One of my big goals is to help makers + shop owners get some time back so you can do more of the things you love.
Whether that be spending less time on marketing so you can devote more time to your craft or making extra money through other income streams (like passive products) so you can work less or focus on new projects.
To help you with the ‘make more money’ part, I wanted to introduce you to an income stream that’s often forgotten when it comes to boutiques or creatives.
And that’s to use affiliate marketing to strategically supplement your brand.
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘affiliate marketing’ and thought:
Not for me.
or Why would I lead people off of my shop?
I’d like to take a minute just sit right there, to tell you how it could be beneficial to certain shops out there.
(I’m singing it to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song…..do you hear it too?)
First up – if you’re not sure what affiliate marketing is, there’s two sides to it.
There’s the affiliate who promotes a product or service from another company and may earn money if people click or purchase through their individually tracked link. Essentially the company is paying a small commission to advertise for them, usually only if it converts to a sale. (This is the side we’re going to focus on today.)
And then there’s the company who sets up an affiliate program as a method of advertising; where they let others promote their products and drive traffic to them. There’s a little more info and links to helpful articles on this at the end.
And yes, you’ve probably at some point clicked an affiliate link on my site or email (in fact, this post contains a few affiliate links) – which I appreciate and hope you know how much I value your trust. There’s a lot I *could* promote, but never would because it’s not the right price point or wasn’t something I personally found valuable (which is something we’ll get to later on in this post for you too).
This is part 4 of 4 of the Make Mo’ Money Passive Income Series.
Part 1: Take the (free) Passive Income for Creative Shop Owners 3-day course
Part 3: How to Sell Printful Products on Etsy (aka how to sell physical products passively)
Part 4: Using Affiliate Marketing for Online Shops
How to Use Affiliate Marketing for Online Shops + Why It Could Be a Great Fit
- Nothing new to create.
As an affiliate marketer for another company, you don’t need to come up with a new product yourself. There’s no testing, research, creating, or investment – you find products you use and believe in and simply offer them to your audience. This is great if there’s products you’d like to offer your customers, but either can’t create yourself or you don’t have the funds to invest in buying wholesale.
- It’s a fairly passive form of income.
You get set up with the program, create relevant + helpful content that talks about the product, and then share and promote that content as usual (for shop owners, it would generally be best through blog posts and email – versus using social media as we do want your brand to focus and be clear on YOUR shop).
- Low Risk / Unlimited earning potential.
Since you don’t need to invest upfront in stock or supplies, there’s little risk in starting to use affiliate marketing. Aside from your time invested in creating useful content, there’s no inventory to purchase or orders to ship out; so your earning potential is unlimited since you’re not bound by financial investments or the time it takes to package + ship.
- Provides value to your audience.
You can earn income by promoting products you already believe in + use that you think your audience would be interested in and supplements your brand. You’re creating a mini resource hub where you’ll be seen as the expert and a helpful place to go by your community.
^^^ Now that right there, that’s where most people go wrong with affiliate marketing; which is why it can feel spammy and awkward.
If you’re a wedding calligrapher, talking about the pens and inks you use wouldn’t be the best fit – the people that are paying you to do their custom calligraphy DON’T want to do it themselves.
BUT they may be interested in other wedding vendors you know and trust your recommendations when it comes to other aspects of their wedding.
… Do you see where I’m headed here?
How might that play out with affiliate marketing? Glad you asked!
1 | Create a vendor resource list
You could create a resource list of wedding vendors, shops or brands you trust and love, and for the ones where affiliate links are available, you can link to those for the opportunity to earn if a customer clicks through.
This would make a great piece of content to promote on your blog if you have one or to send out as an email (a simple, yet valuable idea for what to send that email list!).
For example, did you know Etsy has an affiliate program? If you love to support other makers and Etsy shops, you could create a few product or shop round ups that are relevant to your brand/customer and share on your blog or send out via email once a quarter!
*Note – you can’t direct people to your shop with an affiliate link and earn money on purchases from your own shop. You’ll have to disclose that you run an Etsy shop; but what a great way to support other makers while earning a little bit yourself! (AND it’s at no extra cost to either of you — Etsy pays the commissions)
You can sign up for Etsy’s program here: Join Etsy’s Affiliate Program with Awin
2 | Offer value by creating “Complete This Look” content
You could create a “Complete This Look” blog post, resource page, or email that helps customers purchase the other items you styled in your shot. Especially helpful for apparel shops, where you may not also sell the jewelry, shoes, make up, etc featured in your shots.
That could also work if you typically feature your jewelry on model and get questions on where their tops/dresses/hats etc are from.
Let’s say you’re a hip clothing boutique and you notice your audience is into wearing the clear acetate glasses look… You could point them to your favorite ones from Warby Parker and talk about the process of getting your free 5 pairs to try and have a fun “try on” live on Instagram to let your audience help you choose!
This gives you an easy way to provide value to your audience, come up with engaging content for social media that gets them talking + responding to you, and lets them in a little ‘behind the scenes’ on your life. All while “selling” them on a product you love and think they’d like too!
Seriously – there’s so many times I’ve wanted to tell boutiques to do this… I share a little story about my obsession with getting one shop’s entire look. It would work EVERY DANG TIME with me.
Gimme the whole scoop! Gimme the full look! Even if every piece doesn’t come exactly from you.
You could even set it up as a follow up after purchase with a “you may also like” or “here are our favorite pieces to complete your outfit” email. AND sending them just helpful inspiration + links is not at all spammy asking for a sale again – you’re just being legit helpful.
3 | Share resources that have been helpful for you
For example, if you sell ceramic pots and feel your customers may benefit from learning more about plant care, you could share a book (like this one) or course that’s helped you.
**Not every link ever needs to be through an affiliate, just weave them in naturally while still always focusing on quality/trust; over the fact that “this one is an affiliate link”.**
That way they have an opportunity to earn (beyond what the partnership arrangement is) by promoting your shop! (AND it’s at no cost to you — you’ll still earn the full price of your sale, Etsy bears the cost as an advertising expense of running an affiliate program!)
But, I’m Sending People Away From My Shop – Isn’t That Crazy?
At first glance, yes.
You’re taking the time to promote another business for a chance to earn a small commission if your customer purchases from them, not you!
But let’s take a step back and look at what you’re really offering.
You’re offering VALUE.
Your shop most likely can’t and won’t provide everything your customer needs. Whether it be for her wedding, a night out, her home decor, jewelry needs, and the list goes onnn.
If she already loves your shop + trusts your style/recommendations, then you’re helping her find more of what you love — and therefore, what you think she’ll love.
It’s like when your best friend asks where you got your new sweater – if you love the quality + thought it was a good price, you’d tell her! And if a customer asks what you’d use to clean the jewelry she bought from you, giving her your best jewelry cleaner recommendation is helpful (say, through Amazon like this).
Think of it as secondary to their purchase from you… like IF they purchased that, they might want this to help pull everything together or care for their items.
There’s this boutique I’m obsessed with and pretty much every outfit they put together I want it ALL. It’s the “make me look like THAT” kinda feeling. Except they don’t sell the shoes they style with the outfits in their shop. And I really, REALLY want to look the whole part.
One time I emailed them to ask and they let me know where to buy the shoes (which is really nice). But they could be ‘providing value’ for every customer through an automated email after purchase that provides or sends a blog post detailing out the accessories they use to “complete the look”. And that content could use affiliate links where appropriate!
And that’s what good affiliate marketing is. It’s helpful, it’s honest, it comes from a place of “I thought you’d like this too / find this helpful.”
Affiliate marketing is not a “get rich quick scheme” and I wouldn’t suggest letting it overshadow your main goal — selling products from YOUR shop. But when used to complement your brand and offer helpful suggestions and tips for your audience, it can be a nice way to provide a little extra cash for yourself + provide value to your audience.
While I’ve had success using affiliate marketing, I’m by no means an expert. But I wanted to share my numbers with you so you can still see what’s attainable (and here’s why I think earning even an extra $20 bucks a month is worth it).
My Affiliate Earnings:
Last year, I was earning less than $30 per month, which was still cool because it covered expenses for a couple tools I use. By the end of the year, I started earning a couple hundred dollars a month.
And this year, after applying some better strategies, I’ve since earned $200-$700/month with very little additional work + my website traffic remaining pretty steady. And my average is about $500/month in passive income from affiliate marketing.
In just five months (Jan – May 2018), I made 30% more in affiliate commissions than I did all of last year.
For example, I signed up for Etsy’s program that I mentioned above and earned $80 one month – which feels really baller when you just have to strategically place links in blog posts (some of which you may already have and just need to update them to affiliate links and rework some copy/images).
I know affiliate marketing isn’t something everyone’s interested in, but it can be a great fit for some shops.
I used the strategies and tips from this course to figure out the rules for staying legal, get a list of potential programs to join, promotion ideas, and more. I’ve been working through each of the strategies little by little and am excited to see the results grow each month.
The author of this course makes crazy insane money each month through affiliate earnings, which can feel a little like “Can I really do this?” so let’s first address the HOLY SHIT SHE MAKES HOW MUCH?!! (yes, $50k and up PER MONTH #insanity) I don’t want to sell you on this course like that will happen for you – if it does, freaking amazinggggg – that’s why I wanted to share my much smaller, but still impactful numbers with you.
If you want to try the course, I’d love to help out once you’re inside. So as a bonus, if you sign up through my link, I’d love to have you reach out to me once you worked through the course and we can talk about any questions you have on making this work for you for a week via email.
Then there’s also the other side of affiliate marketing where YOU set up the affiliate program for your store. So you’d be the company letting other people market your products + send you traffic in exchange for a percentage of any sales generated from their promotion.
While this can be a fairly low-risk way of advertising – since you only pay out if a sale is made – it still can be costly if you need to join an affiliate network (to help you facilitate tracking links, payouts, etc) or if you’re not priced right and can’t afford to pay the cut on sales generated.
If you’re looking for more information, I recommend checking out this article on setting up an affiliate program if you’re with Shopify or planning to start.
If you’re on Etsy, yay! While you can’t set up a specific affiliate program where you get to determine payouts or run special affiliate promotions, you also don’t have to actually pay out anything! As I mentioned above, Etsy pays that cost of running an affiliate program, so all you’d need to do is find people who are interested in promoting your shop and let them know to sign up with Etsy’s program under Awin to earn. 💰
(ps. Awin’s payout threshold is only $20, whereas some other affiliate partners are $100 or more; so it’s a great one to start out with! Payout threshold means the amount in commission you need to earn before they’ll send you your earnings)
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