Harry and Hermione. Holmes and Watson. Batman and Robin. These famous duos span age groups, eras and the globe because they all have one thing in common: While each would be competent on his or her own, the pairs are indestructible together.

The same goes for the potential appeal your business could have with its own sidekick: an affiliate marketer.

Superhero-Cape

While some direct response marketers have the advantage of selling directly to consumers -- through TV infomercials and direct mail -- internet marketers require a middleman to reach their full potential.

Affiliate marketers use a variety of tools -- from Facebook pages to YouTube videos to Pinterest boards -- to reach people who might be interested in your product. An affiliate might use a self-owned, high-traffic website to direct traffic to you. He could have a mailing list of customers interested in products like yours. Tactics vary among affiliates, but the independent promotion always earns them commission on their sales.

Is affiliate marketing right for your business? Here's how to tell:

You have a clear idea of who your target market is. Affiliates have to understand your product's ideal demographic. Otherwise, they can't target the right people. If you don't understand your target market, neither will they.

You don't have many channels competing for your business. If you have a direct sales team or maintain relationships with wholesalers and resellers, you may not have a wide enough margin to afford affiliate commissions.

You lack a brand-building budget for yourself but have the funds to pay a skilled seller. Affiliate marketing could be ideal for you -- it's a completely performance-based compensation structure. If the affiliate doesn't make sales, you don't pay.

Affiliate marketing can have a profound impact on the growth of your business -- especially since the costs are variable. Because you only pay an affiliate if he's successful and there are little to no fixed costs, it's an effective way to get your products to market. In fact, affiliate marketing is responsible for a significant portion of the revenue at a number of successful companies.

For example, Beyond Diet, a program created by Live Smart Solutions, was the second most-searched diet product on Google in 2012. Largely due to affiliate marketing, its revenues grew from zero to eight figures in three years. Peak 10 Publishing is another excellent example. The sale of its survival guide and products grew 500 percent in just a year by leveraging strong affiliate relationships.

Since you can't weed out affiliate marketing candidates by who wears his cape the best, here are a few qualities to watch for:

The affiliate has promoted other products in your space. If he's familiar with your niche, he'll likely be more successful than someone who doesn't understand the product category.

He makes his living doing this. A part-time affiliate is probably a dabbler who hasn't invested the time and resources to become proficient. Look for full-time professionals instead. These affiliates are much more committed and willing to work through challenges to achieve results.

He has good street cred. What do other product owners say about the affiliate? Don't be afraid to ask for references and work samples -- they can be illuminating.

By ensuring you have a clear understanding of your audience, evaluating your competitive landscape and investing in a competent, experienced partner, you'll be able to introduce the right people to your product at the right time. A sidekick could be the best thing for the growth of your business.

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