Affiliate marketing and network marketing are some of the most popular ways to generate income online. While they share some similarities, there are key differences between the two that set them apart which are worth noting. This article takes a look at the two, going into as much detail as possible to help you have a better understanding of how these opportunities match up and which might be the better one to invest in.
WHAT SIMILARITIES DO THEY SHARE?
If you have ever attempted to find opportunities that will allow you to work from home, chances are that you have come across affiliate marketing and network marketing opportunities as both allow you to do so.
Affiliate marketing and network marketing are business models where as a marketer, you work as part of an independent team. Companies opt to adopt these business models as they don’t have to invest too much in advertising costs or any other similar costs as they can simply rely on their sales representatives or affiliates (in case of Affiliate marketing) to sell or promote their products on their behalf.
Affiliate marketing and network marketing share the following similarities:
- Home business opportunities
Both of these opportunities allow you to work from the comfort of your home with a company as opposed to for a company.
You can control your schedule and work whenever you please. That said, how much you work will affect the amount of money you make from these opportunities.
- Low startup costs
Compared to conventional businesses, both affiliate marketing and network marketing have low startup costs, which partly explains their popularity.
- You don’t need to have your own products
Another attractive feature of both of these business models is that you don’t need to have your own products. You simply become part of the opportunity and start promoting the products you are presented with. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about providing customer support or taking care of shipping and packaging costs. This makes it much easier to establish your home-based business.
WHAT IS NETWORK MARKETING?
Network marketing, often referred to as multi-level marketing (MLM), is a business model where you become part of the business opportunity as an independent distributor, after which you are required to build a network of distributors by recruiting other members beneath you, creating what is referred to as a downline.
Network marketing makes use of the direct selling business model, where distributors are required to sell products directly to consumers, which eliminates the need for retail stores or anything similar. As an independent distributor, you can purchase products from the company you are working for at wholesale prices and sell them directly to customers at markup prices, or you may have your own replicated website set up by the company where you refer customers to make purchases.
There are two main ways you can earn with this opportunity: selling products and by recruiting other members. You can earn money through recruitment because commissions in your structure are passed up. This means that if you bring in a new distributor, you will earn commissions based on their efforts to sell the company’s products, and if they recruit someone else, both you and the first distributor will earn commissions from the efforts of the second distributor. If the second distributor brings in another person, you, the first distributor, and the second distributor will earn commissions from the third distributor’s efforts to sell products and recruit other people.
The number of levels you are eligible to earn commissions from as a distributor varies greatly depending on the specific compensation plan in place as well as the company you work with. The structure used to distribute commissions to distributors also varies, but in general, network marketing businesses tend to have one of the following structures:
- Binary structure
- Unilevel structure
- Matrix structure
All these structures have a pyramid-like layout, where you bring in new members and they automatically go beneath you, and when they bring in new members, they go under them, and so on. The incentive for members to continue recruiting others is to earn commissions from your downline.
Network marketing business models are similar to pyramid schemes in the sense that they have a similar commission structure, but unlike the latter, members sell actual products to customers, which is what sets them apart. Genuine network marketing opportunities present customers with real products, and most of their revenue is sourced from sales they make to them.
It is quite common to find pyramid schemes disguised as network marketing businesses in which members are forced to buy products, and while the revenue from these opportunities still comes from the sale of genuine products, it isn’t considered as customers are pressured into making purchases. Most of these types of opportunities tend to mostly focus on the recruitment of new members rather than product sales.
GETTING STARTED AS A NETWORK MARKETER
Before joining a network marketing opportunity, it is important to do as much research as possible to find a genuine company that sells quality products. Keep in mind that you are expected to do direct selling, which means you will be tasked with convincing customers to buy what you are selling. For instance, you will want to avoid companies in niches that are overly saturated as you will have a hard time recruiting new members due to intense competition.
When you first become part of this type of opportunity, you’re usually required to buy some sort of starter kit that gives you access to a range of products you are supposed to sell as well as materials you will need to get started in the business, such as a replicated website, access to a back office, marketing materials, etc. Some companies may even go as far as providing you with formal training, or more commonly the person that brought you into the business will provide you with some coaching.
- No specific requirements to join
Anyone can become part of these opportunities as long as you live in an area where the company operates.
- Low startup cost
Most network marketing opportunities don’t require a lot of investment, although some need you to make very expensive purchases to become a distributor.
- Allows for flexibility
This is a type of earning opportunity that allows you to work in your free time when you’re starting.
- Low earning potential
There is a high likelihood that you will make little to nothing with this opportunity as it is structured in a manner that allows only a handful of members to earn a considerable amount of money.
- You have to pay to become a member
As previously mentioned, you are typically required to make some sort of purchase to become part of a network marketing opportunity. Some businesses may even require you to pay monthly.
- You need to constantly recruit new members
You will need some level of skill when it comes to recruiting new members to become part of the opportunity as it is one of the main ways you earn commissions.
- You don’t have a say in the products you are selling
You have no control over what you are selling as you are just an independent distributor. This means you have no control over the quality of what you are selling.
- It can take a while to build a customer base
It can take quite a while to recruit new members as well as build a reliable customer base.
WHAT IS AFFILIATE MARKETING?
As an affiliate marketer, you exclusively earn commissions when you make a sale. The basic steps of affiliate marketing are as follows:
- You promote products through affiliate links
- A prospective customer clicks on your link and is redirected to the page of the seller
- The customer buys the product
- You receive a commission
There are a variety of affiliate programs out there, with most of them paying their affiliates percentage commissions.
DIRECT AND INDIRECT AFFILIATE PROGRAMS
When you join a direct affiliate program, you sign up to become a member directly through them. On the other hand, indirect affiliate programs outsource the work to a given affiliate network which then finds affiliates on their behalf. Either way, the payment structure is more or less the same.
GETTING STARTED AS AN AFFILIATE MARKETER
There are multiple ways you can choose to promote the products you are required to sell. You can carry out promotions on your website, social media platforms, YouTube channels, and so on. Most affiliate programs usually require their affiliates to have their own website, with many of them providing you with instructions on how you can set up one that would help you sell their products.
Once you set up your website, you may need to create content that is related to the niche that you choose to focus on. Some affiliate programs may require that you have content and site visitors before you qualify as an affiliate, so it is important to go through the requirements for the programs you intend to join before becoming a member.
As an affiliate marketer, it is important to drive traffic to your platform as it will determine the sales that you make. There are a variety of ways to generate traffic. They include:
- Building an email list
Email marketing has been around for quite some time, but it is still one of the most efficient ways to direct traffic to your platform. To get started building your email list, you can use a lead magnet such as a free product, or you can opt to simply urge customers to sign up to receive regular updates. Once you have an audience, you can then push your content via emails in addition to sending them your affiliate links.
- SEO techniques
This is the methos I use to the exclusion of all others (at the time of this writing). This is a way to drive traffic by using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Some strategies you can use to improve your ranking on search engines include adding keywords on your sites using HTML headers and sourcing links from related platforms that are popular to your site
- Paid advertising
One of the ways you can get started with paid advertising is through social media platforms such as Facebook. You can also try using inexpensive banner ads on small niche sites.
- Higher income potential
When compared to network marketing, the earning potential working as an affiliate marketer is higher, especially when you find a genuine company that pays high percentage commissions.
- Low startup cost
The cost of getting started will depend on the affiliate marketing program you choose to work with, as well as how you choose to go about it, but it is generally low.
Like with network marketing, affiliate marketing allows you to control when and how much you work.
- More options when it comes to products
You have more options when it comes to the products that you promote as an affiliate as there is not as much limitation as with network marketing.
- It can take a while to establish your business
Just like with network marketing, it can take a while before your business gets going and you start earning steady commissions.
- No guaranteed income
Unlike with a conventional job, there are no guarantees that you will earn an income working as an affiliate marketer as you are an independent contractor.
While they share some similarities, there are some key differences between network marketing and affiliate marketing, with the main one being the pay structure. With network marketing, the main focus is on recruitment. While you can make money by selling products, recruitment is just as crucial. With affiliate marketing, you get paid solely from the successful recommendations you make.
I believe that MLM’s can be a good way to make money online and a few people have proven this to be the case. But the many lawsuits against MLM companies and convictions on pyramid scheme grounds make me shy away from it. I also do not like having to push products to friends and family. I hate the reliance on building a downline. If these things don’t bother you, then MLM is absolutely a good way to make money online.
But if, like me you hate selling stuff to people close to you and building a network of sellers under you, then Affiliate Marketing is the way to go. It is the way I went and I have not looked back. I love what I do. I write about interesting topics and help my audience solve their problems. I don’t sell them anything. I test products and recommend the ones that I believe will help my readers. If they follow my recommendation, I get paid. If they don’t then I don’t get paid. Simple!
While the concept is simple, I don’t want to mislead you! Affiliate marketing takes some specific skills and hard work to be successful. Don’t worry, none of the skills are too technical. In fact they are in the reach of everyone reading this post!
If you are interested in exploring affiliate marketing I would love to help you get started.
I will be waiting on the other side to answer all your questions. It is completely free to start so you have nothing to lose and much to gain!
To your success,
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