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Affiliate marketing isn't easy. It takes time, resources and dedication. It's not something you can learn overnight and start making money with immediately. Normally, when I write about unrealistic expectations, I write about merchants—in fact, a chapter of my book is about just that. Today, I'm talking to affiliates—new affiliates, mainly. I'm talking to affiliates who might have some wild ideas about how quickly they can make six figures in this industry but have discovered that their unrealistic expectations led to disappointment. Affiliates who might be asking, “does affiliate marketing work?”
Today I'd like to share two examples of affiliates with unrealistic expectations that came up last week.
The Cookie Cutter
Affiliate managers have seen a wave of bad applications this year and my friend and fellow affiliate manager Wade Tonkin shared this one with me. A certain so-called guru has been selling DIY online money making courses for $97 and teaching victims how to post affiliate links on websites. If they want to “step up their game” and use a unique domain, that costs another $84. The domains are in the format of “1we57l”.com. They're just random characters that have no keyword relevance. The template looks like it's from 1997; it offers no real value unless modified by sophisticated content producers. Wade declined an affiliate who applied to a program with one of these sites. When she appealed the decline, we all sat back and cried a little.
I'm considering asking for a refund as I've not yet made any money with it and I also happen to be unemployed at the time with zero income. I really need that money for bills right now. I didn't expect to be without work for very long, it's been a month & a half. I'm currently looking into that link you provided. Trouble is, I'm not sure what I am most interested in that would be a value to the public. I would love to have my own site set up that's not considered “cookie cutter”.
Manage Your Expectations
The link Wade sent to her is one that many of us managers send to newbies, a beginner's guide to affiliate marketing by Shawn Collins. Besides the naivety from the affiliate, I'm more concerned about the expectations the online course delivers. If the guru is telling everyone they can start making money tomorrow, then that is a flat out lie. Some of the best affiliates know that it takes months, maybe longer, to earn that first check from a network. You have to fail before you succeed, often many times over. It's only been a month and a half since the affiliate above started this journey. She has a long way to go.
And she should ask for that refund.
Jumping the Gun
The next poor example was from an affiliate with lofty dreams and high demands. I'm not sure what this guy was thinking, but you don't walk into my saloon unknown and start demanding free drinks. I would have declined him based on the initial review of his website alone. After this intro, I declined him with a smile.
My site is very new and I just building the initial content now (should be fully completed by November). I have a plan to make 150 SEO based posts over the next year to drive 25,000 traffic per month. I want to drive this traffic to you. By next year, if I am able to get just 1% of people (very conservative estimate for the amount of traffic) who visit my site to buy your product, the sales will be around $25,000 per month if the average sale is $100. I just have some quick questions before we proceed; > I will be intercepting potential customers very early on in the Customer Purchasing Lifecycle (they will probably have never heard of your product before). This means that they will probably want to do more research before they commit. Am I guaranteed a piece of the pie as the initial source even if they click other affiliate links? > Will there be recurring sales commission. So for example, if I refer someone to the site and they create an account with my affiliate link, will I get a piece of the pie for all additional sales made using that account when they re-order 3 months down the line? I think this is only fair as they would never have heard of you if it wasn't for my initial input.
Manage Your Expectations
Welcome to affiliate marketing, call me when your site is ready. I told him I will discuss VIP commissions and bonuses based on volume or future effort when his site is successful. In a cordial reply, he said he understood completely.
First of all, his site will never give me more than a couple hundred clicks per month. Who told him to expect 25,000 clicks? Who told him to expect $1 per click overall? If I get an affiliate that is sending several thousand clicks per month, and it's not Slickdeals, the traffic never converts. This kills my conversion and EPC numbers for the month and will impact my year-over-year comparison next year. More importantly? My client does not benefit from having affiliates like these in the program. I weed these bad traffic sites out immediately.
So, Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
It's a fair question. In the first example, the affiliate may be wondering if she has been wasting her time and money for the last six weeks. In the second example, I rejected the affiliate for inclusion in a program. Although he said he understood the rejection, I reject hundreds of affiliates who do not. Maybe some of them have doubts about affiliate marketing in general if they find themselves rejected from a lot of programs.
Does affiliate marketing work… with the right expectations, yes, absolutely. We have hundreds of very successful affiliates earning tens of thousands of dollars in commissions and bonuses every month. The key is that they work hard; they are always testing, retesting, failing and succeeding. Are you new to affiliate marketing? Ask an affiliate manager for advice. If they don't respond, find another.