In this post, our Head of Affiliate Ash Bage explains how to get started with affiliate marketing, an important but often misunderstood digital marketing strategy.

In an ever-growing and increasingly competitive digital environment, affiliate marketing is an extremely important tool to help you reach the widest possible audience – and with a minimum of risk. However, this form of marketing is currently poorly understood. Many people don’t have a full appreciation of the range of strategies it involves, or of the work that goes into a successful affiliate campaign. Understanding these things is an important first step to taking advantage of this potentially lucrative form of marketing.

In this post, I’ll explain some of the basics of affiliate marketing, stressing what makes it uniquely valuable as a marketing strategy in a digital environment. I’ll also give some tips on how to get started in affiliate marketing, especially for newer businesses.

How does affiliate marketing different from other aspects of marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a unique – and uniquely valuable – form of marketing. That’s because it’s what I would call a power hub. Whereas other strands of marketing tend to separate off into their own little areas, affiliate marketing opens out into a range of different online spaces.

As a power hub, affiliate marketing sits at the centre and radiates outwards – to blogs, to cashback sites, to social media influencers, to editorial sites, and so on. And while all of these may have enormous amounts of traffic, with huge numbers of eyes on them, it can be hard to know how to monetise all these audiences from one single point. And that’s where affiliate marketing excels.

Because, of course, the best way to monetise all these different areas is to recognise that, from a business standpoint, everyone is motivated by money. So, in affiliate marketing, you give someone the opportunity to post a link on their site, or to promote it on their social media account, and each time someone clicks through and make a purchase, the person posting the link earns a set amount. And you can do this for a wide range of different sites and platforms, enabling you to make use of all these different avenues at once.

What are the benefits of affiliate marketing?

Aside from the ability to connect with multiple audiences at once, there is a range of other benefits to affiliate marketing.

The cost-per-action (CPA) model also ensures there’s limited risk. For virtually all other channels, you usually have to pay upfront, whereas with affiliate marketing you don’t have to. You only pay for what is sold as a result of an affiliate’s promotion, so it’s actually a risk-free model.

If you’re a new business, you might not want to spend something upfront, because you don’t know if you’re going to get a return on it. Whereas to take influencers as an example, they are essentially just creating this huge amount of brand awareness for you, and you can have thousands of people all doing the same thing at one time, without paying upfront.

There are other advantages, too. If you have a billboard on the side of the road, for example, people do walk past it and see your advert, and that’s great. But with affiliates, and especially with influencers, you’ve got people who are actually talking about their direct experiences with the brand, so it can be a lot more engaging.

In spite of all these advantages, however, affiliate marketing remains largely under the radar. Many people don’t fully understand what that is. Whilst they are perhaps aware of the role of influencers, they don’t realise that it’s much broader than this. Influencers are just one area. Anywhere that you put a link on a site, that is classed as an affiliate. And that person can make you money from it.

An influencer recording a video for an affiliate marketing team.

Could you start affiliate marketing with limited money?

While affiliate marketing is a low-risk approach, the initial costs are dependent on the platform you use.

There are platforms you can use for affiliate marketing- such as Awin, for example – where you can sign up even if you’re a brand-new business without necessarily having substantial amounts of money behind you. And because of the CPA model mentioned above, you don’t have to have the money upfront to be able to get affiliates on board.

However, what you might need money for is gifting. For your affiliates to be able to write a blog about you or for an influencer to promote you, you’ll likely have to gift them one of your products, or even a variety of them. This will enable them to use the product, feature it in their blogs or on social media, and so on. So, you would need to put money aside for this.

On the other hand, most affiliate marketing platforms will require you to pay a percentage of your revenue for being on the network. You may sometimes also need to pay an admin fee, often on a monthly basis. So these can add to the immediate costs of getting started in affiliate marketing.

How can you get started in affiliate marketing as a beginner?

The first thing to do before getting started with affiliate marketing is to read up on it and build your knowledge of what it entails. As I mentioned above, people tend to think there’s only one route in affiliate marketing, but in fact, there are so many avenues you can go down. So, whether it’s through reading books, listening to podcasts, watching videos and so on, it’s important to understand some of the different options and variables involved.

The second step would be to speak to an affiliate platform and get advice from them. These platforms know that a lot of the people that come to them don’t really understand what affiliate marketing is, and so they are usually happy to give you advice.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand what’s involved in affiliate marketing in order to make the most of the opportunities. You can often find that companies will set up an affiliate account and think it’s quite easy to do, and then they realise after a month or two that perhaps the sales haven’t come through as quick as they thought. They wonder why it isn’t working, having expected it to be so easy. But in fact, it takes a lot of management to do it well. 

And that’s why the best option may well be coming to someone like Castle. If you work with someone like us who handles affiliate management all the time, they can give you really solid advice on whether it’s the right thing to do for you at that time.