What Is Affiliate Marketing? How To Grow Your Brand Organically Online

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Affiliate promoting a brand to his online audience from his laptop

How can your brand grow its fan base digitally while using it to increase reach and awareness at the same time? It’s simple —  affiliate marketing. 

While word of mouth marketing can help your brand grow its fan base organically through actively engaging in promotion, encouragement, and other positive influence —  affiliates can help your brand maximize these efforts digitally.

Living 100% online, your affiliates typically have a broad audience and they use their platform to drive leads and referrals. Often getting paid per click or conversion, their main purpose is driving awareness to your brand.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance based form of marketing. A brand will bring on a number of affiliates (which can be thought of as unofficial salespeople) to market their product or service in exchange for some sort of compensation. Affiliates are then rewarded for the customers or traffic they bring in through their own marketing efforts. Similar to other forms of word of mouth, affiliates work with brands they are a fan of while making some profit for each sale they make for the brand. Affiliate marketing can help your brand take word of mouth marketing to the next level by incentivizing your brand fans to help grow your business in a complete digital space. 

How does affiliate marketing work?

While they cost a bit more than natural word of mouth, there are some significant business benefits driven by marketing through affiliates. Affiliate marketing is becoming increasingly popular, with 81% of brands (and growing) using this strategy to drive awareness and conversions. Having affiliates to vouch for your brand and also facilitate sales results in a mutually beneficial partnership. For the affiliate, it provides a fairly quick and easy way to make money promoting a brand they already love. For the brand, affiliate marketing is still a cost effective growth strategy compared to traditional digital advertising methods. There is minimal risk from both ends. There’s no cost for an affiliate to join a program, and if they fail at generating sales or traffic then there’s no payout or cost for the brand. However, these affiliates are still representing the brand, so it is important to ensure that they are familiar with your product or service and can promote it in a way that aligns with your brand.

What’s the difference between affiliate marketing and other WOM strategies?

Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to a brand. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales. Affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.

A successful affiliate program provides the opportunity to significantly grow your brand without having to hire additional employees or spend loads of money on digital advertising efforts. Your brand can introduce new products and campaigns to your affiliate’s fan base while the affiliates work to generate sales in the background. 

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