You do great work. You pour your heart and soul into your promotions. You work constantly to build your audience and get them to engage. Every time a brand pays you for a PR post, you deserve every penny they send you.
Affiliate marketing is a little different though. I want you to start thinking like an affiliate.
You have the opportunity to work with smaller brands that do not have PR budgets but are willing to pay based on performance. You may find merchants that are willing to pay per post or pay to be in a gift guide for the holidays, but for the most part, they are going to stick to the revenue sharing model.
Merchants in the affiliate marketing space love working with “motivated bloggers”, as put by Brian Littleton, President of ShareASale recently. Brian was quoting the keynote given by Missy Ward at ThinkTank this month. My definition of a motivated blogger is one who wants to be a successful affiliate and meets us in the middle on promotions. I’ve met many bloggers that have told me they are taught that they have value and need to be paid for their efforts. Yes, you do. No one wants to work for free. But when you enter the affiliate marketing world you need to adjust expectations and plan differently. Affiliate managers are not looking for branding. We are not PR people, we are measured by sales.
You could show us that your blog post was seen by 30,000 sets of eyes and you can calculate the media value of that post in the tens of thousands. But if the ROI is not met, then all is lost according to the merchant. I’m borrowing a formula from my affiliate manager friend Jeremy but also basing it on the hundreds of reviews we did last year with multiple clients. Merchant X pays 10% commission with an average order of $100. Standard conversion is 3% but a blogger converts at 8%. We pay you $650 for a gift guide placement. We send you a product to review valued at $45 and we commit to a similar product for a giveaway. That is $740 upfront cost with no sales yet. Of your 30,000 eyes, less than 1% of them will click. Last year, with the best of the best working for our brands we were seeing less than 50 clicks from the majority of the bloggers. Let’s be generous and say we got 4 sales for those 50 clicks. That’s $400 in revenue for the merchant, $40 of which is the commission to the blogger. The merchant might have 50% markup so the net revenue is $160 but the blogger made $780. This does not include network fees or management fees.
Now you understand why we are not doing as many gift guides or reviews this year. I am not trying to discourage you from reaching out but please help us meet in the middle. We receive so many requests, especially at this time of the year that we need to be extra picky about who gets products for reviews. Your numbers need to be significant and you have to have a plan. A form letter asking for participation and some basic numbers will not get past the Cindy Filter. Engage with affiliate managers like you do with your visitors. Sell us on a strategic plan and give us some evidence that you understand affiliate marketing. This is where the motivated blogger gets our attention. Let’s look at two different pitches:
We are putting together a Holiday Gift Guide and would love to work with you. If you have any sales on items I could review and do a possible giveaway or if you would rather I could write a paid sponsored post between $50-$150 depending on content requirements, I would greatly appreciate it.
I’ve got a great idea for the holidays. I want to review a product from Merchant X in the $25 to $75 range, your choice. I’ve been building my audience in the X category and I think this type of product will do very well. I did a similar post last month and we generated X sales for the merchant. I’m hoping the holiday boost will give us 4 times that with your review.
Which pitch will I listen to and move mountains for?
I want you to start thinking like an affiliate. Many of you have been to ShareASale Think Tank over the last few years. Many of you have heard about the opportunities in affiliate marketing through keynotes and sessions by Missy, co-founder of Affiliate Summit (disclosure: affiliate link). You see our newsletters. You talk to affiliate managers. But you still think like bloggers who have been taught to play by the rules of PR and branding.
Those of you that start doing things differently will see more long-term commissions rolling in. You will be one of those rockstar bloggers that figured out affiliate marketing years ago and their seasoned posts are still earning commissions. Making consistent money year round should be more important than begging for free products so you don’t have to spend money at Christmas on presents for your extended family.
Visit this page to find more resources about affiliate marketing. Get involved in the industry. Attend Affiliate Summit in Vegas next January. Network with other affiliates. Talk to your managers.
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