Evangelism Marketing versus Affiliate Marketing

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Last week I held an affiliate marketing seminar at the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University). Regardless of the fact that the MBA students just had an exam before it, the seminar produced a lively discussion [pictures here] with multiple good questions asked.

One of the questions was:

Is affiliate marketing any different that evangelism marketing?

And the context is important here. The question was asked very shortly after I mentioned turning happy customers into affiliates.

It is a good question. There are some parallels, but there is also a substantial difference in the underlying motive. The definitions will help us here.

When speaking of evangelism marketing Mark Frazier wrote:

Evangelism Marketing is the process of making customers so happy they freely sell your product for you.

Evangelism Marketing costs less and is more effective than traditional advertising based marketing. After years of being lied to and annoyed by interruptions people get very good at ignoring and even avoiding advertising.

Word of mouth is at the heart of Evangelism Marketing. …when you have a great experience you tell your friends and they are grateful. If their experience is also great, they become an evangelist as well.

Ron Paul Revolution: History in the Making, p. 33

Additionally, I really like Dov Seidman’s summary:

Evangelist marketing cultivates advocates or volunteers and encourages them to take a leadership role in actively spread the word on a company’s behalf.

How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, p. 142

When it comes to affiliate marketing, on the other hand, we find the following definitions:

Affiliate marketing is an agreement where one firm (the marketer) compensates another firm (the affiliate) for generating transactions from its users.

Strategic Affiliate Marketing, p. 43

…and, of course, one from yours truly:

Affiliate marketing is essentially performance-based advertising, whereby affiliates promote a merchant’s product/service and get remunerated for every sale, visit, or subscription sent to the merchant.

Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day, p. xxix

Do you see the fundamental difference?

In evangelism marketing happy customers do the marketing in a voluntary manner — because they are so satisfied that “they freely sell your product for you.” Case in point: I was so happy with my recent stay at Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht Hotel that when I had the opportunity, I openly recommended them to my 9,000 Twitter followers.

In affiliate marketing, however, affiliates (be they happy customers, or just independent marketers who chose to promote your product) are marketing your products/services not “for the love of it,” but because they are being compensated when a conversion happens.

So, as mentioned earlier, while there are some similarities between the two, there is also a major difference in the underlying motive.

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