Affiliate Marketing vs Network Marketing. The Better Option

Affiliate marketing and network marketing are often compared vs one another and I stand by the belief and proof that the better option is the former one.

Having built an entire business from doing affiliate marketing (AM) and on occasion experimenting with network marketing (NM), I want to tell you the following:

  • Which of these options is better (AM is).
  • Which of them is safer for you to build a business from (Again, AM wins).
  • And also, which one is more profitable (I argue AM is still better).

affiliate marketing vs network marketing

Here’s a video you can check out I did which will save you reading time:

affiliate marketing start

But there is more info covered on affiliate marketing and network marketing and if you wish to read that, let me start by explaining (or reexplaining if you watched the video above) each business model briefly (but clearly) so we know…

The main difference between affiliate marketing and network marketing explained:

With affiliate marketing (AM), you are promoting products you generally do not own.

You can easily start a business in this field by having just a website, signing up to a program that allows you to promote their products, get a specific link from them, and send people to that link to get paid. Here is a full guide on affiliate marketing.

With network marketing (NM), you buy products from a specific company for a generally large price and in large quantities up front, with the goal to resell them to people (your network usually) for a larger price than you initially paid to make profit.

In other words, you buy a product and then resell it, but the product purchased is supposed to be high in quality, thus easier to sell. 

Also while we’re on the topic of NM, let me say it is not the same thing as MLM (the difference between MLM and network marketing explained) and when it comes to comparing MLM specifically to affiliate marketing, I do that here, and also clearly explain why AM is better.

Now that we’ve gotten those definitions out of the way, let me state that while the specifics of each business are different, when you put them in practice, they actually overlap in many ways and it can be both confusing and clear…

Both models are broadly similar. For example:

With both models, you are essentially practicing AM itself.

After all, no matter what product you promote/sell, you are still a middleman aiming to sell something. You just don’t own the product in one model and do in the other.

And at the same time, with both options you are essentially practicing NM because the people you sell to are going to be part of your personal circle. It can be a business circle, it can be a niche audience, an email list, it can even be friends and family (this last one by the way is a bad idea so no matter what, ignore that last option, unless you want to ruin a relationship).

So as you can see, these similarities can often make seeing the real differences between them hard and it is a big reason why a lot of people don’t know the differences and conflate that both these models are the same. They are not as there are a whole host of differences between them we will discuss now, including the many…

Advantages affiliate marketing has over network marketing:

There’s 3 main advantages:

1) There’s no real cost to start in most cases. Less risk.

Right now, in most cases, you can head over to places like Clickbank, Amazon, BestBuy, Commission Junction, JVZoo and a plethora of other programs out there, register with their affiliate programs and start promoting the products, without any up front cost.

In other words, it won’t cost you a penny to become a middle for them. 

Now with NM, such an option is out of the question. You HAVE to buy the products you’re going to sell right off the bat. And this poses a financial risk because if you don’t make the necessary sales, obviously your investment will lead to a loss and usually companies that practice NM will have the people who buy the products from them buy them in bulk, meaning you can’t just order 1 product, you have to order a package or the same items in bulk.

2) You promote popular items, for a fair price (no rip offs). 

Generally when you practice traditional AM, you are promoting items that are popular and being sold. This usually means the price for these things is pretty well known. There are exceptions such as high ticket items or things like high ticket schemes, in which that is not the case, but when I practice AM, I prefer promoting products for fair prices.

Now the main point here is that with NM, you usually don’t buy the same popular market items, but rather knockoffs and/or supposedly higher quality versions of popular products for vastly more expensive prices. 

Now this obviously impacts the person whose thinking of buying something. Let’s say there is a popular weight loss pill called pill A being sold all across the world. It is a huge seller on Amazon and it costs $10 per bottle. 

A NM company may have a similar diet pill (B), say it’s better than pill A and sell it for $20. Thus, the consumer, when seeing pill B, who knows about A will essentially be paying twice as much and if they know about the popular pill A on the market, they are more likely to buy it because it is more popular and as an added bonus, it’s cheaper.

And that is another huge reason why many NM companies don’t do so well. They make their initial sale to the distributors (the ones who will then resell the product), but the distributors then have problems selling it to a larger audience (Hint: Sell to a niche audience that would love to buy the product. Learn more here about niches).

Now obviously, with good sales techniques, they increase their chances of success, but it is still an huge uphill climb for them when they are trying to sell a product in a market where there’s cheaper and more popular mainstream items competing vs their product.

Fair pricing is huge and no consumer wants to be ripped off. Sure they are likely to pay a little bit more if an item they badly want is hard to find, but with the way NM companies make it, the price difference can be so huge, that one might even think it’s a rip off to get it.

3) A lot less brainwashing going on with AM.

Lots of network marketing companies love to pitch their products as being the most amazing, revolutionary product in existence and they do that to basically make the sale to the distributor. But often times, the claims they make are hyped beyond belief.

With affiliate marketing, because you aren’t buying anything off the bat, it is your choice on how you wish to promote it and while I encourage all of you to do it honestly and try the product before using it, there isn’t that over the top layer of brainwashing in this, at least not as much as there typically is in NM.

That’s been my experience.

My final thoughts:

I can absolutely give you numerous advantages network marketing would have over affiliate marketing. However, I have seen far more failed attempts and more money lost in that than I have in affiliate marketing (because with AM, there’s less and even no investment) and I have indeed built a huge business from it.

I will say that a person who possess good and great marketing skills can sell just about anything, but if you’re looking to get involved in ANY of the options to above to build a business, don’t do it until you understand it well enough and know the risks. 

Each business option requires a lot of effort and experience to create something out of. One of the best ways to start is with a website, a niche audience and to build it up to attract more of the niche audience to it. 

I know this explanation may be confusing for a lot of you, but don’t worry. If you wish to get involved in this stuff and become successful in doing so, here’s what you need to do:

If you have personal experience with either option of building a business, I’d love to hear your story and if one or the other (or even both) worked for you. Which do you prefer and why?

4 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketing vs Network Marketing. The Better Option”

  1. Network marketing reminds me a lot more of traditional physical stores where you are literally the middle man between the producer and the customer. I guess that’s why people get themselves involved in it. 

    People tend to stick to what they know or at least have some experience with. The are afraid of exploring new concepts. There’s also the point of you actually owning the products you’re selling. 

    Seeing them sell one by one is supposed to give you more short term satisfaction as opposed to affiliate marketing, which is more focused on having a long term consistent income.

    • Hi Faheem, I agree with your points, but let’s also not forget that with affiliate marketing you can also buy the product and promote it. It’s that when the promoting part comes up, I don’t need to buy more and more of the same product to resell it, so my investment is $0. 

      If I were doing network marketing and wanted to sell a product to 10 people, I’d need to buy the product 10 times to have that right, and that would cost me a sizable investment. 

  2. Honestly, I have nothing against NM, but I prefer AM much more. Hands down. If someone really wanted to get into network marketing, they should just try their hand at finding and buying items on their own and then they can try to resell it via their own website, Amazon, etc… 

    I definitely recommend going down the AM route, but I also recommend flipping items over network marketing any day.

    • Great points Nate. I’d also add one of the reasons I like affiliate marketing is that I can buy an item personally and if I really enjoy it, find an affiliate program which will allow me to promote it, WITHOUT having to buy more quantities of the item to resell. 

      For example, I talk about a case study here where I purchased a backpack, really enjoyed it and decided to start promoting it. I made about 20+ sales doing this, and invested $0. 


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