Recently I was speaking with someone who was signing up for an affiliate program that I manage. She mentioned that she had been in several network marketing companies prior, and I was intentional to let her know that affiliate marketing is not the same as networking marketing. Surely, you can sell to those you know as an affiliate, however true success in the affiliate marketing world comes from building a community around a field of interest, then monetizing it by referring people to affiliate offers.
Typically, in an affiliate marketing sale you don’t know your end customer, never meet them, and (thankfully) you are not responsible for making the transaction or fulfilling delivery of a product or service. Some (smart) network marketing companies – such as Legal Shield – do allow you do have a website that can handle your transactions so technically, you could get affiliate type sales if someone knew what they were looking for and found your website.
Some companies do offer a two-tiered affiliate program, which might be where some of the confusion comes in.
In my opinion, the big difference is that while both can (and should) be driving by online marketing, historically network marketing is based on relationships and affiliate marketing is based on transactional relationships created online.
Additionally, many networking marketing companies actually limit the types of online marketing their distributors can engage in. I believe this is because they cannot control the conversations, but many of them do it anyhow. In the past, I had a networking marketing company ask me to stop marketing online because my content outranked theirs and they said I had a competitive advantage over other reps. Another company would not approve my lead magnet (the free ebook I was giving away to build my list).
What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of networking marketing and affiliate marketing? Do you prefer one to the other?