An easy gig that makes you money while you sit on the couch.
That’s how a lot of people view affiliate marketing. But while it truly can be a reliable passive income generator, using affiliate programs to make more than pocket money takes work.
You have to build your following and instill enough trust in your audience that they will want to buy the products you recommend.
You have to establish a personal brand and create content that will engage your audience before you can even think about selling anything to anyone.
And that’s where the work of promoting the product you’re trying to endorse starts. Once you do have a following and you’re creating content and endorsing a product, you still have to be sure that readers click your affiliate link and actually make a purchase.
Once I started thinking about this, I became even more impressed with the customers who’ve done so well with the Leadpages affiliate program (currently accepting new affiliates and offering a 30% lifetime commission, by the way). It seemed like a lot of work. How did they do it without distracting from their primary business?
To find out, I sat down with a couple of affiliate marketing experts. Jenny Wagner has spent the past five years managing affiliate programs for major beauty brands as well as Leadpages, where she’s built up an expertise in helping affiliates be successful.
I also reached out to Jeff Epstein, the founder, and CEO of referral and affiliate marketing platform Ambassador. With hundreds of customers including Hewlett-Packard, NutriBullet, and Hulu, you could say Jeff knows what he’s talking about.
Read on for Jenny and Jeff’s best affiliate marketing tips to help you get more commissions in a way that’s appropriate for your brand and doesn’t take up all your time. For more hands-on guidance, we’ve also put together a free swipe copy file of fill-in-the-blank emails you can use to promote any products you have an affiliate partnership with. Leadpages affiliates get access to tons of readymade resources to help them run successful affiliate campaigns, and these emails are based on some of the most reliable assets we’ve created for them. Click to download the emails and get started right away:
Is affiliate marketing right for me?
Anyone who is passionate about a certain product can potentially find success as an affiliate. But it helps if your audience is primed for your affiliate links before you start promoting them.
“If you’re an influencer in your space, and you have maybe a blog or a podcast or something that people follow and look to you to promote things, then you’d be a great affiliate,” Jenny Wagner said.
That said, she pointed out that even someone who is recommending products to friends and colleagues is already doing affiliate marketing, just without the commission. Since it all boils down to word of mouth, if people want your suggestions on products or tools, you’re probably a good candidate for affiliate marketing.
Jeff Epstein made it clear that having an existing audience is a good starting place for an affiliate. “The most successful affiliates are people (or businesses) who have engaged audiences. Those audiences can vary from email lists to websites, blogs, or social media,” he said.
So, if you’re ready to get started, where do you start? Try these five tactics to get up and running.
1. Resources and tools pages
If you’ve ever gone to the homepage of a successful blogger and wondered what kind of camera, microphone, or software they’re using to create their awesome content, you might be aware of resource pages.
Many bloggers have a link at the top of their homepage to a simple list of resources and tools that they love to use. In fact, Jenny said that placing a link on a resources page would be the first thing she would do as an affiliate, because “a lot of people will just go straight to that page if they’re looking for a tool and they already follow you.”
Social media and small-business consultant Amy Porterfield has a tab for her resources, and she notes that she personally has used all of them and highly recommends them, as well as letting her audience know that she uses affiliate links. (See Leadpages down at the bottom, under Business Tools?)
About that disclosure: you will need to follow all applicable laws and disclose that you use affiliate links. Jeff said, “We always recommend being open and honest. We coach our clients to create win-win outcomes so there is nothing that an affiliate would want to hide from their audience.”
If you’re just getting started, Leadpages even has a blog resources page template that you can use, as Kyla Roma did here.
Plus, while your blog posts and podcasts will eventually move away from the top of your home page, people can always find a resources page in your navigation bar.
The next natural step when you start out as an affiliate is simply to review the product or tool that you’re trying to promote. You can review it on your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel, or wherever your audience is used to seeing you.
“We see the best results with people who do a review post,” said Jenny of the affiliates she works with. The most truly effective affiliate reviews can be summed up with one 3-S formula:
- Sincere: You should be a genuine fan of any product you promote as an affiliate. People will be able to tell if you’re trying to write or talk around a lack of experience with the product.
- Specific: Show exactly you use the tool you’re talking about—photos or screenshots can really grab attention. Address the features you find most helpful, instead of only the ones you see advertised on the product website.
- SEO-friendly: Organic traffic can be an excellent way to get commissions month after month. If you have experience with a different, competing product, try basing your post on a highly searched-for formula such as “Product A vs. Product B: A Comparison.” You can use tools like the AdWords Keyword Planner to generate good keywords for the specific product you’re promoting.
In the example below, Pat Flynn posted a podcast episode about Leadpages and mentioned the projects he was using Leadpages for at the time. Making it tangible for your audience will help them to see the value in the tool and will help with conversions.
Real-life results can also be an important selling point if you have them and are willing to share. If our affiliates can show the percentage by which their conversions increased because of Leadpages, for instance, people are going to be excited to replicate those results for their business.
3. Social media posts
Social media is also a great place to share success statistics or other quick facts or features. In addition to providing a handy place for your affiliate link, these quick mentions on platforms like Facebook and Twitter will accomplish one of Jenny’s top recommendations: build brand awareness among your audience.
“If you’re consistently saying something that you’re doing or using, people are going to keep hearing it and be like, ‘Oh, I should probably buy that tool,’” Jenny said. “Most successful people are just consistently talking about the products.”
The more your audience hears about a product from you and gets familiar with the name and features of the product, the more they will start thinking about how it could help them.
Webinars are the next step up for a lot of Leadpages affiliates who are already beginning to see success with their marketing efforts. Attending a webinar is a natural next step for an audience who’s already been warmed up by reading about the product in blog posts and on social media, Jenny said.
If you have several hundred or thousand followers already, you should seriously consider this option: in our experience, a webinar is one of the very best conversion tactics out there. Which means more commissions from highly informed customers for you.
Joint-venture webinars vary depending on the company, but Leadpages webinars these webinars generally begins with a case study from the affiliate, which helps potential customers to see a real-life use case for the tool.
If a webinar isn’t right for your audience, consider making a YouTube video or streaming a product demo on Facebook Live for a similar effect: on camera, your audience is able to connect to your personality a bit more. Jeff reported: “We’ve seen massive success from affiliates placing URLs in the content area of their YouTube videos.”
5. Time-sensitive emails
All the above tactics can be deployed whenever you want to plant the seeds for more affiliate commissions. But you should also pay close attention to what’s going on week by week at the brand you’re promoting: sales, special offers, events, product launches, and anything else that might add extra excitement around the company.
At Leadpages, we often create special promotions just for our affiliates to run (and, of course, give them plenty of marketing assets to use). But even if the brand you’re partnering with doesn’t do this, you can capitalize on anything new they’re doing. Send your list an email containing your affiliate link to share newsworthy updates. Tell subscribers about any new features you’ll be taking advantage of, or about special events you’ll be attending.
In fact, you could even plan your own webinars or in-person meetups with subscribers to show off how you’re using affiliate products (and provide your link for them to buy). And that’s just scratching the surface. Could you create video or blog tutorials? Incorporate new affiliate products into your online courses? Almost any kind of content can be tweaked to reflect and promote new developments with your partner brand—and once you’ve done that, you have an excellent reason to email your list.
Leadpages affiliates get access to an entire portal full of resources they can use to craft emails like these, but we’ve got something for everyone else, too: a swipe file full of fill-in-the-blank email templates you can use to quickly spin up compelling, natural-sounding emails to your list about the products you promote. Get this free below:
Whatever method you use, be sure to think about what would work best for your audience. For instance, if you know that your audience is mostly busy people who can’t commit to the time necessary for a webinar, it might make sense to do a quick video or easy-to-skim blog post about the product.
Jeff said that the biggest hurdle in affiliate marketing is creating an audience that trusts you, but that once you have built that up, you’ll start seeing success. That’s an important place to invest your energy, especially in the beginning. “The more you provide value to your audience, the more likely it is to grow. With more value, you’ll also build trust,” he said.
It will take time to be successful with affiliate marketing—at least a few months, Jenny said—but persistence pays off: “It’s crazy to see how successful some affiliates can be just using these strategies and how many people look to them for recommendations.”
Are you an affiliate? Let us know your best strategies in the comments!
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