Affiliate Marketing • 25 min read
If you’ve been in affiliate marketing for a while, you probably know that managing an affiliate program takes a lot of work. To overcome it, companies hire assistants and assign them part of the tasks, which they view as admin tasks. But if you’ve been doing these tasks, and you feel it’s a lot more complex than your regular admin tasks, you’re right. So today, we wanted to share with you what you need to know – and what you need to master – in order to learn how to be a successful affiliate marketer. You want to prove the value of your work to your boss so you can start moving up the ladder and become an indispensable leader.
If you’re the boss yourself, we recommend sharing these strategies with your affiliate team, so you can turn them from admins that need consistent handholding to powerful leaders that land you deals even when you’re riding a camel in Morocco.
Learn the Skills that Will Set You to Success
The first thing you need to do is get the foundation for success – a toolkit of skills that will help you drive results that will get you noticed. These are essential in learning how to be a successful affiliate marketer.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between an admin person and an affiliate manager is that the affiliate manager is a salesperson. Affiliate managers need to sell products to both their own audience and to prospective partners who’ll be promoting their products for them, so knowing how to close the deal is a really important skill.
Now, we know that this is probably the scariest skill we’ll cover today, but – at the risk of contradicting ourselves – don’t worry about it when you’re first getting started.
As Brian Tracy, who has trained over 2 million salespeople across 69 countries, explains in the video below, the top 20% of salespeople – those that often make 80% of their company’s commissions – started at the bottom 20%.
Unless they’re a unicorn, no one is born with sales skills. But as Tracy suggests, if you challenge yourself to make a 100 calls (or send 100 emails) to prospective partners with the intention to getting as many “no” answers as you can, you won’t only practice your pitch – you’ll practice moving through the fear of hearing “no” that stops way too many salespeople from reaching success.
Check out this 5 minute video to hear about how Tracy had a team of salespeople compete on who gets the most “no” answers… and how those ended up being the salespeople who closed the largest number of deals:
OK, we know what you might be thinking – isn’t affiliate marketing about… you know… marketing?
And the answer is yes, it is.
We started with sales since too many companies ignore that part of their affiliate program, but in order to manage a profitable program, you do need to master marketing as well.
According to 16 communications executives in a Forbes roundup on the most important marketing skills, today’s marketing pros need to master rich data science, strategic content creation, omnichannel communications, working with automation software, PR pitch writing, crafting personalized and humanized customer journeys, fluency in visual language, measuring results, event management, and influencer engagement – among others.
But before you get overwhelmed, we recommend you start with the most important skill first:
Gain a Deep Understanding of Your Target Audience, So You Almost Know Them Better Than They Know Themselves
When you’re just starting out as an admin person who also deals with affiliates, you might not have the kind of deep understanding of your audience, to the point where you can write content that feels to them like they wrote it themselves.
And that makes sense.
At this point, you might only know very general information about your target audience – say, their gender, their age, their family status, how much money they make a year, and that they have some sort of general challenge that your product solves.
For example, if your company sells organizers and journals, you might know that your ideal customer is pretty busy and wants to make sure she gets things done. But unless you dig deeper, you might not know why she wants to do it, how it helps her express her creativity, and how different aspects of her busy life impact one another.
Therefore, you might be missing some of the key benefits she could be getting from her journal, and not emphasizing these benefits could end up costing you sales.
As an affiliate leader, you always want to keep in mind who your ideal customer is right now, who they want to be, what challenges stand in their way of overcoming it, how their life will look like when they succeed, and what’s your product’s role in this transformation.
If you’re in B2B – meaning, you sell a product to other companies – you want to know as much as possible not only about the company as a whole, but on the #1 person inside the company that is most likely to either find your product or make the final buying decision.
While it’s more complex in B2B, because multiple people are involved in buying decisions, Ardath Albee, a business management and marketing strategist and speaker with over 30 years of experience, says in the next video that you always need to think about what your buyer hopes to accomplish.
For example, as Albee explains, different strategies need to be implemented if the #1 person who’ll be engaging with you is 5 years into their career and trying to climb up the ladder, or getting ready to retire and looking to leave a legacy.
Either way, the deeper the understanding you gain about your audience, the better you’ll be able to choose the right products to pitch them, and the better you’ll be able to select affiliate partners to promote your own product. If you’re clear on who will benefit from the products your affiliates are supposed to sell, you’ll be able to select the affiliates who are most likely to see the best results, which will then make it easier for them to partner with you again and refer more people your way, so you can grow your network.
Build the Kind of Network that Unlocks the Most Influential Doors
OK, so you’ve learned some skills, you did your audience research, and now you’re ready to call everybody who’s ever been on Oprah and hear their “no” in hopes that one person says “yes”.
But how do you actually get their numbers?
And how do you get more than one person to say yes?
The answer is that you build relationships, that open the door to more relationships, that open the door to… even more relationships.
You don’t start at the top – at the type of world leaders that Oprah would interview. You start by making relationships where you are, with people who are at your level or a little higher, and you keep building on that, until you eventually create a relationship with someone who knows how to unlock an influential door.
So how do you do that?
Building Relationships Online is the Lowest Hanging Fruit
Social media has made our lives in the affiliate marketing industry easier than ever. Just search for “can’t believe you answered” on Twitter, and you’ll see how approachable traditionally unapproachable people are.
A couple of the initial random results we found?
Someone with 3 followers (at the time of writing this) tweeting with a YouTuber that has almost a million subscribers…
… and a viewer tweeting with a news anchor about fashion:
Elsewhere in Twitter land, we found a content marketing thought leader, who’s a bestselling author and a speaker at all the major conferences, responding to tweets:
Source: Ann Handley via Twitter
Participating in online conversations is the easiest way to start talking to strangers in your industry – and you can use other platforms too, not just Twitter – but gradually, whenever you can, we recommend moving the conversation to Skype or Zoom, so you can start getting to know each other a little deeper, almost face to face.
Of course, we’re not telling you to tweet a thought leader in your industry once, and expect them to hop on Skype with you. Relationships take time to build. But take time every day to take another step forward, and you’ll be significantly ahead of your current game by the end of the year.
Building Relationships Offline Can Drive the Biggest Impact
If you want to start a relationship at an unfair advantage compared to industry colleagues who stay online-only, go to conferences in your industry, and focus the majority of your efforts during the events on having conversations with other people.
Between conferences, consider exploring professional meetups in your area, spending time in co-working spaces, or connecting with local professionals on LinkedIn (yes, online) and inviting them to get together for coffee (maybe not in your first message, though).
Don’t worry if you get star struck. Oprah did too. But if she grew up to become family-like with her idol, Maya Angelou, you never know what could be possible for you.
It’s Time to Become the Indispensable Affiliate Leader You Know You Can Be
To follow the Maya Angelou advice Oprah shared in the video above, life isn’t about beating yourself up for what you’ve done or haven’t done so far. You’ve done the best you could with what you have.
But now that you know better, and understand there’s a lot you can do to learn how to be successful affiliate marketer and bring your career to the next level, you can do better. You can start taking the steps that will set you up for success.