Giving to Get: Take This Link and Love It
BY Jason Ciment | September 7, 2001
The giving season cometh, and the time has come to prepare. Despite what we hear about another fiscal quarter rife with failed expectations, layoffs, and negative-earnings disappointments, the next quarter is sure to be a great one for Internet marketers. As the storm clouds of summer fade, their absence augurs new opportunities for surviving dot-coms that hunker down for the holiday-shopping frenzy, and the fourth-quarter horizon is aglow with the rays of the approaching sunlight.
The holiday season is all about giving, and giving isn't easy. But giving is everything, and if you don't give, you won't get. Since we are all in the business of getting, let's explore the wonderful world of giving, and see how that will help us affiliate marketers do some more getting for our Web sites.
The first step in giving is to know what the recipient wants to receive. Well, fortunately, in this column that's pretty easy to ascertain — traffic, traffic, and even more traffic — or, alternatively, sales, sales, and even more sales. So, in the spirit of understanding that our recipients want to generate more targeted traffic, let's continue our journey by investigating how we can meet this need and look like saviors when providing this service.
A good starting point is to provide links to other sites via a new browser window — and providing them totally free. They don't even have to be affiliate links — just links to good quality information. Let me give you an example.
My friend Paul, a consultant for Spa Finder, is helping the company launch a new Web site that provides a complete directory of spas around the world. It includes descriptions, pictures, real-time booking capability, and gift certificates redeemable at most spas in the United States. Now Paul and his client have been looking for high-quality Web sites to drive traffic to Spa Finder. My suggestion to Paul was to take a spa from one city and, in the description about the spa, link to resources within that city — and to provide the links at no charge.
Paul felt this was an extremely compelling idea for a very simple reason — he could keep his users focused on Spa Finder even if they left the Spa Finder site. If you were Joe Browser thinking about visiting a spa in Switzerland and you stumbled across Spa Finder, which was advertising a fabulous spa at Lake Lucerne, what would you do if you didn't know anything about Lake Lucerne? You might go back to a search engine and start searching for information on Lake Lucerne. Hopefully, you would return to Spa Finder's site upon finding enough information on Lake Lucerne. But you also might stumble on links to other spas once you hit the search engines, and then Spa Finder would become Spa Not Found.
The better solution is for Spa Finder to provide links to resources about Lake Lucerne directly on its site — via a new browser window, of course, so that the Spa Finder window is always resident on the user's machine. Here is the beauty of this whole idea. If Paul's client could provide links, for example, to the official Lake Lucerne Web site or its chamber of commerce, don't you think the odds are pretty high that either of those sites would be more than happy to return the favor — especially since Spa Finder never asked for anything in return?
But that's not all (like late-night paid commercials on television, there has to be a bonus). In return, not only does Spa Finder stand a chance of getting links to highly targeted traffic, but more importantly it gets the seal of approval and an implied endorsement of its site from a credible source such as a chamber of commerce.
When was the last time you rejected such a freebie? More important, when was that last time you did not reward an unexpected gratuity? The free toy that comes with each Happy Meal makes the meager portions more desirable. You purchase the meal and eat it with a feeling of satisfaction that only the free benefits can bring. The same principle applies to potential linking partners. Being stingy with links and developing exclusive alliances are tactics that will alienate others. Give these potential partners something valuable that is unexpected, and more often than not they will reward you.
I will end as I began, by reminding you that it is time to prepare. As e-companies, we are aware of the ease with which the Internet can be used as a tool to create business relationships and partnerships. We must remember that the foundation for good relationships and partnerships is giving, and that through giving we will be receiving.
Jason Ciment is CEO of MagMall, which he founded 1997. He designed, programmed, and developed the fully interactive java and perl-based magazine subscription Web site that has more than 10,000 individual and corporate partners. He has also worked with manufacturing companies such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York to maintain quality standards and prompt order fulfillment.
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