Always remember this for business success


Back in the late 20th century, a motivational speaker named ‘Zig’ Ziglar made one of the best statements of all time about businesses:

“You can have everything you want, if you give other people what they want.”

This idea was originally meant as a life lesson, and it’s a good one, but it’s especially relevant for all businesses, regardless of their size or their products. In fact, no business in the history of the world has been successful without operating by this principle. There are no exceptions. Naturally, it also has a big impact on how to design a successful marketing campaign, which I will be discussing in some of my future blog posts.

There’s another important benefit from using this principle. You may have felt lost in the world of making money online, losing your own money on this person’s “secret method” or that person’s “passive income system.” You have had no way to identify the worthless offers before. But Mr. Ziglar’s principle gives you a great way to screen out most of the garbage. Simply read through the promotion materials and ask yourself, “If I use this opportunity, what will I be giving the people who are paying me all this money?” If you can’t find a clear answer, or if what your customers receive has little or no value compared to what they pay, then you know that the “opportunity” is doomed to fail. Because it has no value.

Keep this principle in mind throughout your career and you’ll do well anywhere.

Absolute Basic Starting Costs

As I’ve said earlier in this blog, an affiliate marketing business is one of the least expensive to launch, but a few small starting costs still exist. In this piece, I’m going to break down all of the items that are absolutely essential to buy, along with their costs. Of course, lots of other things are very useful for helping your business grow, but I won’t cover them here.

One Laptop with Wi-Fi capability

Most of you who are reading this already have the use of a laptop, and yes, it’s important. Doing business on a mobile phone is not a realistic option.

This is probably your single biggest expense, but if you don’t have access to a laptop, don’t despair. First, you don’t need to purchase one that’s state of the art. Nearly anything with Wi-Fi is fine for doing business on. For an older laptop, consider an online marketplace, or look on Google for dealers that sell ‘refurbished’ laptops.

If money is still an obstacle, think about selling some of your things, either on eBay or an online marketplace. Alternatively, if you like to craft things, consider selling them on sites like Etsy. As long as you have things that others can buy – and skills that you can trade for money – you don’t have to worry about making what you need for covering your starting costs.

Safe, reliable Internet service

In most parts of the world, the regular use of a quality Internet connection will be one of your starting costs. However, if you can get free access where you are, consider yourself lucky.

For most businesses, the ideal solution – and probably the least expensive, in the long run – is to have your local telecommunications provider install an Internet connection in your home, for which you’ll usually pay a monthly fee once it’s active.

If a home connection is impossible for some reason, there are several other ways to get connected to wi-fi during the times that you actively work. Nowadays, many businesses rent temporary workspace by the hour, day, or month – and wi-fi is included in the price. There are also the well-known standbys of hotel business centers, coffee shops, and Internet cafes. Even in small communities, you are likely to have a few options.

Email marketing: automated and broadcast service

If you’ve seen’s Coaching section, you already know that you can’t have a successful business without building a quality email list. For that, you need to subscribe to an emailing service that allows you to set up both sequences of messages to new list members, along with one-time broadcast emails to your entire list.

Although there are several options to choose from, it’s my opinion that GetResponse is the service that offers the best value and performance for the lowest price.

Funnel builder or other web page tool/host

If you’re not comfortable with HTML, subscribing to a funnel builder is usually the least expensive option. If you DO want to code your own pages, you can simply subscribe to a web hosting company instead, but the price is not likely to be much different from an inexpensive funnel builder.

For my beginning students, I recommend the Home Business Academy’s HBA Funnel builder for much the same reasons that I recommend GetResponse for emails. Both are powerful, both are flexible, and they offer very good value for just about the lowest price available.

Final words

Taking action is the key, my friends. And now you have the plan. You can’t succeed until you start.

Coach’s answers, session 1


Here’s at least some of the questions that came in this time.

Magige David wrote:

“Hello how to improve business”

I don’t know what products Magige is trying to market, so I can’t give any specific advice, but I CAN offer some broad advice about improving marketing campaigns that, in my opinion, everyone should know.

Every successful marketing campaign, whether it’s from a solo affiliate business or the marketing executive at a giant company like Microsoft or Sony, requires two steps that the marketers have to perform. There are no exceptions to this rule.
First step: Build an audience of people who all have the same type of problem.
Second step: Create and send marketing messages to your audiences that will show them (not just tell them) how your product(s) can help them solve the problems you identified earlier.

Don’t worry, I’m going to talk about these steps in much more detail in a future blog post. For now, just understand that if you follow both of these steps correctly, your marketing absolutely will succeed. If you don’t, it won’t.

Don’t forget to prepare more questions to ask in the next session.

Ask the coach, session 1


To help my students succeed, I’ve decided to hold Q&A sessions in this blog from time to time, and here’s the first one. All you have to do is email one question to me by a particular deadline (which I will announce at each new session), and I will publish the questions and my answers in a blog post to be written after the deadline. Simple as that. However, you might want to look at the details below before you actually send something off.

More information

In each session, I will answer questions about any of the following topics:

  1. The Affiliate Swim business
  2. Affiliate marketing generally
  3. Other online marketing
  4. Other types of marketing

Include information in the email about how you want me to identify you when I publish your question in a blog. I can use your real name, or an alias, or keep the question anonymous. Whatever you want.

If you want to include your city/state-province/country in your identification, let me know that information, too. However, it isn’t required.

Please note that I might not use your question if it’s a duplicate of someone else’s, or if it’s not appropriate to publish in the blog. Don’t take it personally.

The deadline for this session is 12:00 AM, November 4, 2021 UTC. Here’s a link to a UTC clock

Can’t wait to hear from you all!

Coach Dave

Answers for this session are in this post.

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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.