What is CPA? The special affiliate system to multiply your sales without investing a single euro


Can you imagine having a global network of salespeople? What if you only had to pay them for each sale they got?

You wouldn’t risk anything, but you could increase sales enormously.

That wonderful idea is called CPA marketing and we’re going to explain what it is and what you have to do to start using it.

Let’s get started.

What CPA marketing is (and what it has to do with Cost per Acquisition)

You’ll see it clearly with this definition:

CPA marketing is a business model based on an affiliate system (you pay a commission each time an affiliate gets a user to carry out an action).

There are two main concepts to explain:

1. Affiliation

It’s called affiliation marketing when a company (or influencer) recommends products or services provided by a different brand and earns a commission per sale.

What’s the draw?

  • You don’t make any effort to capture new clients – the affiliates do.
  • You only pay per sale (you don’t risk your money – the affiliates run the risk of wasting their time and effort).

If you want to learn more about how affiliate marketing works, read this post.

2. What exactly is an “action”?

The concept of an “action” is what differentiates CPA marketing from affiliate marketing.

While with the latter you pay per sale, CPA marketing is a wider concept since the “action” may include different things:

  • Getting a potential customer to check the price of a product.
  • Having a visitor watch a video (to the end).
  • Capturing a lead through a form.

And, as we said before, you’ll pay a commission each time a visitor comes from them and completes the action.

3. So what’s this Cost per Acquisition (CPA)?

If you’ve been looking into this strategy, you must have already read about a metric that also goes by CPA or Cost per Acquisition.

The truth is that they’re related since:

The CPA or Cost per Acquisition is an online advertising payment system in which the advertiser only pays if a sale is completed as a result of the ad.

As you can see, the idea is much the same: you only pay if you sell a product.

Added bonus: Are you a bit confused about analytics? Have a look at this post about Web analytics for ecommerce and this other one about the main KPIs for ecommerce.

How to start a CPA Marketing strategy with your online shop

A CPA strategy includes two main elements:

  • The company or advertiser: that’s to say, your ecommerce, which seeks affiliate partners to send traffic to your shop to be converted into customers.
  • The affiliates: the people, brands, or companies that you partner with in order for them to send you those potential customers in exchange for a commission.

Etch this into your memory:

If you don’t offer a good commission, you won’t get any affiliates.

Once this is clear, the first step is to decide how to carry out the communication between the two parties. You’ve got two main options:

1. Appoint an affiliate manager for your project

Whether you do it yourself or if it’s somebody else from your company, the goal is to look for other businesses, shops, or influencers related to your brand and products and then to propose your offer to them.

The person in charge will have a lot of work to do:

  • Research: looking for and recruiting new partners and assessing candidates.
  • Articles: choosing which products will be part of the affiliation.
  • Negotiation: negotiating contracts and conditions with each partner.
  • Material and information: giving them the necessary information, useful material, resolving doubts, etc.
  • Sales approach: you know your products better than anybody else, so give advice about possible content that can be used to promote your products.
  • Tracking each campaign: verify that everything is working both before and during the campaign.
  • Metrics: monitoring the ROI obtained from each partner.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work, but CPA is a very powerful tool that can really give your business a boost without assuming any huge risks.

But now let’s get to the question you’re probably asking yourself…

What do you have to take into account to choose a good affiliate?

The key to success with CPA marketing is choosing the right affiliate partners. The fact that you are only paying them when they sell a product doesn’t mean that just anyone can be your partner.

At first it’s easy to think that having more affiliate partners would mean:

  • More traffic to your site
  • More leads captured
  • More sales

However, you need to bear in mind that you’re linking your brand to a different one, which can influence your brand image. If your “partner” doesn’t share your values, your audience may not understand the collaboration and they may feel deceived.

That’s why, in order to choose an affiliate partner, you need to make sure that:

  • Their audience includes potential customers: if your partner is a chef and you sell clothes, the campaign message may be incoherent and their followers may not be interested in your products at all.
  • They have a website, blog, or social media profile with enough traffic to match your offer: be careful with those “wannabe influencers” who just want to get your products for free. If they are serious, they’ll give you a dossier explaining their reach and the results obtained with other campaigns.
  • Their values match yours: check their posts and their “About us” page to make sure there’s no conflict.
  • Ask them to explain the actions they’re planning on carrying out: they can be paid ads on Facebook or Google, publishing posts on their blog, a banner on their website, stories on Instagram, and many other options. The important thing is that they know exactly what they’re doing and understand the possible reach.

If your “workforce” is well chosen, an increase to your sales is almost guaranteed.

What if you don’t have time to look for partners?

Here you have plan B 😉

2. Join a CPA Marketing Network

We’re talking about companies dedicated to looking for and managing affiliate partners. They are also known as Direct Marketing Platforms or Affiliate Platforms.

There are several existing platforms that have been created around the idea of affiliates (as a way to get easy money).

A. Why you should join a CPA Network

The huge advantage (besides the fact that they free you from having to find partners) is that they normally offer tracking programs (for both advertisers and affiliates) that allow you to easily find out:

  • How many sales were generated by each partner.
  • The commission you need to pay them.

But run away from platforms that lack experience or that don’t offer any minimum guarantees.

B. What you need to carefully assess before joining a CPA Network

The main disadvantage is that most of them charge a monthly fee.

On top of that, you need to understand that you’ll have less control over your partners because the network will choose them – that means less work for you, but also less power to decide about your network partners.

You need to decide if that’s worth it in your case.

To make the choice a bit easier for you, we’ve selected several options:

  • ClickBooth: We’re mentioning this one because it’s free to register as an advertiser, so it’s a great option to try this system out. 85% of their offers are exclusive, so it attracts plenty of motivated affiliates.
  • Share A Sale: They require a website from affiliates and don’t accept free domains, which works to filter out less-qualified candidates. It has a minimum cost of $35 per month, but you can try it for free the first month.
  • Peerfly: In 2018, it was considered one of the 5 best CPA networks in the world and their goal is to simplify the relationship between the two parties. There is no monthly fee for advertisers and they appoint a manager to each account to help you with your affiliates.

Register and try it out to assess the ROI. If things go well, then you can move forward with confidence.

How are sales associated with each member of your CPA Network?

You may be wondering how you’ll know whom the commission goes to.

These networks and affiliate marketing software and plugins work with a system called “postclick cookies”.

A cookie is a small piece of encoded information sent by a website and stored in the user’s browser that lets you monitor the activities carried out by said browser.

Therefore, with a CPA marketing system, each time a user clicks on a link from one of your affiliates, the cookie will be activated.

If users buy a product within an established period of time (it’s usually 30 days, but you can customize it), the commission for your affiliate will be activated.

How to start an affiliate platform with your shop

The major CMS platforms offer plugins that you can implement in your ecommerce to track sales driven by your CPA system:

  • WordPress shops: Have a look at Sumo, a plugin for WooCommerce that lets you turn users into affiliate partners.
  • PrestaShop shops: For a reasonable price, the Affiliate Module offers many options to design your entire CPA marketing strategy.
  • Magento shops: One of the most common solutions is Mageplaza, which allows you to customize the whole program depending on your affiliates and products.

These tools help you track your campaigns once your network has been established, but the initial selection of affiliates is something you should do the old fashioned way – rolling up your sleeves and putting in the time.

Start getting effortless sales with a CPA marketing strategys

You already have the keys to driving sales with a CPA program for your online shop.

You just need to decide if you’re going to do it yourself or if you’re you’ll be hiring a platform.

After that, it’s invoicing all the way!