What is Affiliate Marketing – and do I need it?

What is Affiliate Marketing

You have probably heard about affiliate marketing, you may even have an idea of what you think affiliate marketing is, but is it something that you should investigate further?

Firstly, the definition. Affiliate marketing can be defined as a situation where your business rewards another for a visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. If you think about this definition, affiliate marketing can include a lot of your marketing efforts: Google is likely to be an important affiliate for organic SEO and paid advertising.

However, for the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the area of affiliate marketing where someone is selling your product and will receive a commission for doing so. For example, if you own a website which sells car parts, it would make sense to pick up with someone who owns a website whose content is all about cars and car maintenance to see if they can drive traffic to your website – you will receive relevant traffic and they will receive a small commission for any sales.

So if you are thinking about employing an affiliate marketing programme for your company, what are the benefits and challenges that you should consider?

Benefits:

  • The affiliate has invested time and money building up their audience to match a particular profile – if this matches the profile you are looking for, a lot of hard work has been done for you
  • It beats traditional outbound marketing – firing your message out to a wide audience in the hope that some of them will be interested in your product or service is hugely inefficient: when done well, affiliate marketing is the ultimate in inbound marketing
  • Someone else is using their marketing budget to sell your product or service – nice!
  • Payments are performance-based, so you only pay if you receive a sale or other type of conversion
  • The program is fairly low risk: if the affiliate programme doesn’t work, the financial cost from your perspective shouldn’t be too high (although you may have invested a lot of time)

Challenges:

  • How relevant is the traffic to your ideal audience? If it is a perfect match, it will work well, but a small deviation can have a big impact on the success of the program
  • You need to have a good measurement system to be able to run an affiliate scheme – you may need to invest in one (although it is money well spent)
  • You lose control of the content – yes, it’s in the best interests of the affiliate to drive traffic, but their methods of maximising this may not match yours
  • Its hard work – anyone who has worked in affiliate marketing will know how tough it
  • Affiliate marketing is not a silver bullet: it should be part of a multi-channel approach as per any other marketing activity

Do you have any experiences or thoughts on affiliate marketing? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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