Succeeding at affiliate marketing comes down to understanding a set of fundamental rules. And there are few people to learn those rules from than Pat Flynn, the creator of smartpassiveincome.com. Pat is one of the most successful affiliate marketers ever, having made over $4 million in the last 10 years.
I had the opportunity to hear Pat speak at the first annual Travel Con, a conference for travel industry professionals and online entrepreneurs, in Austin, Texas. I also chatted with him afterward and asked him my burning questions about affiliate marketing. This post is a breakdown of the most insightful lessons Pat shared on how to grow your affiliate income. I hope that you too will find them as valuable as I have!
This post contains affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy
1. Affiliate marketing is like planting seeds
This analogy refers to the mindset you should have as an affiliate marketer. Affiliate marketing is a long-term game, not a get-rich-quick scheme. When you plant seeds, you water them regularly and patiently wait for the harvest. Similarly, when you ‘plant’ affiliate links on your website, you monitor their performance and patiently drive traffic to your website. Don’t wait until you have 100k monthly page views per month to start putting affiliate links in your blog posts! That would be a ton of missed sales opportunities. If you insert affiliate links in your posts right now, they’ll already be there when your traffic grows so you can reap the benefits (sales) immediately.
2. Treat your affiliate products as if they were your own
Pat described this statement as the ‘golden rule of affiliate marketing.’ Think about it: when you create something, you develop an attachment to it and become hungry for it to succeed. That’s how you should treat your affiliate products. It can be difficult at first, but you have to practice ‘owning’ your affiliate products. You’re the #1 cheerleader for the products, and you want everyone to know how amazing they are. That means showing people not only how you’ve benefited from the products, but how others have, too! Testimonials are an excellent promotional strategy because they lend more credibility to your offers; people are more likely to buy something they can see that many people have benefited from.
How do you get testimonials? It depends on the type of product. For instance, for courses that I promote, I take the testimonials directly from the course landing pages, Facebook groups, or online review sites. If you’re promoting products from Amazon, you can take screenshots of reviews from Amazon. Always make sure to give credit to the source.
3. Make sure you thoroughly understand every single product you promote
In order to treat your affiliate products as your own, you have to know every single thing about them. Pat stated that there are key questions to ask yourself before you decide to promote a product:
- Can I relay the problem and the promise? That is, can you succinctly describe the problem the product solves and why it’s the perfect solution to that problem?
- Could someone thank me for recommending this product to them?
- Can I answer questions about this product?
- Am I comfortable promoting this product?
Case in point: I should have probably asked myself all these questions when I started promoting DJI drones back in the fall of 2017. Never having used a drone in my life, I signed up for DJI’s affiliate program and slapped a giant banner of the Mavic Pro on my sidebar. Guess how much I made in affiliate income? A grand…$0. I didn’t know a thing about drones yet somehow I thought people would buy it because there was a flashy banner on my homepage. This, my friends, is how NOT to do affiliate marketing!
4. Describe your audience’s problems better than they can
Your audience has a pain point, and it’s actively searching for a solution. Your job is to tell your readers what their problem is and then point them to a solution, your affiliate product. Pat said that ‘the person who can describe the problem best gains trust fastest.’ Doesn’t that ring true? If you show people that you understand exactly what they’re going through, then they’ll think you have a solution to their problem. Think about the last time you purchased a self-help book. You probably felt that the author understood your struggles, right? So that meant they could help you overcome those issues. Your audience thinks the same way.
5. Use the ‘grandma test’ to see how well you describe your affiliate products
One simple way to check to see if you really understand your affiliate products is to do the ‘grandma test.’ Can you explain the benefits and features of the product to your grandma in layman’s terms? If your grandma’s not available, then find someone else with whom you can do this test. In my case, I explain products to my sister to make sure I can comfortably describe the key selling points in a way that’s easy to grasp.
6. Simple mistakes will kill your affiliate sales
It’s as important to know what NOT to do as it is to know what to do to succeed at affiliate marketing. At the session, Pat talked about three big mistakes that’ll kill your affiliate sales.
Choosing the wrong products to promote
You should only promote products you have used or would use in a heartbeat. As mentioned before, make sure you can describe the products completely – both the pros and cons. Also, make sure you genuinely like the products and think they’re valuable. Is it something you’d recommend to a friend? If not, then you shouldn’t recommend them to anyone!
Using dull promotional strategies
Promoting your affiliate products requires some creativity. With so many affiliate marketers often promoting the same products, standing out is a must. Just writing a review and adding some links won’t cut it these days, unless you have die-hard fans. Consider hosting a challenge, filming a Youtube tutorial, or creating a minicourse. Think outside the box when it comes to affiliate promotion. Even if your strategy doesn’t work, at least you’ll know what not to do in the future.
Only promoting your affiliate products in one way
For every product you promote, you need multiple ways to let people know about it. In Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, the best affiliate marketing course I’ve taken to date, I learned about over a dozen ways to promote my affiliate offers. After implementing new strategies, my income quadrupled in five months. That’s how impactful having multiple promotional strategies can be.
7. Always show people how easy it is to use the product
Often times there is a technology component to using products, such as cameras, computer software. Still, people want products that will make their lives easier with minimal effort on their part. They’d be turned off if your affiliate products seem like a headache to use. Do your best to convey the ease of using your affiliate products. For instance, whenever I talk about my favorite Nikon camera on my travel blog, I emphasize why it’s a piece of cake to use for beginner photographers like me. Better yet, I could create a tutorial to show how to use the basic features so that my readers can see exactly how easy it is to use.
8. Use ‘small win’ challenges to grow your affiliate income
Pat emphasizes that you shouldn’t try to change people’s lives – that is, solve all their problems. Rather, just try to change their day. Solve one simple problem for them that will make them want to come back for bigger wins. Because when people accomplish a small feat, they set their sights higher. You can accomplish this through ‘small win’ challenges. For instance, you can create a ‘Start a Blog’ challenge with a simple checklist of action items. The steps would present a perfect opportunity for you to introduce your blogging-related affiliate products like WordPress themes and beginner blogging courses.
9. Give people an opportunity to ask questions!
This is one important thing that affiliate marketers often forget. Whenever you talk about a product, make sure you let your audience know they can ask you questions. This may seem like a simple gesture, but it can make a huge difference. It can move people from on the fence to buyers. How? When you answer questions, you can showcase your understanding of your audience’s problems, which builds trust. At the same, you can highlight what makes your affiliate product the ideal solution for their problem.
10. Your affiliate income is a result of how well you serve your audience
Lastly, keep in mind that your affiliate income comes from serving your audience. That means you shouldn’t just focus on what products have the highest commissions. The most important questions you need to ask are:
- What does my audience want?
- How can I best solve my audience’s problems?
- Which affiliate products would make life easier for my audience?
Focus on truly helping your audience and the affiliate income will come. I can say that with confidence from my own experience and from those of other successful affiliate marketers.
There you have it. I hope you found these affiliate marketing tips useful. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below and I’ll answer them ASAP!
Recommended affiliate marketing resources
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (Course)
If Pat Flynn is the king of affiliate marketing, then Michelle Schroeder Gardner is the queen of affiliate marketing. Michelle, founder of the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents, consistently makes over $50k a month through affiliate marketing. She has a comprehensive course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, that breaks down the exact strategies she uses to make $50,000 a month in passive income. It’s packed with strategies to make affiliate income. Plus it comes with information about the legal aspects, exercises to brainstorm ideas, workbooks to put your learning to practice, and tons of bonus guides.
Pin To Profits – Affiliate Marketing (Course)
Pinterest is a visual search engine with 250 million users who are actively looking to buy things. That’s what makes it a gold mine for affiliate marketers. Put your affiliate products in front of them and they just may click and buy them…in droves. Pin To Profits – Affiliate Marketing is a course that teaches you how to make affiliate sales on Pinterest. Created by Pinterest strategist and mommy blogger, Mckinzie Bean, the video-based course shows you the steps to create click-worthy pins for your affiliate products. It also teaches you how to promote those pins to the right boards so that your target audience sees them.