If you’ve been around digital marketing for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Affiliate Sales. It’s the “easy money” of internet marketing. On any given day, there’s a guru on every corner ready to tell you how to make a mint by selling other people’s products for them. There are whole business models built on this concept and sites like ClickBank and Commission Junction are there to get you started.
Unfortunately, affiliate sales are never as easy as the gurus say they are and there never seems to be big money in them either. The allure of affiliates is the “hands off” nature of them. You don’t have to interact with people. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject area. And you don’t have to create products to sell in order to make money.
You put up a quick website, write some content loaded with links and drive traffic to it. It’s a numbers game. Throw enough traffic at it and sales will eventually happen. The only question is where to get the traffic, right? You can buy it, build it, or use every SEO trick in the book to get Google to send it to you. I have to admit, as an introvert, this model is enticing.
The truth is that there’s a lot more to successful affiliate sales than links and traffic. So, today I’m going to explain some elements that often go undiscussed in this arena.
How To Choose The Right Affiliate Partners
I’ve been through dozens of trainings on affiliate sales over the years and one of the things that is rarely explained is how to choose the right affiliate partners. In other words, how do I know what to be an affiliate for?
1. Serve the Same People – The first question I ask when choosing affiliates is, “Do we serve the same people?” In order for me to recommend a product, it needs to be compatible with what I already do. If I’m running a site about cooking, I don’t really need to be an affiliate for an auto parts company – even if that company offers lots of options and pays big commissions.
2. Don’t Compete for the Same Money – The second question I ask myself when choosing an affiliate is “Do we compete for the same money?” In other words, money that customers pay to my business must not be money that they would normally pay to my affiliate’s business. For example, a childcare center and a pediatrician both serve children and families, but the money paid to the pediatrician is not the same money that would be paid to the childcare center.
3. Have Complimentary Products and Services – The third question I ask myself when choosing an affiliate is, “Do we offer complimentary products and services?” It’s the “Want fries with that?” approach. I look for companies that sell products that compliment mine, so that when my customer buys from me, I can honestly recommend that they buy something else from my affiliate. i.e. If I sell laptop computers, I may look for an affiliate that sells cases.
4. Working Together Benefits Both Partners AND the Customer – The fourth question I ask myself when choosing an affiliate is, “Will this partnership benefit all three parties – my customer, my affiliate, and me?” A solid affiliate relationship is good all the way around. If one party makes out like a bandit and another makes nothing, it isn’t a good fit.
Where To Look For Affiliates
The other thing I’ve learned over the years is where to look for good affiliates – and it’s not Click Bank. You can start with an affiliate service, but doing so leaves you vulnerable to poor choices based on ad hype or commission size. True affiliates need to be more organic than that. Here are some ideas.
1. Your Toolbox – The first place I go to look for affiliates is in my toolbox. What tools do I use every day, that I can recommend to others? Whatever products you choose, as long as they represent a relationship like the one I described in the last section, they have the potential to be good affiliates. I have recommended software, gear, training products, and more over the years.
The important thing about recommending the items in my toolbox is that I’ve actually used them. This is essential! I don’t recommend products or services unless I’ve used them. And most of the time, I’ve not only used them, but purchased them as well. This means that I’m familiar with the company’s sales process, fulfillment practices, and customer service.
2. Your Partners – The second place I look for affiliates is my partners. Who are the people that I naturally enlist to help me with my business on a regular basis? These are people like my accountant, my hosting company, my lawyer, and my bank. Again, capitalizing on the strength of my relationships by only recommending services that I use and believe in.
The nice thing about recommending my partners is that it builds their business and their success will translate into mine. It’s also nice to be able to get that blessing of giving by sending creating more opportunity for people I genuinely like and respect.
3. Your Vendors – The third place I look for affiliates is my vendors. Who are the people that serve my business well day in and day out? This can be anyone from my internet provider to my exterminator. I just go through the vendors file in Quickbooks and see if there’s anyone that I could be an affiliate for like my insurance company, my payroll company, my landscaper, my plumber, or my cleaning company.
The nice thing about recommending your vendors is that, by helping to build their business, you can actually make commissions that offset your costs. Everybody wins.
These are the best suggestions I have for finding long-lasting, profitable affiliates. As with anything I recommend, they have worked for me and I know they will work for you as well.
What criteria do you use for choosing affiliates? Share a comment and let’s talk about it.