One of the biggest things holding back would be online business owners is lack of marketing know-how. Even if you are relatively marketing savvy, the biggest challenge for anyone starting an online business is generating sales quickly. That’s especially true if, like me, you are a one person, work-from-home operation. You may have a great product, but when you’re essentially a sales force of one, it can be tough to reach the millions of potential customers that make up the Internet buying community. Happily, there is a solution and it’s called “affiliate marketing.”
Even if you already know about affiliate marketing – and especially if your small business already has an affiliate program – you’ll want to read on. But first a little background on the young man who is using the power of affiliate marketing to realize not only his own dream of entrepreneurship but those of anyone who longs to be very gainfully self-employed.
Less than a year ago I told you about a very enterprising young man named Anik Singal (see ChangingCourse.com/archives/issue124.html). When I first met Anik at a workshop in Florida a year ago last September, he was getting ready to enter his senior year at the University of Maryland. In addition to earning straight A’s (impressive of itself) he was also studying to become a freelance copywriter and had written and marketed an eBook for high school and college students and their parents on how to improve their grades.
As if all of that weren’t remarkable enough, Anik called me this week with an update. To say that I was blown away by what he has accomplished in less than a year and a half would be an understatement. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
When I met Anik, what impressed me more than his actual accomplishments was his dogged determination to follow his own path, despite stiff resistance from his parents. Anik is a first-generation Indian-American who is a born entrepreneur. His engineer father however, had other plans for his son’s future – engineer or doctor. That’s it. It wasn’t easy to convince his Dad to let him get on plane to come to a three day intensive workshop on copywriting. Despite his family’s resistance, I was left with the distinct feeling that this very creative and determined young man would have no trouble succeeding at whatever he puts his mind to. And boy was I right!
Back at school, Anik was accepted into the University’s Hinman CEO Program, a residential entrepreneurial program where students work, eat, sleep and succeed together. Despite being immersed in entrepreneurial studies, Anik says when he saw all of his friends applying for corporate jobs and was himself being actively recruited by big financial companies, he got nervous. So nervous in fact, that he turned to his father for guidance. Seeing his son give 110% to his entrepreneurial dreams, Anik’s dad came full circle offering this sage advice:
“Ten years from now do you want to be working for someone else or do you want to work for yourself… because if you want to work for yourself and you go out and get a job instead then you’ll start moving up the ladder and making a good salary. And when that happens you’ll get too comfortable and it will be that much harder to leave. So, if you what you really want to do is start your own business, I say go for it.”
That’s all Anik needed to hear. A year after graduating, he went on to win first place in the Hinman program’s Young Alumni category and $15,000 to help launch his latest brainstorm. Around this same time he beat out some stiff competition to land a spot in a business incubator program complete with office facilities and an “amazing mentor” who he jokingly refers to as “Mr. Silicone Valley.” And here’s where affiliate marketing comes in.
The business idea that won Anik all of these accolades is an affiliate training program. Simply put, affiliate marketing is a risk-free form of advertising through which an online merchant rewards an affiliate site for every visitor, subscriber, or customer referred to the merchant – much like a finder’s fee. Think of it as cooperative marketing for people who hate aggressive or “winner takes all” competitive selling.
For example, say you make and sell your own line of aroma therapy products or organic dog treats. Instead of seeing a business that sells massage lotion or dog food as competitors, you actively seek to associate, partner with, connect with or in other words “affiliate” with these related businesses in a “win-win” marketing partnership. When these affiliate companies tell their customers about your product and you make a sale then the affiliate earns either a percentage of the sale or a set dollar amount just for referring business to you. .
The problem with most affiliate programs is that online business owners or merchants like me set up their affiliate programs and then hope people who like their products sign up and start selling. Unfortunately, this “if you build it, they will come” approach generates little to no revenue. That’s because, as Anik says, “It doesn’t matter how grand your product or service is. No product sells itself.” Instead he says, “You must do what today’s best managers do. You must treat your affiliates as a sales force that represents you and your products to the Internet at large.”
When Anik told me he was going to send me preview copy of the first edition of his affiliate management program, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. A few days later a 14 pound box showed up at my door. There are far too many resources to outline in detail here so let me just hit a few of the highlights:
The program comes with a dozen-plus CDs dispensing priceless advice from a range of experts on topics like “Secrets to Developing Powerful Upsells” from one of THE top internet website masters in the world, “How to Get the Most from Network Partnerships like Commission Junction and Linkshare,” and “How to Launch an Affiliate Program Through Clickbank” just to name a few.
As an aside, I have to admit I was especially intrigued when I listened to Anik’s interview with Deborah Carney on “The Secrets to Motivating and Engaging the Affiliates You Recruit” and heard how she herself “changed course.” Like a lot of people, Deborah started out looking for a more flexible schedule that would allow her to spend more time with her kids. Today she works from home as the affiliate manager for CafePress, a highly successful online business with a whopping 20 million unique products.
To ensure that you don’t have to start from scratch, the program comes with lots of templates and checklists including letters proven to work with affiliates, tracking and other spreadsheets, cheat sheets, and more. The program also includes a thick binder on “How to Build and Manage an Unstoppable Online Sales Force.” I’ll be doing a more complete review of this and Anik’s entire program down the road, but in brief this particular resource covers such topics as:
the fundamentals for building a strong and stable affiliate sales team
how to teach your affiliates to maximize sales
how top managers get the word out and recruit an unstoppable team of affiliates
how to write an affiliate newsletter
what every affiliate manager needs to know about legal and ethical marketing issues – just to name a few
And as someone who has an affiliate program myself (ChangingCourse.com/affiliate.htm) tools like the Self-Assessment Checklist for Affiliate Managers and the “Where to Find It in Affiliate Marketing” glossary and resource directory were both eye-openers. Suffice it to say, I have a lot to learn!
Mind you that the training resources and management tools I’ve briefly described here are in addition to the extensive online training and support that is all part of the training package. Anik and his team have put together a member website that features constantly updated resources like a marketing library, highly specific case studies, blogs, tutorials, conference calls, and step-by-step instructions for beginners, intermediate, and advanced affiliate managers.
The affiliate manager training program is truly the first of its kind. To give you an idea of how much buzz Anik’s training program is getting, his company’s booth received the 5th highest number of visitors at a recent affiliate industry tradeshow. It will officially launch next Tuesday, June 27th, so you can’t actually enroll until then. But if you want to take a sneak preview and start receiving updates including learning about special early bird offers go to ChangingCourse.com/recommends/affiliatemanager
I also highly recommend you watch a 14 minute video where you’ll get to “meet” Anik who’ll personally walk you through some great tips for generating sales through affiliate marketing. If you have already have product to sell, are considering developing a product, or plan to reselling other people’s products, I can all but guarantee that watching this video will change your ideas about marketing forever. To watch the video go to ChangingCourse.com/recommends/affiliatemgrvideo
Once you see what Anik and his team have put together, it will be obvious why he won the entrepreneur of the year award. As importantly as the product he has developed, is his determination to follow his dreams. It’s positively contagious. And fortunately for those of us who want to both work at what we love on our own terms AND make a good living doing it, Anik’s affiliate manager training program may the ticket to a lifetime of freedom.