What is affiliate marketing & how is it different than MLMs?

This is always a tough subject to talk about because as much as it’s annoying, these marketing scenarios are beneficial to some people…if done right. Also, because we’re talking about affiliate marketing, disclaimer: this whole post has some of my affiliate links.

We’ve all been there. You’re on Facebook scrolling through your feed when you get a friend request from a mutual friend. You think, “If they’re friends with so & so, they must be cool. I’ll add them”. You accept the request and no less than 5 minutes later you get a message:
“Hey! I see you’re friends with _____________. They recommended I reach out to you and we should be friends!”
You chat for a bit and about 2 minutes later you get the sales pitch:
“So, I’m putting together this small group to talk about clean healthy eating where I’ll put nutritional information in and we can all keep each other accountable. Would you be interested?”

You guys…If I made money from every time I received a message like this from FB whether it’s from a new friend or old friend I haven’t talked to in years, I wouldn’t have to work for a while ?

For some people it’s annoying, but for other’s this is how they make money working from home. So what is this type of marketing and why has it taken over our social media feeds so quickly?

What is MLM Marketing?

MLM Marketing also known as referral and/or recruitment marketing is a direct-sales approach where you get paid based on the sales you make AND the people you recruit. In some cases you even have to purchase product and have an inventory to sell directly to consumers. For those who are successful with this approach, it can be a steady residual income. Some popular MLM companies currently are Beachbody, Itworks, Lula Roe, Younique, & Rodan & Fields. I personally know several people who make 6 figures in these companies.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is earning a commission based on promoting products, you’re not directly selling the item.  You suggest a product & if the client goes to purchase with your link, you get a small kickback. You don’t have to worry about buying & selling inventory. You literally make money online from talking about products you use & love.

Which one is right for you? Let’s discuss the top 3 differences between MLM & Affiliate Marketing.

Membership Prices

MLM: Most of the time you have to pay to become a member, coach, specialist, whatever they call you when you join. For some it’s a monthly fee, for other’s it’s a yearly fee. Some companies charge as little as $29/mo, while others charge $299 a year. When you’re a member, you get specials & discounts as long as you hold that membership. Some MLM companies require you purchase inventory each month to resell while others take care of the shipping for you.

Affiliate: 99% of the time there is 0 upfront cost. The only time you may pay to join is if you want specialized training & tools. When you join affiliate programs which larger companies like Target or Amazon, they provide the links to use for the products you want to advertise at no cost. It helps them get more traffic through your audiences and you’ll make 4%-10% from every product sale!

Tools & Training 

MLM: It varies from company to company. Some do online trainings. Some hold massive conferences & conventions. Some provide basic content for you to share. More often then not, I see many people who run into these companies leave within months because they weren’t as prepared as they had hoped going into it. I would recommend for anyone who doesn’t have a marketing background to research what tools & training does the company provide you with. Do they suggest other methods of direct sales besides messaging people on social media (that you may or may not know). Do they provide mentors who have had success within the company? Do they provide websites, print materials, etc?

Affiliate: Most affiliate programs will supply the graphics to advertise along with a custom link for you to share. Most also show you the analytics for traffic you’re getting, conversions, email leads, etc. When it comes to training, that’s also dependent on the company. Most companies have a basic simple dashboard with your sales. For example, I just signed to be an affiliate for the web hosting company I love, Flywheel. They not only gave me a folder full of images & banners to use to advertise, but they also send monthly emails with marketing ideas, and they have an e-book with tips for being an affiliate! Now THAT is cool! Here’s a glimpse of the affiliate dashboard. Super easy to read, understand, and see where I’m at money wise. Now I just need to get some numbers up, eh? 


MLM: MLM marketing relies on personal relationships & trust. Members are encouraged to create their own content and do the tactics like mentioned above with direct sales. Some members may do in person sales like hosting weekly parties, online parties/groups, or local pop-ups. Advertising online can be a bit difficult though especially when so many other people are trying to sell the same product. Remember when FB wasn’t full of 100 different sales posts? Even though Facebook is a marketing tool, the issue is many personal profiles have become salesy. If you’re part of an MLM group, consider starting your own FB fan page built around you. Share how the product is changing your life. Share testimonials. Share images. Share videos. Target a niche & let them come to you. You know what my friends who are making 6 figures selling shakes all have in common? They created brands with FB pages, blogs, and content for people to watch, learn and be encouraged by. You have to be willing to essentially be part of the business to sell the product by being a team player.

Affiliate: The key to affiliate marketing is having an online presence. Getting an increase in traffic means more potential for someone to click on the links & purchase the products. Having your own website or blog is necessary to do this…actually, no, I take that back, you could do it from social media, but you *might* get more of a return from a site or blog. Advertising strategies could include doing written or video reviews of products, sending out links within email marketing campaigns, sharing content on FB, showcasing banners on your blog sidebar, and focusing on Search Engine Optimization. Some companies will even provide you with the content to share! With Amazon, it’s super easy. They provide the links & graphics to share (I’ll share one of my amazon affiliate links below this). All you have to do is put a disclaimer letting your audience know that there are affiliate links. Depending on the product, you can take home between 1-10% of the product sale.

Which one is better?

Honestly, both make money and you could always do both if you wanted to!

The MLM approach is riskier because you have to be willing to put in the work and money to make it work. If you play your cards right, you could make a steady income & work at home by selling products for the company.
Affiliate Marketing is easy because it’s simply sharing things you love already via email, social media, blogging, and receiving a small kickback when a purchase is made.


Have you made money from affiliate marketing or MLM marketing? Any advice to give other visitors here?

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