Build a Better Affiliate Business

Next week I am flying out to North Carolina see my good friend and mentor Jerry West. I first met Jerry back in 2001 during my first Search Engine Academy where Jerry was one of the guest speakers.

Since, Jerry has become one of the most successful affiliate marketers in our industry earning a six figure income each month!

The following article is from an Affiliate Marketing Workshop that Jerry presented back in 2007 in Atlanta, it is worth a read if you’re interested in modeling your business after one of the masters of our community:

Affiliate Marketing is one of the easiest business models to get into as it is easy to learn the basics, affiliate programs are easy to sign up for and you can start making money right away.

However, it is also very easy to abuse as an example those “black hat” spammers who clog up your email box with offers that you don’t want and who don’t care if a product or service is even legitimate.

These “black hat” spammers don’t run a real business, they don’t build up a loyal following of customers and they don’t care if the customer gets screwed,

However if you’re ready to build a legitimate seven figure a year business, create a loyal following who will open their wallets for you then read on.

The secret of a successful affiliate marketer is finding and BUYING the products that your clients will really love and become a trusted advisor.

Here are Jerry’s 7 Tips that you can use to do just that.

1. Record your whole shopping process.

You can do this with screen-capture software like Camtasia. That way, if anything goes wrong, you don’t have to try to figure out how to explain it in email and wait for the seller’s tech team to figure it out.  You can just email the video, and they’ll see exactly what you see.

This also is a good point – notice Jerry ASSUMES you’re in direct contact with the sellers you’re promoting.  While it’s tempting to remain anonymous as an affiliate marketer, if you’re trying to make a REAL affiliate business, you need to create relationships with the people you do business with.

Good relationships can lead to all kinds of special treatment – negotiate higher payouts, participate in exclusive promotions… you can ask for practically anything that might give you a competitive advantage over your competing affiliates.

Chances are, if you bring the traffic, they WILL at least TRY to meet your demands. But that all starts with having a relationship in the first place.

2. Do you WANT to buy the product?

Is the offer clear?  Is the “Call to Action” compelling?  Put yourself in the surfer’s shoes – when you send them here, are they going to find what they’re looking for and whip out that credit card to get it?  And do you know exactly what you’re getting?  Are there any dangling questions that remain after you read the copy?

3. How is the checkout process after the “Call to Action”?

Is the customer required to create a login before purchasing?  Is the seller asking for too much personal information – more than is required to complete the transaction?

If you’ve made it this far into the process, that means the sales copy is doing its job. But the above factors can greatly impact conversions and cause massive shopping cart abandonment.

The checkout process should be a “greased chute” and make it extremely easy for the person to pay for what they’ve already decided to buy.

You should even count the number of clicks it takes to complete the purchase from the time you click “Buy Now”. Every click after that first one will lose people.

4. After you’ve bought the product, then what?

Do you get a receipt email?  If it’s a physical product, did you get tracking information?  Are there any unanswered questions about your order?  If so, does the seller make it easy to contact them?  (Unless you need to though, don’t contact them yet.  We’ll get to that once we have the product in hand.)

Immediately after a purchase, a buyer can often go into a “cooldown” phase where the excitement generated by the sales materials begins to die down.  For more expensive products, this can manifest as full on “buyer’s remorse”.

You want to make sure your seller is doing everything they can to deliver the goods as FAST as possible, and keep their new customers happy and calm in the meantime.  Any “instant” deliveries promised really SHOULD be “instant”.

Another “gotcha” is any time the seller requires the customer to take some additional action AFTER the purchase in order to complete the order. This will DRASTICALLY reduce conversions, because most customers won’t take the additional action, they won’t get what they expected, and they’ll ask for their money back.  So avoid sellers that have too many hoops to jump through post-sale.

5. Does the product arrive as expected?

Is it packaged well?  Does it include any needed instructions?  If anything is out of place, it’s time to test their customer support and you can jump ahead to #6 below.

If everything’s fine, you should actually USE the product as directed.  Does it work?  Is it easy to use?  Does it perform like the seller promised?  After a thorough evaluation, are there ANY lingering questions remaining?

If not, don’t consider yourself a satisfied customer yet. There’s still another couple of things we need to do.

6. Time to test Customer Support.

Call them up.  If there’s an automated phone system, is it fairly fast and easy, or is it too complicated and slow?  When you do get a representative, do they handle the call directly, or are you transferred around?  Is the representative knowledgeable about the product?  Are they friendly and helpful?

NOTE: Take good notes, but DON’T record any of these calls.  That’s illegal in some states, so unless you know for sure, don’t.

And a tip from Jerry: Don’t just inform the merchant of a terrible experience.  Let them know if they did a good job, too!  They almost never hear that, and you ARE trying to build a relationship with them, remember?

7.  Test the guarantee and return the product.

Now, if you LOVE it, keep it. I’m not trying to make you into a serial refunder here.  The only way to REALLY know how returns are handled is to actually complete one.

But with that being said, if your seller has done an AMAZING job so far on everything else, you COULD just test them all the way up to the point of shipping your product back.  I’m sure they won’t mind that you “change your mind” at the last minute and decide to keep it.

The point is to have an authentic and complete customer experience. You may be causing a slight inconvenience to the seller, but they have accounted for returns, and if they pass the test, you will MORE than compensate them as their affiliate, right?

So get into it. Do they stand by the terms of their guarantee?  If they said “no questions asked” did they mean it?  Does the representative try to talk you out of a return?  If they did so, did they do a good job?  Saving the sale isn’t always bad.

Remember, you want the customer to have a good experience, but you ALSO want the vendor to do everything they can to keep the customers you send them so you get PAID.

If they have an RMA process, does it work well?  Was the product easy to return?  How long did it take to get any refunds?

NOTE: You may wonder why you care about how long a refund takes when this is a sale you’ve lost commission on.  But don’t forget, we’re talking about building your own list of loyal buyers.  Just because they’ve had a bad experience with one product DOESN’T mean they don’t still trust your recommendations.  A refunder on product X could very well LOVE product Y instead.

So that’s it.  You’ve gotten the complete customer experience.  Share any feedback with the seller that you care to pass on.  If they seem to be working hard at succeeding, you could even go beyond recommending fixes for broken items.  You might even offer suggestions for improvement.  After all, there’s plenty of advice you can pick up for free here, right?

If the seller is inflexible, or just hopelessly bad, it’s best to move on. There are plenty of opportunities out there for affiliates, and no time to waste having to teach someone to do business online.

Nor do you want to work with companies that are non-responsive to affiliate requests.  If they don’t care about your concerns as their business associate, how much can they care for their customers… YOUR customers?

And of course the FINAL benefit to going through this process is what will make you a BETTER affiliate marketer. You’ll have intimate, hands-on knowledge of the product, the sales process, and the delivery process.

Your sales copy will drastically improve, your ability to overcome objections will improve, and the responsiveness of your prospects will improve, too!

And remember, most other affiliates won’t go this far to learn about the product they’re promoting and that gives YOU the distinct advantage.

When the market is tired of taking the weaselly affiliates’ bad advice, they’ll be looking for a trusted advisor to turn to – someone who REALLY knows what they’re talking about when it comes to the product in question.

And you’ll be there, READY! And not only that, you’ll ONLY be promoting products that have made you a satisfied customer PERSONALLY.  Chances are, any buyers you refer will be happy too.  Plus, you can rest well at night knowing that you’re promoting a quality product from a quality company.

What are your comments about this article? Do you want to learn more from the Master of Affiliate Marketing? If so let me know, we can schedule a special workshop with Jerry if there is enough interest.

Certified Master SEO Instructor by the Search Engine Academy and CEO and founder of SEO Training SW.
Roy Reyer
Roy Reyer
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15th September 2010 3 Comments

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