Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Transitioning Affiliate Marketing Into the Small Business Mentality

I began affiliate marketing about 6 months. When I first started, my motives were simple: To Make Money! I spent hours reading about all of the different programs and opportunities available to me both online as well as offline. I attended a few franchise shows as well and spoke to some investment specialists. At this point in my life, I was not ready to fork out the tens of thousands of dollars to start my own business. That is when I discovered online money making opportunities. It sounded great at first! It made a lot of sense, too. You market someone else's product and you get a commission for every sale. It is distribution in its simplest form! The sales pitch: "If you make 3 sales per day at $20 per sale that is $60 per day or $1800 per month." So I tried it and did not initially make anything!

So let us get real! If it was this easy to make $1800 per month, everyone would be doing it, right? Are people actually making money doing this? Yes! I am one of them! But the difference now is that I approach affiliate marketing like a business! Without a business or marketing background, I started to research how small business works by consulting the Small Business Association website ( Things began to improve as soon as I confronted their CHECKLIST FOR STARTING A BUSINESS:

1) Identify Your Reasons
Why Am I doing this? At this time in my life, I was not looking for a new career nor fork out the cash for a bigger investment. Rather, I needed to supplement my income. So I created the goal of making $1000 per month.

2) Self Analysis
Was I really going to do this? Was I really ready to put time into this. Yes! I decided that I would set aside 2 hours per day, 5 days per week to focus on my affiliate marketing. I am still committed to this schedule to this day.

3) Personal Skills and Experience
Can I do this? I would not consider myself a computer guru, but I can find my way around a computer. I do not have any degree in marketing or economics, either. I realized at this point that I needed to educate myself a little bit on how to both market products as well as create websites. I bought an eBook on how to do affiliate marketing and the brought me three-quarters of the way there. I also spent about a week focusing on website design, domains and hosting. Over the last few months, all of these skills have improved ten-fold which has resulted in more sales and more confidence in my ability to market products online.

4) Finding a Niche
What is going to make you stand out above the rest? Affiliate marketing, during its infancy, was an easy way to sell almost anything to anyone. There was little marketing competition. Now, the competition is so tough that just getting exposure of your product, website or blog either requires a lot of skill or a lot of money. Just like any small business, you need to give buyers a reason to buy your product over everyone else’s product. Finding your niche in the marketplace can be very critical to success!

5) Market Analysis
While finding your online making money niche on the internet, you need to do your research. It is quite simple. Type your "niche" or idea into a google or yahoo search engine and see how many people are sponsoring it. Less than 10-20 sponsors may be doable. Over 20, you may have a long, uphill and costly battle! Also know and find out who are the people that are buying this product.

6) Planning Your Startup
This is very critical! My biggest mistake when I was initially starting my affiliate marketing venture was my lack of planning. I would focus my time building blogs and websites as fast as I can and marketing them as soon as possible without any thought. I did not research my products and my websites and blogs were mediocre at best (both in appearance and content). I promoted them with Pay-Per-Click campaigns without planning a budget. Further, I would get distracted with "bigger and better" ideas and would find myself flopping around from product to product. Focus, planning and setting up goals are crucial to making money online. They do not have to be long and drawn out. You just need to develop a plan and stick with it!

7) Finances
Despite what you may read in some glorified "online money making" or "get rich" ads, you will need to invest money into affiliate marketing. Fortunately, it is initially not very much. Investing in an eBook or two on how to do it is important. You must be prepared to pay for some type of advertising to be successful (like Pay-Per-Clicks, classifieds, etc.). If things continue to increase, you may have website, hosting, and domain costs, too. Again, this is not much and for a small business, this is virtually nothing, but if you think you are going to rely purely on free blogs and Search Engine Optimization, your odds of success are quite minimum.

As you can see, we can clearly fit affiliate marketing into every category of the small business checklist. Once you discover this fact, you will find that as your outlook on making money online changes into more of a business mentality. Then your affiliate marketing venture will start to come together and you will begin making more money by promoting products online.

- Matthew Bredel

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