What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does it Work for Beginners?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a legitimate business model, it is used by entrepreneurs and businesses all around the world.

In days gone by, businesses would use a self employed agent to travel around a particular geographical area promoting their products to potential customers. The agent was self employed and promoted a range of related products from a selection of manufacturers and when his customers bought something, the agent earned a commission. This is exactly how affiliate marketing works, but for some reason people hear the phrase affiliate marketing and assume that it is some get rich quick scam. It isn’t at all, it is a tried and tested way for manufacturers to sell more products.

The agent would have a calling cycle where he visited each of his customers in turn over a set period. Depending o the size of the territory he covered this could be once a month, or once every 3 months. When he arrived at his customer he would show them all the latest products from all the manufacturers that he represented and take new orders.

The agent promoted products that were in a similar category, so that all of his products would be potentially of interest to all of his customers. So if his customers were furniture stores he might represent a bed manufacturer, a sofa manufacturer, a table manufacturer and mirror manufacturer. Home furniture was his niche. There would be no point representing a lawnmower manufacturer or a car battery manufacturer because his furniture store customers would have no interest in those products.

This is all just a form of affiliate marketing, but can you imagine him starting that business from scratch? Imagine if he had no customers to visit, where would he begin? Presumably by building a list of potential customers and working out how to get his products in front of them.

This is again the same in affiliate marketing. Having a product to sell is just the start of the process. Finding products to sell is easy, finding someone to sell them to isn’t so easy. However, we all have to start somewhere.

So how does Affiliate Marketing Work For Beginners?

So as a beginner in affiliate marketing you are faced with potentially hundreds of thousands of products to sell and no easy way to sell them. This is the hard part of affiliate marketing, you need to work out where your customers are going to be coming from first, before you choose a product to promote.

Let’s look at the mechanics of affiliate marketing first. All affiliate marketing programs work using links. These links take your potential customer from wherever you are engaging with them, to the product that you are promoting. The link is unique to you so that if they buy the product, the seller knows that the sale originated from you and pays you the commission.

Somehow you have to find potential customers and then have a way to put this unique link in front of them on their computer, laptop, tablet or phone. So how are you going to do that?

As I said finding products is easy, creating a link to that product is easy, but getting that link in front of a potential customer isn’t easy. Because it is a link it has to be clicked on, by your prospect to take them to the product sales page. You will probably need to get that link in front of thousands of people before you get anyone to actually click on it, and then you will probably need at least 10 people to click on it before one person actually buys it.

This is a sales funnel. You can work back to see how many people you need to get your link in front of, to make a reasonable income.

Let’s say you make $20 for every successful sale, and you need to make $2000 each month. That tells you that you need 100 sales per month, or just over 23 sales per week, or 3-4 sales per day.

Now let’s assume that we know that it takes 10 people to click on your link to get one of them to make a purchase, then we now know that you need 30-40 people a day clicking on your link to make your $2000 a month. Sounds a lot doesn’t it? Could you find 30-40 people a day to promote your link to? And it needs to be a different 30-40 people a day you can’t just bang on to the same people every single day otherwise eve if they all bought then you have made $800 and run out of potential customers. So you need a different 30-40 people every single day. How is that possible?

Well you aren’t going to go knocking on doors, or putting leaflets on cars, because you need a click, and you just won’t cover enough ground to make it work.

What about social media? Do you have followers who might want to buy the product that you are promoting? If you do great, but again, how will you do it?, will you just constantly post every day about your product, with a link in your bio or in the post? Do you think your followers might just unfollow you after being bombarded every day with your sales pitch? Probably. That approach doesn’t work. There is a place for social media in affiliate marketing but it rarely works on its own. Social media is a useful tool for affiliate marketing,but it’s not enough on it’s own.

Now let’s think about that sales agent on the road for a moment. He represented several companies, each with a portfolio of products. If he just went in with one product to talk about, his customers would get bored very quickly and hide when they saw him coming. Each of the 4 or 5 companies he represented might have 100 products each, so each time he visited he would have something new to talk about.

You need to do just the same, you need to have a portfolio of products that are in a similar theme, or niche that you can introduce to your potential prospects. Now imagine that you had 40 products in your portfolio, you now have 40 chances to interest a prospect, but you aren’t just going to sit them down and say, how about this, how about this, how about this 40 times, no there is a different, much better way.

Affiliate Marketing takes time to be successful, but once it is successful, the only way to stop it, is to switch it off. When it works it works on autopilot and just keeps bringing in sales.

So how does a complete beginner start in affiliate marketing?

Choose a topic, category or niche. Preferably something that you have an interest in. Let’s for the purposes of an example, say that you enjoy astronomy, you like to explore the stars with a telescope. Well there is a perfect niche to work within. You can promote telescopes, telescope accessories and books on astronomy. They all fit neatly together and someone who buys one thing would also be interested in your other products. You have a working knowledge of the hobby and can talk with a level of authority on it.

You are now going to combine the three power packs of affiliate marketing to build a successful business around.

Those three power packs are an internet presence, a social media presence and a bank of interested like minded customers. Get these in place and you are onto a winner.

You need a website to take your interested customers to (this is relatively easy to set up, see my other posts for instructions). Your website will attract new customers and sell to those customers. You will also collect contact details from visitors to your website and you will use social media to bring more visitors to your website.

Pick 40 or so products from your niche and write a detailed post or page on your website about each of them. It could simply be a product review, your opinion on that product. What’s great about it, which features solve a known problem or issue, and where the visitor can buy it from. Make each page no less than 1500 words in length. Include photo’s of the product and specifications. Include everything you know that someone in the market for this needs to know. Do a comparison with it’s competitors.

You are building a valuable authority website about your chosen niche. Your visitors will come back for more because they, like you, are interested in this area. Encourage them to give you their email address, maybe in exchange for something, maybe a how to do guide relevant to astronomy. You could write this yourself or find one online to use (read my other pages for more on this).

Once you have your website up and running, you can start to use social media to bring in visitors. A new website takes time for search engines to take any notice of it, but as long as your content is good and original (i.e. not copied from somewhere else), they will eventually notice you, probably 3 months or so down the line. Then they will start to bring you visitors too.

So you have social media and Google bringing in visitors and you are building a list of contacts interested in astronomy. This is the start of your new affiliate marketing business.

You might have noticed that nowhere have I mentioned how you get your affiliate marketing links. That is completely intentional. You see, you need the visitors first. They need to be coming to your website first, before you make any attempt to sell them anything.

Those 40 product pages will slowly start to gain visitors. Don’t stop there, write one or two new product pages each week. Not only does this give you additional chances to sell something, but it also shows Google that you are a growing, important resource for their visitors.

Do it well and eventually you will be getting visitors every day to every one of your product pages. You can see this happening and monitor it in Google’s Search Console which tracks your pages and visitors. The more content you build, the more visitors you will get, and the more things you will have to promote on social media and the more email addresses you will collect.

The target you are aiming for is 4 visitors to each of your 40 product pages each day. That is 160 visitors a day, and we had already said that there is one sale per 10 visits. Remember these are visitors who came here looking for the information that you are providing, so they are already warmed up and in a frame of mind to buy. So you potentially have 16 sales a day at your $20 or in the case of books more likely to be $2 or $3 per sale. So if 12 sales were books and 4 were $20 commissions. That is around $70 a day or $2100 a month, every month!

That is before you start using your email list, and before you double your pages to 80, or triple them to 120. Can you see the potential for a beginner in affiliate marketing to start making an amazing income?

So to recap, choose a niche, build a website, choose 40 products in your niche to review, promote the products on social media with a link back to your website, collect email address and send a monthly newsletter to them with links to the new pages that you have built.

Once you start getting visitors to your website you can start to add affiliate links to products tat your visitors can buy, to make you a commission.

These links can be to products on Amazon or elsewhere, but don’t set up an Amazon affiliate account until you have enough visitors or Amazon will just close your account if you aren’t making sales. So build your visitors first then make money from them second.