Ahh, affiliate sales, the “goldmine” of the big blogs. You hear about these websites making MILLIONS off affiliate sales and “How EASY” it all was and suddenly you find yourself scrambling for an amazon account and hearing the ching-ching of passive income.
But when that first deposit of .02C comes in, the party stops.
Affiliating is HARD.
Or perhaps you are just doing it wrong?
Here are a few tips to affiliate the RIGHT way and actually make the revenue you were hoping for!
1. Quality OVER Quantity
There are affiliate programs, and then there are AFFILIATE programs. After that first amazon account you will suddenly realize that there are a bundle of BETTER options out there. Much like google ad words compared to a premium ad network, there are also premium opportunities for affiliate sales.
Start by looking at what you ALREADY love and use and see if there is an opportunity for affiliate sales within these companies. For example, my accounting software Freshbooks has an affiliate program. I have been a client with them for 3 years, and am committed BEYOND my affiliate status.
BUT, the fact that I have an affiliate opportunity and it pays well, only heightens my interests in their business.
I like them, and they reward me. Win-win. Their affiliate program is also set up so I get a % of the sales billed by my connections… so BIG win, and even MORE incentive to help my connections MAKE MONEY!
Ditto with this program from Grokker. It is an opportunity that works well in with my lifestyle and story line, a product I use, and one that has high value back, and my proving myself I am able to build a relationship with the Affiliate company and create an even more rewarding affiliate opportunity for myself (and yes, they are looking for more affiliates, so if you think it fits your style, I recommend you applying!)
Sign up for the Grokker Affiliate Program by clicking here.
And if you already have a Shareasale , it is easy to add the Grokker Program! If you don’t, its time to get one. By signing up for an account with them you can opt into programs, (including ones like Zullily that have a HUGE range of products) and track your affiliate earnings within the platform. Grab a Shareasale Affiliate account on this link!
2. Find your BEST performers
We all have one or two posts that do REALLY well on our sites. Perhaps it is because google SEO actually worked for us this time, or maybe we had a super pin situation that continues to drive traffic! Whatever the reason, go back and assess your TOP 10 posts and see if there is an opportunity to include an affiliate link (or two) in the content. This is where even an amazon link can deliver!
3. Know your VALUE
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big website, and I most definitely can’t drive the hundreds of thousands of people to an affiliate link to make it pay, but I STILL make money off of affiliates because I know where my value is!
My value is in reaching influencers, not necessarily in reaching consumers, and by recognizing that I am able to find affiliate partners that offer that win-win-win that I am always looking for. My value is in sharing programs like this one from Tap Influence– if you sign up to their platform, complete your profile, I get an affiliate fee, and YOU get sponsored posts! (Win-win Right!)
We all have a specific niche market we reach, figure out yours, and then how you can build it and add value. You don’t have to jump in the big pool with the big fish, but can, in fact, make great revenue off of a small pond of unique fishies that you understand better than anyone else. Assess your demographic, including location! You would be surprised how many opportunities there are to reach a specific COUNTRY!
4. Understand Your VALUES
Value and ValueS are both important, and will be the make it or break it opportunity for your affiliate sales. I like to seek things that a) work, that b) people need and c) are useful!
I find programs that reward based on engagement VS sales fit best into my value system. Email sign ups, and platforms that help businesses allow me to promote things that I feel are necessary and work! Books that educate, or blogger networks that value new and innovative influencers feel to me like programs that deliver results to all parties, and are ones that I can most definitely stand behind.
5. Keep Your Affiliate Links Together
If your site gets the traffic to make Amazon work for you, then I highly recommend using this plugin: Amazon Product In a Post Plugin, to keep your links neat and tidy! Create a shop page, and install the plugin. You can organize your affiliate products into page categories and have them nicely displayed and EVEN allow geo-locating to switch between Amazon.com and Amazon.ca depending on your readers location!
From here, you have a page to direct your readers to, OR a page to easily grab links to insert into content (because you MUST also be writing supporting content to promo these products!!)
6. Eventually you must SELL
When it comes down to it, organic posts with links are great. Banners might get you the odd click, and “facebook” shares can drive a bit of traffic… eventually though, you have to SELL.
Find the common theme in your affiliate links and create seasonal content posts that drive these TOP 10 products in a unique and useful way!
“Ten products to get your husband cooking in the kitchen”
“Ten gifts for the foodie in your family”
“Best garden products of the year”
Find your favourites, and create your wrap ups! Hey, maybe your post is even “Best Affiliate Programs To Bring You Revenue” (see what I did there?) (ahem, and I suggest this one if you are looking!)
In the end, it really is about PROMOTING something you believe in, not SELLING a product or service just because you are compensated. Pick a few programs that you can fully support to get your feet wet and figure out what YOUR return to your partners will be. Experiment with content and promotions to see what works. Build your e-newsletter and define YOUR brand in the market so your affiliate programs MAKE SENSE when you share them
Most of all, no matter WHAT size of influencer you are, walking away and not even trying affiliate programs is a terrible idea. It is a source of revenue, and a viable stream of income that you will better understand if you try.
So go forth, and Affiliate!
So you want to start blogging for money and making your blog a business? You want to earn some money from it and have it be a “real deal” vs an expensive, time consuming hobby? Here are 5 ways to turn your blog from “entertainment” to “business” without losing yourself.
Tips on Blogging for Money
Treat it like a business
Probably the MOST important step of all in blogging for money is to start treating what you do as a business. Being professional is more than just having the right invoicing platform, it is in the way you communicate, your ability to deliver what it needed and in the timeframe required. So how does one make the switch from “hobbyist” mentality to “business-minded”?
Start by valuing yourself and your service. Understand (and believe) that there IS a value you bring to the industry, and that there is a reason that people purchase the services and products from influencers like yourself.
By starting to wear a bit of confidence in your abilities, your language should start to change during your conversations and by “walking the walk” eventually you will start to believe in yourself.
As well, start showing up to “work” in the mornings. Create a plan of what you want to accomplish, and stick to it. Do NOT let facebook distract you, and get your work completed. While your job may be a tonne of fun, remember that you are not here to play, but just to smile while you work. Blogging for money may end up being a passive income, but at the beginning you need to put the time and effort into it to create a stable foundation.
Figure out what you sell, without selling out
The first step in blogging for money is to define your products. If YOU don’t know what you sell, your potential clients definitely won’t. Start with a simple work with me page, explain your values and the benefits of working with you. Clarify WHO you want to work with, and why you think you would be the right person to do the work.
Influencer “products” are usually broken down into 3 groups:
1. Product reviews – this is when you will provide a review, narrative or social promotion in exchange for product. You should have a minimum value of product here that you will review, as well as a caveat that will define your boundaries (i.e. it must be a product I love, or even if your product is less than <value> I may still choose to support your messaging)
2. Sponsored content – This is branded product, written to promote a message that you are directly compensated for. You can state your rates here (if you want) or link to a media kit (if you want) but I prefer to have a direct conversation with a brand regarding pricing and messaging. You can add here different types of sponsored content that you can provide, i.e. custom recipes, crafts, DIY, branded narratives, detailed product review etc. Also a good idea to LINK to some previously published sponsored content so they can see how you performed the work.
3. Other Products- This is where the list is ENDLESS. As an influencer your “other” products usually follow your special, enhanced skills or personal strengths. Items that can be included here are YouTube videos, twitter or facebook parties, integrated campaigns, freelance writing, series sponsored posts (i.e. a porch makeover with multiple brand posts all wrapping together into one) and about a million more. Anything from custom photography to live events, so think outside the box and allow your special products to evolve as you grow into your business.
This is your menu of options, and it is a necessity when starting (or continuing) to monetize. How will someone know they are sitting in a cafe that serves food and not just someones kitchen table if there isn’t a menu in front of them (or a sign on the door)
But make sure that WHATEVER products you offer, they are in alignment with YOUR VALUES. If it doesn’t feel right to sell it, then it shouldn’t be on the list!
Build your inventory value
First of all, what is inventory? Inventory is directly related to your PRODUCTS (see above) If you are selling sponsored content on your site, and blogging for money from brands, your available inventory is the number of sponsored posts you can publish in a month (there should be a limit by the way!! You don’t want to “over indulge” with brand messaging and lose your personal story)
So, to improve the value of your inventory, we need to work on a few things:
- Numbers: We know it isn’t always the size that matters, but sometimes bigger CAN be better (or at least more expensive) Work on growing your site reach and pageviews to authentic readers, grow your social following AND engagement. Make it a goal to authentically increase these numbers and the value added will be there.
- Define your niche: Understanding WHO you talk to is almost as important as talking. Know who your market is, understand how to get them to engage and make this a key definer when you start to pitch brands. If your readers are 90% 35 year old women who love to ski and knit, your ability to target this specific market to a brand who is looking will be better than the other blogger.
- Get better: Writing branded content ISN’T easy, there IS a skill to it. Brands are looking for product placement these days, more than straight up advetorial. They want to see how you incorporate their product into YOUR life and online story. Practice, get feedback and ask the brand for their suggestions when you work with them. Trust me, writing a GREAT branded post is harder than you think (and well worth a higher price tag to a brand)
Treat the your website like a business by building and strengthening it’s reach. Fine tune your products and understand your market!
Learn & network
It truly doesn’t matter WHAT industry you are in, you must keep learning and growing within it. Attend conferences, do online courses, book a coach to help you grow, or do all of it! There is constant change in this industry and new methods and ideas are being added to the pot daily. If this truly IS a business, you will be passionate about being the very BEST you can be at your job.
And meet people, grow your network, have conversations that explore ideas in the industry. Your network is a powerful tool and amazing resource, so build it, nurture it and respect the connections.
I heard a quote, I think it was on HOUSE, many seasons back, but it said “If you are not willing to chance making a fool of yourself, you will never achieve true greatness” Take leaps, have courage, define YOUR path, don’t just take the one that is well worn and easy to travel. You are worthy of taking big steps and making your business deliver what you need. You have every right to be here that any other person does, so apply your best to it, reach out, apply, say YES and throw your name in the hat! You will make great progress just by having the courage to take the chance!
Today can be the start of a whole new approach to your blog or website. Today you can start by sitting down and logging on and looking at your assets as a source of pride, and of income. If that is what you want, then go! You always have support!
We all choose to attend Blogging conferences for different reasons. Some come for the education, others for networking and meeting online friends “IRL”; others, well, we come to connect and build brand relationships.
Whether your blog is monetized with a source of income or with products, blogging conferences are one of the best opportunities you have to make new connections that can build into rewarding relationships in the future. But, if you think you can just show up, grab some swag and run, and then arrive home to an ambassadorship with your favorite brand, you have some learning to do!
To get a lead, you need to create the opportunity. You need to nurture a relationship and be present for the brand. The people that brands want to make connections with are the ones who actually care about their products and are a good fit with the brand’s image.
The preparations for a successful conference engaging with brands begin even before the conference begins. By being prepared, you can lower your stress and increase the chances of landing a brand partnership.
Prep while you Pack
Before you even walk in the door of a conference, relationships are being made, so to be sure that you are in on the “pre event” conversation, add these packing items to your list:
- Follow the conference hashtag BEFORE the conference begins. Many brands and sponsors are already engaging on this hashtag. By joining the conversation and supporting your favourites not only are you amplifying their message to other attendees, but you are letting them know you are coming to the conference.
- Follow, and List. Most conference handles have a “sponsor” list on twitter. Be sure to follow the supporting brands and subscribe to the list. I also add my top 10 brands that I want to support to a “secret” list on twitter so I can support ALL their messaging before an event and get on their radar even faster.
- Reach out. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a brand you love and have been supporting to make a date to meet in person at an event. Take time out of your schedule to have a sit down with them and share a bit more about yourself and see how you can support their messaging moving forward.
Quality over Quantity
I am a true believer that not every brand is right for every blogger, and it does BOTH of us a disservice to try and make it work when it isn’t a good fit. When you are at a conference, it is more valuable for you to spend your time on quality connections vs quantity. Don’t try and SEE EVERYONE and DO EVERYTHING, just focus on the doing the RIGHT things and meeting the RIGHT people.
Before heading to a conference, I make a list of my top 5 brands (or sometimes even my top 2). I spend time early on to see what they are doing on social, how they work with bloggers and ensure that our brands align and are a good fit.
During the conference, I make it a priority to spend my time not only connecting with those target brands in person, but also supporting their online messaging during the event. I tweet them out, I engage, I take photos and videos of their booth or set up, and, most importantly, I introduce them to other influencers I think they should connect with.
By demonstrating that I truly am their brand advocate both in person and online, I am able to build a more authentic relationship with the brand, which will lay the foundation for continuing our relationship in the future.
Keep It Real, Make it Professional
There is always that ONE person at an office party who ends up dancing on the tables, or having it out with a “former friend” in the hallway. Add to that the blogger who “borrows” the display swag, or even the person sitting in the darkened corner for ours on her phone.
The best thing you can do for your business (and yes, it IS a business) is to be present and be professional.
Walk into a blogger conference as a business event, be respectful of the brands time, and their conversations with other bloggers. Support, assist, wear your brand proudly, and remember that a conference can be considered a multi day job interview, so be sure to put your best foot forward, whatever you determine it to be.
Making the decision before hand as to what you want from a conference will help you be prepared to achieve it. If you are going for networking and mini cupcakes, enjoy them with two hands. If you are there for business relationships, put the time and energy into making them successful.
Whatever your reasons, understand the amazing amounts of time, money and energy that went into putting on this event performance. Support the event organizers, and give them your influence and amplification back in spades so that THEIR event experience is also a success.
Sometimes the simplest sales technique can make ALL the difference to your ability to close with a client. Sales funnels are a common tool used by companies and individuals around the world, and they are a blogger’s best friend when it comes to business management.
Understanding the Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is made up of 3 parts and your goal is to FILL the top level and as you qualify brands and clients, they sift down to the next level. You will see sales funnels in funky funnel shapes, but to simplify, just use a spreadsheet of columns.
You should be starting a fresh sales funnel monthly, but I will also do a specific sales funnel for EACH conference or event I attend. This allows me to focus in on my priorities; vs reacting to what I think “might” be opportunities. Just because it seems like a brand is BEST to work with, doesn’t mean that it will be the best for you. So, use your funnel to commit to the brands you WANT to support, and through that the right opportunity should come.
At the beginning of every month, or a month before a conference begins, FILL the first column of your funnel with the brand contacts that appeal the most to you. Allot each brand one line. Note their contact info, and any specific details you have about them. Each brand that is given a line is now a priority for you to engage and support in the first week of your active funnel.
Step 1: AUDIT
Take your list of brands in column one and spent 15 minutes per line to explore/audit their online personality. Follow them on social media, visit their website, google them, and see what campaigns they have done. Assess who they are currently working with, and see what similarities those influencers have to each other. This way, you get a good picture of the type of influencer that the brand typically uses, and can see if you are a good match.
Step 2: SUPPORT
You want to provide consistent support and engagement to your list for a week to see if the feeling is mutual. To do this, I create a “secret” twitter list (as opposed to a public one) and add all of the brands from column one to it. I add this list as a column to my hootsuite or tweetdeck. With smaller list I can be aware of ALL the communication they are sharing, and support them when applicable.
Step 3: ENGAGE
Direct engagement with a brand, in a natural and organic way, should start to put you on their radar. (Of course, be sure that your twitter bio states that you are an influencer, and leads them back to your blog.)As soon as the brand begins to engage BACK with you (ie: follows you, asks you direct questions, retweets and supports YOU) you can safely assume that they are interested in progressing your relationship, and time to move them into the NEXT column (column 2)!
If you get no love or notice back, you can and should continue to engage and support.
The Value of the Pre-Qualify
After building relationships with brands on twitter, I will direct message them to request an email contact. My go to line is as follows:
“I have some neat ideas to support your messaging and would love to connect via email.” It is a simple ask, and prepares them for a pitch, or to be open and on the lookout for a pre-qualifying email.
Once you have an email address, provide them with a quick intro of your business, and an option to opt into a pitch or proposal.
“So excited to connect with you after chatting on twitter and I would love the chance to share some of my ideas about supporting the launch of XXXX in a proposal. Please let me know if you would be interested in receiving that, and hearing a few options about how we can work together.”
I keep my pre-qualifying email simple, and to the point. I am not going to spend hours on a pitch for a company that is not interested; by creating opportunities for communication, I have the chance to learn more about the brand and their needs.
One key point here: Keep your communication authentic and real. Use your own personality in your emails, so that the relationship you build is one that will also be represented online when you publish.
If the brand comes back as is open to hearing a pitch, it is time to move them along to the next column (column 3). If not, provide a few notes back about how you hope they will keep you on the list for future opportunities.
How we present our products and services should be representative of how we will deliver them, so keep your pitch REAL to you and don’t try to go über corporate if that is not your brand. A pitch should consist of a simple opening that lays the ground work for the client to understand your brand’s value and expertise.
I always provide multiple options when pitching a client, even for a “blog post”. By allowing them to choose their path you put the control of the sale in their hands. They won’t feel cornered into having to go with ONE option, and will have the opportunity to see your range and skills.
Each option is defined by objective, description, deliverables, and cost.
I always leave them with an open ended “hook” to ensure they are aware that these are just a selection of the opportunities for working together. Often I will add in something to the effect of: Of course, if you are interested in reaching a larger market, I can pull together some options for offering an integrated campaign/twitter party etc.
Keep your pitch clean and simple. Attach is as a .doc, or deliver it in the body of an email. Be sure not to overwhelm them with TOO much information, and most importantly, write the pitch to suit THEIR brand and make it specific to their needs.
Pitches can be accepted on the first throw, or go back and forth for weeks with no conclusion. Your goal is to build relationships with businesses that are open to receiving your services, and that suit your brand’s specific values.
In each column you will lose a few brands, reducing the number as they progress through to the sale. This is totally normal and is to be expected, so don’t worry when a brand says that they aren’t interested.
Here’s the clincher: you need the brands to MOVE SOMEWHERE and not stay stagnant in any column. If at the end of the month they are STILL in column A, it is time to take them out and remove them from your sales objective. If they are a brand you truly love to support, keep supporting them, but do so without conversion in mind.
If you are using the sales funnel for a conference, you might focus on the engage column until after you have made first IRL contact at the event, or the brand relationship could move quickly and you may be able to set up a real life pitch AT the event. Be flexible with the structure of the sales funnel for live events, but don’t forget about using it.
Popping Champagne, just to do it again.
Our last column is sale. This is where you want your best clients to end up, month after month. Closing that sale is the reason we are IN SALES (which we are by the way). It is our celebratory moment. Of course, the moment you have drained your champagne glass, it is time to REFILL your funnel, so the fun never ends.
A healthy sales funnel, with consistent movement between columns, will create a healthy business; all it takes is remembering that it exists and giving it a priority spot on your desk!
One of the hardest shifts for a blogger to make when they monetize their site is to figure out what their blogger products are. Understand WHAT you sell is as important as WHO you are selling to. (the HOW and the WHY and the WHEN are also in there as well). Blogger products are varied based on their personal experience and skills, but can be “summed up” as follows.
Blogger products: What products do you have, and how can you increase their value?
Influencers can build a strong enough following on their social accounts that there is direct value to brands to partner with them on this single platform. As a blogger product, these are easy to manage and improve.
Facebook: Brands will purchase broadcasting on facebook pages to promote events and special announcements. These are usually specific content, with links at a specific date/time to be shared. You should have a facebook page with a strong following and excellent engagement.
Twitter: The opportunities for brand sponsorship on twitter can be broader than facebook since it is one of the more easily measured platforms. Brands will invest in twitter campaigns for broadcasting messages, OR in purchasing influencers to SUPPORT a campaign to expand engagement of blogger content. Twitter parties, and having influencers act as participants or co-hosts can also be a highly compensated opportunity. Numbers matter in twitter, so if you want to pick up more and higher compensated twitter opportunities, you need to grow you numbers.
Instagram: We have all probably heard of the AWESOME opportunities instagram influencers are getting for a single post. Consider this the 1%. Most brands are still unsure of how to use mainstream influencer on instagram, so the bulk of opportunities are usually tagged onto larger campaigns. BUT, to build your strength, build your following and ensure you have engagement.
Pinterest: Aside from being an amazing pinterest influencer like Paula, most of us just use our pinterest as a support to campaigns. There is opportunity for influencers to sell pinterest as a specific product, especially if it includes custom images that highlight and promote the brand.
Of course, your opportunities for thinking OUTSIDE the box in how to use these platforms is limitless. Figure out where your strength lies, and how you can best use that in a way to engage and connect with your audience.
One of the most common blogger products in the blogging world, and basically the foundation it is built on, your content is probably the reason brands are connecting with you.
You do have “layers” to your content though, so be sure to define the minimum you can offer, as well as more extensive articles.
Blog Post: Personally I try to never write a product review as I find it does not resonate with my readers. Even the most simple posts need to have some format of narrative content involved. But, the base line blog post for purchase would be 350 words, including images, and brand mentions.
Extended narrative: The more involved the story gets, the better able we are to wrap in product placement. This is a 400-800 word story, that includes product, with links and custom images.
Product Creation: Want a recipe, or a DIY, we are talking a lot more than WRITING. Any post that has you purchasing supplies, or writing custom instructions has more to it than a narrative and should be compensated differently.
Giveaways: I have heard of influencers charging extra for giveaways, but personally I don’t I would rather add them in, if available, as a perk to my readers. They can also drive awesome traffic if you do them well, and since I have digital ads, that is a win-win!
Ahh video. It is hot, it is sexy, it is VIDEO. Everyone loves video. It is still somewhat new, and pretty exciting, and to be able to add video to a campaign as a blogger product, even if you don’t have the youtube following to actually SELL AS the campaign, is a boost for both you and the brand.
Facebook File Video: this is a video uploaded directly TO facebook. These can get great traction, but be sure to keep them short. For brand work, this is an investment piece, and can be added on as an additional perk to a brand willing to invest into a newer you tuber.
YouTube Video: Youtube gives you all the SEO of a blog post, PLUS that visual. It can be sold on its own, OR as a package to be embedded into a blog post.
Livestreaming: People haven’t mastered the art of selling on livestream platforms, but it will come. Figure out how to make it work, and perhaps you will have a new product on your hands! Livestreaming to upload to youtube or facebook is just selling a spontaneous VLOG as far as I am concerned and should be done at a lower price as it won’t include the editing or end cards that can be so valuable to a brand.
Think of integrated as “more than one” What blogger products can you bundle together to make them better? Blog posts and youtube? Multiple posts that track a journey? Combining facebook videos with blog posts with, with, with… the opportunities are endless.
Also, what can you sell OFF your website? What can you do that ISN’T a blog post or a video? Can you guest write for a brand on their website? Run a product launch event? Host and manage a twitter party? Create a multi blogger influencer campaign?
Our industry is being created because of CREATIVE individuals. Find the opportunity to continue LEARNING how to do MORE and BIGGER things. Offer yourself as a free intern to support and help others who are already DOING these bigger things. If there is learning going on, immerse yourself. There is room to create NEW things all the time. There is room for you to TRY something new… even if someone is already doing it.
So, think outside that silly box, get creative and grow a pair. Submit ideas, offer suggestions and create products that YOU LOVE to deliver. That, in the end, is what will end up working for you AND your reader, and deliver the results your brand partner needs.
This is by no means a definitive list of blogger products… there isn’t one. This is a general starting point of things you COULD sell to brands… but truth be told, its only limit is your imagination and a brands willingness to invest in you!
Want more stuff like this, or information on upcoming campaigns and free courses? Add your name to my blogger email list! Or request access to my blogger facebook group!