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Affiliate Marketing Programs definition

Affiliate Marketing (© Mathias Rosenthal /

Affiliate Marketing (© Mathias Rosenthal /

Affiliate marketing programs provide a way for anyone to make money online by selling a product for commission. This post discusses the many benefits of affiliate marketing, the risks and how to get started. This is your complete definition and comprehensive overview.

Affiliate marketing programs offer perhaps the best options out there when it comes to make money online. This is a process that allows you to generate an income while you sleep (passive income) it is a business model that allows you to generate income with zero overheads or risk, and it is a system that anyone can get involved with that is very easy to learn.

In fact, affiliate marketing programs are very often turnkey businesses – that means that the entire business is already built for you and all you need to do is pretty much copy and paste all the different elements. This is because many affiliate marketing deals will come with the marketing elements – the images and the copy – all already made for you. In case this is all going over your head, let’s start at the beginning and see what affiliate marketing really means, how it works and how you can succeed at it.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Simply put, affiliate marketing is selling a product for commission. This means that you’ll be selling a product that someone else created, but you’ll be earning commission on each sale.

This works exactly the same way as selling TV packages door to door does. There, the seller makes money by getting people to sign up for the TV package and then getting paid by the makers of that service. The service provider makes money because it is getting more customers, the salesperson makes money and hopefully the customer is happy with what they bought.

The difference is that when you become an online affiliate marketer, you have the option to get around a lot more people. Instead of going door to door, you’re instead emailing a list filled with millions of potential customers, or you’re putting ads on your own site that is visited by thousands of people per day.

Not only that, but many online affiliate deals will allow you to make much larger commission. For instance, if you sell a digital product from JVZoo or Clickbank, then you can realistically expect to earn as much as 70% or even 90% for every single sale. This is huge commission and it means that you’ll potentially be able to earn just as much profit a you would have with your own product! The only difference is there is no know overhead and now no risk involved in creating a product that might then not sell.

openPR tip: Better yet, affiliate marketing will even allow you to choose the products you want to sell based on how well they are already selling. And often you’ll get all the same marketing materials included in the package – such as sales pages and autoresponder sequences.

How it All Works

So how does this work? And why is it even possible?

You might specifically be wondering why it is that a product creator would be happy to give away 90% of their profits! The answer is simple: they are already making 100% profit on their own sales. And there is nothing to stop them continuing to do that for as long as they want. They can push and push their sales and rake in as much as possible.

Anything you sell is going to be money on top of that and more brand visibility and exposure for their product. Meaning in other words, that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And the more commission they offer their marketers, the more marketers they will likely attract.

Now they are making all the money they were already, but with huge additional amounts coming in from you and a legion of additional marketers. In terms of the actual nuts and bolts of how it works, that comes down to the affiliate links themselves and the cookies they use. A cookie is a small file that is stored on a user’s computer through their browser. When you become an affiliate, you will be given a link that you can use to promote the product. Now, any time someone clicks on that link, you will be identified as the person who sent them.

This works because the link first sends the customer to an intermediary site, which will place a cookie on their computer and then forward them to the shopping cart. There, the cart will acknowledge the cookie and log the sale as being your sale.

Finding Products and Choosing the Right Ones

There are lots of ways to find affiliate products. One way is to go to affiliate networks such as:

  • JVZoo
  • Clickbank
  • Warrior Forum
  • Commission Junction

All of these contain lists of different products for you to choose from, predominantly digital only products (meaning the likes of ebooks and courses with no physical materials for shipping or storing) and predominantly with large amounts of commission.

These are great places to start when looking for affiliate marketing programs. However, you may find that there is nothing here you want to sell. In that case, to find something that is fitting for your brand, try searching for affiliate marketing programs on other products. You can Google ‘affiliate program’ and find many this way, or just try searching around the sites of some of your favorite product creators.

openPR-Tip: If an affiliate program doesn’t already exist, then you can discuss creating one with the product creator. Ask them if they’ve considered setting up an affiliate product and express your interest in helping them to sell.

Finally, consider the various options for selling physical products. Amazon has an affiliate program for instance, which only offers around 4-8% on its products, but which nevertheless allows you to sell a huge number of different physical products. This is a good choice, seeing as physical products have a much broader appeal. That is to say that many people would never buy a digital product – such as your grandma for instance!

When you choose where you are going to find your program, the next thing to consider is which product you want to sell. The key is to focus on products that are high quality, that your audience will like and that have a good value proposition (see below). At the same time though, look at the amount of commission you get, the amount of sales that it is making, the RRP and whether or not you’ll be able to use any of the ready-made marketing materials. Look too for competitions and incentives for the most capable marketers.

How to Sell Affiliate Products Without Frustrating Your Audience

People who earn money on commission are the bane of society. Just ask anyone what they think about people who offer them credit cards at the bank when they're just trying to cash in a cheque, or who try to sell them Norton Antivirus when they buy a new laptop from Comets (I swear if someone else offers me that useless piece of software I'm going to make them eat it...). Unfortunately in many cases this is also true of affiliate marketers online – yes they're the ones who put up those adverts for getting whiter teeth using this 'one weird trick' (what's with that??) and they're the ones who write articles that blatantly push a useless product like Luminosity or worse – gambling sites.

But it doesn't have to be this way of course. And actually if you know how to go about selling affiliate products the right way you can actually stand to make a lot of money this way and make your visitors and your affiliates very happy. Everyone's happy, everyone wins, and you aren't a monster for doing it. So, what's the secret? How do you sell affiliate products and maintain your integrity and authority in the eyes of the buyers? Let's look at some tips.

Be Genuine

The problem with some affiliate marketers is that they're willing to push anything and they are willing to do so without even trying the product. When you try and clumsily force a plug for some random item into your articles this just comes off as annoying and it's only going to drive your customers away and damage your reputation. However, if you instead make sure only to sell products that you genuinely have used, and that you genuinely think are great, then your very real enthusiasm is going to come across strongly and people will be more likely to believe it. That, and you'll be able to sleep at night. Also bear in mind that if someone buys a product on your recommendation and it's no good, that they are highly unlikely to buy any more. You need to create trust if you hope to get return business just as though the items were your own.

Be Natural

Likewise, don't try and sell your affiliate products at every turn and don't let them be the driving force of what you do. In other words, write articles not only to sell products but because you want to write them and because you have something to say on the matter. Then at the same time, don't force in affiliate products that don't fit. Push a few products, and only when they fit naturally into the articles should you choose to include them.

Provide Value

Most importantly, make sure that your site and your content provides value. People who want to can then ignore your affiliate links, but if that's all you have then you give them no reason to stick around. Provide something genuinely interesting, funny or useful and even the more cynical visitors will stick on your page for at least a while.


When the product is sold, it can be easy to just forget about your customer and wash your hands of the matter. This is a mistake; that person bought from you and thus it is your reputation that is at stake. If there is a problem with the product, then you should take it upon yourself to chase that up and find out more. Likewise, if you hear nothing, then how about getting in touch and asking how things are going?

You can also value add by throwing in additional free products and items. These bonus inclusions will help you to under-promise and over deliver. This surprises the visitor in a good way and thereby ensures you’ll get positive reviews and repeat custom.

The only part of this service that you’re responsible for is the marketing and the delivery. Make sure you get those right!

Pushing Big Products vs Smaller Sales

In a moment, we’re going to discuss the process of creating a sales funnel and ‘selling the dream’. This is how you push big products and make a lot of money from each sale.

But it’s also important to consider the smaller sales. Because if you have lots of articles on your website, then you’re not going to want to turn every single one of those into an attempt to get someone to part with $1,000. If every time someone reads one of your articles, they’re told about a ‘life changing product’, then they’ll quickly get bored and desensitized and they’ll likely stop coming back.

So instead, just drop the odd affiliate product into conversation every now and then. When you’re discussing the merits of a diet program or getting into shape, how about dropping in an affiliate link to some protein shake? Or a diet plan? Or some dumbbells?

When you’re talking about web design, how about recommending your favorite hosting provider quickly in the text? It can simply mean highlighting your text with a hyperlink – but that’s a great way to bring in a little extra cash without frustrating your audience.

Selling the Emotional Hook

Essentially, when you sell anything, you aren't really selling an object or a service on face value. At least that's not what the customer is really interested in buying. Rather you are selling a result. A lifestyle, a set of circumstances or a sequence of event. For instance, when you sell dumbbells you are trying to sell a scenario where the buyer is stronger and probably more confident/successful as a result. Likewise, when you write a blog about making money online, you are trying to sell a wealthy lifestyle. Here it's the result you need to focus on at all times and that will get your customers to part with their money and to really get excited by what you are saying.

openPR tip: That's the first thing you need to understand. The next thing you need to understand is that people are egocentric. In other words, we think primarily about ourselves and are fascinated with our personalities, our lives and our success. This is why Facebook is so successful - it allows us to build little tributes to our own narcissism.

Using the Emotional Hook

So how do you then use the emotional hook? Simply, you focus on talking directly to your visitors and customers and telling them precisely how you can make their lives better and easier. 

For instance then, when writing an article about getting into shape you would first try to focus on the result that you were trying to sell and get some emotional resonance from this. That might mean stating that they can 'Get the Body [They've] Dreamed of and Impress That Special Lady'. 

This also works from an egocentric point of view, because it focusses on the article they're reading. It's relatable and it talks about them. Likewise, an article about blogging could use the title 'Why You Need to Be Cooler to Be a Better Blogger'. It challenges the self-esteem and it offers two results that work on an emotional level - 'being cooler' and 'being a better blogger'. That's a thousand times better than 'Blogging Tips for Beginners'.

And for selling a digital product, this is absolutely huge because it allows you to get the reader to drop their logical thought process that is telling them not to spend money and instead to act on a whim, driven by desire and the emotion. This is your value proposition and it works best for affiliate products that focus on things like making money, finding love and getting into better shape.

Building Your Sales Funnel and Sales Page

While you can sell affiliate products through emails and articles in a casual manner, occasionally you’ll want to sell the ‘big ticket items’ and this is where things get tricky. To do that, you need to get your audience to trust you and build them up to a fever pitch where they’re really excited for the deal you’re offering.

This is where the sales funnel comes in, which is a series of interactions. So maybe that means starting with free blog posts, moving on to email sign ups, moving on to a sequence of emails, moving on to a small purchase, leading on to a big purchase.

This builds trust. It demonstrates you know what you’re talking about and that you can deliver before you then ask for a huge payment. It makes all the difference when making affiliate sales and especially when combined with a great sales page: a single page designed to persuade the reader to buy using the aforementioned value proposition.

Press releases

DENVER, CO (MARCH 5, 2010) – Insight is proud to announce the official launch of its Referral Partner and Affiliate Marketing Programs, in support of the talented professionals who contribute to Insight’s success. Recognizing the value of referrals from trusted advisors to the small business community, Insight developed these programs
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