The American consumer doesn’t buy a product or idea as much as they buy a brand. Your decision to buy a particular bottle of soda, visit a certain restaurant, or visit a car dealership may have been influenced, or outright manipulated, or by advertising.
Why would you buy Coca Cola or Pepsi over a generic soda? Especially when all sodas basically contain the same ingredients?
In the 20th century, you would have to be well-connected or in the know to get a piece of the advertising business. Now, in the 21st century, all you need is a laptop, business connections, an online following, and a penchant for product referral.
The American advertising business as we know is being changed by the advent of affiliate marketing. And you can profit too, if you have patience.
Affiliate marketing 101
Affiliate marketing is a digital-age version of direct referral advertising that is extremely cheap for businesses to engage in.
Instead of exclusively working with high-paid consultants or industry experts, big business is relying on everyday people, people like you or me, to expose and perpetuate their brands to the consuming public.
Affiliate marketing is an advertising and marketing project powered by commission-based online referrals. Such affiliate programs rely on people with a considerable online following, via a blog, website, or social media account, to refer and encourage people to buy a product.
A participating business embeds a link to a product on the affiliate’s website or social media account. For every click and sale sealed through that link, the affiliate receives a predetermined commission or percentage of each sale.
Let’s imagine that you have made a deal as an affiliate marketer with a t-shirt company. You run a website or blog and over 10,000 people visit weekly or follow your online updates.
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This is a data list that can be monetized. So, the t-shirt company embeds a link to their t-shirt for sale on your blog or social media account. For every person who clicks on the click and buys a t-shirt, you earn 5% of the sale.
In conjunction with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on traditional forms of advertising, businesses are learning that they can reach consumers through direct marketing.
By partnering with affiliate marketers, they can cheaply use the Internet to perpetuate a brand and stay engaged with consumers.
The affiliate marketing boom
Even though online affiliate marketing has been recently embraced by businesses, experts predict that the practice will increase in the future.
According to research conducted by Awin, an affiliate marketing research firm, American businesses, especially retailers, spent almost $5 billion on affiliate marketing initiatives in 2016.
For perspective, that is about 7.5% of what American retailers spent on all digital advertising budgets. That amount will increase to about $7 billion by 2020.
As a global practice, businesses the world over spend about $16 billion on affiliate marketing right now. Over 16% of all online consumer orders are completed through affiliate marketing. About 81% of all known consumer brands, and 84% of all literature publishing brands, use affiliate marketing strategies.
In other words, affiliate marketing initiatives is the future of business. It’s a budget conscious strategy that can engage targeted consumer demographics in real time.
Affiliate marketing can also be used for data mining and projecting the future interests of consumers. Best of all, anyone, even you, can be an affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing potential
You don’t need a business license or any specialized training to be an affiliate marketer. There are very little startup costs involved, beyond a laptop.
You don’t need to create, stock, or ship any products that you refer. An affiliate marketer creates their own work schedule and can work from anywhere with a reliable Wi-fi connection.
However, there can be some drawbacks. For one thing, it helps if you have an appreciable and preexisting Internet presence and online audience.
It takes time to create a loyal web traffic base that can be leveraged into an affiliate marketing deal. Why should a business offer you such a deal if only a few people visit your website daily?
Depending on the deal, you may get a small percentage commission per sale. You may need a sizable following, and time, to profit.
You must vet your affiliate partner. If they are shady or sell a defective product, your reputation will be sullied as well.
Most importantly, you are trading the data mining value of your own web traffic for commission sales.
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You will only know how many referral sales you generated through the affiliate link. The identity of the consumers, members of your own web traffic, will only be known to the affiliate partner.
They can then monetize such information as they wish in the future. Affiliate marketing deals generally benefit the business affiliate more than the affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing is the future of brand legitimization. There is no reason why you can’t get in on it too. Just temper your expectations.
First, develop an online presence as a blogger, website owner, or social media presence. Strategize how to make your online influence work for you, instead of allowing a business affiliate to dictate such terms.
Affiliate marketing is a crowded profession, so brainstorm how to make yourself stand out to optimize potential earning potential.
If you want to look at it such a way, this is a more of a “get rich slow” option. You have to learn how the affiliate marketing system works to make it work for you.
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Nevertheless, barely 25 years ago, big businesses paid consultants big money to strategize how to extend brand recognition to consumers. Now, they are making similar, scaled down deals with everyday people through affiliate marketing.