Can Small Businesses Use Affiliate Marketing to Grow Their Brand?
Due to the current economic crisis, many companies had to grow their online presence to make up for their offline business losses.
However, competing in the online world means facing different and often larger competition.
Generating traffic to your website requires different skills and different marketing tools than generating foot traffic.
Online marketing is often a numbers game: the more traffic, the more clicks, the more conversion. To generate traffic you can either invest in online advertising or try to create organic traffic.
From my experience, online advertising can become a losing battle if you have to deal with large competitors.
Developing content that can drive organic traffic and help you (soft) sell your products or services, is an effective yet labor-intense marketing tool that’s often hard to do in-house.
If you struggle to spare enough marketing dollars or can’t create content on your own, starting an affiliate marketing program might be an interesting option.
What exactly is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a marketing tool that rewards people (affiliates) for successfully referring products to other consumers. The affiliate uses his own marketing efforts to convert sales for the companies they are affiliated with. In most cases, affiliates receive commissions the conversions they initiate.
What are the major benefits of affiliate marketing?
#1 Affiliate marketing is close to the consumer
People follow people with shared interests, which often translates into the same or similar product preferences.
Companies that are using affiliates to promote their products don’t have to “find” consumers. The consumers FIND them.
Apart from that, an engaged network of affiliates can help you to promote your products authentically. When a business uses affiliate marketing to launch or advertise a product, the product presentation does not only rely on images or videos created by the company. Instead, it will be explained and showcased by somebody the consumer admires.
As the affiliates are interested in generating traffic and sales, they are more motivated to create thorough product reviews or – better yet – promote your product in a video or blog post.
#2 Affiliate marketing is affordable and low-risk
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it works for companies of any size.
If you start with a small-scale affiliate program, the risks and investments are very low.
Some businesses I’ve worked with, manage their affiliates manually. Especially if you’re a small business with products or services in the upper price segment and a small number of hand-picked brand ambassadors, you don’t have to implement a software solution to track and payout your affiliates.
However, if you’re a mid-sized company seeking to work with 100+ affiliates, you might want to consider using an affiliate program to manage all processes automatically.
I believe that the biggest risk AND opportunity of affiliate marketing is the selection of the affiliates. If the people that promote your products are not representing your brand values, you can hurt and devalue your brand in the long run.
That’s why the best way to find authentic affiliates is to recruit people that already love your brand and use your products. That way, you can turn brand lovers into brand ambassadors
#3 Affiliate marketing can help you to build your brand
If you’re able to turn brand lovers into affiliates, you might not only be able to create a loyal and engaged “salesforce,” but they can also help to shape your brand.
Your best affiliates will probably not only “sell” your product, but personify a lifestyle that matches your brand.
Smart affiliates typically only sign up for programs that promote products that are appealing to their followers. They know that influencers who promote “anything” will lose the trust of their community and thus hurt their brand in the long run. This is why your affiliate community can become a powerful brand asset.
You can also do regular feedback rounds with your affiliates to get valuable insights on your product performance. The more involved and appreciated your affiliates feel, the more engaged they will be.
#4 Affiliate marketing is (cost) effective
With affiliate marketing, you create a salesforce that’s not on your payroll, passionate about your products, and only gets rewarded when it delivers.
68% of people trust online opinions from other consumers
Affiliate marketing also allows you to reach your target group without coverage loss. In a world of information overload, buying decisions are rather based on the recommendations of others than on conventional advertising.
According to a study by Nielsen, referrals by friends and families, and posts in online communities are among the most trusted forms of advertising.
#5 Affiliate marketing is a win-win
Especially small businesses can use affiliate marketing to increase their sales and create awareness for their products without spending much on advertising.
Apart from that, some small businesses might be able to use affiliate marketing as an income source of its own. For example, if your company runs a blog, you could add links to other brands that might also interest your target group.
For the affiliate, on the other hand, a partnership with a brand can further validate their status as an influencer and take their own brand to the next level. And of course, it will help them to earn income or other rewards.
Focus on what you do best. Outsource everything else.
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