19 min read

Affiliate Earnings Without Losing Brand Reputation

If you’ve heard all about the rewards that wait for you in the affiliate marketing world, but have been staying on the sidelines because you’re afraid it will cost you your audience or reputation, you’re not alone. People everywhere associate any type of promotional or sales work with shady tactics and dishonest people trying to make a quick buck at someone’s expense. But we’ve worked with enough companies to tell you – it doesn’t have to be like this. There are plenty of companies that not only have plentiful affiliate earnings with marketing, but also thrive and build a deeper level of trust, because they come through for their partners and provide results for their audiences, that they couldn’t have provided otherwise.

If you want to join them, here are 5 useful strategies to integrate in your affiliate marketing program.

Always Test an Offer on a Small List Segment Before Blasting it Out to Everyone

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Always, always, always reserve the right to test each offer you pitch your list on a small segment. Test for a short period of time before you pull off an entire campaign. You want to put it in every affiliate contract and make it a non-negotiable clause.

Don’t get us wrong. We manage 6-7 figure deals ourselves, so we understand the temptation to just throw caution to the wind and fully promote an offer that sounds promising.

But even if some people do buy now, it’s not worth risking the trust you’ve worked so hard to build with tens or hundreds of thousands of people. If you want to build a company that lasts, put these people’s best interests first. They’ll come through you for you over and over again over the next few years, or maybe even throughout the next few decades.

Only Promote Products You’ve Tried and/or Companies You Trust

We’ve all seen bloggers and social media influencers promise that they only promote products they think provide value for you, but practically everyone in the audience knows this is a revenue stream.

Your pitch for the product becomes much more reliable once you share a mini case study – this was my challenge. Stating this is how this product has helped me overcome it, and these are the results I see thanks to that. 

For example, in the following video, Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income, shares how, even though he’s famous for having a very engaged audience, there was a lot he didn’t know, and how that led to him not serving his audience well. But then, thanks to the book about surveys that he’s reviewing in the video, he gained some valuable, actionable insights that led to changes he’s making in the content he’s producing.

There are many practical tips in the video, but if you just want the behind the scenes part that’s covering Pat’s experience, start watching at minute 06:47.

But it’s not just your reliability in conveying the message that’s at stake here.

It’s also what happens when people who trust you buy the product, and discover it’s not as great as they’d hoped – as you’d hoped – or that the customer service your partner company provides could use some serious training.

When you use the product yourself, you can test these things ahead of time, and avoid needing to repair trust with your audience over someone else’s product.

But what if that’s not possible?

In that case, consider how much you really know the partner company.

In our recent interview with our lead affiliate manager, Gabrielle Hafalia, about which affiliate deals to fight for and which to avoid, she recommended working with companies you know. You want companies your other affiliate partners know, or companies that have substantial proof online that they’re a credible, quality resource for an enthusiastic audience.

Tell Your Audience that You’re Earning from Promoting This Product

If you’re in the marketing and sales industry, you can probably smell an affiliate deal from a mile away. Even if there’s no #ad hashtag on the Instagram post or a disclaimer at the bottom of the article you know. And yes, more people are savvy about sponsorships and affiliate deals these days.

But not everyone recognizes these deals as quickly.

Besides FTC regulations that obligate you to be upfront about any business partnership that could benefit you financially when you’re promoting something, being honest with your audience is just good business.

Yes, you might get less likes or comments, and maybe some people will walk away from your audience, but the majority will stay. They’ll stay because they’ll know they can trust you to disclose partnerships, and if they can trust you, they can cheer for you when a deal goes really well and you end up adding a 7 figure number to your profit margin.

Integrate Affiliate Deals in Your Content in a Value-Driven Way

When vlogging couple Angela and CR welcomed twin girls to their family, on top of the five kids they already had, things felt a bit crazy.

In the vlog below, they shared just another day in their lives, including how they’re getting two of their kids ready for kindergarten, plus some of the challenges they experience with having two newborn babies. One of those challenges was how crazy their schedule was, to the point that they missed a specialist appointment for one of their kids, so they decided, for the first time, to start managing their schedule digitally… using an app that sponsored that day’s video.

The relevant scene starts at 04:32, but start two scenes earlier, at 02:11, to see how they transition into the sponsored content (which could have easily been content for a product they’re affiliate-selling).

As you can see, Angela is kinda giving her viewers a peek into her own new digital schedule, so it’s tied to her story and doesn’t feel super salesy. And then, at 10:29, it’s back to regular family vlogging, including cute babies and puppies.

That said, in the following video, creative entrepreneur and YouTube expert, shares a 13-minute demonstration of a product he’s an affiliate for – and that’s the entire video. He does it by showing an audience member how he can use the tool to grow his YouTube channel, plus gives practical tips other viewers can use with or without this product.

Either way, the point is to integrate product promotion in a way that makes sense to the audience. Whenever possible, make it as educational or entertaining as the rest of your content, so it’s a content piece they would have watched anyway, and not just a non-ending sales pitch.

Do What You Said You Would

Sometimes, in our excitement to close a deal or in the heat of a launch, we make promises we should probably have thought of a little longer. But if you make a promise, you need to do everything in your power to honor it after the fact.

That doesn’t mean you can’t approach your partners and renegotiate, or explain and apologize if things have changed. It just means that you need to make an effort to honor your commitments, so that partners can feel safe to trust you with additional deals.

Yes, it’s Very Possible to Have Affiliate Earnings from Marketing Without Losing Audience Trust or Brand Reputation

Affiliate marketing isn’t a dirty phrase, just as sales isn’t a dirty word. By promoting your partners’ products, you could be helping your audience lead healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives.

Make sure you’re honest with everyone involved, and that your word is trustworthy, and you will build a tribe of subscribers and partners who are happy to help your affiliate marketing program grow.

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