A common philosophy thrown around the affiliate space goes something like:
You can outsource most of the leg work in your affiliate campaigns, giving you more time to focus on overall strategy & traffic sources. Things like landing page design, landing page coding, API integrations, and other “busy work” can all be done by a virtual team of Indians on oDesk for $20/hr total. There’s no reason to learn how to do these things when you can pay somebody else to do it for you.
I know a lot of affiliates who have used that strategy and are successful (never learning how to design/code/handle logic/etc), but I think they could have had more success if they took a step back in the beginning and taught themselves every aspect to running a campaign.
Now, I’m not saying that outsourcing work like this is always a bad idea, because at a certain point in any business you have to outsource in order to continually grow. And when you’ve got campaigns cruising with money in the bank, you’re not going to want to waste 3 hours building landing pages. But let me switch industry-gears for a quick second to help make my point when it comes to new affiliates or entrepreneurs coming into the game.
Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Steve Wozniak. Karl Benz. Pretty much any creator of an innovative product. None of these guys got into their industries with the strategy “Wow, this is a great idea. Let me piece together a team of people who can build this prototype and eventual product.” They were passionate about their industries and taught themselves how to build their product from the ground up – nearly every aspect.
I think a big reason why they all became so successful was because having the knowledge to execute every aspect of the business altered their creativity. Facebook wouldn’t have been the same if Mark Zuckerberg thought of the idea in his head and then hired a bunch of cheap laborers to code it up. I’m sure there were dozens of moments when writing his code he stopped mid-line and thought “Wait, why would I do it this way? If I do it that way, I can add this new feature in.” His creativity was inspired by his passion and all-encompassing skill set – and that’s what made Facebook, Facebook.
That leads to another point: would Facebook have been the same if Mark didn’t know how to code and instead pieced together his team, worked with them to develop and create the idea, and then relied on them all to execute in unison? Doubtful. He had an idea, it popped into his head, and he immediately started coding it. That avoided the process of building the outsourced team which may have resulted in ideas being lost in translation or simply forgotten because he couldn’t act on it in the moment. It’s not rocket science that creativity inspires innovation, but knowledge often inspires creativity.
How does this relate to affiliate marketing? I mean, you’re not looking to build the first flying car or innovative product…you’re just looking to run some crappy affiliate offers and make a profit. But having the mindset of being passionate about innovating is what gives the top affiliates an advantage in the space. Affiliate marketing appears to be a somewhat simple and easy dream job, make money hammering away at a laptop from the beach. Once you actually start testing your campaigns, you’ll realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be most of the time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen an ad repeatedly, copied the ad & landing page, gone to a network to get the offer, and then ran it only to lose a few thousand dollars. To a lot of new affiliates, that $2,000 can be 100% of your investment capital and can completely discourage (or disable) you from pressing on. How do you avoid that mistake? Innovate your campaigns. Come up with more creative ad copy. Connect with the user on your landing page more effectively. Find unique affiliate offers that you can leverage the same audience on but see a higher conversion rate.
It’s the innovative creativity that will lead all of those optimization ideas to you naturally. You can come up with catchy taglines and have your designer plug them into a page easily, but you may come up with a more creative tagline if you’re actually in Photoshop watching the words/typeface flow into the page. And it may be that extra ounce of creativity that pushes your campaign profitable.
This is something I’ve slowly learned over the years and in the past 6 months have put the effect into full-throttle. It’s also the direction I’m going to be taking this blog – not helping you learn how to outsource – but helping you learn how to insource so that you can build every aspect of your campaign. Not only will it help your affiliate campaigns, but it just may give you that next innovative idea that you’ll be able to execute on in the moment.