Things to Consider Before Joining an Affiliate Marketing Program

Anyone who is Internet savvy has heard about affiliate marketing. Those in the know understand that affiliate marketing is a nifty way to earn cash without leaving home or breaking a sweat. That's why there are thousands of affiliate marketing programs available with more than a millions people participating. The numbers certainly are impressive, but numbers don't necessarily equal money.

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal Online, the majority of people participating in affiliate marketing programs make very little money. It's estimated that less than 30,000 affiliates make a livable wage, while hundreds of thousands barely make enough to cover website costs. Why do some succeed while others fail? It's all in the approach to affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing programs involve selling products for businesses or entrepreneurs. It sounds easy enough: The sponsor creates an affiliate marketing program, recruits affiliates to promote the product, people buy the product, and everyone makes money. But before those dollar signs start dancing in your eyes, take a moment to carefully consider all the angles.

Affiliate marketing programs aren't get rich quick schemes. Sure, many people think of them that way, but they usually end up disappointed and disillusioned. This doesn't have to be you though. You can save yourself from disappointment by understanding exactly what you're getting into.

Here are six ways to make your foray into affiliate marketing less painful and more lucrative.

1. Understand that affiliate marketing won't make you rich overnight. Many, many people approach affiliate marketing with dreams of getting rich quickly. Although that is a nice thought, it doesn't work that way. You'd have a better chance of getting rich by playing the lottery. It takes hard work and dedication to make affiliate marketing lucrative.

2. Approach affiliate marketing as a business partnership. Basically, it is a partnership between you (the affiliate) and the sponsor (the business or entrepreneur). By handling your affiliate marketing activities in a businesslike manner, you increase your chances of success.

Decide how many hours and days you'll dedicate to affiliate marketing activities. Find a schedule you like and stick to it.
Set aside a specific time and day to track progress and sales.

3. Research the affiliate program sponsor and their product. Joining an affiliate marketing program is similar to starting a new job in the real world. You wouldn't work for a company without learning about them. It's the same with affiliate marketing program sponsors. Does the company have a good reputation? How do they treat their affiliates? Do they provide guidance and tools necessary to make an affiliate's job easier? The same questions apply to entrepreneurs.

The best place to begin your research is - where else - the Internet. Search for opinions, reviews, or comments about the affiliate marketing program you want to join and its sponsor. You may be surprised at what you find.

4. Sell good products. One mistake many affiliates make is trying to sell anything just to make money. That’s not the way to do business. Just because an item is available doesn't mean anyone wants it.

Consider this: You've just found a great affiliate marketing program sponsored by an author. You'll receive $5 for each book sale originating on your website, and $5 for each person you attract into the program. "Sounds, great," you say. "Sign me up!" But wait a minute. Is there a good market for "How to Grow Cotton in Your Backyard"? Probably not.

Before joining an affiliate marketing program, consider the salability of the product. If very few people want it, then chances are you won't make much money. Niche marketing is potentially lucrative, but only if the niche isn't miniscule. And if you're selling a mechanical or electronic item like a computer program or radio, make sure the product is reliable, and the sponsor offers a warranty or return policy.

5. Sell products that can be purchased year-round. It's cool if you want to sell seasonal items. Maybe you're just trying to make some extra change for holiday gifts. But if you're in affiliate marketing for the long haul, non-seasonal items are the way to go.

Marketing research shows that certain items sell better during certain times of the year. Coats sell better in winter. Outdoor furniture sells better during summer. Take advantage of these types of trends or sell items that are popular year-round.

6. Decide how you will market the product. Now we get to the "marketing" part of the equation. Without proper marketing, you'll be lucky to make enough money for a stamp.

How will you market your sponsor's product? Will you build a special website? Can you use your personal website? What about a blog? Which approach is best? These are questions you must answer. After you know how to present the product, you must then decide on your target audience.

The wrong audience won't be interested in what you're selling, even if it's the best of its kind. Do your homework. Find your target audience and market directly to them.