Affiliate Commissions Are Like Exclamation Points

There’s been a lot of excitement around the interwebs about the latest Only72 sale. There’s also been a lot of groaning. I saw somebody on Facebook say “these types of launches are so two years ago.”

I’ve got nothing but love for the guys behind this product and think the thing is brilliant. Hearing about the sale got me digging through my drafts folder. I’ve written some half-baked thoughts on adding affiliate margin to your information products. I figured now is as good a time as any to share them.

Ever hear the old copywriting tip about exclamation points? It says that exclamation points are often an indication that words preceding the exclamation are not strong enough. For example:

  • This new book is really amazing! vs…
  • This is the best book I’ve read in 2012.

I think you can say something similar about adding a wide margin to your information product for affiliates. Doing so often indicates that your product isn’t strong enough to sell itself. It’s not compelling enough for people to distribute it without payment.

I don’t think enough people question the dogma that you need to have an affiliate program. Many people have told me I’m nuts for not having an affiliate program for the Dynamite Circle.

My response has always been: if I added a margin in for affiliates, first off it would be way more expensive, but perhaps even more importantly, people would just recommend it to anyone. The people being told about it wouldn’t know if they were being told because of the money or because it was actually a good product for them. 

This to me seems as obvious as the internet marketing orthodoxy of “you must have an affiliate program!”

I suppose if I were asked for advice on the matter I’d say: if your information product sales depend on your relationship with your audience, you shouldn’t have affiliates. 

Yes, you’ll make more on launch day, but I believe you are turning off more people than you think.

The reason is twofold: 1) you aren’t giving them a good deal and 2) you are compromising your integrity by mentioning stuff just for the money (and inspiring your colleagues to do the same).

If you double your info product price for affiliates, you are asking your audience to fund your inefficient distribution. That works for you. Not them. We all know you could take a little more time to figure this out for your customers (instead of forwarding the costs on to them) and give them the same great product at a great price.

If you did, maybe you wouldn’t have to launch so much.

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I’m not trying to be a business moralist here-– I think it hurts businesses to launch relationship-oriented information products that require affiliate participation in order to be a success. You’ve gotta keep launch launch launching! Meanwhile you are probably burning out your affiliates and readers. Why not just build something that has enough value that people might mention it to each other?

It’s almost a patronizing thing to say, but there are so many internet marketing dogmas that few seem to question. Not have an affiliate program? Offensive! Stupid!

What I find offensive is paying double just for the privilege of having heard about it.

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When to use affiliate approaches?  I believe affiliate commissions are a great way to move your product, and part of the reason I’m thinking about this stuff is that we’ve been talking about increasing our use of affiliate links here at the blog.

In the case of Only72, Baker and Karol used their stature in the blogosphere to cut a deal that customers could not have cut for themselves. That’s a great value for people who wanted those products. I’m not 100% clear where I draw the strategic line here: do I feel great about paying a small portion of the ticket price to help fund the distribution for Bluehost or Virtual Staff Finder? Sure.

How about ponying up a couple hundred bucks for the next big mega-launch? Not so much.

What’s the distinction I’m looking for here?



PS, I’m the mayor of Twitter.