Affiliate marketing has fast become one of the most effective ways for brands, entrepreneurs, and businesses both large and small to get their products before a global online community. Indeed, the affiliate marketing industry itself is currently estimated to be worth around $17 billion, driving countless web sales every day, and predicted to expand even further over the coming years.
With influencers, vloggers, reviewers, and promotional sites currently enjoying more sway than ever before, there’s never been a better time to get into the affiliate marketing game, with numerous services offering to help you harness the power and reach of commission-based affiliate advertising.
But from the outside looking in, affiliate marketing can feel like a difficult world to enter. How do you know which influencer, blogger, or website owner to approach? How can you track advertising payments, or know whether or not your promotional campaigns are generating decent returns on investment? How can you get your product ‘out there’?
That’s where affiliate marketing programs, or affiliate marketing software, come in.
These services can help you launch, track, and customize affiliate promotions and marketing campaigns, connecting you with prominent influencers, bloggers, and publishers, as well as managing commission payments and generating detailed sales data. All of this can help you to determine which affiliates are providing the best value for money, as well as making it easy to see the direct effect affiliate marketing is having on your sales and customer retention.
Today, we’ll be looking more closely at some of the frontrunners of the industry, as well as some up-and-coming platforms looking to make a dent in the market. We’ll be thinking about what each platform has to offer as well as assessing their pricing structure, so that you as a small business owner can see at a glance the sort of investment that could be required.
Affiliate marketing is the name given to an online advertising structure in which companies pay ‘affiliates’ to promote their own products or services. Affiliates – sometimes referred to as promoters, publishers, or partners – can be bloggers, video producers, online media houses, coupon websites, product reviewers, social media influencers, or anyone who likes to write and talk about different products or services. Affiliates can earn a commission as a result of a prospective customer clicking a specific link on their website, purchasing a product through said link, or completing some other desired action, such as signing up to a newsletter or a subscription service.
Because advertisers are only paid when a desired customer action is completed, affiliate marketing is often seen as an extremely effective, targeted way of promoting products. You only pay for the advertising that works.
Similarly, this commission structure incentivizes creators, promoters, and website owners to generate informative, popular, and engaging content that consumers can trust and enjoy. The more successful they are at promoting and selling products, the more money they will make. It’s sort of a win-win situation for all involved!
Affiliate marketing software, or affiliate marketing programs, help connect businesses and brands with a wide range of affiliates or potential promoters. Many work in both directions, offering software to help businesses launch campaigns, as well as software to help affiliates promote and receive commission from brands seeking promotion.
For small business owners, such services also allow you to measure, track, and evaluate the success of affiliate campaigns, as well as helping you handle the otherwise dizzyingly complex task of paying commissions and communicating with your promoters, which could number in the hundreds or even thousands for large campaigns.
Most reputable affiliate marketing programs also offer some level of fraud prevention, helping to ensure that any commissions you pay out are for promotions that have resulted in genuine customer engagement.
Start an Affiliate Marketing Program for Your Small Business with These Affordable Options
Now we’ll take a closer look at some of the best services out there for small business owners looking to launch their own affiliate marketing campaigns, from veterans of the industry to relatively new names on the block.
This is one of the most affordable programs out there. GoAffPro provides plug-in software to accompany your chosen e-commerce store, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce.
They’re a fast grower in the affiliate marketing space, having onboarded more than 50,000 businesses, connected with 2.8 million affiliates, and driven around $250 million in sales revenue last year alone.
They claim to harness the latest in AI technology to help you monitor and evaluate your affiliates and your promotional campaigns, as well as allowing you to build a brand-consistent portal for promoters to use. Like most other services in this niche, GoAffPro offer quick and easy payment mechanisms to help you manage variable commission rates.
GoAffPro comes in a limited, free version for small merchants seeing less than a 100 sales a day. For accessing any of GoAffPro’s more useful features, a $29 per month Premium subscription is available. Larger, comprehensive business packages start at $99 a month and can be tailored to suit any operation.
Post Affiliate Pro (software)
With Post Affiliate Pro you can manage individual affiliate campaigns or monitor whole networks, linking numerous affiliates to numerous promoters at once. They claim to offer some of the most advanced customer tracking methods available, helping you gauge consumer responses and behavior as accurately as possible.
Post Affiliate Pro also offer tools to help you generate promotional material such as banners and discount coupons swiftly and easily. You can try them for free before signing up to a Pro, Ultimate, or Network subscription, ranging from $129 to $599 a month.
ShareASale has been expanding their marketing network for more than 20 years and now advertise themselves as the fastest growing affiliate marketing platform in North America.
Their software allows you to send personalized invitations to different promoters and potential affiliates, helping you target content creators working in niches that are relevant to you and your product. They also provide influencer tracking capabilities, helping you monitor social media and other promotional activities to see which partners could prove most effective at promoting your brand.
They charge a one-off $625 fee, collected once your profile has been successfully set-up. After this, you are charged 20% of every commission you pay your affiliates, a rate that you yourself set. For example, if you are selling sports shoes for $100 a pair and have decided to pay a 20% commission to each affiliate securing you a sale, you would pay a $4 transaction fee to ShareASale for each purchase, in addition to the $20 commission earned by your affiliate-promoter.
First Promoter (software)
First Promoter offers plenty of flexibility in terms of the affiliate programs you can run. Through their platform you can establish your own percentage-based or fixed commission rates, multi-level reward structures for your best affiliate partners, and ‘private’ campaigns where you hand-pick influencers to invite to promote your product.
The company also offers a range of anti-fraud measures, including self-referral tracking and vetting of potential affiliates, allowing you to approve promoters before they become your marketing partners.
They offer transparent pricing tiers, starting at $49 per month for their most basic package and $149 per month for Enterprise package that allows for unlimited sales.
Impact is a big name in the affiliate marketing world, boasting an impressive roster of affiliates and promoters, and allowing you to connect with affiliates that suit your niche and brand.
The platform also advertise some of the most advanced anti-fraud measures in the business, as well as machine-learning algorithms and a team of data scientists helping companies track and shape their promotional campaigns according to what works best.
You can also create a branded interface through which to interact with your chosen affiliates, meaning that when they access their affiliate dashboard it looks and feels as if they are communicating directly with your company, rather than via a depersonalized third-party.
Impact’s starter pack costs $30 a month or 3% of your revenue, whichever is higher. They then have an Essentials pack for $500 a month, or a Pro service for $2,500, making one of the most expensive providers on our list.
PartnerStack makes it easy to track the performance of your affiliates. Like many of the best affiliate marketing software, they offer a broad suite of analytics tools helping you gauge which promoters have been most effective at helping to sell your products and across which online mediums.
You can operate multiple channels and affiliate campaigns simultaneously, all from a single dashboard. Automated communications, trigger-based emails, and easy-to-assemble marketing packs and sales agreements also make it quick and easy to ‘on board’ new affiliates, without having to repeatedly craft initial messages and FAQ responses.
PartnerStack advertise themselves as trying to promote the best merchant-promoter relationships, calling this the ‘partner experience’.
Unfortunately, there is no publicly available pricing available on their website, forcing you to contact them for a tailored quote.
ClickBank is another long-standing name in the world of affiliate marketing. Their platform is geared towards ‘direct response offers’, another word for promotions or adverts that try to get an instant response from customers – usually a purchase or a sign-up of some form.
This is a popular platform for small business owners and start-ups looking to take a product to market. Simply sign-up with ClickBank and their onboarding team will take whatever you’re hoping to sell through the relevant processes and checks, including complimentary FDC and FDA compliance reviews. Your product will then be listed on their marketplace, allowing their wide network of affiliates to promote it.
ClickBank provide a transparent, flat-rate pricing structure. A $49.95 fee is charged once your product is approved, followed by 7.5% commission and $1 for each sale made via their affiliate links.
Partnerize are proud to have been trusted by a number of recognizable brands, including Emirates, BuzzFeed, CNN, Deliveroo, and GoPro. They provide data-driven, automated search and recruitment for businesses looking to connect quickly with relevant, effective affiliates capable of promoting their product.
They also provide a comprehensive range of anti-fraud measures, analytics tools, and an intuitive dashboard to help you manage your advertising. Their dedicated onboarding team aim to get your partnership program up and running in 15 days or less.
There’s no transparent pricing model on their website, though they do claim to offer both license-based and commission-based packages, depending on whether you have a set advertising budget or are strictly dependent on sales to pay for affiliate marketing. Contact them directly to discuss options that can be tailored to your business needs.
Summary to Starting an Affiliate Program
If you have an ecommerce store, these are the best affiliate networks and software to start an affiliate business. Join a network if you need to connect with affiliates to promote your product or service. If you don’t need help finding affiliates, you can use one of the software programs listed.