Of all the ways to make money online, affiliate marketing is among the most profitable, so long as you develop a good strategy.
If you’ve never heard of affiliate marketing before, that’s not a problem – by the time you reach the end of this guide, you’ll have everything you need to get started.
Let’s cover the basics first.
What is affiliate marketing?
Your mission as an affiliate marketer is deceptively simple – find individuals or businesses who need the products or services your client delivers and create a connection between them.
Also known as lead generation, this can be achieved in many different ways. Every ad campaign you see, every sponsored video, social media post, or charitable event, and every branded promotional product you get your hands on is a form of lead generation.
With the rise of the digital era, the lead gen game changed drastically. We now live in an age of information abundance and attention scarcity. So, to successfully generate leads, you need to be able to capture people’s attention, help them filter the overwhelming amount of data that’s being thrown at them, and connect them to good quality products or services that will solve a problem for them or improve their life.
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll be paid not just for leads, but for qualified leads. In general, a qualified lead is someone who has engaged directly and intentionally with a company. The criteria for a qualified lead will differ depending on who you’re working with. Examples include customers who have filled out a contact form, entered a competition, or signed up for a newsletter. If you’re directing people to products, you’re usually only paid if they make a purchase via your link.
These qualified leads are the valuable first step in the sales funnel, which is why companies are prepared to pay for each one you generate.
So, how do you get in on this game and get paid to generate leads for people?
What’s the best way to generate leads?
Let’s consider two scenarios:
- You’re researching camping gear, you get a feel for what’s out there, and you find great content attracting you to a company that makes impressive-looking equipment. You like what you’re seeing, so you make the choice to visit the company’s website.
- You’re scrolling through social media and an ad for a camping store pops up between a picture of your friend’s cat and the burger another friend ate for lunch.
In which scenario would you feel more comfortable parting ways with your cash? If it’s the first option, you’re not alone. Of course, that doesn’t mean social media advertizing isn’t effective. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to great effect. However, when people come to a business organically, they’re usually more at ease and more motivated to become a paying customer.
For this reason, affiliate marketing is best achieved through the creation of quality content that is useful, engaging, entertaining, and informative. You have a number of options for doing this, including:
- Creating your own website or blog
- Guest posting or ghostwriting for other blogs
- Building a social media presence
- Starting a YouTube channel
- Adding email marketing to any of the above
Through each of these platforms, you provide useful information and a link directing potential customers to your client’s landing page. If they engage via your link, then you will be compensated.
How to find companies that will pay for qualified leads
Your best bet when starting out is to get your platforms set up first and start generating quality content before you even think about the affiliate marketing side of things. This gives you a good baseline to build from while ensuring that you will love the work you’re doing.
Many people make the mistake of trying to figure out what will sell best so they can create content around that. Though this strategy may work for some, it’s simpler and more rewarding to focus on what you’re passionate about, build your platform around that, and then work from this positive foundation.
Your next step is to sign up with a few affiliate networks. These online programs connect budding marketers like yourself with companies that are willing to pay for sales and leads. The beauty of a network is that once you’re signed up, you get access to hundreds of companies all in one place, as opposed to going through the tedium of approaching them all individually.
You’ll need to put in an application and provide links to your website and/or social media platforms to demonstrate where you’ll be sharing content and generating leads (this is the other reason why we recommend building your online presence first).
Some excellent affiliate networks to sign up with include:
Once you’ve been accepted into a network, in most cases, you’ll need to apply individually to the companies you’re interested in representing. You can use the network’s search tools to filter through the huge pool of potential candidates and find those that are relevant to the content you’re creating. It’s also essential to ensure you only endorse products and/or services you have confidence in.
Once you’ve been approved, you’ll be given unique URLs to include in your content. When a customer follows one of your URLs and engages in the desired way, you get paid.
The beauty of this system is that you get to decide what kind of content you want to create, and you’re in complete control of which products and services you promote. You get to pick and choose your leads and you don’t have to worry about setting up meetings or talking to anyone at all.
Affiliate marketing: real talk
It takes a lot of time and effort to build your platforms and develop an audience. And affiliate marketing, in general, is a fascinating process of trial and error, success and frustration. With this in mind, it’s important to think about affiliate marketing as a long-term strategy for generating an income. Your earnings are unlikely to be steady or reliable in the beginning, so it’s worth either sticking with your day job or looking for other viable ways to make money online.
If you have any questions regarding lead generation or affiliate marketing, please feel free to post them below and we will get back to you. And if you’re keen to do a bit more reading on the subject before you dive in, check out our pros and cons of affiliate marketing article where we take you through the stats on this multi-billion dollar industry along with all the confusing pitfalls you might face and how to avoid them.