In my last Blog Evolution Report, I wrote that I was working on an affiliate marketing project via my newsletter. I finally got the final subscription count along with the check. I told you I would give you all the details; you won’t be disappointed!
I like real life numbers. So I made exactly $2,788.50 from this program that ran for 31 days. What is exciting about such a program is that you have an awesome offer (I was offering a 45% rebate) to share with your readers. Worse comes to worst, they won’t signup but they will certainly appreciate the offer. It won’t come off as spam since there is a deal for both you and your readers. I sent five emails to different newsletter lists and received only 4 complaints out of 7,237 subscribers. You can’t even put that in % J. I guess this is the key for a successful campaign. Here’s more in detail about how I did it.
Below are all the strategies I used for this program. I really wanted to know how far I could go with my newsletter monetization now that I’ve been running my lists for more than 18 months. Please ask me any question you may have regarding any of them…
I received this private offer from my contact form. We receive affiliate requests every week and most of them are garbage. People are trying to sell all kinds of stuff on the web and blogs have become one of the favourite platforms to advertise. This is why it is so important to check what the product is first and ask for references.
I was lucky with this one as I knew a few fellow bloggers who received the same email previously. The most important part is to know if they got paid and how the program has been handled by the advertiser. You certainly don’t want to share a scam with your readers and you also want to get paid. I received good comments and was willing to receive the product in order to see if it was high quality or not. The product was a stock newsletter so I asked for a previous copy. The next day, I received the pdf newsletter and read the content. It was a ten page newsletter with several solid analyses. I also liked the fact that there was a virtual portfolio based on the stock newsletter recommendations that was being updated each month. After that, I was 100% sure that the product was high quality and even registered myself!
A great advantage you can find with private affiliate programs is that you will get a representative to work with you and help you custom your marketing technique. Discuss your approach with him and ask him which products/methods convert better. You are better off concentrating on a few key points than trying to do everything at the same time. Affiliate marketing is a sniper weapon, not a weapon of mass destruction.
I had a personalized landing page with the mention of my blog. It takes literally seconds for the company to setup but it makes a big difference when you send your readers to someone else’s page with your name on it. It shows that you are supporting your readers while in the last steps of their purchase. Unfortunately, you can rarely do that with big affiliate marketing companies such as Commission Junction or Flex Offers.
The second thing I did to customize my offer even more was to play around with Microsoft Powerpoint Smart Art (the latest version) in order to create small icons including benefits for clients. Those Smart Art icons took about an hour to create but they add a lot to your presentation. Even thoughts the same offer could be seen on other blogs, mine had a personal touch that couldn’t be copied. It also added some dynamics to my blog post and newsletter.
You can’t just go and send the offer all out to your readers. In this case, I had 31 days to close as many subscribers I could. After that, the special rebate ends and so does my commission! Before I start spreading the word, I needed a plan. Here how I proceeded:
a) Write a blog post about it (describing the newsletter and benefits along with mentioning the big rebate)
b) Remind my blog post in my roundups twice during the month
c) Send a first email to my newsletter members (similar to the blog post)
d) 14 days later, come back with another email giving examples of stock picking ideas that comes with the newsletter (the idea was to focus on the content)
e) 15 days later (I got an extension to get 3 more days after this email), I sent a last email mentioning the deadline. Along with the deadline, I offered an example of what they will receive each month. So my readers received a freebie and got the urge to take action.
These emails weren’t sent to all my newsletter lists. These were only sent to investment blog readers. I also used other newsletters and sent the last email I used in my main strategy. The purpose was to reach as many people as possible in a last attempt to boost my sales. Obviously, the conversion rate was way lower on this email than it was from my investment blogs.
All emails were sent on Monday mornings between 6amand 9am(this is another awesome feature of Aweber newsletter service). Your marketing plan must be written down prior to any move you make. This is how you can rapidly adjust and make your experience more profitable. A simple email sent out of the blue won’t do much. But a systematic strategy with a specific goal in mind for each email is the key. Here are the goals I had in mind in each email:
a) Describe the benefits and let my reader know about the offer
b) Offer a hint of what they could get if they subscribe
c) Give them a freebie and urge them to take action before it’s too late
I’m sure you heard that people hate to be sold but love to buy. Internet marketing is not any different. You need to find the benefits, the reason why people will want to buy this newsletter instead of another. In this situation, I had the following benefits outlined:
– Save the hassle of doing your own stock research
– Make more money from these stock picking ideas that had improved portfolio return in the past for other investors
– Get a huge rebate on a high quality product
Along with the benefits, when you can offer a free trial (or in this case a past issue), it’s definitely the perfect match. Your readers can actually see that you are not pulling a bunch of BS just to close a quick sale. The freebie also answers a lot of questions you may receive by emails. At first, I had to spend some time to answer all these questions. This is how I came up with the idea of sending an example of what they will be paying for.
You can’t just go around and shove products down your readers’ throats… oh wait… you can; it’s your blog after all! But chances are that your conversion rate will suck. I know my marketing strategy was aggressive and I repeated several times over that 31 days period that I had a great offer for my readers. I might have sound like a politician sometimes ;-).
Repetitive emails might sound annoying and you don’t want to do this all the time. However, for a short period of 31 days, you can send 3 emails without losing too many subscribers. I’ll discuss my unsubsription numbers later on but I just want to say that I lose about the same amount of subscribers each time I send an email anyways.
I had bought the product and thought it was a great resource for someone who, like me, is interesting in buying dividend stocks and manages his own portfolio. I’ve even asked a few of my friends in the financial industry to take a look and let me know if it was a strong newsletter or not. After a positive feedback, I decided to jump aboard and offer this product to my readers. There is nothing better than endorsing a product. Then, your readers can’t blame you they didn’t like it, as you do!
If there is a good way to burn your readership, it’s probably by sending them a product offering the very first time you connect through your newsletter. In all my newsletter lists, I have set several funnels (you gotta subscribe to my newsletter to understand how it works!) where my readers receive high quality articles helping them on specific topics without asking for anything in return. In these emails, there are no sales, no suggestions, simply a lot of good quality content.
This helps increase your credibility and will slowly build a bond between your readers and yourself. Then, when you have an honest and useful proposal for them, they will listen. It doesn’t mean that they will buy anything, but they will respect this email and won’t be frustrated!
If you are pushing any offer as I did with a strong marketing plan, you will definitely increase your sales but you will also increase your number of unsubscriptions and potential complaints. If it’s well done, you won’t get many complaints (like 4 out of 7,000 +). But it doesn’t mean that I didn’t lose readership. My unsubscribe rate from these emails is equal to 1.43%. The most important unsubscribe rate came from the list used in my three mailings (2.35%).
When you think about it, I usually lose subscribers after any kind of email I send. Sometimes, people just get too many emails and decide to unsubscribe. Others don’t even remember why they have signed up in the first place and each sending is an occasion to either create a bond with your reader or give him a chance to never follow you again ;-). In the end, the message is: do not take unsubscriptions personally; this is part of any newsletter.
Overall, I lost about one hundred readers across my network. It doesn’t mean much in my situation as I gain about 40-50 new readers each day. It always sucks to lose readers but if they want everything for free all the time and they are not even willing to “pay” by receiving a good offer once in a while, I highly doubt I want this guy to read my stuff in the first place. I blog because I love finance and love writing. However, if I wasn’t making money out of my business, you can rest assure that I would blog less ;-). So I don’t really feel bad to lose “takers”. I would rather have people that understand that they get high quality content all the time for free and will receive a few offers where I can pay myself back for the hard work I do. This is more like a win-win situation J.
Since I did a custom campaign, it was easy for me to get specific and exact results. This is crucial if you want to learn from your experience and become a better entrepreneur. Without exact numbers, I wouldn’t be able to know which strategies / newsletter work best.
For example, my conversion rate was much higher with the three mailings (2.85%) as compared my other newsletter (5 conversions out of too many subscribers!). This is how you can understand the true meaning of selecting the right product for the right audience. While my first marketing plan was aimed at the right public, I tried a mass marketing approach for the rest of my subscribers that are not necessarily investors. The impact is huge! If I had only one shot with an affiliate product, I would definitely narrow my target audience as much as possible.
I even received “thank you” email for the offer I sent. This is how well targeted the offer was for my audience. A quick tip: if you are interested in the product and like it after a trial, chances are that your readership will feel the same.
In the light of my small experience with affiliate marketing, I would say that your homerun will definitely be made through “private” affiliate programs. These are handled “in house” by the product manufacturer and doesn’t go through mainstream agencies such as CJ and Flex Offers. Mind you, I like them too, but the payout is obviously smaller and the terms are stricter. I was able to negotiate several aspects of this deal while I can’t do that with bigger firms.
After running this trial, we have decided to pursue a similar ongoing program without the big rebate. This is opening a new source of passive income for me that should last as long as we are both making money. I expect to make a few sales each month and probably earn $100-$200 out of it. It’s a pretty good payout when you think of the effort involved J.
You wonder how much time it requires to make almost three grand in 31 days? It has taken me roughly seven hours to make that money. Here’s how I break down my time:
1h00 of email negotiation / reading the newsletter prior to agreement
1h00 for customization (including Smart Art designs and newsletter layout)
1h00 for designing a marketing plan
3h00 for writing/editing/sending newsletters
1h00 for answering emails from readers (questions, feedback, etc).
That’s all! 7 hours, no cost, almost 3K in my pocket… all right; in our pockets (we are 2 in this company J ). This is one of my most profitable single projects so far. If I could have one project like this per niche per month, I would definitely reach my blogging goals! I guess the key is to hustle, talk to people and get creative 😀
If you are new to this blog, I’d suggest a few more articles about how to grow and monetize your newsletter. Remember that I always use Aweber for all my subscriptions.
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