This is the real and transparent story of how we more than tripled our Affiliate Program in less than a year.
If you are not familiar with what an Affiliate Program is and how powerful it can be for increasing your inbound leads, I put together this EPIC guide that can help get you started with affiliate marketing.
Once you’ve set up your program with the tools needed to manage your affiliate partners, where do you look to drive growth? Do you optimize copy? Do you run ads? Do you send out emails? Do you do a combination of those?
This is where most people pull the plug on their affiliate program. They are a few months in, and they begin to realize that a) they are unable to add more affiliates because no one wants to be onboard and b) the affiliates that they do end up adding are merely referring low quality leads.
I’ve been there.
As a marketer, you are forced to make tough decisions. For us, it was whether or not we should continue trying to make this thing grow, or divert our attention elsewhere.
We had to innovate or die.
Luckily, we threw a dart, and it landed in the right spot. We found a strategy that worked. In a matter of months, our affiliate program went from sluggish and stale to extremely influential as an immense driver of our growth.
So what did we do?
We began to think more about how our Affiliates were feeling and less about us. We realized that this was a team game, and we would not be able to win without their support.
So we sat down, brainstormed, and started asking ourselves “the hard questions” about our target “audience.”
“What did Affiliates want from us? Why were Affiliates running their blogs? What was their goal? What was their biggest pain points?”
Obvious questions in hindsight.
But in the moment, it is easy, as most marketers do, to get caught up in us — in thinking about marketing from the marketing perspective.
Rather, we needed to think about it from the other side of the table.
We came to two big conclusions that forever shaped our strategy to gain new affiliates:
- People want to feel important and recognized
- People are lazy
The first is quite obvious. Human beings are selfish and are often motivated by ego. It is not a bad thing! We just want to be special. Affiliate bloggers are no exception. In fact, they are the opposite — they are the reason for the rule! People who write get energy from people reading their stuff. They are motivated by views!
We played upon this exact feeling in a clever way.
We began pumping out listicles of the TOP BLOGGERS IN OUR NICHE. For us, it was Real Estate. So we made long (25+ person) lists of the top real estate bloggers or the top books on real estate or the top etc.
Essentially, we “featured” a whole host of bloggers on our blog, showing them a) we cared about them and b) they should feel special.
We took these lists and followed up with personalized messages to each and every person featured on the list.
Before adopting this approach, our strategy was cut and dry. We used to reach out, cold, just asking. We were not thinking that these bloggers were already getting HUNDREDS of emails a day asking for their attention.
Our new strategy was different. It stood out. This time we started by giving. We gave them recognition and credit on our blog! They loved that. They wanted to feel important.
We sent emails to 370 or so influencers in our first attempt at this strategy. 66 of them signed up as affiliates! That’s an over 18% conversion rate. Unheard of in our industry.
The second thing we changed with our new strategy relates to our second understanding of influencers, it’s that we needed to make it super easy for them to say yes.
People are inherently lazy. Because of that, most people hate to do work.
Our original emails created work for our potential affiliates. It asked them to fill out forms, design ads, change their copy — DO all of these things.
No one wants more work.
So, instead of offering more work. We made it super easy and streamlined the on-boarding flow. Gone were the pages and pages of scanned forms.
Our new flow was easy to get through, and only took the affiliates a minute or so rather than ten.
I know it sounds obvious and you are probably reading this saying “duh…” but you would not imagine how often marketers make mistakes like these. We often sacrifice customer satisfaction for convenience.
While business and marketing particularly is often about tradeoffs, one thing we should never try and compromise is the trust and happiness of our customers.
Always think about them first! It makes everything else so much easier.