Affiliate marketing is a strange beast in the online business world. It can divide people into two camps: those who love it and those who hate it.
Some people think affiliate marketing is gross and spammy; other people see it as a great additional revenue stream.
Some people think promoting other people’s products is so much easier than promoting their own, while other people break out in a cold sweat at the thought of it.
And then there’s the sea of identical swipe copy…Never mind. I think we can all agree that gets tiresome after the 100th duplicate email!
No matter your opinion, there’s no doubt that affiliate marketing, when used properly, can provide revenue streams, support your business goals, and serve your existing clients in more ways than you can on your own.
The trick for knowing how to sell a product without feeling salesy is to make it a subtle and seamless part of your process. And that’s an art that definitely pays to learn, practice, and master.
3 keys to learn how to sell a product without being salesy
I’m going to break down my approach to non-salesy affiliate marketing into three parts:
And if you just did a big eye roll around the word “mindset,” know that without it your affiliate marketing strategy is going to feel scattered, unaligned, and yep…probably salesy.
How do you feel about affiliate marketing?
Pretty great, thanks! It’s going to make me really rich!
No, I don’t mean like that. I mean when people market affiliate products to you… how do you feel?
A bit icky?
If you’ve got hang-ups around affiliate marketing, it’s usually because you’ve had less than pleasant experiences of people promoting products that you didn’t want or that felt out of alignment with their business models.
If that’s the case, I want you to explore how it made you feel and what about it made you feel icky.
- Did you sign up for something and later realize it had been through an undisclosed affiliate link, so you felt duped?
- Did you receive hundreds of emails about the same launch from 100’s of people and it all felt overwhelming and inauthentic?
- Did someone align themselves with a company and you felt they did so only for monetary gain?
It’s important to regularly check in with what we don’t like other people doing in business so we don’t accidentally replicate that ourselves — otherwise we'll be out of alignment and never get the results we hope for.
So how can you shift your mindset around affiliate marketing?
Businesses that use affiliates for marketing pay affiliates out of their marketing budgets, so it’s best to think of it as paid advertising.
Affiliates are like a business’ personal street team spreading the word about how great a product or service is, and if the affiliates are authentic in their word-spreading, that’s money well spent!
I’m going to assume you’ve got some products you’re ready to start promoting, but in case you’re not sure, here’s my golden rule for deciding whether or not to be an affiliate for something:
Choose to be an affiliate for the programs of any courses, products, or services you’ve used or experienced and you like enough that under the right circumstances you would actively recommend to a friend without receiving an affiliate commission.
When you promote a product or service authentically, transparently, and in a way that’s providing value to your people, there’s absolutely nothing sneaky, iffy, or salesy about it.
We’ve all seen the big, time-sensitive launches in which affiliates promote a particular program or service, stopping their regularly scheduled programming to do so. These are usually big money-makers for the affiliates (and the businesses they’re promoting!), and definitely have their time and place.
But that’s not the only way to be an affiliate!
An effective strategy for day-to-day affiliate marketing is to sprinkle affiliate links throughout new or existing content as you go about your regular business process.
A good rule of thumb to follow is this:
Use your (disclosed) affiliate link when it doesn’t disrupt the flow of what you’re saying whenever you mention a product or service (in a neutral or positive light).
How does this work in practice?
- If you mention a product in a video, put your affiliate link underneath.
- If you’re emailing your list and you’re experimenting with a new tool that you’re really loving, put in your affiliate link.
- If you’ve just watched a really good training in a membership site, do a quick social media post about it and include your affiliate link.
Subtly sprinkling your affiliate links into everything you do won’t disrupt the flow of your business. (Remember: always disclose that you’re an affiliate. For one thing, it’s illegal not to. But beyond that, it lends credibility, and shows transparency, which people appreciate.)
How to create more opportunities to talk about products you’re an affiliate for:
What if you’re in an industry where you don’t naturally find yourself talking about other people’s products much? We’ve all seen review posts in which it’s obvious the ulterior motive is to plug an affiliate link, and that always feels gross.
So what’s the secret to including your affiliate link but not appearing salesy?
The primary purpose of what you’re doing should be something other than promoting your affiliate link.
Let’s take a detailed look at three examples of how this might look in practice.
1. Creating beginners content
Primary Purpose: Providing helpful content
Secondary Purpose: Sharing your affiliate link
(This is not the same as writing a review, although obviously you’ll be showcasing how great the product is!)
You want to create valuable content that’s perfect for someone considering making a purchase. This can be behind an opt-in form or not. Whether you provide the content on a web page or in a follow-up email (or both), make sure you include your affiliate link in both places.
Types of beginner’s content that work really well include:
- Training videos
- Setup tutorials
You can also use these as content upgrades on blog posts.
If someone who’s considering buying or someone who’s recently signed up would find the content interesting (e.g. a beginner's guide), you can keep it simple with a “P.S. If you’ve not yet signed up for or bought [product] yet, you can do so through my link here.”
2. Enquiry forms, onboarding documents, sales pages, and next steps
Primary Purpose: It’s just a part of regular business processes/systems
Secondary Purpose: Sharing your affiliate link
Regular business processes are a hugely overlooked place to include your affiliate links. If people are thinking about working with you or purchasing from you, you have a great opportunity to position yourself as an expert and make recommendations — which just might tip the scales in your favor.
It’s also a great idea to include affiliate links inside a paid program or course — they've already paid you for your expertise, and giving recommendations for programs or products they need or should use elevates your standing as an expert.
Here are several places you might include them:
- If you're a service provider who helps clients with a specific tool, ask if they've already signed up in the interest or onboarding form, and include the affiliate link on the form. Even if they don't decide to work with you, they may still sign up through your link, especially if you offered any bonuses!
- If you've created an ebook, course, or group program and some of the tools clients will need have an affiliate program, make sure you use your affiliate links in the content. For example, if you're offering a list building course, you might include affiliate links to several recommended email service providers (and ideally advice on how to pick!).
- Where appropriate, include affiliate links in the FAQs on sales pages, especially if people will likely need (or you strongly recommend) a specific product to support what you teach.
- Are there any products (books, courses, etc) that you recommend time and time again to clients? If so, make sure to use affiliate links on a resources page.
- What might clients want to do after your course, training, or program ends? Recommend next steps and use affiliate links where you can!
3. Do a Facebook Live/recorded video with the creator
Primary Purpose: Introducing your audience to someone/something new, and talking about things related to the product
Secondary Purpose: Sharing your affiliate link
Rather than doing a formal ‘Joint Venture' style webinar in which a business delivers training to your audience, create an informal Facebook Live, pre-recorded video, or webinar with the creator or founder of a product or program you're an affiliate for.
Keep it light-hearted, free-flowing, and provide extra value by incorporating a Q&A session relating to the product so your audience can interact directly with an expert.
Sometimes business-owners will explicitly offer to do Lives, podcasts, etc. to help people promote their affiliate links. But if they don’t, you can also always be proactive and ask. The worst they can say is no! But usually it's very much in their interests to help you promote their product(s).
Take a look at your existing content and processes. Where might you add affiliate links?
Remember, if the content or process already exists, the primary purpose is already in place. Now you can add a secondary purpose by adding some affiliate links, and it won’t be salesy!
In order to effectively implement affiliate marketing strategies without coming across salesy (or just weird!), it’s absolutely essential that you always consider your specific audience.
Audiences for many B2B industries likely already have an understanding of affiliate marketing so they’ll understand why you’re able to offer bonuses and such.
For many B2C industries though, affiliate marketing is a pretty foreign concept, and you’ll have to find ways to explain it that make sense in lay-terms.
The best way to do that is to always ‘de-jargon’ your language around affiliate marketing so that your audience will understand it. Jargon that people don’t understand is a huge turn-off and they may jump to the (wrong) conclusions about your relationship with the business you’re an affiliate for.
Here’s an example of how you might want to word an affiliate disclaimer so that you’re fully disclosing, but also explaining clearly to an audience that may not be familiar with the concept:
There may be affiliate links in this post which means that if you buy something as a result of clicking one of these links, I’ll probably get some thank you money. You won’t ever pay more for purchasing through my links and please be assured that I only recommend products I have personally used and love!
Start adding affiliate links to your content today
With the proper mindset, strategy and implementation, you too can add income streams, reach your business goals, and better serve your clients.
What can you do today to add some (disclosed) affiliate links into your existing content and processes, and what additional content might you create to promote your affiliate links in a way that’s subtle, and seamless, and that adds value to your audience?