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.
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. 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:
- 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.
- A great idea – The idea needs to get the other persons interest and be workable.
- 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? 🙂
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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 🙂
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:
- Attracting and growing your list of affiliates.
- 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
- 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 😉
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.
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 🙂