In both affiliate marketing and MLM, you promote someone else’s products and get a commission for a sale. However, in MLM, you have what we call downlines—people under your umbrella. If they make a sale, you still get a commission, albeit smaller.
Today, I will share the subtle differences between the two. By the end of this comparison, you should be able to make an informed decision about which one is better for your marketing endeavors.
Difference 1: Choosing a Product to Sell
In affiliate marketing, you are at liberty to choose the products that you want to sell. For example, you can choose a niche and then promote products under that niche. As such, affiliate marketing is profitable.
For example, let us say that you want to promote web hosting service providers. In this case, you can build a website or a YouTube channel where you review these products and then recommend what you think is the best for your fans.
There is no limit to what you can sell. If there is a new company that offers web hosting, you can register and then promote that too. In essence, you can promote many brands like Bluehost, Siteground, Hostinger, Hostgator, and so much more.
You cannot do this in MLM. In a multi-level marketing platform, you have to sell the company’s products and nothing else. Some of them will not even allow you to sell another MLM product that is in direct competition with them.
Another issue with MLM is that companies tend to serve several niches at a time. For example, Avon has a lot of beauty and apparel products. As such, it is difficult for a seller to find the right market.
Difference 2: Cost of Joining the Company
Joining an affiliate marketing program is free. I have never seen an affiliate program where you have to pay any kind of registration fee. If there is a fee, people immediately brand the company as a scam.
To join an affiliate program, you only have to register. This, of course, does not automatically mean that you will get approved.
Many companies want to make sure that they only deal with legitimate affiliate marketers who will not ruin their brand. I cannot blame them.
To get approved, you must have a platform that is active. Examples of these platforms are blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook, Instagram, and many more. You should be able to prove that you have a following and that you can promote the product.
In MLM, you have to pay a registration fee. Often, you have t buy a set of products. The companies say that this is your business “seed” or capital. Little did you know that they already made a profit off of you.
In MLM, the company does not really care who you are. For as long as you pay the “entrance” fee or joining fee, you got your feet in the door.
Difference 3: Control on Promotion Options
MLM products are difficult to promote. First, you have to present the products in person. For example, you have to go and visit your neighbor and show the company’s brochure.
Sure, you can do this online. You can put up a website, but there are many rules about misrepresenting the company. MLM companies also do not create affiliate links.
In essence, if someone orders from you, you need to go to the company’s local office to get the product, pay for it, and then ship it to your customer.
Affiliate marketing does not work this way. You can promote the product in so many ways. You can put up a blog, create a landing page, launch a YouTube channel—the choice is completely up to you.
You can even purchase PPC ads if you want to. Just make sure that you follow the rules of engagement. For example, you cannot misrepresent yourself.
As an affiliate marketer, you cannot tell people that you work for the company. You need to tell people that you are an affiliate and that you earn a commission if they click your link and buy.
There are also laws from the FCC about how affiliate marketers should represent themselves. Despite all these rules, it is easier to promote products as an affiliate marketer. Do not mislead people—it is the key to succeeding.
Difference 4: Collaboration Options
You have a few collaboration options in MLM. You can have downlines, which means you have to convince people to become MLM marketers too. They have to register as you did and then promote the same products.
Whenever they make a sale, you get a commission from that sale. However, they have a bigger commission than you do. As the levels get deeper, you get smaller commissions.
In affiliate marketing, you can collaborate with other content creators. For example, you can do a webinar or host an interview and make it look like a podcast.
The benefit of this is that once you launch that content, those people will share it with their network. So, as a result, you get more traffic, and more people will see your affiliate link.
Collaboration is one of the keys to success online. If you do not work with people, you will have a hard time building your band. In MLM, you cannot do this. Pretty much, you rely on your own. You also depend on the marketing that the company does.
Summary: Affiliate Marketing Vs. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)
Affiliate Marketing Vs. MLM: what is the better choice? My take is that affiliate marketing is far better than multi-level marketing. It gives you more leverage and options. You can decide what you want to sell and then promote the products in many ways.
MLM is also costly. You have to buy the product before you become a member. Affiliate marketing programs do not require any money. Register, and then get approved, and then you are good to go.
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