How to turn links into sales

Associate Programs Newsletter #25


CONTENTS:

1. How to turn links to sales
2. Commissions of 180% a year on every sale
3. Greed and laziness in Cyberspace
4. Lots of "mom and pop" sites rejected
5. Commissions paid on 1000 free auctions
6. Breaking the rules - successfully
7. Engenius 1.0 recommended
8. Your visitors can create their own photo mugs
9. Snippets


=============================
1. How to turn links to sales
=============================

It has been fascinating working with Internet consultant Declan Dunn, author of The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs during the launch of his own associate program. Declan is breaking a lot of the "rules" set by companies such as Amazon.com and CDNow - and showing that his methods generate sales fast.

Declan says the goal of his book The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs is: "We show you how to dramatically increase your revenues through quick, strategic positioning on the Internet." And he is doing exactly that with his own associate program.

Declan Dunn began consulting and creating web sites back when a little company named Netscape came to prominence in 1994. Since then, he has created winning sales strategies for clients such as ABC, PBS, BonusMail, USWeb, First Security Capital, and many small businesses. He has built a million-hit web site from scratch.

Declan combines direct response marketing techniques with his Internet expertise to generate immediate results. He is the author of three training systems, including "The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs", which he describes as "the first training system to show how to turn links to sales".

Most importantly, he knows how to save money quickly and easily using a web site. Declan takes the seemingly complex Internet and puts it into terms anyone can understand.

I interviewed Declan to find out why he is doing things so differently - and to find out how well his methods are working:

When you launched your own associate program for your book "The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs" you decided to have only a small number of carefully selected associates. Why?

I believe in providing the most value to a few clients, it has been my approach in business and consulting. I apply this same approach to my associates.

I carefully select associates who have developed trust and credibility with their audience. By limiting this to a few associates, I can make sure that they like what I have to offer and feel good recommending it to their audience.

What I want to do is use this training system as a way to empower and extend the loyalty they have built up with their customer base. I also want to provide personal attention to their efforts, something I can't do with thousands of affiliates.

Finally, I believe that a good affiliate program is a way to track the results of your efforts. By starting small, I can get a sense of the demand for the book, whether people like it, and what results it has generated. I can measure what works and what doesn't; for example, I've found that most affiliate programs are driven only by banner ads. Banner ads yield much less than opt-in emails, because a banner ad is an impulse. A recommendation from a trusted resource is more valuable than a random banner ad to a general audience.

I can also deal with my associates on a personal level and help them out. If I set up tons of affiliates, the administration would be difficult, and spread my efforts out a bit too much for me.

My goal is to work with a few clients that I can deliver the most value with, which is why I set up small and build from there.

Do you think having only a few associates is the best approach for most companies, or just the best for certain products?

I think it really applies to the situation, to certain products. For example, commodities like books and music CDs do well to offer to a broad audience. Amazon.com and Music Boulevard and CDNow are examples of mass appeal. You are purchasing a $20 or so item; there is not much thought or risk here, and everyone wants books and music. So the mass affiliates approach applies here; this can fit into virtually any kind of web site.

For other products, you really need to relate them to the audience they are intended for. For example, a computer software reseller may not succeed by offering an automobile related affiliate program like carprices.com. People come to their site looking for software, not cars, so the message is not targeted.

This software dealer could resell other forms of software, training books, or even hardware, because it is reasonably related to what they have to offer. Hey, if they do offer carprices.com and people are going there, great. I just haven't found this to be true in my own experience. Targeted affiliate programs work best; give people what they want, instead of offering them everything in the universe.

Affiliate programs grow around natural sales channels developed by special interests. If the product has a broad appeal, more affiliates work. The more targeted it is, the more targeted the affiliate program should be.

Bottom line, go with what works; I've got nothing against mass affiliate programs if they are working. Just keep testing and make sure that your efforts are worth it. I read where one site had 400 affiliates, making just 4 sales a month. To me, that's a lot of work for few sales, and all those affiliates must be pretty disappointed. It's something to be careful of; quantity of affiliates does not always translate to quality or sales, for you or your affiliates. Each product should be approached for its own unique qualities and set up to see what works best for all involved.

How did you choose your associates and how many do you have?

We selected just a few affiliates to begin with. Our target is to have 30 affiliates signed up in total. We're flexible here, but we looked for web sites that provided good reach, had a loyal audience, and who had developed a good bond and trust with their audience.

I look for sites where the value and information they deliver their audience far exceeds what is expected. We also look for traffic in excess of 5,000 visitors a month minimum, but again this can be adapted. I'm open to suggestions, but want to make sure I know my affiliates and can do my best to help their efforts.

In fact, I'm finishing up a book for release in January 1999 that will help affiliates sell more from their own web sites and affiliate programs. I've learned what works, what pulls, and am finishing up a complete book on this specific subject, to add to what this book has to offer.

There are certain methods that really work well, which is part of what I've researched through my program, and through offering related products and services myself.

I want to help other affiliate programs succeed by empowering their affiliates, instead of just giving them a banner to post at their web site.

What marketing of the book have you done apart from the associate program?

I use opt-in email lists, ezines, and even some targeted banner advertising. I prefer good email lists that have been developed through opt-in methods. Email is so much more effective than banner ads in my experience.

How successful have sales been?

Very successful; our first tests have gone wonderfully and opened up many new doors. We are finishing up plans to hold a big conference in New York City on associate programs, the first summit of its kind. Many companies will participate, including Refer-It and ADNet International. The Associate Program Summit will be held in March 1999. I'll let you know more specifics at the turn of the New Year. The demand for this information is tremendous!

What lessons have you learned? What would you do differently next time?

I have learned that simply allowing people to post banner ads is not as effective as giving them a specific method to put your course into action. I would provide a one-page guide encouraging endorsements, specific web pages for promotion, email list promotions, and testing which banner ads pull more. I've found that my Quiet Marketing Revolution banner ad, which emulates the Windows interface, pulls better than the Mark Twain banner ad.

Honestly I wouldn't do anything differently though; the only true advice is the results generated. Testing is not about what you like, but what your customers like. And they like this guide, and the monthly updates.

I'm not surprised they like the monthly updates - a wonderful bonus. What do you think is the unique selling point of "The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs"?

This is the first guide of its kind that shows you, step by step, how to set up an affiliate program and help your affiliates succeed. Most how-to guides and marketing gurus online only show you how they have sold their particular book. That's great if you are selling their book, but not if you are trying to build your own business, or sell a variety of products and services.

My experience as a consultant and a webmaster makes this guide unlike any other. I've helped companies offering books, stock loans, reunion services, selling real estate, dentist services, and many others succeed.

What it has led me to is a natural understanding of this market and taking a common sense approach to how it works, whether you are a professional or just beginning. My clients have ranged from huge corporations to small businesses, so the tested, proven techniques of this guide have been built up with real clients since 1994. As they say, one year of Internet experience is worth 5 years in the "real world"; this guide is the result of 20 years of developing sites with a track record of success, from million hit community sites to smaller businesses generating quick revenues.

Here's what one of my readers had to say:

"First, I want to say that I was very skeptical. I spent a lot of time on the web learning about affiliates. I signed us up for Yahoo's affiliate tracking program and I began about a month ago signing up affiliates. I am proud to report that we have about 200 signed in a month. I thought I already knew it all.

"I read your book and I am humbled.

"Your advice not only will help us gain even more affiliates faster, it will get us better affiliates, greatly improve our customer service and our affiliates will be supported much better and will have many more reasons to promote T-Shirt King. You helped us to create an online store that is a step above what I had thought was even possible."
Bill Broadbent, T-Shirt King
http://www.t-shirtking.com"

The feedback on this book has been amazing; it is so hard to find this kind of common sense development based not on hype, but tested, proven methods of Internet marketing and sales.

Anything I should have asked but didn't?

The only thing missing is the reason why this book is delivered digitally, and why it is much more than a book. This subject changes month by month, as new ideas and developments happen. We are keeping people up to date each month via our Links to Sales Internet Journal. I've been writing my own newsletter since 1995, so this Journal is much more than the book. People gain access to over 200 pages of marketing advice, with inside tips on selecting software and positioning products and services for optimal profits.

This is a complete resource that is included with the guide. You get much more than just a book, you also gain access to experts in this field. Next month I'm featuring interviews with two more affiliate programs, as well as showing people how to turn affiliate programs from impulse buys to trusted recommendations to improve their results. Each guide comes with a subscription to this service, so you will always be kept up to date.

--

Thanks, Declan, it has been a true privilege working with an expert.

Get the book now. I strongly recommend it for anyone involved in marketing. It's an eye-opener.

[UPDATE: This product, a big seller, is no longer available.]


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2. Commissions of 180% a year on every sale
===========================================

This letter smelled like a scam. Surprisingly, it turned out to offer what appears to be excellent free advice - especially for people with knowledge of insurance.

Henco Schoeman writes:

Hi Allan

. . . We recently implemented an affiliate program for an insurance company that proved to be very successful. What makes this one different from the average program is that I, the webmaster, am receiving accumulated commissions of 180% per year on every sale! The insurance company is making a lot of money and their affiliates seem to be very happy with their commissions.

Anyone with some web publishing skills can create a similar program.

The click-through rate for this program depends on the type of advertising that we use, but I can tell you that we are signing contracts with 60% to 70% of all visitors who complete a simple form with their contact details. (10% of all visitors accessing the site fill in the form.) All our affiliates receive R10 (+/- 2$) for every qualified lead supplied to us.

Unfortunately this program is targeted to a specific region (South Africa) and the aim of this email is not to advertise for more affiliates. However, I would like to share these ideas with your readers since I think it could help them in creating their own (very profitable) affiliate programs.

How we did it?

If any of your readers are interested, a detailed explanation can be found at the Ezine Factory (unfortunately not for re-publishing).

Good luck with your very interesting newsletter!

Kind regards

Henco Schoeman
The Ezine Factory
ezinefactory.co.za

[UPDATE: This site has disappeared.]


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3. Greed and laziness in Cyberspace
===================================

Deb Brown writes:

Hello Allan

First of all, kudos to you for your efforts with AssociatePrograms.com.

I am writing to you because I sense a pattern among affiliate members, regardless of what programs they are signing up with. As founder and CEO of loveresources.com, I've come to notice while perusing the net and monitoring the many site submissions to our directory, that greed has overcome providing quality content. Far too many webmasters are simply signing up for every associate program they find, adding the appropriate links to their sites, and providing little else on their sites in terms of original content, value-added features and more to entice and maintain site visitors.

Greed and laziness? While many of us are on the net to earn money, or at least support our sites through advertising and affiliate programs, far too much bandwidth is being consumed by the example described in this message. I would like to encourage webmasters to consider their audience, consider the affiliate programs they are signing up with - are they relevant to their site's content? What service and value, overall, are they providing their visitors? What encourages people to return? Are they just in this whole thing to make a buck or do they truly want to attract loyal site visitors and/or customers?

You can do both without giving the appearance that your site is built solely on greed or scam.

My opinion may be unpopular and may not be received well, but it's vital in today's scramble to succeed on the internet to not junk it up with useless sites providing little valuable content. Surfers KNOW when a site's purpose is simply to make a buck for its author without providing anything tangible for the surfers themselves. It's also an insult to the company running the associate program and I wonder how many of THEM are monitoring their affiliates' sites. Something to ponder.

Deb Brown
loveresources.com

Well said, Deb. Whenever I hear of a site doing well with an associate program it's nearly always a site which has added interesting content. Wouldn't you think the "greedy" people would learn that message?


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4. Lots of "mom and pop" sites rejected
=======================================

John Ferber of pay-per-click banner network TeknoSurf AdWave is jolly fussy about which sites he allows to join the network. He told one applicant that "mom and pop" sites were not suitable.

He's paying out $5 for each sign-up - plus another $2 on the second tier - so I guess it makes sense for him to be choosy.

John's network does the thinking for you, working out which banners do best on your site. The system seems to work well. My online stats say that in a fortnight, testing a bottom-of- the-page banner on one page, I've given TeknoSurf 948 impressions for a ratio of 1.16% and earnings of $1.85.

In the same time, I referred 452 people to TeknoSurf of whom 31 were approved - earning me 31 x 5 = $155. On the second tier, out of 31 people only "garym" has successfully referred people. I've earned another $14 from his efforts. Thanks, garym, whoever you are!

If you're one of the 30 not making money from referrals, I wonder if you've taken the time to write a paragraph about TeknoSurf instead of just plonking down a banner? Have you mentioned TeknoSurf in your newsletter?

I've received a complaint that TeknoSurf's main page is loaded down with graphics. John says he'll shrink them a bit.

By the way, John is working on even more generous plans for TeknoSurf. From December 1, webmasters will earn a portion of the click-through revenues generated by sites they refer. He's planning to make this retroactive, so any webmasters you refer now will earn you not only a $5 commission, but also a portion of their revenue, from December 1.

[UPDATE: TeknoSurf is now Advertising.com.]


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5. Commissions paid on 1000 free auctions
=========================================

After "months of market research and product development" matchmaker One & Only Network has launched UTrade Internet Auctions, says Mike Curtis.

UTrade is a Internet auction site that allows web surfers to list items they wish to sell. Items can be auctioned individually or in multiple units via a Dutch auction. It's free to use the site and bid on auctions, but a variety of listing fees can be charged to users wishing to post an auction, such as featured and bold category listings.

Associates earn a 15% commission on any revenues generated, both listing fees and commissions on items that are successfully auctioned. "You can earn commission overrides from webmasters you refer to the One & Only Network that produce revenues from their UTrade Auction associate sites."

The first 1000 auctions that get listed are free, but associates will still receive commissions as though fees had been charged.

Mike Curtis is a pretty smart cookie so I expect Utrade will be as big a success as One & Only.
utrade.com

Gordon Currie attracts about 6500 visitors a day, so I reckon you'll be interested in his advice.

[UPDATE: One & Only was bought by Match.com and closed.]


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6. Breaking the rules - successfully
====================================

Gordon Currie writes:

Hi Allan

Wow! Another great newsletter.

Cynthia brought up some great points in her email that I thought I might address.

I wanted to let Gordon know that while not a RivenGuild fan -
too much business, not enough fun - I visited his site, in
particular to look at the bookstore. Very nice bookstore,
especially the addition of author interviews, bookcovers and
easy navigation within a frames environment.

Actually the framed aspect of the site really hurt our CPM. Although it navigates much better, I lost a pile of click- throughs when we chose to go with frames. It is interesting because traditional feelings are that large, graphics heavy pages (our main site and the original Bookstore) should get a poor response. But the logs and income showed they did well - much better.

I take it that the referral logs must be
demonstrating that the traffic to his site is entering
through his bookstore?

Very much so. We have over 120 pages on our site and the Bookstore, although not heavily promoted acts as a major gateway to our site. Many MYST and RIVEN sites link to the Bookstore as it provides a one-stop resource for the games books.

I had to wonder, though, if inclusion of book reviews in
e-mailed zines would improve that CPM? Time and time
again, our stats demonstrate that:

Actually we have book reviews on the site. You simply click on the graphic "REVIEW" under each title and a Javascript window pops up with selected reviews from people that have bought the book.

In closing, Cynthia has made some very good points and I ALWAYS appreciate hearing from someone who understands the challenges we face. It is funny that with all the books on the net about marketing and web site rules - we break them all the time. We recently started selling T-Shirts on our site promoting our web presence. We are not making a HUGE profit but the big spin-offs are:

1) Branding and fan loyalty
2) International Recognition
3) CYAN is going to make our site the "official" place to
belong to their "Guild". That may not make sense to non-game
fans - in English - they are going to endorse us and provide
special incentives to those who buy our shirts.
Thanks again . . .

Gordon Currie
Rivenguild.com


===========================
7. Engenius 1.0 recommended
===========================

Bill Prackup writes:

Hello Allan,

I always enjoy your ezine. I noticed the banner for sitepositioning.com on Best two tier affiliate programs. They have some good ideas about meta tags for different search engines but - contrary to what they say - their doorway pages are UGLY and amateurish looking. Take a look at Engenius 1.0, a $30 piece of software - Pegasoweb.com . NO, I am not a reseller, though it is available. What it does is incredible for the $$.

Best Regards,
Bill Prackup
Marketitnow.com

Thanks, Bill. I imagine most webmasters will want to tinker with the gateway pages to make them look like the rest of their site?


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8. Your visitors can create their own photo mugs
================================================

Here's an idea that could be promoted to e-marketers or anyone.

You can sell your own photo mugs, T-shirts, mousepads and more online - or allow your users to create their own, says Patrick McGovern of My-website.com and My-Mug.com - and a few other sites.

You make 15% of the total sale (minus shipping and tax).

My-Mug allows a user to upload a photo or Image in any format (using only a web browser) and turn it into merchandise.

After uploading a photo, users are presented with a "Virtual Mug" with their uploaded photo on it. "All they need to do is put in a credit card and the actual product will be shipped to them directly, Patrick says.

It's also possible for you, the site owner, to sell your own images online. For example, say you have a website devoted to puppies. Here's a sample of a image you might have:
netjet.com/photo/puppy.jpg

To allow users to buy this image and place it on a mug or T-shirt, all you would need to do is have a button that says "Put this cute puppy on a mug" and have a special encoded URL, such as this one:
My-mug.com/r.shtml?r=http://www.netjet.com/photo/puppy.jpg

When the user buys the product, you receive 15%.

[UPDATE: My-Mug has been discontinued.]


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9. Snippets
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More big competition
How's your Christmas gift list page going? You have some huge new competition. Yahoo! has opened Yahoo! Shopping http://shopping.yahoo.com offering 2 million products from more than 2,700 online merchants - with one shopping cart.

. . . and even more
Buycomp.com has opened an "e-commerce portal" to specialty stores selling books, CDs, software, games and videos and claiming to have "the lowest prices on Earth".
zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0%2C4586%2C2165337%2C00.html

Survey on affiliate programs
In an effort to help webmasters trying to find the better associate/affiliate/referral programs, Marketgalaxy.com is conducting a survey to determine which programs are the best, and which are scams. All webmasters are invited to express their opinion. Survey results will be posted after January 1. The survey can be found at
Marketgalaxy.com/web/refer.html

Book recommended
David Beroff of Freedback.com told I-Advertising mailing list that he strongly recommends the book, Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities by John Hagel and Arthur G. Armstrong.

Hacker at work
Sometimes when you try to visit Virtual Merchant you get redirected to the Federal Trade Commission's complaint page.
credit-cards.net
I also tried to check my stats but all I saw was a sign saying that the stats system was being improved.

Problem with Corey's checks
If you don't live in North America, you could have a problem with Corey Rudl's commission checks. My bank used to treat me with tolerant amusement but has now got tough. It slugged me more than $100 (Australian) to process Corey's last check, in US dollars from a Canadian bank. Corey's excellent marketing manual (well, excellent except for a few proof-reading mistakes) is my biggest money earner, month after month, so I'm sure he's smart enough to figure out a better way to pay me. I'm keeping Corey at the top of my Top 10. Here's the signup page:
http://www.AssociatePrograms.com/coreys


*************************************************************
CLASSIFIED ADS (I charge $US45. Subscribers: over 4500.
I keep the price high to make sure there aren't many ads.
The circulation is verifiable by OakNetPublishing.com.)
*************************************************************

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All the best

Allan Gardyne

November 20, 1998

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