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Affiliate Marketing: Cult or Cash Cow?

This is a guest post from communications and marketing consultant Brook McCarthy.

Image courtesy of Federico Stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

When I was a young hippie, I accidentally joined a cult. I was a student of religious studies at the time and believed I was merely observing, until one morning, when I found myself at 5am, chanting to a giant image of the guru in a group. Normally, nobody gets me up at 5am. As cults go, they were lovely people. There was the small matter of the group being accused of the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing but, when all is said and done, I have very fond memories of my time in the cult.For some years now, I’ve been following a particular woman online. I wasn’t a committed devotee, just an observer. Last year, I considered doing her online business course but was overawed by the price. I moved on.

The buzz begins

A year later, the buzz began again. Three different online personalities, of whom I consider myself a card-carrying devotee, all began spruiking this course. They offered gifts of their own e-books and courses, one-to-one consultations and the promise of being ‘in the know’ to further encourage purchase. The price was the same, but a year had passed so I’d had time to get used to it.

Each affiliate promised this course would bring clarity, a well-trod path to business success, and digital kinship which, as an online marketing professional, is sacrosanct. All the video tutorials on the web cannot add up to the loving support of a well-informed, well-connected community eager to help a member out.

Digital kinship

And so deciding to take the course came down to choosing which affiliate offered the best bunch of incentive gifts. I chose to give my affiliate money to the person who offered more community – a small, private Facebook group with additional weekly teleseminars where my questions would have a chance of being answered.

I’m not a natural joiner. Apart from my brief cult phrase, I struggle to fit in with a sports team or mother’s group, a church group or political affiliation. But I am swayed by the opinions of those I respect.

And therein lies the power of affiliate marketing, the smartest evolution of marketing since Seth Godin coined ‘permission marketing’.

As businesses develop tribes whose leader they respect, these leaders introduce others to their tribe. The tribe gains another resource to learn from, the leader gains respect for having introduced another valuable leader, and the tribe of the introduced leader grows.

Watching their bank account swell, the business leader finally sees how their endless blog posts, emails, tweets, updates and promotions have paid off, the joiner taps into curated information, education and online kinship, and the affiliate needs only market to the networkers, not the network.

Power to the people

We need word-of-mouth to make sense of the world. Curating and interpreting information begins in infancy with our parents, and continues throughout school and college.

For all its algorithmic updates, Google cannot deliver quality information curated especially for us. Increasingly, we rely on tribe leaders to present, curate and interpret information for us. We no longer seek open access to more information, but leaders whose opinions we respect and closed, exclusive communities with a limited amount of quality information that is relevant, useful and valuable.

Hitching your reputation

Becoming involved in affiliate marketing means hitching our professional reputation to another’s. As a business owner with a tribe, our value is our relevance and usefulness to our tribe. Reputation is both our key asset and tradable commodity, should we choose it.

Reputation is slow to build and easy to destroy. A leader’s reputation and earning ability diminishes with each poorly-thought out email campaign or dodgy affiliate program they promote and they must rely on aggressive list-building strategies to keep growing their tribe as people demonstrate distrust by unsubscribing.

Cults with money

Crowd

Image by unknown photographer, licensed under Creative Commons

Whatever reservations you have against cults, you may transfer to affiliate marketing. Whether you deem the financial incentive of affiliate marketing clearer and cleaner or murky and self-interested depends on you.

Crowds have power. There’s no lonelier position than when you feel you’re the only person who doesn’t believe someone is wonderful. You begin to doubt your judgment when you’re the lone wolf apart from the pack.

But we have eyes, ears and wallets. We are all active participants in online cults when we subscribe to a business’s updates and eagerly read what they have to say. So keep your eyes and ears open and consider the following:

1.    Reputation is slow to build and quick to destroy

You’ve spent years carefully cultivating a tribe, forging relationships with other bloggers and business owners and growing your social media following, so don’t throw it away with one poorly-researched, hasty affiliate promotion.

2.    Personality is important

As bloggers whose success relies heavily on interacting with our followers, you know personality is important so always consider whether the personality you’ll be promoting will resonate with your tribe. Sometimes people’s personalities grow on you, something they grate you into shreds.

3.    Be wary if don’t need to buy or try beforehand

 You have integrity, right? So demand the same from the business owner who wants you to sell their stuff. You cannot recommend something if you haven’t tried it. You may point to others’ recommendations and testimonials, but be wary of whether these are paid for in cash or kind. Don’t gamble on this – you need to know what you’re recommending.

 4.    Expect resources 

Even those who write for a living need a boost from time to time in how they articulate the benefits of others. We coach clients in how to refer others to us and ask specific questions in order to secure a good testimonial, so you can expect that the business you’re an affiliate of gives you lots of copy you can use to send to your list. This should be well written. And no, exclamation marks don’t equal fabulousness.

5.    Keep it small

When we overwhelm people with resources, information and directives, they become overwhelmed and confused. And confused people don’t buy. Hopefully, you are working on your own products and so you want to pace your affiliate promotions so that they don’t conflict. Don’t become ‘that guy’ who only emails with affiliate links. Become known as the leader who only promotes a choice selection of quality products that sing to your tribe, while reinforcing your status for discernment.

6.    Consider upping the community ante

People don’t purchase e-courses and e-programs because they are looking for information. They purchase because they are looking for guidance, handholding, feedback and support from a community. Consider whether you can add extra value to your affiliate promotions by creating your own community to support people through the program. You don’t need to be a rah-rah cheer squad, but you do need to show you have your tribe’s best interests at heart.

How do you choose the right affiliate program for your reputation?

 

Brook McCarthy is a writer and online marketing strategist specialising in the health and wellbeing sector. Download her ‘Authentic Marketing Manifesto’ for us poor souls concerned with being natural, ethical, and inspirational, as well as effective.

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Comments

  1. sandi says:

    Interesting article with useful informations.

    You can earn money, but must to be persistent and you must not give up!

    • palash lee says:

      Human beings are social animal and they cannot live without family. But a family can easily survive under a roof where they feel secure from various adverse weather effects . Nowadays, a charming house give us social status and also provide us good name and fame .
      Moreover, it is right option of investment ,because if we buy a house or property for our living or for business purpose then its cost will be huge worth in future.

  2. David Boozer says:

    Great piece Brook! I could not agree with you anymore…It took some time to build a “tribe” of sorts, but through adding value first, it worked….Thank You.

  3. champ says:

    Ya really very gr8 motivational post.Also i like these lines ‘by the help of leader a tribe founds his newer resources for learn’.
    Thanks for sharing with us…

  4. Great post! It is so true that when promoting an affiliate product that you give a truthful evaluation of the product (good and bad). Doing so, then allows the reader to make up their mind if this product is a good fit for them. It’s also important to always provide value to your audience. Providing value on a consistent basis will help you build a relationship with your audience.

  5. Kate Toon says:

    This post has been bookmarked! Such good timing for me to read this as I’m about to finish my own ebook and was hoping that some of tribe might become affiliates, reviewers, readers and general promoters.

    I want to be sure to take an ethical approach and offer good value for money. So I’ll be downloading your Authentic Marketing Manifesto! for sure.

  6. Okto says:

    Great post. Location of your visitors would be a good indicator to choose affiliate program. Pay attention to the location of your visitors. If most of your readers are located outside the US, then make sure you post affiliate links for products or services that cater to non-US residents. If you have a lot of visitors overseas, then you may have more success in promoting virtual or electronic products, such as eBooks or site memberships.

  7. Phil says:

    Hi Brook,
    I chuckled about the connection between cults and affiliate marketers. I remember the almost cultish buzz around Frank Kern during the Mass Control launches. Thanks for the 6 helpful tips.

  8. Thanks for your advice! I enjoyed reading the information in this article and about your experiences. Much Success to you!

  9. Zack says:

    Very true article here. It is definitely slow at the beginning with affiliate marketing. What sets the successful ones apart from those who fail is their persistence.

  10. Nick P. says:

    This gave me hope. I am just starting out and all of this is new and I like the hand holding you write about. This article was a very timely for what I am doing. I am trying to focus on just growing the content and the community at this point. Is there harm in pursuing affiliate marketing early on in the life of the blog? I don’t have much going yet but I also don’t want to scare people away by making it feel spammy or something.

  11. raijal says:

    Interesting article with useful informations

  12. Joseph says:

    Indeed true.. Reputation is definitely difficult to develop and easily to destroy. We work hard to gain the trust of our readers, visitors by providing them essential and reliable information but once we start providing them poor quality and irrelevant information we will slowly lose their trust and respect. Reputation is the key to success in affiliate marketing; the more reputed you are, the more higher the chance you can earn through your affiliated partners. ;) Thanks for sharing and indeed a great post!

  13. Abejith says:

    Brook, I agree with you, Affiliate marketing gives you money than expected. Enjoyed the post. Cheers :)

  14. Dan Erickson says:

    I was the child victim of a cult. I’ve studied cults in grad school. I have an open mind about cults, but also know how devastating they can be. I’ve written two books about cults and cult leaders: http://www.danerickson.net. I’m not sure affiliate marketing really has that much in common with cults, but I’m hesitant to join many kinds of marketing trends. I’m not a bandwagon kind of guy, but I’ll look into affiliate marketing a bit more.

  15. Krishna says:

    although according to my observation in the online marketing many people enter by thinking that affiliated marketing is a easy to earn money from online which is completely impossible, so newbies before entering in this just make your minds clear about your goals and make your self stable for this.

  16. abin says:

    Its a boring post, crap.

  17. Waledac says:

    Thanks for this informative article , It is going to help me in near future

  18. Great post and timely tips for us. Couldn’t have been posted at a better time for us.

    Thanks again!

  19. John Ngo says:

    Excellent articles!!!

    i would like to add that the most failing reasons to starter is not being persistent, they keep on jumping from on to another method which lead to nothing achieved by the end of the day.

    i also think it is important to have neutral report, not sales ebook, it gives reader better views of an object not a bias side, just for your information, i first started as an affiliate marketer by reading a free giveaway report about a website, if my memory serve me right, it should be http://www.petertheguider.com. hope this help new comers

  20. suryabhan says:

    hello

    great post i just hear the affiliate marketing word before but really i don’t have any idea about affiliate marketing but now i get enough knowledge about affiliate marketing by this article so thanks for shearing this. Before this i thought that there is a only one way to earn and i.e Google adsense but now i know that affiliate marketing is also great for earning.

  21. Ayush Jain says:

    Nice share :) This article suits every IM. It is hard in the beginning and the cash flow is slow but after a bit of struggle it is fine. And once it gets set then there is nothing stopping it.

  22. I use Amazon Affiliates, I sold about 60 products but got very less amount of money from Amazon :/

  23. Aayushi Jain says:

    I don’t use any affiliate network, they are not worthy.

  24. Nitesh says:

    I don’t consider affiliate marketing to be good. It’s better to get the client directly.

  25. Sumeet Kumar says:

    Just 1 wrong recommendation in affiliate marketing can ruin your whole reputation.

  26. Abdulsalam says:

    It was great to read your this post.Must say it’s an awesome post with everything in it.

  27. Nikhil says:

    affiliate marketing is difficult but its good

  28. Andrew says:

    Nice Artlicle…must get onto it right away.

  29. Andrea says:

    Hello Everyone! I’m looking for people who want to join me in retiring within a year! YES, I said a year! I know it may sound way too good to be true, and I can’t blame you. I know there are hundreds of scams that all sound the same. The typical millionaire guru stuff. But please, believe me when I say this system is nothing like what they try to get you to fall for. I personally have tried different online marketing opportunities like Clickbank, Amazon, and just a few more. This system is NOTHING like either of those other systems. With this system you will receive 100% commissions, while building a life-long residual income. With this opportunity you will only have to do the work once and get paid for life! I’m asking you before making up your mind about what I’m saying here today, PLEASE take one minute and check out this information. You won’t be dissapointed

  30. Tom says:

    Well written and to the point. Congratulations guest blogger, a superb article

  31. Affiliate Marketing is performance based marketing where you able get success if you did well and in above points which are mentioned in blog must be taken into an consideration while running such kind of practice. This marketing has lots of benefits likes more gain, work from home, you can sell almost all products but each an every practice has some disadvantages also but if you really follow the things which are mentioned in blog your able to overcome problem. Try to make good reputation in market.