Same product, different marketing

subway violinist

You might have heard of the “violin experiment,” some of which is shown in the video clip above. This event teaches us a lot about human nature, more than a simple marketing experiment, but the marketing lessons are valuable to all of use. So here’s the full story.

The experiment

On January 12, 2007, a man standing in the arcade just outside a subway station in Washington, D.C. started to play the violin.

He wore a T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap.  Over the course of 45 minutes, he played six pieces, including two by Bach and one by Schubert.

Because it was rush hour, it was crowded.  During his performance, cameras showed exactly 1,097 people pouring through the station, most of them on their way to work during the morning rush.

According to video footage, three minutes went by before anyone noticed at all. 

A middle aged man turned to notice the musician. He barely altered his gait, and then hurried to catch the next train. 

Thirty seconds later, the violinist received his first tip: A woman threw a dollar bill into his open violin case.  She did it hurriedly, like someone flicking a cigarette butt to the curb.

A few minutes later, another man leaned against the wall to listen to the violinist.  Three minutes later, the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.  He, too, had a train to catch.

The one who seemed to pay the most attention was a three-year-old boy.  He was in tow at the hem of his mother’s skirt, hurriedly being dragged along, the kid’s head following the violinist even as he was being pulled away.

Several other children had the same reaction. All their parents, without exception, kept the children in tow as they moved on.

Final results

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only seven people stopped and stayed for any length of time.

About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. 

He collected $32.17.  No one applauded.

Only one person out of the 1,097 who passed through the arcade recognized the violinist, a concert performer named Joshua Bell.

She patiently waited for him to finish, then went up to say hello to Bell, one of the most celebrated musicians in the entire world, who had agreed to take part in this unusual social experiment. 

He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Three days earlier, Bell had sold out a theater in Boston playing the same repertoire.  The average ticket price for that performance was $112.

What to take away

People have drawn quite a few conclusions from this experiment, including how our appreciation of beauty is affected by context, perception, and priorities. More on some of these later.

For someone familiar with the three pillars of marketing, the main lesson is obvious: Your audience can make or break exactly the same product. That’s what makes the concept of an audience important enough to be a pillar in the first place.

You can look at the classical concert fans as the “right” audience and the subway riders as the “wrong” audience, but that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Let’s face it, many of those subway riders must have enjoyed going to classical music performances once in a while. And many of the concertgoers at Bell’s show must have commuted to their jobs on public transit. In marketing terms, you can’t make a comparison just by the demographics of each group.

So what else is going on?

Timing, that’s what. You’ve probably seen advertising in the media change its whole “vibe” before holidays, big sporting events, festivals and other events that most people get caught up in. That’s because businesses have learned which events impact them and how people’s buying habits change relative to the timing of the event.

Something similar is going on with the violin performance. The theatergoers have set aside both money and time to enjoy a nice evening of music. For the commuters, however, their driving interest is to get to work on time, so very few of them will be likely to stop and listen, even if they love classical violin.

The bottom line: timing is also part of your audience analysis. Your audience is likely to have different challenges and pain points at different times. It’s a good idea not to overlook that.

The other factor

Although audience is the most important pillar in this marketing experiment, our old friend trust plays a part here as well. Probably a number of people in that Boston theater had never heard of Joshua Bell until that night. Of course, some of the audience, must have, but otherwise, where would the trust have come from? The answer is that people actually trusted the theater, and the performer based on his association with the theater. After all, theaters are designed to create an emotional bond between performers and audiences. Subway stations are definitely not designed for this purpose.

The result was that commuters didn’t trust that there could ever be a good musical performance in the station arcade. So they assumed that the violinist could not be any good.

Conclusion

Making your affiliate marketing sound like concert-grade music requires a great deal of thought and planning. But if you take the steps – and time it right – the difference to your bottom line can be huge.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

The downside to advertising

megaphone guy

I believe very much in the power of online advertising, but in reality, the downside to advertising is significant.

I’ve often heard new marketers say things like, “If only I had a multimillion-dollar ad budget, I could be as successful as Amazon.” Maybe some of you have been thinking this. If so, stop it. You can’t expect miracles from any advertising service.

In the online world, the downside of advertising of any kind consists of three disadvantages:

  1. Ads do nothing to increase the trust that your audience may have. (Remember how trust is one of the three pillars of marketing?)
  2. Everyone seeing your ad knows that they are going to be pitched. Although it’s still possible to build trust from this mindset, it’s harder than building trust from simple curiosity.
  3. As soon as you stop paying for the ad, it stops giving you traffic.

If you want to overcome these problems, you need to do two things:

  1. Optimize all your ads for profit metrics, and
  2. Develop as much of a base of free traffic as you can

Optimizing for profit

To generate a profit from your advertising, you as an affiliate need to be offering upsells that you know to be profitable. The other things you need are the major metrics from the advertising service, which are:

  • Your Click Through Ratio (CTR)
  • Your Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Average value of a sale (probably from your vendor’s affiliate tracking software).

All this information is required when you want to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment) for your advertising spend, but it does not reveal the entire picture.

For example, you would expect a strong ROI to generate large volumes of traffic, have a high CTR, and a low CPC. That’s generally true, BUT many successful ad campaigns for high-ticket items end up having a smaller volume of transactions, a slightly lower CTR, and a slightly higher CPC.

The two most important things you can do after calculating profitability are to make sure that your user experience is clear, smooth, and engaging; and to make good use of your analytics software to track user behavior accurately.

Too much downside of advertising? Grow your free traffic!

The second part of overcoming advertising problems is not as difficult as it sounds, even if you are renting traffic to a sales funnel for your first offer, but free traffic demands free content, and that can be very time consuming.

The most widespread free content that small businesses use today is blogging, and that’s for a couple of reasons. First, an experienced writer can bang out a decent blog post fairly quickly, and second, blog posts are about the easiest thing to optimize for search engine keywords.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with YouTube videos or podcasts for delivering free content, although they tend to take longer to create. They do support keywords for SEO, of course, but a text-based blog is able to take better advantage of these.

Another way to generate organic traffic, although it’s likely to be in small amounts at first, is through social media. Many people like to follow businesses on Facebook or Instagram, so it pays to make your presence known.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Competition in affiliate marketing

business-competition

Some would-be entrepreneurs are frightened off from affiliate campaigns because they believe there’s ‘too much’ competition in affiliate marketing. It would be easy to come to this conclusion once you figure out that (A) there is an extremely large number of affiliates practicing at any given time, and (B) nearly all of them fail. Both of these things are true, but they don’t paint an accurate picture of the level of competition in this type of marketing.

The first mistake that many people make is to compare affiliate marketing with other types of commission-only sales. We affiliates can promote as many products as we want across nearly every company and market space in all of e-commerce. Other commission-based work is almost always confined to just one company. This makes a huge difference.

Consider a car dealership, for example. There is a fairly fixed number of potential customers in the region, and a fixed capacity for the inventory that the dealership can have. With these limitations, only a small number of salespeople can be employed by the dealer and still make a good living. If the owner decides to hire every salesperson who wants to work there, then the pie of total sales has to be divided into even smaller pieces. Ultimately there’s no longer any point to working there.

That’s exactly what DOES happen with MLM companies and pyramid schemes, by the way. Because they serve only one market, that market becomes saturated while the company keeps bringing in new salespeople or recruits. The company’s revenue stops growing.

The competition in affiliate marketing does not have this type of constraint. There are tens of thousands of companies that support affiliate programs, either directly or through an affiliate network. These companies offer hundreds of thousands of products that can be marketed individually. There is no way the revenue pie could remain static for long.

stand out competition

Not surprisingly, the huge territory in e-commerce doesn’t have the same level of competition everywhere. Many market spaces are, in fact, full of competition, where others have almost no affiliate activity at all. Some people refer to these market spaces as “red ocean” or “blue ocean.” However, don’t make the mistake of choosing a market space only because it has very little competition. Remember that entrepreneurs succeed in hugely competitive markets all the time. All that’s required is a change of strategy. In a competitive market space, you have to differentiate yourself from other affiliates.

In the last analysis, you will be much more successful with a market space when you choose one based on how it interests you, not on how competitive it seems to be. For more information, refer to our course module on selecting a market space for your campaign.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Handling criticism, part 2

criticism

In the previous blog entry, I introduced some general ideas about how to deal with the online criticism that some people will inevitably throw at your business, followed by an example of a recent exchange of mine.

This time, I’m going to lay out all the steps I used, in order, so that you can use them too when you’re confronted with problematic comments or reviews.

Listen

The last thing you want to do is misunderstand someone, because if you quickly shoot back with something irrelevant or inappropriate, it just makes your situation worse. It’s a mistake to think that every negative comment is an attempt at trolling. Many of them are not.

Question

Once you believe you understand the other person, it’s time to ask at least a question or two. They could well have a serious issue that you had no idea existed, and it takes questioning to bring this kind of thing out into the open. Ignore what they have to say and the issue persists. Not a good idea.

Remember in the previous example when I was accused of running a scam. I asked what I was promising, and not delivering, in the ad that got Ken so worked up. It pays to ask things like this. He may have spotted something unintentional that I could have easily changed. In this case, he hadn’t, but it’s still important to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity.

Set boundaries

Some people are very quick to personalize criticism and conclude that it has to be a reflection on them, somehow. In reality, that’s almost never the case when someone is criticizing or reviewing a business.

It’s about your site, not about you.

Don’t be negative, unless you can make it funny

Actually, if you’re a basically serious type, don’t even try to be funny in the positive parts of your response. If you’re sure that you have a good sense of humor – and that most people who know you agree – then you can venture into joke territory. It’s more important to be true to your voice.

That said, a well-played line can go a long way toward diffusing a tense situation. This sandwich board is one of the best example’s I’ve ever seen.

sandwich-board

If all else fails, block them!

Genuine trolls will get tedious, repeat themselves, and provide no useful feedback at all. You’re much too busy to waste any more time with these types. Get them off your screen.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Handling criticism, part 1

criticism

When you have a business with any traffic, you can expect a regular stream of criticism, so your skill in handling criticism the right way is incredibly important.

The wrong way, of course, is to lose your temper and enter a verbal slug match with your critics. The critic might just be trying to find out more about the product you’re selling, for instance. Or, your critic may just be a “Karen” who feeds on combat.

A better approach is to draw the critic into the open, and ask for specifics about why they’re concerned. This approach can not only win over potential buyers, but also deflate any empty trolling.

For an example, here’s a conversation that I recently had with a male Karen that I’m calling “Ken-Ken” for anonymity.

Ken-Ken: Just another work-at-home scam. But what do you expect form someone who runs a business but goes out of his way to conceal his identity?

Me: I don’t conceal my identity at all. You can talk to me any time using my email on the site.

By the way, what is it you think I’m promising that would make this a scam?

Ken-Ken: The scam part is the $500/year for software that you are selling and your claims that anyone will get rich (besides yourself) following your magical instructions. But you know that already so why ask me?

Me: I don’t sell any software, or even any subscriptions for $500/year. You have the wrong business.

Ken-Ken: You need to look at your website.

Me: Again, I don’t sell software; I just recommend various products for online entrepreneurs that are (in my opinion) nice to have. I’m definitely not saying they’re needed for getting rich.

Also, I sure as hell don’t make any claims that people will get rich following “my magical instructions.” They’re not magical and they’re not original to me: they’re actually a common marketing strategy that has a good track record of success.

Ken-Ken: And you get a sales commission for the products you are flogging. A good way to spot a grifter is someone who tells you that he will make you rich but wants nothing in return. It reminds me of that orange guy who ran for president and said he would pay for his own campaign – it never happened.

Me: Of course I want something in return. I hope my audience will like some of what I recommend enough to buy it. I just don’t require them to buy anything. That’s not a scam and I think you know it.

Ken-Ken: As you inflate the value of your magic formula, it would be a safe bet that you are upselling other product as well. As the things you are selling are get-rich schemes it is kind of self-evident that you don’t have much interest in providing value.

Me: I am providing value in my course and coaching. People who don’t like the products I link to simply don’t buy them. Just like with standard advertising. The other vendors have nothing to do with my value.

Ken-Ken: Like many of the people running coaching scams, you seem like you could really do well if you turned your hand to some productive enterprise that enriches others as well as yourself.

Me: I very honestly believe that my coaching does enrich others. I also don’t make wild promises that require others to give me money, which is what a scam is. This ad doesn’t promise anything.

I’ll grant that the make-money-online space IS full of scams and con artists, but there are also many of us who are actually honest.

Ken-Ken: When all you can do is repeat yourself it’s time for a new grift.

Me: I can do (and have done) a lot more. In your case, I thought I had to repeat myself to you in order to explain what a scam is. Obviously that’s not going to work; you’re going to believe whatever you want, accurate or not. That’s okay; everyone who reads your posts is going to see that you have nothing whatsoever to support your accusations.

Ken-Ken: Everyone who reads your promise of instant wealth with no further work should, hopefully, see the holes in the scam.

Me: Everyone knows I never promised instant wealth. Apart from a few lottery tickets, instant wealth doesn’t even exist. Yet again, you decided that you’re only going to believe a personalized fiction for yourself. Great. Knock yourself out.

From an Affiliate Swim ad comment section in Facebook

As you can see from the conversation above, one of the best ways of handling criticism is to show a sense of humor. In the next part to this series, we’ll look at some other strategies.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Why affiliate marketing works

question marks

It’s not very hard to find explanations of HOW affiliate marketing works. It’s a straightforward concept, and there are plenty of articles and YouTube videos describing it. You’ll even find a quick explanation on our About page. What you have a harder time finding – from under all that hype – is an accurate explanation of why affiliate marketing has worked so well for a number of entrepreneurs over such a long time.

The problem

To understand why affiliate marketing works, you need to imagine yourself as a vendor. You sell products, services…anything, really. Now imagine that you make most or all of your sales through e-commerce. The number of vendors like you is growing all the time.

So how do you market your business?

Well, your target audience is probably online already, so naturally it makes sense to spend most of your marketing budget on online advertising, most likely Google and/or Facebook. But here’s where you can run into a problem. The cost of both these ad services keeps going up, and it might be especially high depending on your target audience. If you can’t raise the prices of your products significantly, your “best” sources of advertising could be eating into your return on investment.

The solution

Fortunately, there’s an alternative. One that’s been around almost since the beginning of e-commerce itself.

A great many vendors have discovered (or are now discovering!) that it can be much less expensive to recruit an army of affiliates when they’re paid only in commissions after each sale. Compare that to having to pay your ad service up front with no guarantees about performance.

The affiliates win, too, because they’re able to introduce almost anyone’s product to almost any audience, as long as the message is correctly targeted. And of course, their costs are minimal compared to almost any other type of marketing.

The bottom line is that affiliate marketing is not a crackpot scheme. It actually plays a major role in helping the online economy to function as well as it does.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Fear and Trust in affiliate marketing

fear-trust

Fear and trust are two of the strongest human emotions, and whether you like it or not, both of them will work within you during your journey to grow your business. In fact, one of these emotions is likely to determine your success or failure, as I’ll explain here.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you likely came across my article on the top mistakes made in affiliate marketing. These are primarily technical errors, or flaws in the design of affiliate campaigns. But believe it or not, none of them is the reason that most unsuccessful affiliates fail in their businesses. That primary reason for failure is entirely in their heads, and it’s – you guessed it – FEAR.

The way that fear affects a new marketer takes a very specific path, so you should learn to recognize the symptoms. You start out full of new knowledge and new hope as you put together your first campaign, and after careful, hard work, you launch your new campaign with a feeling of celebration. What happens then? Weeks go by with no sales, no orders, and not nearly enough people attracted to your site to create enough traffic for a sale. This is the point where fear sets in.

When you, as an online entrepreneur, experience this type of fear, you typically react in one of two ways:

  • You think this must be the end of the road. No email signups from ads, no friends left on Facebook. After a few weeks of staring at your screen in disappointment, it can be very easy to decide that your project is a dud. So, you throw in the towel and take everything down. Maybe you even give up completely on affiliate marketing.
  • You decide you need some quick fix to get the sales started, and you begin frantically looking online for a ‘secret’ way to make it happen. Of course, no such secret exists, so all you actually accomplish is to waste a lot of time and money.

The most powerful weapon against these particular fears happens to be trust, and in this case, trust actually plays two roles.

Maybe you saw my first blog post, where I said that trust is one of the three pillars of any type of marketing. Yes, it’s really that fundamental: there is no way to be successful unless enough people trust your business. A very small number of people might trust you fairly quickly, and another small cluster of people won’t ever trust you regardless of what you say or do. For the rest, it takes time to earn their trust, and some take more time than others. The main thing to remember is that, in the online world, nobody is going to stumble on a random person or business one day and trust them the next. Again, trust is earned, and earning people’s trust usually takes time.

However, in this business there’s more to trust than simply the trust you earn from your buyers. You also have to trust in yourself. Trusting yourself means being able to attempt all kinds of things – many of them for the first time – without judging yourself too harshly. Here are a few tips to help you build this kind of trust when it comes to your affiliate business:

  • Anything worth achieving takes longer than you might expect.
    Pride and appreciation can only develop over time, so it’s essential to learn to be patient. Keep moving forward and don’t become discouraged: there are no overnight successes.
  • It’s not complicated, so don’t overthink it.
    You don’t need to become the world’s foremost expert at a task just to get things done. Nor do you need to wait for someone to do things for you.
  • The path to success is never straight.
    You could find your business starting to branch out in several different directions, with many different customer segments. That’s actually a great thing, if you’re starting to make a profit. But it means that you’ll have a lot more to learn, and your trust in yourself will have to keep growing.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, go to the coaching section and study our free beginner’s course. And I’ll see you in the Facebook group.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Cleaning your affiliate links

checking links

This is an important technical note, so if you have already launched – or are close to launching – an affiliate campaign, please take the time to read about cleaning your affiliate links.

If you’ve been through the free course for beginners, you already know that your sales funnel is going to need at least one affiliate link. You also know that it’s important to bring as much relevant traffic to the site as you can. In today’s Internet world, the last part depends on making Google happy, regardless of whether you buy Google ads.

And the technical part? The Google search engine can’t distinguish between a personal link and an affiliate link. So, Google expects you to “tell” it within the code for your page. If you don’t do this, your page and possibly your site can get a penalty from them, which will hurt your traffic efforts. What follows are the details of how you prevent that.

Let’s begin with the normal affiliate link for your first offer, which probably looks something like this:

https://oneofmyvendors.com/?id=1234567

Don’t worry about the exact details; every vendor and every network has its own method of tracking the item to sell and which affiliate (you) sent them the referral.

In the HTML code for your funnel pages, this link could appear as:

<a href=”https://oneofmyvendors.com/?id=1234567”>My vendor</a>

and would show up as

My vendor

on the audience’s browsers. So far so good.

According to Google, affiliate links are “sponsored links,” which aren’t supposed to be as important in Google search results. You have to add the following attributes to every affiliate link in your funnel to make Google happy:

  • target=”_blank” (opens your affiliate link in a new browser tab or browser window)
  • rel=”nofollow”
  • rel=”sponsored”
  • rel=”noopener”

The nofollow attribute is an older, general term to signal a search engine not to follow the link. Later, Google introduced the sponsored attribute to be more specific, but with the same effect. It’s good practice to use both of these. The noopener attribute is a security feature to help prevent possible JavaScript hacks when the new browser tab or window is opened.

Most of the funnel builder tools that you’re likely to be using have various user-interface widgets that let you add these attributes directly to a link. For those who don’t have such a feature, you will have to fix the link directly from the HTML code. Using our example, here is what the fully cleaned link would look like in HTML:

<a href="https://oneofmyvendors.com/?id=1234567"
  target="_blank"
  rel="noopener sponsored nofollow">My vendor</a>

Doing all this for a single affiliate link might seem annoying, but just remember that it could be saving you a large percentage of your commissions!

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Pay to Play affiliate programs

No pay to play

In the affiliate marketing world, pay to play affiliate programs refer to a requirement, imposed by the vendor, that all affiliates must purchase the vendor’s product before they are allowed to market it.

First things first: this is not illegal. It’s also not a scam, as long as the vendors follow the usual laws and regulations about things such as making promises that they can’t keep.

That being said, here’s why I don’t like this practice.

Is it necessary?

First, it’s totally unnecessary. Think of the example from the web funnel design in our course, where I use an e-book for learning auto repair as an example. As I said in the course, I’m not a mechanic. All I have to know as a marketer is what the needs of the audience for the product are, and how the product can help them. Being a mechanic wouldn’t hurt in understanding these things, but it’s certainly not essential. Also, there’s one more major reason that pay to play is unnecessary: most vendors don’t do it. You are very likely to find competing products that are just as good and that don’t have a pay-to-play requirement.

What message does it send?

Second, it’s bad for business, both yours and the vendor’s. Never forget that your affiliate business is still a real business, with the same top-level goal as any other business: to maximize your profit. If the product that you’re required to buy does not move your financial needle in a net positive direction – then it’s a waste of your money, plain and simple. It absolutely must create more business for you than it costs. And how is it bad for the vendor? It sends out a loud message that “This product is so mediocre that we can’t make it profitable unless we force our affiliates to buy it!” If I were a direct vendor, there’s no way I would be willing to send this message to my affiliates, much less the buying public!

In the final analysis, you as a business operator need to carefully look at any offer before you decide whether it will bring in more customers for you. An offer that comes without strings attached tends to be better than an offer that has them.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Top ten mistakes affiliate marketers make

mistakes

Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, making mistakes in business translates into losing money. Sometimes, a mistake won’t begin to cost money until after a while, so that you’ll have time to detect it and make corrections before things become too unpleasant. Other mistakes can cost you money almost immediately.

Whatever business you’re in, it’s always good to be aware of the most common mistakes that others have made. This article lays out most of these mistakes for affiliate marketing.

10. Expecting to get rich quickly

The only legal way to get rich quick is by winning a lottery. Sorry, but I don’t know how to do that.

9. First Offer commission is too low

The primary purpose of your sales funnel is to get people to purchase the first offer, so that your profits can come from the upsells. Of course, this means that your earnings on commissions for the first offer must match (or at least come very close to) what you pay for advertising. If not, you will need an upsell or two merely to break even, and that’s not a good situation.

8. Target market is too large or too small

Some marketers want to conquer all of e-commerce, but the fact is that not even Amazon has been able to do that. At the other extreme, a market that has only a few hundred buyers worldwide will never generate enough sales to make affiliate marketing worthwhile.

7. Over- or under-communicating with your list

For almost every audience, one email per day is plenty. Some people even prefer no more than one email every two days. This may sound obvious, but don’t bombard your list with emails: it gets them to unsubscribe, and you lose all those potential upsells.

Of course, the same thing can happen when you ignore your list. Eventually they will simply forget about you. At an absolute minimum, send at least 2 emails per week. Emailing more often will considerably improve the open and click rates.

6. Not running A/B tests

It’s well known that even a very minor change to a funnel page, a paid ad, or even an email can cause a major jump in audience engagement. Once you have enough traffic to do valid testing, you should be testing almost all the time. Let the data guide you, and the differences are likely to be a pleasant surprise.

5. Promoting products that are low value (for the price)

A lot of marketers promote overpriced, low-value items because of the short-term boosts to their profits. However, the long-term price they will have to pay is much higher. People will complain, unsubscribe, and delightfully talk down your business all over the Internet. It’s not worth it.

4. Relying on free traffic

This is a tempting route to go, but the tradeoff to paid traffic is that free traffic methods slow you down considerably, even to the point where there aren’t enough hours in the day to build a large enough audience.

To be fair, there IS one method of free traffic that does work: you need to have large amounts of popular content on your site. There are a few bloggers out there who have done extremely well with this approach, but the tradeoff is still present. Building this much content by yourself takes months, if not years. Or, if you hire assistants to build it for you, you would be paying them more than you would pay for advertising.

3. Not having upsells

Several new affiliate marketers make the mistake of thinking that, once they have a great funnel, they can sit back and watch the profits from their first offer roll in. This plan doesn’t work. Those who try it will lose money, or just barely break even. Profits can be achieved only with your upsells. Fortunately, you already have a list of people who are likely to be interested in many of those.

2. Not having a funnel

It amazes me how many people who just came across affiliate marketing actually BELIEVE that they can just stick affiliate links and banners here and there and expect the world to beat a path to click on them. This “strategy” doesn’t make a penny, of course, and it never will. No successful company attracts buyers without some form of sales funnel. It’s that universal.

1. Not having an email list for a specific market

I can’t say this often enough: if you don’t have a list, you don’t have a business. And it can’t be just any list, because you’re not a spammer. That’s why the first page of any online funnel absolutely MUST have a form for capturing email lists.


I hope you enjoyed this top-ten list. If you have any other top-ten ideas related to affiliate marketing, I would love to hear your suggestions: just drop me an email.

Coach Dave

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