Affiliate Marketing Blueprints are lies

“Why isn’t my site making any money?  I followed the blueprint!” is the question I’m most often asked by affiliates.

It saddens me that every day starry eyed new affiliates go out and buy the latest and greatest course on ‘how to become a gazamilibillionaire on the internet in under 24 hours’ only to discover after months of courses, masterminds, mentorships & exclusive coaching that they’ve now invested thousands into lining the pockets of ‘internet millionaires’ but have very little to show for it.

Unless of course they use their newly minted skills to drive more traffic to their mentor, who in turn fleeces the next victim and pays them a commission for telling the world how great the training was.

It’s no wonder affiliate marketing has a bad name.

Here’s the thing:

There is no bulletproof recipe for success.  There are however fundamentals that undperpin success in affiliate marketing.

1. Follow Your Passion

Whether you’re blogging, building a community or expanding a topic specific site, it has to be authentic. If you’re not genuinely interested in the topic it’s going to show.

2. Build a Mailing List

I CANNOT stress this enough. Your mailing list is your goldmine. It will continue to deliver returns year after year, if you nurture it, keep growing it and most importantly ensure your audience enjoys receiving mail from you.

3. Advertise

Without new visitors to your site, your business will stagnate. Figure out your audience profile and run ads on Facebook, Google and other outlets.
For bonus points measure your impact. Track the number of signups to your newsletter, so you know whether the advertising pays for itself.

4. Learn the Industry

There are a lot of scammers out there that promise you the world, but only if you take their course. Don’t fall for this.
One of my favorites right now is by Shawn Collins.

If you have the budget for it, attend the Affiliate Summit, held twice a year in the USA.  Yes, it’s pricey to get there, especially if you’re from Africa, but it’s worth it.
I’ve attended this conference at least 10 times and learn something new every visit.

5.  Choose your networks wisely.

Obviously I’m biased here, as my day job is at, and I’d love you to work with us, but there are dozens of great ad networks and hundreds of not-so-great ones out there.

Do your due diligence.  How long have they been in business?  Who’s the founder?  What did they do before?  Are the clients exclusive to them?

There are dozens of other criteria you could use to make your choice.  Not all networks are equal in all markets.  Find a couple of networks you can trust and stick to them.



Don’t fear the fundamentals

I admit, I like bright, shiny things. I’m easily distracted and I often find myself drawn into projects and new business ideas purely because I get fixated on them.

I am a serial entrepreneur. Admitting this is not easy, but as they say, recognizing you have a problem is the first step.

With that moniker comes the dubious honor of always having your ideas competing for attention and time.
Growing a business is incredibly hard. Make no mistake, it requires sacrifice, hard work, delayed gratification and a bunch of habits I have yet to fully master.

There are lots of moving parts in a business so optimising your processes, developing strategies, planning and benchmarking are all critical, but none more so than focusing on the fundamentals.

James Carr, on his blog says “The greatest skill in any endeavor is doing the work. And for that reason, most people don’t need more time, more money, or better strategies. They just need to do the real work and master the basics.”

I find this especially true when you’re a multi-business entrepreneur. Whether you’re doing the work yourself or have a team to execute it’s critical that you have a bias toward action.
If sales are down, don’t spend three weeks commissioning a study on the macro environment, hit the phones!
If your app isn’t getting downloads, don’t run a 4 week test on a tweak to the UX, promote the hell out of it on social media.
If social media tells you it’s rubbish, well then you may have to go back to the drawing board 😉

When you get the shits

10494856_10152917662870450_5257209045032899573_n“Look, I’m a great designer.  I am awesome at cropping, clipping, contextualizing and have a natural flair for design.  My only weakness is spelling, but hey, that’s what spellcheck is for.”

“Why I’m looking for a job?  Oh, I just got bored.  It was kind of a mutual thing.  My creative director and I both left the agency at the same time.  I hate to talk behind my employers back, but they lost a major client last week, so they’re probably going to fold.”




Stop looking for a Co-Founder

I often get asked if I can co-found or refer a co-founder. Here’s my future go-to-answer.  Dave Lerner says it best.

“Stop Looking For a Co-Founder.  The very act of looking for a co-founder is already a sign that you are hopelessly unprepared.”

The conventional wisdom that you have to find an experienced co-founder to drive your plan forward indicates that you haven’t fully worked out your plan.  You don’t yet know where you’re going and that’s why you’re looking for a co-conspirator.

If that’s the position you find yourself in, you need to seriously consider whether you’re doing the right thing pursuing the project in the first place.  Going in blind and relying on someone else’s vision and foresight is probably not the best strategy.

You need to upskill.  I’m not saying you have to be the best coder or product designer, but you need to understand your product, how it’s developed, what’s going to go into it and how you’re going to get it to market.

Case in point.  You’re planning an app, because you have a kick-ass idea.  Instead of courting agencies to design and develop it, you’re more likely to succeed if you join some design forums, learn the basics, network in the community and meet people that can help you refine your app and get a prototype developed.

You also generate a lot more value before you have to dilute your ownership…..

Do you understand your brand?

Brands matter.  A recognized brand earns more revenue.  This is due in large to the fact that once a brand is recognized, trusted and available, it’s so much easier to just pick it up and move on.  No internal evaluation, no worrying about effectiveness, no decision tree – just pick it up and move on.

This is why marketers are so reluctant to change a winning logo, formula or packaging design, even when it’s clearly becoming dated.

If you’re thinking about your brand, here’s a handy reference I use when we consult to brands.

Understanding your Brand.

This is all about defining what role the brand will play in enhancing customers’ lives.  There are three types of positioning concepts:

  1. Functional positions
    • Solve problems
    • Provide benefits to customers
    • Get favorable perception by investors (stock profile) and lenders
  2. Symbolic positions
    • Self-image enhancement
    • Ego identification
    • Belonging and social meaningfulness
  3. Experiential positions
    • Provide sensory stimulation
    • Provide cognitive stimulation
Understanding your Value Proposition
  • What is the value that customers derive from using your brand / product?
  • How are they better off doing business with you?
  • What Characteristics make your brand distinct from competitors?
Customer Targeting
  • Who is your Brand Targeting?

What is the Psychographic & demographic profile of your consumer? (country / urban / gender / age / bias / interest / association / habits / behavior)

What unique traits do your consumers possess?

  • What motivates the consumer to associate with your brand?
  • What common traits do groups of distinct high value consumers possess that would identify them (audiophiles, moviebuffs, art lovers)
  • How will your customers perceive key dimensions of your brand (ex. Price, Packaging, Feel,Taste) relative to competitors brands.
  • What needs do your target audience wish to satisfy with your brand & how would you position your brand to communicate this to them?

The primary objective of segmentation is to identify specific customers with like attributes, and to find segments of customers that are attractive from a profit perspective.  In plain english, figure out who your best customers are and find more people like them!

Generic Markets (Large Segments)

comprised of groups of customers who have a general need
A generic market is comprised of groups of customers who have a general need, but have many offerings to choose from to meet that need. For example: transportation is a generic market that can be met by many offerings: car, bus, train, subway, taxi, etc.

Product Markets (Small Segments)

comprised of groups of customers who have a very specific need

A product market is comprised of groups of customers who have a very specific need, with fewer offerings to choose from. For example: The Luxury Car market has only a few options to choose from: Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari, etc. Product market segments are similar within the specific segment (ex. Luxury Cars), and are different across segments (ex. Luxury, Mid-size, Economy); and each segment has very specific characteristics, which, when reflected in the product, can return higher profits to the organization.

Markets can be segmented by defining the goals of the customers in that market subset. For example, in the transportation market(The Generic Market), a group of customers who’s goals of transportation are to be able to travel in their own vehicle, feel comfortable/safe/fast relative to other transport options, and be able to show other people how “nice” their own vehicle is: this subset can be said to have goals which define them as a Luxury Car segment.

  • Segment Dimensions = Impact on Marketing Mix Decisions
    • Demographics = Affects consumer needs
    • Geographic Location = Affects size of market
    • Behavior and Consumption Patterns = Affects product and promotion variables

Urgency of Satisfaction = Affects Place and Price variables Market segmentation is the process in marketing of dividing a market into distinct subsets (segments) that behave in the same way or have similar needs. Because each segment is fairly homogeneous in their needs and attitudes, they are likely to respond similarly to a given marketing strategy.

They are likely to have similar feeling and ideas about a marketing mix comprised of a given product or service, sold at a given price, distributed in a certain way, and promoted in a certain way.

Broadly, markets can be divided according to a number of general criteria, such as by industry or public versus private sector. Small segments are often termed niche markets or specialty markets. However, all segments fall into either consumer or industrial markets. Although it has similar objectives and it overlaps with consumer markets in many ways, the process of Industrial market segmentation is quite different.

The process of segmentation is distinct from targeting (choosing which segments to address) and positioning (designing an appropriate marketing mix for each segment). The overall intent is to identify groups of similar customers and potential customers; to prioritise the groups to address; to understand their behaviour; and to respond with appropriate marketing strategies that satisfy the different preferences of each chosen segment.

Improved segmentation can lead to significantly improved marketing effectiveness. With the right segmentation, the right lists can be purchased, advertising results can be improved and customer satisfaction can be increased.
Requirements for Successful segmentation are:

  • S Substantial: the segment has to be large and profitable enough
  • A Accessible: it must be possible to reach it efficiently
  • D Differential: it must respond differently to a different marketing mix
  • A Actionable: you must have a product for this segment
  • M Measurable: size and purchasing power can be measured

Have I missed anything?  Feel Free to Comment 😉

What is this whole Internet Marketing Thing anyway?

Yes, we may choose to ignore it, but the vast majority of the world has no idea what we do, and that’s probably a good thing.  If everyone became a doctor overnight, we wouldn’t really need doctors any more, now would we?

Just because some of my friends ask, and I really don’t want to tell them what I do in any more detail, here’s the lowdown on Internet Marketing

Internet marketing is the use of the Internet to advertise and sell goods and services. Internet Marketing includes many different overlapping business models including:

  • Display Advertising Media Buying
  • E-mail marketing
  • Native Advertising (ads that pretend not to be an ad)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Search engine marketing (including search engine optimization)
  • Business to business and business to consumer blog marketing
  • Article based marketing
  • Social Media marketing

OK, I know that’s not all there is to it, but at least it’s enough for you to go “oooh, ok” and change the subject.


Why you need a business strategy.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  -Sun Tzu


My failures mostly come in the form of a sucker punch I didn’t anticipate.  It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when everything is going well.

Sailing as a young kid my dad always used to say “Keep an eye out for the freak waves.  They’re the boat killers.”  It’s funny though that even though I learned to keep my head up it was only once I got into business that I realized that the adage applies in every phase of life.


How then, do you develop a business or marketing strategy?  I’m not the authority, everyone has their own method.  I will however share some points that worked for me.

  1. Understand who your customers are.
  2. Understand your competitors
  3. Figure out what makes your product different and unique
  4. Identify the technologies or products that can kill your business
  5. Look for weaknesses in your competitors marketing, product and business.
  6. Figure out how you’re going to tell your customers why they need to buy from you.

Of course there’s tons more to say on each one the points above, but you get the idea.  Figure out who you want to sell to, why you’re better than your competition, what you can offer that your competitor can and how long you’ve got before you get disrupted.



The $11.9 Million Deceptive Marketing Judgement

Sometimes Affiliate Marketers can step too close to the line, or just blatantly stomp all over it.  In South Africa we have the Advertising Standards Authority, while the US has the Federal Trade Commission.  They  impose HEFTY fines for transgressions.

I doubt LeadClick Media would survive this…..

“A U.S. district court has ruled that LeadClick Media, an affiliate marketing network, and its parent company, CoreLogic, Inc., must turn over $11.9 million in ill-gotten gains they received from a deceptive marketing scheme that sold purported weight-loss products.

In granting the FTC’s request for summary judgment, the court ruled that LeadClick was responsible for the false claims made by affiliate marketers it recruited on behalf of LeanSpa, LLC, a company that sold acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products. According to the FTC’s complaint, LeanSpa used a “free trial” ploy to enroll consumers into its recurring purchase program that cost $79.99 a month and that was difficult to cancel.”

Read full article


Is South African Entrepreneurship in decline?

6210439I’m conflicted over this report.  The percentage of adult South Africans involved in starting a business has plunged by 34%.
On the one hand, I want to rail against the system that saddles entrepreneurs with unworkable tax burdens, restrictive employment & business practices and bureaucracy that doesn’t do enough, but wastes money on window-dressing entrepreneurship.

On the other hand I’m shocked at the sense of entitlement and lack of basic business principles that some aspiring entrepreneurs seem to have.

Gone is the passionate work ethic, replaced by chasing the ‘perfect startup dream’ and buying into the fantasy stories of mega-ipo’s and stellar valuations.

Business plans have become ‘optional’  Read Full Story