Affiliate Marketing 101: Using Affiliate Marketing to Build an Online Sales Force

April Nelson - November 5, 2014

Internet marketers “in the know” have a secret weapon. Rather, they have many secret weapons – the affiliate marketers who advertise on their behalf in exchange for commissions.

Many big, well-known brands have been using affiliate marketing for years to supplement and complement their other digital initiatives, such as display advertising, social advertising, and content marketing.

If you’re unfamiliar with affiliate marketing, or want to know how it can play in the sandbox with your other digital marketing initiatives, read on; if you want to learn how to optimize your affiliate marketing program, check back soon for a follow-up post on that very subject.

So, What’s Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a relatively old (and widely used) form of internet marketing. In it, brands go through affiliate marketing networks (such as Commission Junction and Linkshare) to recruit and communicate with affiliate marketers – many of whom are content publishers whose content is closely aligned with the brand’s products or services.

Through these networks, brands host their links, banner creative and even coupon codes. Affiliates then download this creative, and market it on the advertiser’s behalf by, for example, using the brand’s banner creative on their websites or sending out coupon codes to their subscribers in exchange for commissions on any sales that result from their marketing efforts.


What’s the Benefit of Affiliate Marketing?

The biggest benefit of affiliate marketing is control. Not only can brands control who join their programs, they also have greater control over costs.

Unlike with CPC and CPM marketing, in which brands pay based on clicks or impressions, with affiliate marketing, brands only pay when a conversion has taken place. This is a boon for brands with limited budgets, or who don’t have the time to manage a full-fledged program through platforms like AdWords. It can also be effective for companies who are fully engaged with paid search and are looking to take advantage of additional channels.

The other benefit is the ability to connect with qualified publishers. These are people who have the keys to your audience and, thanks to commissions, have reason to promote your brand over your competitors’. (So long as your affiliate marketing program is competitive, an issue we will speak to in a follow-up post.)


Who Should Use Affiliate Marketing?

There are many brands that can benefit from creating and optimizing an affiliate marketing program.

If you’re already running display advertising, and feel as though you’ve hit a wall, affiliate marketing can be a great next step. If, on the other hand, you don’t have the time and resources to devote to managing more labor intensive campaigns, or if your budget is limited and you need big bang for the buck, affiliate marketing can be a great “first step” toward building a more comprehensive digital presence.

The operative word here is “optimized.”

In our next post, we’ll talk about how you can create a competitive program that attracts quality affiliates, and that compels your affiliates to work hard on your behalf.

Stay tuned!

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