In the most basic and straightforward way to describe it; affiliate marketing is the name given to having your own band of loyal promoters.

These affiliate partners help you out by spreading the word about your product - and in return get rewarded for subscriptions, sales, or leads which have occurred through their efforts. In a way, your affiliates are your cost efficient sales force. They encourage people to visit your website and buy your products.

Affiliate marketing can be a great idea to increase your traffic and revenue, but also a way to engage your loyal customers.

Why you need it

1. It’s cost effective!

The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it is a ‘pay for performance’ model. Meaning that you only pay for results. This makes it a lot more appealing for merchants, and gives affiliate partners incentive to promote your product on a wider base, so that you can make sales, and they can get a commission.

The ‘job’ of your affiliates is to drive conversions (orders) for you, they earn their money from commissions (or subscriptions). If an affiliate partner gets someone to visit your website, but the visitor doesn’t buy anything, no worries - you just got yourself free web traffic!

2. You’re in charge

You pick out your affiliates, you supply them with the marketing assets they share, you decide what the commission rate is, you decide where you brand is being promoted - you call the shots here.

3. Easy Tracking

Thanks to some of the great referral tracking software out there, setting up an affiliate program is easy! Just install it in your 3dcart, and start recruiting affiliates. 

4. Affiliates are salespeople

Keep in mind that affiliates are essentially salespeople. This likely isn’t their first rodeo. Most of your affiliates will already know how to score conversions, and if they don’t they'll learn very fast because they have an incentive.

5. Exposure

Can you imagine the difference between 100 affiliates sharing URLs and marketing assets leading to your website vs. your team and your proud but social media illiterate aunt sharing your company Facebook posts? Yeah..

These are some of the biggest advantages to starting affiliate marketing, but things don’t just fall into place without some input.

There are ways in which you can make your affiliate marketing strategy awesome - as opposed to something that your business just kinda does on the side.

So now... Let’s look into how to be awesome at it:

1. Find affiliate partners who can relate to your product

There is no cost to having more affiliates - but it does pay off to cherry pick some of them, so be proactive! Recruit affiliates. Been following a blog which relates to some products you’re selling? Reach out to the blogger! Your affiliate partners are more likely to successfully sell your products if they can relate to it.

Don’t forget to send affiliate invite links to your customers, too. No one better to promote your products than someone who already loves it - plus it’s a great way to reinforce a stronger bond with your customers.

2. Keep your affiliate community actively engaged

Create a bond, and strengthen it. You can do this by sending out newsletters, and notifying your affiliates when you’ve hit specific milestones for example. It pays off to maintain a team feeling of working towards a common goal.

3. Know your audience

In marketing, knowing your audience is one of the top most important things. It’s the same with affiliate marketing. A 20 year old man isn’t likely to click on an affiliate URL advertising organic tampons, for example. Based on who your audience is, you should have (slightly) different strategies. As a merchant, if your product actually is organic feminine hygiene products, it would certainly help to pick female affiliates to advertise your product.

4. Don’t take your affiliate partners for granted

This goes without saying.. but your affiliate’s really are your partners. Don’t hurt your relationship by trying to save a few bucks and underpaying them. Don’t abruptly change commission rates. Don’t close down programs without notifying your affiliates first. They’re there for you, be there for them. If you don’t give your affiliates their deserved credit, someone else will.

5. Make it easier for your affiliates

Supply your affiliates with quality marketing assets! Your affiliates can (and should) share these for you.

Affiliate marketing is a simple and cost effective way of advertising your goods and services. Small changes in how you interact with your affiliates can make a huge difference down the line. Ultimately, you reap what you sow. Affiliate marketing can work wonders for your business, but whether it does or not depends mostly on the effort you put into it.

Feeling excited about starting up your own affiliate program? Now you know how to!

Author Bio: Imran Cakir is customer success specialist at Tapfiliate, a company that builds world-class tools for tracking, managing and optimizing affiliate programs and referral campaigns. She is a professional wanderer, music geek and mom to the world's coolest goldfish; Royal. Her hobbies include having pizza for breakfast & thinking about her future dog.