The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.
Today’s affiliate landscape has evolved from primarily traditional coupon, loyalty, and blog affiliates to now encompass social media influencers, business development partners, and even paid media partners. You need streamlined workflows that make it easy to recruit, onboard and manage each partner on the same platform. You need instant access to performance metrics and actionable insights—and the tools to identify and block fraudulent partners. And you need custom tracking solutions to meet your unique needs.
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So I was like, “How many of you guys are affiliates, how many of you guys are networks, how many are both?” It was kind of split down the middle. I was like, “I come from a unique perspective, because first off, I’m a really successful affiliate. This is a Ferrari I won in an affiliate contest.” I showed them the Ferrari I won, “But I’m also a really successful vendor, network. In fact, that same Ferrari I gave away two years later. I won a Ferrari as an affiliate and I’ve given away that Ferrari to an affiliate. So I’ve been on both sides of this game. So I have a kind of unique perspective.” And I wanted to show them, this is how simple this business could be.
Though the glory days may be behind us, affiliate marketing remains a multi-billion dollar industry and a primary source of income for thousands of successful online entrepreneurs. As the number of merchants embracing affiliate marketing strategies has increased, new opportunities have been created for Web publishers able to build an audience and effectively promote affiliate offers.
When you have your own product or service you hold a lot more control of the funnel from beginning to end. But I’ve worked with many marketers to help them better control the best affiliate marketing funnel with banner ads, blog posts and social media. Once people move from those elements to the sales page – I help them control their message and email marketing campaigns and everything behind the scenes.