How to Think Outside of the Box

You’re thinking about starting up some new affiliate campaigns, so you run your scrapers to see what’s other affiliates out there are doing right now. You see a couple campaigns that you think are easy to replicate, and if other affiliates are running them they must be profitable…right? Easy enough, you hit up your AM for a pay bump, create an almost identical landing page, create almost identical ads, and run that puppy.

While this seems like a fool-proof method for making money online, you’ll quickly find out that your campaigns aren’t profitable, and that you’re losing money on them. I would say the majority of the times it happens for one (or more) of the following reasons :

  • The affiliate you chose to copy has been running the offer for a while and has a special payout that enables him/her to smoke the competition (this is what happened when at least 50 affiliates used to rip my dating pages).
  • The affiliate is cloaking their landing page from you, so the page you’re taken to isn’t really the landing page they’re running.
  • The affiliate isn’t even making money with their page/offer.
  • The affiliate has optimized his ad targeting, something you wouldn’t be able to see.
  • They were the first one to the party and the first one to think outside the box.

While there is money to be made simply copying other people, the most money is made from coming up with your own ideas. It’s just natural that a new style of page or way of selling something can convert better than the norm, simply because it’s something fresh that people aren’t used to seeing.

Instead of talking about concepts and theories, once again I’m going to construct this post with an example of thinking outside of the box that I used about 6 months ago. The point isn’t to teach you everything there is to know about thinking outside of the box, it’s to show you an example of it that will hopefully get your creative juices flowing, perhaps enabling you to think outside of the box a bit more with your campaigns.

Note: the example I’m going to use didn’t really work out for me, that’s why I’m sharing it. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but one thing to always remember is that most of your campaigns will fail…especially when you’re thinking outside of the box. For every 5 ideas that don’t work at all, there will be 1 that does work; making everything worth it.

Where the Idea Spawned

A while back, a lot of affiliate started using a new “outside of the box” method for selling grants. They would collect a persons Name and E-Mail on the first page, bomb them affiliate offers through Aweber, and then after they collected the data would take them to more landing pages pushing grant affiliate offers. I’m not about to out any pages right now, but you’ll be able to see what I mean anyway.

I thought it was an interesting way of marketing affiliate offers and also getting ads approved. Where any flog or farticle page would be rejected from most ad networks, this was something that looked new and different, and also more legit. Then I started thinking if the idea could be applied to something other than government grants…

Searching around, I realized that education offers were something along similar lines to grant stuff (since a lot of edu offers offer education grants), and then started thinking about how I could pitch it. I ended up with this page :

College students are for the most part cheap, so I set up a site that told them they could be saving thousands of dollars, and also access to free entertainment. As you can see I stressed the word Free a lot, and on the right they could enter some basic info to get the free guide. This page on it’s own converted decently, I think I got around 100 email submits before I called the campaign off. One they entered their name and e-mail, I took them to this page :

The page is simple enough and looks almost exactly like the grant second page did. If this campaign were successful, I probably would have redesigned the page and split tested a few different variations so it was more unique. This is something I designed and threw up in 2 days.

This page is extremely simple and leaves them with only 1 option…to download the free cash guide. Since that’s what they wanted anyway, shouldn’t really lose anybody on this page. When they click the button, a download link would pop up and then the page in the background would redirect to an edu offer.

So what did the PDF look like that was sent to them? It was a college cash e-book that was super basic, here are a couple screens:

It’s just a PDF loaded with affiliate offers. Surprised? It wasn’t 100% affiliate offers because I wanted to instill as much trust as possible and make the college student feel like they were reading good advice, so I threw in the tip about Grooveshark, Hulu, etc. While it may seem like a shiesty way of doing things, it’s all legit. None of the offers require a credit card (except for the tiny credit report link I threw in there), and they’re all things that students can use to help save some dough.

If the students had just picked 1 of the links to follow through with and convert, the campaign could have been very profitable. If they filled out multiple offers? Could have been very very profitable. I had their e-mail too and subscribed them to a list where I sent out mostly edu e-mails.

Why Didn’t This Work?

To be honest, it probably could still work. Sometimes I’m overly impatient with things and if they don’t work immediately, I don’t spend time optimizing (especially if I have another project going on). Like I said I ran about 100 email subs and only got a couple edu offer leads from it. Some questions I think about :

  • Maybe the PDF seemed too phony?
  • Maybe I should have just pushed all the offers on the next page, instead of e-mailing it to them in a PDF?
  • Maybe I used too many offers and should have focused on 1 or 2?
  • Maybe I wasn’t taking full advantage of the mailing list?
  • Maybe I should have sent the PDF, but done something other than just redirect them to an edu offer after they downloaded?

There are many reasons it could have failed, and many things that could possibly make it successful. If I see ads for similar sites up in a few days, I’ll know what I could have done differently ;). Feel free to manipulate the idea and test it out if you want, just be warned that it didn’t work out for me initially.

So there’s an example of a way to think outside the box a bit, and push affiliate offers in a different manner than most would. This particular attempt failed, but I’ve done very similar things and have been successful.

Are you thinking outside of the box? Or are you just spamming more of the norm? Both have their advantages, but if directly copying other people isn’t working out for you, you might want to start thinking outside of the box more.


  1. January 24, 2011

    Wow thats a great idea. Im surprised it didnt work as it looks like it has a lot of potential!

    Maybe the college student didn’t trust your pdf enough to fill out the offers? You could try giving them free info first for a couple of days, then slowly get in with the offers?

    That way you have more trust?

  2. January 24, 2011

    Have you been drinking lately Paul? The last two posts are amazing and a GREAT read compared to last year. I immediately got some great ideas I could add to my current projects. It’s also great to see some landing pages of yours, even if they were not profitable for you. Do you design them in photoshop and convert them to XHTML yourself?

    Keep up the great posts and frequency of posting! Bookmarked the site again :)

  3. January 24, 2011

    I agree with Frank,

    This looks like a great idea. Some things that randomly popped into my head were these.

    Maybe your PDF was too long? Too many choices to save money? Maybe that’s where your email list comes into play.

    What if you gave them a choice on the PDF download page like if you spend too much on ____ click here. Then another choice and another and each would be a smaller ebook but the same options as your 8.

  4. Georgie
    January 24, 2011

    I had this idea as well but never did anything. What traffic sources did you advertise this on? Did you get it on Facebook?

  5. January 25, 2011

    Georgia, any time you got a good idea like this just go with it!

  6. January 26, 2011

    Cool out of the box thinking. The biggest variable that i think had an affect on the campaign was that you gave them all the offers at once in a PDF. Possibly too time consuming and too many options.

  7. January 27, 2011

    Think outside the box…. not easy for me

  8. January 27, 2011

    My guess would be most people in that demographic would have too short of an attention span to remember the pdf, go check it & follow-through. I know what happens to whitepapers & other pdfs I download. They go into the “I’ll get to that later” pile… which never gets gotten to.

    I think you’d still send the pdf – why not, but also taking them down a path after submission would be a great test to start with.

  9. January 28, 2011

    Really nice post as well, here always are great topics and helpful info Thanks for sharing

  10. Jon
    February 7, 2011

    Reading this article got me to thinking out of the box as to how I could improve my offers. This is a great read and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

  11. February 13, 2011

    I recommend you read an interesting post

  12. February 16, 2011

    wow, nice post. I think I just worked out what I was doing wrong on one of my campaigns – expecting too much reading of the visitor.

    If I were to try what you did, first I’d run the opt in box, give them a thinner version of the pdf. Then do a daily or weekly email focusing on just one offer. Thats about all they read anyway.

    One at a time could get each individual offer more attention – while if they dont like it and exit … they have only turned down ONE offer not all of them.

  13. February 16, 2011

    I always try to think outside of the box but hardly come out of an idea which seems unique

  14. March 5, 2011

    I think it didn’t work because your pdf look phony. maybe a direct link or focus on 1-2 as you said

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