How Do You Explain Affiliate Marketing If Someone Never Heard of It?

When a friend or family member asks you: “So, what exactly is it that you do for living?” what do you reply? How do you explain affiliate marketing to someone who has never heard of it?

I love how Eric Nagel puts it in the header of his blog: defining “affiliate marketer” as one who “makes money by making other companies money.” Eloquent and so true!

One of my personal favorite analogies is an ice cream truck one:

Short Explanation

You’re a kid. It’s a hot summer day. You know that an ice-cream truck passes your neighborhood, but stops on a street just around the corner. You work out a deal with the ice-cream truck driver where he would pay you a 20% commission of every ice-cream sold to the kids that you bring to him. You’re an affiliate/performance marketer now.

Longer Explanation

You’re a kid. It’s a hot summer day. You both possess the knowledge of the ice-cream truck’s route, and have access to and means of influencing the ice-cream truck’s primary target audience. You agree with the ice-cream truck’s driver on a remuneration he would pay you 20% of every sale for every customer you refer to him. The guy is interested in growing his business even more, and agrees to pay you a 30% commission if your monthly referred sales exceed 20, and 40% if you send more than 50 sales/month… So there you have it. We’ve also covered an example of a performance-based incentive.

How do you explain affiliate marketing to friends, family, or someone who has never heard of it?

8 thoughts on “How Do You Explain Affiliate Marketing If Someone Never Heard of It?”

  1. I like to keep it short – affiliates are those who promote others’ products and get a commission when referring customers that make a purchase.

    Then, if needed, I gradually go into details – e.g. niches, methods of promotion, tracking – the cookies story, etc.

    So far so good with this 🙂

  2. Its like when there is 2 hotels next to each other.
    I stand outside the door and direct people walking towards the hotel to the one i want them to go to.
    That hotel thanks me by paying me a commission for sending them a customer.
    Only i do it with Google and when someone searches for hotels its my website listed first on google and i choose which hotel to send them.

    1. That is a good one too, Earl. I like it, because it’s honest (or leaves room for being honest). You may be recommending one hotel, but not the other, and that’s because you’re being compensated for it.

  3. Like the ice cream truck and hotel examples, I also find that specific example the person can really relate to works well to help those unfamiliar with affiliate marketing understand what it is.

    First, I’d briefly explain that it’s promoting other people’s/companies products, typically online, where you earn a commission on sales (or leads).

    I then ask them to name a hobby or interest or what they do. Example, they say they’re a Professional Organizer. I explain that they can become an affiliate of companies who sell products to help people get organized. There’s no cost to become an affiliate (in most cases). They can then recommend what they think are the best organizing products to their clients and to their site/blog visitors using a special link issued to them by each affiliate program which identifies them as the referrer. When their client purchases a product they’ve referred them to, they earn a percentage of the sale.

  4. Pingback: Affiliate Marketing in Layman’s Term « aroundcagayandeoro

  5. I about to give up trying to explain it to people. Besides that it’s more fun to make things up when I’m asked what I do for a living… I’m a professional gambler… or.. I could tell you what I do for a living, but then I would have to kill you…. j/k 😉

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