The affiliate program: one of the most misunderstood ways to make money.  Maybe you think they are complicated. Or confusing. Or sketchy. But all of that is just a projection.  Affiliate programs are quite simply an opportunity to get rewarded for referrals.  Today I want to give an overview of the point of affiliate programs and how they make you money.

Let’s start with an example.

Imagine that you have a business you love.  There is a product or service you use regularly, and you find that you are constantly talking about it.  In the process, you get someone else really excited about the thing.  They go out and buy it.  You just marketed the company.  They profited.  You got nothing.  That was really nice of you!

If that company had an affiliate program and you were affiliate, the entire process would be the same except for one part.  When that new person got so excited that they bought the product or service, there was actually a way to track that you gave the assist.  The company makes money.  But you also get a cut of it.  You make money, too.

Affiliate programs are quite simply an opportunity to get rewarded for referrals. #business #affiliate #smb #smallbiz #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

So, what we are looking at here is you can choose to make money or not make money for your referral.

If you choose not to make money, you are being a philanthropist.  Or a volunteer marketer.  This is a great kindness you are doing for the company.  That may be enough for you, because if you truly love the company, you want others to know so the company can grow and be strong.

If you want money, consider the affiliate program.

Now, affiliate programs take a little effort and know-how to set up, so not every company has something like this.  You’ll see this more often online, because it is a bit easier to create affiliate links and track the clicks of it.  As long as the company has a bit of technical knowledge to set it up, or if they are using a platform that makes it especially simple, online marketplaces are a more straightforward way to track affiliate sales.

Affiliate programs do exist offline, too.  They’re called “finder’s fees” or “referral bonuses.”  The concept is the same.  Exactly the same.  But it can be much more difficult to track referral bonuses that aren’t done through some sort of coordinated application.  The onus is on the customer to mention that they were referred by you.

Affiliate programs do exist offline, too. They're called “finder's fees” or “referral bonuses.” #affiliate #business #entrepreneur #biztips Click To Tweet

As an affiliate, the percentage of the sale that you earn is going to be different from company to company.  This is something you discuss and decide if it is worth your while.  But, if you were going to recommend the company anyway, it’s probably worth a look.  This is where you get to make a little (or a lot of) money on the side without having to take on the risk of your own business.  And as an affiliate, your testimonial carries a great deal of weight, because of the social proof you are providing (read more about that here).

As the company, it makes sense to have affiliates.  They are marketing your company for you, and the cut they take for the sale also implies guaranteed money in your pocket.  For most of the other marketing you do, you pay money or spend time up front for the hope that you will be reimbursed for it with sales.  With an affiliate program, you pay for marketing after it has resulted in a sale.

Where I think the wheels come off for affiliate programs is when people sign up to be affiliates of all sorts of random things and come across as really salesy when they try to push products or services that don’t seem connected.  The rules of good marketing still apply to affiliates.  It’s all about planting seeds and nurturing the audience.  And, in this case, making them aware up front that you are promoting the product or service in question.

The rules of good marketing still apply to affiliates. #affiliate #business #smallbusiness #smallbiz #biztips Click To Tweet

The subject of affiliate programs is one that seems to have developed a confusing or a bad connotation over time.  Hopefully this quick glance demystifies it and makes it a bit more accessible!


If you have been reading my Marketing Tips or following my free material for a long time, please be aware that there is actually an affiliate program for my new online courses!  These are geared towards small business owners who want to take a DIY approach to building a strong marketing strategy and want to take huge steps forward.  Affiliates earn 50%For more information about the courses, read here.  And if you want to chat with me about becoming an affiliate, email me here!