Rick Boerebach is a co-founder of ZEEF.com, a curated link directory built by passionate experts. He has a background in affiliate marketing and development and is a startup enthusiast in general.


If your startup’s goal is to sell a product or service but you’re having a hard time with your revenue model, affiliate marketing might be the perfect match to give you that much-needed boost.

Going this route doesn’t mean your product sucks in any way. In a marketplace where thousands of new services launch annually, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. Affiliate marketing can help your startup rise above the clutter and increase your revenue.

What is affiliate marketing?

The basic concept of affiliate marketing dates back to the 90s where companies share revenue with the people that drive sales to your store. This helps reward and incentivize them to bring in as much sales as possible. As an affiliate, you will receive a commission for every sale you drive.

In this Internet age, a company sells products or services via an online store, app, or subscription service. This webshop gets organic traffic and eventually sales from the company’s own online and offline marketing efforts and existing brand reputation. Most of these visitors already knew the brand and were specifically looking for your product or webshop.

Pretty much with all products or services, it’s harder to sell your own product or service to new customers than selling someone else’s product or service. I can tell you that my startup ZEEF is awesome and that you should definitely try it out, but it’s much more convincing when someone else, who is not or doesn’t seem affiliated to ZEEF, recommends ZEEF to you. Getting good reviews about your product or webshop directly contributes to boosts in your sales.

Word of mouth advertising has a higher conversion rate than your own advertising, because a third party doesn’t seem to profit from selling the product or service to you. Therefore, this method seems more trustworthy and convincing.

But.. sharing revenue with affiliates decreases profit margins, right?

Fair question: Why would a webshop share revenue with you or work with affiliates at all? Wouldn’t it be better for the webshop to acquire those customers themselves to maximize profit margins?

The answer to this is definitely yes, but the problem is that the webshop probably wouldn’t have been able to drive these sales and acquire these customers themselves. Online stores can serve more customers globally with lower costs, less effort, and fewer employees 24/7. Customers don’t need to actually visit one of your offline stores.

By opening fewer stores you decrease costs in renting real estate, distributing products to your stores, and hiring employees for every location in every area you’re operating in. When you sum up all the pros and cons, profit margins online are much higher than offline. This gives an online store more flexibility in profit margins and sharing revenue with affiliates.

The customers that come from affiliates are customers that probably wouldn’t have found your product or service by themselves even with your own marketing efforts. The incentive to make a purchase has been optimized by the affiliate. These are warm leads that have a much higher rate of converting into sales than your webshop’s usual traffic. The affiliate has basically turned a lead into a sale for you already.

To the affiliate and customer, the webshop is nothing more than the checkout part of that sale. Sales from affiliated websites are mostly a stream of new customers and new sales on top of your normal traffic.

For an advertiser, marketing is really expensive, so why shouldn’t you let other people do marketing for you for free? Next to running your marketing, affiliates have different ideas, experiences, and insights in how to sell your product. This results in more creativity in marketing your product or service in general.

Who should look into finding affiliate marketing partners?

On the affiliate side of things, if you can get your own customers to buy products or services you don’t sell yourself, you’re a perfect match for this model.

If your website has an expertise in various industries, an affiliate link to buy products related to your site can help add value for your customers and drive sales. Fashion sites might add links to buying outfits rather than just listing them, while community sites may add links to event tickets.

Almost any industry and benefit from affiliate links because it adds value to your user experience, since they won’t have to Google where to buy the product themselves. When your customers are reading about a product or service, you can assume they are interested in the product at that time and they might be interested in buying it.

How do I get into contact with potential affiliates?

There are a lot of affiliate marketing networks that allow both advertisers and affiliates to find each other. Next to finding partners, affiliate marketing networks also do the technical part of tracking leads, so you don’t have to implement this into your website yourself.

Most affiliate networks offer something that’s called datafeeds, which is like a product search engine of affiliated advertisers so you can easily find products and get affiliate links. Major webshops like Amazon also have their own affiliate program which you can sign up for, while parties like VigLink and Skimlinks help aggregate affiliate programs.

Hopefully this method helps you find a solution to driving your revenue while benefiting customers who would otherwise never have found your company on their own.

Image credit: JMiks/Shutterstock