MALVERN, PA — In the age of social media, grassroots marketing has taken on a whole new look. Marketing programs that tap into user-generated content are more commonplace than ever. And with that, influencers and affiliates are partnering with brands of every size for paid endorsements with hopes of going viral.

In a “lunch and learn” webinar hosted by Emerge CPG, Kim Biddle, co-founder of Clutch Affiliate and an expert in the field, presented the benefits and key considerations for affiliate marketing.

Biddle is also a mentor in the Emerge CPG network and offers advice to its members on how to develop influencer and affiliate marketing strategies.

“The biggest question I get is, ‘Is affiliate marketing right for my products and my business’ stage of growth?’” said Biddle, who primarily works with emerging brands. “Wherever you are in your business right now — whether you’re a ‘solopreneur’ and just getting started or a $5 million or $100 million brand — affiliate marketing can be a winning growth strategy.”

One of the first considerations, she said, is knowing the difference between affiliates and influencers. Affiliate marketing can often be confused with influencer marketing, which operates quite differently and therefore yields different results.

While both strategies work with individuals to endorse products or brands, affiliates are typically seen more as partners, and the structure is performance based.

“At the most basic level, it’s a type of marketing that creates a system for rewarding people who generate sales or drive traffic to the brand,” Biddle said.

Those promotional activities could include anything from social media posts and videos to blog posts to personal word-of-mouth with co-workers, neighbors and friends.

Affiliates often have their own “share code” for people to enter when purchasing the product, which tracks the referrals an affiliate makes. Based on that, affiliates are compensated based on their performance of brand promotion and driving sales.

“Affiliates are seen as a natural extension of your sales team,” Biddle said.


“Whether you’re a ‘solopreneur’ and just getting started or a $5 million or $100 million brand — affiliate marketing can be a winning growth strategy.” —Kim Biddle | co-founder | Clutch Affiliate


Conversely, influencers are paid up front for content creation that supports a product or brand, typically per post or per reel. When looking at a long-term influencer relationship, that budget should be evaluated carefully.

While influencers have large followings with very broad demographics, their reach is very attractive for achieving large-scale brand recognition. On the other hand, an influencer is also likely to endorse several brands at one time, which could be perceived as inauthentic in certain circumstances.

“I’m a fan of influencers and believe you should definitely have an influencer strategy,” Biddle said. “But you just have to be very strategic when choosing your influencers.”

Meanwhile, affiliates look more like “super fans” of a brand, and they share that relationship with their followers and friends, often creating a more personalized endorsement.

That said, it’s not uncommon for an influencer to become an affiliate organically.

“It has absolutely happened for me with ‘real life’ clients,” Biddle said, “where we have paid an influencer to do some user-generated content, and they’ve said, ‘I love this product! Do you have a code I can use?’ That’s the best scenario.”

Knowing when — and how — to engage an affiliate strategy oftentimes boils down to a brand’s core demographic. It’s also the best place to identify potential affiliates.

“I’ve talked to several Emerge members about the importance of really knowing who your ideal consumer is,” said Julie Pryor, CEO of Emerge CPG. “There’s the person who really knows and loves your brand, the person who wants to buy your brand and tells their friends and family about your products. There’s a huge connection between knowing who your ideal consumers are and seeing them engage with your brand.”

While it’s easy to gravitate toward influencers and their reach, sometimes the best first step is to find the affiliate marketers that might be hiding in a brand’s own customer base. The primary difference is that influencers are person-centric and affiliates are brand-centric. Each can be useful depending on the individual marketing strategy and budget.

This webinar is part of the Emerge CPG Lunch and Learn series, available to members of the Emerge network, which is designed to help early-stage CPG founders become healthy trading partners and accelerate growth. For more information on joining Emerge and other upcoming events, visit