Affiliate Marketing: The Definitive Guide For Making Money

Affiliate Marketing: The Definitive Guide For Making Money

On a frosty December evening in a Long Island suburb, I bundled up as tight as possible. It was minus five degrees Fahrenheit outside. The tiny wool gloves wouldn’t keep out the frigid air but I wore them anyway. I swung the scarf around my neck and pulled a thick jacket over my shoulders. It was off to the races. I was a wild-eyed kid fascinated with sales. I marched outside into the wintery world, ready to door-knock.

It must have been strange to see a small kid show up at your doorstep in freezing temperatures pitching magazine subscriptions. But that was me, papers and pen in hand pitching to my neighbors. One after another, I went door to door. After all, I was an affiliate of the company. Not only did they pay me but they sent me prizes with every new tier of sales I hit. I was hooked.

Looking back on it now, I realize this was affiliate marketing. Except I wasn’t making money online. I was making money offline. In fact, there wasn’t really an online just yet. Not until a few years later, at least. But those experiences have always stayed with me. And the lessons I learned about human behavior by door-knocking are my most invaluable ones to date.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

I share this story to provide a point of reference. Door-knocking still happens to this date. And people knocking on your door are either employees for a company or are affiliates for them. Today, it’s usually a salesperson that shows up. But a salesperson in real life is no different than an affiliate pitching you something on the internet. They’re both engaged in affiliate marketing to some extent.

So what is affiliate marketing and how does it actually work? By definition, the word “affiliate” means to have an official association with someone or something. That something is often an organization like a business. To have an official association with an organization simply means that you’re connected in a way that allows you to make money by marketing the organization’s products or services.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed pay. Not if you’re an affiliate. The only thing that guarantees your pay is the ability to sell. And that skill is one that’s acquired and learned through experience. You can read all the books you want about affiliate marketing, but there’s nothing better than real-world sales experience to get you going.

How To Make Money As An Affiliate?

As a kid, I knew almost straightaway who would buy. After hundreds of doors, you get a feel for things like that. And you learn so much about people when you show up to their homes at their doorstep. The funny thing is that I’m not sure why I wasn’t afraid. The carrot was clearly stronger for me than the stick back then. But I wasn’t afraid to pitch. All I wanted to do was make money. And that drove me beyond any fear that showed up in the back of my mind.

I’m not saying you need to go door-to-door to make money as an affiliate. But you do need to learn how to pitch. And you do have to understand the power of a few psychological levers that can be your saving grace when it comes to affiliate marketing or sales of any kind. Remember that we are all human beings at the end of the day and we are all driven by human psychology embedded in us at the deepest level.

What do I mean? Okay, if you want to make money as an affiliate or sell anything online, there are concepts and principles you must understand. This is not just about sales. It’s about what makes us humans tick on a deeper and more profound level. This is important when it comes to selling anything whether you’re an affiliate or not.

Principle 1—Pain vs Pleasure

Human beings will always try to avoid pain. They’ll do everything in their power to avoid it versus gaining pleasure. Meaning that someone will do more to protect against losing their money than they will in making money. This is not an original concept but it was popularized by Tony Robbins. So what does this have to do with affiliate marketing? Well, everything (kind of).

As an affiliate, you must understand how to use this paradigm with your prospects. Today, success in affiliate marketing relies heavily on lead generation. In other words, how do you reach the most amount of people and get them to raise their hand with interest as fast as possible? You lead them with pain. Not with pleasure.

Principle 2—The Power of Reciprocity

There is real power in the word free. Think about it. How many people show up for something free as opposed to having to pay for something? Many studies have looked at the power of the word free, including this one that gave away free chocolates versus charging two cents or just one penny for them. In grocery stores, you see people handing out free food all the time, right? Do you think it’s because they’re just being generous? Nope. There’s a real reason why they do it.

When you give to others without the expectation of things in return, something magical happens. People want to return the favor. They’ll buy from the person they received value from. In affiliate marketing, this boils down to giving free value in the form of a powerful lead magnet that helps solve a problem. If you can help someone for free, they’ll feel indebted to you. That’s just how this works.

Principle 3—Fear of Missing Out

One very powerful driver of human behavior is the fear of missing out. This is based on the scarcity principle. Think about it this way. When there’s something in limited supply, it forces us to act. We all saw this play out not too long ago with the so-called toilet paper shortage. The point is that there’s a rush to join or purchase something when it’s in limited supply.

This is a big lever for consumers that gets them to take action. People will not always purchase or sign up for something on their own. Sometimes you need to compel them with the fear of missing out. In affiliate marketing, that means implementing authentic scarcity (not fake scarcity) in a way that compels them to join or take whatever action you’re hoping for them to take.

Principle 4—The Ticking Clock

Another driver of human psychology is what you can call the “ticking clock.” Think about it this way. Whenever there’s a sale, there’s an impending deadline. That gets people to take action, right? If a sale lasted forever, would it really drive you to purchase? Probably not, right? But the fact that there’s an actual deadline gets people to take action. This is based on the urgency principle.

You see Amazon using this tactic every single time there’s a sale. There’s a ticking clock with a countdown for you to buy. Because, if you don’t buy before then, the sale will end and you won’t get that discount. You also see ticking clocks used in other places such as with the tax deadline, a paper due for a college class, registration for a kid’s summer camp, and so on.

Principle 5—Follow the Crowd

Most people follow the crowd. They are not leaders they are followers. They go with what the crowd is doing. Think about it this way. Whenever you see a long line for something, you wonder what it’s for. You also think that if this many people are waiting, it must be something good. This was proven in numerous studies that created long lines to determine social behavior.

People follow the crowd. Night clubs use this tactic all the time by creating an artificial line outside their club. They simply make people wait for long periods just to get into an empty club. When you see the long line, you think that it must be good if this many people are waiting. This is why so many people use social proof and reviews as a way to validate their business. It’s because people follow the crowd.

How To Pick The Right Affiliate Program

No matter what affiliate program you pick, it must feel right for you. Some do affiliate marketing just for the money and will join the company that has the highest payouts. That’s okay. And you can certainly do that. But if you really want to succeed as an affiliate, you should pick an affiliate program in a niche that you’re passionate about.

Naturally, some industries pay better than others. It’s just the nature of the game. Software as a Service (SaaS) always pays high. Other industries that skirt the line in legality also pay high. But you should avoid those at all costs. For example, ClickFunnels has an affiliate program that pays out 30% recurring commissions.

Other popular affiliate programs are massive affiliate platforms. Affiliate platforms let you to choose from many affiliate programs. You can search for the one that’s right based on criteria that fits your needs. There are so many of these platforms. Some of them include Rakuten, Shareasale, Impact Radius and others.

Building A Business vs Being An Affiliate

Building a business requires a lot of moving parts. It demands expertise, capital, product development, training, resources and employees. Every business owner knows that it’s not easy to build a successful business. That’s why so many people skip all the steps and jump straight into affiliate marketing. Making money as an affiliate is far easier than building an entire business.

However, many people think that affiliate marketing is the answer to all their money problems. They think that they can flip a switch and start making money as an affiliate immediately. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, especially when you approach it the wrong way. To really understand how to make money as an affiliate you must learn the strategies and tactics for getting the word out.

Remember that promoting an affiliate marketing program is not easy. That’s because you’re competing against thousands, or even tens of thousands, of other affiliates. When there’s a lot of money on the line, there will always be a lot of competition. To succeed, you must understand that and you must understand the principles for human behavior that get people to take action.

Ways To Promote An Affiliate Program

If you’re serious about succeeding with affiliate marketing, you must learn how to effectively promote any affiliate program. First, understand this. You should never send traffic directly to an affiliate offer. Instead, you must use a bridge page to collect contact information before they are sent to the actual affiliate program. Why? Because once they’re gone you may never see that contact again. And how will you ever verify if they signed up?

A bridge funnel is just a sales funnel that’s designed to capture the lead’s information. If you’ve never heard of a sales funnel, read this. Sales funnels use a predefined path to take the prospect on a journey through a single way forward. There aren’t multiple options to choose from. It’s just one distinct path and that’s it.

1—Create An Offer

To set yourself apart from the rest of the affiliates promoting your affiliate program, create an offer. An offer creates more value around signing up to a program with you as the affiliate. Your offer can include existing programs that you already sell, bonuses, video trainings, group coaching, online courses, and more. This makes it more enticing for the person signing up.

When you create an offer around an affiliate program, think about what you can include that will add more value to help the prospect succeed with their purchase. Weave some of the psychological principles into your offer such as the principle of pain vs pleasure. You can create copy about moving them away from pain and how the offer and this affiliate program help do that.

2—Email Marketing

Building an email list is an important part of marketing. If you’re not building a list, you should set one up. You can use our built-in email list management tools to send powerful marketing messages to those on your list. You can also build a standard lead generation funnel with a lead magnet to build your list if you don’t want to create an entire offer for the affiliate program.

Email marketing allows you to build rapport with the prospect. Even if they don’t join the affiliate offer, by getting them onto your list, you can communicate with them. Then, down the road, you could sell the prospect something. Remember that people buy from those they know, like and trust. And email is a great way to form that bond. You can read more about how to use email marketing in this book.

3—Social Media

Social media is a great way to share stories and build rapport with people. But it must be used wisely. It shouldn’t be used to spam your followers. Instead, ensure you have links to your lead generation funnels in your profile and post often in an authentic way. The more authentic you are, the more likely people will be to relate and want to join you in your affiliate marketing journey.

Lead magnets that help solve a problem in your niche are a great way to convert your followers into email list subscribers. However, most social media platforms rely on consistent posting. If you’re not posting consistently, you’ll find it difficult to grow your following. If you’re authentic, share stories, and post often people will naturally want to join your list.


YouTube is the world’s most popular video platform and the world’s second most popular search engine behind Google. There are so many benefits to using YouTube. But the biggest one is that it allows you to develop one of the most loyal followings of any platform. YouTube subscribers are very much on board with their favorite YouTubers, making it a great way to promote any affiliate program.

Like other platforms, YouTube also relies on consistent posting. Find problems that people are struggling with and solve those problems for free in your YouTube content. If you can help someone for free in a video on YouTube, they will surely think you can help them in other ways. This allows you to monetize your following.


Blogging is another great way that you can promote an affiliate marketing program. Blogging usually goes hand in hand with search engine optimization. You can blog in many places. However, typically it’s best to create your blog and share things there. You can also blog on sites like Medium, Substack, Twitter/X, and others too.

When blogging, think about the problems your prospects are struggling with. Then, create content around solving those problems. If you can help them solve these problems, and do it effectively, you become an authority to them. That leverages the power of reciprocity. You’ve helped them, now they’re looking for ways they can pay you back.

6—Run Paid Ads

Another way to promote affiliate programs is to run paid ads. Some of the most successful affiliates run paid ads to their affiliate offers. There are so many affiliate marketing strategies you can combine using paid ads you just have to pick the one that makes the most sense for you. However, this isn’t about blinding running ads to an offer.

When you set up paid ads for affiliate offers, they need to go to an offer or a bridge funnel. This way, you can collect the contact information of the prospects. Otherwise, you could be draining your wallet without at least placing those people on your email list.

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