Affiliate marketing fills an important function in today's marketing world: the ability for a third-party to represent multiple products created by other people and to earn a commission on them if they are sold. The affiliate model has three main components: the seller, the affiliate promoter, and the buyer. Of course, when the buyer can easily find the product on his or her own and buys it from the seller, there is no need for the affiliate. But, if the affiliate can find clever ways of connecting buyer to seller, everyone wins.

In a similar vein, most makers/sellers of products are not expert salespeople. Or, they have a strong sales force in place but just want to find ways to expand their sales footprint (i.e., they could always be selling more than they are now). By enlisting the help of affiliates, the seller gets a no-risk means of making more sales. It is no-risk because the affiliate is not paid anything - unless they sell the product. Pretty good deal for the seller.

And, of course the affiliate benefits because they do not have to come up with a product of their own. Nor do they have to worry about coming up with pricing, shipping/distribution, or other elements of the sales process. They just have to connect buyer to seller and their job is done; and they get paid. Pretty sweet deal for everyone involved. Of course, to become a successful affiliate, your first task is to find a niche that will potentially be very successful.

If you are looking for an affiliate marketing niche program, here are 5 steps to finding a lucrative program:

1. Get in touch with what you would like to sell:

It is always easier to sell products and services you are comfortable with and have some knowledge about. Ask yourself about which areas of the world you have the most knowledge. Feel free to really brainstorm here and don't self-edit. Remember, there is literally a product for just about subject or topic under the sun - and most of them have affiliate opportunities attached to them.

2. Locate an affiliate broker site:

Now that you have in mind some idea of what you want to sell, go to a site like Commission Junction, Click Bank, or others to find products to promote. Also, many companies these days offer affiliate programs on their websites which are not available through these brokers. But, a broker is good place to go if you are just starting out in this area.

3. Get to know their internal scoring system:

Now, browse the broker's available products to promote. Some brokers have systems to help you determine how well the various products are selling. Get to know their system and put together a list of 3-5 products you would like to start promoting right away.

4. Do your keyword research:

If you plan to promote your products online (as most affiliate marketers do these days), you will need to become familiar with keyword research. This, of course, is the art and science of finding keywords that get a lot of daily searches but that have very little competition in your subject area. Look for keywords that are relevant to your topic area.

5. Thoroughly test each niche before giving up or putting too much into it:

Now, for each niche you select for promotion, make sure you put sufficient effort into it to find out whether or not it is a viable niche. In other words, if you take a half-cocked approach to promoting but don't really make a significant go of it, you will never know whether that niche would have been a good one to promote. You have just wasted your time.

Once you have found a strong niche and have made your first sale or two, you will be hooked. At this point, make sure to invest in the right tools to take your online promotional activities to the next level so that you can sell 10-100 times more product than you are now.