Difference Between Affiliate Marketing and Subscription Affiliate Program

André Ruud
Updated: 11/28/2023
5 min read

Affiliate marketing is a thriving sector that spans numerous industries, from digital tools for writing and search engine optimization to the bustling world of fashion. In particular, the fashion sector, which primarily serves consumers directly, sees a significant influx of visitors via affiliate channels.

Difference Between Affiliate Marketing and Subscription Affiliate Program
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It’s increasingly common for brands in the health, wellness, fitness, and apparel sectors to collaborate with micro-influencers, who typically have a following of 10,000 to 100,000 on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. These influencers enjoy a robust rapport with their audience. There’s also a growing trend of nano-influencers, who, despite having fewer than 10,000 followers, foster a dedicated niche community.

A company might operate both a subscription-based affiliate program and a standard affiliate program, each serving distinct purposes within the business strategy.

Affiliate Marketing

At its core, affiliate marketing—sometimes called partnership marketing—is a system where affiliates endorse products from other businesses. They earn a commission when a purchase is made through their referral. The commission might be a share of the sale, a fixed amount per transaction, or a set fee for each click, depending on the terms set by the company offering the product or service.

In this performance-based setup, affiliates take on the role of driving sales, acting as catalysts for conversions. The key to a successful affiliate program lies in engaging advocates who can effectively communicate with the company’s intended customer base. Although these affiliates are usually strangers to potential buyers, they can sway purchasing decisions through content marketing, such as by crafting insightful product reviews.

By combining the strengths of the affiliates with those of the advertisers, affiliate marketing becomes a dynamic and collaborative approach to reaching consumers more effectively.

Subscription Affiliate Program

A subscription affiliate program is a business model where companies with subscription-based services compensate content creators for driving new sign-ups.

These creators, known as affiliate marketers, use their influence to spread the word about your services. They weave recommendations into their content, whether it be on websites, blogs, or social media platforms, embedding links that guide their followers to your subscription offerings.

When a follower clicks on one of these links and decides to subscribe to your service, the affiliate is rewarded with a commission for the successful referral.

Essentially, this means that a portion of your revenue from the new subscription goes to the affiliate, as a token of appreciation for acquiring a new customer.

Affiliate programs are particularly beneficial for subscription services. Affiliates are not only adept at endorsing products and services but are also viewed as authorities in their respective niches. Their followers trust their opinions, which makes them highly effective at converting recommendations into new subscriptions.

Ideally, the most effective affiliate marketers are those who are genuine subscribers themselves. Their authentic experience with your service lends credibility to their endorsements, making their recommendations all the more persuasive.

Example of Subscription Affiliate Programs

The affiliate marketing landscape is booming, with forecasts suggesting it will surpass $8 billion by 2022—a significant jump from its valuation in 2015. For subscription services, affiliate programs are generally a smart strategy, but launching one should be more about strategy than following trends.

Let’s explore a trio of subscription services that have harnessed affiliate marketing effectively, covering software, subscription boxes, and digital content. These examples are a source of inspiration for any subscription service considering an affiliate program.


The first example that we’ll discuss is ActiveCampaign. It’s a platform specializing in customer experience automation. They lay out the earning potential for affiliates upfront, with starting commissions of 20% that recur with each subscriber renewal. These commissions can escalate to 30% for the enduring subscriptions that affiliates introduce.

The earnings here can be substantial. ActiveCampaign shares that affiliates average $1,350 per referral, with some influencers raking in colossal sums monthly.

Moreover, ActiveCampaign equips its affiliates with a suite of resources to kickstart their passive income journey, including marketing materials like graphics and videos, as well as access to educational webinars.

[lasso ref=”activecampaign-email-marketing-automation-and-crm” id=”4315″ link_id=”1397″]

They’ve also established an affiliate portal for easy access to marketing tools, communication with the brand, and sales tracking. To top it off, affiliates are welcomed into an exclusive online community for updates and exchange of tips, fostering a collaborative environment.


Kajabi is in the business of educational content subscriptions, and they make their affiliate partnership appeal immediately clear. Right off the bat, they assure potential affiliates of earning commissions for every successful referral, painting a picture of a steady passive income stream.

The commission structure is not just attractive but generous. Kajabi offers a 30% commission that continues for the entire lifespan of the subscriber’s account. This means that as long as the customer maintains their subscription post-trial period, the affiliate earns a consistent income.

The criteria for joining Kajabi’s affiliate program are straightforward, targeting entrepreneurs who are likely to benefit from and contribute to the platform’s growth.

To make the deal even sweeter, Kajabi arms its affiliates with a plethora of tools designed to streamline their efforts. This includes customizable templates, exclusive webinars, and a comprehensive suite of video assets. Such resources underscore Kajabi’s commitment to ensuring that affiliates have a seamless experience partnering with them.

Additionally, Kajabi incentivizes its affiliates with a tiered partner program. Advancing to higher levels unlocks further rewards, demonstrating Kajabi’s thoughtful approach to fostering long-term affiliate relationships and keeping their marketers engaged and motivated.


Here is the end of our article. We hope by now you have understood the fundamental differences between subscription and affiliate marketing, as well as the underlying mechanics and benefits of each. Consider your affiliate subscription program as a long-term investment with the potential for high rewards. Setting specific goals, allocating sufficient resources, and carefully selecting the proper partners can help you realize its full potential. To guarantee the long-term success of an affiliate marketing program, it is essential to follow industry best practices. This involves fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with your affiliates. Use professional software tools for the management and optimization of your application.

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