I have been in the affiliate marketing business for a very long time. It’s initial appeal is still just as appealing to me today. Mainly that involves the idea of “limited (or no) responsibility.” Let’s face it. There are more exciting things to do than to sit in front of a computer all day, or than just working in general.
You see, I have been in the position of sourcing products, buying (and getting delivery of) stock, storing, finding customers, fulfilling orders, etc. and it’s more involved than I want to be day to day. I am in a large part a one man show, and the less parts that I have to be in control of, the happier and more efficient I can be.
Affiliate marketing has changed and evolved over the years… significantly in fact. There is an increasing need to be more transparent (both for legal and ethical reasons), and as a result, more responsibility became important. Is that a bad thing? Depends how you look at it. To me, that extra bit (it’s not a lot) of responsibility meant the opportunity for more leverage.
Read the rest of this article for a full explanation of the above.
Let’s Take a Deeper Look at Responsibility
I’m going to deviate slightly from affiliate marketing for a minute and discuss drop-shopping because many people I talk to think they are exactly the same thing. But as you will see, getting into drop-shopping is slightly more involved than affiliate marketing. This should put into perspective how little responsibility affiliate marketers do in fact have.
I really love the idea of drop-shipping. It eliminates the need to buy stock and store it in a warehouse. You can “sell other people’s products” and they will ship it for you… just like with affiliate marketing… but there is some added responsibility. There is a key advantage in some cases over affiliate marketing which many may not have thought of, and I will discuss that in a second, but let’s talk about the added responsibility first.
In some cases with drop-shipping you may have to manually enter orders into a system that the vendor provides. Many will have digital automation for that process but in the case where you are selling products from multiple vendors, it’s less likely.
The big thing here though is you will need a secure system to collect payment and credit card information, and also handle customer support. And you will also have to analyze activities like cart abandonment and make attempts to improve on that process. This may be considered a step up from affiliate marketing, but I feel it’s a pretty big step. Your job/life can be easier than all that.
However I will say this… with this scenario you may be able to tap into niches that you might not otherwise be able to get into with standard affiliate marketing. You see, there are a lot of products still not easily available for purchase online. The vendors may be short-sighted and feel that only “in-person physical purchases” are reasonable for the given product. Or even if they are available online, it may be that only bulk purchases are available or even that they are in a marketplace that hasn’t opened the doors to affiliates.
These scenarios are ideal for those that want to get into the drop-shipping business, albeit with a little added responsibility over affiliate marketing. Sure the barrier of entry is slightly higher but this could mean a lot LESS competition. Let me give you an example.
I have a friend who runs a successful web site using the drop-shipping model promoting products that were once only available in retail stores. The products are very specific pet accessories. In the “offline” scenario, pet shop owners would become resellers and would have a catalog of products and a few samples in the store. The customer would make the purchase through the store and the owner would order the customized accessory through a digital interface and get a commission. The product would then be shipped directly to the customer.
Can you see how a digital version of the catalog could make for a great opportunity for an online marketer who is comfortable with the extra responsibility that comes with drop-shipping?
At any rate… let’s get back to affiliate marketing shall we?
What’s Your Responsibility to the Customer as an Affiliate Marketer?
Now, with affiliate marketing, you can essentially provide a link to someone and “refer” them to a product. The link is unique to you, as you probably know. The rest (sales process, order fulfillment, customer service) becomes the responsibility of the merchant or vendor.
However… with the need for more transparency initiates a need for more responsibility, even if just a little.
A very simple, completely hands off approach to affiliate marketing could be accomplished in the following scenario:
You write an article that discusses a problem that someone has. This article could just be black text on a white background. At the bottom you can describe a solution. Add in a blue link (an affiliate link) to get the solution. The link may be tagged in such a way that it auto-adds the product to the merchant’s cart and the sale is credited to you as an affiliate.
After they left the page that had your blue affiliate hyperlink, the customers were no longer your responsibility. This practice still works and is still in effect to a large degree. The customer was not aware of any middle-person in the transaction. Well, truthfully, we as consumers know that there are always many many people that “profit” from a single transaction. There’s usually always a middleman or two, then there are the employees involved with design, creation, delivery, and on an on… but there are laws online that require some added transparency requiring you to let the potential customer know that you will profit from any sales made after clicking your link.
With that transparency my friend, comes some added responsibility. So now the scenario changes. Somewhere near the hyperlink it must be stated that you may profit from the sales. And this may bring up some questions or concerns for the potential customer. Here are a few:
1) If you are getting a commission, am I paying more?
2) Who the heck are you?
3) Why should I let you profit from my purchase?
How to Become a Responsible Affiliate Marketer
Ok… so now you are letting potential customers know that you may profit from their purchases if they click your link. Now what?
A practice that I am seeing more and more of, something I feel I may have initiated… is letting the customer know right away that “you are NOT paying extra if you buy through my link… I simply get a ‘cut’ because I referred you to the product.” Say something like that… but more eloquently.
Does this distract the “flow” you had going. Certainly, but it has to be done. I can’t speak on legal compliance, but it is more ethical to be transparent don’t ya think?
Now… a lot of times people want to know who you are and why they should be listening to you in the first place. Yet, many others don’t care. If what they read resonates with them, they may not care who delivered the message. However, for those that want to know, link to a profile.
Beyond that, if discussing the problem and referring them to a solution isn’t enough, give the person even more value (or someone else will). How can you do that?
Offer the customer some complementary products (in the form of bonuses perhaps) or information that is pertinent post-sale. But wait, once they click that link, they are gonzo, right? Yeah usually… but here is where leverage comes in 😉
Use Leverage With Your Affiliate Marketing Business
At this stage we are discussing a problem, describing a solution and telling the kind folks that this is a business, and although we care about you, we also want to earn a living… but before handing them off to the “other person’s” cart or sales funnel or what have you… let’s first get some info so that we can stay in touch.
Now we want to say… “hey, before you buy, give me your email so I can stay in touch with you. I have a really cool product that goes well with the one you are about to buy that I’d like to give you for free. No strings. I want to earn my referral commission and intend to over-deliver. I will also send you a series of emails every few days that will help you make the most of your new purchase. I will send how-to videos and articles, and send some inspiration messages. Oh, and I might suggest more stuff later down the road when it’s relevant.”
You might even want to add in extras like what other people thought of your bonuses or complementary content (the social proof aspect for YOUR “product”).
From there, you grab their email, and redirect them to the product. Then let the auto-responder (automated email delivery system) work it’s magic.
You have to be more transparent in your marketing. With that though comes added responsibility. But before you think that takes the allure out of affiliate marketing, please understand that this added responsibility offers the opportunity for more leverage (in the form of repeat sales… er commissions… from the happy customers).
Affiliate marketing is a value added business. Do it right and you will be rewarded. And you *may* become extremely wealthy from your efforts (no guarantees of course). Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and decide how they should best be treated. Decide what would give them the most value from their current position, then deliver it (in an automated and leveraged way).
Leaving product creation and order fulfillment, and for a large part, customer service, to someone else is what makes affiliate marketing so attractive.