What Exactly Is Affiliate Marketing?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

You want to know – what is affiliate marketing? 

Well, you’re in the right place!  In this article, I’ll cover the basics!  Not only will we identify what affiliate marketing is, but we’ll also see the profit potential, plus lots more!

If you like the information, feel free to sign up for our FREE Course: How To Build A Full-Time Income With Affiliate Marketing.

Affiliate Marketing Overview

There is definitely an increase in the interest of affiliate marketing (so, you are in good company).  In my opinion, rightfully so!

If you are new to affiliate marketing, rest assured you have not “missed out”!  In fact, I would argue that your timing is rather perfect.  You get to “miss out” on some of the chaos with affiliate marketing from a few years ago while benefiting from major advances in promoting affiliate products.

So, let’s talk affiliate marketing – what exactly is it and how do people make money?

Affiliate Marketing – The Technical Definition

According to Oxford Languages, affiliate marketing is “a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.”

Now, I’ll give you the Kim translation (that would be me, the author Kim, and it’s a thing, and totally real).  Basically, affiliate marketing is when a person recommends a product to another person, using a referral link, and they earn a referral fee (usually called an affiliate commission).

This is rather common in sales, though many regulated industries have tried to get away from referral fees (for example, the Real Estate industry in many states restricts referral fees…though Real Estate agents are very creative and figure out ways to still make this work).

So- if you are an AFFILIATE, you are someone that recommends a product to your AUDIENCE.  When someone from your audience makes a purchase, you earn a referral fee (also called an affiliate commission…this is the term you usually here, so I’ll keep saying both).

Don’t worry – we’ll jump into more definitions shortly.  

What's The Difference Between An Affiliate And An Influencer

Affiliate Marketing Versus Influencers

I’ve included affiliate marketing in my online businesses for several years.  I’ve had to defend the choice to become an affiliate marketer frequently.

There are plenty of people who have some sort of opinion that the normal person (like me…yes, I am normal – no matter what you’ve heard) should not be able to make money because they tell someone else about a product.

Yet, influencers get paid to endorse products all the time!  An influencer is someone like Kim Kardashian.  Now, she has her own product lines – but she influences people by recommending products for people to buy.

Yes, she is making money off of that recommendation!  When I ask the same people that tell me affiliate marketing shouldn’t be permitted – they think it’s perfectly acceptable that influencers make money from their recommendations.

So, What's The Difference?

I think the main difference is that influencers are experienced at promoting products and have built up an AUDIENCE.  Affiliate marketers can be total beginners!

Over time, I would encourage an affiliate marketer to become an influencer!  This frequently happens naturally.  For example, if you have expertise in building funnels – you could build up an AUDIENCE that follows you as you teach strategies, methods, or just case studies!  Then, you recommend a product.

You make your affiliate commission when people purchase, and they purchase because you helped them see how great the product was!

Even though you are still an affiliate marketer, you offer value to your audience and that makes you an influencer.

Can Anyone Be An Affiliate Marketer?

Sometimes I feel like this is a trick question, but as long as you are an adult (or have an adult involved) – yes, pretty much anyone can be an affiliate marketer.

If you are in the United States, the UK (or whatever the term is these days), Canada, Australia/New Zealand, or pretty much any developed country – you shouldn’t have many challenges becoming an affiliate.  (Some countries may have limitations but they tend to be less developed countries.)

If you’ve been an affiliate before and ran into legal troubles – that’s a completely different discussion, and one we are NOT going to discuss.

Do you want to be an affiliate marketer?  Keep reading and make sure you sign up for our free affiliate marketing course.

How Do I Become An Affiliate Marketer?

To become an affiliate marketer, you just need to find an affiliate program you want to promote and get signed up.

Not all programs will let “just anybody” promote their programs…but there are plenty that let everyone promote!  Several programs will want to know how you plan to promote the offer.  ALL programs require you to abide by their affiliate rules.

If you are looking for a wide variety of affiliate offers, you should try a network like Clickbank or JVZoo.  These are both excellent for beginners (and 2 of several networks and programs we discuss in our affiliate marketing course).

Honestly, there are only 2 semi-difficult parts of affiliate marketing.  The first is finding quality products to promote (you may have to sift through quite a few before you find something you actually want to promote).  The second is finding your AUDIENCE.

I’ve teased this long enough – let’s talk about how you find your audience.

How Do Affiliate Marketers Build An Audience?

how do affiliate marketers build an audience

An audience is the people who you would recommend the affiliate offer.  Your actual audience ends up being the people that find you or follow you (after they find out about you).

There are LOTS of ways to build an audience.  You could have a YouTube channel, Podcast, various social media resources, a blog post/article website (like this one), membership area, email list…I could go on.  The great thing is you can have one or many of these assets.

When I first got serious about affiliate marketing, it was after I created a Facebook Group to help some people in another Facebook Group we were all in together.  We had all purchased a DFY eCommerce site (it ended up not really being a DFY).  The company had no clue how to do legitimate Facebook marketing and I was “certified”, so I offered to teach some lessons for free.

How Did Little Biz Resources Get To Where It Is Now?

Affiliate marketing is not our primary mission!  While we do ok promoting products, our focus is on creating original content (we also have a few eCommerce stores).

So, it made it easy for us to keep building our audience – but, I’m not going to lie!  It’s already been a lot of hard work, and the most loyal members are the people that joined in that first group supporting the DFY eCommerce site (and we still reminisce about the challenges we never overcame).

I also brought in an expert to help teach eCommerce strategies on Etsy, which helped us continue building followers interested in making money online.  Ok, in all fairness, she is my twin sister – but she really is an expert!  She has a shop on Etsy that is in the top 1% of all Etsy shops worldwide (by the way, we have a course that teaches how to sell on Etsy)!

But It's Not All Rainbows & Unicorns (though I love both of those)

building an audience is not all rainbows and unicorns

One of the biggest challenges we have faced with Little Biz Resources is personal challenges.  Since we rely on content marketing, that means there needs to be enough time to create content.

Just take a look at the Little Biz Resources website – I don’t have a lot of content.  Yes, we’ve developed several courses over the years (all free), but we struggled to keep them updated.  Additionally, we really struggled getting people to take action!

This has made it hard to consistently increase our audience – but there are plenty of ways you can skip our pains and make building your audience easier (more on that in a moment).

Little Biz Resources Affiliate Marketing Strategy

My affiliate marketing strategy is this. I provide quality training to help people do something (Facebook Marketing, Instagram Marketing, YouTube Marketing, etc.) and inside of the quality training I recommend products.  

For example, affiliate marketing really needs at least 2 tools – an Email Marketing Service & a Landing Page creator.  I use a couple of email marketing services (one of my favorites is Active Campaign) and then I use Clickfunnels for my opt-in pages – but WordPress with Elementor Pro for my blog.

Inside the training, I include affiliate links to each of the products I include in the teaching.  While everything is optional in my training and people are free to choose what they want – I’ll offer bonuses and additional training for people that purchase those items through my links.

As another example of how to promote products – for each of the products above, I’ve included an affiliate link to the product.  When you click on the link, if you make a purchase, I get a commission.  This is an example of using a blog or article site to promote affiliate products (which I also do).

Another way I promote products is by providing that training through YouTube videos.  I include an affiliate link in the description for the video.  I also email out to my email list (but try to keep it minimal) and post the link to the blog post on social media and my Facebook Group.

How On Earth Does This All Relate To Building An Audience?

Even though affiliate marketing is SUPER simple, it’s frequently hard to explain from scratch…so stick with me a little longer.

The point of the story is to show you that you can find different ways to build an audience – but you need to be able to TALK to your audience in some way.

The easiest way is to build an email list and then email your list when you want to TALK to them.  I am completely horrible at email marketing – but I do a pretty darn good job at getting people to sign up!  

Other ways to connect with your audience include inviting them to a Facebook Group (which is what I did when I got started).  Facebook has made that a major chore now, so it’s not my favorite way to stay in touch anymore.  I dive into other ways you can keep in touch with your audience in a bit.

Ultimately, there are three elements to build an audience.

Attract, Capture, Engage...oh my!

attract, capture, engage audiences in affiliate marketing play on lions tigers and bears oh my from wizard of oz

Well, it’s not the Wizard of Oz…but the elements may seem overwhelming (like the lions, tigers, and bears) until you realize there is plenty of software and opportunities to automate this as time goes on.

I’ll talk more about why automation and software are critical for building a full-time affiliate marketing business in a bit.

For now, let’s look at how we attract our audience, capture our audience (capture data, not physically capture a person), and then engage our audience.

How To Attract Your Audience

Let’s be clear here…when I say “attract” this does not mean you have to get dressed up or put on makeup…well, unless you want to!  

We are going to “attract” our customers by creating appealing content.  Depending on how you market, this could vary significantly (and eventually, you’ll do multiple methods).  If you are creating a blog post or article – create a good piece of content related to the topic or niche of the affiliate offer.  For example, this article is about affiliate marketing – and the goal is to promote my free course: How To Build A Full-Time Income With Affiliate Marketing (access in the members area).

If you are creating Pinterest pins to your opt-in page – make your pins appealing.  A quick way to do this is to visit the offer page and pull out some of the most appealing aspects.  For example, if you have an offer that teaches how to make your first anime film in 7 days (I have no idea if that’s possible…or if that’s what someone wants to do…or if “film” is the right word), you would highlight that on your pin.

Each social media channel or method of marketing provides a different way for you to attract your audience!  We cover this in much greater detail, with examples and full work flows – in our free affiliate marketing course!

How To Capture Your Audience

This is actually capturing your audiences information – the methods for this are (thankfully) both minimal and easy.

You can capture data through two methods – pixels (like the Facebook pixel) and capturing emails.

The pixel method is pretty straight forward.  You place a pixel everywhere you want to “track” your audience (at a bare minimum, on any posts/articles and opt-in pages).

For capturing emails, you need to use a form or an opt-in page.  There are tons of resources to be able to do this.  I use Clickfunnels to create opt-in pages (because it’s super easy) and Active Campaign to officially capture, store, and actually email.

The key to the opt-in pages or forms is to give people a reason to give you their email.  For example, I’ll ask you for your email when you sign up to the membership area (which is where the affiliate marketing course is).  Of course, that’s kind of a high level offer in exchange for an email.  Most people prefer to give away a checklist, an eBook, or even something like an infographic.

In our affiliate marketing course, you’ll learn how to create these types of offers plus other ways to get people to give you their email.

How To Engage Your Audience

I feel like this is the hardest thing to do, though there are plenty of people that seem to do well with maintaining engagement.  

For me, since I am horrible at email marketing (I just can’t seem to match my message to my audience) I prefer to use content to keep up with people.  I truly engage with people through live Q&A webinars (I actually am live for these webinars) and through my Little Biz Resources Facebook Group.  I’m working on other ways to touch base with people as well, but all of them are more for extroverts.

There are alternative methods if you don’t want to be so hands-on.  I don’t think anyone has described me as shy since I was in middle school (it might have been elementary school).  As the most outgoing person I know, it’s hard for me to direct most people to engagement strategies that are more for introverts…but I do have some ideas up my sleeve.

I cover both extrovert and introvert strategies (as well as strategies in between and outside of those) in the affiliate marketing course…but just to give you an idea – retargeting ads.

Since we’re putting tracking pixels on our pages, and capturing emails, we can use retargeting ads with rules to target people at various stages of buying (or not buying).  Combining quality content with this strategy makes this a pretty good winner for both introverts and extroverts!

Final Thoughts On Attract, Capture, and Engage

Even though these strategies can get complicated, there is no reason you need to start that way!  The basics are pretty easy.

1. Attract – Use social media or paid ads to attract your customer

2. Capture – Use pixels and opt-in pages to capture emails (we have some VERY simple strategies for opt-in pages)

3. Engage – Pick some way to keep in touch with your customers and make them repeat buyers

Affiliate marketing truly is one of the easiest methods to create an online business.  Now, you’ve seen me throw out “full-time income” a couple of times…I should probably show you how that works.

How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?

how much money can you make with affiliate marketing

One of the MAJOR challenges with affiliate marketing is finding quality offers you can promote regularly.

In the affiliate marketing course, I talk about “evergreen affiliate products” or products you can promote all the time.  

The alternative to this type of product are offers that occur during a launch period.  Recently, I promoted a big ticket (it was a $3500 product) eCommerce product that used a launch.  After 10 days of letting people buy, the program closed down and no one else was permitted in.

Both types of offers can make you great money – but both require work!

One thing I would suggest (but is not necessarily required) is that you consider eventually selling your own products as a vendor and let other affiliates promote YOUR offer.  This is a great way to build up your list – then you can mix in affiliate offers to your list with your own products.

Random, but related info…

In one of the most recent affiliate launches for a big ticket item (it sold for $3500), I calculated out a minimum profit for the #1 affiliate.

While I don’t have access to the specific data, just the difference between the #1 affiliate and the #10 affiliate was more than $750,000 in AFFILIATE COMMISSIONS.  That was just calculating out the difference between the #1 and #10 position – so, more than likely, that #1 affiliate did well over $1 million in affiliate commissions.

*Let me assure you – this person has been in the industry for years and has a huge company helping him (and he probably spent quite a bit to get those sales – making his true profit much lower).

Still, take a look at that number…there is definitely an opportunity to make pretty good money considering this was just one product promoted.

Is It Really Possible To Make A Full-Time Income With Affiliate Marketing?

I keep hinting to the fact that you can make a “full-time” income with affiliate marketing.  In fact, I put that in the name of our affiliate marketing course!

While there are plenty of people that DO NOT make a full-time income, it’s usually because they don’t do much to get set up right, or they give up somewhere along the way.  

Like any real online business, this is NOT something you just choose to do and it’s instant money.  Instead, you have to put the effort in to build a real business and do real marketing.  Some people will have the resources, experience, connections, or instincts to build quicker than others.  Some people will take a while before they figure out their path in affiliate marketing.  That’s just the way the world works.

So, let’s look at some numbers to give you an idea of the full-time affiliate potential.

In this first image, I’ve calculated out promoting a software program (one I teach about in the affiliate marketing course).  You can see where we sell 10 subscriptions a month – so, each month we recruit 10 new people to the software program. I also entered the lower commission rate…and you can see that after 2 years, we would be making $80k a year.

Potential recurring income promoting software

Now, it may be easy for you to promote a software program or it might be hard.  

So, let’s look at the potential of selling 2 high-ticket programs a week (not necessarily the same program).  In fact, let’s round down to 8 per month so we have a few weeks of cushion.  I put in a program price of $997 – not the highest or lowest “high-ticket” program you could sell.  You can see where if you just focused on that, you could earn $47k each year (remember…no guarantees, just a hypothetical example).

Potential Commissions for Affiliate Marketing

Hop into Excel or Google Sheets and create your own form to play with the numbers.  Our goal is to build over time, so if you are selling 8 per month, perhaps the next month is 10 and then the next 12…and you can see where you pick any realistic number.

Of course, what makes that $47k look even better is when you set up automation and turn that into PASSIVE income (and then you can multiply that and focus on growing your numbers).

Can You Make A Monthly Recurring or Passive Income With Affiliate Marketing?

In the prior section, I talked about the fact that you can create a full-time income with affiliate marketing.  I think the “dream” for most people is to eventually invest as little time as possible and still maximize your income (read that as you still have to invest time).

In employment, that’s working up the ladder and making more money while getting more time off.  For entrepreneurs, that’s usually creating monthly recurring payments and/or creative “passive” income.

While these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it is important to note that you can earn monthly recurring commissions as passive income as well as other methods.

To do this, we use automation and strategies to sell ONE to MANY instead of one to one.  In the affiliate marketing course, I show you several ways to do this!

Increasing Your Odds Of Success

If you are completely new to affiliate marketing, this may not be as appealing to you – but it’s something you should plant the seed in your mind. 

Eventually, you should consider creating your own products (ideally digital products) and becoming a “vendor”.  All of those amazing affiliate products you want to promote come from someone who created the offer/product!

Where you start to see a significant return on your efforts (especially those engagement efforts) is when you offer your own product.

Think about it this way.  As an affiliate, you are promoting someone else’s business.  Yes, they pay you well and you don’t have to have a product – but every single person you send their way (whether they buy or not) becomes an audience member for THEM.

If you want to grow your audience – you should think about letting other affiliates help you build when they promote your product.

I’m not going to dive deep into this topic here, but I wanted to plant that seed!

Are You Ready To Become An Affiliate Marketer?

What are you waiting for?!  If you are ready to jump into affiliate marketing and want to do it yourself – by all means get started!

If you think you might want a little help or get more information on how to do some of the steps, I highly recommend the Little Biz Resources Affiliate Course: How To Build A Full-Time Income With Affiliate Marketing.

While I’m a little biased…it is currently free.  I also happen to have access to a couple of affiliate marketing courses that cost well over $1,000 each – and for grins, I decided to review them compared to what I put together.

I am pretty confident standing behind the Little Biz Resources course!  I don’t make ANY guarantees except this – if you get stuck somewhere along the line or want to ask questions, you can…and I’ll do my best to help.

About The Author- Dr. Kim Christian

Dr Kim Christian

Thanks for taking the time to read my content!  I am Dr. Kim Christian, but the only person that calls me that is my daughter when she’s pretending she’s opening a business!

Most people just call me Kim (or mommy when my daughter isn’t playing business owner).

My priority is to help other entrepreneurs and small business owners build sustainable online businesses (or for “real world” businesses, expand to online).

In addition to publishing articles, I also offer free training through the Little Biz Resources Membership area.  Get your free Membership HERE.

To Your Success,

Dr. Kim Christian