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If you’re exploring different types of marketing for your brand, then affiliate marketing is one strategy you might want to consider. But if the idea of affiliate marketing seems a little hazy or untested to you, it shouldn’t. It’s something that brands ranging from Levis Strauss & Co. to use to reach consumers on a broad or niche scale every day. It’s also a fairly simple concept that’s been around in different forms for a very long time, which tells you that it works.

Affiliate marketing is an arrangement that allows a person or a company, known as an affiliate or a publisher, to earn a commission from a seller. At its core, it’s a type of performance-based marketing as well as another sales channel for your brand. The affiliate promotes the seller’s product online through channels like social media, websites and blogs, and earns a commission based on sales of those products that occur because of the promotion.

Although affiliates are usually paid a commission for each sale, they can also be paid for each click, lead or other type of conversion that their promotion generates. An affiliate can be anything from an individual blogger promoting a brand to a site like Groupon, which partners with other companies to offer deals on their products and services.

What Makes Affiliate Marketing Different?

Affiliate marketing is different from other types of marketing — even influencer marketing. With influencer marketing, brands usually pay influencers in advance of a marketing campaign for certain deliverables. With affiliate marketing, affiliates are paid when an actual conversion takes place. Although you can set up an affiliate marketing relationship with an influencer, it’s different than the standard influencer marketing campaign.

A brand’s own social media marketing also differs from affiliate marketing. Affiliates can use social media to promote the brand’s product and earn commissions. But when brands use their own social media channels to promote their products, they’re promoting directly to consumers, without the involvement of a third party.

Similarly, a brand’s own content marketing differs from affiliate marketing. An affiliate might use content marketing, such as the affiliate’s own blog or website, to promote the brand’s product. But the brand reaches the consumer directly when it promotes its product through its website or blog.

The Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

There is a reason why more than 80 percent of brands use some kind of affiliate marketing. It works. There are a number of benefits for brands and marketers who use affiliate marketing, including the following.

Greater Reach

Using affiliates for marketing is in some ways like having both a sales team and a public relations company in one. You get greater reach with more people spreading the word about your product. And the great thing about online affiliate marketing is that you can easily reach audiences all over the world.

You Choose Who You Want to Work With

Companies and brands can be selective about the affiliates they choose to work with, making sure that the affiliate, as well as the affiliate’s audience, reputation and content are good fits for the product and the brand.

Affiliate Marketing Is Cost-Effective

Companies that use affiliates only pay commissions based on conversions, making affiliate marketing a cost-effective strategy. It also makes it easy to determine affiliate costs per sale.

Your Brand Gets Affiliate Validation

When an affiliate reaches a loyal audience, partnering with that affiliate can transfer that trust to your brand. Affiliates that promote your product within content that their audience finds valuable or entertaining can help to validate your brand and product in the eyes of consumers.

Grows Traffic More Quickly

When affiliates recommend your product on social media, and their followers share those recommendations with friends, family and colleague, it drives more and more traffic to your brand’s website. And it can happen very quickly when a review or a promotion really takes off.

Affiliates Create Targeted Content and Copy

Affiliates can create the type of content and copy that’s most persuasive for their audience. They know what works, and it’s in their best interests to use words that sell.

Why Use Affiliate Marketing?

Brands and marketers use affiliate marketing as a means to an end — several ends. Here are the main end-goals:

  • Increase Conversions: Affiliate marketing can help to increase conversions for brands. The more people you have promoting your product, the more conversions, and ultimately, sales you’re likely to have. Selling, after all, is and has always been a numbers game.
  • Grow Brand Awareness: Think of affiliates as brand ambassadors, spreading awareness of your brand among their audiences, who are potential consumers of your product.
  • Get Data: Using affiliate marketing can be an excellent way for brands and marketers to gather sales data that they can then use to determine the regions and types of consumers they want to target more extensively.

How Do You Use Affiliate Marketing?

For your brand to get started with affiliate marketing, you first have to do the legwork for recruiting affiliates. It’s crucial to do the research to find the affiliates that are the best fit for your brand and product.

Tips for Recruiting Affiliates

Often, your loyal customers will turn out to be some of your best affiliates. Search the web — or use a matchmaking tool — to find the bloggers, influencers or webmasters who are already promoting your brand or whose focuses and interests align with those of your consumers. Take a look at the affiliates your competition is using, and see if they make sense for your brand.

When you recruit affiliates on your brand’s website, you’re also likely to attract a number of consumers who are already enthusiastic about your brand. When you set up a landing page on your website to recruit affiliates, make sure it’s easy and clear for them to understand and sign up. You can also use apps to facilitate your affiliate marketing program, like those offered by Shopify’s app store.

Affiliate Promotions

Depending on your goals and what works best with affiliates’ audiences, there are different ways for brands to approach affiliate marketing.

Coupons and discounts that the affiliates offer on your brand’s products or services are one option that can work well with consumers. Email marketing through affiliates is another option. Just be careful not to bombard consumers with email marketing by working with too many affiliates in this way. Some brands offer incentives, rewarding consumers for their loyalty or referrals as a form of affiliate marketing.

Partnering with big media companies as affiliates for your brand is another option and one that’s been around for decades. It’s basically revenue sharing and can be done with websites, magazines, and TV and radio stations that are open to working on a commission basis.

With the booming popularity of video and mobile, partnering with affiliates that have a strong presence on video channels like YouTube and that optimize for mobile can also be key to your brand’s success.