Shawn Collins

It seems ever so beneficial to work with affiliates. But how? It can be a bit of a jungle to navigate in the masses of affiliates, affiliate networks, and payment models, and sometimes it seems as if it’s easier just to give up!

I had a chat with Shawn Collins, who has more than ten years of experience working with affiliates, he is the co-founder of the Affiliate Summit and the co-editor-in-chief of the well-known US magazine, FeedFront. He let me in on the secret on how to get started with affiliate marketing, and how to benefit from it.

Just to get things straight, I started out by asking him a simple question: What is affiliate marketing, and how can you benefit from it?

Affiliate marketing is performance marketing based on sales and leads. As an example, if you are a company selling sports equipment or t-shirts for a particular team or any other sports merchandise, you can have affiliates who link to your page – and if a customer buys one of your products because of that link, the affiliate gets a percentage of that sale.

It works for any kind of company. You can benefit from affiliate marketing because the risk is smaller, as you are only paying for performance, and you are able to see what works, as it is happening – you can tell immediately what links work and which ones don’t.

Where to even begin

You want to get started, but if you are unsure of how to go about things,

Shawn has a few tips:

  • Be observative – watch what you competitors are doing! What are they doing that works so well for them?
  • Notice what metrics they are using.
  • It is a good idea to set up a site and add your competitors as affiliates and see how they go about it.
  • Ask them questions and maybe even ask them about their conversion rate. It is perfectly legitimate, and it offers you great insights on best practices.

After that, find out what your needs are for your affiliate programme. How do you want it to be?

Grow your business with affiliate marketing today!

Working with affiliates can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. However, the benefits of working with affiliates are definitely worth considering. Follow these few simple steps when starting an affiliate relationship, and you’ll be able to reap the benefits in no time.

Free Exclusive Bonus: Download Shawn Collins’ simple steps to win at affiliate marketing.

What metrics to go for

It is important to measure the effect of your affiliate programme, and it is even more important to measure the right things, according to Shawn. He has plenty of success with his affiliates, and he measures certain things to make sure everything runs as it should. Listen to his preferred metrics here:

How to plan an affiliate programme

Some people feel like they need all sorts of creative solutions for their affiliates – with banners and so on. In reality, links are more efficient and convert better.

Keep it simple. Ask your affiliates what they want and what is right for them. Test everything out for them. Before you even get started on getting affiliates, you have to make sure that your affiliate page is performing flawlessly.

Make sure you test every element on your page and ensure that you have the optimal conversions before you make it available for your affiliates. Attend conferences and conventions to find out what affiliate network works best for you.

Network with the people behind it, and find the right solution for you. These three things are all vital when planning your programme, but when I asked Shawn, there is one more crucial element that should never be forgotten to succeed on your affiliate programme – listen to what it is:

When choosing a payment model

Obviously, your affiliates have to be rewarded every time they succeed in increasing your sales. Shawn has tried the two different payment models, and he says it depends on what your products is.

If you are selling a certain product or service, you’ll pay the affiliate a certain percentage. The other model is a flat-fee, which is what you expect the customer is worth for a certain amount of time. That model is great if you are selling insurance, for example.

Spread the word: You are looking for affiliates! But how?

You are looking for affiliates! How do you find them? Once you have created your affiliate programme, and you have decided on a payment model, you are going to need the most important part: the affiliates!

Shawn told me that since no one writes personal letters, they are the best way to reach out to the people with whom you wish to cooperate. As he said, you are looking at a 100 percent opening rate – and that sure must be effective! It is a very good idea to include a t-shirt or other gadgets in the parcel. Otherwise, you can create a postcard with a couple of bullets, making it clear why the reader should join your affiliate programme.

Target affiliates on Facebook

Shawn has sent off thousands of handwritten letters, but he mentioned another effective and very precisely targeted method to reach out to affiliates as well – Facebook! Here’s why he thinks Facebook is a fantastic way to reach out to possible partners:

Track your affiliate programme

There are probably plenty of ways to track your affiliate programme, but Shawn recommends tracking with an affiliate network. He has created a complete, yearly overview of the best affiliate networks including their prices and features called AFFSTAT. 

Sending bloggers free products – go or no-go?

It is incredibly common to send bloggers free products in return for publicity, but Shawn has a surprising take on that practice: Waste of money!

According to Shawn, the bloggers should ask for your products themselves and be interested in writing about you. They should always take the initiative. Otherwise, it’s too great of a risk, and you could be wasting money.

If the blogger is successful, get them to join your affiliate programme.

What does a good affiliate programme include?

Most importantly, it includes personal contact. That is also why an affiliate manager is so critical. It adds to the security that your affiliates have someone to get in touch with. Shawn mentioned two good examples of excellent programmes: wpengine and fanatics.com.

Those two companies have fantastic affiliate programmes because they have an exquisite product, which affiliates actually want to market, and they are present. Whenever they attend conferences or conventions, they invite affiliates out for dinner; they have personal contact and offer a brilliant service. Nothing can top the human touch.

How to handle inactive affiliates

Once you have got your affiliates, it is important to keep them active. I was made aware by Shawn that he knows a lot of people where only 10% of their affiliates are active – and they are happy with that! Shawn (along with myself) finds that ludicrous.

There are a variety of ways to activate those snoozing affiliates. Hear what ways Shawn prefers:

The deadly affiliate sins

Among all of the things you can do right when creating a bond with your affiliates and reaching out to them, there are some things that you absolutely cannot do – Shawn called them the deadly sins:

What everyone wants: The key to success

Shawn ended the interview with a few good pieces of advice on how to get success with your affiliate programme:

  • Do not be impatient – do not expect any results in the first few months.
  • Simply have an excellent product, one that others would want to market.
  • Stand out from the others – make sure that you are unique.

Free Exclusive Bonus: Download Shawn Collins’ simple steps to win at affiliate marketing.

Wrap up

All the way through the interview, Shawn kept saying how personal contact is necessary. It appears that the era of face-to-face contact isn’t dead just yet.  He has gained so much success with affiliate marketing because he has actually been present – he has written personal letters, he phones up his partners, and he attends tons of conferences and conventions.

What is your experience with affiliate marketing? Is there anything else you would like to know? Type in your question in the box below, and Shawn will get back to you.

Here are the major takeaways from the Shawn Collins interview

  • Analyse your competitors when you want to get started. If they are successful, they must do something that works.
  • Sending off free products and encouraging bloggers to write about them is a waste of money. Get strategic and organised by making an affiliate programme and seek out affiliate networks to appear more trustworthy.
  • Human touch is everything. Be personal and hire an affiliate manager, and never lose touch with your affiliates.
Emil Kristensen
Emil is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote. When he’s not busy with writing awesome content and building the Sleeknote brand, he spends his time reading and watching vlogs on YouTube (big fan Gary V). Fun fact: between the co-founders he is the fencing champ.

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  1. Hi Shawn,

    I love your takes on affiliate marketing. Personally, I’m running a small ecommerce site and it’s hard for me to control my ‘branding’. How would you recommend me to overcome this challenge? :/

    Reply
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  2. The guidelines and advices are absolute gold – Thanks! However, it’s very hard for me to navigate the affiliate-jungle for a pilot. Denmark has a very dark history when it comes to affiliate networks and I find myself on guard when having to chose. I’d love some recommendations on choosing the right Affiliate Network. Is it still ‘only’ the TradeDoubler way or no way at all, or do we have alternatives?

    Reply
  3. The furthest I got to with lotus roots is making soup. But this lotus root sadwniches are just so creative and fabulous with that shiny sauce poured over it. I'll have to try this. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. My company OSI Affiliate Software http://www.osiaffiliate.com helps companies manage an affiliate program and we see a lot of success with companies, however, you have to manage the affiliate program and spend time every week to make sure it is successful. A lot of people think it is a set it and forget it thing, but it is not. There are processes that you can automate, but overall, you have to manage the program for maximum success.

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