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Affiliate Marketing For Dummies - The 3 Key Elements To Success

“Miles, can you actually make money from affiliate marketing?”

I've been in the online marketing game for over 15 years and the honest answer to this question is… 100% YES!

The truth is, anyone who is willing to commit to the hard work needed can absolutely find success with this style of marketing.

But the key here is in how you do it.

Let’s explore a few tips in this guide.

3 Steps to Affiliate Marketing For Dummies - The ATM Method Explained

Before we get into detail with the steps, i'd like to share with you what affiliate marketing is NOT… because A LOT of beginners seem to be confused.

You’ve likely seen advertisements by fake marketing gurus, who are all just marketing  the same old B.S…

First and foremost, this affiliate marketing for dummies approach is not arbitrage.

It’s not simply getting affiliate links in front of people, peppering them with link after link after affiliate link, and expecting them to click and buy.

You are trying to generate traffic, yes… but you are not doing it JUST so that people will click on your affiliate offers!

Most people misunderstand this. They run an ad or try to build a list, but then spam their followers with far too many affiliate offers.

Then what happens? They complain that affiliate marketing doesn’t work!

To be successful in affiliate marketing, there are three giant steps to take. Let’s break it down for you in bite-sized pieces.



Let's dive in to making this work for your affiliate program. You'll see 3 a common elements emerge as we move through this affiliate marketing for dummies approach.

Here's each of the A.T.M. elements we'll visit and then revisit.

  1. Audience
  2. Trust
  3. Monetize


  • Audience

For all of this to work, you'll obviously need an audience (also known as a list) if you are going to be an affiliate marketer.

Taking the time to build a list could come from a variety of sources such as...

  • Social media
  • Search engine marketing
  • Paid marketing
  • Physically walking door-to-door
  • Hoping and wishing
  • Content marketing

I do not usually recommend social platforms for affiliate marketing as a starting point. Yes, for some industries it has its place, but it is not the best option.

I also caution you about going the paid route. Google ads and Facebook ads fall into this category.

If you're only an affiliate, it can cost you a lot of money to build up a list using paid ads, and it takes a LOT of skill as a copywriter to keep from wasting that money due to low conversion rates.

Again, we want to keep things simple... And crafting ninja-like skills as copywriter is NOT easy.

So, where does that leave us?

I actually recommend that people use content marketing, blended with SEO, to really build their list first. This consists of producing content, in the form of videos, podcasts, product reviews, and/or a blog.

This creates core, evergreen content for your overall affiliate program system. There's no way around it. The most affordable way to do affiliate marketing is by way of creating super high quality content.

Most people in the affiliate world don't have a ton of money to burn. Therefore, you'll be relying on your sweat-equity in the basic form of time.

Please understand, crafting your affiliate program will take time for it to really blossom.


  • Trust


If you think traffic and offers are the biggest parts of affiliate marketing success, you’ve got it wrong!

Trust is actually the number-one thing to work toward in the affiliate marketing for dummies model.

As an affiliate, trust is required for people to take action on the offers you promote. If they don’t trust you, they are not going to be very likely to click on your stuff or sign up for anything.

Generally speaking, trust is built by creating and publishing valuable content.

This is the extra step you need to become a rock star-level affiliate. This is often the main hurdle beginners face when trying to earn money online as an affiliate.

If you create content that helps your list solve their problems AND gets them closer to achieving their goals, you will be much more likely to build up that much-needed trust when the time comes to pitch an affiliate offer… because you will have already helped them.

As a general rule, you need to help them get results before you even show them any sort of affiliate link. Provide a ton of value, and show them that you are here to actually help them. These two tips are vital in creating trust.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful affiliate marketers is that unsuccessful marketers try to shortcut the system and make easy sales.

But they don’t develop trust when they do this!

So step up your content creation game and start building up that trust as you help your readers. Help them first, and you'll be training your email list to trust you enough to click on your affiliate offers.

If you only take ONE thing away from this article, then let it be this...

You MUST build trust with the list you create


  • Monetize


When it comes to affiliate offers, I would say that about 90% of my income is based on offers I promote in emails.

But I also have affiliate offers embedded within  videos, inside posts on my pages, inside blog posts, etc.

But ultimately, my direct email marketing is what earns me the most money… meaning that my email list is my ultimate asset.

Again, your goal should be to create a massive list of people who are interested in what you are promoting as an affiliate.

The thing about affiliate marketing through  email is that you have to know how to get conversions. You can’t just bombard your list with "buy buy buy". You have to get people signed up for your email list by giving them the chance to opt-into it.

Then, you use email as the powerful trust-building tool that it is, and you deliver content that will actually help your list with their problems.

Then, after week or so, you present you list with an irresistible offer.

This is often best done using a story... There is a fine blend of story-telling and copywriting needed here, andthis comes with practice.  But ultimately,you'll rely on copywriting to really sell your affiliate marketing efforts.

Creating quality copy for your offers will be the most difficult step in this affiliate marketing for dummies approach. However, once you dial that in... You'll be well on your way to creating tons of success with affiliate marketing.

Remember… when you are selling with affiliate links, you’re not trying to make a sale. You are actually trying to pre-sell the idea of this product, and then passing the customer on to the vendor for the actual sale.

But you want to warm them up to it by telling them how awesome it is, and by only recommending products that are actually going to help them.

That’s how affiliate marketing programs should work...

If you’re just doing arbitrage, and sending people from Facebook ads to an affiliate link, bouncing them all over… you aren’t going to make money online.

You have to build that trust. Get them to opt in. Help them. Then, show them something that will help them even more. Warm them up to the sale. Tell them how this product has helped you and why they need to buy it to help them solve their problem.

Just remember...

  • You must provide value and earn TRUST as an affiliate before you ask them to buy.

The Process of Affiliate Marketing For Dummies - How to Create Your ATM

Anyone can become an affiliate marketer. But if you want to earn real money online, you need to know how to nail down these three goals.

Let's now revisit the steps of the ATM system and how it fits into this affiliate marketing for dummies overview. The details that follow are what will make this process really come together.

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies Step 1 - Grow an Audience (Not a Niche)

First things first.

If you want to succeed at affiliate marketing, you need to work on getting those visitor numbers up.

You need customers!

And there are three things you have to have in place to make this happen.

Start Growing an Audience on One Platform

How do you connect with an audience, grow a business, and not get burned out?

You begin creating content on one platform only!

Try to crush Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a website on day 1, month 1, year 1, and burnout will quickly occur.

The most valuable affiliate customers you can connect with are people that find you when they are looking. Searching for a problem they need solved, an answer to a question they have, a what is the next step in “X” do I need.

Some people start with a blog, some start with video,  or a podcast. Any of these will work.

A super simple way is to browse a list of pre-made affiliate sites and just pick one! People struggle in the "niche" selection and really all you need to do is start taking action!

Make sure that your first platform feels natural to you. If you are a natural writer, blog. If you feel more natural talking to a video camera, choose YouTube.

If you love having discussions and talking deeply about things… do a podcast.

Get one platform launched and start creating content, here’s the type of content you need to begin to create.

~ ~ ~ Create Killer, Relevant, Helpful Content  ~ ~ ~

Content and platform go hand in hand.

You can’t just have a platform, and then create nothing to fill it up. For each blog post, think about  providing educational value such as tutorials, product reviews, and fun DIY guides.

Start creating awesome, helpful, relevant content that will help your soon-to-be  list. You need to choose a niche (audience) and then start creating content specifically for them.

Keep making content and keep leveling up your content game. That's the golden rule in this affiliate marketing game. Try a 90 day challenge to make one piece of content every day for 90 days. Make every piece better than the last!

Eventually, you will start to build that all-important list.

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies Step 2 - Earn Trust

Now you have a growing email list...

But how do you turn your those list subscribers into customers?

The only way to do this correctly is to start building trust.

Here are some different ways to begin this process.

~ ~ ~ Continue to Bring Value to Your Customers ~ ~ ~

When you share value, you build trust.

When someone helps you, you will start to trust them more. That’s really the short, simple answer.

Therefore, helping your list is one of the best strategies to use on your affiliate marketing journey.

You have to keep bringing value into their lives, even if they are not looking to spend money right now. Keep creating and sharing useful content that will improve their lives and help them.

As they start to improve their lives based on what you are giving them, they will come to trust and appreciate you even more.

And that will lead to you developing an actual relationship with them. This starts with valuable content in your affiliate marketing approach.

Then, you share with them a free eBook, webinar or even master class after they opt in. Crank up the value even more with this.

Now, engage your email list and keep giving them access to free information that levels up their lives and helps them to achieve their goals.

As you do this, you will be building the trust required to make sales when the times comes to promote offers.

Be value-oriented instead of just sales-oriented.

~ ~ ~ Strengthen Relationships with Previous Customers ~ ~ ~

My wife and I have customers who have been with us for YEARS.

How do we keep those bonds alive?

We keep nurturing the relationship and providing value in it!

It's simply ludicrous to think your affiliate marketing efforts are over after a sale has been made.

We keep them posted with updates. We share with them free content that adds meaning and value to their lives. We reach out to them to give them things that might help them in their goals.

We also follow up after we promote offers. We want to know how it worked, and we want to help them utilize it in the next phase of the journey.

Notice how this is "trust-first" sort of model. We genuinely care about providing value rather than simply obsessively trying to make money online with affiliate offer after affiliate offer.

Step 3 - Monetize & Earn Commissions

Once a customer, always a customer.

That’s what you want your affiliate marketing efforts to produce.

You don’t want a customer to buy just once, and then not buy from you ever again.

But how can you make this happen?

Within the "Monetize" framework of this affiliate marketing for dummies guide there are 2 basic things you'll need to do...

  • Build an ENGAGED list
  • Create irresistible offers

~ ~ ~ Build an Engaged List ~ ~ ~

Let's talk about building an engaged email list.

And if you haven't caught on, this is the big take-away you'll need to master in your affiliate marketing.

Sure, you can have followers on your social accounts and on your platform. But crafting an engaged email list from scratch will do 2 things...

  • Help you to communicate directly with your list to build trust and promote offers
  • Protect you from losing your ability to connect with your list if your platform were to suddenly change or shut down

But how do you build an engaged list? Easy!

You deliver value, value, value with your content. You use SEO to bring in traffic with that content.

You get them to opt in for the free thing, and bam! You're starting to create an engaged list! This is the step 99% of people WONT take. But it's this exact effort that will set you apart as an affiliate marketer won't take...

This is why trying to take an Amazon affiliate for dummies route doesn't often work because you tend to lose all the trust you just built in the void of Amazon.

~ ~ ~ Create Irresistible Offers ~ ~ ~

Are you offering them a product or a service that they can’t live without?

Is it something that will help them so much that it just doesn’t make sense for them not to use it?

Understandably, this can be hard to do for an affiliate. You won't want to promote just any lame offer. You'll need to really bring the goods. Remember, trust-building comes first - then you position reliant and irresistible affiliate offers.

It may sound elementary, but if we are truly taking an affiliate marketing for dummies approach then the idea of building trust FIRST really must come BEFORE an affiliate offer.



Once you have built up trust the right way, making the step to selling becomes easier. But you still need to structure your offers carefully.

And creating an irresistible offer is a big part of this!

This is where awesome copywriting really starts to come in. The better you get at writing copy, the better you will get at selling.

Your offer also needs to help your list TODAY. Not next year. Not next the full moon.

Therefore, your goal as an affiliate is to create irresistible offers that will help them immediately.

The Hidden Gem Inside The Affiliate Marketing For Dummies Plan

Here's the secret gem inside of this approach.

As you may have guessed - it's all about creating a MASSIVE email list that TRUSTS you.

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies Takeaway

As you grow in your skills and business savvy you'll come to realize there's an even better way to make money online.

You see, creating an ultra responsive mailing list that buys affiliate products is one thing, but directing your ultra responsive list towards products YOU OWN is what will take you to the next level.

You could offer a niche training in the form of a masterclass... You could write an eBook... Or even build out a membership site. The most important thing is that you focus on growing your email list… because ultimately, your list is your number one asset in this affiliate marketing for dummies approach.

At some point, you’ll have the inspiration and time to create your own product, maybe not!

If you do, you can easily introduce it to your list once the know, like, and trust factors are already set in place… because you will have been guiding your email list for quite a while at that point.

You will have used your presence and knowledge to solidify not only your expertise, but also your genuine concern and ability to help them solve their problems.

At this point, you will have been delivering real value for them for years!

And as you grow your list, you will also grow your income.

Affiliate marketing is an amazing online business that gives you 100% time and location independence. But it also does so with very low overhead, high margins, and residual income that will support your lifestyle for years and years to come!

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies - Conclusion

"For dummies" may be somewhat of a stretch.

This is a dummies guide, but in reality you're becoming a smart marketer. I urge you to think about human nature and how you personally choose to buy things online.

If you want a free video tutorial that explains how to start an affiliate marketing business from home in 2020, click here.

Typically the reason we pull out our wallet is because we've reached some level of trust with that person or company.

Thus the question remains...

How will YOU build trust with your list?