A merchant has a product to sell. To acquire customers, the merchant can purchase advertising. The advertising stops working when the merchant stops paying for it. Affiliate marketing gives the merchant’s product more exposure, to more refined demographics, for free. The merchant pays only when the publisher’s work produces a sale.
- The merchant brainstorms niche subjects whose audiences would be interested in the merchant’s product
- The merchant publishes an offer to publishers who will market the merchant’s product
- The merchant and publisher enter into an affiliate contract
In the bonus section, learn why the affiliate-marketing model is superior to advertising.
#1: The Merchant Defines the ideal Publisher
The merchant’s ideal publisher covers a niche whose audience aligns with the merchant’s target market.
The publisher can be on any number of platforms, so long as the platform handles a many-to-one relationship: many audience members to one publisher. Typical platforms include:
- a website
Niche publishers dig deep into topics that have limited but passionate appeal. A niche is a targeted interested that is attractive only to a subset of the population. What the niche lacks in global appeal, it makes up for in intense interest in the subject.
The publisher’s audience has a deep interest in the publisher’s exploration of the niche. That means that this audience is a specific, highly motivated demographic for some merchant.
Merchants should seek publishers whose target audience aligns with the merchant’s target demographic.
For example, if the merchant sells a form of red light therapy, that merchant would seek publishers interested in red light therapy. But there’s no need to stop there. The merchant should also seek publishers interested in health, wellness, and biohacking.
Whether there’s a good match depends on the specific publisher’s niche within health, wellness, and biohacking.
How does the merchant find potential affiliates?
#2: The Merchant Publishes an Offer to Find Suitable Publisher Affiliates
To find potential publishers, the merchant can
- search for niche bloggers aligned with the merchant’s target audience
- advertise for niche bloggers
- join a network of affiliates and publishers
The merchant can search for related and tangential niches, followed by the word “blogger.”
For example, to find red light therapy potential affiliates, the merchant can search like this:
“red light therapy” blogger
Many of the results are competitors in the red light therapy space, but there are some popular gems in this list as well, such as alexffergus.com and wellnessmama.com. The merchant can reach out to these bloggers.
The merchant can announce the affiliate program on the merchant’s website and on social media pages. It might look like this:
“We are launching our red light therapy affiliate program and we are seeking publishers….”
The merchant can also buy advertising on Google etc. to announce the search to target markets.
The merchant can join an aggregator of publishers and merchants. Popular ones include:
- CJ Affiliate
- Rakuten Marketing
#3: The Merchant Contracts with a Publisher to Drive Product Sales
Whether through personal contact, advertising or an affiliate network service, the publisher and merchant meet over the internet. Either the publisher asks to join the merchant’s program, or the merchant offers a contract to the publisher.
If there is mutual interest, the merchant and publisher enter into an affiliate contract. It says at its core: The merchant authorizes the publisher to discuss the merchant’s product; the merchant will pay the publisher should the merchant’s efforts result in actual sales of said product.
Bonus: How the Merchant Benefits More from Affiliates than from Advertising
With advertising, the merchant pays the publisher for exposure. With affiliate marketing, the merchant pays the publisher for performance.
With advertising, the publisher is obligated to place the merchant’s creative in the publisher’s medium. With affiliate marketing, the publisher can make some creatives, but usually the affiliate does the bulk of content creation.
With advertising, the merchant controls which part of the publication hosts the advertisement. With affiliate marketing, the publisher creates and places content on the publisher’s properties.
With advertising, the publisher must run the merchant’s content. With affiliate marketing, the publisher is not obliged to expose its audience to the merchant’s products. The publisher can ignore the affiliate relationship. The merchant’s recourse in this case is to cancel the affiliation contract. But don’t be hasty, the publisher might have the new content on its schedule, or might be driving traffic from offline sources. The point is that the advertising publisher is obliged to expose its audience to the merchant’s product; the affiliate publisher is not obliged to ensure its audience sees the content.
|Cost of exposure||advertising fee||free|
|Merchant pays even if there are no sales||yes||no|
|Merchant writes the content||yes||no|
|Affiliate writes the content||no||yes|
|Merchant can break the contract||only before publication deadline||at any time for any reason|