Commission Junction — This site serves as a clearinghouse for thousands of companies and small businesses looking to get into the affiliate business. It offers myriad affiliate programs, but you must apply separately to each one. Payout rates vary wildly, up to 50 percent, and some commissions are based on leads or clicks vs. sales. Frustratingly, Commission Junction deducts $10 from your accrued earnings for every month in which you don’t actively earn commissions; if you let your account lapse, your income could get wiped out.
There are two ways to approach affiliate marketing: You can offer an affiliate program to others or you can sign up to be another business's affiliate. As the business driving an affiliate program, you'll pay your affiliates a commission fee for every lead or sale they drive to your website. Your main goal should be to find affiliates who'll reach untapped markets. For example, a company with an e-zine may make a good affiliate because its subscribers are hungry for resources. So introducing your offer through a "trusted" company can grab the attention of prospects you might not have otherwise reached.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.