Some Affiliate Marketing Advice on How To Start

Image courtesy Alex E. Proimos /via Flickr

Image courtesy Alex E. Proimos /via Flickr

I recently received an email via the contact form here on this blog. The author had some questions regarding affiliate marketing, sparking thoughts which I haven’t had the luxury of dwelling on in quite some time. It was a nice and refreshing change of pace from my typical day, so I thought I’d post their inquiry and my response since I think it may help a few of you newbie affiliate marketers who are basking in the daydreams of clicking a button and having money funnel into your bank accounts.

Enjoy. And thank you, sir, for the email which sparked the first blog post in quite some time.

The Email

Hi Nate. I came across your blog while searching for advice on direct linking
affiliate marketing campaigns. I’m just starting out and not having much
success. Of course, the post I saw was from 2008, and it looks like you’re into
a lot of other interesting things, so I was hoping you can answer a few
questions for me.

Do you still do affiliate marketing, and if so…any fresh advice for a beginner
to build a few profitable campaigns?

What is your primary form of income nowadays?

If you were just starting out on the path to self-employment, passive income
generation, etc. today, knowing what you know now, where would you start?

Thanks! I’ll continue reading through your blog, but since some of the posts
are kind of old I figured I’d check in and get a fresh perspective. It seems
like we share a lot of similar life goals. I currently still get just about all
my income through my standard job as a software engineer, but at least I found a
position that lets me telecommute…which does provide SOME of the freedom I
seek, though not enough.

Thanks again.

My Response

Hi [redacted], nice to meet you. And thanks for the nice email.

Yes, I’ve been into a lot of different things here and there, and affiliate marketing is definitely my crack. It’s addicting, and very difficult to get out of the system. Perhaps it’s much like a “gambling addiction” I’m thinking now. :) Has similar effects.

Anyway, I do still dabble in affiliate marketing here and there, but I haven’t been that serious about being the marketer lately. There’s a lot of folks and a lot of different roles in the chain, from the marketer all the way up to the person who actually operates the product/service being sold. So, being as I’m a web developer (not just HTML, but the more serious stuff… like if you wanted to build the next facebook kinda thing) by trade, I worked my way into a few different industries that had a problem I could solve. So, in a way, I’m still in the industry, but just in a different role now.

To be completely honest, my current primary form of income is still web development – I run Perfect Space and we have a pretty nice list of clients. However, the other thing I mentioned above generates about [redacted] of the income per month for our agency, and climbing quickly.

Enough about me though….. let’s talk about you. :)

“If you were just starting out on the path to self-employment, passive income generation, etc. today, knowing what you know now, where would you start?”

This is a fantastic question. Good for you for being smarter than the average bear (affiliate marketer) and (a) networking and (b) asking the right questions.

My answer is I’d probably start by doing exactly what you’re doing – get in touch with people who are in the industry and have made a living out of it. That’s the first thing. As for tactical suggestions, that’s a hard one to answer. There’s a few different ways to go at this if you want to be the marketer: (1) Take a campaign – any campaign – and keep hammering it, split testing, getting in the head of the buyers, etc until you win. Or (2) find the hottest thing on the market and ride the wave like everyone else.

Personally, I did #2 and did well for a time. But what frustrated me about this process is those types of campaigns came and went so fast, it ended up influencing me to make poor decisions – namely I would think I found the magic bullet and the income was going to keep coming in. So I counted my chickens and gave up on other things that were making money (a job, a contract, other forms of income, etc).

Because of that experience, now I suggest people do #1 above, and just work super hard on one campaign until they make it work. The reason is this … the hardest part about affiliate marketing is getting into the heads of the buyers. Once you really know what makes them tick for one product (and you can almost always find that product in different places, so don’t worry too much about the campaign going away unless it’s an exclusive one), you can always find something to pitch at that buyer. Tweak the product, the offering, or whatever, but you’ll know that buyer like nobody else. You’ll automatically be creative in attracting that person, how to get them to take the next step, etc. Rather than having a really superficial knowledge of buying trends in the marketplace (the #2 way of doing things), you’ll have knowledge of a subset of the population. That’s invaluable. And if you’re really smart, you’ll start capturing these people’s contact information and delivering value to them on a regular basis. Once you have their trust, you have an asset that will follow you forever (or until you lose that trust).

Thus, I suggest finding something you’re interested in even in the slightest, and then run the campaign on a traffic source that’s cheap so you can learn fast with as little money burnt as possible. Your goal is to learn, not to make profit at the beginning. Once you’ve learned enough, the profit will come. Just know that you’ll lose for a while. There’s absolutely no way to play the affiliate marketing game and not lose money until you learn – and that’s the thing most newbies don’t get. They think it’s all magic, and it’ll be amazing and easy once you know how … and it is … but it’s the “knowing how” that costs you. It costs money, and tons of time working on the same thing over and over again.

Anyway, I hope this helps… and actually, thank YOU… because I think you just gave me the next blog post.

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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