I was recently involved in a debate at ABestWeb.com involving the value of new customers vs. returning customers. The debate itself had good points by a bunch of different people, but I thought I’d go into a little more detail about some ideas I think might help you (an Affiliate) focus on bringing in new customers – is that is what you so decided to do.
(In the debate, I argued that 2009 will be a huge opportunity for Affiliates to focus specifically on bringing in new customers and that if one did so, it would bring greater financial return.)
1. Get off (redirected) search.
Search makes up an enormous percentage of traffic generated – and thus we all love it. However, as Merchants become more sophisticated in their own search efforts, they will likely de-value Affiliates who work in that arena. This has already happened with Paid Search in the area of brand terms, trademarks, etc… and will continue into natural results. The most common reason that I hear Merchants changing and enforcing policy on this is that they feel the majority of customers who have searched for their “Company Name” are repeat customers or those customers who would have ended up at their store without the assistance of an Affiliate.
So – as an Affiliate, a new source of traffic – and one that belongs all to you should be a goal.
Which brings me to….
2. Build a Community
There is no greater source of traffic than the one that you build yourself. Going back to point 1 above, I think the better use of search would not be to simply rank highly for terms and pass that traffic along to Merchants… but instead use search as a way to build up your own site. In the past, Affiliates have been successful (going way back) with gateway pages or reviews that have ranked highly for keywords… but were essentially traffic redirection to a Merchant of their choice. The visitor came thru an Affiliate site but really had no compelling reason to stay (or come back at a later date).
Use your skills at search to bring traffic to your site, and then build a community around that traffic. Use small things like polls, questions, games, prizes, discussion, comments – all these things can bring people into your community. Communities feed on themselves – and bring the kind of organic growth to your affiliate business that can’t be obtained thru search alone.
Be a traffic source, not solely a redirector of traffic.
3. Go Smaller
This entails a few things… a) I believe that working with emerging Merchants in markets brings you greater odds in working with new customers and b) I believe some of you should be working with less Merchants. Less Merchants… more focus.
To fully focus on, and master a particular niche requires an obvious great investment in time. One of the common techniques in Affiliate Marketing today is to apply to as many programs as possible and see which one performs the best. A large number of Affiliates see success with this, which is great. However, if you were to focus specifically on bringing new customers to a Merchant, I don’t think this technique would work as well.
Pick a niche and master it. Within an individual niche there are likely several Merchants who are suitable, thus giving you the opportunity to test individual conversion. Newer (sometimes smaller) Merchants with less overall market reach will bring you the best opportunity – as the likelihood of bringing in a new customer (vs. a returning customer) will be much higher. One possible way to go smaller is to target local markets. This is something that requires a blog post of it’s own though so I’ll leave that till later. :)
As I stated in the debate – it is my opinion that in 2009, this issue will become more important. I also believe that Merchants will be willing to pay a premium commission to Affiliates who can prove a track record of bringing in new customers. I hope some of the thoughts above help some of you to do so – and look forward to further conversations!
RichCatt saysDecember 22, 2008 at 7:31 pm
I’m brand new and trying to find out about affiliate marketing. I rep “green” products and that naturally limits my merchant choices to someone who meets what my site is about. The other thing is that people who visit my site are likely only interested in products or services that support that.
My first agreement is with “green batteries” A logical extension of my sites focus.
Dan saysDecember 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm
I like your outlook on 2009 for working on bringing in new customers. I have not been good at generating traffic and spend time spinning my wheels going no where. I like my site theme on western products and always open to advice on what about the site works and what does not.
Here comes a new year and best wishes on a prosperous one!
Chris saysJanuary 3, 2009 at 11:06 am
Can you define niche a bit more? I think we are after a niche with baby gifts, but are you suggesting narrowing that more?
I agree with you about creating a ‘fan’ base. As we all know, the internet is becoming a community. People are creating their own homepages, and (as we all know!) Google is returning personalized results based on user’s habits. I think that will be the norm soon!
Thank you for the info! Happy 2009!
Brian Littleton saysJanuary 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm
Baby gifts is definitely a niche… I wouldn’t say you need to narrow it further than that – but that is always an option. I agree with you that personalized results as well as pretty much a personalized web experience is where we are headed.
Brian Littleton saysJanuary 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm
I visited your site, a nice looking design. The one thing I would encourage is more “interactivity”. Make a user want to stay there, be a part of the site, and thus want to return at some point.
Rating products, forums, sharing reviews, suggessting products … these are all ways to create interactivity.
Laurie Cohen saysJanuary 8, 2009 at 6:32 pm
Great article. Interestingly, We are in the process of reviewing every page on ForBrideandBaby.com and finding that niche you talk about! I think it’s of huge importance to smaller businesses like mine.
We are also rewriting a lot of copy to make it sound more personal and adressing the theme of womens’ basic needs and how we can meet them.
It was really reassuring to know we’re on the right track!
Wei Cao saysJanuary 9, 2009 at 12:56 am
As an online B2B trading website, DHgate is now focusing the attentions of our affiliate program on new buyer acquisition. However, we find that some of our publishers do not really have an effective method to identify new visitors and analyze how to expand the number of new visitors.
Pay-Per-Click advertising like Google Adwords seems to be a good way for websites to attract new visitors, but publishers would probably not go for it due to the large spending.
paddy saysJanuary 14, 2009 at 5:44 am
Hi after reading your info I would really like some top tips in bringing in customers for a start up web page like mine.It is still under construction it will be a local buy and sell page .All help welcome
Will saysJanuary 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm
Thanks for the insightful post Brian.
I agree with your comments about focus on a few merchants and developing a core benefit to those few.
At His Catalog (http://hiscatalog.com), our “niche” is men’s clothing, and we have started with a few merchants that we felt would most resonate with our core user community. As we expand, we will continue to choose merchants that our high-value users demand. This approach will bring the greatest return to our merchants as well.
Nutraganics Health Supplements saysJanuary 28, 2009 at 11:33 pm
Great article Brian. As an affiliate and merchant, I totally get what you’re saying about search. For many products that don’t offer lifetime commission, building up traffic to get a visitor for that 1-shot effort isn’t so effective as building up a long term relationship with the visitor.
Tina saysFebruary 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm
I’m new to the affiliate program, and made this decision to also drive more traffic to my site by being able to offer a larger selection and variety to my website, without having to stock merchandise.
I’m hoping it will work and in the future it will allow me to get more customers to stay in “my store” because with greater traffic I will be able to increase my inventory.
Before this I had to open an ebay store to get more sales and traffic. Which I’m doing well in the sales department there but not on profit due to fees.
Alice saysFebruary 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm
I think the niche site is the best idea, but in my case I just like dealing with a lot of different products. I know it will take me longer to promote, jewelry always has been my main thing, My people offline support me because I can find them whatever they want. I deal in jewelry offline and now that I have that going I want to branch way out, and start by getting my local people to use my site. I still don’t have a clue about getting online traffic. Any suggestions? Take a look at my site, Maybe I am going in way to many different directions. I will take your feedback to heart.
Alice saysFebruary 14, 2009 at 10:04 am
Great Article, I agree the the niche products. I posted a comment on here about a week ago to see if you could look at my site and give me some ideas. I see my comment is gone? What happened to it? Alice&Steve
Akram saysFebruary 17, 2009 at 5:34 pm
Great post! Thanks for that.
Once you’ve got traffic/new customers it is
interesting and valuable to see what they do after landing – pages visited, abandonment points
etc…it is now even possible to replay a visitor’s browsing session!
http://www.sitetrackingforum.com is devoted to site tracking and visitor engagement issues…
Affiliate Promotion saysApril 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm
Most of the time affiliate marketing is done using regular online advertising methods. Some like organic search engine optimization, paid search engine marketing, email marketing are discussed below. The introduction of blogging has opened fresh and creative avenues for Affiliate promotion of products.
Oddsizebeds saysApril 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm
we are here in UK selling beds and mattress online and receiving good traffic but not many orders. Is there is someone who can help me?
SpeedThrough Marketing saysAugust 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm
interesting facts, great blog post. getting new people to come to your website is key for more money. great tips.
Lulu saysOctober 13, 2010 at 12:53 am
I think that it depends on what your intentions of affiliate marketing are. If you are just out to sell a particular product then new customers are the key to your earnings. However if you are putting together a useful informative site them returning visitors is a must.
Great post I like your argument.
jacqueline wells saysOctober 25, 2010 at 5:39 am
I would like to know how long it takes to reach your target $50.00 before you could join other merchant too make money
Glenda saysDecember 14, 2013 at 11:46 am
Brian, I’m an over 40 fashion & style blogger. I’ve been blogging since June 2013. I’ve received many emails from companies asking me to write an article to help promote their new product launch, etc, but they never want to offer me anything for my hard work or for driving new customers to them. What can I do to change this?
Brian Littleton saysDecember 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Glenda – next time you get an email from one of them, shoot me an email and I can help you craft a response including your statistics, social numbers, etc… My email is email@example.com