As PMA Executive Director, I LOVE seeing the growth of affiliate marketing. With every passing year we see more merchants giving it a chance and more traditional media finding ways to integrate it. But as a small affiliate, the pond just keeps getting bigger while I stay the same size. I’m happy with my “lifestyle business” and the flexibility that it allows me. At the same time, I can’t help but always wonder how much longer my 17-year-old business can stay competitive.
If you know me, you know I’m the original Pollyanna with rose-colored glasses. Because of that, I want to give you my tips today on how you as a small business can stay afloat in affiliate marketing. Whether you are an OG OPM, a hobby blogger, or any other affiliate marketing small business owner, I’m here to help!
Understand There Is Room for Everyone
From the very start, you need to remember that affiliate marketing is big and getting bigger. There’s room for all of us and many more. There are so many consumers worldwide spending money on so many things! Do you ever eat at your local mom and pop diner? Why didn’t you go to Applebees instead? Because there’s something for everyone all the time and every busines offers something just a little bit different. Focus on how you can be just a little bit different.
Have a Niche Within a Niche
Sunshine Rewards is a cashback site. We’re never going to be *insert big venture capital backed cash back site*. But do you know what those other cashback sites are NOT? They are not DISNEY FREAKS like we are. We look for Disney deals. We post Disney pictures. We pay out in Disney gift cards. (Please, Disney, don’t try to shut us down now…. we’re small potatoes!)
You can be a travel site but also focus specifically on people who don’t like to fly. You can be a craft site only for people who are terrible at crafts. You don’t have to be everything to everyone to be successful. Find your smaller target audience and focus on being everything just to them.
Get Personal with Your Customers
As mentioned above, I’m known for posting pictures of my Disney vacations on my cash back site. And you know what? Those family picture posts get more social media love than anything else I post. My members know me. They’ve watched my kids grow up. I get to know them. I couldn’t get to know a million members like I know the ten thousand at Sunshine.
Be Realistic with Your Goals
It would be ridiculous for me to try to demand the paid placement amounts that big publishers get, so I am not even going to ask. I’m honest with the size of my membership and the traffic that we get. Of course I am always going to stretch to get bigger and better brands for the site, but I also have to be realistic about what they are going to give me in return.
Set realistic goals for your company if you want to actually achieve them. It doesn’t mean not pushing the boundaries but it does mean using all of the available data and resources that you can find to figure out what is actually possible and worth working toward.
Like Attracts Like
If you are a small merchant trying to build up your affiliate program, why not start with small but willing publishers? If you are a small niche publisher, I guarantee there is a small merchant out there desperate for any solid traffic you can send. If you are a small agency, there are BOTH small merchants and small publishers who could use your help.
Not everyone is going to be a big dog. Commerce just doesn’t work that way. Find other businesses in comparable size to yours to see what you can do for EACH OTHER.
Leverage Your Network
This is a HUGE one for me and probably what has kept me in business. I cannot say enough times that affiliate marketing is about relationships. This means your competitors, the people you meet over drinks at conferences, members of associations you are in (yay PMA!), and anyone you can genuinely connect with.
Sometimes you can get away with being a smaller company but still getting attention from bigger companies if you have built up a good relationship with the people there. Quality often balances out quantity. When you have proven to people that you are genuine and earnest and will always do your best in your relationships, they are more likely to give you a leg up when you need it.
I’m sure there is a lot more to say, but this post is already my magnum opus. Oh! One last important thing! I have no idea what a small business actually is. Maybe I’m really talking about “medium businesses.” But you get the gist of this post. The “top” 5-10% of publishers make about 90% of affiliate revenue (or something like that). But that doesn’t mean the other 90-95% of us can’t add value!