Are You With the Right Friends?

Maybe you realized that I have been quiet for quite a few months. The reason was in the beginning not even obvious to me myself, but I had to bring first a bit more clarity into my own life.

I knew that my life was a bit “complicated”, and my intention was to clean up slowly and silently. But then things began to to deteriorate, fast.

I had a online travel agency with a partner, and I realized that some customers had trouble to reach us by phone. Some email was coming late, or only after I received a call from the sender asking for a response.

Around the same time I realized that my partner was doing some other dealings with people I do not even know, and quite questionable dealings. It looked to me as if this partner was either on the verge of being defrauded, or trhat he might even try to participate in an organized crime operation. I tried to tell her to leave this stuff alone, but she refused.

Both together lead me to close the travel agency. This was the right decision, although it turned out that the deal she tried to do was indeed a scam.

Anyway, the money which used to come from the travel agency was now missing.

The next thing to come was a tax audit. It seems that I was not alone with my observations and questions. This audit did not turn up any mistakes on my side, but it took a lot of time and energy.

This whole situation left me by January in a position scrambling to hold things together and to prevent a complete collapse. I had to do whatever it takes to earn cash, working very long hours outside for little money, until an uncompromising and painful round of costcutting could bring at least a little relief.

I am not writing this to ask for sympathy. I just want to give another example to make the case how important it is to choose the right friends and partners in your business and in your life. I heard about this concept first more than twenty years ago from Anthony Robins. At that time I thought it was inappropriate and only cementing an unjust world. But now I know: this is vital.

Affiliate Marketing Is a Team Sport

Affiliate Marketing Is More Than a Collection of Techniques

About five years ago I bought a course teaching affiliate marketing for about $2000. The course covered about everything, starting with the right mindset for success, then how to select a niche, how to find products for promotion, how to build lead magnets and a list, how to make a plan. But the course was leading me nowhere.
Now you can say: If the student is ready, the teacher will be there, and you can turn the sentence round and say “if the student is not ready the teacher teaches in vain”. I was at that time not ready, my mindset was preventing success.
Although that course discussed the importance of the mindset and all technical aspects of affiliate marketing, one vital point was missing. Affiliate marketing is a team effort, it is very hard to earn a substantial and sustainable income as an isolated affiliate marketer.

Let’s Do Some Number Crunching

Here are a few assumptions on which I base the following calculation:

  • You look for a yearly income of about $100,000 per year.
  • You have costs for mailing lists, web hosting, traffic generation of about 30,000 per year.
  • You get an commission of about $3 for each sale through an affiliate link
  • You make 20 sales for every 1000 emails you send out.
  • You promote your recommendations by sending on average 3 emails to your subscribers.

In this scenario you need total revenue $130,000. At $3 per sale this adds up to 43,000 sales per year. to get there you need to send out 2,150,000 promotion emails per year. If you send to every unique subscriber 5 emails per week or 260 emails per year, you need about 8,300 subscribers. If you send 3 emails for each offer, you need to offer to every subscriber 87 products per year.

You can vary the assumptions a bit and come to not so drastic conclusions. But this will not change the big picture.

Isolated Success is Impossible

If you want to be successful you cannot treat each subscriber the same way. A new subscriber who came just in through a free download offer and doesn’t know you at all needs different offers than a subscriber who know you for many years.

I suggest that you probably divide your subscribers into three classes:

  • New subscribers who never bought something from you
  • Subscribers who did one or a few purchases
  • Susbcribers who buy repeadetly based on your recommendations

Each of these classes need different offers. After taking care for some overlap I suggest you need 200 offers per year, or 4 good offers for your subscribers per week. To find four products you can recommend wholeheartedly no need probably review at least 12 products per week, or 2,5 per day if you work 5 days per week.

Your work schedule will look like this:

Daily:

  • Review 2.5 products like ebooks, video courses etc. for recommendation
  • Write three promotion emails per day
  • Drive traffic to lead magnets
  • Review results of your promotion and lead generation system

Ongoing:

  • Set up new lead magnets
  • Grow your knowledge and skills in your chosen field of expertise
  • Grow your authority status in your field of expertise

This is a full time job, and you might be able to do that after you have built a list of of around 8000 subscribers, although chances are that you will still have to prioritize. This might result in promoting some products which are not so good, some sloppy written email promotions, a lack of industry research and a challenge to maintain the size of the list.

But what about the time before your list reaches 8000 subscribers, when the income you generate through your marketing does not yet pay for a living and you can’t put in a full work day into your project? You still have to send out three email promotions per day, find a new product to promote every day and do some research to develop your expert status. But you have only a few hours to do that, because you need also to spend time and energy in another job to pay for your living. Sonds hard to impossible? It is.

The Solution: Burden Sharing

You will not reach your goal just by working harder. If you earn your living with a normal full time job, there is no way to work more than 3 or 4 hours per day for your affiliate marketing project without damaging the quality of your recommendations and content. You have to work smarter. So let’s have a look at the tasks at hand: where can we safe time and effort?

  • List building, setting up lead magnets and driving traffic to them has the highest priority, because a large email audience is what you need to make an online living.
  • Building expertise and authority in your field is necessary. Without that your subscribers will act only in small numbers on your recommendations.
  • Reducing the frequency of promotion emails will reduce your cash flow as soon as your email lists have a few hundred subscribers

But what about reviewing and selecting the offers you promote? What if you need to find instead of 200 products worth your recommendation only 10 products by yourself? You will now research 5 products before you recommend one, and still perform only one product review per week instead of 2 or three per day. If you find 20 likeminded and trustworthy colleagues who share the product recommendations, everyone would have to find only 10 recommendations to reach a grand total of 200. And because 40 eyes see more than two, the 200 recommendations generated by a group are probably richer than the ones you would have found on your own.

The new task schedule looks like this:

Daily:

  • Write three promotion emails per day
  • Drive traffic to lead magnets
  • Review results of your promotion and lead generation system
  • Network with fellow marketers

Weekly

  • Review one product per week

Ongoing

  • Set up new lead magnets
  • Grow your knowledge and skills in your chosen field of expertise
  • Grow your authority status in your field of expertise
  • Find trustworthy colleagues for cooperation

This sounds much better. But there is another major shortcut. What if you could join an alrady existing network of marketers instead of creating one from scratch?

Join a Mastermind Group

It is obviously much more effective to join an existing mastermind group than trying to create one from scratch. You need a group of like-minded people who are willing to support each others, share ideas, information and recommendations. If you are not an established affiliate marketer the best way to find and get access to such a group is joining a excellent mentorship program. Your knowledge and skills will grow, with it your authority status. You will find many new ideas and early access to information about upcoming products for review and/or recommendation.
The mentorship program and the people in the attached mastermind group should be openminded towards the niche you have chosen for your affiliate marketing business. And the people in the group have to be trustworthy. So you have to do a fair amount of research before joining such a group. But if you have found the right people, it can be very helpful.

How to Build an Audience

Developing relationships of trust and earning an authority status are the essential steps for building an audience. And a strong audience is a synonym for internet marketing success.

Why? Internet marketing is another word for selling information. And selling information – offline and online – needs credibility. Credibility on the other hand rests on three pillars:

  • you know what you are talking about
  • you say what you know and truly believe
  • people recognize both of the above

People who know you as an expert in your field and believe into your integrity and honesty are far more likely to listen to your advice and act on it. This is called influence and allows you to sell your advice in form of an information product and also to earn money as an affiliate recommending third party products and services.

The key question is then how to find people who like to listen to you, who consider your advice as valuable and who are willing to act on it.

The Communication Triangle

The Communication Triangle

Your communication triangle is defined by three components:

  1. You
  2. The information and advice you provide
  3. The people who listen to you

For building an audience you have to create a positive relationship between yourself, your message and your listeners.

I assume that you are ambitious, willing to back up your goals with effort, and honest. Otherwise you would read up to here. But there is something else you need to be aware of:

Communication Style
The way you communicate is important. There are many valid communication styles. But to build an audience you have to be consistent. This way you can connect to people who like your style. Others will go somewhere else.

  • Are you communicating quickly or very detailed in small steps.
  • Do you prefer step-by-step arguments along logical lines or analogies with many metaphors and pictures
  • Your preferred language is obviously important.

The Fit
There must be a fit between all three components: you, your message and your audience.

  • You have to stay true to yourself. Otherwise you cannot build credibility and you damage your physical and psychological health.
  • You have to be consistent in your style of communication and your topic.
  • You have to craft your message in a way fitting to you and your audience.

The good news is now that the internet is not a global village, but a global mega-metropolis. There are enough people fitting to whatever personality you might have. You just have to open up and look for the right people.

Fine Tuning Your Communication Triangle
Things become interesting if you are able to create a dynamic in this triangle. This comes from listening to your audience, thus learning more details about their wants and needs. Now you can do your research and fine tune your message to the questions and needs of your audience. This increases your value for your audience. They will look forward for your messages, take them important and read them carefully. Your recognition as an expert will grow, you will reach more people and your influence will also grow.

If you enjoyed this post you might be also interested in an audio class discussing in depth the relationship between a publisher and email subscribers.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Business

I used to think about starting a business in the internet as follows: Get the ability to create traffic. Develop and tweak a good product with a highly converting sales funnel. And wow, the business was supposed to be there. But it did not work out like that. Why not? There was an important part of the business missing: Me!

Don’t be a Leaf in the Wind

Testing of product features, price and sales copy have their place. But without a purpose the products and sales funnel resulting from your tests will be determined by the kind of traffic you use. And I am not only talking about buyers list versus freebie list. I am just talking about the people in your lists, their behavior, interest, preferences.

Testing involves several variables:

  • The traffic source
  • The copy
  • The product offer
  • The price

If you start with traffic, and a traffic source which is only defined by the fact that it’s readily available then the following consequences will appear:

  • The audience is limited and not well defined.
  • For this audience only a certain type of copy will work somehow, and no copy will work very well.
  • For this type of copy only certain products and services will work.
  • For those products you will be only able to ask for a certain price.

The audience in such a setting tends to be defined by your current relationships, especially if you avoid buying traffic. The other variables will work out according to your audience. So, your current relationships decide, what kind of copy you use to sell which product at which price point. This is a surefire way to keep your life as it is, at best.

The product or service you deliver decides what you do day in and day out. The price point decides what resources you have at hand to care for yourself, your family, and to develop your business. In one word: Your life is ruled by your friends and enemies, by your family and acquaintances. But you do not rule your own life. A tragedy.

5 Questions You Must Answer

I suggest to turn this thinking around and to ask the following questions

  1. Purpose: Where is my passion located? What do I really want to do with my life? What does energize me most?
  2. Benefit: How can I help people while following my passion?
  3. Market: What kinds of people are thirsty for this benefit, and where do I find them?
  4. Product: How can I frame my purpose into a product providing this benefit to a thirsty crowd and providing to me the money I need?
  5. Relationship: How can I build a reach out to the right people and let them realize that they satisfy their dire need with my help?

This way, you decide what you do with your life, and to whom you relate. Another word for this state of affairs is freedom.

Continuous Improvement Leads to Profit

You need to get the 5 answers pretty fast reasonably right to start a business. You need an offer to your market that fits to your personal purpose in life. The market must be big enough at least to cover your cost. Your product must be good enough to be desirable for your prospects, and you need a way to communicate effectively to your prospects. You will have to do some testing and tweaking of your offer, pricing and communication, and you will probably need some outside advice to reach there.

After breaking even, there is most certainly remaining a lot of room for improvement. You will get better in what you are doing. You will learn more about the desires of your customers, and where to find them. Your credibility will grow, and you will develop authority in the area of your passion.

Improving step by step will lead you from break even to profit. Your conversion rates will go up, because people know and trust you. You will learn to know your market better and to match your service better to customers’ desires, allowing for a higher price. You might be also able to frame your service in a slightly different way by employing more automation. This way you can also serve people who dearly want your product, but lack the means to pay for the full version.

Recommended for further reading:

About Learning

Johannes Stockburger writing about  learningForgetting learning was the one huge mistake I did a few years ago. I was just content with the system that was working for me. I was building a travel agency using Google Adwords, and it worked fine for me. I got new customers, albeit for a price. But through repeat purchases the expenses were coming back.
Next came the meltdown of the financs system 2008. I added money to increase the exposire, but the return was shrinking. This bankrupted me almost, before I just stopped advertisements and worked only with the customers I already had. I improved the service and concentrated on the customers who appreciated my work. Business was growing nicely, and with it profitability. But then in 2012, the crisis of the Euro zone flared up, shrinking the activity of my best customers. Now, I had foreseen this and prepared to add another income stream from publishing. Here I could reach the whole world, depending less on the Euro Zone and its problems.

In Two Years Back to the Newbie-Level

But when I returned in 2011 to build a business using the internet as main communication media, I found that not a single one of my old methods and techniques from the time prior to 2008 was still working. I found myself reduced to the position of a newbie. And worse, it tokk me some time to realize this. There were so many new things:

  • Government regulations have changed. Today it is in Germany courts even raise questions about the double-opt-in routine. Some judges classify the first email sent after a user requested to join a mailing list through a web formas SPAM. There have also been big changes around the use of testimonials and endorsements.
  • Email deliverability and click-through-rates are dramatically down.
  • The way search engines evaluate and rank websites has changed dramatically.
  • Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are now hugely important.
  • Video is in everybody’s reach and absolutely necessary, if you want to build an audience.
  • Publishing ebooks and even printed books is now in reach for everybody.

These are huge changes, and all happened just in a few years. This dynamic is full of opportunities. But if you ignore learning and fall into the trap of doing things the way you always did, this fast flow of change is deadly.

How to Embed Learning into the Daily Work Routine

The only way to survive and thrive is to stay on top of the game and adapt constantly. The question is: how to do this without getting paralyzed and overwhelmed?

Here are some of the answers:

  • Stay connected to the top people in each field, listen to their discussions and whatch what they are doing.
  • Select people with a strong desire to learn to share your working day.
  • Join a mastermind group. Share your observations and brainstorm for solutions.
  • Observe your customer’s feedback closely. Do not rely only on words, watch their behavior.
  • Automate mechanical tasks and processes to avoid being eaten up by daily chores. This allows you to keep learning.
  • Consider outsourcing tasks which can be done better and cheaper by specialists.
  • Develop several income streams. This allows you to react flexibly on sudden changes.
  • Do not allow stress ruling your work experience.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more possible ways to integrate learning into your day. But I think, the key is to create a working environment fostering an open mind, curiosity and happiness.