Most marketers know that the real money is in the list — the email list, that is. Social media platforms can always clamp down on your reach and jack up the rates you’ll pay to run paid ads.
A blog gives you more control, but you still need to get people to click into it — and that often requires serious SEO skills. Either way, you’ll probably spend quite a bit of time and money building an audience on social media or your blog.
Email lists provide marketers with an ideal combination of control and visibility for a reasonable cost — if you know how to reach the inbox.
Email seems straightforward, but many marketers (affiliate or otherwise) have built prosperous careers around an ability to land promotional emails in subscribers’ primary inboxes. There are many ways to maximize your chances of being seen, but just a few mistakes can make all the difference between a smashing success and getting spam-flagged.
Here are some simple step-by-step tips to turn an email list into a lucrative source of affiliate traffic.
1. Use the right email provider
You need automation to send large volumes of emails to your list regularly. However, many email marketing services discourage or completely disallow affiliate marketing due to the perceived risk of low-quality campaigns hurting their deliverability.
If you try to send emails with affiliate links through the wrong service, you can actively harm your campaign and make it harder to monetize your list in the future. Check any service’s terms and conditions before signing up. Suppose you can’t find anything about affiliate marketing. In that case, you may want to take the extra step of contacting the service provider’s support team directly to make sure you can use it the way you want before spending a lot of time and effort setting up and sending your first campaigns.
2. Collect viable emails the right way
Most marketers build their lists through opt-in forms on websites or landing pages. You can also collect email addresses through social media campaigns, depending on the platform and available ad types.
Some marketers will buy email lists and try to convert them into affiliate buyers, but nothing good comes easy. It’s risky and easy to mess up for several reasons.
Email marketing services are far more stringent about purchased lists than they’re likely to be about affiliate links because blasting out emails to strangers is a great way to get spam-flagged and ruin your email sending reputation. Someone who’s never opted into your list is going to be far less likely to be interested in whatever you’re trying to sell — if their email even works in the first place. Many email lists available for purchase are wildly out of date and full of dead emails and all types of spam traps.
If you don’t think you can build your own list, try to rent an active, engaged one from a reputable marketer you trust. This is never easy and very rarely cheap, so you’re just better off building and nurturing your list from the start. Make it a core part of your marketing strategy — if you can put up a website, you should be using it to collect emails.
3. Build relationships instead of going for quick sales
Even if someone only sees your Facebook ad or blog post once, that might be enough. People tend to stick around after subscribing to email lists. You can also influence how long they stay subscribed with your approach to email marketing.
People like to buy, but they don’t want to feel sold to quite so much. So... treat your list like a long-term relationship.
Nurture it. Give things time to unfold, and stay patient. Just like any type of relationship in life, everything in good time. If you can give readers free stuff, like infographics or links to valuable resources, even better.
Don’t go into hard-sell mode all the time. Try to send emails regularly, just to add value or entertainment to your subscribers’ lives. It’s important to remain visible, remain valuable, and remain relevant. It’s harder to do that if your subscribers only see “Buy now! Buy now!” every time they click one of your emails. If you treat them well, they’ll be more receptive to your sales pitches when you do roll them out.
4. Focus on your subject lines!
If you don’t have a personal relationship with someone, and they weren’t expecting your message ahead of time, they’re probably going to decide whether to open your email based on its subject line.
If your subject line doesn’t grab reader interest, don’t expect good email open rates. You certainly won’t get anyone to click your affiliate links to buy anything, either.
Good marketers are always looking out for catchy, scroll-stopping subject lines. You might find inspiration from competitors or your favorite brands. You’ve probably subscribed to a ton of email lists already, so take a closer look at anything in your inbox that makes you want to click and read more. You can also create a “dummy” email account (Gmail works well for this) just to subscribe to the email lists of well-known marketers or brands known for their high-quality content.
You can also check out a post we published earlier this year, with 40 excellent email subject lines we’ve particularly enjoyed. Use this list to come up with your own catchy subject ideas.
5. Test, test, test (and track everything!)
Any full-featured email marketing service should have extensive segmentation and personalization options. Segmentation simply means breaking your whole list into smaller “batches” based on various criteria and sending variations on your email (or different emails entirely) to other groups.
For example, you might have collected your subscribers’ location or gender when they signed up for your list. You can send different emails to people on the East Coast of the US than you would to U.K. subscribers, or schedule the same email to send at other times for different time zones.
Many marketers also segment their list by subscriber activity. Recent sign-ups might get differently-worded emails than those that have been on your list for a year, and people who’ve opened your last five emails might receive a different email than those who haven’t opened anything in ages. Segmentation is complex and comes with many variables, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test things out.
No matter how you test and segment things, you should always track results and analyze them regularly. Deliverability rates, open rates, clickthroughs, and unsubscribes are basic metrics all email marketers should know and follow. If one send performs much better than most others, take a closer look to figure out why. If a campaign bombs, check your variables and adjust. Your subject line might be at fault, or you might have accidentally used some words that trigger spam flags in the email text.
You can also track results on a per-user basis — that’s how you’ll know if a subscriber’s been opening or ignoring your recent emails.
Email marketing isn’t something you can master overnight, but everyone starts somewhere. Keep learning, keep sending, and keep testing. Over time, you’ll generate more affiliate sales. And if your emails bomb and you destroy your reputation... well, you can always get another domain name and another account and try again.
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