There are a number of participants in the affiliate marketing space. To easily understand both where you fit and who you should work with, here is a simple overview of the ecosystem:
- Merchant: The Merchant/Retailer/Brand is essentially the entity that is looking to acquire customers through affiliate marketing, and is paying, based on a fixed $ per lead/phone call, % of sale, per visits, etc, for a referral for a potential or actual customer.
- Agency: As in traditional marketing, there are Affiliate Marketing agencies such as us, Affiliate Mission. We perform a wide range of tasks, including: affiliate recruitment & relationship management, concept & design of advertising creatives, or promotion distribution.
- Network: The Middleman. Affiliate networks provide both the technical infrastructure and the business logistics for affiliate marketing to operate. Responsibilities include: 1) running and maintaining the tracking software that credits referrals from affiliates for actions, 2) recruitment for both merchants and affiliates, and 3) handling all of the financial details (tax forms & payments for affiliates and merchants). Some examples include: Commission Junction,LinkShare, PepperJam or ShareASale
- Affiliate: The Publisher or Affiliate is the website that 1) finds customers, 2) qualifies customers, and 3) refers the customer to the Merchant. Common forms of affiliates include CSE (Comparison Shopping Engines), Blogs or other Content Publishers, Mailing lists, or SEM/Display Advertisers.
- Customer: This is the person that 1) The Affiliate finds, and then refers to the Merchant, 2) Buys products/services from the Merchant, and 3) Pays or subsidizes the whole affiliate marketing system.
See the infograph below to get a picture model of the what’s explained above.