5 Tips for effective affiliate marketing as a content creator
The Goodness Squad Podcast Episode #40
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Affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn money as an online business. These 5 tips (plus a few bonus tips) will help you share products in an effective and authentic way.
Resources mentioned in episode:
This is episode #40 of The Goodness Squad podcast and if you struggle with the idea and are overwhelmed by the idea of creating your own products (digital or physical) to sell, then this episode is for you. I have a very simple, quick and easy solution.
So What is Affiliate Marketing?
It’s the solution when you’re overwhelmed by the idea of creating your own products to sell.
It’s like recommendations from a friend. I’m part of a Latter-day Saint women’s Facebook group. And recently someone asked this, “we need to replace our washer and dryer. They need to stack and the dryer needs to be gas. Anyone have any favorites or anything to avoid?”
People ask questions like this all the time in person, one-on-one, in Facebook groups, on online forums, you will find questions like this where people are asking for recommendations. Affiliate marketing is essentially where you recommend a product but you get a commission for it.
There are a lot of wrong ways to do affiliate marketing. As I told you what it was, there are probably some of you who squirmed. You probably thought, “Well, that lady inside that Facebook group, she wasn’t asking for recommendations from people who are going to get kickbacks. She wants honest recommendations, ones that aren’t jaded by the fact that you’re earning money.”
Today, I am going to teach you how to do affiliate marketing the right way. I have five tips for you. This can work exceptionally well simply because it feels like a recommendation coming from a friend. But, the fact is, in order for it to feel that way it actually has to be that way. So my five tips today are going to help you do affiliate marketing without being slimy.
Why affiliate marketing helps get rid of overwhelm
So why does affiliate marketing answer the problem that I started with; where you’re feeling overwhelmed by having to create your own digital or physical product?
With affiliate marketing you don’t create the product. You don’t have to spend the time and money. You don’t even have to think of the idea. You also don’t have all the overhead and all of the support that comes with that product. You aren’t having to ship it. You aren’t having to figure out how to deliver it digitally. You aren’t having to collect the money. None of that exists with affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a way for you to become profitable in your business very quickly. It doesn’t take your time. You don’t have to spend all the pre-work to create the product. You also don’t have to do all the after-work in order to earn money through affiliate marketing. So it allows for this immediate monetization, even if you have a very small online following or email list, you can make some money immediately by recommending someone else’s product.
The #1 rule you need to follow for affiliate marketing
I have one overall rule for you today and then five ways to follow that rule.
treat it as if it is your own product.
You’re probably thinking, “Misty, you just told me it doesn’t have to be my own product.” It doesn’t. But you need to treat it as if it were. I’m going to give you five ways to do this, but I want to give you just a little bit of a backstory so that you understand why I feel so passionately about affiliate marketing and why I love it so much.
My Product vs being an Affiliate story
So when I started my very first business, Frugalicious, I created my own product. I had a database, I wrote a computer program that would track grocery prices. I had women in my ward and area who would enter in every single thing that was on the grocery ad for different grocery stores each and every week.
We were entering 10 different grocery stores into this computer program. And then that computer program would tell us which products were on sale for their very lowest price.
You could say “this product is on sale for its lowest price in six months. This product’s on sale for its lowest price in 12 months.” And then it would match coupons with that. It took an enormous amount of time and money for me to create. And if you’ve heard from me or listened to me for any period of time, you know, that business was not particularly profitable. I think I made about $100 profit.
In my next business, I was kind of wary. I didn’t want to create my own product and spend so much time and money. I was teaching people about preparedness and there was a food storage company that I knew. I loved it. I liked it. I used it regularly. I understood how to use it well.
I knew how to take any recipe and duplicate it using this food storage. People could have their own favorite family recipes in their food storage because that’s what I was doing for my family. I found myself already recommending this product to people.
They had an affiliate program, so I signed up. And as I recommended them very, very naturally, just like I would to a friend, I started earning money. I didn’t recommend them because I could earn money from them. I recommended them before I even started earning money. That’s how much I loved it and then realized they have an affiliate program and I could be earning money through these recommendations.
So the order there is really, really important. Okay? So my number one rule here is to treat it like your own product.
5 tips for effective affiliate marketing
You must own it and use it enough to answer questions about it. It must be something that you personally own, that you love, and that you use often enough and understand well enough that you can answer questions about it.
Let’s go back to that food storage example. I cooked with that food storage every day because it made cooking quicker and faster and easier, but also because I was trying to learn how to use it and really integrate it into my family’s food storage situation. So that came first.
I want you to think about products that you already own, love, and can answer questions about. You have to understand it just as well as you would understand a product that you have created.
The affiliate product I recommend the most
Right now, the number one affiliate product that I recommend is called Elementor Pro. I started using Elementor Pro in my web design business because I loved it. It made it easier for me to design beautiful websites. It made it easier for my clients to be able to edit the websites that I had designed for them. And it was way, way, way, way, way cheaper than hiring a designer.
This is a product I was already using, loving, and I can answer any question you could possibly ask about Elementor Pro. I didn’t start recommending Elementor Pro because they said, “Hey Misty, we’ll pay you money to recommend Elementor Pro.” I started recommending Elementor Pro because I was already using it and saw the benefits in my own life.
Any time my friends come to me and say, “Hey, I need a website. Where do I go? How do I start?” I say Elementor Pro, even if I’m not going to earn a commission, I say Elementor Pro because truly it is the best option out there and it is what I use.
The second thing you need to do in order to treat your affiliate products like your own products is to provide context and substance when you are talking about them, not just randomly pasting links all over your website.
You’ll see this happen sometimes where a website is just full of all these different links and hopefully, they tell you their affiliate links, but they don’t give you any real substance of why that’s a good product of what that product has done for them in their life or how to use those.
So again, we’re talking about those three things, right? Number one is the Why. And number two is the What? Number three is the How. We talked about this just in podcast episode #39, but this applies to affiliate products as well.
When you speak of them, when you talk about them, when you link to them, whether that is in an email or a podcast or a YouTube video or a blog post, or an Instagram post, you need to provide some sort of context.
Why should they use this product? What does this product do? What problem does it solve for them? And third, how do they use it? You don’t need to provide all three every time, but there has to be some context there. This is your proof to people that you own it, love it, and use it. People are not going to trust your recommendation unless they know that you own it, love it, and use it.
The third step to treating your affiliate products as if they were your own product is that they must solve a problem for your audience. This goes back to podcast episode #33, this is the first step you have to take if you are going to monetize your content marketing business. It doesn’t just apply to products you create, it applies to the products that you recommend through affiliate marketing.
Let’s go back to the two products I’ve mentioned for myself. Number one, food storage. So in my last business, I recommended Thrive Life food storage. What problem or problems did this solve for my audience? Well, it made it possible for them to store food based on recipes. So many lists say store X, number of pounds of beans and this much wheat, but what do you make with that?
Well, using this freeze-dried food, people were able to store their food as recipes, instead of as just random nutrients. It also tasted better, right? So much better! Freeze-dried food tastes exceptional. And so it made it easier for them to rotate and use their food storage because it was foods that they were going to be eating anyway. I could go on, but it solved very specific problems for my people.
So right now, what does Elementor Pro solve for you? Well, it allows you to create a beautiful website, right? One problem you face is that maybe your website just doesn’t look that good and it’s not attracting people to you. But it also allows you to do that without paying thousands or even tens of thousands to a web designer or developer to create your website for you, you can do it on your own.
So those are two huge problems that it solves. You can have a beautiful website without paying tens of thousands of dollars for a designer or spending hundreds of hours learning how to code. That is a very specific problem that almost all of you face and Elementor Pro solves it. Is it my product? No, but I am recommending it because I know it solves a problem for you.
That problem also has to fit your branding. So if I were to recommend my very favorite blender to you right now, that would not be authentic. And it would feel out of place. It would feel slimy. So why is that? Well, because a blender is not going to help you make money from content marketing. It’s just not, and that’s what I’m teaching you.
So if I am recommending something that is completely outside the scope of what I’m teaching, that is going to feel slimy. Now, you will see very big brands doing this. Jenna Kutcher is one that I can think of right off the bat. This is because her audience has gotten so big and people have gained so much trust for her that they are asking her for things. “Hey, where did you get that shirt that you’re wearing? What do you do for your baby when she’s not sleeping?” Completely unrelated things to what she teaches, but her audience is so big that they’re asking her that. She could go ahead and become an affiliate for those things. But this is because she has grown to that size.
Do not start off doing that. If your audience eventually asks you for those things, then sure, go ahead. Make sure that the affiliate product you are recommending solves a problem for your audience, that it applies to what it is you are teaching them, and trying to help them do.
The fourth thing you need to do is include this in your value ladder. If you were to create your own product, you would create a value ladder around it. If you’re unsure what a value ladder is, go back and listen to episode #39 where we talk about a value ladder.
Essentially the idea is if you have this affiliate product – so for me, I have Elementor Pro – what do people need to know before they’re going to be willing to invest in Elementor Pro and what do they need after?
So here’s an example I will teach you. If you go through podcast episodes 23 up to 29 or so, I talked a lot about web design. I gave you tips on how to improve your web design, how to make it more scannable, how to make it more attractive, how to make it convert better.
But guess what? A lot of those tips are really hard to implement unless you know code or have Elementor Pro. So that’s what you needed before, you need these tips. You really do need to improve your website. Those are valuable tips. But they lead you to want Elementor because it makes implementing those tips so much easier.
Do you have to get Elementor Pro? Nope. Could the tips help you completely separate from Elementor Pro? Yes, because my number one goal is to help you. But that content makes it easier for you to recognize the need for Elementor Pro.
So what came after in that value ladder? Well, I’ve created templates for Elementor Pro, templates for a sales page, and for eCourse pages, and those sorts of things. These are paid products. That’s the next step in that ladder.
So now you have Elementor Pro, what do you do with it? Well, here’s some templates that make using it very easy. I also have lots of tutorials inside of Tech School, which launches on September 28th, that talk about how to use Elementor Pro, how to get the most out of it. So there’s a value ladder there, right? I’m giving you what you need before and after you purchase Elementor Pro.
The fifth thing you need to do to treat your affiliate product as if it‘s your own product is to not have too many.
You would not go out and create 50 different digital products for your people, for multiple reasons. One, it would water down what you’re recommending. They would think, “Oh, she’s got 50 products. Which one do I choose from?” Number two, it’s going to be a lot for you to create. And number three, there’s going to be a lot of support involved in questions and helping people.
You can see that in products that you are creating yourself, but the same thing applies to your digital or to your affiliate products. If you are recommending too many, it becomes very watered down and it is simply going to seem like “she just wants to make money. All she does is recommend affiliate products.”
It’s also going to be difficult for you to create content surrounding all 50 of those affiliate products. How are you going to teach people why they need it? How are you going to support people after they’ve purchased it? You can’t do that if you are recommending too many products.
If you are just getting started with affiliate marketing, I want you to pick just a handful of affiliate products, maybe even just one to begin with. And as you can really treat that one like your own product, you can then expand from there and get to the point where you can recommend more than just that one. But you can start with just one affiliate product. Thrive was my only affiliate product for many, many years, and I made a full-time income from it.
2 bonus tips for effective affiliate marketing
The difference between digital and physical affiliate products. This seems very logical, but it is something that a lot of people run up against. You will make less money as an affiliate for a physical product.
The reason for this is that people who are selling physical products have more overhead, right? They have the physical cost of the supplies and they have the shipping cost. So with physical products, their profit margin is much smaller than with a digital product.
You will find higher commission percentages on digital products. On average, you’re probably going to find somewhere from 20 to 50% commission for your digital product. 50% crazy, right? Like you can earn 50% of the purchase price even though you didn’t create it. Crazy. But with physical, you’re going to be closer to the 5% to maybe 15% at that top range. And the reason for that is simply because they can’t afford to give you more than that.
If you are going to recommend physical products, you are going to do better if you’re recommending higher-priced physical products, or if you recommend more than one at a time. But with digital products, you can recommend just one and it doesn’t even have to be a crazy high cost product because you can earn a significant amount of commission from them.
I often get asked “how do I become an affiliate for the product that I already own love, and use regularly?” Most companies these days have affiliate programs. I would guess that around 80% of them do. It’s a very common way to market your products, by giving commission to affiliates to recommend them.
The first thing I would suggest doing is taking that product and Googling it. So I would type, Elementor Pro affiliate program. Most often I’m going to come up with their affiliate program and there’ll be certain rules that apply to their affiliate program. You’ll want to read through those and make sure that you’re okay with them and then you can apply.
The second way is to use affiliate networks. So Commission Junction would be one. Share A Sale would be another. These are companies whose entire purpose is to manage other companies’ affiliate programs.
I do not suggest that you go to Commission Junction, create an account, and then sign up to be an affiliate for 50 different people. All of that would go against everything I just taught you in this episode. But if you have a very specific product that you are looking to become an affiliate for, yeah. They may use an affiliate network to run their affiliate program. So you could sign up for these affiliate networks and search through the products there to find out if the product you like is inside of that program.
The third option, if you find that they simply don’t have an affiliate program is to just approach them directly and say, “Hey, I really love those dolls that you create on Etsy. Do you have an affiliate program?” And if they say no, then you can either create a pseudo affiliate program or a sponsorship.
A sponsorship would look something like “I really do love your product. I will send out three emails and do two Instagram posts and one blog post about your product. If you are willing to pay me $1,000.” That would be called a sponsorship, where you’re going to negotiate things that way, where they’re going to pay you somewhat of a flat fee for you to do X number of mentions for their company.
The other option, and what I have done often, especially with my emergency preparedness website, I would use products and enjoy them and then they didn’t have an affiliate program. So I would approach them just in the way I’m telling you. And what they would do is they would simply create a coupon code for me.
They weren’t ready yet to create a full-fledged affiliate program, but they would create a coupon code for me. So my audience would get 10% off or 15% off or whatever. And then I would get 20% back in commission. So that is a third way to earn money by recommending a product that you’re already going to recommend.
In the next episode, we’re going to be talking about how to create products for your customers instead of chasing customers for your products. When I say create a product that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re creating one, it could be choosing an affiliate product.
So many times, I see you chasing customers and trying to get them to buy this product that you have created for them. And you just know it’s going to be amazing, but nobody’s buying it and that’s frustrating.
One solution is to create the product your customers are asking for. And I’m going to teach you how to do that in the next podcast episode.
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