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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 23 August 2021
  • Liam Edwardson

Influence the Influencer: Affiliate Marketing for Small Business

There are many ways to market your small business, from traditional advertising and social media to direct mail and printed signage. Most agree that deploying a combination is the best strategy. There is also another marketing and sales tool that lowers both costs and risk while increasing revenue. Interested? Welcome to affiliate marketing.

woman at the counter giving a bag to her customer

What is affiliate marketing?
When a company or individual promotes someone else's products, they are participating in affiliate marketing. These partners, or affiliates, can range from the writers of blogs and newsletters with loyal readers, to Fortune 500 companies with a treasure trove of customer data. As a small business, you can use these affiliates to promote your products or services through trackable sales tools and web links.

If a customer buys your product or service through an affiliate link or generates a qualified lead, the affiliate earns a commission or percentage of the sale. Affiliates are, in effect, sales people working on behalf of your business.

In addition to providing an additional marketing strategy and sales tool for small businesses, affiliate marketing offers many more benefits as well.

Grow your social proof
Now more than ever, online customers are using social media and reviews to research and influence their buying decisions. Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews. Seeing positive feedback for a product on a website they trust—social proof—plays a significant part in the process. This is known as social proof, which affiliate marketing can bring to your small business.

Add a whole new audience
Each partner with whom you’re already affiliated has an established audience, which will open up fresh, highly loyal customer bases for your products and services. These targets would likely have been difficult to reach with other forms of advertising, but with a properly executed affiliated marketing plan, they become yours to engage.

Turn insights into action
Thanks to the wealth of collected data, affiliate marketing tracking provides significant insights into where customers come from, why they are buying, and more. The information gleaned can help small businesses like yours to make critical changes to your websites to improve conversion rates and more effective messaging, as well as determining which affiliates bring in the most revenue and which less so.

Decide which marketing strategy is right for you
Depending on what you want to achieve from your promotional tactics, it bears repeating that affiliate marketing could be cost-effective. Compare a sale made through certain types of advertising and determine if it will cost more than the same sale through affiliate marketing. With Google Ads and similar forms of marketing, for example, you pay for traffic to your website, not commissions for sales. Depending on your goals, affiliate marketing just might deliver a significantly higher return on investment.

Pay only for results
One-hundred percent results, zero percent waste. Since affiliate marketing is performance-based, small businesses only pay for the leads or sales generated by each affiliate. Commission rates are set up and agreed upon in advance. You pay for results after the fact and nothing before the fact.

Get started with affiliate marketing
First, you should figure out what your overall goals are for your affiliate marketing program. What kind of customers are you looking to attract? What type of affiliates do you want to promote your product or service? What is the average amount of earnings you expect your affiliates to bring in, and the conversion rate of sales clicks?

The amount of revenue brought in from affiliates is what matters. Whether or not you are meeting these goals will help you judge the effectiveness of your affiliates and allow you to adjust accordingly.

The next step is to choose your affiliate network. This might be the most difficult part of the process due to the sheer volume and breadth of affiliates out there.

Affiliates can be anything from individual bloggers to self-styled influencers on social media. Even well-known publishers like BuzzFeed and Condé Nastoffer up affiliate marketing services.

Find affiliates through an aggregator
This abundance of choice is why you should investigate using an affiliate network or aggregator that brings hundreds, even thousands of influencers, publishers, and companies together.These aggregators can plug into your e-commerce platform and automate the entire affiliate process for you.

Awin, or Affiliate Window, has a platform that allows you to partner with a diverse range of affiliates, helping you pinpoint the right partner to target the customers you want to reach. Sovrn automates access to tens of thousands of affiliate programs and monetizes the links on your site for you. If you are a retailer, you might try Refersion, a free marketplace, to publish and promote your affiliate program. Skimlinks, the leader in E-commerce content, with 50 networks offering access to nearly 50,000 advertisers, produces $2,500,000 worth of transactions a day. Other aggregators include ShareASale, Amazon Associates, CJ Affiliate, and many more.

Look for an aggregator that provides easy-to-use tools for setting up links, allows deep links to specific products, offers advanced reporting systems, and most important of all, has expert, responsive customer service.

By connecting with appropriate influencers, partnering with publishers, and reaching and converting new customers, an affiliate program can be a potent way to bring your product or service to new and wider audiences. An estimated 81% of brands already use affiliate marketing. It may be time to add it to your arsenal.

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