First, yes it is worth it.
But . . . affiliate marketing is too often touted as a quick and easy way to make a buck. That may have been true in the past, to some degree, however that mindset will doom you to failure now.
Affiliate marketing is a means of monetizing, of generating income – it should not be viewed as the business itself. It is simply the revenue model that you’re using.
The place to start is to choose a group, a market, you feel you can help – or that you want to help. Evaluate their problems, find solutions, and then SELL (active as opposed to passive) those solutions.
Be aware of two common mistakes affiliates make:
1. The grass always appears greener someplace else. In many cases you’re best off going in a direction that nobody in the Internet marketing world is talking about. No matter how obscure your interests may be, there are enough people out there just like you to produce a comfortable income.
2. “Selling” doesn’t mean you need to go hardcore, push-push-push. Selling is a matter of influencing people in a direction that convinces them a product or service is worth more than the money in their pocket.
- Traffic. Can you locate where your audience is, right now – specifically? Unless the answer is “yes”, as with any business, you’d be foolish to begin investing time and money until you KNOW where your market is.
- A simple conversion process. Putting up articles with banner ads is not an effective process. An understanding of the buying decision cycle is necessary.
- Build a list. Hustling new business every day in a changing market is a grind. The only real asset you have are the lists you build so they are critical, and often neglected, by affiliates.
Affiliate marketing has its upside and downside. If you’re willing to put in the work, and it is work, that work can pay off over and over and over again with minimal supervision and effort.
The things that helped me the most were:
- Stop acting and looking like an affiliate. Affiliates tend to focus on doing as little work as possible, utilizing gimmicks taught by supposed “affiliate marketing gurus”. It’s all garbage. Sell the product like it’s your’s.
- The aesthetic prettiness of your website doesn’t matter – the message and value offered is what matters.
- Collect email addresses. Even a terrible follow-up series will increase your conversion rate. But ultimately the entire point of affiliate marketing is not commissions . . . it’s getting paid to build assets, aka lists.
- Focus on the most targeted traffic you can get. Until you’ve proven your site converts with the most targeted traffic (irregardless of volume) you’ll waste your money while stumbling blindly in the dark.
Many would-be affiliate marketers possess adequate skills, or could develop those skills. But if you’re using the wrong models and strategies you’ll likely not experience anything but frustration and failure.
There are many potential struggles and here are a few that come to mind:
- Being lead wrong with poor models. Most affiliate training products focus on “do as little as possible”. Either these ways do not work, or they produce such garbage they benefit nobody.
- Once this paradigm is adopted it can be very difficult to break free from. People are literally trained to believe it should be push-button easy. It’s not.
- Selecting quality offers to promote. This seems to be the biggest stopper for most of the people I’ve worked with. Usually they’re missing the obvious and that is “sell what you know, what you’re already interested in”.
- Traffic. So closely related to #1 they tend to be inseparable. Akin to the “do as little as possible” approach, is the “spend as little as possible” mentality. Of course it’s not presented as “spend as little as possible” but rather “do this to get free traffic”.
- With a smart strategy QUALITY traffic is available, but good luck if you think you’re going to get it for free by doing as little as possible. If you want to make money be willing to invest in traffic. You don’t need much money – I started with less than $50 per month.
6. KNOW that affiliate marketing works. There is a powerful change when you move from the hope and the dream of making something work, to actually knowing it works through doing. I think many wannabe affiliates are operating under hope, but there is an underlying doubt that prevents REALLY committing to doing the work required to reap the rewards.
7. After I endured 3 years of miserable results with online marketing it was life-changing to take a job as an affiliate manager, to see real affiliates making money, and to see how they went about it (from the outside looking in).
I start my students with understanding the definition of marketing: Marketing is a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering VALUE to the customer.
Affiliate marketing does not provide a free pass from creating, communicating and delivering value. The idea that it is someone’s else’s job (the merchants you support) is a shortsighted and costly mistake. The people I refer are MY people – I do not leave it up someone else to sell them.
“Rewarding” is a matter of individual perspective.
Speaking practically, consider everything you must do and execute well to be successful at each.
eCommerce requires everything you’d do as an affiliate (a good affiliate, not a scammy one) plus. You need product, you need sourcers, you need inventory, you need customer support, etc.
That means a larger set of skills . . . which also means diluting your focus.
Complex systems always evolve from simple systems.
With either one you need to develop selling and marketing skills. And, sorry, what you’re learning in college is only theoretical until you’ve done it. If I was starting over – and I say this because I learned the hard way – I would definitely go the route of affiliate marketing.
That allows you to focus on the rudimentary and essential skills, while selling products and services that already have proven demand.