A year ago, when I ran an ABestWeb contest for the best definition of affiliate marketing, Chris, who ended up winning the first prize, summarized things both eloquently and beautifully. He defined affiliate marketing as “the art of doing a merchant’s marketing better than they can, and profiting from it.” Many successful affiliates (also known as super affiliates) are truly better experts in what they do that most of the merchants that they promote. Consequently, they can market e-tailers’ products/services in such a way that merchants get incremental business, while they themselves make a good living off the per sale commission they get.
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.