When Not To Copy the Big Names in Marketing

As someone who was interested in making money online in my mid-teens, after researching into the many various ways of generating cash, I stumbled upon affiliate marketing. All the joys of making money off of traffic sources you discover while you donโ€™t have to deal with customers seemed perfect.

One of the first things I did that I’m sure everyone else new to a job does, was to look for established names in the business that were dishing out advice. It didn’t take me long to stumble across people like Shoemoney, Jonathan Volk, John Chow and various other affiliate marketing bloggers. Now, when you’re in to something like marketing, there is no bigger motivator than cash. Seeing these guys holding cheques for tens of thousands of dollars after only a few years in the business is all the drive you need to start working on that first campaign.

Those who don’t ask questions will struggle – even if it means simply asking for advice from a friend, relative, search engine or even a forum itโ€™s better than keeping quiet. Learning from others is what makes internet-based career paths so enticing, there’s such a wealth of information at your fingertips it’d be stupid not to take advantage of it – but the problem occurs when you forget who’s giving out the advice and how much of it you should follow.

What Niche Did You Make Your Money From?

New affiliate marketers will undoubtedly want to know how the big boys made their moolah. Sure Shoemoney might have made a killing in ringtones and others might have commanded gigantic cheques from their many dating sites – but that’s unlikely to be where they started out and it’s even less likely to be where you should start out.

If you want to have a go at making a car, you don’t phone up Lamborghini and ask who stamps their body panels. The same is true of marketing, it’s a colossal waste of time to join your first affiliate network and shoot your affiliate manager a message asking what the top grossing offer is.

It all comes down to experience. It’s pretty straightforward. If I gave $5,000 to someone who’s been in the game for 6 months and to someone else who’s been in the game 6 years, chances are the more seasoned guy is going to get the bigger ROI. It’s not always true, but it’s generally how it works. The old timer knows what colours to use on his call to action button, how many calls to actions should be in place and what kind of image is most likely to convert for a specific offer.

Focusing On The Smaller Picture

What? Not the bigger picture? Something I personally struggled with, until it clicked after many failed attempts, was focusing on breaking up a niche in to smaller subsets. I asked questions, read articles and joined forums, all of which told me to try various niches that were ‘killing it’ such as weight loss, teeth whitening and dating.

To a new marketer, being told to try out a teeth whitening offer might mean just that; whip up a landing page that talks about teeth whitening and then send them to the merchant. Unless you’ve got a mountain of cheap traffic to send, it’s likely that the commissions are going to be low whilst the losses will be high.

Staying on the teeth whitening niche, let’s see what we can make of that if we concentrate on the smaller picture. First of all, it’s best to try and imagine yourself as a customer. Seeing as teeth whitening is generally going to require me to receive a product or visit a specialist, I’m very likely to append my location to my search. Also, as I’m a smoker (I’m not, but the point stands) I’m probably going to mention the stains I’ve incurred from my habit. Therefore rather than searching for “teeth whitening” – the search term the new guy is desperately grasping at, I’m more likely to search for “smoking stained teeth whitening in London”. Not a fantastic example but it gets across the point I’m trying to convey.

Whilst I might tell you that I’m making 50% of my profit from dating, the truth is I’ll probably be running a campaign for “single men 30-35 in California” (just an example, sorry to any single men 30-35 in California). Keywords at this level are a lot less competitive and more likely to yield sales (although the obvious trade-off is the low amount of traffic).

When to Take Advice

I’m not trying to say you should disregard the advice of all the marketing bloggers out there, far from it, but what I am saying is that it’s important to realise the generalisations that bloggers make when giving out advice. No one is going to tell you their exact gold-mine of a sub-niche, but they are going to tell you roughly where they make their dollars.

You should never stop asking questions; on forums, via contact forms or even in blog comments like below this post. When starting up, I found it was handy to join forums visited by new marketers to see what others were trying and failing at (as new marketers tend to be much more open) to see how I could improve.

Bloggers write for the masses, when a blog gets 50k readers a day or similar then it’s hard to satisfy everyone, so it’s easy to make posts vague. Just remember that trying to copy a full time affiliate marketer with a four figure daily budget is going to be tough when you’ve only got a couple of hundred to have a go. It’s important to focus on the goal ahead whilst knowing that it’s a gradual improvement rather than an all-or-nothing attempt at the competitive deep end.

10 replies on “When Not To Copy the Big Names in Marketing”

  1. Interesting post and good to see you write again dan. I loved your first post and was waiting to hear from you again.

    1. Hey Maddy, glad to hear that, I’ve been working on some technical stuff for the site, a few more tweaks here and there but I should be posting more often now!

  2. Wish some big bloggers would reply to this to see what they think. Might give them a ping ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am sort of struggling with choosing a niche and this has helped. I’m still not sure what I’ll be choosing but I wont be following the big boys thats for sure.

    1. Hey Alex, if you have even a slight inkling about what niche you’d like to approach – you still can – you just need to make sure you can break it down in to a subniche that’s not completely saturated.

    1. Haha, wouldn’t you like to know ๐Ÿ˜‰

      In all seriousness, recently I’ve had success with quite a small subniche under the acne and blemishes niche. Before that I had some success with teeth whitening, similar to what I mentioned in the article. I find people who are looking for more specific information (such as “quit smoking with nicotine patches”) are far more likely to be in purchase mode compared to those searching for broad terms such as ‘quit smoking’ who might just be looking for information for a friend or such.

  4. Hey Dan,

    Nice to see another post from you. I like the topic, too: the sales aspect that Mat covered in his first few posts is great, but it’s nice to hear about the marketing side of it, and to get some tips there as I definitely need them!

    Before I go, just a quick tip (and feel free to ignore this, but I’m just trying to help): Maybe expand upon your examples a bit more. I was a bit confused in parts and ended up re-reading the article, and then going over a few paragraphs a few more times because the examples weren’t the easiest to understand, and you moved pretty quickly. Which brings me to my second point: moving quickly isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would help if you sort of wrapped up each section–gave a bit of a summary, almost. As I was reading your article, when a section ended I sort of stopped and had to check to make sure the section was actually ending because it didn’t feel like it should have been; I was looking for more detail.

    Just a thought, and like I said feel free to ignore it if you want.


  5. Ah at last, Dan’s alive!

    Good and interesting post, obviously you shouldn’t follow all advice which you get from all those different blogs. New marketers might be following a blog but while they gain more experience they might disregard some of the advice given to those who are totally new to marketing. These high traffic blogs aren’t only writing for new marketers, also experienced marketers can still get useful information.

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