If you've ever considered recommending products in your newsletter—candles, t-shirts, books, or online classes—affiliate marketing could be a smart way to monetize: 81% of brands are willing to spend money on affiliate marketing. For newsletter writers with highly engaged audiences, that could be rent money in your pocket.
But where do you get started? I asked Raj Nijjer, the CMO of Refersion for his advice to introduce an affiliate marketing strategy within a newsletter.
1. What should newsletter writers understand about the difference between affiliate marketing and sponsorships?
Writers have a litany of monetization options. The ideal model depends on scale and audience size, coupled with credibility, trust and quality of content.
For newsletters with a large audience size and moderate level credibility and trust, sponsorships might make more sense. Conversely, newsletters with a limited audience and niche focus but high on credibility and trust, affiliate marketing makes more sense due to the readers’ loyalty to the writer’s authority.
2. What is the best case scenario to use affiliate links?
For affiliate links to work in newsletters, creators need to be authoritative about their content. A practical example of creating a recommendation section (with affiliate product links) requires a high level of goodwill from your readers that your content is not financially motivated, rather a trusted referral from the writer. For paid or free Substack newsletters with high retention rate and high level of writer expertise, affiliate links would be ideal with transparent disclaimers on affiliate relationships. Some best practices on links for newsletters are:
- Make every link trackable, you will thank yourself later.
- Make links visible in the body of newsletter.
- Readers must understand that they can click on the link.
- Create a special section for "Recommendations" or "Most Clicked" for social proof.
- Give context. Before your readers click to the brand website, give them a brief reason why the product will benefit them.
3. How does the math work? How do you understand how much money you can make?
There are three monetization tactics through affiliate links with unlimited upside depending on your reader engagement and audience size.
- Pay Per click - creator is paid a flat rate for every reader they send to the brand’s website; key performance metric is measured by increased web traffic.
- Pay Per lead - creator is paid for every potential customer sent to the brand’s website and for a desired action, such as providing lead contact information (first party data) or signing up for a free trial.
- Pay Per sale - most used of the three affiliate tactics, the creator is paid a commission (e.g., 1% to 20%) of every purchase via the brands unique product link.
4. What is "CPA"?
Cost per action. Because affiliate marketing is a type of performance based marketing, content creators earn money when a subscriber takes the target action like buying a shirt from the brand's website. Note that the action doesn’t have to involve a shopping cart; it can also be other actions like installing an app or signing up for a class.
5. Where can newsletter writers find brands that will agree to be affiliate partners?
When choosing a brand or affiliate partners, creators must offer products and services that meet their audience’s needs. Content creators can work directly with brands in your niche with discovery platforms like Refersion’s marketplace that connect brands and creators. For a broader topic and audience, take advantage of large publisher and influencer networks like skimlinks. You can put an open call for brands and referrals in your newsletter that navigates to a self signup page hosted by your affiliate platform.
6. Are there any downsides to affiliate marketing?
New users of affiliate marketing need to be wary of click fraud, return protection (for products), and ensure they work with brands that pay on time. Cookie based tracking solutions are increasingly becoming non-compliant with recent Apple and Google privacy changes, so you should research tools that support first party data. Affiliate platforms with robust order reporting will give you a vigilant point of view on any abuse or fraud.
7. What are the best tools to manage affiliate relationships?
The best affiliate marketing platforms manage, track, and help grow affiliate programs with first-party tracking, unlimited offers, custom commission structures and ease of payment. These tools also help you combat fraud with order approvals and spam protection.
8. Can a newsletter include both affiliate links and sponsored ads? Should it?
For large audiences, both strategies can work depending on your values as a content creator. If your newsletter is highly contextual, affiliate links make more sense (and can have higher conversion) than sponsored ads. For broader topics, sponsored content and ads might be an easier monetization strategy. Both require affiliate links with the right tracking in order to monitor their performance.
Follow Raj here for more insights.