Business Model Generation: Value network


Help others sell your products

Illustration of Affiliation
Run a Affiliation play
Key Partners Key Activities Value Propositions Customer Relationships Customer Segments
Key Resources Channels
Cost Structures Revenue Streams
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How: Support others to successfully sell your products. Affiliates typically profit from their performance through a pay-per-sale or pay-per-display compensation.

Why: Decentralize marketing to a network of partners and gain access to a more diverse customer base without scaling your own sales or marketing efforts.

This business strategy is part of the Business Model Patterns printed card deck.

Proven business models that have driven success for global leaders across industries. Rethink how your business can create, deliver, and capture value.

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In the Affiliation business model, a company supports other parties in marketing products in exchange for a commission on successful transactions. This allows the company to gain access to a diverse customer base without the need for additional sales and marketing efforts. Affiliates typically operate online and may receive a commission based on the number of clicks or impressions on an advertisement or a fixed sum based on the performance of a predetermined action by the customer, such as making a purchase.

The Affiliation model can be a useful business model for vendors looking to expand their sales channels and generate revenue, as well as for resellers who rely on commissions as a significant or even primary source of income. Many popular blogs, forums, price comparison sites, and product and service directories are funded or heavily dependent on commissions.

In order for the customer to ultimately be directed to the original vendor’s website, a unique identifier is often used to track the referring reseller. This allows the vendor to recognize and compensate the reseller for their contribution to the sale.

Where did the Affiliation business model pattern originate from?

The concept of affiliates receiving commissions for successful sales dates back to the early days of the internet. One of the first companies to implement an affiliate program was PC Flowers & Gifts, which sold its products on the Prodigy Network in the late 1980s. Just a year later, the company had an affiliate program with 2,600 partners.

The adult entertainment industry, with its intense competition, was likely one of the first to offer commissions of up to 50% per customer., founded in 1997, aimed to keep track of the increasing number of affiliate programs and financed itself largely through commissions earned from connecting businesses with distribution partners.

Applying the Affiliation business model

To be successful with this model, a company needs a strong ecosystem and dedicated customers. It can be an excellent option for businesses that cannot afford a direct sales force, as it leads to a mutually beneficial situation for merchants, customers, and other merchants.

The Benefits of Affiliation

The beauty of Affiliation lies in its potential to create a mutually beneficial situation for all parties involved.

For merchants, it allows for the generation of traffic to their business without incurring costs until said efforts lead to actual sales. On the other hand, customers or other merchants who facilitate the traffic are incentivized through financial rewards. If you are looking to attract a specific type of customer, Affiliation may be an ideal choice.

Additionally, it can serve as a cost-effective alternative to hiring a direct sales force.


Capture One

The photo editing tool was outmatched in marketing by the rival, Adobe Lightroom, until introducing an affiliate program.


Third parties feature Airbnb listings on their website and earn a commision for each sale generated.

Trigger Questions

  • How can you ensure high quality of your partner network and handle associated uncertainties?
  • How can you build and support a network of affiliated partners who understand and live your values as much as you do?
  • How might we capitalize on and retain new customers in the long term?
  • What is the most effective method for selecting the optimal partners for our affiliate network?
  • How might we mitigate the risks associated with managing the revenue stream of this model?
  • In the event that our partners fail to deliver satisfactory service, how can we effectively address any negative reactions from customers?

This business strategy is part of the Business Model Patterns printed card deck.

Proven business models that have driven success for global leaders across industries. Rethink how your business can create, deliver, and capture value.

Get your deck!

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