Background
One of the biggest issues haunting those interested in generating money from the internet is not having a product or service to sell.  This is often a dilemma that many entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, bloggers, schools, writers, houses of worship, community organisations, sports teams etc. fail to overcome.  Affiliate Marketing can solve this problem because it allows virtually anyone to sell other retailers products and receive a commission in return.  Some of the largest offline and online merchants are affiliates representing billions in e-commerce sales.  Companies like Debenham's, Curry's and Tesco all participate in affiliate marketing in one way or another.  Virtually every large company selling consumer products has some form of Affiliate Marketing program. 

How does it work?
There are four key players in the Affiliate Marketing flow:

  1. The Seller – the ultimate provider of the product or service procured by a Buyer
  2. The Affiliate – an organization or individual that promotes the Seller’s products or services to prospective Buyers
  3. The Affiliate Network – an organization that manages the offers that Sellers it represents want to make available to Affiliates; these networks also manage commission payments earned by Affiliates; and
  4. The Buyer – the ultimate consumer of the Seller’s product or service via an Affiliate

Sometimes you will see Affiliates (as we’ve used the term here) referred to as “Publishers” and Sellers referred to as “Advertisers”.  There is no “correct” term as the kinds of “Offers” made available from a Seller to an Affiliate can vary widely.  Whenever an Affiliate fulfills its obligation to a Seller, through sending them a sale, referral, or data, Affiliates receive a commission from the Affiliate Network.

Who can capitalize on Affiliate Marketing?
While it is not for everyone, with a bit of patience and persistence, anyone can be successful in Affiliate Marketing.  For small businesses, community organisations, not-for-profits, and other enterprises, Affiliate Marketing can be a great way to monetise existing website traffic.

For individuals, if you have a passion, or hobby, and a few extra hours per week, Affiliate Marketing may be a real opportunity for you.  Retailers are always looking for a personal touch in bringing their products to market.  So by applying your know-how, (whether it is in fashion, beauty, outdoors, sports, health & wellness, design, technology, etc.), you can help retailers differentiate their products from competition, and by so doing, generate more business for them, and commissions for you. 

So where are the opportunities?
Within the four categories above, (Seller, Affiliate, Network and Buyer) the most accessible opportunity for individuals and smaller businesses and non-profits is to become an Affiliate.  There are “thousands” of retailers who realise the benefits of working with Affiliates to promote their products and services.  Typically, retailers are looking for Affiliates who have an audience or some level of expertise in the product niche or marketing segment appropriate to its products.  Popular affiliate websites include blogs, comparison sites, magazines, and review sites focused on promoting niche products in apparel, fashion, health, sports and many, many other market segments. 

How much can we make?
One of the first things people who are new to Affiliate Marketing ask is “how much can I make?”  This question is impossible to answer.  An Affiliate Marketing business is no different from any other kind of business.  It requires the right strategy, effort, commitment and relationships to make work.  There are some affiliates called Super Affiliates who make over a million dollars a year and there are others that make nothing.  According to an AffStat 2015 Survey, almost 10% of their survey participants made over $100,000 per year in Affiliate marketing (£66,000 per year).  For individuals, this compares favorably to incomes generally when you consider the average UK salary just touches £26,500 a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.  Clearly, Affiliate Marketing can be an opportunity for the right kind of person and of course, if you’re considering fund raising for your not-for-profit, or additional monetisation opportunities for an existing website, Affiliate Marketing may be a great option as you already have a captive community of members.

What are the keys to success?
The keys to success first depend on you setting realistic expectations and achievable goals.  So knowing how much you’d like to make each month is a start.  If you expect to make £1M in your first month, it is highly likely that you’ll be severely disappointed.  If you set realistic goals, give yourself enough time, work hard, persevere, and treat your Affiliate Marketing business like a real business, your chances of success improve dramatically.  It is not unrealistic to make an extra £50 per week in Affiliate Marketing as a reasonable goal, but it will take you time to get your business of the ground, just like any other.  And the best part - the risk and capital outlay is very affordable.

For entities that already have memberships or a traffic generating website, e.g. a blog, newsletter, community website, etc., then your success will depend on how effective you are at getting your members to your website and converting that traffic to sales. 

How do we start?
The first step is to determine what kind of products you would like to to promote.  These should be products that are in a niche or specialty area that you feel confident representing.  The second thing is laying out a marketing game plan.  Think of the game plan as a “calendar” of activities that you plan to perform.  These include a schedule of articles, blog entries, promotions, newsletter updates, product updates, review, and all other marketing activities that you plan to deliver over the course of the year.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be realistic.  Don’t try to do too much initially.  Once you have your game plan in place, then finding the right platform is the next task.  There are many, many, platforms out there, some good, expensive, not so good, etc.  Whichever system you choose, it should allow you to get started quickly, offer training, be flexible, and allow you to promote products from more than one Affiliate Network as well as have traffic generating features and services. 

Here comes the shameless (but honest) pitch for our services:  IncomeShops offers new affiliates a terrific launch pad into the world of Affiliate Marketing with connections to over 7 million products from almost 2000 retailers with hosting plans to suit virtually any budget.   We also provide social media services, training, and access to over 4 hours of video training for new subscribers.  These can be reviewed during our 7 day free trial period so that new subscribers can get a solid understanding of the commitment involved.

Conclusion
Affiliate marketing is a potentially lucrative business opportunity.  With the right expectations, effort, time, and dedication, new entrants should be able to supplement their income or fundraising initiatives with a long-term sustainable model.  For more information on Affiliate Marketing or to learn more about how you can get started with your own IncomeShops store, contact us at info@incomeshops.com.  Thanks for reading our blog.  If you found it informative – please share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

The IncomeShops Team