant be a positive member of my company’s marketing strategy?
- Whether the applicant has a legitimate understanding of the product or service they hope to recommend. Are they are simply aggregating affiliate relationships to make money?
Once the applicant is approved and becomes an affiliate, the affiliate is then free to promote and refer customers in any approved method that follows the terms of their affiliate agreement, if present. Affiliates will earn a commission on referrals that end in a successful sale.
Don’t be deceived by how simple this process seems. There is a delicate balance to creating referrals that are authentic, not sales-y. We will touch on this more in a little while.
How does Affiliate Marketing work?
A company that offers an affiliate program generally uses a third-party software specifically designed to manage and run affiliates. These programs seamlessly handle the application, approval, and reporting process.
If your application is accepted, you’ll receive a unique tracking link as well as any supporting guides, documentation, graphics, and marketing collateral available. This material will help you start promoting the company’s product or service offerings.
How do affiliate programs keep track of purchases?
Once set up, the affiliate will use their unique tracking link for every time that company’s products or services are mentioned. A good example of this would be a link to purchase a product on Amazon in the description section of a YouTube video that reviews tech products.
If someone clicks on this affiliate link, they are taken to the appropriate landing page for the product. An affiliate “cookie” is stored in the visitor’s browser for a specific timeframe. In the event that the visitor completes a purchase while your affiliate tracking code is present, you’ll receive credit for the sale and be paid for this according to the terms of the affiliate program.
Should I join a company’s affiliate program?
Becoming an affiliate is similar to forming a mini-partnership. Your relationship is defined by very specific terms and conditions, so it is important to fully understand all the ins-and-outs of the business that you are partnering with. Not only will you be representing their products and services, in a way people will believe their products are a representation of you.
Make sure that you clear on what is expected of you, what you can expect from the business you’re partnering with, and that you fully understand how their remuneration policy works.
Affiliate marketing activities are 1,000% more authentic if the promoted product or service matches your own business or personal interests. If you are generally a ‘fan’ or excited about what you plan to promote, you’re more likely to send quality referrals to the company (more conversions = more affiliate revenue).
Ready to join an Affiliate Program?
If you are considering taking the leap into affiliate marketing, here are some pointers we have found to be helpful:
Consider the fit between you and the company or product that you are going to partner up with. A good fit will mutually benefit both parties.
Try to team up with a company that can provide you with marketing content, graphics, and other guidelines. Support early on can help greatly.
Create Valuable Content
Your affiliate links should be surrounded by value-added content, which in turn qualifies and encourages conversions. Consider using or creating video content that adds an additional visual experience and trust in the product.
Don’t Spam Users
Potential customers can be put off if promotions become “spammy”. Avoid mass emailing random lists of people that wouldn’t be the target market.
Keep it Simple
Limit the number of products you represent, especially if they are products offered by competing companies. You can then ensure quality marketing efforts that can match the amount of time and energy you have.
Become an Expert
Know the affiliate products you’re promoting inside and out. This is so that you can give solid and trusted advice to your audience.
Recognize when there’s a valid competitor or Free version of the product or service you are recommending. Your audience will appreciate that you have done research, considered alternatives, and that not every product is a valid option for your audience.
Using other product reviews, case studies, or personal experiences can build credibility and help enhance your marketing efforts. This also gives your audience the confidence that you’re not the only person promoting the product or service.
Track Useful Metrics
Reach out to the representing company and request an update on converted customers and keep an eye on Google Analytics for insight into how well your marketing efforts are doing.
Read the Fine Print
Make sure that there are solid terms and conditions in place for the affiliate program. The terms must outline payment agreements clearly and will ensure you are promoting the product in the correct way. Unclear program terms may cause you to miss pay-outs or create disputes and misunderstandings.
Evaluate your ROI (Return on Investment)
Make sure the affiliate payments match the value of the time and effort you’re putting in. If you only get a small amount for a hard-selling product, you might need to go back to the drawing board to see how else you can generate extra income.
Starting an Affiliate Program
So far we have provided a lot of background for a person hoping to become an affiliate. Perhaps you are on the other end of the relationship and want to start an affiliate program of your own?
Running a successful affiliate program can mean an increase in revenue and customers. Affiliate revenue will incentivize your advocates, online marketers and traditional ‘salespeople’ to sell your product or service without the overhead of an in-house sales team.
The flip side of starting an Affiliate Program is that it can also take a lot of work to run. Here is a list of ways to ensure your program is manageable.
Use a WordPress Affiliate Plugin
Let a tried and tested affiliate plugin do the heavy lifting for you. There are many options to choose from. We use AffiliateWP because it integrates with our plugin, Paid Memberships Pro. This guide will walk you through how to set up AffiliateWP with Paid Memberships Pro.
Create a Terms of Conditions
A solid Policy for every aspect of your Affiliate Program will minimize confusion and misunderstanding.
Reach Out to the Right People
Make a list of the influencer you think can contribute to your brand. Remember: affiliates have the power to positively and negatively influence your brand. Explore specific hashtags on social media that can help find you the right people.
Make it Worth While
Make signing up for your affiliate program worth it for your applicants. This will help entice industry influencers and encourage affiliates to really market and promote your business or product.
Team up Relevant Affiliates
Search for websites that promote or have blog posts about your product or about related products. You can then get in touch with the site’s owner or the authors of these posts to see if they would be interested in promoting your brand.
Make Signup a Breeze
Create an easy application process on your site that makes the process for approval more automated and easier.
Offer Trial Periods
Unsure of whether you want to approve an applicant? Allow them into your program for a trial period.
Offer content, graphics, and ongoing support to your affiliates. If this is the first program they are participating in, they can definitely use your guidance. Remember, helping your affiliates communicate truthfully about your product or service will mean more quality leads, more informed customers, and less potential for misled buyers and refunds.
Become a Paid Memberships Pro Affiliate.
Taking all the above into consideration, we are very excited to introduce the Paid Memberships Pro Affiliate Program.
Our brand matters greatly to us, as we are sure yours does too. We take special care to personally review each application. Paid Memberships Pro invests in our affiliate program by providing affiliates with quality marketing content, graphics, and support. If you wish to join our affiliate program, we would love to hear from you.
Paid Memberships Pro Affiliate Criteria
Want to apply to become a PMPro Affiliate? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to know if you would be a good fit for our affiliate partner program:
- Are you a WordPress Developer, Influencer, and/or WordPress power user?
- Have you signed up as a Free or Plus Paid Memberships Pro member before?
- Are you enthusiastic about Paid Memberships Pro?
- Do you have a good-looking and functional website?
- Is your website attracting more than 1000+ unique visits per month?
- Are you active on social media, within the WordPress community, or have a large mailing list?
- Is PMPro the only WordPress membership plugin you promote?
If you answered “yes” to some or all of these questions, please apply to become an official Paid Memberships Pro affiliate.