The Future for Affiliates: Part 2 Leveraging Your Expertise
In Part One I reviewed the challenges facing affiliates and the reality that adaption is the only way to survive. So if you’re an affiliate wondering about your future options, I recommend that you become Â your own network/affiliate/OPM/merchant. It’s actually easier than it sounds.
Forget promoting every merchant under the sun. I’d hesitate even promoting a general niche, like sporting goods. If you as an individual were searching for a new baseball glove, and the search results showed the normal results (e.g., the famous name sports sites and a few unknowns) do you keep searching for your own generic sports site? And just like the coupon model I mentioned last time, you’d still have to belong to every sports merchant on every network.
My advice? Pick one item, for example “pink pajamas.” (remember the pink pajamas?) and make yourself the go-to authority on it. Blog it! Tweet it! Facebook it! When people hear your name, they should think pink pajamas.
First, using “pink pajamas” as an example, get a website with those words. Next, using the Google keyword tool, find the exact words people use in searches and plan your web pages based solely on those keywords. If people are searching for “pink pajamas for people with short legs” use that as a basis for a web page. You don’t decide what a web page contains. You let the searches decide. You find out what they search for and create a page that answers their search queries.
Next you need to find pink pajama merchants. Compare at least a dozen. Decide the best for commission rates, cookie durations, terms of service, management, and get started with them.
Contact the merchant prior to applying to the program and tell them your plans. The fact that you contacted them puts you ahead of most of their affiliates. The merchant will remember you, be inclined to help you, and suggest things they know work. You now have a relationship with a merchant and that’s one of the most important things to have in affiliate marketing.
Once the merchant approves you, contact your rep at their network and tell them your plans. Since the network makes money when an affiliate generates a sale from one of their merchants, you now have another important friend in the business.
Now, stop and re-read the last two lines. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the merchant and the network working towards your success. It changes the game exponentially in ways most affiliates never imagine!
Next, learn the basics of a website that converts. If you made a page for “pink pajamas for boys with short legs,” that’s the only content that should appear on that page. You do not want a banner for Priceline’s latest offer for Las Vegas on this page. Imagine you owned a brick-and-mortar store, and of all the pink pajama stores in the world, someone came into your store. You want to convert them into a sale, so you don’t distract them with anything other than what they came in for. They came in for short-legged pink pajamas. That’s what you tell them about.
Let them browse first. That means having some thumbnail graphics of the available choices, and then they click through to the product description page. There you tell them everything about the item you can get so they can make an informed decision now!
Even if you’re not a coupon site, give them a reason to buy now as opposed to later. Maybe your merchant has a coupon already. If not, ask for one. Look at the merchant’s page. Even if they don’t have an actual coupon, they almost definitely have a sale going on. For example, Summer Sale, Graduation Sale, or Christmas Sale are common options for most merchants. Also, look to see if they list “Suggested Price” and “Our Price.” If so, use it to your advantage on your own site.
Proven sales closers are an actual coupon (e.g.,10 percent off today), a seasonal sale (e.g., “Our annual summer savings sale is in full swing”), or comparing your “low price” to a suggested retail price. I can’t think of any merchant that doesn’t offer one or more of these options.
Lastly, check your link! Make sure it goes to the right page on the merchant’s site. Follow the merchant’s order process all the way through (e.g., until the buyer needs to supply credit card information) to make sure there are no surprises.
After all that, you still need to work on a back-up plan. Pick a second merchant on a second network and repeat the process. Now you have a merchant and a network working for you. You have a site that works. What comes next?
It’s time to tell the world. Create a pink pajama blog. Make the item sound fun, useful, and necessary. Send the blog visitor to your site. Pre-screen them, and send them off to the merchant. If your blog is fun and informative, the visitor will bookmark it and you can have repeat business just like a merchant!
Next you can create a separate pajama profile on Twitter and Facebook. This is not the normal profile for your family and friends where you tell them what you had for dinner. It’s strictly a profile for pink pajamas. Blog, tweet, and update Facebook at least once daily. Decide why you follow certain people on Twitter and emulate them. Their posts are probably upbeat and informative, making you want to click through to their website.
Search Twitter and Facebook for pajama keywords and friend those people. If you did it right, those people will tell their friends… who will tell their friends… and in no time you will be the go-to pink pajama authority.
Start with this, then little by little grow your brand. Add a third merchant. Add a blue pajama website. Or do what I do. Repeat the whole process with something totally different than pajamas. Become the authority of doorknockers.
In case you missed it, you have a website for pink pajamas. Since that’s all that you promote, you will rank well on the search engines by default. You only have to deal with a handful of merchants who are rooting for your success and helping themselves by helping you. The networks are on your side. Your niche is not saturated with thousands of other competitors. You’ve become the pink pajama darling on the social networks. Even people who don’t wear pajamas are re-tweeting you!
Success breeds success! You become the merchant’s best converting pajama affiliate. You get a commission bump. Better cookies. You get to the point where you can call the OPM’s private cell phone while he’s at dinner for a special coupon code you need tonight. You are… successful!
You duplicate your pajama success with doorknockers. Your network rep calls and asks if you could do the same thing you did with pajamas for a leather belt merchant if he gives you a great private offer. And so on and so on.
That’s how an affiliate adapts. That’s how an affiliate survives in this environment.
What are you doing take control of your future?