- Push Strategies for Getting More Visitors
- Get the Word Out With Public Relations
- How to Tell Your Brand’s Story
- Drive Sales With Affiliate Marketing
Posted: 22 Apr 2019 01:59 PM PDT
A push strategy usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.
You aren’t the tweet they want to read, but instead, you’re the tweet ad that they read on their stream. You aren’t the YouTube video they want to watch, but you are the pre-roll ad that they watch to get to the content they were after in the first place.
Pull is analogous to Hansel and Gretel. The sweets lure the children into the house on their own accord. Push is analogous to the Three Little Pigs. The wolf just huffs and puffs and breaks into their homes. You can pull them into your world, or you can push yourself into their world. That’s the main difference between pull and push tactics for getting visitors.
Understanding Lifetime Value of a Customers
The lifetime value of a customer (LTV) is basically the amount of money that you are going to make from a customer throughout their life. If you built an e-commerce app and you profit an average of $100 per customer, per year, and they typically buy for 5 consecutive years before they get bored with your inventory and stop shopping with you, then your LTV is $500.
This is important because another primary difference between pull and push tactics is that push tactics usually cost money. Going back to our example above, if a customer is worth $500 on average then it would be foolish to spend $501 to move someone through your funnel. You would ultimately lose $1 each time you retained a user. Keep this simple idea in mind with all of the tactics covered in this section.
1. Purchase Ads
It may not seem like growth hacking at first glance, but ads are definitely a place to hack the distribution of your product. Sure, if you just purchase ads without a strategy, void of creativity, doing nothing to gain an edge, and ignore the process of multivariate testing, then you will be like everyone else (and it probably wouldn’t be considered growth hacking). But that’s not what we’re going to do. Here are some things you must keep in mind as you approach this push tactic:
Understand Your Ad Platform Options
There are many different ways to purchase ads. Most people assume that there is just Facebook, Google, and Twitter, but there are so many more. You can also purchase ads on LinkedIn, which would make a lot of sense if you’re selling to corporate customers. There are niche ad networks such as Carbon (carbonads.net) or The Deck (decknetwork.net), both of which will allow you to target specific verticals. There is BuySellAds (buysellads.com) which allows you to purchase website banner ads, tweets, newsletter sponsorships, RSS includes, and even spots on mobile apps. There is a relatively new ad network that just focuses solely on email sponsorships called LaunchBit (launchbit.com). There is even a solution called Trada (trada.com) that will crowdsource the purchasing of your paid advertising and only take a cut if they exceed your goals. If you want to focus exclusively on mobile users then you can advertise using Tapjoy (tapjoy.com).
Here is a screenshot of Carbon, a niche ad platform.
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Here is a screenshot of BuySellAds, one of the generic ad platforms.
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This doesn’t even include the platforms that focus on retargeting. Retargeting gives you the ability to track users to your site and show your ads only to those people as they browse around the internet. Now, even your ads can be pre-qualified. If this sounds magical it’s because it is magical. In this space alone you have a number of platforms like AdRoll, Perfect Audience, and Retargeter.
Here is a screenshot of AdRoll, which was named the #1 advertising company by Inc. Magazine.
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There has been an explosion of ad networks over the last few years. Some would argue we have too many ways to purchase ads. This can be a good thing if you are willing to investigate the options to find the ones that meet your needs.
Learn the Technical Details of Your Chosen Platform
Once you’ve found an ad platform that meets your specific needs then it will be imperative that you learn the technical details of their offering. The difference between making money or losing money could easily be the difference between knowing the technicalities or not. The most complicated and advanced platform is probably Google AdWords, and it could easily take months to truly master their product, but most of the other options can be learned in a weekend with a high degree of proficiency.
Buying Ads is a Business Model Competition
It’s always hard to know how much you should spend for a single click, or for a set of impressions, but the answer is actually a factor of your business model. If you are targeting the same audience as another company, but your business model is more efficient and your LTV is higher, then you can afford to pay more for the traffic without going upside down. The best thing you can do to win customers using ads is to have a great business model. It’s almost an unfair advantage because no amount of tips or tricks can overcome this one stronghold. If you can pay twice as much to acquire a customer then you have a very defensible strategy.
Consider the Various Personas of Your Customer
Your customers can probably be reached using various platforms. For instance, they are more than likely on Facebook and LinkedIn. You must then decide which persona they are utilizing when they want a product like yours. When someone is on Facebook they are thinking about friends and family. They are looking at photos of other people’s experiences. When people are on LinkedIn they are thinking about climbing the corporate ladder and how networking with others can help them reach their goals. If your product is for project management in agile environments then I wouldn’t choose Facebook, even though technically you could reach your demographic there. Yes, they would see your ad, but their mindset would be incorrect because you are introducing yourself to them in the wrong place. Always think about the persona your customers exhibit while using your particular product before choosing an ad platform.
Circumvent the Ad Networks When Possible
This tactic may not scale easily, but it is still well worth mentioning. You could go to BuySellAds (or other places) and buy banner ads on a particular blog that your audience reads. However, if you cut out the middleman (BuySellAds) and go directly to the owner of the blog then you can get cheaper rates for two reasons. First, BuySellAds is making a cut of every transaction, so if you go direct that is money that you can recoup without the blog owner losing anything. Second, you are able to negotiate. Very rarely is the lowest price and the advertised price the same thing. You can ask for a lower rate and often close a deal relatively simply.
If You Are Paying Per click Then Qualify Every Click
There are two ways to buy ads. First you can purchase them on a CPM basis, which means you pay for set number of impressions and it doesn’t matter how many clicks they get. Second, you can pay per click and this means that it doesn’t matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when your ad is clicked. If you are paying per click then you don’t want people to click your ad unless they are seriously interested, because it costs you money every time they do. Luckily, there are things you can do to qualify clicks using the ad itself. Consider putting the price of your product in the copy so that people don’t click unless they are interested in spending money. Also, don’t use emotion to pull them in unless that same emotion will cause them to buy from you. Don’t put a picture of cute cat on your ad, just to get cat lovers to click on it, if your product doesn’t have something to do with cats.
Test Variations of Your Ad
One of the most fundamental lessons of ads is that you have no idea what your audience will respond to. You have to test multiple versions of the copy, multiple versions of the imagery, and then multiple combinations of the copy and imagery together. The numbers will tell you the truth about which ads you should be running, but your intuition or gut is probably not accurate.
2. Promo Swap
One of the easiest, and free, ways to drive traffic to your site is through cross promotions with other companies. If you find a company who is already serving your target demographic, and you wouldn’t be considered a threat to them, then there are plenty of ways that you could coordinate to promote each other. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm possibilities:
Another way to push people toward your site is by hiring affiliates. This is an arrangement where you pay someone every time they reach a certain goal for you, like getting a visitor to your site, or activating a member. An affiliate might use many of the tactics in this book, but you are paying them to do it instead of worrying about it yourself. Here are a few things to know if you are going to use this tactic:
Think Carefully About the Incentives
If you give an affiliate $100 for every new signup, but there is no clause that says the new signup has to stick around for a certain number of months, then you could find yourself in a situation with misaligned incentives. The affiliate would be rewarded for getting you low quality customers that cancel quickly because it doesn’t affect their profit either way. Create a system where the affiliate only benefits if you benefit.
Don’t Roll Your Own Affiliate Solution
There are a number of products that will allow you to easily get up and running on the technical side of creating an affiliate system, and on the acquisition side of finding affiliates to promote your product. There are products like Commission Junction that will connect you with affiliates, and products like Omnistar that actually track affiliate payouts.
Vet Every New Affiliate Early On
When someone becomes an affiliate for you then they are representing your business to some extent. The tactics they use, the language they employ, and their general style, is a reflection on you. They may not be an employee, but they will be the front of your brand for the people they reach. Choose your affiliates very carefully.
4. Direct Sales
I’m going to be honest, this is a hard one to categorize as a growth hacking tactic, but it is a way to get traffic at the top of the funnel so I would be remiss to completely ignore it. Direct sales teams do not work for every kind of product, but in some cases it is a worthwhile tactic. AppStack, a startup that creates mobile websites in conjunction with mobile ads for local businesses, was able to grow revenues to over 50k a month in a relatively short amount of time, and their primary strategy was direct telephone sales. I use them as an example because it’s hard to imagine a startup using this method, but some of them do, and it actually can work.
Posted: 22 Apr 2019 01:03 PM PDT
You’ve launched an amazing product or service. Now what? Now, you need to get the word out.
But you’re on a budget and can’t afford the $10K a month to hire a fancy agency and put out press releases. That’s fine. You’re better off executing you’re on strategy or hiring a really awesome consultant.
When done well, good PR can be much more effective and less expensive than advertising. For cost-conscious businesses, ROI is crucial. Every penny spent on marketing should generate revenue. PR is no different. Here are the steps you should take to form a successful strategy for your business:
1. Let go of the agency allure
The sad truth about PR is that existing process are broken. They’re outdated, costly, and inefficient.
To succeed with PR, you need to focus less on the appeal of an agency and focus more heavily to focus on results. Prioritize what you want to achieve, not outdated ‘best practices.’ If you want to get in front of journalists, for instance, you are likely better off forming 1:1 relationships than bombarding them with irrelevant pitches.
2. Know When to Use a Press Release
A press release is worthwhile if your announcement is over-the-top catchy and newsworthy. But here’s the thing — most press releases read like giant sales pitches. If you think that journalists and publishers are going to be attracted to lukewarm content, guess again. They’re not. They don’t care. Their email inboxes fill up with 100s of spam messages again.
We hate to say it but marketers — get your head out of the clouds. The world does not revolve around your business, and journalists could care less about what you have to say.
If your goal is to get targeted placements for your brand, you will be better off cultivating a unique and thoughtful pitch in your area of specialty. A press release won’t cut it. Position your organization as a valuable, reliable, and trustworthy source of information instead.
3. Focus on Building Relationships and Making Connections
The problem with PR is ‘spray and prey’ or ‘broadcast’ mentality. If you shout at journalists with a megaphone, they’re not going to listen.
Above all, journalists care about compelling stories. They want to hear about your founders’ emotional journeys. They want to know what problem your company is solving and what motivates your team to wake up and come to work in the mornings.
Treat journalists like trusted business partners, not eyeballs. Develop a conversation. Let them ask questions.
Strategic Planning Wins the Race
Every so often, you’ll come across startups that generate insane amounts of traction on almost zero budget. You might think that it’s the outcome of luck — most likely, that isn’t the case. The more likely scenario is careful, strategic planning. WIth online media, Hollywood success stories are few and far between. Behind the scenes, marketers are hard at work — building key relationships with key stakeholders.
Karen X Cheng founded Dance in a Year, a platform that helps users learn anything in a year.
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Karen learned to dance in a year and videotaped her entire journey. The outcome was an amazing video that went viral on YouTube. In just a few short months, her video has amassed millions of views. She makes the experience of learning to dance look seamlessly easy. She makes the process of making a viral video look pretty darn easy too.
That’s how you know that she put some real muscle behind the process.
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Karen also leveraged her video to connect with potential sponsors and stakeholders in her project. These included companies like Lululemon and American Apparel – two organizations that she was happy to support. Some of these companies supported Karen and shared her video on their social networks too.
She also released her video on Tuesday, guessing that on Monday, people are most likely to be catching up on emails from the weekend.
Use Public Relations Tools
The problem with PR is that the supply/demand ratio is completely imbalanced. PR seekers are constantly spamming writers, journalists, and bloggers for attention.
A service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help to alleviate some of this crunch. Using this service, journalists can find sources to interview for upcoming stories. People seeking PR can monitor journalist queries and join the conversation where they’re qualified to contribute.
You can sign up for a simple e-mail digest that looks like this:
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Here is what it’s like using HARO as a journalist:
For some queries, they’ll receive 50+ responses and most of the pitches I get are totally irrelevant. They make the journalist jump through hoops to get the information they need.
The thing to know about journalists is that they’re incredibly strapped for time and working under short deadlines.
From a journalist’s perspective, here are some tips for making your HARO query stand out:
Don’t send a generic pitch. Send a unique, compelling story. Share something that stands out from a typical PR blast.
Use Tools To Save Time
Save yourself the time and hassle of combing through spreadsheets and sending hundreds of emails. Use tools that have been developed to solve your exact pain point — scale with limited resources.
One example resource is BuzzStream — a CRM (customer relationship management) platform that helps PR professionals build relationships, monitor conversations, and maintain historical records of conversations with PR and media platforms.
BuzzStream lets you automate mundane tasks like saving information about key contacts and partners. Teams can also collaborate on initiatives and delegate outreach tasks.
Collaborate With Other Business to Boost Your PR
Content marketing means that brands are becoming publishers and building their own audience bases. Companies, like you, are looking to connect with key audiences through PR and distribution.
Team up with fellow-business blogs who are looking to reach the same audiences as your organization. There are two ways to get going — guest post on industry blogs, or invite others to create content for your blog.
Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, uses its blog as a platform for giving props to their best customers. The company has a “submit your story” program and will write about their customers who have something awesome to share. For Grasshopper, PR is an invaluable way to say “thanks” to their trusted business partners.
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Give Samples of Your Product or Service
One way to get press coverage is to give away trials or samples of your product or service. Reach out to prominent journalists and bloggers, and ask if they would be open to doing a product review. Give them a free trial or sample to try.
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Always Say Thank You
When a journalist, blogger, or fellow business writes about you or your company — reach out and say thank you. Offer yourself as a resource for future stories. Position your organization as a company that wants to return the favor and help.
PR is, first and foremost, about building relationships. To the best extent that you can, maintain a personal touch. Take journalists out to dinner as a ‘thank you’ (not a bribe) for writing about you.
Show that you are grateful, and you’ll stand apart from the crowd of people who aren’t. Add value to your industry — don’t extract it. Pay it forward whenever you can. Connection karma, and you never know when something small will materialize into something much, much bigger.
Posted: 22 Apr 2019 11:30 AM PDT
Human-to-human connections are the heart and soul of business. At the end of the day, you’re dealing with people — your company is solving problems, alleviating pain points, and providing delightful customer experiences. Revenue is something that happens as a byproduct of a sound business model and a positive customer experience.
Storytelling is a powerful technique for building relationships. It’s an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based or how much funding your startup has.
Good stories give big voices to small ventures. That’s why it’s mission-critical that companies take the time up front to fully develop their approaches to storytelling.
Storytelling and marketing go hand-in-hand. Just think about it. Whether you’re producing infographics, writing copy for a Facebook ad, or writing a free online guide (like this one), you need to capture your audience’s attention.
On a daily basis, consumers (yourself included) face advertising overload. Marketers are constantly competing for their prospects’ and customers’ attention. More likely than not, your brand will be buried under spammy advertising messages.
How can you make your brand stand out? Storytelling.
Chapter 3 is an all-inclusive guide that explains why your brand should prioritize storytelling and how your organization should get started. This is not fluffy stuff, either. Storytelling is a powerful and actionable marketing technique. Convinced? Let’s get to it.
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is:
Brand storytelling is NOT:
Contrary to popular belief, brand storytelling is not about your company. It’s about your customers and the value that they get when engaging with your product or service. The most powerful brand stories are the ones that prioritize customers as the stars. Think of your company as a supporting character.
Oftentimes, marketers get hung up on this concept. They’re stressed about communicating the perfect message and confused about where this initiative should be housed within your business.
Should you hire a consultant? Should you loop in your company’s EVP of corporate communications? And what if you’re an engineer? Does that mean you’re doomed?
Don’t overthink this process. Storytelling is something that we do naturally. More often than not, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.
The problem is, online content is difficult to write. Stories become lost in translation. The human interest behind our brands will fall through the cracks.
And you feel stuck — at a loss for words to describe what you do and why you matter to your customers.
So why not let your customers tell your story for you?
That’s what Clarity did. The company provides a marketplace for advice seekers and experts to connect and share business advice. The company recently launched a series of stories from actual customers. If you’re wondering how Clarity can help grow your business, take a lesson from the leaders who actually use it.
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It’s not just startups that make use of this powerful approach. Enterprise CRM Salesforce hosts customer success videos on its Pinterest page.
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Brand storytelling is more than what you write on your webpage to your customers. It’s more than your blog posts and about pages. It’s how you communicate your messaging. It’s your values. Your brand’s stories are values are infused in every piece of copy, customer service answer,
Okay, so you’re convinced. But what what the heck does it all mean? Storytelling still feels tough. Web copy and advertising messaging are still challenging to write. Here’s what you need to do.
Forget About Marketing
This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the key to successful marketing. Stop thinking like a marketer. Stop trying to sell your product, and instead, focus on developing human interest. Answer the question of why people should care about what your company has to say.
That means being persuasive and appealing to emotion.
Whatever you do, don’t be boring. Do not let the words on your page hide the personalities behind your organization.
Share more than what you sell. Share your strengths, weaknesses, and how you arrived at where you are today. One way to do this is by participating in the storytelling ecosystem. Just as you’re looking for customer testimonials and case studies, make sure to pay it forward by offering to do case studies for other companies.
Authenticity is crucial to copywriting. If you’re overly formal or on guard, you’ll lose trust with your audience. And that’s because consumers can sense disingenuous messaging from miles away. From awkward stock photos with fake customers to false promises, empty messaging can only hurt your brand.
Be real instead. Be human.
Pretend that you’re talking to a new friend over drinks or coffee — not giving an academic presentation in 1862. If you talk down your customers and prospects (or show any indication of lack of respect), they’re going to stop listening immediately.
Don’t dwell over whether or not you’re using perfect grammar. You can always hire a copywriter for that. Stop worrying about the occasional misplaced commas. Focus on developing your messaging instead.
Conversational writing also means keeping it short. Write what you want to say. Get it all on paper. Then cut it. And cut it again. Stop trapping yourself into the mentality that you need a minimum word count to convey information effectively.
Write what you feel like writing — with the exception that you can’t let your stories get too long and unwieldy. Too much writing on a blog post or webpage will make your readers feel distracted or lost. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. There’s no need to try to sound smart. If you build a great product, your customers and prospects will perceive your company as incredibly smart.
Craft Your Message Architecture
Brand storytelling is more subtle than what your company is saying. As we mentioned earlier, the ‘how’ matters just as much. Take a lesson from Pinterest’s lead content strategist, Tiffani Jones Brown. She and her five-person team are responsible for the voice, tone, user interface copy, grammar conventions, and pinner education on the site.
That’s right. It takes five people to get Pinterest’s public-facing messaging just right. This fact may seem surprising, given that some companies have zero resources devoted to getting their messaging just right.
Your company’s message architecture is far from coincidental. It takes careful strategic planning to position your strategic planning.
Don’t expect good stories to appear out of thin air. You need to focus on getting your messaging just right. You need to craft your company’s message architecture to underscore all of your brand communications. Yes, this is a real thing. And it looks a little something like this:
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This table represents the steps that Speak2Leads has taken, conceptually, to connect with the company’s core audience — sales team leaders and small business owners who are looking to increase the speed of connecting to new leads. The concept is simple — when you wait too long to connect with an interested prospect, your company risks losing his or her business.
But here’s the problem. When sales teams are too aggressive, they risk driving customers away. That’s why Speak2Leads has positioned its company and product as one that boosts human-to-human connections. Selling is not about annoying your customers and prospects. It’s about being the first to respond and building a superior connection.
Before articulating your company’s brand persona, you need a thorough outline of your message architecture.
So what does that mean?
A message architecture, according to Bloomstein, is a way to transform vague goals into substantive concepts with context and priority. Your company’s message architecture will look a little something like this:
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Speak2Leads incorporates these values in all of the company’s written material from help center documentation to email marketing initiatives and blog posts. The goal is to keep communication standard across its entire team and to maintain that consistency as the organization begins to scale. That’s why the company defined its message architecture as early on as possible.
The company’s story as a technology, partnerships, and customer-service minded organization comes through in absolutely everything on the website. Even though the company’s blog and help center, for instance, are managed by two different people — a customer service lead and marketing consultant, the same brand story will always shine through. Speak2Leads is a company that prioritizes human interest and is committed to solving a real problem in sales.
The company’s blog:
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The company’s customer-facing knowledge center:
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So how do you get started in choosing the keywords to place in your message architecture?
Brand strategists leverage a technique called a card sorting exercise.
Is possible, try to get your customers involved in this process. One way is to interview them for customer case studies. What words and expressions are they using to describe your brand? The more interviews and service reviews you conduct, the more patterns you’ll start to see.
Let your customers determine your brand messaging. Let them define the voice behind your company.
Unify Your On-site and Off-site Presence
Your company’s story, message architecture, and brand identity should follow your team members everywhere from on-site blog posts to PR opportunities in major media channels. You need to keep your company’s identity as unified and consistent as possible. As we mentioned earlier, the image you share with the world should be a genuine, authentic, and transparent view into your organization.
Choose Your Words Wisely
What you say is just as important as how you say it. Make sure you’re using the tone, voice, and communication style that your audiences value most.
How do you know what this should be and what words you should choose?
Jump back to chapter 1, where we walk through the art meets science of knowing your audience.
If you’re speaking to an audience of millennials, for instance, they tend to embrace a casual, conversational tone and style — more so than an audience of baby boomers would.
Again, unless you were a college English major (like Ritika was), the concepts of voice, tone, and style are really vague. How the heck do you put it all on paper?
What you need is a styleguide to provide instructions for all of your on-site and off-site brand communications. Get started by completing the following template:
Your brand styleguide and message architecture can be custom-tailored to any form of multimedia, beyond writing. Whether you’re producing infographics, brand videos, e-books, or blog posts, your plans will ensure that your messaging is consistent across mediums. Writing is only one form of online communication. Make sure that you invest the time in energy in creating structure behind everything that you produce online.
Posted: 22 Apr 2019 10:45 AM PDT
Connections are the heart of online marketing. Affiliate programs take that concept to the next level.
Let’s say that you’re running a company that specializes in shoes. Your customer base knows that you’re a shoe expert but also values your input on other high quality products — like handbags. Maybe your customers have asked you about handbags, and you find yourself recommending the same options over and over again. As a shoe vendor, you’re acting as a marketer for the handbag company.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could finalize the deal?
With affiliate marketing, you can.
Company A directs Customer to Company B where the transaction occurs.
Company A then earns a commission from the transaction on Company B.
Affiliate Marketing Quick Facts
The earliest days of affiliate marketing stem back to the 1990s, around the time that Amazon launched its Associates Program (which still exists).
Affiliate marketing as grown quickly since its inception. One report points out that the worldwide affiliate marketing industry is worth $6.5 billion across sectors including retail, personal finance, gaming, gambling, travel, telecom, education, publishing, and forms of lead generation.
Affiliate programs are both consumer-based and business-to-business oriented.
Most affiliate programs follow a revenue sharing or pay per sale model. A small proportion follow cost-per-action. CPC and CPM payment methods are much more rare. Typically, commissions are fixed up-front, as part of a standard program.
Participants in the affiliate marketing ecosystem are typically known as “publishers” or “advertisers/merchants.” An advertiser/merchant is the provider of the offer. A publisher promotes the offer. A publisher can also be an advertiser — they are not mutually exclusive roles.
Here is an example of affiliate offers on a mom blog. Here, Amazon is the advertiser/merchant, and 3boysandadog.com is the publisher:
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Some advertisers offer programs in tiers. Once publishers reach certain thresholds, they can begin to earn higher commission rates.
Affiliate programs are appealing to advertisers because there is no loss involved. It’s entirely based on “pay per performance.” In other words, advertisers pay for incremental sales, only.
What businesses cannot do is rely on its affiliate program to replace its sales stream. Advertisers need to actively build their own sales and marketing arms. Publishers are typically third parties and are independent entities.
Advertisers have limited ability to control publishers. If they don’t sell? Tough. Publishers might be open to hearing an advertiser’s suggestions, but ultimately, the two entities are independent from one another.
The Most Popular Affiliate Programs
Merchants can host their own affiliate programs or distribute offers through one or more established networks. An affiliate network is, essentially, a matchmaking service between merchants and publishers. Affiliate networks monetize by taking a portion of the commission.
The most popular programs are:
Does Affiliate Marketing Work for B2B?
ffiliate marketing can be a challenge for the B2B landscape, but success is entirely possible. For a publisher to succeed in driving sales, web traffic is key — typically, a publisher will need to generate significant traffic to generate any significant return.
If you’re a high-traffic publisher, it can be worthwhile to feature B2B offers, and revenue potential tends to be much higher, even though there are fewer sales (there are higher dollar-value transactions).
B2B advertisers may find success in working with publishers who run B2B blogs. Conversely, merchants may find success in promoting complementary products and services that are of interest to its customer base.
Check out some of Heidi Cohen’s offers, for instance. She runs a blog about marketing, so she’s promoting offers that her audience would care about — links to free guide and whitepaper downloads as well as the opportunity to sign up for a conference.
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If you run a B2B blog, and you want to promote affiliate deals (but you don’t want to sell), check out RevResponse. This affiliate network will pay you to promote free resources to your readers. You’ll be paid between $1.50 and $20 per download. The value to the advertiser is that they will be able to connect with your audience. If you run a content marketing program, you can use this platform to reach audiences outside of your existing visitors.
Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You as an Advertiser?
The first step is not to go out and research potential affiliate networks.
To answer this question, you need to think about the following questions:
These questions will help you forecast your revenue potential. Is the market big enough for you to pursue? If not, you should invest your limited time and resources into higher yield marketing opportunities.
An important step is to get out and talk to prospective publishers and business partners. Do they participate in affiliate programs already? What has the yield been in terms of performance? What are the typical revshares that ad networks are taking? What are typical conversion rates? What would be the incentive for publishers and business partners to promote your products and services?
Real data and partner insights can help you better understand the role of affiliate marketing in helping you meet your market demand.
After completing the exercises above, you will have determined whether affiliate marketing is right for you. Once you’ve come to an answer of “yes,” you need to make the following decision:
Should you join an existing affiliate network or create your own?
The answer to that question will stem from a simple cost/benefit analysis.
If an affiliate network doesn’t exist for what you need and you think that the ROI is worth it, you should definitely go and launch your own. But keep in mind that you’ll need to devote resources to get this up, running, and profitable.
Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You as a Publisher?
If your organization is looking to promote affiliate deals, you need to ask yourself these key questions:
If the benefits outweigh the costs, the first step is to run a small test on a (random and representative) cross-section of your web traffic. Do your users convert? Are affiliate deals complementing or creating a distraction from your core business lines?
If you see a tangible return on your affiliate deals, you can gradually scale up your test by increasing the percent of your web traffic that sees it.
You have a range of options for hosting affiliate deals on your website. You might want to run these on the sidebar of your blog (like Heidi Cohen) or at the bottom of a piece of content (if you’re a mom blogger like 3 Boys and a Dog. If you’re running a B2B organization, you could have a portion of your site devoted to partner offers).Test different placements of your affiliate offers rather than confining them to one area of your website.
Treat your affiliates are your most valuable partners, and they’ll jump to do business with you.
Around 2007, entrepreneur Mike Geary from The Truth about Abs joined Clickbank’s affiliate program. He noticed that most merchants in the network were paying between 35% and 50% to their affiliates. Because he was selling a digital product, he had leeway to be more flexible with payouts — he didn’t have much overhead.
This sounds crazy and over-the-top generous. It was. But here’s what happened.
Hundreds of affiliates noticed Geary’s payout and switched their traffic to point to his website. Out of more than 10,000 products being sold on Clickbank, Mike’s product shot up to being the top sold, which drove even more attention to his company.
According to Mike, his revenue is around $1M per month.
Case Study: CrazyForBargains.com
Here is a great case study from Practical Ecommerce and CrazyForBargains, a family-owned retailer of high-quality sleepwear. The company has been around for more than 10 years — Melissa Canepa Murphy launched their e-business in 2002.
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In 2004, Murphy launched an affiliate marketing program on the ShareASale platform with the goal of developing a diversified revenue stream for her business. At the time, the majority of her web traffic was coming in through search engines. As of 2012, the company still relies on search engines, but they have developed additional (healthy) revenue streams.
Murphy has grown the affiliate channel to represent 11 percent of her overall revenue. She hopes that she will be able to grow that number to 20 percent. What she likes most about the affiliate channel is that it is performance based — instead of paying for ad placements and hoping that they work, she pays a 12 percent commission on actual sales generated. The program tracks sales based on a 365-day cookie, which means that affiliates earn commissions on repeat purchases that occur within one year of the initial referral.
At the beginning, Murphy created her own affiliate program in house. She found that this process was a major time sink — she had to take the time to constantly monitor her program and remember to pay affiliates regularly. She made the jump on an affiliate network, where she could immediately access tracking, reporting, and payment systems (as well as instant access to affiliates who were more-than-ready to help sell her products).
In 2009, she also hired an outsourced program manager to run the affiliate program — she pays him between $2,500 and $5,000 per month. The variance depends on whether or not there are performance incentives in place and whether or not there is a need for additional services like design and development.
Maintain a Personal Touch
Interpersonal relationships have been crucial to the success of Murphy’s program. She frequently consults with top affiliates directly to keep communication open. She’ll also adjust her product mix and merchandising to increase conversion rates to drive mutual profitability and long-term value. CrazyForBargains takes these key steps to stay active in the affiliate community:
Remember that there’s a person on the other side of the computer screen. Form lasting, business-to-business relationships. Hop on the phone. Meet your top affiliates over the phone. Strategize together.
Case Study: Groupon
Until 2009, Groupon was considered to be a significant failure. But at the end of 2010, their traffic exploded. There was even speculation that Google would buy Groupon for $5 billion dollars.
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Groupon eventually went on to float the largest IPO from a web company since Google.
What sparked this growth? Two words: affiliate marketing.
One important part of Groupon’s strategy was to cut out middlemen — affiliate networks that took huge cuts from the revenues generated. Instead, Groupon focused on creating direct relationships with affiliates.
Groupon would then sync up with influential publishers. Keep in mind that thanks to social media, you don’t need to be a publisher to have a following — you can promote affiliate deals to your social media network.
Groupon knew that they needed to make life easy for affiliates, so they pre-made banner ads for partners to use. Each day, affiliates would automatically receive new deals — all tied to a single affiliate ID. This strategy fueled Groupon’s growth.
Groupon went out and built affiliate relationships from the ground up. Here’s what you should learn about building your own.
Lessons learned from Groupon:
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Here are the steps that you need to take to launch your own affiliate program:
1. Look at your current audience
2. Define how you will market your affiliate program
3. Focus on acquiring traffic
4. Announce the program
5. Measure results
Key Takeaways on Affiliate Marketing
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