Affiliate marketing is one of the earliest forms of performance-based online marketing. The 90s ushered in the age of the internet. Organizations and individuals began creating websites and content in droves and – when search engines began cataloging websites and pages, making it easy to find and navigate to this content – marketing changed forever.
As with many aspects of Web monetization, the exact strategies will vary from site to site. There’s no universally superior affiliate marketing offer or merchant. There are, however, some general guidelines on factors to consider when evaluating potential affiliate marketing offers. We’ll dive into several of these below. We’re using screenshots from ShareASale throughout this article to illustrate the process, but the tasks and terms will be generally similar across the major affiliate marketing networks.
Find your affiliates and affiliate programs in all the right places --As humans, many of us hope to inherently trust one another. We’d like to believe that someone’s word is good. That a check will cash. That we’ll again see the man who said he’d pay us tomorrow. If you’ve spent even a smidgeon of time working as a freelancer, you know this isn’t always the case. People pay late, if at all. You turn in work, and the source contests it. In order to avoid disappointment and fraud, make sure you are using a legitimate network to find both merchants and affiliates.
But this “old school” method of making money online is still going strong because of all the benefits it offers to small-scale, solo internet entrepreneurs. And it’s an especially powerful business model to those without much experience doing business online. Many successful online business owners make their first dollar online with affiliate marketing.
Ideally, email marketing should go hand-in-hand with social media. Adding social media "Like" or "Share" buttons to your marketing emails gives an additional way for customers to connect with your brand. Snippets of positive reviews from social media fans can be included in emails, and conversely, social media postings can be used to encourage fans to subscribe to your email newsletters.
With email marketing automation, you can write and design your emails, and schedule them to send at any time you want. In addition to scheduling emails, many email service providers give you the option to set up triggers that start campaigns based on leads’ and customers’ actions or inaction. For example, if a lead opts in for a free piece of content on your site, you can set an email to automatically deliver that content to their inbox. Conversely, if a lead doesn’t take any actions with your business for an extended amount of time, you can set their inaction to trigger a cold lead re-engagement campaign.
Social media is growing every day and as a society we continue to spend vast amounts of time on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Because of this, social media is a goldmine for affiliate marketers. All these people in one place, with easy targeting based on age, location and interests, means that social media should be the first place you start to grow your online community. Use these platforms to drive engagement around your brand, as well as deliver traffic and leads to your desired affiliate offers.

Treat your list well. Remember that the people you're using email to communicate with have trusted you with their email and name; they deserve your respect. Just as you deserve as a chance to convert them from customers to fans and even evangelists for your brand, people who want to talk about and share your message and get involved in any way they can.
Cross-functional dialogue is an essential first step. Before launching your campaign, you need to have holistic conversations with your internal team and your program management agency about results, goals and metrics. It’s one tactic to generate a certain number of leads; it’s another to determine the end goal of a particular lead.Rather than generating leads that simply dial in somewhere or fill out a form for a slice of the commission, it’s more valuable to base performance on whether your lead is helping you reach your goal. One of the most important questions you and your team can ask is, “What do we ultimately want from this lead?” Is it: Their information? For them to purchase your product or service? A referral?Additionally, you will want to ensure the commission payout is structured around that goal. This way, your affiliate partners are working towards the same internal strategy as your company.
But to go back and answer your question as far as typical ROI, I would just say roughly if a business implements a referral program, you've got to keep in mind that typically you're not paying these affiliates any upfront fee. You just paying a percentage commission for a referred transaction, whether it's a dollar amount, whether it's a percentage of their order total.
Drew Cohen Drew is a Philadelphia-based marketing professional who has developed strategies for organizations in both B2C and B2B verticals. He has unique experience in private-equity owned organizations, early-stage technology startups, sports & entertainment and healthcare. When not marketing, you can find Drew yelling at his television during any Philadelphia team's sporting event. Read more articles by Drew Cohen.

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