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Build Your Affiliate List and Break into the JV Club

Build Your Affiliate List

On a coaching call the other day my client asked how to break into the JV (“Joint Venture”) club and I realised it was something I wondered myself years ago.

You see there is a real challenge facing anyone who hasn’t got any joint venture partners, affiliates, or is even struggling to get people to link or email for them.

Lots of information is out there about the advantages of promoting affiliate products in return for sales commissions, especially in terms of how you can make big money, passive income, and so on, but few people talk about it from the product owner or marketers side.

The fact is, without joint ventures or affiliate marketing, it is 100 times harder to have a big launch or sell lots of your product.

It is far, far more achievable when you have access to the help and list of other marketers.

That’s not to say it is easy. We see A-listers promote each other and wonder if we could somehow find out the secret password, handshake, or whatever it takes to get into that club.

This is one case where it is unlikely you will get what you want just by asking.

First we need to define what we are talking about, and why would you even want any partnerships?

  • Friends will do each other favours for free. They will link to you just because they think you are awesome … maybe.
  • Affiliates will recommend, link or promote in return for a sales commission (some people build their whole business around this income).
  • JV Partners will want a commission in return for linking and emailing, and also will likely want you to return the favour.
  • Business partners want a percentage of the business, not just a sales commission.

In each case there is a trade-off. There are financial as well as relationship concerns, plus if you don’t want to give up ownership or feel obligated, you might want to hire people instead of partnering. But there are lots of advantages to. Let’s look at the benefits …

Partnerships Built My Business

I have always gravitated towards partnerships. They are something I enjoy, but also I depend on them to motivate me, hold me accountable, and bring the best out in me. Partners bolster my confidence and fill in the gaps of what I can deliver.

And that is a major point – partnerships help you do things you wouldn’t be able to do alone.

Coaching about partnerships is historically something my clients are surprised by as they often have almost a build it and they will come mentality, while that is far from the truth.

Strategic Partnerships

I consider a “real” business partnership to be when you go into business with a partner and work on a project together. Most of my partnerships have been around co-creating a product, but stopping short of setting up a new corporation with my partner(s).

When I created Shy Networking and Magnetic Webinars with Lewis, the Problogger Book and the Pillars of Problogging with Darren, and the Mojo Marketing Action Plan with Melani, they were all business partnerships.

This is like a business marriage. Not something to head into too lightly.

You need to know that the other person shares values with you (because your reputation is on the line by working with them) and that you have complimentary assets and styles.

  • I will work with Darren any time, I trust him 100%. We got to know each other over a period of a couple of years before we wrote a book together (or met in person for that matter), and that was a fixed timeline project where either of us could walk away afterwards. The Melbourne workshop and the Problogger courses were a lot of fun and I have never had a single doubt.
  • Lewis I knew was perfect for Shy Networking, he is a huge American Football type, extrovert, brilliant networker, while I am a short, fat, shy dude. Perfect (and a little funny). At the time I didn’t realise he had a business partner in Sean Malarkey – that could have worked out horribly, and really I should have done my due-dilligance, but fortunately Sean is a good bloke also.
  • Melani was a bit different, we discussed, created and launched that program in a whirlwind, but we had enough of a working relationship that I was willing to go on gut-instinct and it worked out really well.

Just because those projects above worked out well doesn’t mean they always do. In fact I have quite a history of being over-trusting or not looking into things well enough to see the warning signs until too late.Β Don’t make my mistakes!

My advice for anyone who is not 100% sure is to do a small test project and ramp up slowly, with enough of an escape plan where you can still be friends if it is not working out. A teleseminar, a report, workshop – something contained and low-risk.

Unfortunately people spam anyone with an audience all the time with pitch after lame pitch. Usually in the form of a lot of unpaid work, having to do all the promotion, and share the profits, with the person making the pitch not contributing very much at all.

Before you can create a partnership like these you need the following ingredients:

  1. Authority – When I say authority, I mean you need enough authority where someone knows who you are, is willing to hear you out, and believes you are credible.
  2. A great idea – The idea needs to get the other persons interest and be workable.
  3. Assets – Do you have a big list? Spare time? Expertise? Specialist knowledge? Relevant experience? Cash money? If not, what DO you have?

You can get by with one or more of the ingredients but best to have all three.

It all comes down to WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”). If you can’t answer WIIFM on behalf of the other person, don’t bother approaching them.

Melani approached me about Mojo Marketing with all three items. I approached Lewis with all three. Darren … well, he doesn’t really need to pitch, does he? πŸ™‚

Affiliate Relationships

What many internet marketers consider a joint venture partnership though could be as little as having someone email their list, usually in return for an affiliate commission.

Again, this relationship is about bringing in people who can help you do something you can not do alone. I feel happy to give a big commission on my products because they are sales that I would not have seen otherwise, plus I always launch to my own audience first (usually at a lower price point) to cover any overhead, so by the time affiliates come in we are into profit already.

When Chris Brogan recommends my Guest Posting product, it is not just awesome because he is able to sell more copies (although that is awesome) but also each of his readers has an opportunity to discover me regardless of if they buy or not.

Each one of those sales is a new customer and it is up to me to make the customer experience awesome so that my affiliates feel confident they can send people my way. They get cash, I get a new customer, and the customer gets a great product. Everyone wins πŸ™‚

Keep in mind this is not just for information products or even an online thing necessarily. Amazon has affiliates for every product in their catalogue, and I have advised companies to set up affiliate programs for everything from vacations through to fine fragrances.

There are two challenges involved in the affiliate game:

  1. Attracting and growing your list of affiliates.
  2. Getting them to take action.

Attracting affiliates requires a product that matches the target audience of the affiliate, something proven or at least compelling, where they are going to make some good profits without too much effort. At the very least you need to have a link to your affiliate program and offer copy and paste material so they can promote right away.

  • Text links
  • Banners
  • Emails
  • Blog posts
  • “Cover” images, pictures that look like books, DVDs, etc

If your product isn’t already a proven hit in your market then you will want to give some stats like conversion rate or average visitor value. Nobody is going to share their list of 10,000 prospects with you only to make $10.

We are back to WIIFM aren’t we?

It’s not about what we expect to get but why THEY should be interested. Why should they risk their list and reputation? What will the pay off be? Explain how much their customers will love the product, love them, and make money in the process. Share proof if you have it.

Sometimes affiliate relationships grow into bigger things. If an affiliate does a good job of selling your product then perhaps there is what business gurus call “synergy”, something more to work on where everyone can win a bigger game.

Attract then Convert

Getting affiliates to take action though is the big trick. Most people don’t take action. That’s why I created Make More Progress and just like Make More Progress, the people who DO take action have a competitive advantage. Affiliates are no different, but especially the ones who make good money sitting in their underwear refreshing their PayPal account πŸ˜‰

All you can do is make it as easy as possible for them and as compelling a proposition as you can. This is why I created a product with 100% sales commission (might seem like a crazy idea, and maybe it is!). It did indeed build my affiliate list VERY nicely. I am not going to tell you how many people registered to be an affiliate but I can tell you if I only got each one to make a single sale then I would be extremely happy. Unfortunately 80% of them have not done anything.

Allowing affiliates to link to free resources means they are much more willing to promote for you because they are just telling their audience or social media followers about valuable free content rather than trying to sell a product.

That’s why to make it even easier on my affiliates I have built a centralised affiliate program rather than the previous shopping cart solutions I had before. This allows affiliates to link to my blog, my subscription page, my free resources or my free webinars, and still get credited when their leads buy from me. That means if someone clicks on your affiliate link to read my blog and joins my email list then you could even get paid when someone signs up to be a coaching client.

Don’t be That Guy/Gal

A problem I have noticed in the last couple of years or so is there has been an increase in selfishness. Don’t ask for a big promotion from your affiliates if you never promote for other people. I’m not talking about the odd Tweet, but when people expect a big push but later tell you they “don’t do the affiliate thing”. This is just taking more than you are putting in, leaching off your audience, and being a generally bad member of the community. Some otherwise really nice folks do this and it really grinds my gears.

Never take more than you put in to the goodwill bank – think long term.

Obviously you can’t always promote for everyone, there is not enough time or audience patience, plus not every product will be a good fit. The best way around this is to not make excessive demands on your affiliate partners, have a marketing calendar with slots open to promote others, and generally help out where you can.

If you are worried someone will do this to you, then ask when/if they will promote your product in return. Expect the demands to reduce or a positive response, and you can choose to walk away if you get neither.

Bottom Line

Don’t bother trying to pitch a big player unless you have MORE than a 50-50% deal in mind. Why should they bother helping you out? Once people reach a certain level of visibility they will have to turn down lots of offers every day. You have to stand out and make it look easy and certain.

Instead, build a relationship with them, get on their radar as a really cool and valuable individual to know. Demonstrate your expertise, perhaps guest posting, and you might demonstrate your audience match and authority by showing you can sell (via their affiliate program) or that you have a one of a kind sought after package of expertise for them.

Most of all, don’t get disheartened and show up in the community as a key player, keep working on your authority, that way people will come to you.


I asked on Twitter what people wanted to know and tried to answer all the questions I received, but feel free to tell me in the comments if there is anything I am missing πŸ™‚


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  1. Thanks Chris. Always great to read what you have to say. Sorry for the ‘non-comment’…. stay warm.

  2. I found this an absorbing read, Chris. Clear, good big picture stuff, lots of “insider” details and some clear advice on what to do and what not to do. Thank you for taking the trouble.

    • Glad you liked it Des πŸ™‚

      It was actually a mistake to post this so soon, it was meant to be scheduled and I was still debating if to cut it into two or not, so good news that you read it to the end!

  3. Dave Doolin says:

    I’m really glad I subscribe to your blog via email, Chris, else I might have missed this post, being hunkered down into a proposal and all. Finding it in my inbox this evening was just right.

    In my limited experience, you’re dead on with your assessment of affiliates. I have a couple who consistently make sales for me. The rest, not so much. I can’t rain contempt on those deadbeats though, my performance as anyone’s affiliate could improve. Considerably.

    • I think we can always improve plus it doesn’t always make sense to promote for someone else when we have our own stuff to market so I don’t see non-movers as deadbeats more someone I need to encourage πŸ™‚

  4. Chris,

    Thank you for this. I feel like you wrote it just for me πŸ™‚

    It was not just informative but very insightful and “epic” content.

  5. I’d be interested in your thoughts in applying these principals to a blog launch in the same way you identified with affiliate products. Often professional bloggers have posted on the importance of building up to a blog launch with social networking, insightful comments on other blogs, and generally getting to know personalities throughout the industry.

    Do you think that there is potential in retaining an established blog brand through some sort of compensation to aid in the launch, through list emails or thoughtful tweets and status updates, much as might be done with an affiliate product launch? Do you think that there would be value to the authority in doing so? If not, how else could an infant blog entice the established professional? Obviously, it’s difficult to determine the newbie’s voice and direction at such an early stage, and I can imagine a stalwart would be hesitant to risk their reputation. In traditional enterprises, I wouldn’t consider this a major obstacle simply because those arrangements would most likely revolve around previous personal relationships. Considering that and the social aspects of the blogosphere, how important is it to build a brand impression before the product, whether blog, service, ebook, or courseware even exists?

    • You can pay per lead or pay per click if you wanted to incentivise traffic, but also remember that social media people are always looking for great resources to share so cash incentives might not be required.

  6. Great read Chris. I have always avoided the JV sections of forums because I wonder “what do I have to offer?” and the answer is .. at the moment very little.

    Now I have some idea of where I should be putting my effort so that one day I will have something of value to offer a potential JV partner.

    • Remember the bar for working with a very established player is higher than someone who is at or around your own stage. It can be very beneficial to work with someone who is more equally placed, do not dismiss what you have to offer too soon πŸ™‚

      • Thanks Chris.
        I am building some great eye-level connections at the moment which has led to my first couple of guest posts. That was very exciting.

        I probably need to evaluate what exactly I do have to offer so I am ready when an opportunity arises.

      • I had to come back and update you. Because of this article and your encouragement I have today negotiated a JV with blogger at about my own level. Had I not read this post and your encouragement I would never have considered making the approach to JV.
        Thank you for being an inspiration.

  7. Barry Birkett says:

    Great post, Chris! I saw your request on Twitter for questions as you were writing it so was looking forward to seeing the result. I participated in a couple of the courses you mentioned and was interested to hear about your behind the scenes education (in fact, for one class you confirmed what I suspected as I went through it). It is encouraging to hear that even someone with your experience and success continues to learn and helpful that you let others learn from your bumps in the road. As someone trying to break into the “club”, your insights are very much appreciated.

    • I think one of the fortunate things I take from being a programmer in a former life is that sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to get results. In software mistakes are called “bugs” and they are seen as things to fix rather than anything shameful πŸ™‚

      I’m happy to share my bumps in the road if it helps others get moving forward πŸ™‚

  8. Chris-

    I dig it. You have to give something beyond a pitch and a webinar. A service, something of value. I totally like this model.

    The problem is this: you have to guard your audience. I’ve been pitched a few times to sell crap to my audience, but none of it was useful or any good. I have to vet the offer, and I’m surprised more of that isn’t done.

    Anyway, be happy, stay cherry, and I’ll talk to soon.

    • One of the first things I ask when someone pitches me is if I can look at the product. I review products (I only publish the positive ones, which is why there are so few reviews here) and will never recommend something that I can not stand behind. It boggles my mind that people with drop affiliate links for people or products they have no experience with because they could well be sending their prized customers to buy something bad based on the trust they built ..

  9. B/w you, Brogan and Guillebeau, three Chris’es make a right! πŸ™‚
    The biggest hurdle, which I think was not addressed here, is actually ‘doing it’.
    I can almost see people nodding their heads gently to your advice, and then tell themselves that ‘someday, I will re-read this post to make it work for me’… but perhaps, just perhaps, they won’t need a ‘how to’ article by the time they reach that place.
    And the hurdle is that many of them won’t even ‘try this out seriously’, and subsconciously just choose to ‘dream it out’. Dreaming is like TNT; very useful and very dangerous.

  10. Great advice here Chris. I have stayed away from JVs in the past BUT one of my New Year’s resolution was to enter into at least one meaningful JV this year.

    I believe the opportunity is huge if both parties think win-win. Win-win mentality will definitely help break the selfishness in marketing.

    I have used this technique in offline business. I am hoping to bring that to the online ventures this year.

    Wonderful to read your advice. Will definitely check your affiliate network.


    • So long as you can work out a good win-win deal with the right person or people it should work out great πŸ™‚ Just don’t rush it!

      • I agree with you. Lots of people fail because they rush into a partnership; majority of the time they would not know the other person.

        I’ve seen that sort of rushed partnerships fail in real businesses. It would be the same for online ventures.

  11. Great article, and great timing! I’ve just started thinking I’d like to expand my horizons and learn how to JV properly. It’s time to get my feet wet.
    Which do you recommend for my first one?

    I have an e-book that I’m just about to launch, but also one that I use as a giveaway. They are both 79 pages, and similar quality.

    on the one hand I could get some sales, but on the other I could build my subscribers.


  12. Hey Chris,
    Good post, great info. Have you had a chance to read a book called Meet and Grow Rich? It talks about creating mastermind group, which does a lot of things you like about partnerships, but without financial obligations.

    In a nutshell, it’s a group of people with a common goal/mission. They bring different skills and experiences to the group to help each other out accomplish things. Pretty interesting, and good concept. Thought I mention it.

    PS. Should make it to shy networking course soon πŸ™‚

  13. Dear Chris: wrong wrong wrong. I do not agree you are short and fat.

    I too have had much success in partnerships — for twenty years — to create screenplays and books and events. Looking forward to growing those same kinds of symbiotic relationships in my online ventures now that I’ve found my own bearings and am familiar with who out there operates to a standard that matches or exceeds my own (as well as addresses some segment of my audience). I signed up to be your affiliate because I know you’re a class act.

  14. OK I am down for it! Just retweeted (excuse the delay we got 2 storms)

  15. This was actually very informative I have to say.

  16. Great post Chris! This is one of the areas of internet-marketing-mayhem that I have avoided… mostly because I didn’t really understand how it worked. I’m gonna try to absorb this info and see if I can put something into action!