If you’re thinking about affiliate marketing, then I want you to think about the following warning.
But before I get into that, I absolutely understand why you’re thinking about affiliate marketing.
What is affiliate marketing? (Basic snapshot)
In simple terms (if you’re unfamiliar with the concept), affiliate marketing involves you selling someone else’s product online and making a cut.
Another way to think about affiliate marketing is – if you clicked a book link after reading my post on best books for online business. It would take you over to Amazon. If you then purchased that book, Amazon would credit me for the sale and send me a percentage of the fee as a thank you.
In essence, I have become the marketing and sales machine for Amazon.
The big advantage to the customer is, they don’t pay any extra for that product.
So it is a fairly clean way to incentivise people to market and sell other peoples products online.
(Heads up, I don’t have affiliate links set up on my ‘best books for online business’ post. But I really should).
I use Amazon as an example to explain that this isn’t a small internet fad. This is a mechanism used by some of the biggest companies on the planet to generate more sales.
The big benefit of affiliate marketing?
Why affiliate marketing is so attractive is that you don’t have to do any business stuff.
What I mean by that is, you don’t need to have the product, creation, customer service, fulfilment, management, operations, logistics (add more business terms till’ your heart’s content).
But you can make a slice of the pie by introducing someone else to the product.
And because we’re in the age of the internet – this all happens automatically.
All you’d need to do is set up as an affiliate with the companies product you want to sell (and agree to their terms).
Where it gets really cool is when a company has what’s known as a reoccurring affiliate programme.
The Amazon example I gave you above is great. I made one book sale for Amazon and made a few quid. But that’s just one sale at the moment in time.
Whereas what if recommended a product that had a subscription service and made a slice of the pie.
Let’s say someone signs up for a subscription for £30 a month. And because I saved the company on sales and marketing, they pay me £10 a month every month.
Ten recommendations later, I’m now making £100 a month.
You get the idea.
The above is just an arbitrary example, so go and explore different companies to understand their affiliate rates.
Because of what I’ve described so far, I can absolutely understand why affiliate marketing may be on the top of your – ways to make money online list.
However, I want you to consider the following warning.
Affiliate marketing is not an online business in and of itself.
Because, unlike an online business, you are not fulfilling various functions of the business.
How do I put this another way – It’s not your business!
Your effectively a sales/marketing person for a company. Which comes with my list of warnings. Yes, plural.
It’s a great place to kick off, but you’ll only learn so much. The argument here is – yes, but I’ll become a pro at sales and marketing, only to a certain degree. Because the core of the sales and marketing has been taken care of, you’re just promoting. You’re not establishing the message, positioning, brand, price, features, benefits (add more business terms till’ your heart’s content). In fact, if we look at Amazon, they clearly describe your involvement in a nutshell.
You carry risk! Risk in that if the company you promote for runs into reputational challenges. Guess what you’ve just spent the last X years promoting them. This will be a phenomenon that will play out to a higher degree as people care more about what they consume. Let’s say you’re an affiliate marketer for a food supplement, and the news breaks that it’s been falsifying their ingredients list. Uh-oh! So essentially, their reputation becomes your reputation.
Another way risk plays out is if your sole income (or the income you’ve been working on for the last few years) suddenly gets swept from under your feet because the company decides to change their affiliate policy (we hereby pay everyone less). Or completely remove the product that you make your income from.
Affiliate Marketing: Warning in Summary
Suppose I could sum up all my warnings into one. It’d be – you don’t have control over enough elements of the process.
If you build your own online business, yes, things can go wrong, and you could fail. But you take away maximum learning and only have yourself to blame.
That last bit may have sounded a bit harsh. But only having yourself to blame is an invigorating feeling. Because that meant you had control which is what I secretly think all entrepreneurs want.
They want total control to create the change they want to see.
Not in a crazy control-freak kind of way. In the way that says – I own my idea, and I want the world to experience it.
So, although affiliate marketing can serve a purpose. Mainly providing an income. Allow it to be a means to an end. Not the end goal itself.