Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask
Whenever the subject of affiliate marketing comes up (which, of course, for me is every day) there are a few frequently asked questions that always seem to crop up. I don’t mind because I welcome any opportunity to discuss the numerous challenges and exciting benefits of this industry.
Answering questions allows me to educate and dispel any misconceptions a lot of people have about affiliate marketing. Here are some of the top questions that come my way:
How does affiliate marketing work?
Affiliate marketing, sometimes also called direct sales, is a program that allows companies to contract with entrepreneurs to help promote the company’s products or services to consumers. The company provides compensation to the entrepreneur based on how successful she is and how many prospects visit the company’s website as a result of her work.
Success is measured using first-party cookies that work in conjunction with web browsers to collect, store and identify information from a search. When a consumer clicks a link from an affiliate site, the company receives information regarding which affiliate site originated that particular link. In this way, affiliate marketers can be properly credited for their work.
Thanks to programs like Empower Network, affiliate marketers can get tools and tips on promotion, management and growth of their businesses.
How does one choose an affiliate marketing program?
Affiliate marketing is a wonderful way for an entrepreneur to start a business and make a great living while maintaining a good work/life balance. Don’t look at it as hitting the lottery, though – you still have to make sure that the programs and businesses that you choose to promote can help you achieve your financial and business goals.
Perhaps one of the best methods for choosing an affiliate marketing program is to start with something you already use or like. You’ll find that it’s much more enjoyable to promote products that you’re already passionate about rather than items that are unfamiliar to you.
For example, if you regularly blog about fashion, you probably have a few favorite retail outlets or clothing brands that you frequently turn to, so it should be easier to find a lot to say about those places or products. Next, you’ll want to delve deeper to locate the best company within that niche.
As you conduct your research, look for things such as the popularity and potential longevity of the product. One way to do this is to check out competing products and their promotional efforts. Another aspect you should consider is the commission rate relative to the product being sold. For example, if you’re promoting a product that retails for $30 and you earn a 60-percent commission, that’s a pretty fair rate. Items that sell for a higher price or products that allow you to earn a commission every time a customer renews his purchase may be fine with a lower rate, but anything below 40 percent may not be worth your time.
There are also different types of affiliate programs. Some pay a commission only when an actual sale is made, but others pay when a customer provides an email address or completes a form. The ones that don’t require a sale may still pay you when an actual sale is made. Do your homework to find out which program is right for you.
You’ll also need to make sure you read the fine print before choosing an affiliate program. Some have restrictions, which you may still be able to work around, but you should know what they are before you make a decision.
Why should an established company set up an affiliate program?
Many businesses – big and small – underestimate the potential of the affiliate marketing model. Others may be disillusioned by the negative stigma that the industry sometimes carries. But if you find the right partners and work on cultivating relationships, affiliate marketing can help drive prospects to your website without the hassle and expense of other marketing initiatives.
Affiliate networks like Empower Network are there to help make the process simple and seamless. We provide the tools necessary to run an affiliate program. This includes the right software to track sales, issue payments and develop user-friendly banners.
Many Web-based businesses have taken advantage of the opportunities available through partnering with affiliate marketing programs. It’s also useful for traditional brick-and-mortar companies looking to expand their online outreach efforts.
Affiliate marketing can be especially beneficial to anyone looking to solve the problem of how to get enough relevant, valuable content to keep customers happy. Businesses are usually attracted to affiliate marketing programs because it connects them to a vast network of bloggers and other companies that are available to help – and it’s relatively inexpensive. Companies can expect to pay a flat fee each month to the network, or a percentage of affiliate payments.
Since the field of affiliate marketing is growing rapidly, you can now find suitable programs for practically any type of business. To make it more manageable, you may want to start by finding a controllable number of passionate, dedicated affiliates rather than having hundreds who don’t deliver results.
Is affiliate marketing actually a scam or pyramid scheme?
Nope. Contrary to what some believe, affiliate marketers are e-commerce entrepreneurs. They work hard to build their websites, develop value-added content and encourage conversions which lead to success for both themselves and their partners.
A lot of confusion still remains about the affiliate marketing industry. Some people think you have to pester friends and family members to “join” and others believe you have to put money in to get anything out.
These misconceptions open the door for certain people to purposefully try to prey on these misunderstandings and scam potential entrepreneurs. It’s important that you’re able to separate the good from the bad and avoid schemes and trickery.
Unfortunately, these bad apples give a black eye to the entire industry. At Empower Network, we work hard to dispel these myths and help each member achieve the best affiliate marketing experience for profitability and true success.
Although almost anyone can work hard and attain business goals through affiliate marketing, not everyone does. Having realistic expectations and the right mindset is the best way to steer clear of hype and distractions.
One thing to keep in mind is that it should be free to become an affiliate marketer. If you’re asked for money upfront, run the other way.
In true affiliate marketing programs, there is no magic formula or big secret that you can purchase for overnight riches. Beware of advertisements that scream “Buy this product and make $10,000 next month” or any such claims that promise guarantees and big rewards without hard work.
How do I know if affiliate marketing is right for me?
As I’ve stated before, affiliate marketing provides the best type of business model for those looking to become entrepreneurs and grow businesses. But it’s not for everyone. Those who do best in this field are the ones who know what they want and are willing to work hard to get it.
In the field of affiliate marketing, you need to be persistent and tenacious, but also patient. Your success won’t happen overnight, but it will come – especially if you make use of all the tools and resources to help you, like those Empower Network provides.
The ability to keep your energy up and remain positive is one of the best qualities you can have in this field. Even when things are slow, you have to maintain a high level of intensity and your strong work ethic to get through it.
Most importantly, you have to have a determined spirit and not give up. This is easier when you realize that affiliate marketing is a process that takes time and nurturing to become successful.
You should also have a willingness to learn. Read books to better understand the industry and seek out knowledge from others who have found success. For example, at Empower Network, we provide several opportunities each year for our members to come together for networking, growth and fun.
While affiliate marketing offers a level of freedom and independence most other industries can’t meet, don’t mistake it for easy work. First and foremost, affiliate marketing is a business and it takes dedication and focus.
Without having a demanding boss standing over you all the time, you may feel the tendency to slack off or not do your best work. In order to thrive in affiliate marketing, you need to have the motivation to continually work at improving your business, whether or not anyone else tells you to do it.
How can I make money in affiliate marketing?
It’s important to note that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. The work you put in is equivalent to the profits you take out. That being said, it is possible to make a very nice living in affiliate marketing and keep a healthy work/life balance; you just have to know what separates successful marketers from the failed enterprises.
Understand your customer base. For one thing, you have to remember that prospects are people, too, so avoid techniques for selling that are proven turn-offs, like high-pressure selling. No one likes in-your-face, aggressive salespeople, and your website shouldn’t be the online equivalent of that.
Focus on providing value and helpful information about a potential purchase, like reviews and enlightening blog articles. If you identify what problems your customers need to solve and effectively explain how your product will help, you’re likely to be successful. Leave the actual selling to the merchant.
Don’t get in over your head. Choose your affiliate programs carefully and don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle. You’ll have to work hard and ensure that any program you sign up for receives your best efforts.
Do your research. Don’t just choose companies based on profit potential. Make sure the company is one you want to partner with and that its customer service operation is stellar. It can be a real disappointment to learn that a customer took your advice and clicked on a link only to receive an inferior product, poor customer relations or tons of spam as a result.
Learn, adjust and grow. Just setting up a webpage and hoping for the best won’t serve you well. You have to take an active role in developing a solid customer base and generating results. This should include properly tracking your pages to discover what is working and what isn’t. You’ll also need to periodically adjust your strategies based on that feedback.
Be authentic and honest. This is easier if you’re promoting a product that you’re passionate about and really want to see success for. You’ll provide a better service and be a better marketer if you’re upfront with your readers. If your product isn’t for everyone, say so. Making false promises will only come back to bite you later.
Stay on top of trends and ahead of the competition. Part of your strategy should be keeping a watchful eye on your market and being ready to jump at a profitable opportunity that your competitors may have missed.
Are there any legal issues I need to know about?
Currently, about a dozen states have laws requiring companies that work with affiliate marketers who are located in those states to pay sales taxes. Although the issue continues to face legal challenges and may eventually go either way, it’s crucial to check the rules in your state. Getting on the wrong side of the IRS can be a business-killer that you must avoid at all costs.
In addition to the IRS, there are also Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules to follow. The FTC now requires that bloggers reveal any arrangements through which they’re paid for their endorsements.
So there you have it: some of my top questions. Did I miss any? I’d love to hear what questions people ask you about affiliate marketing or any other concerns that I can help you address. Let me know in the comments!
Jonathan Cronstedt is the CEO of Empower Network, LLC. Empower Network is a leading affiliate marketing and direct sales company that’s helping tens of thousands enjoy the “Empowered Lifestyle.” Jonathan enjoys travel, spending time with his wife and red wine.