A Recipe for Affiliate Success

A Recipe for Affiliate Success
›Affiliate Marketing


BY Jason Ciment | April 26, 2002

Some people need a daily dose of Coke or coffee. As for me, I prefer pastries. I particularly enjoy chocolate chip cookies every chance I get, especially the chewy kind. Recently, in my constant pursuit of the perfect cookie, I uncovered a recipe from Mrs. Fields that not only delivers the fix I need to start the day, get through the day, and ultimately end the day but also provides a formula that could guide me to more productive affiliate marketing. Here are some insights into the secret I discovered.

To begin with, I've learned that Internet-based affiliate marketing from the perspective of the merchant follows the 99/1 rule, not the more generally known 80/20 marketing rule. My surveys of other affiliate merchants indicate that you are lucky if just 1 percent of your affiliates produces significant results — one reason it's called "affiliate marketing" instead of "affiliates marketing."

You have to find the individual affiliate that will generate 99 times the revenue of the 100 other, poorer performing affiliates.

Through the prism of chocolate chip cookie baking, I hope to explore a step-by-step method for attracting new affiliate marketing partners.

The first step is getting your ingredients together:

Cookie Ingredients

Target Marketing Checklist
2 cups flour Product marketing materials
1 cup quick oats Target industry
½ tsp. baking powder Industry keywords
¼ tsp. salt Product keywords
1 cup softened
unsalted butter
Industry top traffic sites
¾ cup brown sugar Businesses selling products
in industry
¾ cup granulated sugar Contacts at each company above
2 large eggs Names of "door openers"
for referrals
2 tsp. vanilla extract List of needs product fills
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips List of affiliate benefits
1 cup juicy raisins Your advantage over other merchants

Here is how you make the cookies:

In one bowl, whisk flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. In a second bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then, gently beat in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and (my personal favorite) raisins — the effect is reminiscent of the Chunky chocolate bar.

Place the dough on a sheet of wax paper. Roll it into a 2 inch diameter log, and let it chill until it's firm. When you are ready to bake, cut half-inch thick slices from your log and place them about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 22 minutes. Remove from oven. Enjoy while hot.

How can we apply this recipe to finding and attracting strong affiliate marketing partners?

The first step is understanding that good cookie making requires two bowls (one for preparation and one for actual mixing) and three actions (shopping for ingredients, mixing, and baking). The same holds true in our quest for the one strong affiliate out of 100 possible choices, because you need to do the following three things:

  • Study your market to identify potential affiliates (shopping for ingredients).




  • Educate yourself about each affiliate and its employee base (mixing).




  • Pitch the affiliate to partner with you (baking).



Action 1: Pure Shopping

Do the following for the first bowl of information you'll need when using the chocolate chip recipe for affiliate success:

  1. Identify the specific product you want someone else to sell for you.




  2. Get product information together — such as banner ads, sales letters, and advertisements — that you can use for the next step.




  3. List every keyword that describes each product feature and benefit.




  4. Use keyword-generating software to expand the above keyword list.




  5. Type each keyword into the major search engines and make a list of the top sites that drive significant traffic or have good placement for the keywords. (Some great software, such as WebPosition Gold, does this automatically.)




  6. Once you have the sites listed, add to your keyword list more words related to your product and these targeted sites.



Action 2: Pure Preparation

In a second virtual bowl, start combining the other ingredients — information about each target company on your hot list. You can't just call each company straightaway, because you've got nothing more compelling than the product to offer them. Plus, you don't yet have any "pull" with the person you are contacting. You have to make each call count. Here's what you need to do:

  • Make a list of contacts at each company. Simply call the company and ask the receptionist or human resources department for a list of the following persons (depending, of course, on the size and organizational structure of the company):


    • Director of affiliate marketing



    • Chief executive officer




    • (Executive) VP of marketing




    • (Executive) VP of sales




    • Most important, the assistants for each of these people




  • Make a list of "door openers" for introductions or referrals. Search your Rolodex for people you and the target person may both know. That can give you added credibility for some casual name dropping. If you want some secret credibility builders, do a Google search for each contact and build a history for that individual, which you can then refer to in conversation. It always helps to have tools to make your talk more personal. Refer to my "secret survey" article for an insanely effective guerilla technique for scouting out company information.




  • Make a list of your competitive advantages and answer the "What's in it for me?" question each affiliate may ask. Focus on benefits to the affiliate outside of just making money. Make the project turnkey, and put together all the resources you are going to provide the affiliate to make the campaign effortless — though rewarding. Just as the raisins in the cookies instantly separate my cookies from most other chocolate chip cookies, these will separate you from the pack. You have to find your raisins.



To review, you've identified your product and its related features and benefits and put together a list of keywords related to your product. With this list, you have discovered which companies could serve as single targeted affiliates to help you move product. You've put all this information into a mixing bowl and come up with some really tasty dough (contacts) that is ready to be turned into cookies. This is where you move to the last step in the recipe — baking.

Action 3: Pure Penetration

Armed with your name-dropping resources and any referrals, make the call. Don't just send an email. Do both. Make your pitch. Keep baking. It takes 22 minutes to make cookies. It may take months to win over the affiliate. It isn't an instant process, even if you are totally prepared with the right ingredients.

The secret to keeping the process alive is to constantly give something of value to the people you are dealing with. Don't just stay in touch; send them articles for reference that may help them with their jobs. Keep your name on their minds. Eventually, if your proposal is strong enough and the value of your offer is compelling, the affiliate should participate.

That is when you get to the best part of baking cookies — eating them, or, in this case, making money when the affiliate you've converted produces significant revenues.

By the way, if you can't get the contact to take your call, then send letters to the contact, the contact's boss, and the contact's assistant. Make sure you indicate in the letter that you have sent it to each of the other people. This technique creates a buzz and produces results. I read this in a fantastic book last year that describes this method in more detail, but, unfortunately, I've forgotten its title. The book was endorsed on the back cover by Roger Staubach of Dallas Cowboys fame. If you can track it down, let me know. It works.

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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