The Paid Advertising Syndrome On Digital Point
Rebills I’d Like To See In 2010
There’s More To Life Than Affiliate Marketing

The Paid Advertising Syndrome On Digital Point

I decided last week to spend some time on the Digital Point forums. I wouldn’t normally do this. I consider visits to both Digital Point and The Warrior Forum to be the equivalent of self-harm for affiliates. If you were to spend all day learning on them, you’d have gone ass backwards. If you’re not selling something, there’s no reason to be there.

One of my new initiatives out of the soul searching I did a little while ago was that I wanted to make an effort to help people and not just rip the shit out of them. So while on Digital Point, I was looking specifically for why so many of these marketers are spending their days spinning in circles and getting nowhere. What stood out was the giant canyon between free and paid advertising.

Some affiliates seem to have this mindset that if it ain’t free, it loses you money. A pay per click campaign is a prime example. I hear guys and girls complaining that they’d love the traffic from Google, but they can’t afford to spend money on paid ads. Let’s get it clear. It only costs you money if you suck at it. If you spend $100 to make $120 back – the paid advertising cost you less than the free advertising that took half your day and only made you 5 bucks. Free advertising comes at a price. That price is usually the investment of your time – unless you have a bunch of willing disciples pushing your shit for $0.47/hour.

Paid advertising doesn’t mean that you’re going to be left out of pocket. It simply means that you need to find a way to balance the right spend with your current cashflow situation. The most successful affiliates are getting paid weekly. This means their PPC budget is whatever they feel comfortable shedding from their account over the course of the 7 days that it takes to get reimbursed for the investment.

If you have money sitting in your bank, you have no excuse for avoiding paid advertising. The only excuse is that you’re worried you’ll suck at it and not make your money back + profit. Well, if that’s your mindset, why are you even dabbling in affiliate marketing? You belong sat at a desk on a fixed salary.

I’m not going to pretend that scaling to paid advertising isn’t an issue. There are ways to do it well. I thought I’d share a few of the concerns I had at the start of my switch to paid advertising, and how I managed to get over them.

First of all, you need to understand that most mainstream affiliate networks are not going to move you on to weekly payments overnight. Similarly, many networks will require that you cash a cheque before they switch you on to wired payments. This is to prevent the thousands of fraudsters out there from performing mass hit-and-run jobs on various offers. Considering each network will have significantly greater risk attached to their relationship with the advertisers that are paying them – it makes sense that you prove your worth to the network before they open up all payment options.

So you’re probably going to find yourself faced with the issue of “how I can afford to pay for my advertising when I’m not getting the money back ’til next month?”. The way I dealt with the problem was by having a little patience and sending only a small amount of traffic in my first month with each network.

Take a look at the minimum payment threshold to receive a cheque. It’ll probably be something like $100. So send $100 worth of traffic, wait for the cheque, cash it and then speak to your affiliate manager about payment terms. Tell him you’re ready to ramp up the traffic if he can guarantee you a weekly wire after xxx days. You’ll have more luck doing this than by strutting up to him on Day One and asking for the big shot treatment. Like your clicks are laced in gold or your berry traffic is fatter than the rest.

To be honest, you could just copy what I’ve done here. Create a blog, talk enough shit, and let the networks come to you.

The safest way to try paid advertising is unquestionably to haggle your way in to making it free advertising. One of my favourite methods was to steal PPC coupons from local bookshops. And yes, if you’re wondering, that’s about as classy as this blog is going to get.

Back when I was still working for my old web agency, it used to be a bit of a running joke on the web team that every time I disappeared for lunch, I’d come back with more £30 Adwords vouchers. I realized that .Net magazine was giving away a voucher with every edition. I’d simply roll in to WHSmiths and grab the loose inserts.

While many experts would love to have you believe there’s a magic ebook with the formula for success waiting to be read – it isn’t like that. It isn’t like that at all. The only way I ever got myself earning significant money was by grabbing the free Adwords coupons and experimenting until I found a campaign that was secure enough to pour my own money in to. Once you know a campaign is profitable, you would be an absolute retard for rejecting the instavolume that comes with PPC advertising.

Of course, there’s more to affiliate marketing than PPC advertising. If you’re operating on a limited budget, you can still chase down small media buys. People complain that media buys are a waste of money, too risky, too expensive and blah blah blah who gives a shit. So take the risk out of them!

There are literally thousands of websites out there with rarely clicked “advertising” links. If I’m going to buy exposure on somebody else’s site, I like to target the webmasters who aren’t entirely tuned in with what I do as a business. Go hunt down a website that has more than one advertising space available and ready to buy. What does this tell you? It tells you the webmaster is losing money by simply leaving the ad space unfilled. It tells you he probably might be interested in letting you run, say, a 24 hour test campaign to decide before you buy…right? These are the kind of opportunities that you have to jump on while your budget is still limited. And even if you’re an experienced marketer, it never hurts to be a cautious buyer.

Remember, the intention is never to claim a freebie. But rather to use trial opportunities to test a campaign and make a sensible decision about whether it’s going to be profitable to run. I remember what it was like when every dollar I had needed to be smartly invested. It probably brought out the best in my abilities.

But you need to have the right attitude. I’m willing to bet that most of these Digital Point members would see a £30 Adwords coupon and think to themselves, “How can I use that to get a £15 sale?”.

In reality, one of the quickest ways to get smart at affiliate marketing is to put your money where your mouth is. Remember that it might only take 1 day of a successful campaign to pay for an entire month’s worth of failed campaigns. But you’ll never appreciate this if you spend 8 hours a day submitting drivel to PR0 article directories.

Rebills I’d Like To See In 2010

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed that ripping in to rebills is one of my favourite subject matters. I’ve got a love/hate thing going on with the rebill. I loved the fact that while I was promoting them, I was banking left right and center. And I hated the fact that I was contributing to some of the lowest customer satisfaction numbers in the world.

I’ve said over and over again that the rebill needs to change to survive. Not just the essence of the deal itself, but the entire promotion that we as affiliates use to sell them.

It’s over three months since I last pushed a mainstream CPA rebill. While I took a big hit when I decided to stop slinging them, I’ve stabilized my business with offers that I’m not too guilty to talk about when somebody asks me “so what do you actually sell for a living?”. We’ve all gotta have values as affiliates. I made a fortune without stopping to consider mine, and now I’m backtracking to make sure I do things in a way that isn’t going to end in a lawsuit.

That said, I’m thinking of dipping back in to the rebill market. I miss the sweet ca-ching of another $35 being credited to my account when I refresh the page. I don’t want to touch another Google bizopp. And I’m definitely not slinging an acai berry supplement having actually bought a bottle of the damn thing from Marks & Spencers the other day. What was I thinking? I’ve been doing this shit so long, I’ve sabotaged my own shopping habits.

It was an acai berry smoothie, if you’re wondering. No need for weight loss here. I’m a lean mean commission machine.

So, I’ve been signing up to various obscure networks in the hope that I’d find an exclusive offer. Something that inspires me to crack open Adwords. The trouble is, a lot of the offers that I’d like to promote…don’t exist.

I’ve spoken to a couple of networks about pitching a variety of new products to the advertisers. This is an open plea to any advertiser who happens to be reading. The offers I’d like to see…

The “give up smoking” rebill

I can’t believe there’s no sign of this on any of the major networks. If you asked the UK smoking population to name one habit they’d love to kick, it’s probably going to be the smoking. There’s a HUGE demand for giving up cigarettes and as we all know, a rebill works best when it appeals to the desperate nature of a poor helpless mope with nowhere else to turn.

The concept it simple. If a $39.95 monthly rebill doesn’t shock you in to kicking the habit, the $19.95 upsell certainly will. If you don’t kick that habit within 15 days, we’re gonna rebill your ass so hard that you’ll be puffing sweet nicotine forgiveness for the rest of your life.

In all seriousness, why isn’t there an offer? I can think of a million keywords that would convert. I’m practically salivating when I think of all those dating websites that list “smoker/non smoker” as an option.

Just imagine the upsells. If you’ve got somebody who wants to give up smoking, it’s likely that they want to live a healthier life. They probably want to restore some youth along the way, right? Christ, I bet that ass is ridden in cellulite.

A little persuasive “offer-shotgunning” (that’s a double barrel hit), and you could have this desperate mope eating supplements for breakfast. My ethics are escaping me fast here. But you get the idea. I’m not suggesting for an instant that we, the affiliate marketing masses, would resort to such mindless aggressive marketing – but it’s easy to see how this niche market could be jacked up and turned in to a multi-billion sunlounger fetcher for some deep pocketed son of a bitch advertiser.

Quality products delivered by quality advertisers

Now, about those ethics. I honestly do believe that most rebills are a joke. Consumers have every right to feel ripped off by some of the products that I see shoved in to my weekly newsletter.

I don’t have a problem with the weight loss vertical, or colon cleansing, or skincare – or any of them. But what the industry needs is a bunch of advertisers with products that deliver the goods. Or more importantly, products that justify their monthly rebilling structure. We have some of the best marketers in the business making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just imagine how well they’d perform if you gave them something to work with.

The Google bizopp is a prime example of a product that has no rebill value. Have you looked at the inside of these “cash kits”? I have. Pretty much everything that you see on day one, is what you will see when the merchant processes your next charge.

Likewise, I don’t think a Google bizopp is the end of the world. As a concept, it’s perfectly legit. People really DO make money on Google. But if you’re going to sling a rebill without the General Attorney baying for your bacon, you need to justify that recurring charge somehow. Give the product some accumulating monthly value. Even if it’s just staggered delivery of the existing content. Anything.

I’d be happy to accept a $15 payout on an offer that doesn’t generate a firestorm of bad press and converts better as a result.

This is all nice to talk about. But the reality is that too many people are filling their pockets with money for there to be the significant changes that would be required. Unless, of course, drastic legal action says otherwise.

Tutoring style rebills

I’d love to see some rebills that aren’t designed to cater for a) the dumb, b) the vain or c) Middle Class America.

Let’s be honest. The last time you sat down to do a character assessment of the target market for your newest rebill – did you really branch beyond those characteristics? Yet the problem with appealing to these people is that they also happen to be some of the most indecisive motherfuckers walking the land. They want to lose weight one day, and they’re stuffing their faces the next.

I’d like to see some rebills designed for people who are genuinely committed to a cause. Take learning guitar for example. A lot of people out there are looking to learn an instrument and they’d probably pay for lessons to do so, in fact I know they do. One of my friends charges £25/hour to teach guitar. He books them in for a lesson every week.

If an advertiser could structure a good online program, providing additional content every month, you’d have a rebill that was perfectly justifiable and maybe just maybe I’d feel like less of an asshole when I went to sleep at night.

What about learning a language? A self help program that “slowburns” over time? There are so many concepts that would sell, that don’t have to be about popping pills and posting links online. These are markets that while profitable in 2009, will ultimately, in my opinion, be found out over time.

There’s More To Life Than Affiliate Marketing

I’ve been doing affiliate marketing for over a year now. In that year I’ve earnt more money than I made in the rest of my working life. I’ve quit my day job, gone a long way to securing my future, and made a lot of good contacts in the business. All a few months shy of my 22nd birthday.

But is it really worth it?

How much money does a man need before he’s finally happy? Everywhere I look, I see bloggers throwing out tips for how to make more cash. How to turn thousands in to tens of thousands. It’s great if you’ve got your back against the wall financially. But what is the end goal? What really makes you happy?

I’m tired of working 16 hour days, six or seven days a week. It’s gruelling. I’ve paid the ultimate price for it. I’ve lost something that actually matters.

I thought I’d get a lot of happiness out of running my own business – and I do. But it’s not what I want to be thinking about when I fall asleep at night. There’s more to life than affiliate fucking marketing.

So pro tip of the day: Take a break.

Go see the kids. Tell the wife you love her. Enjoy how far you’ve come. Whatever.

Just don’t be sitting there ten years from now with your only happiness being that split second it takes to refresh stats. I think I need to take a break and reconsider what I’m trying to achieve with my career. You don’t really hear much about it through the industry blogs – but if you’re sat at your 9-5 right now dreaming of a brighter future, this path isn’t always the right one. The life of an affiliate marketer is generally lonely.

I’ve been reading a book called Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. Now I don’t normally buy in to the self-help bullshit that most of America seems to adore. But there’s a metaphor which is pretty fitting for what I’m trying to say:

Most people live what I call “The Niagra Syndrome”. I believe that life is like a river, and that most people jump on the river of life without ever really deciding where they want to end up. So, in a short period of time, they get caught up in the current: current events, current fears, current challenges. When they come to forks in the river, they don’t consciously deide where they want to go, or which is the right direction for them. They merely “go with the flow”. They become a part of the mass of people who are directed by the environment instead of by their own values. As a result, they feel out of control. They remain in this unconcious state until one day the sound of raging water awakens them, and they discover that they’re five feet from Niagra Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point, they say “Oh, shoot!” But by then it’s too late. They’re going to take a fall. Sometimes it’s an emotional fall. Sometimes it’s a physical fall. Sometimes it’s a financial fall. It’s likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream.

I remember interpreting that passage as people not taking a chance on their ambitions and one day realizing that they’ve achieved nothing. But there’s a different meaning when the river is money.

I used to think that making thousands of dollars every month would make me happy and open up the doors to chase opportunities that would otherwise be closed. It turns out, most of the things I was chasing were there all along.

Stop posting your links on Google and go do something worthwhile for the day. Better than living in regret.

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