The Personality Traits Of A Successful Affiliate

It doesn’t take much in the way of marketing knowledge to become a successful affiliate. This is one of the reasons the affiliate world has generally been seen as the outcast simple cousin of real world marketing. Go to a trade show that isn’t centered on affiliates and you’ll meet a lot of corporate suits who visibly wince at our presence.

Certainly at London Adtech, I felt like a caged zoo animal. Met by stares and lots of “oh, how’s that working out for ya?” as if I’d stumbled in to the hall by mistake and would swiftly return to a late bloomer college that might actually take me somewhere in life.

This outsider reputation doesn’t surprise me. The affiliate industry was never likely to smell of roses. And most of us are carrying dirt from sometime or another.

We are a different breed to the vision of marketing expertise they preach in the textbooks. I often receive emails from fledgling affiliates who are trying to break in to the business, based on their inclination that they’re well suited from whatever job they were doing before. But is there such a thing as a good career path in to affiliate marketing?

Most of us are orphans from the academic ranks. College dropouts, guys that weren’t suited to the 9-5 and just about everything in-between. I don’t think there’s a qualification in the world that makes you suitable for affiliate marketing. 95% of the challenges you face will be overcome by the attitude you bring to them.

So what are the personality traits of a successful affiliate marketer? This is just as relevant to those of you getting started, as it is to those of us looking to improve. In an industry with zero barrier to entry, the best tool you have is your attitude.

The single most important personality trait I can pinpoint is the compulsive need to complete what you start. I don’t know how many dollars have been wasted by affiliates who abandoned what they started, but I know that it’s more than I’ll ever earn in my lifetime.

Money does not get made by doing a half-arsed job of your best laid plans. If your notebook is littered with more scribbles than your FTP log, you’re probably planning too much and achieving too little. But this is a very hard personality trait to shake. It’s born out of procrastination and indecision. Two killers to any healthy business.

The only advice I can give for completing what you start is to set tangible goals and invite your loved ones to take a swing at your balls if you fail to meet them. You can start by restricting your daily tasks to the bare minimum. It’s not worth setting yourself a huge to-do list if you never follow through and complete it. I find that setting just two or three key tasks per day keeps me on track.

Hand in hand with the ability to finish what you begin, is the virtue of perseverance and willingness to fail.

Unprofitable campaigns, rejected creatives and flat-lining conversion rates do not make you a bad affiliate. They just add chapters of knowledge to your eventual scrapbook of success. I can’t stress highly enough how the difference between making money and losing money is often so tiny that you’ll be left scratching your head and wondering why any self respecting guru would want to give away such a nugget. The answer, of course, is they never do.

Successful affiliates don’t settle for failing. They use each misplaced idea as a stepping stone to the one campaign that pays for all those that failed before.

If you can’t handle losing money, or being forced to learn from your mistakes – no marketing degree is going to save you. And that’s why so many academics fail and exit the affiliate world with tails between legs. They can’t handle their degrees counting for nothing. Success goes to the affiliate who embraces each failed campaign and learns something new.

Finally, I think it’s very important to have a strategic mind when it comes to testing new variables. You should adopt a structured approach to how you attack any campaign, instead of flinging different ideas at the wall. If you’re going to promote an offer, test it properly. Every successful campaign needs a baseline around which it is built. This might be the age demographic you’re targeting, the profession of your target market, or even the landing page itself.

You can’t effectively pinpoint the unprofitable parts of a campaign if you’re forever pissing around with new variables.

Perfect example. What do you stand to gain in running a dating offer from 6pm to 11pm, deciding you’re not happy with the conversion rate, and then switching to a different offer from 11pm to 4am? How will you ever know if the dayparting or the offer itself lead to the variation in your ROI? This is classic affiliate indecision. Jumping the gun before you’ve given your campaigns a chance to sink or swim in a way that you can at least learn something.

If I had to throw in one more personality trait of a successful affiliate, you can never go wrong with some controlled desperation. A lot of affiliates succeed because the final destination far outweighs the alternative of slaving away in a shelf-stacking day job for the rest of their lives. Not to belittle the shelf-stackers among us, because I’ve been there myself.

But if you see the industry as a fast track to making money, you’re as handicapped as the guy who sees a golf club as his ticket to challenging Tiger Woods. Not because you’re lacking the skill – we don’t need much – but because your attitude is all wrong. Desire is the driving force behind any successful affiliate, entrepreneur or human being for that matter. Without it, you’ve already failed.

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About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

8 Comments

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  • I remember trying to find you at Ad:Tech just for some relief from the stares. I thought we might have been able to team up and the stare the shit back at them collectively.

    So many people turned off after I mentioned I was ‘involved in performance marketing’ or whatever the terms were that I kept changing to say anything other than ‘affiliate’. A couple of people even said something along the lines of ‘we want to keep our network clean, we don’t work with affiliates’ and walked away! YES CASALE MEDIA, I STILL HAVE YOUR FUCKING BOUNCY BALL AND ALL THE OTHER SHIT I TOOK FROM YOU!

    Anyways, great post as always!

  • @James damn what an obnoxious reply! You should have retorted “but well I make more money a day than you make in a week, a**hole.”

    @Finch killer post as always. Testing the right variables while keeping constants CONSTANT is what I learnt in a royal fashion just this past week 🙁

  • Great post Finch. Seeing projects to completion is something I struggle with too. I don’t know too many creative people that DON’T struggle with that issue. As the new sexy ideas come in fast and furious, it takes a lot of discipline to finish up the not so fun tasks like link building, or data analysis, digging for additional keywords or target urls…

    Corey

  • Great article for those of us just getting started in AM during the last year. I’ve committed to this as a full time stay at home job after more than 20 years in TV. Worked my way up through the ranks from audience warm-up guy to Dir. of Marketing. This feels about the same to me…you have to believe you’ll make it, commit to it and don’t let yourself or your daily results derail you.

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