Affiliate Marketing: a guide for small businesses

Affiliate Marketing: A Guide for Small Businesses

Wojciech Jasnos

Affiliate marketing can be a great solution for small businesses and it’s already used by a lot of companies around the globe. As you only pay after results, it’s not risky and you don’t need to invest in this method. Additionally, affiliate marketing can help you boost your reputation and reach more people. Keep reading to learn more about affiliate marketing.

What is affiliate marketing?

According to Investopedia: affiliate marketing is an advertising model in which a company compensates third-party publishers to generate traffic or leads to the company’s products and services. The third-party publishers are affiliates, and the commission fee incentivizes them to find ways to promote the company.

As an example, we can describe an eCommerce affiliate marketing program. A merchant (in this case an online store) is partnering with the affiliates (bloggers, websites or email list owners) who promote a given online shop’s products. It can be achieved, for example, via content marketing or ads. Affiliates redirect people, who click links on their websites or in their emails, to an eCommerce website. If visitors purchase products, the merchant rewards affiliates (usually 5-10% of the sales price).

Affiliate marketing is beneficial for merchants, affiliates, and customers who can learn about niche products and services.

Why affiliate marketing is worth considering?

  • It’s cost-effective because companies only pay for effects (leads or purchases).
  • It’s generating 16% of all online orders.
  • By teaming up with reputable bloggers or websites, your business can gain trust.
  • It helps with scaling traffic faster.
  • It enables reaching the target group within your niche.

How to create an affiliate marketing program?

Define your target group and find your niche

First of all, take a look at your marketing persona (if you don’t have it prepared, you should definitely create one) and all the information you’ve gathered about your customers. Identify your ideal customers, their needs and challenges. This will bring you to specifying your niche. What’s important is that you can have a few target groups in a few niches.

Create a set of rules for your program

Write down your requirements for potential affiliates – they should be ready to promote your products. Based on your target group specifics you can select the topics your customers are interested in. Invest in quality leads, not the broadest possible reach. Define commission for the result, and establish what is it for you (website visit, purchase, sign-up, etc.).

Choose a tracking system for your affiliate marketing program

Depending on the size of your business and your industry specifics, you can choose to use an affiliate network or to run your program in-house. Of course, you can also use both solutions. You need an affiliate platform if you plan to require a vast number of affiliates so that you can track their performance and easily communicate with them. For starters, you can cooperate with just a few publishers directly and optimize your rules, goals, etc. To track traffic, leads and sales, use UTM parameters. You can assign a dedicated tag to each affiliate and check out their performance in Google Analytics. Based on that you can evaluate results.

While adding UTMs your links can become way too long. Use RocketLink to add UTMs, and then shorten and customize your URLs. Moreover, RocketLink enables adding other helpful elements to your link! For example, you can add retargeting pixels and use gathered information in your further campaigns. That way, you can retarget your social media and Google Ads campaigns to people who clicked links shared by your affiliates.

Identify quality affiliates and build relationships

Once you know precisely who’s your audience and you have a clear set of rules and procedures, you can look for accurate affiliates. You can simply search for popular blogs and websites within your niche, and join Facebook and LinkedIn groups and ask for cooperation options. You can be sure many publishers will respond to your pitch. Another idea is to use affiliate marketing platforms. A list of such websites you can find here. Look for affiliates who are experienced in publishing and gathered a solid audience with specific interests and make sure it fits your target group.

Running resultful affiliate marketing campaigns requires commitment and mutual trust. Take your time in getting to know your potential affiliates. It’s basically a recruitment process because you’re choosing who are you going to cooperate with. Learn more about their interests and motivations. Some of them may be burnt in the past on such programs, so make sure they’re comfortable with the rules, tracking system, etc.


Affiliate marketing can help you reach your target group and boost sales. Of course, it shouldn’t be your only marketing scheme, it’ll work the best while it’s proceeded alongside other methods. Affiliate marketing can be time-consuming at the beginning, but once you find the best way to cooperate with affiliates and build a strong relationship with them, you’ll benefit long-term.

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