If you plotted the growth of my business the chart would look like a steadily increasing line, punctuated by a handful of spikes a couple of times a year.
The first big spike in growth occurred in 2007, which was the first launch I ever did of the Blog Mastermind coaching program. Every aspect of my business grew during that two week period. My email list tripled in size and my income increased by almost the same margin.
Going forward, each new spike came thanks to some kind of launch. Whether it was a new product, closing access to a product or reopening of a closed product, each time I did some kind of launch campaign, the growth numbers shot through the roof.
This is obviously an endorsement of the launch process, and we all owe Jeff Walker a debt of thanks for bringing this style of marketing to our industry, however it’s worth taking a closer look at why the launch works.
The 80/20 Rule Of Product Launches
The launch process is a complex and subtle beast, which on the surface appears relatively simple. You release some great free stuff, have your affiliates promote it like crazy, open the doors to your offer with some kind of limitation, sell heaps, make a ton of money, and bamb!… done.
Once you do a few launches you start to see how intricate the variables are, and how important the psychology behind the process is. Everything needs to connect, to be coherent, to reinforce the same message, create excitement and flow together.
As daunting as that might sound, the process is actually quite forgiving, as long as you get a few variables right. You can “stuff up” many aspects of the launch process and still succeed. You can forget to do things, use lazy copy in your emails, and even leave parts out altogether, as long as you have the most important variables.
So, what are the 20% or less of components that go into a launch that count for the 80% or more of results? Here’s how I see it…
- Your lead resource(s), or “money magnets” as Frank Kern calls them – whatever you give away for free that sets the tone and the main focus of your launch, and demonstrates your value. This part is absolutely critical if you want your message to spread since it is key to the viral aspect of your marketing. The more valuable your resource, the more people will share it and talk about it. Your affiliates also need your lead resource to promote your launch so they can give their people something valuable and not just force a direct sales pitch.
- A means of distribution is critical, which should be obvious since you can’t sell something when you don’t have an audience to sell it to. For most people distribution is a combination of your existing audience on your email list, who read your blog and subscribes to your RSS feed, your Facebook and Twitter followers, and any other people you can directly contact who are actively listening to your messages and are targeted to your offer.
That’s really all there is to it.
If you have a great free report, a great product, an email list of targeted prospects, and/or top affiliates ready to promote for you, everything else is simply the grease that keeps the machine running. Yes you need relationships with your prospects, but often you can build this during the launch – in fact your lead resource can be all you need to build the trust and authority required to make people feel safe buying from you.
Your copywriting, particularly in emails, is important, as is how you sell your final pitch (sales page or sales video), however you can screw up this part and still have a killer launch, if you just have something of value to give to people and a means to distribute that value.
Where People Go Wrong
Based on work with my members, the greatest challenge to having a successful product launch seems to come from the following areas –
- A lack of distribution. This is by far the biggest problem because most people don’t realize how many subscribers or the type of subscribers they need to succeed. That’s completely to be expected of course, you can’t know the answer to how much distribution you really need until you launch.
- A mis-aligned offer. This is another challenging issue because you don’t really know for sure you have the right offer until you sell what you have to sell. Worse still, you might have a fantastic product, a great lead resource and then use just one or two phrases that aren’t what your audience wants to hear, and boom, launch failure. Understanding your audience and explicitly knowing what their core motivations are is absolutely critical. To help you become clearer about how well you need to know your audience, read this article –How Well Do You Know Your Customer?
Most people get hung up with what is in their product or how to deliver their product or how much to charge for it. All these things are important, but without an offer people actually want and a way to get in front of those people, all other variables are a moot point.
How To Generate Massive Growth
There are many ways to grow something online, and as successful bloggers do oh-so-well, the slow but sure path can take you to amazing places, given enough time and effort.
I’m all for that, however it’s nice to experience rapid growth spikes too, which is something successful Internet marketers really understand well.
As I discussed in – Who Makes More Money – Authors, Bloggers or Internet Marketers? – finding a synergistic approach that combines the advantages of blogging, with the leverage points of traditional Internet marketing, is a great formula. This is what I strive for.
Now, let’s answer that burning question – what is the key to rapid growth? The answer in my case lies within the launch process.
The “easy” part of doing a launch is all the variables you can control. I say it’s “easy” because it really isn’t – it’s hard work – however because you control it, you know you can get a result simply by just getting things done. I’m talking about the components of what is in your product, what you write in the emails you send out, what goes into your lead resource, what you write on your blog to market it, etc. These things take work, but they are a function of you and only you.
It’s clear how important distribution is. The launch process, when done completely, includes a vital variable – your affiliates. Your affiliates are the key to experience rapid growth, because it is your affiliates who give you access to new sources of distribution. Affiliates also happen to be the variable you have the least control over.
If you work hard, you can confidently execute all the variables under your control. You might even have a fat list or huge blog readership already established to market to, but if you’re just selling to the same people it can be difficult to grow your business quickly (you can certainly improve your average customer value though). That’s okay of course, you can make great money selling to your existing prospects and customers, and there are ways to grow profits quickly using your existing audience, but if you don’t have much of an existing audience, affiliates you get there much quicker.
If you’re just starting out affiliates can be the super-boost you need to grow your business rapidly. Even just one or two successful launches is enough to establish six or even seven figure businesses. What’s even better, once you’ve done some launches and built up your list, your reliance on affiliates decreases. You can run your business relying more on the variables you can control (your own list) and less on what you can’t (your affiliates).
How You Can Tap Into Affiliates As A Source Of Leverage
Let’s start with some basic techniques first. Here are some practical ways to find affiliates…
- Write a blog post and email to your newsletter inviting people to join your affiliate program
- Contact other bloggers and internet marketers in your niche and ask them to promote your product
- Search forums for quality people who sound like they have a successful business and ask them to promote
- Tap into networks like Clickbank, Commission Junction, PayDotCom, etc to either find affiliates or act as brokers to find affiliates for you
- Ask your existing affiliates to introduce you to potential new affiliates
I could go on and on with little tips like these. These techniques work, but what I see over and over again is advice like this and people not getting results.
I think part of the reason why is the hard work that is required to use these techniques. There can be a lot of manual labor involved, sending lots of emails, spending time in forums, and so on. However I think the real problem is an attitude that has come about because people believe in order to get the big affiliates to promote for you, you need to be a “big player” yourself. A catch-22 situation.
If you’re new to an industry and you email someone of significance in your market asking for a potential joint venture, chances are they won’t reply or will say no to promoting your product. If that happens often enough, you get jaded.
Let me state a fact, a hard truth that everyone has to accept when it comes to affiliates and joint ventures. If you want someone to promote your product you need to be deserving of that reward.
You need to ask yourself – why would this person want to promote your product in the first place?
Try and get in their shoes. You might offer hefty commissions, promise great conversion rates, offer prizes, incentives – but if you’re talking to the big players they don’t need these things. They’re already successful, they don’t use money or material items as their currency anymore, and they have their own stuff to promote, their own content to publish, and established agreements already in place to promote other products. You’re just an annoying distraction stopping them from getting what they want to get done, done.
Ok, it’s not quite that bad. I have some advice for you coming up next if you want the support of the “big player” affiliates.
How To Join The Inner Circle Of Top Affiliates
As I was growing up as a blogger and eventually released my own products I didn’t think twice about whether I could or could not convince people to promote for me.
I wasn’t oblivious to the effectiveness of affiliates, I simply knew that when it was time, the right relationships would be there. I was confident because I had already, and was continuing to demonstrate why a person would want to work with me.
This is like the difference between cold calling to get customers versus them coming to you already wanting to work with you because of your established reputation.
And there’s the answer… Did you miss it?
To gain access to top affiliates you need to do something to deserve it. Yes relationships are critical, but relationships at the top level often start first based on reputation.
Even if a potential partner has never heard of you before, having some form of demonstrable proof that you’re the real deal and not just looking to make a buck off of their list – in other words, it is worth knowing you beyond just the potential to profit from sales of your product – is the real secret.
So how can you obtain a reputation that opens doors to relationships to the best people in your industry? Here’s some ideas that have worked for me and many other people.
- Start a blog and grow it into something special. Just having a blog with a nice design, some good content and a small following is not enough. You need to be a trailblazer, a thought leader, a maven – someone with meaning and attention in the minds of a significant proportion of people.
- Capture a following and prove that you can move people to action. I know plenty of bloggers who appear on the surface to be significant players, speaking at events, maybe even publishing books and showing nice email subscriber, RSS and Twitter numbers, yet when push comes to shove – when it was time to deliver and demonstrate a result – they had very little power to actually move their audience to action. It’s great to have people who pay attention to your stuff, but if a significant proportion of them don’t respond to calls to action, then you can’t make an impression that counts.
- Publish a book or report and make it a hit. Writing a book today is easier than ever before and thus the mantle of “published author”, while definitely a credibility boost, is not as big a deal as it once was. Creating a free report is even easier. However, if your publication becomes a hit, if it dominates the conversation in your market for a period of time, or redefines how people look at an issue, or is referred to as fundamental study, then you’ve gained a reputation that can last a lifetime.
- Use the top-down method to become credible by association. What I mean by this is enter a market with completely new ideas based on your previous experience, then offer to teach your ideas to some of the heavy hitters in your industry. You don’t have to go straight to the mass market with your best stuff, just take a small group on, refine what you know and really blow them away, and then when it comes time to go mainstream your initial group of students will be more than happy to promote you and recommend you to other top affiliates. Presenting at an event and selling private coaching is a good method to attempt this technique, but bear in mind you do have to be the real deal – you better know something of ground breaking value.
- Leverage your past success stories. Can you imagine if the guy who started eBay, or Flikr, or Twitter, or any number of significant web presences came to you with a JV offer – you’d listen, because their previous success demands your attention. If you’ve had a past life where you have achieved something, use it as a leverage point to open doors.
- Locate your peers who show promise and start working with them before they become famous. This is a technique I benefited from tremendously with my own launch because I “grew up” as a blogger during the same time my fellow bloggers Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, John Chow, Jeremy Schoemaker and Daniel Scocco did. During the years that our market matured, our blogs matured and our relationships with each other matured. Even if we don’t communicate often, we all know each other, respect each others work and have a direct line of contact, so if we need to propose something we know it will at least be considered. This technique can be tricky and works best in emerging markets, but don’t let that stop you – even if you find one good person today, they might be your top affiliate next year as their reach expands.
- Be a good affiliate yourself. This solution is probably the hardest, since if you can make a lot of affiliate sales for someone else, you’re likely established already, however it is worth mentioning as you might find yourself knowing some solid techniques to make affiliate sales, but no one knows who you are…yet. James Schramko comes to mind as a great example of a guy who figured out some really clever ways to make a lot of affiliate product sales for other marketers, who instantly paid attention to him because of it, thus he had a door into the inner circle.
There are other methods to tap into the top echelon of affiliate marketing circles, but these ideas should get you started. None of these techniques are quick fixes. If you want a reputation, credibility, respect and the networking advantages that lead to top affiliates taking notice of you, you need to work at it to demonstrate your worthiness for these benefits.
Don’t Assume You Have Respect
One last very important point – you shouldn’t ever assume anything is a guarantee. Just because you’ve written a best seller, don’t email someone out of the blue and expect them to know who you are. Don’t push a free report, or your blog, or your new book, or access to your course and expect that person to instantly drop everything and check out your work, simply because you think it’s the greatest stuff since sliced bread.
If possible an introduction from a person who already knows the person you are looking to connect with is a much safer way in. I’ve found that people come to me through the natural course of networking. You tend to find the right people, especially after you set out an intention to do so, when the time is right.
It’s even better when some of your work ends up as the study materials, or even manages to help and inspire a person you want to connect with. In this case they may come to you first after being so impressed by your work. This is why the next point is absolutely critical – it’s the most important lesson in this whole article…
What you need to work on, and really this is something that you can never do too much of, is constantly enhancing your reputation and respect in the market by being the best you can, helping as many people as you can and focus on overdelivering, without having expectations of any other person.
It’s a tough rule to live by, but living expectation free means you’re free to focus on what you can control – what you do. This is a lovely mindset to adopt as you are only accountable to yourself (this of course has it’s own risks too) and if you do a good job, good people will come to you.
I hope this article has helped you feel a better sense of clarity about how affiliate marketing works at top levels. It’s not a cut and dry subject as you are dealing with the most varied variable of all – other people – which is why that last point on no expectations is so critical.
Inside The Circle