For a long time, affiliate marketing has had a questionable reputation due to consumer affiliate marketing’s inherent risks such as fraud, low-quality couponing sites, and discounts that can tarnish a brand’s reputation. However, B2B affiliate marketing is a completely different ball game. It is a highly effective and low-risk strategy when executed correctly, especially for selling B2B software. This article aims to dispel common myths about affiliate marketing, highlight its potential in B2B, and provide best practices to help you launch your program.
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Affiliate marketing is the practice of promoting another person or company’s product to earn a commission. Instead of working directly for the company, an affiliate can earn a reward for every sale they make by directing customers to a product.
The best part is that you don’t have to create your products, as that work has already been done for you. As soon as you have a platform, whether it’s a website, podcast, or social media presence, you can start making money as an affiliate marketer.
However, it’s not as simple as just sharing a link and waiting for the money to roll in. Successful affiliate marketing requires strategy and effort. Unfortunately, many people fail to see results because they don’t understand how to do it properly.
There are two ways to be involved in affiliate marketing: as a product owner/affiliate program creator or as an affiliate marketer.
It is a powerful way to generate income online, and it’s accessible to anyone. The products you promote likely already exist, so you can get started right away without investing time in creating your own. You’ve probably already participated in affiliate marketing without realizing it.
Despite its prevalence, few people truly understand how to fully take advantage of affiliate marketing. It’s an untapped source for generating passive income. But with the right strategy, anyone can succeed as an affiliate marketer.
Deciding if affiliate marketing is the right monetization channel for you can be a simple decision. Whether you are a business-minded entrepreneur seeking an additional income stream, a freelancer looking to boost your earnings, or an owner of one or more high-traffic websites seeking ways to monetize, affiliate marketing is a popular option for many marketers. It offers several benefits, including:
Flexibility in earning income from anywhere. You can work on a beach while traveling or from the comfort of your own home. With a computer and an internet connection, you can run an affiliate business from anywhere, and you can choose your hours if your affiliate marketing income can sustain your lifestyle.
Passive income opportunities. Even when you aren’t actively working, you can still earn commission payments by driving sales.
The potential to earn a substantial income. If you have a consistent stream of potential customers or an effective marketing strategy, affiliate marketing can yield significant financial rewards.
No customer service obligations. As an affiliate marketer, you simply refer customers to other businesses, without having to deal with customer service issues.
Low barriers to entry and startup costs. Getting started in affiliate marketing is relatively easy, and the required investment is more heavily weighted toward time than money.
For skilled SEO professionals who can rank websites for competitive keywords, affiliate marketing can provide significant supplemental income or even outperform client work in some cases.
Here are five common affiliate marketing myths:
One of the most common misconceptions about affiliates is that they are exclusively content creators who use blogs and social media to promote products. However, B2B affiliates can come in many different forms, including organizations or individuals who share an audience with you.
For instance, SaaS applications that integrate with your product and have a shared customer base can make excellent affiliate partners. Imagine a CRM that integrates with a video marketing platform – that CRM would be an ideal affiliate for the video platform. The CRM company could send an email to their customer base with a link to the video platform, driving new business to that partner.
Even banks can be powerful affiliate partners, with some having access to a wide range of small businesses and consumers. A bank could send an email to all of its small business customers promoting accounting software, resulting in a significant boost in sales – even though most people wouldn’t consider banks to be affiliates.
Affiliates can also include publishers and content syndicators. In the B2B world, it’s important to think of affiliates as anyone who has access to your target customer base and could promote your products to them through affiliate links. In many ways, affiliate marketing is like partner marketing or co-marketing, and it’s a strategy worth exploring.
Most people come across affiliate marketing in their personal lives, such as seeing Instagram influencers promoting vitamin supplements through affiliate links or encountering spammy comments and coupon codes on websites. However, it’s less common to come across affiliate marketing in the B2B world, and it can look very different from its consumer counterpart. For example, it can involve a link in a member association’s newsletter or a link on a technology review website.
Many successful B2B software brands rely on affiliate programs to drive revenue growth, although you might not even realize its affiliate marketing. These programs can take many forms and are an effective way to sustainably grow a business.
Many people assume that partnering with someone in their industry or niche is the way to go, but that’s not always true.
Some affiliates specialize in reaching the very customers you’re targeting, such as small business owners. When it comes to B2B affiliates, the key factor is not vertical alignment, but customer alignment. If an organization or publication has an audience that aligns with your ideal customers, they could be the perfect match for your affiliate program.
To identify potential partners, ask your customers where they get their news and which conferences they attend. Even if these organizations are not directly related to your product or service, they can be valuable co-marketing and affiliate partners simply because they have access to your target audience.
Reach out to these organizations and offer them the chance to become an affiliate. Highlight how the partnership will benefit its audiences, such as through exclusive discounts or other special offers. By focusing on customer alignment rather than industry alignment, you can create a successful affiliate program that reaches the right people and delivers real results.
Unlike consumer affiliate marketing, B2B affiliate marketing carries minimal risk of fraud for marketers. Consumer marketing has a history of paying for metrics like clicks and pageviews, which can be artificially inflated by bots or click farms.
However, B2B businesses prioritize revenue over these top-of-funnel metrics. As marketing teams are increasingly held responsible for driving revenue, it’s vital to partner with affiliates who can help close deals. Since B2B affiliates are typically paid based on the revenue they generate, there’s little room for fraudulent activity.
This means that B2B marketers can experiment with various affiliates without worrying too much about the outcomes. With revenue as the main focus, B2B affiliate marketing allows for a greater level of confidence and transparency in the partnership.
While the objective of consumer affiliate marketing is often a one-time, transactional purchase, the aim in B2B is to establish a continuous subscription-based relationship with customers. Consequently, the same strategies cannot be applied to both.
The B2B selling process is more complex and requires a more strategic approach — unlike in B2C, where appealingly presenting a product doesn’t require deep or specific knowledge.
Moreover, there is minimal loyalty between consumer affiliates and the brands they endorse. A B2C affiliate could promote vastly different products, such as whiskey or flowers, without affecting the relationship. However, in B2B, a long-term relationship must be forged with trustworthy affiliates who are knowledgeable about the software ecosystem in the relevant industry. B2B affiliates should represent a connected set of solutions that work together cohesively to deliver value to a business owner, which is nearly impossible to achieve in consumer markets.
After understanding the distinguishing features of B2B affiliates as compared to B2C affiliates, you are now equipped to venture into this channel without any reservations. With affiliate marketing being a powerful tool for business growth, once you witness its effectiveness, you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t explore this avenue sooner.
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