5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Affiliates

I got started in online marketing as an affiliate, creating websites to market products sold on Amazon, movie rentals from Netflix, and the like. They pay commissions to websites that send them buyers. The goal of an affiliate is pretty simple – drive more sales for less money. It taught me some lessons that many business owners could use.

Here are 5 ideas:

1. Break Your Business Down

Small affiliates run a relatively simple business. No worries about product or fulfillment or customer service.┬áJust marketing. Their strategies may be complex, but at its core it is very simple. I get paid x for a sale – if I can bring in sales for less than x, I profit. (contrast this with just calculating the value of a sale for most companies)

This simplicity leads to a laser-focus on what matters, which can be easy to get away from when running a small business. As an exercise, try breaking out each component of your business – sales, operations, marketing, etc. What really matters in each area? Is that what you’re focusing on?

2. Always Be Tracking

TrackingSuccessful affiliates that purchase advertising (Adwords, Facebook, whatever) are obsessive about the numbers. They realize that some advertising mediums, keywords, particular creatives, website designs, or other variables can make or break a campaign. This is why they would never start paying for visitors to their website without good tracking in place. Does your business know where it’s visitors and calls are coming from?

3. Always Be Testing

TestingThis has to come after #2, because you need to track to test. As I alluded to there, a huge number of changes can be made to any advertising campaign. Sometimes those changes have a tremendous impact on performance. Any self-respecting affiliate will have multiple advertisements, variations on their website, different traffic sources, etc. – and be watching to see what works best. Pick the winner, and move on to your next test.

4. Sometimes, Weird Things Work

WeirdHave you seen ads on Facebook with wacky pictures that have nothing to do with the ad? They exist because they often work. Such a strategy might not fit with your brand, but is a good lesson.

You can’t expect to always guess the best message, keywords, or picture – so try things, ask a friend for ideas, and don’t be afraid to test something that looks a bit unlikely. You might be surprised.

5. Many Small Changes = Big Changes

Incremental ImprovementsSometimes a new idea or process might not seem worthwhile. Why bother if it’s only going to improve things .02%?

But take heart, as it may be those tiny changes that make the big difference. In the early days of an affiliate campaign, it’s often easy to make a 20%+ gain a new idea. Eventually, however, you hone in on the ideal setup – and then gains are harder to make. But the best don’t worry about this, and continue to test and improve. Over time, those small changes add up. A .1% improvement each day for a year will be a 43% improvement by year end.

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