Everybody knows the golden rule of life: treat others as you’d like to be treated. Putting yourself in the shoes of your audience seems like the logical way to guide your decisions.
However, I know from my days as a beginner affiliate marketer that it’s easy to get stuck playing the role of captain that you don’t take a moment to sit in the same chairs among your audience to get a real feel for the experiece you are creating for them.
It’s almost like trying to be a movie director without ever being a fan of movies first.
If you grew up watching movies so much that you can rattle of names of actors, famous lines and break down a movie scene-by-scene, then doesn’t it make sense that when it comes time to be the director of your own movie, you should know exactly what gives an audience a really good experience—at least in theory?
Moreso, you can probably explain to someone what makes a really bad movie.
I want you to remember this “movie director” analogy as you become the director of your own affiliate marketing process.
While some parts will require that you learn skills you don’t yet have, I would say you already carry within you the instinct of successful affiliate marketing.
In other words, you know what it feels like when someone is genuinely trying to help you with a problem or if they’re just trying to pull a fast one on you and hustle you for a quick buck.
Take a moment to replay in your imagination a moment when a salesperson really annoyed you, and another when you bought a very expensive item and you felt the company deserved every penny of your hard-earned cash.
In this chapter, I want to put you in the audience’s seat so you can feel first-hand what the marketing experience is like.
As you think about it, get a sense of what is happening with the trust you earn (or lack) from your visitors. Here. We. Go!
The lure of a quick buck. In the old days, a snakeoil salesman would roll into a new town, quickly assemble a platform to stand on and begin yammering about some magical potion that cures anything, works for everyone and costs an arm and a leg.
The trick was to sell quickly in a short period of time, faster than people could test the effectiveness of the product.
By the time people realized the whole thing was a sham that cured nothing and helped no one (except to fill the salesperson’s pockets), the perpetrator was half-way into the next town to repeat the process again.
That is, of course, until he would eventually get caught by someone who recognized the scam and brought justice to him.
I use this story because an affiliate marketer is someone with great power. You have the ability to help or to harm thousands of people.
As you sit at home checking your email from hundreds of companies asking you to promote their products, you can’t just spin the wheel and blindly pick the product that makes you the most commissions.
Yes, you want to maximize your profits, but not at all cost. Especially not at the cost of losing trust with your audience.
Don’t ever promise anything that the product doesn’t actually do. Whenever possible, send yourself first through the buying experience from start to finish.
How was the product advertised to you and what was promised?
Was the return policy clear and fair, or vague and hidden?
When you used the product, was it everything the description said it would be, or did they stretch the truth beyond reason just to take your money?
And while it was effective at solving your problem, was it comfortable and easy to use, or did it add more hassle to your life?
Also, maybe the product or service was exactly what you wanted, but can you imagine it being easy and helpful to a large audience, or only to a narrow and esoteric group?
I once tried using a software service that came recommended by many of my own followers.
I won’t name the product but it was not fun for me to use and it definitely hurt my situation more than it helped.
I cancelled it and I will never recommend it, especially since the customer support seemed to imply the software worked fine the way it was and I should “take it or leave it” (paraphrasing).
This company also offered me huge commissions to promote the software as an affiliate, which I could have easily accepted if I allowed myself to be lured by the promise of large commissions.
Software services have huge learning curves and tons of frustration to manage upfront.
I summoned all my patience going in because I know that. Maybe it was me and not the product.
But with unhelpful customer service, this was so off-putting that I didn’t give their software a fair chance to shine.
Maybe it shines for others but I’m not giving it a chance.
I’m glad I tried the product first myself to feel first-hand what the experience of the product and the customer service was like.
Can you imagine the hundreds of people I would have hurt, had I simply promoted the product without trying it out?
How many people would have suffered the hassle that this half-baked software introduced into their workflow instead of streamlining it?
I would have wasted people months of their precious time and hundreds of dollars they could have budgeted for something better, as they fumbled through difficult panels and broken features.
On top of suffering the hoards of refunds, I would have passed through the embarrassing moments of apologizing for recommending a terrible product that cured nothing and helped no one!
And the trust I had built with my audience would have been flushed down the toilet overnight.
If you are in this affiliate marketing game for the long term, protecting your reputation and maintaining trust is critical but not rocket science, guys.
Prioritize helping your audience, and the money comes as an afterthought. Reverse this formula and try to go for the quick buck, and that snake will come back to bite you.
I’ll cover what a sales funnel is in another article, in case you haven’t heard of one.
Essentially, it’s a way to offer your buyers an ongoing service through extra products that they can get immediately after the first purchase or later in the future.
A basic example is when you buy shoes at the store, and the cashier asks if you’d like to add a new pair of shoe laces or a cleaning spray to your order.
There is an art to setting up this kind of marketing and a relatively advanced topic. But what I want you to be wary of is staying away from predatory sales funnels.
This is the kind of product that is presented as an incomplete product but the customer is not told upfront that the product is useless until they buy another thing, and then another thing after that, to make it work as intended.
If you are an affiliate joining a program, a company might explain how their product offers upgrades to their customers which become bigger commissions to you.
This is highly magnetizing because each additional sale is more money in your pocket.
But the method being used, if you aren’t careful enough, will feel to your buyer like a trap that they can’t back out of once they enter it.
These are very predatory and aggressive companies who work hard to disguise their marketing tricks in order to rip off customers.
In the worst cases, they make it so that it costs more money for a customer to leave once they realize they hate the product and start demanding a refund.
Usually, the customer is tricked into a series of upgrades over time so they don’t notice how much they are spending.
But eventually they realize the product or service is an empty shell designed to swindle lots of money out of someone without delivering a good product.
The customer usually has invested so much time and grown dependent on the product/service that cancelling would hurt them, and these companies exploit this fact by charging extra for cancellation or locking access to their valuable data.
While the company might somehow be operating barely legally, they seem to pop up from time to time.
Be careful when a company offers you commissions that seem too good to be true. Reading any bad reviews you can find will quickly reveal who these companies are.
They don’t last very long but you want to be aware of their existence.
A product should always work without any extra services or accessories. The extras should only enhance it, not complete it.
And if the buyer wants to cancel a service or switch over to another product, they should never be treated in a way that causes them to pay a huge “price for leaving”, whether through a fine or a built-in feature that hinders the buyer.
As an affiliate marketer, you are not some big chain store with a recognizable brand on every corner of the street.
But a very similar dynamic occurs online.
While you might have just signed up as a new affiliate and are revving to get started, consider that 500 new affiliates signed up to the same company last week. And 500 more the previous week.
Granted, not all the affiliates will work as diligently as you, but the ones that are become your competitors. How will stand out?
You’re on facebook talking about a protein powder.
And suddenly 10 other affiliates notice that you got a nice crowd following you so they smooch on over to your group and start talking about it to your group.
You realize how quickly you look like every other marketer and nothing differentiates you from the rest.
Why should someone buy from you?
Well, I can give you two really good tips.
First, create an “angle” for your product. This means taking the large group of possible buyers and dividing it based on their specific situation or need.
For example, if 10 affiliates promote the same exact protein powder, one of them can stand out by targeting a very specific type of person. You can take the angle of “meal replacement for busy stay-at-home moms”.
Another angle can be “healthy supplement for busy college student”. And yet another idea for an angle can be “diet supplement for men over 50”.
What this accomplishes is separating you from your generic competitors. Another good example is coffee.
Coffee is a generic commodity and people can buy it for a buck at the local gas station, yet Starbucks and BulletProof coffee created unique angles that allow them to stand out from such a generic competition and they are banking it!
Starbucks isn’t just regular coffee from the corner convenience store but rather European style coffee with a vast array of options and a walk-in store experience that you don’t get anywhere else: they call you by first name, they have barristas instead of cashiers/clerks and the interior deco and furniture invites you to sit down for a few minutes.
They generally offer free wifi and plenty of power outlets for your laptop because the understand this complements the coffee really well; people like to drink coffee when they work on stuff.
BulletProof coffee has the angle of “coffee for smart people who want to be super productive”, or something along those lines.
Second, if a unique angle is challenging for you to create, you can simply offer extra bonuses and free gifts.
This creates a bundle, like you typically see offered on ebay with certain items. You might see a USB cable sold on its own and thousands of more just like it.
Then one vendor shows up to offer a more attractive offer that inclues two USB cables, a free memory card and a plastic screen protector for a smartphone.
Suddenly you feel like the bundle gives you more bang for your buck, right?
Other ideas for standing out include: creating free training with the product, offering PDF resource guide download, and special discounts that they can only get through your link (see your company for this).
These are two examples that should get your brain cooking with ideas for your own offers. You will inevitably need an edge over your affiliate competitors.
Just put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask, What would they really desire in this product that I can give them, and others are not currently doing?