The Emerging Class of Super Affiliates

Affiliate SummitThis week I am at the Affiliate Summit and I will be bringing you several reports from there.

The Affiliate Summit is the big U.S. event for affiliate marketing. In case you are not familiar with affiliate marketing, it describes a method of marketing online where one business (an affiliate) gets paid for every sale, lead or customer delivered online to another business (the merchant).

Affiliate marketing falls under the radar of the most of the population. If and when the public does think of affiliate marketing, all too often it is colored with stereotypical notions of under-employed individuals in pajamas … hobbyists, if you will.

But that stereotype is changing. Just like the Web, affiliate marketing has matured. Today, affiliate marketing is a $6.5 billion industry.

The merchants who sell through affiliates often are household names. For instance, some of the merchants featured at Commission Junction (a network that brings together merchants and affiliates) include Dell, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Apple, Staples.

And to be successful as an affiliate, it takes more skill and creativity than simply inserting banners or links into a static website and forgetting everything for the next six months. Today’s affiliates are tech-savvy sophisticated marketers. They’ve long since graduated from being part-timers (if they ever were that). Now they may have 5, 10 or many more employees or independent contractors working in them. Even midsize organizations, such as magazines and trade associations, serve as affiliates of larger merchants.

Every industry has its superstars, and the affiliate marketing industry is no exception. Those stars are called “super affiliates.” Let’s just say that a super affiliate is an affiliate that makes a lot of money — AND makes a lot of money for the merchants represented. This presentation (PDF) from the Summit explains the method of one super affiliate, who says he makes six figures each month. The presenter, Amit Mehta, also writes a blog with in-depth tips for entrepreneurs aspiring to become “super affiliates.”

Affiliate marketing is an industry that much of the general public is not aware of. I mean, when was the last time you heard a kid say, “I want to grow up to be an affiliate Internet marketer”? Likewise, you won’t find the business of affiliate marketer well defined in any government NAICS code.

Still, regardless of how little known the affiliate marketing industry may be to the uninitiated, it’s a meaningful economic force. And the people and companies that drive the industry are getting more sophisticated all the time.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.