If you are one of those who say, “I’ve heard the word ‘affiliate,’ but I don’t know what it is, and I want to learn more,” then this is for you. There are all types of affiliates, but let’s confine ourselves to the online marketing world kind.
Affiliate Defined: An affiliate is someone who signs up to recommend an online program, service or product, and gets a referral fee out of the resulting sale.
Have you ever recommended a book to a friend? Of course you have, and if you had signed up with Amazon.com’s affiliate program before telling “Jane” about Seth Godin’s Tribe in an email, for example, and if your friend had pressed that link and made a purchase, you would have made a small dividend. That dividend could expand considerably if your friend in turn passed that link to all of her friends as well. That’s the beauty of being an affiliate – it doesn’t take much effort or a large list of contacts, but the rewards can be great.
You might say that you don’t want to “make money” off of being a good friend, and that’s understandable. You can be as passive or assertive an affiliate as you wish, just passing on a link to a friend in an email, or listing your personal preferences and experiences on your website, to advertising your recommendations in your email newsletter, Facebook postings, or tweeting about them in Twitter – it’s totally up to you.
As you invest time and money in your small business, and you sometimes learn things the “hard way,” perhaps you may start to feel like you deserve a commission for sharing your experiences with others who will benefit from your recommendations. If a colleague at a networking event admires your website, and said, “how did you get started?” You might refer them to GoDaddy.com, and again, if you had signed up as an affiliate, you’d get a commission when your colleague pressed your link and ordered one of their services.
So if seems appealing to earn a little on the side for sharing your recommendations earned from experience, something you do already, read on!
Your next question is probably, “Does it cost me anything to get started?” That’s easy: nope, or it shouldn’t, so if it does, find a program that is free.
I highly recommend only becoming an affiliate for a company that you “know,” trust, and with whom you’ve had personal positive experiences. You want to maintain your reputation with your friends, colleagues, and your Internet peeps. It’s best of all if you’ve used the actual product or service that you’re touting.
It’s easy to get started as an affiliate by just signing up with your name, contact information, and agreeing to terms such as not to spam people when you promote a company’s product. Additionally, you may be asked to provide your social security number for tax reporting purposes, should you make more than $600 a year (wouldn’t you like that problem?).
After you sign up, you’ll receive an affiliate link that has your unique affiliate number embedded in it. This is an important link, your key to getting a commission when recommending products/services. You’ll want to use that link in emails, and ezines, your blog, Twitter, and Facebook, basically anywhere online that you might be spreading the word about an excellent product, event, or course associated with the affiliate program you’re in.
When you’re doing your promotions, keep in mind that affiliate links can be long, so sometimes people shorten them using free tools such as www.tinyurl.com or www.bit.ly. You can even create a “vanity” link or “custom alias” of your choosing for these shortened links.
TIP: If you plan to sign up as an affiliate for more than one program, I suggest keeping a spreadsheet of all the information to keep it handy. You’ll want to have a column for the affiliate resource center, your user id, password, and you could even track your promotions and results, if you want. Check each of your accounts at least on a quarterly basis, just to make sure that your contact information is up-to-date. You wouldn’t want to miss out on any payments!
Sophisticated affiliate programs have resource centers where you can copy images with your affiliate link embedded in them for easy online posting. These centers have reporting functions so that you can track your earnings over time. You’ll want a program that keeps in touch with you often providing you tools such as prewritten emails, tweets, and Facebook status updates for quick turnaround to your community of contacts.
I suggest trying products/services out yourself first so that you can recommend them without reservation. For transparency, some affiliates add a short disclaimer to their website explaining that they get a commission if someone presses their link. If you do this, you might add that you wouldn’t recommend anything that you wouldn’t use yourself anyway!
By now you’re wondering how much you might expect to make as an affiliate. That’s up to you, of course, and how involved you want to get. Referral fees range from percent arrangements (15-25% for example) to flat fees for sales with your link. Now you’re asking, “How can businesses do this?” and the answer is simple: affiliates increase a business’s reach–you’re giving them a portion of a sale that they might not have gotten at all, so everybody wins.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own two affiliate programs for promoting my products, courses, and events. My company gratefully pays out over six-figures a year in commission checks, so you can see that this can become a stit substantial part of your income portfolio if you invest the time. You can see both of my affiliate programs here.
© 2010 Ali International, LLC
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