The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing: Tips for Brands and Influencers

Alan VanToai

May 27, 2021

If you're like me, you have probably used an affiliate's code a few times when going to purchase from a new brand.

Who doesn't love a small discount? It definitely helps ease first-time buyer anxiety.

And using that code doesn't just benefit you, it also helped that affiliate earn some extra cash, and the brand to add a new customer to its database.

That is the power of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is an extremely powerful and lucrative marketing strategy: Affiliates earn more passive income and brands to generate more sales and grow their customer base.

And the popularity of this marketing strategy is gaining traction. Affiliate marketing spend is reported to increase to $8.2 billion by 2022 — up from $5.4 billion in 2017.

So, if you are a DTC brand or a content creator that is ready to leverage affiliate marketing to generate more income, then this is the article for you.

We are going to discuss what is affiliate marketing, how much brands and creators can earn, and tips for running a successful affiliate marketing campaign.

Let's hop into our ultimate guide to affiliate marketing!

What Is Affiliate Marketing

image of Vitae Apparel ambassador in her workout set


There are a few ways to approach affiliate marketing, but for the sake of this post, we will be talking about brands that use influencers and creators as their affiliates to generate more sales, word of mouth, and traffic to their websites.

There are three main players in this equation:

  • The Retailer: The brand or owner of the goods
  • The Creator: The influencer that will create content and pass around their discount code/link
  • The Consumer: The new customers that will discover a brand's product from the creator and purchase with the code

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy utilized heavily by online DTC eCommerce brands, where the retailer provides a link or coupon code to an individual, and the individual is granted a commission every time they make a sale or generate traffic to the retailer's site.

For influencers, becoming an affiliate is a way to generate more passive income, and you will get paid when your content generates sales for the brand.

For brands, creating meaningful partnering with content creators and bringing them on as affiliates is one of the best ways to increase your reach, generate more sales, and grow your brand.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work

Affiliate marketing is simple.

Brands search for influencers or creators that they want to work with, and create a deal. The creator will get a unique coupon code or link and will make content featuring the brand's products.

Each time the influencer generates a sale, they will earn a small commission (usually between 5-20 percent of the sale) and the brand will see an increase in traffic and sales, all thanks to the affiliate.

Influencers may also expect an upfront payment for their time spent creating content on top of receiving a commission from each sale generated.

This can be in the form of upfront cash payments or free products to create content with.

The brand and creator will need to iron out the details of the collab.

The creator will then make content with your brand's products on social media, their blog, or wherever else they communicate with their audience and pass around their coupon code/link.

The discount code will typically grant them a commission and will also give first-time buyers a small discount.

Image of Mayra Mejia's Instagram bio with her Vitae Apparel discount code listed

The influencer will get paid and earn passive income, and the brand will see increased sales, more website traffic, more views on social media, and an overall positive upward growth from the affiliates.

Truly, affiliate marketing a win-win, if I do say so myself.

Affiliate marketing is ESSENTIAL for a successful influencer marketing strategy.

Types of Affiliates

There are a few types of affiliates a brand could choose to work with, the most common include:

  • Influencer/content creators on social media
  • Bloggers
  • Large media websites - RetailMenot, Honey, etc
  • Newsletter or email

All of these different mediums will help you in creating a well-rounded affiliate marketing strategy.

But social media and affiliate marketing truly go hand-in-hand. You will be able to add endless affiliates to your team and tap into new audiences that might not have ever known your brand existed.

How Much Money Can Brands Make from Affiliate Marketing?

How much do brands really make from affiliate marketing?

Spending on affiliate marketing is steadily increasing, and we are seeing brands make huge gains from working with affiliates.

In fact, in 2020, advertisers who used affiliate programs generated between 15%–30% of sales from the affiliates. 

Not only that, but VigLink found that the top two revenue generators for publishers were Google Ads and affiliate marketing.

Image of a graph that shows merchantss top revenue generator

Every brand is different, but one factor is consistent with almost all DTC brands - you will generate more revenue from a smart affiliate strategy.

We have seen it first hand.

In just 7 months, Vitae Apparel has earned over $140k in affiliate revenue. These are from smaller creators and customer advocates and does not include revenue they earn from macro-influencers with over 200k follower.

European fashion brand Tally Weijl is also seeing huge success from their affiliate program, they have generated over $260k in additional revenue from affiliates and customer advocates in 7 months.

How Much Money Can Affiliates Make?

Now, if you are interested in becoming an affiliate, you might be wondering how much $$ you can make.

According to a study conducted by Affise, they found that:

  • Low-level affiliates - can earn up to $300/day;
  • Intermediate affiliates - can earn between $300/day and $3,000/day;
  • High-level affiliates - can earn more than $3,000/day;
  • Super affiliates - can make more than $10,000/day.
graph that shows how much affiliates earn

About 48.36% of affiliate marketers are earning around $20k and only about 3% are earning over $150k per year.

But, that doesn't mean that affiliate marketing can't be extremely lucrative and an excellent way to generate more passive income.

If you are a content creator, you can combine affiliate marketing along with PR from brands and long-term brand collabs, you could make enough to potentially quit your day job and become a full-time content creator.

How Do Affiliates Get Paid?

Some influencers and brands enter into an affiliate campaign and expect a huge return in a short amount of time.

While this might be true for some brands and big-name influencers, for most just starting, it will take a bit of patience before you can start cashing your check.

Brands on CrewFire typically will reward affiliates their commission once they meet a certain threshold in sales - over $50. And brands will send commission out every 30-60 days.

Tally Weijl influencer with their disount code in the caption

Influencers on CrewFire or another ambassador/influencer network can track their referrals within the app and see each time they generate a sale.

The merchant and the affiliate will need to discuss payout details at the beginning of the partnership.

Different Affiliate Models

There are a few different ways brands can reward affiliates, and each of these different structures will work better with certain industries.

The three affiliate models include:

  • Pay per click (PPC): With the PPC structure, an affiliate will get paid per click they generate, regardless if the click generates a sale. This is an uncommon structure since the majority of the risk falls on the brand to generate sales.
  • Pay per lead (PPL): An affiliate will get paid per lead they generate. This can take form in any pre-purchase stage: signing up for a newsletter, free trial, etc. There is an equal divide of risk on the brand and affiliate.
  • Pay per sale (PPS): An affiliate will get paid per sale they generate. The risk falls on the affiliate and this is the most common type of affiliate structure.

The most common structure is PPS and if you are an eCommerce brand in fashion, wellness, or sports & recreation, this will be the best model to choose.

How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

For brands interested in starting affiliate marketing, here are the steps necessary to start withing with affiliates on social media:

  • Define your tooling
  • Define your commission breakdown
  • Outline your program requirements
  • Outreach influencers/content creators and invite them to your program
  • Create the partnership
  • Monitor the program and manage affiliates
  • Start sending out commissions
Image of the Nordstrom affiliate network application

4 Tips for Brands Starting an Affiliate Marketing Program

Work with Honest Advocates

Do your customers love your brand?

Meaning, they are so obsessed with it that they are already creating content with it on social media, unprompted?

Then work with them! Consumers want to see more genuine brand deals and product content on their feed, so tap into your community of already highly engaged and raving advocates and convert them to affiliates.

Image of a Tally weijl affiliate

They will be the best affiliates to generate more sales and help your brand grow your customer base since they already love your brand and your products.

Look for a Diverse Group of Affiliates

You want to look for affiliates that are diverse in their audience, the content they make, and the size of their audience.

Partner with influencers of all sizes, from nano to mega.

Just in case you need a refresh, these are the different types of influencers:

  • Nano Influencers - between 1k-10k
  • Micro-Influencers - between 10k and 100k
  • Macro-Influencers - 100k-1m
  • Mega Influencers - +1m

The size of the creator's audience isn't the most important factor in affiliate marketing. It is more important that their community is engaged and they want to support your brand's growth.

Create Mutually Beneficial Partnerships

It's important to remember that influencers and content creators put a lot of work into helping your brand grow by generating more sales.

So it's essential that the affiliate feels that the collab is mutually beneficial. Take into account the amount of time it takes them to create content for you, and be sure to incentivize them and pay them well for their time.

Affiliates are smart, and they know that a big chunk of a brand's income is directly related to their work. Affiliates are likely to leverage their position as a revenue generator to ask for more money and a better commission rate.

If the affiliate has a solid track record of generating sales, then it is wise to work with them to meet their demands/requests.

The better the partnership, the harder they will work for you. It all just needs to be mutually beneficial.

Be Upfront about Payouts and Commission, and Deliver on Time

A best practice is to always be upfront about your payout structure, how much commission the affiliate will earn, and the discount their community will get (if any).

If your payout structure isn't well defined, it will likely turn an affiliate away from working with you.

Additionally, if you create an agreement that the affiliate will get paid on the first of the month, deliver on that promise. If you don't you run the risk of the affiliate leaving the partnership.

6 Tips for Influencers to Earn More Money as an Affiliate

Find Your Niche and Grow Your Community

Finding your niche is one of the most powerful first steps an influencer can take when they first start. 

Cultivating an audience that shares a common passion or interest will only help you earn more income from affiliate marketing.

Once you define your niche, you will be able to strategically create content that converts.

If you are the affiliate, you are the expert, so establishing your niche and working with brands that resonate with that niche will be better for generating more sales.

Give Genuine Recommendations

Not every product is going to be a showstopper, and creating that facade won't help you in the long run.

Soon enough, your audience will catch on that you are only interested in a quick cash grab. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but you run the risk of your audience not believing your recommendation are genuine. The results will be a drop in sales and revenue.

Image of an influencer giving a product review


If you are seeking long-term success and more passive income, focus on giving genuine product recommendations to your audience.

As an affiliate, it's important to remember that returns will negatively affect your earnings. Go into each product review with your honest thoughts, and only push items you know your audience will love.

The more genuine you are, the better your rapport will be with your audience, and the trust will grow.

Remember - bad product recommendations will always lead to less money.

Improve Your Pitch - Focus on Copy and Content to Generate More Sales

Affiliate marketing is essentially sales, so think like a salesperson every time you create product content.

Optimizing your pitch in your content will help you convert more sales and make more money. Study your analytics, find what kind of product content performs best with them, and start generating more content highlighting your favorite products.

Focus on writing strong and strategic copy, highlight the benefits of the product, and create a clear CTA so that your audience is directed to take the next step - buy with your referral code.

Organize Your links, Codes, and Shopping Experience

As you perfect your pitch, you will find that more people are using your code/link than ever before. So a necessary first step is to organize all of your affiliate links and codes on social media so that they are easily accessible to your audience.

Many affiliates have found success in dropping their code in their caption, while others use their CTA to signal to their audience to head to the link in their bio to shop (or a combination of both).

Image of an influencer's LinkTree with affiliate links and codes

Additionally, some affiliates will optimize for their audience to shop directly on Instagram. This is a bit dicey though, and you will have to create a smooth process so that you earn your commission and the link doesn't break in the process.

Side note: Shopping with links directly on Instagram can be a bit sticky because if a person clicks on the product that they wish to purchase, and the link does not direct them to a checkout page, the link will break and the person will buy a product and you won't get the commission.

The best practice is to direct your audience to your link in bio or website where they can click on the links or grab the coupon code and shop freely without the added risk of links breaking.

Utilize Your Insight and Analytics

As you start to refine your strategy, you can utilize analytics on social media and your affiliate tracking software to help you strengthen your strategy and convert more sales.

Analytics will help you understand a variety of things, including:

  • Best time to post
  • The type of content that gets the most engagement
  • The links that see the most traffic
  • The preferred product price point for your audience
  • Fastest moving products

Conclusion

Are you ready to leverage the power of affiliate marketing? Then start striking meaningful partnerships with advocates and you will soon reap all of the benefits - increased traffic, more exposure, and more profit.

Ready to turn your customers into your team of thriving affiliates? If so, check out CrewFire's epic demo video to see how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

Get in touch w/ Alan (Founder/CEO - CrewFire):

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WRITTEN BY

Alan VanToai

Co-Founder of CrewFire