Answer quick: what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words “affiliate marketing”?
Maybe you consider it a bit scammy, spammy and preferably avoidable.
Or you envision someone trying to rake in a few back-alley bucks through a merchant that’s going to abscond with your credit card information.
You might think of those benign but annoying links that throw popup ads across your screen when you accidentally hover your mouse over them.
Even if you do think of affiliate marketing as a viable way to make some extra money for your business or blog, it may still feel vague and questionable, a few pilfered cents at best.
Part of the problem is that you’re thinking about it all wrong.
Plenty of people make money with affiliate marketing – and plenty more don’t. Here are four attitudes you’ll need to adopt if you want to be successful at it.
Affiliate Marketing Is Not Passive Income
Figured I’d throw this out up front. You may have read a blog post or two about using affiliate marketing as a source of passive income.
But if you want to make a profit with affiliate marketing and do it without being a sleazeball, it requires active engagement.
Passive by definition means not participating. If your idea of affiliate marketing is plunking an affiliate link in the middle of a post or page on your website, then I suppose you could call it passive.
At that point you could also call it a few pilfered cents because you won’t be retiring on that anytime soon.
If you want to be successful at it, it’s actually work, just like all marketing. It can be fun. It can be (and usually is) social. You may even be able to turn it into your entire business model! But you can’t grab a link or graphical ad, drop it somewhere on your website and wait for the bucks to roll in.
If that works for you, I really want to hear about it!
Successful Affiliate Marketing Starts With Trust
Think about the last time you decided not to buy something from a particular website or store. Maybe it was too expensive; but these days with everyone from Walmart to (yes) Apple competing on price, there are deals coming out of the woodwork.
Chances are your decision not to purchase was influenced more by your relationship (or lack of it) with the vendor. Most likely, you didn’t quite trust that vendor.
Given the option to purchase through a trusted site like amazon.com, zappos.com, harryanddavid.com (not affiliate links!) or any number of “old standbys”, how likely are you to buy the same or a similar product from a completely unknown person or website, even if it was a little bit cheaper?
Raise your hand if the answer is, “Slim to none.” (Me!)
As an affiliate marketer, you’re one of the “unknowns”. Without trust, there’s no incentive for someone to buy through you when they could buy through a trusted site. Or even another trusted affiliate.
And to compound the challenge, if you represent a little-known or unknown product, you’re also inheriting responsibility for creating trust for the product you’re representing.
As an affiliate marketer it’s your job to actively create trust so that someone will want to purchase the products that you represent.
If I told you right now to go purchase Widget Q because it’s so awesome that you can’t live without it… how likely are you to do that? Well, if you’re a frequent reader of my blogs and you trust my opinion, I’d say there’s a decent chance. As for someone who stumbled on this post today for the first time? Not so much, I bet.
It’s your audience’s trust in you that’s going to transfer to the product and make someone feel comfortable purchasing.
Alas, it takes even more than trust, and that’s why to be a successful affiliate marketer, you will also need to remember that…
Trusting relationships, yes. But people also need to like you.
Wouldn’t you buy from someone you like over someone who gives you the creeps? I would!
A person or vendor may be completely trustworthy but that doesn’t mean you like them. There are certain vendors I’ve dealt with who deliver the products they say they will, on time, for a fair price… but they’re crummy people and I won’t buy from them if I can get what I want elsewhere.
Affiliate marketing is relationship marketing.
It’s your relationship with the people you’re selling to that will get you the sale – not just the product or the deal.
Remember Widget Q? Well, if we’ve connected online (or offline) and you like me, I bet you’d be happy to support me with your purchase. But if you’re no fan of mine, and you can get the same widget from someone much cooler than me? You know you would.
I’ve bought many products that I’d never heard of before, based on the referral of a trusted person whom I like and have a good relationship with. I’ve discovered interesting music, books and artwork, found the perfect time tracking software and even signed up for a few webinars.
But none of that would have had a chance of happening if it hadn’t been for my relationship with the person representing the product. But wait, there’s more…
Products And Services Represent You
If you’re building trust and relationships then this should be a no-brainer.
You should only represent products, services and vendors that you can personally vouch for and sell with integrity.
I’m very anti-get-rich-quick. So for me to become an affiliate for a “Make $10,000 in one hour without even trying” program would be hypocritical and yes, scammy. If that’s your thing and you can vouch for the integrity of the program because it worked for you, then go for it.
Be sure that whatever you represent aligns with your business goals and values.
Some people take the catch-all “buy through my Amazon affiliate link” approach, and that’s perfectly legitimate, but in my opinion, you’ll be more successful if you represent products that are contextually relevant.
When someone visits your site or blog, they’re there for a reason. If you’re a photographer, it’s probably to see your portfolio or hear your latest tips on framing. That visitor would be more interested in the book you recommend on “101 tips for an amateur photographer” than, say, a set of dinnerware.
If you blog about health and fitness, then an Amazon link would have less impact than a link to a set of kettlebells… which may ultimately be purchased through Amazon, but you’ve taken the time to find a product that your audience can use and might actually want. Maybe one they never even considered.
Remember that it’s your audience’s trust in you that’s making the sale, so if the product you promote is a dud, or the vendor you represent is unethical or unpleasant to deal with, that’s going to reflect back on you and damage your credibility.
So what do you think? Does affiliate marketing sound like something you could weave into your income plan?
If so, are you lining your ducks up now so that your audience will know, like and trust you enough to purchase your recommendations later?
Have you tried affiliate marketing and had success with it, or are you still stuck on “now what?” Share your tips – or questions – in the comments.
P.S. Come back for some hands-on affiliate marketing tips next time!