It’s the shortest possible answer to the question, “How do I stay afloat? How do I make money during COVID-19?” Affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is how, because it’s now.
It’s not some magic pill (though one of those would be great right now), but it is expedient. And right now, expedient is what people need in terms of revenue. It’s an option you can take action on today, to start seeing money sooner rather than later.
Almost no one saw novel coronavirus coming, or thought it would affect business this much for this long. But here we are, and you need a way to take some of the financial pressure off. Let me be clear: affiliate marketing is one way to make money during the crisis; there are others. But I think it’s the best move for a lot of people affected right now.
It’s not the perfect way, and it’s not your next career, probably. But it is the most practical, efficient move to start generating some sustainable revenue. It’s money in your pocket now, and later, for however long this thing goes on for.
Affiliate marketing can be a bridge over these times, but it can also maintain its usefulness post-’rona. That revenue will keep coming in even after things go back to normal. So, bonus. But at the very least, it’s a way you can start adding some black ink to the books this month.
Here’s why, and how, to get your affiliate on, even if you’ve never considered it before.
What’s Affiliate Marketing Again?
If you already know, feel free to skip this part. If not, affiliate marketing is simply selling someone else’s products via referral. You have a following, you recommend a product to them, and you send them to your affiliate partner’s web domain using your unique affiliate link. Many, many companies, particularly the ones selling digital programs, have affiliate programs. Including us.
The company with which you’re affiliated tracks which customers became customers via your link, and cuts you a percentage of the sale; whether that’s a one-time sale, or — even better — monthly or annually recurring revenue. Win-win!
The best part? Affiliate marketing is absurdly low-risk.
You don’t have to build the product. You don’t have to provide customer support. You’re letting someone else eat the overhead, because they can. Let the companies that are making money now (more on that below) shoulder the burdens and the risks.
Affiliate marketing is an efficient way to pull some more revenue by leveraging the trust and credibility you’ve earned from your own audience. The only rule is not to abuse that trust; only recommend products you believe in, that your audience will benefit from.
Be selective, be up front about your financial interest in the company, and your audience will like you even more than they already do.
Who’s Making Money During COVID-19? Finding Your Affiliate Partner.
Not everyone is losing right now. As coronavirus devastates various industries and puts millions out of work, certain kinds of companies are experiencing the opposite effect: social distancing is driving business their way.
Some businesses are even experiencing a dose of “catastrophic success” because they’re so suddenly inundated with new business (looking at you, Zoom).
So the first question to ask yourself is: whose money train can I ride right now?
There are two main things to consider when choosing whom to affiliate with:
- Who’s doing great right now? What kinds of companies are corona-proof, even corona-optimized?
- What products/services would my current customers and audience benefit from? Of the companies currently doing great, which are selling something relevant to my crowd’s needs?
According to the good folks at ProfitWell, 3 industries in particular are having a full-blown Pandemic Renaissance:
- Online Learning/Professional Development
- Subscription fitness (think Peloton)
It is shocking how much traffic and revenue is being driven to these industries due to coronavirus. I’m not saying it’s shocking that these industries saw upticks. It’s shocking how huge the upticks are.
We have a tendency to assume that the rest of the world is like ourselves: online, digitized, connected. But apparently, millions weren’t.
As I like to keep saying, online everything (work, health, social life) was always the future. COVID-19 just brought the future to us a little early. That means that these spikes aren’t spikes – they’re new plateaus. We’re not going back to “normal,” ever.
And that’s a good thing.
As businesses realize how well they can do with remote teams, as coaches and consultants realize how much more efficiently they can reach people via webinar, as the overhead associated with IRL business looks less and less like the wisest investment, people are going to get used to this whole Internet thing. And many won’t want to go back.
For you, that means that the opportunities you take advantage of now will keep paying off once the disease is under control.
So start by identifying who is having success right now.
Then, narrow it down to which affiliate programs are most (potentially) beneficial to your audience and customers. Take a look at your audience. Among the thriving companies, which provides something they would love? If you run a gym normally, maybe you affiliate with fitness companies, for example. If you run a restaurant, maybe you sell kitchen gadgets. The options are literally endless.
But to me, there’s one kind of affiliate product that — if it’s applicable to you — is the best way to make money during this particular crisis: SaaS (Software as a Service) products.
Obviously, these are the kinds of products that are blowing up right now, because they're entirely digital, require no shipping, and tend to be very affiliate-friendly. But even more importantly, SaaS products generate recurring revenue. You sell it once, and you bring in money month after month. These are streams, not just sales. And since we have no idea when the world will safely be able to come back together, recurring streams are the best insurance against long-term loss.
Your Role As an Affiliate
To be a successful affiliate, all you have to invest is some time, and whatever it costs you to produce marketing content. If you run a business, you probably have that infrastructure in place already. If you don’t...wait, why don’t you? Might as well put it in place now. Start that blog, create those social accounts, build that email list. You’re gonna need it all anyway.
Once you’ve established which company you’re going to affiliate with, your role is simple: to give your audience a reason to buy their product via your channels.
You’re not just a salesperson for the other company, although you’re totally that, too. You have to figure out how you and your business add value to the purchase of your affiliate partner’s product or service. You do that by creating and including extra incentives that you make available only to those who buy via your affiliate link.
This is where your investment comes in. And it doesn’t have to be huge.
Your message to your own customers/audience is: “Buy [affiliate product] with my link, and I’ll throw in [your asset].” What your asset is depends on what’s least costly for you to produce. Maybe it’s a discount on your own product. Maybe it’s a free consultation. Maybe it’s an e-book.
Whatever unique value you can add to sweeten the pot is your ticket to affiliate sales. You just have to answer the potential customer’s question: “Why should I buy it through you?” You’re not just recommending, or even just selling. Make the affiliate product yours, by tying something to it that only you can produce.
Create marketing content like blog posts, social posts, videos, and (you knew it was coming) webinars. Shamelessly convenient for me advice: webinars are one of the best tools for affiliate marketing, especially for SaaS products, because you can gather your audience together, share your screen, run through how the product works, and take questions.
Try this basic process:
- Identify a product that would benefit your audience.
- Create an affiliate offer that includes something valuable from your company (but not so valuable that you lose money. Make sure the commission is greater than your investment per sale).
- Promote the affiliate product through the usual marketing channels (blog, social, etc).
- Host live webinars where you showcase the product and do a live walkthrough. Target contacts who’ve engaged with your conventional marketing content on the topic.
- Keep promoting and selling the product.
Why Not to Make Money Through Affiliate Marketing
So maybe this whole affiliate marketing thing seems a little out of your wheelhouse.
As we’ve shifted a lot of our efforts towards helping business people come up with ways to navigate the new reality, I hear some common objections to trying new tactics like affiliate marketing. Here they are, with my counter-arguments:
Money's too tight. This one’s easy; affiliate marketing has just about the lowest overhead possible for a profitable venture. The ROI (Return on Investment) is frikkin’ bananas.
More importantly, doing nothing is definitely costing you money. With affiliate marketing and other creative strategies, there’s a chance (a rather good chance IMHO) that you can make it through this. By contrast, just hoping it’s all over soon has about a 0.0% ROI.
What you can’t afford right now is inaction.
It will take too much time. Really? Now? Netflix can wait.
It’s a bad time to take a risk. See above; it’s a bad time not to. Of course you should think your options through, and trust your own decision-making process. But “analysis paralysis” is real, and deadly to business.
It’s too late in my career to make radical changes: I was a teacher. I spent over a dozen years in education before I realized that I couldn’t realize my full potential in that field. I didn’t get into entrepreneurship as a 22 year old. WebinarNinja wasn’t my first independent company. As Marshall Goldsmith put it, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
And what got you to where you are now won’t get you through COVID-19.
Fear of failure: Fail. Just fail! You made it this far not because any one product or business was so incredibly great, but because you are. Your smarts, skills, and talents are adaptable to more than one scenario. So with your back against the wall, try something new. You’ll screw a few things up. You’ll drop the ball. You. Will. Fail.
And then you’ll figure it out.
The idea that you can avoid failure is a symptom of a common condition: the illusion of control. You cannot control coronavirus, or the stock market, or the next hurricane or the next swarm of locusts. Forces outside your control kinda shafted you. So now, it’s within your power to make a move, harnessing the factors you can control to successfully adapt.
You got this.
Affiliate Marketing Resources
For a great list of affiliate programs with various companies, check out this great list from the good folks at HubSpot. To learn about WebinarNinja’s affiliate program, check out this page. We’ve seen an explosion in traffic since social distancing began, and we’re happy to reward any entrepreneur who’s willing to help people learn how WebinarNinja can be useful to them.
Once you’ve found the right product for you and your audience, be creative in how you promote it. Always put candor and honesty first, never disguising your interest. There’s a ton of people out there abusing their audiences with excessive affiliate marketing; don’t be one of them.
Be real, be you, and make it through this along with your partners and customers.
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