How to Leverage Email Marketing for Affiliate Marketing

Please Note: This article has now been superseded by the 2021 edition we have just released. To read the 2021 edition, click here.

Utilizing email marketing for affiliate marketing is a great idea. If you think about it, one is a killer conversion platform, and the other is an exceptional monetization method.

On the one hand, affiliate marketing is a very lucrative way to produce profits. Last year alone, it generated billions of dollars in revenue for both vendors and affiliates. It doesn’t matter if you’re referring people from a website banner, PPC, social media; if you do it well, it’s a rather straightforward way to make money.

On the other hand, email marketing is a leading marketing channel. It still remains the undisputed champ when it comes to things like engagement, conversions, click-through rates and relationship building. Whatever action you want people to take, they’re more likely to take it if they’re on your email list.

Why email and affiliate marketing go well together

You just have to consider what each one of these does. If we simplify it, affiliate marketing is just this thing where you recommend a product to someone. It’s quite similar to “word of mouth” where your friend recommends a product, so you go check it out and buy it.

But why should someone trust your recommendation? Let’s say you’re browsing TV screens in an electronics store. A random person walks and comments, “Hey that screen is really nice. I got it last month, it’s awesome!” Will this make you more likely to buy the screen? It might slightly increase the odds that you’ll buy it, but not much.

a friendly recommendation

What if a store employee asks you some questions and recommends different TV screens? This would work slightly better, wouldn’t it? They would be a bit more influential than a random person making a positive comment or recommendation. Why is this so? Because the employee is the residential “expert” or “authority” on the subject.”

But what if your best friend is an expert on electronics and you trust their expertise? Their recommendation would carry much more weight than that of any store employee.

Let’s tie this back to affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is simply the act of recommending a product for a commission. You could print out fliers that have an affiliate URL spelled out, and hand them out on the street. Or you could have a highly influential blog with reviews that contain affiliate links. Both of these radically different examples constitute “affiliate marketing”, at least in theory.

However, how you deliver that recommendation matters a lot. This is why you never see affiliate marketers printing affiliate link URLs and handing them out to random people on the street. The person on the street getting a flyer is highly unlikely to go home and manually type in that link. The person who discovers your blog is more likely to click on that link.

To go back to our previous analogy, your blog is similar to that store employee.

When you build a good blog, you seem reputable and visitors think, “Hmm, this person seems to know what they’re talking about. They seem to be an expert in the field.”

But they have no relationship with you. A blog by itself will never be as powerful as that recommendation from a good friend. This is where email marketing comes in.

A friend's recommendation would carry much more weight than any other.

As it turns out, email marketing is the single best way to build relationships with people. This is why the highest earning affiliates focus so much on building their email lists.

Sure, you can send PPC traffic directly to a blog post that tries to immediately recommend a product. And some people can make a profit doing this. But very few make the crazy kinds of affiliate marketing profits that are possible when you invest in relationships.

Hence, you’ll see most good affiliate marketers funneling all of their other channels into their email list. They realize that “the money is in the list.”

Get the most out of email marketing for affiliate marketing

It’s actually pretty simple to make a lot of money recommending things to your email list. Just build a quality mailing list. But this is where things get complex…

There are many meanings to a “quality mailing list”. It can refer to the quality of your sign up process, the quality of your onboarding process, the quality of your emails, or the hygiene of your list. When we talk about building a quality list, we’re talking about all of these things.

The better your list, the more you’ll be able to profit out of it. This includes both affiliate marketing and all other forms of monetization. Let’s look at what you need in order to build that quality email list.

First, get qualified leads onto your list

Come up with high-quality incentives

You want to be clear about why people are signing up for your list. What do they get out of this? Why are they giving your email address? What’s in it for them? You need to define this anytime you ask for an email address. 

If you have a general newsletter sign-up form, describe what your newsletter will do for them. This is the least you should do if you’re gathering email leads.

However, in addition to this, you will want to create very specific “bribes“. For example, you might offer a “free ebook” that they get by joining your list.

Or you might offer a “free 7-day email course”. This option works very well to ease them into your email marketing. They start out by being “enrolled in a course”, and after day 8 they transition into being “email subscribers”.

Experiment with free webinars 

These are a great way of getting quality leads on your list. People are added to the list when they provide their email address to sign up for the event. You can host a webinar about the ways to solve a certain problem the attendees are facing.

webinars are great for affiliate marketers

In fact, the affiliate product you’re promoting can be given as one of the solutions to said problem. So you get a two for one. Some of the webinar attendees will buy the product right away, during that webinar sessions. And then, you also have the email addresses of all the other attendees. They joined your email list by signing up for the webinar. So you have time to build a deeper relationship and convince them to buy the product later on.

Consider content upgrades 

If you have a blog that does well, you need to get into content upgrades. This is where you offer certain additional information in exchange for the email address of your visitors.

No, this isn’t like the traditional “get my ebook when you join my list”. Those are usually more generic and you advertise the same free ebook to everyone. With content upgrades, you’re being a lot more specific.

Let’s say that someone is reading your post on how to solve a problem. You might then offer a PDF cheat-sheet that summarizes everything and can be print out on a single page. This is a content upgrade, and it seems to work extremely well for a lot of marketers. So, consider trying it out as a way of growing your list.

Build rapport with your subscribers first

Yes, the reason you’re getting into email marketing is to sell more affiliate products. But that’s step number two. First, you have to build that relationship. Think “Relationship first, selling second”. Or even better yet, forget about “selling” altogether. Think of yourself as that good friend making a recommendation.

People need to trust you before they make a decision to buy what you’re recommending. Email them all that great content that tempts people to open your emails and keeps them engaged. The more emails they open, the deeper the relationship becomes.

Build trust and rapport first, sell second #affiliate-marketing #email-marketingClick To Tweet

Don’t be afraid to get personal with your subscribers. Show them that there is a real person on the other side of the email message. One way to build trust is to encourage two-way communication.

Ask a question that’s relevant to them and invite them to reply to your email. If they reply, respond and keep the talk going. This way, you’ll be able to learn more about them, and vice versa.

High engagement, especially replies, show your ISP that your content is desired

This will keep your campaigns away from the spam folder. By focusing on building a relationship, you achieve two things. First, more people will actually get your emails in their inbox because the ISP is on your side. Second, out of those that get your emails, a higher percentage will accept your recommendations and buy those affiliate products.

Segment your list, make it more personal

Keep in mind that you’re emailing real people. Each one of them wants to be treated like an individual, as opposed to a random generic “email receiver”. This is crucial to fully take advantage of the relationship building that email marketing allows.

The more personalized the experience that your subscribers get, the higher your profits will be. This is equally true whether you’re selling your own products or doing affiliate marketing.

make your emails feel personal

People have different preferences and behavior. They also belong in different stages of the sales cycle. While there are quite a few advanced strategies to personalize the subscriber experience, you have to start somewhere. You don’t want to start with the most advanced personalization tricks just yet.

Start with the basics, segment your list. This is the most basic level of personalization and you need to do it as soon as possible.

Proper list segmentation will increase your open rates, email relevance, and lead generation. It will also reduce the number of opt-outs and spam complaints.

You can segment your list based in one of two major ways:

  1. The data people provide during sign up
  2. Their behavior after they join the list

For example, your sign-up form might ask them to provide their gender or tick boxes about certain interests. Then, you can create segments that are based on this information. A good email provider will also automatically extract some data, such as geolocation.

The much more interesting option, however, is the second option. You can segment people out after they join your list, based on how they behave. For example, you can go into your reports and find out which people have high click-through rates. You would then be able to segment them out into a segment called “clickers”.

This is just one example. There are actually countless possibilities with our reports tool and its segmentation feature. To learn more, you may want to consult our video tutorials on segmentation and reporting.

Also, consider that segmentation can be automated, but we’ll cover some examples on that a bit further down, so keep reading.

Utilize email automation

What is the number one reason that people get into affiliate marketing? They want to create a stream of passive income. To be fair, though, you can’t set everything up just once and then have money flooding in for years to come. You still have to actively test offers, track changes on the market, etc. For the most part, affiliate marketing can qualify as mostly passive income, if you do it right.

Affiliate marketing is about creating a semi-passive income stream. Email automation helps you achieve this goal.Click To Tweet

You want to have the same mindset going into email marketing. You want most of the work done for you automatically. Now, like with everything else, there are levels to this undertaking.

At the very least, you want to start by setting up autoresponders

An autoresponder is basically a sequence of emails that a subscriber gets after a certain condition is fulfilled.

Back in the old days, email marketing was quite simple. Everyone that signed up to your mailing list would get the same email sequence (there was just one general autoresponder and the condition was “person signed up”).

Nowadays, any good email marketing provider will offer a lot more in terms of options. For example, take Emercury. Our autoresponder setup lets you choose the condition that triggers an autoresponder.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate this

Imagine that you have a general email newsletter on health advice, and everyone who signs up for your list is added to the main generic autoresponder. In it, you have a general sequence, and each email covers different topics.

In the sixth email, you discuss exercise and its relationship to health, and then you link people to your blog where you cover more on this topic. For example, might be the blog category you’re linking to.

You can then go into the autoresponder set-up, and create an “exercise autoresponder”. Under conditions, you would set it to “Type of condition: clicked”, and choose that email which contained the link.

So this is an autoresponder that would be delivered to people who’ve met that condition, i.e. clicking a specific link. And obviously, you would pitch exercise related affiliate products in this sequence. Being very specific in what you pitch will increase the number of affiliate sales that you make.

This is just one random example of how you can use autoresponder conditions, so you will want to experiment further and keep learning.

That’s not all, though, you can go even further with automation

The very first level of automation you want to dabble with is setting up a general autoresponder. After you get this mastered, you might want to set up a few additional responders that trigger on certain conditions.

And finally, when you’re ready, you might want to get into fine-grained multi-conditional automation engineering. What I just said sounds complex and scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Especially when you use an elegant email automation builder, such as the one that we provide.

Automation based on a single condition is fine for most enthusiasts who are just starting out with email marketing. In fact, it’s recommended while your list is still growing and you are still a novice. But once you get experience with email marketing and have a bigger list, you will want some more options.

Let’s take the previous example. You want to treat people differently if they’re into exercise. So you might set up an automation which checks if they clicked on a link that references your blog articles about exercise.

You would then set up the automation to proceed differently based on different scenarios. For example:

A) If they click on the link to your exercise articles (if: clicked), the automation would move them to the “exercise enthusiasts” list.

B) If they don’t click on that link about exercise articles (if: not clicked), the automation will send them a special “second chance email”. In this “second chance” email, you’d promote the exercise article link once again.
B1) If they click on this second chance link, they’ll be moved to the “exercise enthusiasts” list.
B2) If they still fail to click on this link, you’ll have the automation end there, they’re just not interested.

This is just one random example of what you can build with automation. There are literally millions of possible scenarios. It’s actually fun coming up with email automations. Especially with the graphical drag & drop automation builder that we provide.

You can actually get yourself a “free forever” account today and start experimenting with the automation builder right away. And yes, we do actually include all of our advanced automation features in our forever-free email plan.

Bonus tip: Choose a quality email marketing platform

You might have gathered that a lot of these things will depend on your email marketing platform. And you would be right. The success of your campaigns will pretty much depend on your choice of email marketing software.

Quality platforms can save you a lot of time by making it easier to use advanced marketing tactics. Aside from the things we covered above, this includes things like split-testing, social media integration, good email design templates and so much more.

Emercury is an intuitive user-friendly platform you can use for your email marketing strategies. It’s designed to help you with all the marketing strategies above. But we go a step further than most email providers.

We actually care about your email deliverability and reputation. This means that your emails actually get to your subscribers. You might be surprised that most email providers don’t care about this and do not provide lower-level plans.

You can use Emercury’s real-time stats feature to track bounces, complaints, unsubs, opens, and clicks. The advanced alert system provides insight into the health of your campaigns. You’ll get real-time alerts on URL blacklisting, deferrals, and blocked content.

Sign up for a free account today and explore all of these features. It’s so easy to use that you’ll be running your first campaign in no time at all.

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