Affiliate Marketing is traditionally a sport played best by the big guys – the big beasts of the industry. Companies such as eBates, ShopAthome, RetailMeNot, Vertive or SurfMyAds always are near the top of any affiliate manager’s list when considering who should be targeted. Yet the truth is that there are often huge potential traffic sources that are ignored in this situation. In particular, there are very powerful content creators such as blogs and content sites that may be overlooked. These sites may only consist of a single person in their proverbial basement, or a perhaps just few people in an office somewhere, but they still may have huge influence online. Why is it that this part of the affiliate world is so often ignored?

You often hear people refer to the Pareto Principle; you know the rule that says, “20% of affiliates will contribute 80% of total affiliate sales.” Thank you, Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto. You have contributed to our conversation over 100 years after you first came up with the idea.

I’m pretty sure Pareto wasn’t an affiliate marketer, but people in this industry have been quoting his rule for a long time. In fact, those of us that have been in the business for a while now have modified the rule to state that actually just 5% of the affiliates in your program will send 95% of your business.

The question is whether affiliates who are not currently in that golden 5% have the ability to change the situation?

Yes. The answer is yes.

These affiliates need to be asking themselves, how can I be heard over the larger affiliates? How can I drive more sales with the traffic that I’m providing?

Affiliate marketers who want to do better should begin by engaging more with their brands and advertisers. Make a phone call, start an instant message conversation, reach out via email, or send smoke signals. The truth is that affiliate program managers actually WANT affiliates to reach out to them. Any affiliate can become part of the 5% driving the traffic to these advertisers and in so doing can make more money than 95% of the marketers out there.

The first and most important step is for these affiliates to start asking for it. What is “it”? It is whatever they need in order to engage more closely with the brand and the advertiser so that their promotions are more relevant, engaging and effective. There are at least five things that every affiliate can ask their affiliate manager for that will help them become part of the 5%.

Ask For a Product To Review
You are essentially the virtual sales staff for these advertisers. You have to get to know the product, product selection, pricing, and everything there is to know about the product before you can sell it. You wouldn’t go out and sell someone’s widget without trying that widget first….would you? Don’t be afraid to ask for free samples or the product to be sent to you. You’ll want to take pictures of it, review it, and write about it. Nothing is better than original content to attract traffic to your site, and nothing creates new content like your own opinion on the product you are marketing.

Ask for a Coupon or Unique Promotion
When you reach out to an advertiser or program manager, you are going to want to ask them what deal they have that you can uniquely promote. You see, if they have 20% off their product somewhere else on the web, but you have to sell it at full price, it’s like being in a boxing match with Mike Tyson with one arm tied behind your back and no ear guards. If the advertiser values you as their selling partner, they will offer you a unique promotion, or some unique product to promote that is limited to their affiliate channel or to you as an affiliate. If the advertiser is using promotional code tracking such as what is available in Impact Radius or that can be uniquely tracked to you, then you will get more credit for sales than you are getting today. Your traffic will start to
convert better, the search engines will pick up your unique deal, and it will create more buzz around your site.

Ask for Pre-Written Articles or eBooks
This tactic is one that is not often employed, but is very effective. Many advertisers have pre-written content about their products, reviews, or eBooks that you can use as more content for your site. You can weave this into your original content and your experience with the product, and therefore appear as a subject matter expert on this particular product. Many affiliates use those eBooks to offer free to visitors to their site in order to incentivize them to join a mailing list. This is a huge advantage for you, as we all know growing your email list is pure gold and you can sell the advertiser’s product to your list and then offer more products to them down the road. If an advertiser has a highly technical product or service, pre-written content can help you explain
and pre-sell that product so that once the user hits the site, they are already making an educated decision to purchase or sign up. Pre-written content can increase conversion rates on your traffic and therefore make more sales, earning you more money.

Ask for a Site Analysis
Sometimes the best question is the hardest one to ask. When you reach out to an affiliate manager or program manager, ask them “What do you think of my site? How could I better sell your products? What would you like to see on my site?” Many of us sit for hours coming up with content or building our sites, and many times we aren’t looking at it from a sales perspective. If you ask for advice or a site analysis, the advertiser can collaborate with you to build the optimal pre-sales content that will help convert your traffic into more sales and/or leads. If you ask the advertiser, and the advertiser or program manager doesn’t have a good answer for you, I’d ask them how THEY sell their products. Many times an affiliate simply puts a banner around content
that is not relevant to the product in the banner, and then they wonder why they are not selling anything or why their clicks do not convert. If you find a really experienced program manager or advertiser, ask them for five things that you could change about your site that they think would help drive more sales. This will show you are proactive, and it’s likely that the tips will help or provide you ideas you had not thought about.

Ask What has Worked For Other Affiliates
When traditional sales teams try to repeat success, they often interview their top sales person and determine what he or she is doing right, and then try to extend that to the rest of their sales team. This is a also good approach to affiliate marketing. If there is one technique, topic, methodology, or type of traffic that is working better than others, the affiliate team of that advertiser should be happy to share that with you. Don’t expect the advertiser to share specific sites with you, as that wouldn’t necessarily be fair to those affiliates that are top performers, and there is certain etiquette that should be followed so as not to upset your highest performers. Ask for the top conversion rates, and make sure you understand from what type of traffic that conversion is derived. See if the advertiser can give you specific media that has worked well. Does email traffic convert better or are blogs the winner? Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples, because advertisers also like to pump up their stats, using conversion rates from incentive sites or loyalty programs which will always be higher. Once you find out what has worked, see if you can repeat it and be realistic about what type of affiliate you are. If you are not an email affiliate, and the advertiser works best on email, its best to move onto another program.

At the end of the day, affiliate marketing is not an easy job and it is not all about the four-hour work week. You have to come out of the basement, get on the phone, and start finding out how to sell more. The more conversations you have with the people for whom you sell, and the more that you know about the products you are selling, the more you are going to make as an affiliate. It seems so simple, but how many times have you been on the phone this week? How many of your advertiser program managers do you know by name?

Ask for it. You shall receive.