How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

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How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular marketing channels out there. The money that companies spend on affiliate marketing is said to increase to $8.2B by 2022, up from $5.4B in 2017.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based strategy where an eCommerce store rewards its partners (affiliates) with a commission for promoting its products.

There are typically 3 parties involved in an affiliate promotion:

1. The brand - those are the folks that make the product and hand out their affiliate links to other sites

2. The affiliate - that’s the site that promotes the product

3. The affiliate network - that’s a network that manages affiliates

How do you find affiliates?

Affiliates are sites that publish content about the brand’s products. There are a whole bunch of types of affiliates out there.

Here are a few of the types of affiliates that you can work with:

Coupon affiliates - these are coupon sites like Honey

Large publishers - these are large online publications like the Business Insider and TechCrunch.

Comparison shopping sites - these are aggregator sites that display and compare different products and brands. They include sites like BizRate and Shopping.com.

Review sites - these are sites that display products and product reviews. An example is This is Why I’m Broke.

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There are several ways to find the right affiliate to work with.

The first way is to manually search for blogs or coupon sites and then reach out to them.

Another way is to use a database like NinjaOutreach that has thousands of bloggers and sites that you could recruit to be your affiliates.

And finally, the most powerful way to reach affiliates is by using large affiliate networks.

Leverage large affiliate networks

Most ecommerce companies are too small to really dominate the affiliate marketing game but if you are already spending $5-10K on your marketing efforts every month it’s time for you to look into large affiliate networks.

If you want to put your business on the map and work with some of the top publishers and affiliates out there you need to join one or a few of the large affiliate networks. These are PepperJam, Rakuten, Impact, and Share-a-sale.

The advantage of using a large affiliate network is that your ecommerce company can easily build relationships with and reach out to affiliates much faster and more effectively.

Here’s an example. CellarMasters is a high-quality wine company from Australia. Back in 2017 they wanted to penetrate the US market and chose to join Rakuten to connect with affiliates. They were able to quickly connect with Groupon, through Rakuten, and were able to structure several campaigns with them.

The results were astounding. Over 6,000 orders were placed via the campaign, close to 10,000 units were sold and 1,700 new customers acquired. The campaign outdid its sales projections by 73%.

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Here are some high-level strategies of working with affiliates on these networks:

  1. Reach out to relevant affiliates only, avoid spreading yourself too thin or forming partnerships with completely irrelevant affiliates.
  2. Focus your efforts on the top affiliates in the network first.
  3. Go after a diverse group of affiliates, have a good mix of coupon affiliates, large publishers, affiliate networks (like Skimlinks), and smaller industry blogs.

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