Top 7 reasons startups should use affiliate marketing to boost growth

Startups encounter a lot of hurdles on their way to success, one of the biggest is their approach to marketing.

It’s not enough to just have a good idea and wait for the money to start rolling in. You need to get the word out. But how does a brand-new company, with limited resources, compete with long-standing industry giants?

One alternative that startups are flocking to is affiliate marketing.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a marketing model that utilises third parties (affiliates), connected to their own established platform to promote products or services.

Affiliates market your product on their own channels and are paid a commission for every purchaser that they refer by directing someone towards your site. It’s effective, flexible, and requires no up-front payments, making it the perfect marketing strategy for budding startups.

So, if you’re starting your own company, and you’re trying to get the word out, here are seven reasons to use affiliate marketing to boost growth.

1. Low-risk investment

If you’re running a startup, keeping your overheads as low as possible is an essential part of new business management and to ensure longevity. You probably don’t have the funds to just throw money at a marketing campaign that might not even yield much in the way of growth.

That’s why affiliate marketing is a perfect option for startups. Because you only pay affiliate marketers when they are directly responsible for a sale, you know you’re getting value for every penny, much like a pay-per-use public cloud service (another good money saver for online startups).

This works both ways. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a low-risk investment, meaning a guaranteed ROI (return on investment).

From the affiliates’ point of view, they’ll only get paid when they successfully boost your company’s growth, giving them a strong incentive to market your product to the best of their ability. Affiliate marketing firmly places you and your chosen marketers on the same team, working towards the same goal, and mutually reaping the rewards.  

Always be wary of scammers. There are unscrupulous operators out there, presenting themselves as affiliate marketers, taking advantage of the business model. They might divert spam, or bot calls, just to get the commission, or even post your business’s number on random websites, masquerading as another service entirely.

You’ll still get hits, and the affiliate will get paid. But this kind of traffic is inherently worthless, and won’t yield any kind of growth.

2. Flexibility

Because of the low-risk affiliate model, you’re not limited to the number of affiliate marketers you enlist. This means you can work with as many different marketers as you like, and you’re always ready for any prospective affiliates that appear on your radar. You’ll also have lots of options to recruit different kinds of affiliate marketers: Instagram influencers, blog posters, or a YouTube video maker - anybody you think will be a benefit to your startup’s brand.

The flipside to this is also beneficial.

Should you reconsider a partnership with an affiliate marketer, you can sever ties without losing any of your up-front investment, because there was no advance payment.

This is a huge advantage, as public opinion can change quickly. If, for example, one of your affiliate marketers starts engaging in some sketchy activities, or even just behaves in a way that is damaging to your brand image, you can safely distance yourself from them without losing any investment.

Marketing has moved far beyond the days of cold calling (telephony meaning). Now, you can find a bespoke marketer, with a unique platform to suit your startup’s needs. 

3. To create brand ambassadors

Affiliate marketing is a great way to get your company seen, for a lower cost. But it can also improve your brand’s image and authority if you choose the right affiliates.

Associating yourself with a well-respected creator will validate your brand in the eyes of consumers, and make them more likely to think fondly of your company, overall. So, even if they aren’t immediately buying your product, they’re fostering an innate familiarity and trust in your brand.

It’s not just consumers that will see your company; using trusted creators for affiliate marketing will also attract the attention of other potential affiliate marketers. There’s often a pilot fish effect that happens. Let’s say you recruit a well-known content creator to be one of your affiliate marketers. Their audience will likely include other creators who will then have exposure to your business.

These smaller content creators may then review your product on their own channels, or even approach your business to become an affiliate.

4. Reach targeted audiences

We’ve had a good look at the low-risk factor involved in affiliate marketing. However, that doesn’t mean your startup should just accept everyone as an affiliate. 

You’ll still want to connect to a specific demographic to see the best growth rate. Marketing through affiliates that aren’t on-brand can seem disingenuous, and may actually hurt your brand’s reputation, overall.

Luckily, affiliate marketing allows you to be selective about the audiences you reach.

First of all, you’re going to need to know who your target audience is.

When you know, you’re going to want to figure out what kind of content your target audience is watching, and a good place to start is with thorough affiliate marketing keyword research. Then you can be selective about the affiliate marketers that appeal to that audience. 

The best part about this is that they’ve already built their following, so you don’t have to lift a finger. They have direct contact with a huge pool of potential customers, so getting your brand in front of that audience is a huge opportunity for growth.

5. Trusted UGC

Affiliate marketers often operate on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, the home of some of the best user generated content (UGC) on the internet. The cornerstone of these platforms is authenticity and familiarity. They present content as genuine and legitimate. Because of this, viewers feel they have a more intimate relationship with content creators, and are more likely to follow affiliate backlinks.

This aspect presents a huge opportunity for growth, as viewers will trust their recommendations, and be more likely to divert to your site. It’s well known that word-of-mouth recommendations are among the most valuable when it comes to marketing. Affiliate marketing is like a personal recommendation, on a massive scale - a digital simulation of word of mouth.

Remember, this will only really work if you choose the right affiliate marketers to promote your product. Familiarity and trust are only going to come into play if it seems like something the affiliate would actually endorse. You wouldn’t find a beauty influencer plugging a virtual law firm, for example. 

6. Pre-established affiliate marketing networks

As a startup, you’re starting from the bottom and working upwards.

This means building your brand, products, and client base from scratch. Affiliate marketing is a great way to kick start market growth, but finding the right partners, and devising an affiliate marketing strategy can still be tricky.

Fortunately, there are handy affiliate marketing networking services that can point you in the right direction. They’ll connect you to affiliate marketers from all over the world, with links to any industry.

The affiliate managing company will take a percentage fee for finding and managing affiliates. But, if you can afford it, it’s a great option to make the most out of your affiliate marketing strategy.

7. Increased scale

Much like any good marketing strategy, affiliate marketing will produce leads, increase traffic, and eventually lead to sales. The advantage of affiliate marketing, compared to other strategies, is the way it affects search engine rankings. 

Because affiliates have their own networks and channels, any time you receive traffic from their referrals and backlinks, your domain will gain authority. With enough successful links increasing your authority, you’ll eventually be prioritized in search engine results, which will increase organic traffic. This is a particularly useful SEO strategy for your SaaS company. 

If done correctly, it’s a great way for start-ups to boost growth on multiple fronts. Short term, you’re boosting growth, but also setting yourself up for the future by cementing your startup’s place in the larger picture. 

Giving you the edge

It’s a strange time for startups. There's never been more competition out there, and there’s never been as much access to growth and expansion. We’ve seen companies flounder and fail, and we’ve seen them become overnight successes. 

With such an unforgiving and unpredictable business landscape, you’re going to need every edge you can find to make sure your startup stays in contention. 

When it comes to marketing, you’ll find that much-needed edge with affiliate marketing. It’s cheap, flexible, and, if done right, gives you the best opportunity to boost brand awareness in the places that matter most. Long gone are the days when you’d need a 30-foot billboard for brand exposure - you’ve now got affiliate marketers, with dedicated audiences, working together to promote your products.