I had the good fortune to address the National Confectioners Association (the candy people) this past week in Miami. There were over 500 companies, ranging in size from behemoths like Mars Chocolate and Hersheys, to several hundred family-run organizations heading into their fourth generation of family ownership. In many cases, during conversations, I found myself recommended affiliate marketing. This, of course, made me think of you.
Affiliate marketing, simply, is when someone has an audience and chooses to market products or services that aren't theirs to that market. (Want the Wikipedia definition?) So, for instance, on chrisbrogan.com, I market the WordPress blog theme, Thesis, which I didn't create. Because I have an audience reading my blog who might want to use such a product, I can deliver sales to Chris Pearson, who created the product. Make sense? Chris does the product. I do the marketing. I make some money. Chris makes some money.
Your business could be doing affiliate marketing. The efforts to create a project aren't all that high. You need to build out the mechanics of the program, including how to handle the financial transactions, how to pay the affiliates, how to manage all the ordering and return policies and the like, but this is a business that has been growing over the last decade (in 2009, it was estimated that affiliate marketing was a $13 billion dollar market). So, what would your first steps be?
If you want to attend the best event in the space to learn about affiliate marketing, check out Shawn Collins's and Missy Ward's Affiliate Summit. There, you can see great speeches by the industry leaders, visit several companies who have programs in place, and learn the ins and outs from start to expert.
Want to wing it? You can swing by sites like Commission Junction, or Share-a-Sale, or LinkShare, and browse around their literature to see what it takes to sign up. If you go that route, I recommend searching for an affiliate manager for your program. These skills aren't necessarily part of the starting toolset of most marketers, and it's something you want to get right, so it's worth paying for a few months (at least) of consulting help, or hiring on.
What's to gain? Revenue. Affiliate marketing is a great way to tap other people's audiences and markets to build revenue. It's becoming an important part of many companies' online marketing efforts, from very small businesses to Fortune 100 brands. Maybe your company should give it a shot.
Though you might make a few errors starting off, give it a chance. Affiliate marketing is a way to connect your products and services to audiences that have yet to find their way to you themselves. It's a powerful opportunity.
Have you tried? What were your results? Do you have questions? Let me know how I can help.