How to build a sales funnel for affiliate marketing: your complete guide

Are you trying to monetise your blog with affiliate marketing?

Great for you!

Because bloggers who make between $7,500 and $25,000 per month get 42.2% of their revenue through affiliate marketing, according to a recent study from SEMRush.

It goes without saying that you probably want to be in that 42.2%. And your affiliate marketing funnel plays an important part in that.

What is an affiliate marketing funnel?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the topic, we need to make sure we understand what we are talking about.

There is the marketing funnel, which you have probably heard about before. It’s a model to visualize users’ journeys throughout your website pages from the first touch to conversion.

Then there is affiliate marketing, which refers to a network of partners, bloggers, companies and agencies (called affiliates) generating sales for a business in exchange for a commission.

So today, I show you how an affiliate marketing funnel is built.

Here’s what you need to know.

How to build a sales funnel for affiliate marketing

What is an affiliate marketing funnel?

So what is an affiliate funnel?

Affiliates intercept the market demand for a determined product and generate referral traffic to the product they are promoting – and the funnel is the process that move visitors towards the last step of the conversion path, your landing page.

The focus being, of course, on the affiliate product that’s being promoted.

The standard digital marketing funnel is defined by three main sections:

  • Top of the funnel
  • Middle of the funnel
  • Bottom of the funnel

And the same goes for the affiliate marketing funnel.

The top of the funnel encompasses all the tactics and marketing tools you use to grab people’s attention. These are the potential customers who are not yet aware of your brand. So you need to generate traffic in order to capture this demand.

The middle of the funnel is where you generate interest.

At this stage, potential customers are aware of your existence and are becoming interested in what you have to say – but not necessarily what you have to sell.

The bottom of the funnel is where you start motivating people to buy, and also the stage at which people consider what you have on offer.

It’s important to note that there is also the post-sale stage, where you nurture your new customers to become loyal brand advocates, inspiring a repeat purchase.

Why a specific affiliate type of funnel works best for affiliates

If you are a business doing SEO to attract new customers, you probably know how to identify your most commercial keywords that drive the sales.

A few examples:

  • “best credit cards”
  • “best website builders”
  • “best digital marketing courses”

These keywords are a few examples of the most converting keywords.

The problem for a company is that Google mostly shows affiliates and aggregators on top of its search results.

By the way, I talk about these changes in SEO in this article.

affiliate SERPs

There is no way a business can rank for these hyper competitive keywords with stellar metrics.

When the word “best” is in the query, the keyword difficulty is suddenly high or very high. It’s almost impossible for a brand to compete.

Also, the user intent in the word “best” is really clear. A used wants to find out which brand to buy based on what affiliates and other users consider it as best one.

Unfortunately, a company can’t serve the query because by definition a company is biased when reviewing its own products or services.

Nor Google or the users trust a company reviewing its own products.

And it’s not just about SEO, also paid ads are part of the same system of search aggregators.

So a business’s best chance to rank high, both organically and with paid ads, is to be featured in that list of top, recommended products. Which means businesses have to pay affiliates for every sale they generate.

This system works very well for affiliates because they have a good chance of being ranked pretty high for commercial keywords, where they capture their ideal customers through content that compare and reviews products.

That’s why the traditional marketing funnel doesn’t work for affiliates. They need their own conversion funnel.

Defining the stages of the affiliate funnel

Now that we know the differences between a traditional marketing and an affiliate funnel and we also know the reason why an affiliate funnel is necessary, it’s time to define the stages.

You can see a very simplified version of the funnel above, but the stages of a comprehensive affiliate marketing funnel include:

  • Exposure. Involves the creation of advertising material and SEO-driven content to put your brand in front of the right audience on Google and social media.
  • Discovery/Interest. Involves creating high-quality content on your website along with dedicated landing pages to maximize time on site. Includes free content such as trials, eBooks, cheat-sheets, tutorials, and more.
  • Consideration. Involves creating personalized experiences and offers to prompt the potential customer to buy. Includes product and price comparisons, limited-time offers, bundle deals, discounts, and the like.
  • Conversion. Involves prompting the customer to complete the purchase. Includes personalized guidance and support during the purchasing process.
  • Customer nurturing. Involves customer onboarding, thank-you emails, as well as personalized post-sale content to make the customer feel secure in their decision to buy.
  • Retention. Long-term customer nurturing and ongoing communication. Includes the delivery of high-value content on a regular basis, as well as regular check-ins with unique offers reserved only for loyal customers.

Each of these steps includes different but complementary digital marketing tactics and materials that support the potential customer on their journey.

With all of this in mind, here are the best practices to help make these stages even more powerful and effective.

5 Best practices for a winning affiliate marketing funnel

Now that you understand the different stages and the kind of content and approach they require, we can move on to more advanced tips and best practices that will put your funnel above your competitors’ funnels.

Here’s what you can do.

1. Pick a high paying affiliate offer

The main component of an affiliate funnel is picking a great offer. Just to be clear, an offer in affiliate terms is a product or service to promote.

What makes an offer great?

Here a few factors:

  1. Have a passion for that product. Given you have to promote it heavily, you need to like it too.
  2. Make sure your audience will like it. It’s not just you, but also your audience, the potential customers, have to like it too. There must be a great relevancy in place.
  3. The product is really good. You don’t want to promote products with low reviews with bad reputations. Nobody will buy it.
  4. The commission is substantial. If a product costs £10 and the commission is 10%, you only earn £1 per sale. It’s too low and not worth your efforts.
  5. Find out their average conversion rate. It’s always a good idea to test a new product before committing to it. Make sure their conversion rate is high enough. For an e-commerce product, for example, the average conversion rate is 3%.
  6. Payment methods. Make sure they offer decent payment methods, like PayPal or bank transfer. Also, affiliate programs often have a minimum threshold, for example Fiverr affiliates pays you when you reach at least $100 in commission.
If you don’t know where to start from, check this list of 50+ highest paying affiliate marketing programs.

2. Automate key processes to boost efficiency

One important tip is one that tends to get overlooked until digital marketing expenses start to pile up: automation.

Automation might be a popular buzzword, but that doesn’t negate its ability to create a cost-effective affiliate marketing funnel.

The main idea behind automating digital marketing funnels as well as affiliate funnels is to minimize financial waste while maximizing the power and potential of all the marketing materials and tactics we mentioned above.

With that in mind, here’s what you can automate:

  • Social media posts
  • Paid ads
  • Customer data collection and reporting
  • Content delivery based on customer data
  • Email drip campaigns to feed customers quality content
  • Customized content and offers
  • Emails to remind customers to complete a purchase
  • Onboarding messaging and copy
  • Direct messages on social media

These are just some of the processes that modern tools allow you to automate, and while you don’t need to invest in all of them, choosing a few key automations will make a world of difference for your digital marketing budget.

Most importantly, email automation allows you to deliver better content to your customers.

3. Generate leads with powerful lead magnets

A lead magnet is any piece of free marketing material that incentivizes a potential customer to become interested in your brand, products, or services.

Marketers use lead magnets to generate leads and collect valuable customer information for the purpose of delivering more personalized experiences down the road, and for nurturing potential customers toward conversion.

With that in mind, here are some lead magnet ideas you can use:

  • Checklists
  • How-to guides
  • Case studies
  • Reports
  • Lists
  • eBooks
  • Templates
  • Toolkits
  • Planners and calendars
  • Workbooks
  • Printables
  • Calculators
  • Quizzes
  • Curated articles
  • Tutorials
  • Infographics
  • Educational videos
  • Webinars
  • Free events
  • Audio books
  • Predictions and forecasts

As you can see, there are many potential lead magnets you can create to spark interest and engage your audience.

It’s important to identify the key drives, pain points, and goals of your potential customers and then match them with the types of lead magnets that are relevant to them.

You also need your lead magnets to convey value.

There’s no room for frills or fluff in your lead magnets – they need to serve a concrete purpose and provide information and content that will help people solve a specific problem.

4. Build optimised and specialised landing pages

A landing page is a dedicated web page where people “land” after clicking on your ad, a link on another website or platform, or on a link in an email.

Unlike standard web pages, a landing page is highly specialised to solve one specific problem and sell one specific product or service.

A standard page might have numerous goals, but a landing page has one clear call to action, and one clear offer intended to inspire the visitor to convert.

Landing pages are a key part of the B2B marketing funnel as much as they are important for B2C businesses and companies or all sizes – because they convert.

Needless to say, you need landing pages to push affiliate products and support your affiliate marketing funnel.

To that end, you need to make sure your landing pages are:

  • Visually appealing with branded elements
  • SEO-driven and optimized for visibility and performance
  • Tailored for a specific part of the customer journey
  • Personalized for a specific group of customers who are interested in the affiliate product
  • Optimized with the right messaging and tone of voice
  • Scaled in terms of written and visual content

5. Invest heavily in email marketing

Email marketing plays a fundamental role throughout the digital and affiliate marketing funnels and their stages.

It may not be a crucial tool for the Awareness stage, but it thrives in all the subsequent stages after you have sparked attention and have begun to collect customer data.

In the B2B realm, email marketing is the most used marketing channel; for example, in B2C it allows businesses to achieve numerous goals pertaining to acquisition and retention.

With that in mind, your emails should be:

  • Customized for every stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Scaled in content and what it offers based on the stage of the funnel
  • Optimized with enticing subject lines and copy
  • Optimized with visuals and CTAs
  • Optimized with engaging above-the-fold content

Not only does email marketing open a direct line of communication with potential customers, it allows you to automate drip campaigns and nurture customers for long-term retention and brand loyalty.

Skyrocket your sales with the perfect affiliate sales funnel

Ready to start building a powerful affiliate marketing funnel to boost lead generation, conversions, and customer loyalty?

If you use this system as your sales generation funnel template, I am sure you can succeed with it (while also having fun and less stress).

Be sure to use these best practices to take your business forward in the competitive online world in 2023 and beyond.

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