If you are going to start a business, you need a product.
You need a product that you can sell for a profit so you can make money.
It is a very simple premise, isn’t it.
And if you’re like most people, you believe that this is how businesses work.
But if you know how the internet works, then you know that it’s also possible to establish a business, an online business that is, without any product.
How is this possible?
It can be done with affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing: Selling Another Person’s Products
Affiliate marketing refers to a type of online business in which you do not sell your own products but you sell the products of another person or company.
This means that you get to skip the following processes:
- Product conceptualization
- Product creation and development
- Inventory maintenance
- Order processing and shipping
- Processing of refunds, returns and cancellations
You do not have to create or produce any product, but you will still have products to sell, thanks to how this system works.
In this method, there are three important roles:
The merchant is the person who owns the product to be sold. He/she will take care of everything about product development to shipping orders and so on. The only thing he/she will leave to you the affiliate is to promote and sell the product. You will do this through your own blog or website, or any other online platform except in email.
When you publish content in your blog or website, you will include affiliate links that will direct your visitors to the web page of the merchant where the affiliate products can be found.
Whenever a customer clicks on this link and purchases the product, the merchant will pay you the agreed amount of commission.
The commission varies widely but some affiliates earn up to 50 percent of the total sale made.
Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
If you’d like to give this online business a try, here are the steps to get started.
First, look for a product that you want to promote. If you already have a blog or website that’s up and running, then it would be wise to choose a product that is related to it, something that your audience will find useful.
For example, if you have a blog on health and fitness, you might want to promote low fat and low calorie food products. Or if you’re writing about natural health, you might want to choose essential oils and other home remedies as your affiliate products.
When choosing a product to promote, here are three factors that you always need to consider:
- Your audience – Will your audience find this product useful?
- Product value and quality – Is this product something that you would use yourself? Will it provide significant benefits?
- Profitability – How much will you earn when someone buys this product?
Second, choose an affiliate program where you can find merchants that sell the products that you want to promote.
You’ll be glad to know that there are many affiliate networks that you can join.
Some of the top choices include:
- Amazon Associates
- eBay Partners
- Shopify Affiliate Program
- Rakuten Marketing Sales
- CJ Affiliate
- LeadPages Partner Program
Once you become a member of any of these programs, you will be given your own affiliate ID. This will be used for all the affiliate links that you will put on your blog or website.
Third, you will have to create content in your blog or website.
It is within the content that you will include the affiliate links to your affiliate products.
There are various types of content that you can use for this purpose. But the most effective types are the following:
- In depth and unbiased product reviews
- Informative product recommendations
- Extensive product comparisons
Other than this, you can also promote your products in the following platforms:
- Social media timelines
- Social media groups
- Online forums
- Banner ads
Since you’ll be using your unique affiliate ID, all the traffic that you will send to the website of the merchant will be monitored. Whenever a sale is made, you will receive the commission agreed upon.
Upon the purchase of a product, you will receive the commission in your affiliate network account.
But usually, you can only redeem your earnings once the payment threshold is reached. This is the amount that your account needs to have before you can cash out.
For most affiliates, the threshold is reached within one to two months.
Fourth, you need to conduct an extensive marketing campaign.
Your marketing strategy is one of the keys to your success as an affiliate marketer.
This should cover all the basic online platforms:
- Social media
- Online forums
Build an email list by installing a popup signup sheet on your blog or website. While it’s not allowed to send affiliate links in email message, you can send links to your blog or website through email.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing strategies that many affiliate marketers make use of.
Of course, social media is something you can’t overlook. There are plenty social media sites that you can take advantage to broaden your audience and increase awareness about your blog as well as your affiliate products.
Participating in online forums can also help achieve the same thing. Just make sure that you contribute something valuable to the online community so that you can earn the trust of your fellow members more easily. Once they have their trust in you and they perceive you as an expert in the niche where you belong, it becomes easier for them to believe your product recommendations.
Strategies and Tips for Success
To help you succeed as an affiliate, here are some strategies that you need to keep in mind:
- Promote products that you are already using – This is always a good idea. Not only is it easier to write a review about a product that you’ve already been using, this also helps ensure that you are promoting a good quality product (otherwise you won’t be using it). You are already aware of the product’s features, pros and cons and so on. This gives you an advantage.
- Look at what other similar blogs are recommending – There’s nothing wrong with checking out what your competition is doing. Visit the blogs that belong in the same niche as yours and see what products they are recommending. How do you know which products are affiliate products? On many blogs, you’ll find banner ads. Hover your mouse over the banner add and you’ll find a link in the status bar of the browser. This will typically have an affiliate ID. It may appear like an internal link but once you click on it, you will be taken to the product page. Knowing what others are recommending will give you an idea about what products are selling effectively.
- Be part of big affiliate networks – While it’s okay to work with small affiliate networks, working with the big names gives you more chances for success. One reason for this is that there’s a much wider array of product and niche selection. Smaller affiliate networks usually have limited choices, which also mean limited earnings for you. But if you go for the bigger ones, you’ll find a lot more opportunities and product options.
- Do a background check of the merchant’s business – Here’s one thing you have to remember about working as an affiliate, you should not only be concerned with the product’s value and quality but also the background of the merchant who owns the products you want to promote. For example, you’re choosing to promote Product X because it is effective, high quality and related to your blog’s topic. But as it turns out, the merchant who created this product has been linked to online fraud. Even if the product is good, and people have no complaints about it, getting associated with someone who is known to conduct online fraud is never good for your online reputation. Your audience will soon find out and this can have a negative effect on your credibility and trust rating, which is something that you don’t want to happen.
- Publish valuable and useful content – Another thing that can help you succeed as an affiliate marketer is publishing high quality content in your blog or website. It’s never a smart move to bombard with audience with countless ads and force them to buy your affiliate products. This is not how it works. Doing this tactic will only cause your business to fail. What you need to do is to publish content that your audience will find useful so that they will see you as an expert in the niche. Take the time to write in-depth and unbiased product reviews, product comparisons and other forms of content. Aside from this, make sure that the content is written in a way that your audience will find it worthwhile and enjoyable to read.
Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing
Here’s a list of the other types of online businesses that you can set up without the need to create your own products:
# 1 – Drop Shipping
Drop shipping is similar to affiliate marketing in that you don’t have to sell your own products.
Here, you can find an array of products that you can feature and sell in your online store.
The great thing about drop shipping is not only do you get to skip the process of product creation, but you also don’t have to worry about shipping the products.
Once a customer orders from your online store, what you need to do is to buy the product from the drop shipper and the drop shipper will send the product directly to your customer.
The advantage of this is that you no longer have to deal with product shipping and handling but the potential problem is that since you don’t see the actual product, you cannot vouch 100 percent for its quality and effectiveness.
You can have peace of mind knowing that you’re not selling low quality products if you make use of reputable drop shipping companies such as those mentioned above.
# 2 – Service
If you’d like to skip selling products, you can always provide services and get paid for it.
Online, you will find many service providers in different niches and categories.
Some of the most profitable services include:
- Graphic designing
- Financial consultation
- Life coaching
- Fitness coaching
- Events planning
- Personal care
You won’t be selling any product but your clients will pay to provide them with the services that they need.
When choosing a service to provide, of course it must be something that you’re knowledgeable in or trained for, and something that you’ll find worthwhile.
If you love to teach and you love being around kids, setting up a tutorial service is a great option.
If you are a fitness trainer, you can create a website where you can offer to help people lose unwanted weight the safe way.
If you have a background in accountancy or finance, you can set up a financial consultation service to help people get rid of credit card debt, resolve money problems and so on.
# 3 – Digital Product
Products usually refer to “physical products”.
These are tangible goods or items that need to be shipped to get to the customer.
Now there’s another type of product that you might want to consider selling, and this is called the digital product.
This can be sent through electronic means—usually as a downloadable file or a link through email.
There are many types of digital products that you can choose to sell. These include but are not limited to:
When choosing a digital product to sell, you need one that is within your expertise, skills and passion. Now even if you are not a talented writer for example but you are an expert in accountancy, you can write an ebook about accounting for small businesses and just hire a freelance writer to do the writing for you. The same is true if you have a valuable app idea in mind but you’re not a tech developer, you can also hire one to create the app for you so you can sell it in your blog or website for a profit.
# 4 – Online Advertising
There are many ways you can earn money with online advertising.
As with all the other options in this list, this type of business also does not require a physical product.
Some of the most common strategies that you can consider include:
- Pay per click advertising
- Paid reviews
- Selling text links on your blog
- Selling ad spaces on your blog
You can monetize your blog with Google AdSense and get related ads to be displayed on your blog. Each time someone clicks on these ads, you get to earn a specific amount of money.
As for paid reviews, you get paid writing reviews about products and services. Then there’s also the method of selling text links or ad spaces on your blog.
But for you to achieve great success with any of these, one thing that you need is a blog or website with high traffic.
# 5 – Freelancing Agency
Finally, you can set up a freelancing agency and get contractors to work with you and your clients.
As a freelancing agency, you will serve as the middle man between clients and service providers.
You are not going to sell any product, create or produce any product or provide your own service.
You will get paid promoting the services of another person, and connecting freelancers with paying clients.
In exchange for your time and effort, you will get a commission from the earnings of the freelancers. Or it’s also possible that the client will be the one to pay you.
You can easily set up a freelancing agency and get hold of many potential clients through online platforms such as Upwork.
The important thing that you have to do for this type of business is to find excellent and hardworking freelancers. Make sure that you treat them fairly so that they will stay a long time with your agency.
As you can see, in today’s age, it is now possible to establish an online business without any product. You can either promote the product that someone else has created or sell something that is not a physical product. It can be a digital product, a service, or the products of a drop shipping company. Find out which one of these methods work best for you.