We are live blogging this session from Salon C @ the Las Vegas Convention Center, PubCon 2008. I have the pleasure of sitting next to the lovely Lisa Barone. The rough and tumble affiliate marketing field presents quite a few options for cash and success. From PPC to in-house affiliate programs, this panel walked attendees through a range of strategies to apply. This panel promises to be wonderful.
The session is moderated by Aaron Shear. Elisabeth Archambault, Freelance Affiliate Marketer, Wedding-Resources, is the first speaker. She comes from a background as technical writing instructor. She discovered affiliate marketing and "never went back to the classroom and pays more in income tax then she used to earn as a teacher."
Her .ppt deck is called "The Possible Dream," which is about promoting other people's stuff and getting paid for results by:
- Sales commissions
- Lead/referral fees, this can be quite lucrative because the sale can come later
- Clickthroughs, which means pay per click, which is not as prevalent as in the past.
You can work anywhere, any time, no boss, no guarantees and there are not limits to success. The merchant handles inventory, fulfillment, customer service etc..the affiliate drives traffic. Focus, above all, is the most important attribute. It requires a great attention span. Find and join merchants, promote their products and send users and shoppers to their site.
Websites, newsletters, ads you set up and offline promotions work great. Social media shows good possibilities for the future as well. The reason to pay affiliates, if a merchant asks, is because the affiliate brings something "new to the party." Important skills are page design, site design, graphics, copywriting, usability and promotion. Any skill you can name, someone out there is succeeding without it. You don't need to be perfectly but you need to be good.
Balance the pursuit of quality without "paralyzing perfectionism." Something that is "second rate" but is up and running, will earn more money than something perfect on your hard drive. It's wise to diversify and don't spread yourself to thin, If you lose track of what you're managing, you can "lose your quality edge." The balance between diversify and spreading yourself to thin is different for every person.
Balance "doing things with getting things done." Don't be afraid to hire out for certain skills to "amplify your possibilities." Leverage other peoples' skills. There are a couple of ways to focus when promoting, either focus on the product or on reaching the demographic. There's more than one way to do that. If people are looking for a certain product and already know about it, it's ideal. Just show the product.
Different Promotional Models
"Spray and Pray" (LOL) is the "stick ads wherever you can and see what happens (spam)" Elisabeth teaches that the tighter you target, the better the result. Find merchants on affiliate networks like Commission Junction or, seek out independent merchants working outside of the CJ style networks. This, however is a mixed bag. Some don't know what they're doing at all, and others are cutting edge.
Look for independent merchants in search engines by searching "affiliate + keyword" or "product name." Check out forums for opportunities. When you're looking for products to promote, do some keyword research to determine if the product will have enough demand to justify your investment of time. Make sure that the opportunity lines up with your area of expertise, in terms of the demographic segment of traffic you personally know how to drive. The more relevant you make your merchant selections to the resources you can bring as an affiliate, the better. However, keep an open mind and take the opportunity to grow knowledgeable about other product-spaces.
Part Time Work at Home
This is a great "part time work at home" gig. Just watch out for conflict of interest with your day job. At first, look for affiliate opportunities surrounding something you already know. Pick a niche' that you will "stick with," because it can take months. If you stay with it, things will gradually grow.
There are 2 basic questions that an affiliate needs to know: will the product sell and will the merchant pay. Look at the commission rate but also look at the conversion rate. Both matter. Look deeper than the percentage. Merchants who do a much better job of closing the sales than the other guy vare better partners. Conversion is very valuable. Conversion puts money in both merchants' and affiliates' pockets. Don't just assume that the highest commission will put the most money in your pocket. Test, test and test again. Know the mind of your shopper. Targeting is not as obvious as it may seem at first look.
Seek out merchants who are committed to improving their own conversion. The quality of the merchant's site, your own "pre-sell" (product description) and the quality of the targeting are the most important qualities.
When Looking For a Merchant
Find the merchant, apply, get link codes (text or graphics) and "post those links." Nothing is going to happen for either the merchant or the affiliates if you don't actually post the links. As an affiliate look for a merchant who has good tools, informative stats, reliable tracking, effective communication, earnings potential, reliable payment reputation and are committed to "best practices. The best website is one that is making money while the affiliate is working on something else.
Dixon Jones,Managing Director, Receptional LTD is up next. He's a bit tired from jet lag. :). He is speaking about effective affiliate strategies, actions and tactics. He quipped about is first affiliate deal in 1999. It came out of "audacity and arrogance." His first affiliate gig was woman's underwear. It crashed. I'm trying to figure out exactly what he's talking about. Oh... the point is that the project failed.
I think his point is that basic SEO interlinking, usability and traditional values are important. He's showing a successful affiliate site that has many pages indexed, zero obvious affiliate links, obvious added value. The point is that an affiliate site can't suck. It has to add value to the user. Hide the affiliate links, add value to the user, create unique content (especially if you want search traffic).
He recommends Redirection, a WordPress plug in to manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have. This is particularly useful if you are migrating pages from an old website or are changing the directory of your WordPress installation. Dixon echoed the advantages of "taking control" of the tracking system.
You can own the user. You don't need a network. Being the only affiliate for a product has some upsides. You can provide phone support where merchants often can't or won't. There's the added value. The client eventually learns that proper consultancy is way better in the long run. if it's a lead gen-site, use your own form to capture the user data. If it isn't lead-gen, use widgets if you can, to keep the user on your site for longer. If you can't, use i-frames to retain your "brand." Try and own the relationship with users, merchants, websites, and tracking. Then you'll have something worth selling.
Jim Banks Chief Executive Officer,Global Direct Media is speaking about effective tactics, ineffective tactics, what to look out for-good, what to look out for-bad and will summarize. He is speaking from the "Network Viewpoint" which means being a little a little like a stock broker. Email affiliates, search/ppc affiliates, contextual/social media affiliates and display affiliates are the topics for the day.
Tips and Tricks
Don't burn your list on an untested offer, no matter how mice your affiliate manager is. Tell your friends if you get an offer to fly. Plan for seasonality like Christmas, Fathers' day, Valentines, Thanksgiving and other opportunities. For instance, promoting cigars on Father's day is a good tactic. Dare to be different. PPC is not just Google. Anticipate demand by "not waiting for demand to be there." Calculate a desired profit margin and work your strategy out on that basis.
When it comes to social, make sure that you are actually allowed by TOS to run this type of traffic in the community. Not every advertiser is OK with it. Expect your network to support with creatives. The network viewpoint on display: Now is a good time to be buying display Don't be suckered by poor media buys. Know your break even point and don't sign up for long term.
Effective tactics include day-parting, split-testing, pixel placement, payment negotiation (find merchants who pay on time), rate negotiation (don't settle for the first offer), bespoke creative and sharing information with your network partners. Don't hide what you are doing or attract suspicion of fraud. Don't be fickle and avoid emotional attachment to a network, offer or product.
A good network is proactive, flexible, pay quickly and consistently, creative, assertive, (better deals/better rates), generous and easily accessible by IM, phone, email, etc...
Marty Weintraub is President of aimClear, an Internet Focused Advertising Agency in Duluth, Minnesota