Use influencers to grow your small business
If you’re a small business owner who’s looking to get started with brand reps and affiliate marketing, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, I’ll give you an overview of what brand reps, ambassadors, and affiliates are, and I’ll also provide some tips on how I use brand reps and referrals in my own handmade business, Cabooties. So whether you’re just starting out or looking for tips to expand your referral program, let’s get started!
Affiliate Marketing Overview
Affiliate marketing sounds fancy, but it’s actually pretty simple: an influencer promotes a product in exchange for a fee, store credit, or free product. You can even partner with other businesses in your niche. After more than 5 years of working with brand reps and referrals for my handmade brand, I can confidently say that they have been the most consistent, cost-effective method for spreading the word about my small business.
As a small business owner, affiliate marketing is a great way to increase your reach and raise brand awareness without breaking the bank. It has low upfront costs, but it helps you build trust with your brand reps’ audiences and can drive traffic to your site. There are a few ways you can implement this kind of marketing without investing too much money upfront, including:
- Brand Rep or Ambassador Program (managed manually)
- Affiliate Program (managed with an app like Affiliately)
- Referral Program (managed with an app like Yotpo Loyalty)
I’ll walk through these options to give you an idea of which one might be best for you.
Brand Rep or Ambassador Program
Brand reps and ambassadors are social media influencers who promote your products and share your shop with their friends and followers.
In this kind of relationship, your business provides products at no cost, in exchange for promotion and/or photos. You can also give them a discount code to share with their followers to encourage them to buy and to help track the efficacy of their referrals.
This is a mutual partnership. Both parties should benefit and neither one should be taken advantage of.
When entering into a relationship with your new reps, it’s important to set clear expectations so they know exactly what they’ll need to do if they agree to join your program. Make sure that what you’re asking them to do is in line with the kind of content they already create (don’t expect amazing videos from someone who only posts photos or professional images from someone who only snaps candids with their phone).
To find brand reps, I recommend starting with your existing customers because they already know, like, and trust you. If you have a customer who loves to share your brand online, invite them to join your team! If you’re just starting out, scroll Instagram for accounts that match your target customer and that have images that fit your brand style, and reach out to them with an invitation to collaborate. (Be sure to follow and engage with their account first so you don’t come off as spammy). Influencers with more followers obviously have a bigger audience, but I personally prefer to work with micro-influencers with 5-20k hyper-engaged followers. They tend to be less expensive to work with, and more dedicated to supporting your brand.
In traditional affiliate marketing, publishers earn a commission by promoting a product or service made by another retailer or advertiser. The affiliate receives a payout for providing a specific result to the retailer or advertiser. Typically, that result is a sale.
For small businesses, the easiest way to use an affiliate program is by using an app like Affiliately or ShareASale. (I prefer Affililately for Shopify stores because of the pricing model).
To launch your affiliate program, you’ll need to find blogs or influencers who are willing to link to your website. I recommend searching for your competitors, or for complimentary products to see what blogs are already featuring them. Reach out to those publishers to see if they would be willing to expand their existing articles to include a link to your products as well.
This method relies on your existing customers to evangelize for your brand and works best if you’ve already made a few sales. You’ll set up an app on your website (I use Yotpo Loyalty at Cabooties) but there are lots of options. The app will automatically give your customers a link to share with their friends and followers. The people they share your brand with will receive a discount toward their order, and they’ll receive some kind of reward (like store credit) whenever their link is used to make a purchase.
Affiliate Marketing Wrap Up
As you work to find the perfect audience for your small business, it can be hard to build up momentum. Affiliate marketing, brand reps, and referrals are a great low-cost way to get the ball rolling and get eyeballs on your products and services. I’m always bringing you new, free resources to help build and grow your small business. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!