General Affiliate Marketing – Categories – Finch Sells

Category - General Affiliate Marketing

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5 Things I Would Do If I Were Starting Affiliate Marketing Today
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New Premium Posts, Plans for 2015 and Good Reads
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How Much Could I Pay You to Quit Affiliate Marketing?

5 Things I Would Do If I Were Starting Affiliate Marketing Today

“What would you do if you were starting from scratch in affiliate marketing today?”

This is one of those questions that pops up on forums, and lands in my inbox often.

It’s difficult to answer.

Mainly because it suggests we should be able to predict where our future money lies.

I don’t think there’s a single affiliate who doesn’t wish he broke in to the industry a year earlier. The ‘industry one year ago’ is a rosier place.

It always is, and always will be.

That’s because:

Successful strategies are only obvious in hindsight.

We feel pretty stupid when we miss them, but it’s a given that most of us will.

That’s why if I were starting affiliate marketing today, I would worry less about imminent opportunities — and more about the systems, processes and relationships required to take advantage of them.

Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. I would build a war chest of funds using my current skill set.

It is critical that you have a decent sized budget if you want to pursue paid traffic arbitrage.

Note: I have explained the core differences between free traffic vs. paid traffic in my updated intro for beginners.

Ideally you should be able to spend at least $100/day collecting data.

That’s not to say you should be losing $100/day.

Fuck me, if you’re spending $100/day and making $0/day — forget what anybody says about perseverance — pause that shit and get back to the drawing board.

Somewhere along the way, you’ve made a huge mistake.

Most people who land in this industry have key skills that can be used to build a war chest of funds.

Whether you are a writer, a designer, a developer, or a sales man — you can find work online.

These sites have thousands of jobs available:

Alternatively, you can get a conventional full or part time job.

Why are affiliates allergic to working 9-5? It makes no sense.

There is no shame in collecting a pay cheque from ‘The Man’.

If money is your primary restraint, I would say that it’s actually a pretty bloody smart idea.

2. I would invest in a good VPN and study my chosen market obsessively.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) lets you access websites using an IP in a different country.

Why would you want to do this?

To spy on foreign ads and affiliate campaigns, of course.

There are no secrets in affiliate marketing.

Most profitable campaigns are running in full view of the public.

You can use spy tools like WhatRunsWhere to harvest banners and landing pages, but these are often lacking in context.

The best way to see which creatives are dominant is to load up a VPN, access a placement, and note which banners appear first (and most often).

For this, I use HideMyAss. It has servers in over 128 countries, is pretty reliable, and works on mobile phones.

Note: A monthly charge to ‘HideMyAss’ is definitely one of the more interesting expenses on my bank statements. Be prepared to explain to your accountant what ’Spy Software’ actually means, lest he fear your affiliate business is a racket for the Russians.

If you don’t want to shell out on a VPN, you can crawl the web at a snail’s pace by Googling ‘proxies in [country here]’ and trying them one-by-one.

Once you have access to dozens of countries, you can start gathering intelligence on any markets that are active with affiliates.

You can see exactly what offers are being run (without getting redirected), and you can jack all manner of useful creatives.

3. I would learn by osmosis — and gain access to key players.

If you want to find an affiliate mentor; somebody to hold your hand, to teach you the ropes; then my best advice is this:

Snap off your dick, book in some surgery, reinvent yourself as a beautiful woman — and hope for the best.

For everybody else, I wish the very best of British to you.

I don’t believe mentor arrangements work unless they are mutually beneficial.

That means you need to bring useful skills to the table (available for free), or a knack for honeybadgering freebies, the likes of which is beyond the scope of this blog.

Here’s the sad truth:

Inside information is at a premium for newbie affiliates.

The guys who need the attention of their AMs (Affiliate Managers) are often the guys who the AM has little incentive to work with.

Your affiliate manager could be handling dozens, even hundreds, of accounts.

Imagine a Skype wall with “Hey, how are u?” repeated ad infinitum.

Their attention goes, firstly, to the volume players who already generate good revenue.

Forget the Pareto Principle. We’re talking 95/5 laws of revenue distribution here.

With that said, you will need to come up with some novel ways of extracting information from key industry figures:

  • Your affiliate managers
  • Traffic source reps
  • Your direct competition

Now, if I were starting my career today, I would be mind-mapping the chains of power that bind the industry together — and then finding ways to break in to them.

The one playground that is fair game for seducing all three parties above is the conference circuit.

Once you know who you need to target in your market of choice, research where (and how) to access them.

This is where you need to position yourself favourably:

Affiliate managers… respond well to the illusion of an already successful affiliate. Pretend you are running traffic elsewhere.

Traffic source reps… respond well to the idea that you are not actually an affiliate. Pretend you run a ‘performance marketing agency’.

Your competition… responds well to legitimate information, or flattery. No pretending here. Suck up or cough up.

I’ve met a bunch of newbie affiliates at events this year.

While I don’t know how their businesses have progressed since, I know for sure that they made the right decision in going to events where they’d network with legitimate affiliate marketers.

This form of learning by osmosis — for newbies and veterans alike — is vital for picking up signals about where the industry is heading.

Good places to start include Affiliate Summit, AdTech, and whatever annual meetup your network of choice is currently pimping.

4. I would focus on out-working the competition.

How do you build a competitive advantage when your competitors are richer, more experienced and better connected than you?

The answer is by starting small, keeping lean and making moves that — for whatever reason — your competitors won’t.

Stay under the radar and out-work the competition.

The best way to do this is to corner a small segment of a market that you already know to be profitable.

The German dating market is profitable. It’s also fiercely competitive.

A newbie entering these waters is going to be swallowed up by one of the many great white sharks, AKA your direct competition.

So you start in shallow waters. You ask questions about the huge German dating market and you segment it in to smaller chunks.

There are many ways you can do this: from age, to cities, to needs, to marital profiling, to disabilities, to shared hobbies.

The dating market is a great example because it serves a universal need (to find a companion) with endless smaller pockets of demographics that can be targeted.

What you will find is that your biggest competitors are drunk on their economies of scale. They won’t bother to devise campaigns for the smaller traffic sources, or the minority demographics. If they do, it will be an afterthought.

This leaves the path clear for a newbie affiliate to sweep in and serve those demographics with a message that strikes closer to home.

While a small budget demands that you out-work the competition, take note: this is not a scalable advantage once you enter the mass markets.

To be a dominant affiliate in the big-money open waters, you need to build structural advantages in to your business.

By definition, an effective advantage must not be easy for a newbie affiliate to replicate. I’ve referenced some of the more popular strategies here.

Of course, it’s a double edged sword.

Dominant affiliates rely on structural advantages to stay profitable. In doing so, they sacrifice an element of creative desperation.

Dave Trott covers the topic well with this excellent piece on Revolution vs. Maintenance.

5. I would choose a low CPA/CPI niche

There are two benefits to working with low payout offers.

The first is that they are easier to optimise.

If an offer pays out $2, you can make a decision on its viability with relatively little ad spend.

$20 spent and no conversions? Time to pivot.

The second reason is that for a newbie, breaking the pattern of zero conversions is important.

You want proof that affiliate marketing works?

You’ll get it faster by pushing offers that don’t require a large payment from the consumer — in other words, offers that don’t require a hard-sell.

This proof can morph in to motivation, which can snowball in to self-belief and more patience in the long run.

It’s easier to stay motivated while the conversion column is moving (and the data is taking on some meaning).

The good news is that there are tons of offers in emerging markets where conversions are rampant and the cost of traffic is cheap.

The Middle East and South Asia are prime examples. LATAM is another exciting growth area.

By focusing on these regions, you can get some conversions under your belt. You can learn how each traffic source works without selling off your left kidney to pay for the advertising.

The faster you get away from theory and in to the realms of collecting data, the sooner you can call yourself an affiliate.

To be blunt:

These are the five things I would do if I was starting affiliate marketing today:

  1. Build a testing budget where I can spend at least $100/day.
  2. Invest in a VPN and analyse the top-bidding affiliates in each country.
  3. Build key relationships with affiliate managers, traffic source reps and direct competitors.
  4. Search for under-served segments in profitable markets.
  5. Stick to low-paying offers and gather data fast.

What are you currently doing?

Have I missed something that can light a rocket up the arse and catapult newbies to success?

Interested to hear.

New Premium Posts, Plans for 2015 and Good Reads

Christmas is coming.

I can tell because the seasonal fatty in me aches for Gingerbread latte and industrial-sized buckets of mulled wine.

Now is a great time to be an affiliate marketer.

Mainly because it’s a bad time to be anybody else.

Take the rest of the workforce, for example:

Wake in the darkness, spaz at the cold, wrap in seven layers, power-walk through the black ice to an overheated tube where the chances of catching a nice, hearty flu increase fivefold with every station passed.

Rinse and repeat, Monday to Friday.

The thrill of watching it all unfold from my office window is the pinnacle of working from home.

And if anybody disagrees, trust me — their priorities are all wrong.

I’m only half-joking.

I enjoy London in the winter.

But I’m still excited to get out of here.

My Plans for 2015

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I am perennially on the edge of moving somewhere that isn’t London.

I have a success rate of about 20%.

Well, something will have to go seriously wrong for that not to change.

My girlfriend and I are moving to Thailand in March.

We’ll be based in Bangkok, which already feels like a second home.

It’s difficult to explain, but South East Asia has a magnetic pull. Once you get a taste for the food, beaches, pools and blistering heat, you start to ask why you wouldn’t live there if you could choose.

I’ve been three times in the last year. Every time I leave, it’s through gritted teeth and a death trail of mango sticky rice.

The expat community in Thailand is, of course, well known. It’s getting younger and younger thanks to flexible working arrangements and the smaller world that we live in.

I know more British affiliates based in Thailand than I do in London.

Jesus, I need to get out more.

Bangkok, besides being a balls-to-the-walls awesome city, is a great base to explore the rest of South East Asia and beyond.

I’m stoked to see some countries that I’ve never been to before: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam and more. Suggestions welcomed.

It should be an exciting year!

New Premium Posts Next Month

In other news…

It’s 18 months since I released the last volume in my Premium Post series.

I had a new release ready to go in the summer. Unfortunately business got in the way of writing, and by the time I returned to finish it up, I wasn’t happy with the content.

So on to the scrap heap it went.

One complete rewrite later, and the next volume is almost ready to be unleashed.

It will cover a huge amount of ground: from adult dating, to mobile campaigns, the current Facebook and Google landscapes, to new areas like pay per call, Teespring and several ‘unfashionable’ sources of traffic that can blow up your earnings biggie style.

This is going to be a mammoth release. The chapter covering adult dating alone is bigger than the entire Volume X (which was dedicated to it).

I think you’re going to struggle to find a more definitive pillaging of the affiliate marketing industry as it stands today.

Stand by for a lot of brain farts when it goes live on December 17th.

In the meantime, here is something every affiliate should read at least once. Maybe even twice.

How to Build The Future…

I read a lot of business books. Sometimes mindlessly.

When you’ve chowed your way through the entire Amazon bestsellers, you become familiar with the arcing topics that every writer and his dog likes to bark about. There’s only so many times I can relive the story of Maslow, Kitty Genovese or a room full of marshmallows.

The mind doth start to play with its balls.

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel, is the rare type of business book that stops you dead in your tracks.

Zero to One Review

“Notes on Startups, or How to Build The Future” sounds like a bold strapline. If anything, it undersells.

Thiel outlines the concepts that can make or break a startup, without resorting to magic bullet steps to pique interest. He talks innovation, technology, team-building and — most effectively — how to stand apart from your competition.

The book is a page-turner that demands to be put down. A rare thing.

It opened my eyes, my mind and my notepad.

It forced me to digest its concepts slowly, chapter by chapter.

Any book that begs to be placed aside while you question the wisdom of your current beliefs deserves the highest praise, especially when it’s so much easier to publish the opposite.

Thiel is a legend of the tech sphere. He didn’t need to write a book.

Likewise, when you have Mark Zuckerberg (“This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.”) and Elon Musk (“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.”) singing your praises, you don’t need lowly blogs like this to sell a book for you.

But I enjoyed the read so much that I have to recommend it.

Probably the best business book I’ve read this year.

Surprise, Surprise. Penguin Goes Viral

Finally, did you see the John Lewis Christmas advert?

If you’re outside the UK, then probably not.

Here it is:

I’m no brand advertiser, but I’ll tip my hat where it’s due.

That is some proper next-level Mad Men shit.

There’s a fine line between ‘going viral’ for the sake of sapping bandwidth, and going viral in a way that showcases a brand with goodwill that turns in to sales.

John Lewis are one of the best at getting it right.

Alas, this ice-cold fart will be shitting penguins — I repeat, SHITTING PENGUINS — before he goes anywhere near John Lewis at Christmas.

How Much Could I Pay You to Quit Affiliate Marketing?

There was an interesting poll up on the STM Forum this week:

What guaranteed monthly salary would you accept to quit affiliate marketing for a job in the corporate world?

Monthly affiliate salary

Just under 50% of the affiliates who replied said you’d have to pay them at least $500K per year to quit affiliate marketing.

That’s pretty remarkable.

Anybody who works in affiliate marketing knows that there’s no such thing as a fixed income.

To turn down a guaranteed bounty of $500K per year — plus a lifetime free of the aeons of stress-fuelled hair shredding — says a lot about the passion of those who turn to our industry.

Admittedly, yes, the figures are likely inflated by a sense of bravado and outward ‘who-can-grind-the-hardest’.

There’s a funny line that if you ask a man how many women he’s slept with, and then divide his response by three, you’ll be somewhat closer to the real answer.

Perhaps we can say the same for the price on an affiliate marketer’s head.

Regardless…

This poll, if even remotely close to the truth, reveals two stark realities:

1. Your competition is ruthlessly committed.
2. Affiliate marketing is more than just a business. It’s a lifestyle choice.

The Ruthless Competition

If somebody is willing to turn down a guaranteed income of $500K per year, what does that tell you about their affiliate business?

It says, either, “Hi, I’m insanely rich and 500K means nothing to me.”

Or, “I’m completely committed to making this work, to the point where not even half a million dollars is going to sway me.”

Whatever the case, this is your competition.

And that should be a call to arms.

These are the people, the pooled ruthless mindset, that you have to compete with.

Is it any wonder that the industry is so tough for a newcomer to crack?

A Lifestyle Choice

One of the things that struck me while reading the responses to the STM poll was just how many users had already given up six-figure corporate jobs in favour of affiliate marketing.

When you see a poll like this, your first thought is cynical:

“Somebody who already earns his millions in a glass-laden corner office probably isn’t going to be exchanging the view for affiliate marketing anytime soon.”

Except, that wasn’t the case.

I regularly speak to successful pros from all walks; from the finance arena, to the weary battle-hardened in law (the irony), and to unsatisfied executives.

It’s widely accepted that beyond a certain point, your salary ceases to add enjoyment to your life.

Once the basics are covered, and luxuries enjoyed, an extra 100K or 500K is pretty much irrelevant.

Time and burnout become the chief nemesis of happiness. Along with the political games that are so entwined with the corporate world.

And that’s why, for many people, affiliate marketing is not just a career. It’s a symbolic lifestyle choice.

Once you have enough money, you start looking inward at the value of your time.

Want to know the reason why so many affiliates put such high prices on their head?

Because they have something that people stuck in high-paying corporate jobs so desperately want:

  • The freedom of time
  • Self-determination

Once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.

This stubborn defiance to conform, even under the carrot of a fixed 500K salary, is what drives affiliates to be the best damn marketers in the business.

It’s the reason why corporations have to pay extreme money to attract us.

And if you want to carve your own career in affiliate marketing, this needs to be considered.

There simply isn’t room for the half-arsed.

The Price on My Head

Would I accept a fixed salary to quit affiliate marketing?

Are you shitting me?

Yes, of course I bloody would.

In a strange paradox, it’s exactly what I strive to achieve every single day.

But there’s a very big difference between working for any corporation, and working for one built in your own image through your own blood, sweat and beers.

For all the successful affiliates I’ve met, I can count on one hand those who wanted to stay middlemen in this same industry forever.

(And even then, I’m pretty sure half of them were rat-arse plastered at the time.)

We all have escape plans.

Affiliate marketing, the career choice, is 100% expendable in my eyes.

And yet the lifestyle and opportunity it represents comes at a huge price.

Is a 500K salary enough to fund that exchange?

To say there’s a yes or no answer would be to undersell the very Machiavellian nature of our industry.

To illustrate, I put this question to a friend of mine (who happens to be a newbie affiliate) and here’s what he said:

Guess I’d take the job. Hustle for a year. Demand a pay raise. I’d keep tabs on any useful data they had, any interesting connections. Try take on a few juniors to get some solo work done on the side. After 3 years, I’d leave with two Mil in the bank and blow up my own dick boost pills, or whatever’s flying at the time. Maybe Ebola. Fuck, when can I start?

And that, my dear scumbags, is why affiliates are not grown.

We are born rancid.

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