The following is a guest post by my friend Jason Brown. I’ve known Jason since I started in this industry, and it is my privilege to share some knowledge from him with you guys. You can read more of his work at his blog, Leanvertising.com and his Twitter @leanvertising.
It’s no secret that some of the best direct digital marketers in the world have a background in affiliate marketing.
Much of the technology, strategy, and principles we use everyday as online marketers have their roots in the early days of adult affiliate marketing.
These are the guys that were developing and using tracking scripts ( before Analytics and Woopra ), CMS scripts ( before WordPress and Drupal ), spy tools ( before SpyFu and MixRank ), and split testing scripts ( before Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer ) that we now take granted in our careers. The developments in these areas were all driven by money and ROI, and became the default tools and mindset of budding online marketers.
Back when I first ventured online in 1996 and began making a name for myself, there were no fancy titles such as “growth hacker”, “CRO”, or “SEO”. You were either a good marketer or a terrible one and you spent your own money ( not your company’s or client’s ) to find out what worked with your campaigns.
When you start putting your own money on the line, you stop waiting around to clock out at 5pm and actually start developing ways to improve ROI, constantly. Things tend to change when your livelihood depends on you walking the walk.
Why are Affiliate Marketers Better Digital Marketers?
1. They are Naturally “Lean” Marketers
Most successful affiliate marketers have spent a large part of their career living the “lean startup” way of life before Eric Ries made the term popular.
- They create minimum viable products of their landing pages and advertising methods
- they practice continuous deployment of all improvements of their display placements and bidding strategies
- they constantly split-test landing pages and ads to see what wording and calls to action improved checkouts and CTR’s
- they track the most needed actionable metrics and use hard data to determine if they are successful
- they know when to pivot to other offers, messaging, and traffic sources when needed based on that data.
An affiliate marketer has largely depended upon themselves to be an expert in all phases of their marketing plan as a bad plan could mean not eating for a month or getting evicted.
2. They Have Broader Skill Sets
Having to largely depend on yourself and funding campaigns on your own dime forces you to not only fail a lot, but also push the comfort zones on your skill sets.
Most average marketing strategists ( and even Director/SVP level marketers ) struggle with just a few of these concepts.
3. They Have Deeper Marketing Skill Sets
When marketing feeds your family directly, you tend to invest more time into it. When an affiliate marketer puts in $10k of their own money into building a landing page and traffic strategy, they need to make a sizable return back.
This isn’t a game for entry-level PPC marketers or people who don’t understand the basics of Ca$hvertising.
Being an expert in conversion optimization, emerging channels such as mobile, lead nurturing, remarketing, and marketing automation all play a role in being a profitable affiliate marketer. Most digital marketing strategists lack these skills or leave them to others on their team to handle.
4. Big Picture Thinkers, Small Focus Experts
Many times online marketers get hung up on the smaller details like which split tests to run or the correct messaging on an ad. Granted, these are important tasks to stay on top of, but focusing on smaller tasks that don’t make a huge impact on the larger goal can undo even the best marketing plans.
Affiliate marketers generally push through small issues easily and get back on the goal of increasing revenue and leads. They understand the grand picture of what the business is trying to do and can often make suggestions that tie into that larger goal which will make a measurable impact.
5. They Are Master Specialists
When it’s time to go in for that triple bypass surgery, do you want the general surgeon on staff or a someone who is a heart specialist?
Most affiliate marketers are master experts in 1 or 2 areas. They typically master 1 huge traffic source ( PPC or SEO ) and can run circles around other digital marketers in that space. Many of them even specialize in just Facebook or media buys on Alexa top 1,000 websites. Whatever their specialty, they have invested large sums of money into figuring out every inch of it and can outperform others who may just dabble or work 9–5 within that same space.
They typically have inside contacts and special relationships that would you never be able to obtain on your own starting out that will benefit them when needed.
How could someone today that is just a digital marketing strategist compete against someone who is an affiliate marketer?
They realistically can’t.
When a multi-billion dollar company full of PhD’s like Google ( and Bing/Facebook ) spend all their time trying to outwit affiliate marketers and constantly lose, what makes you think you can do any differently on your own?
Affiliate marketers are not interested in office politics, micro managing co-workers, or even what fruit dip to bring to the company Thanksgiving party. They care about ROI and what it takes to achieve it, period.
They spend their late nights and weekends concerned on how to scale and grow ROI. As a growing company looking to hire more marketing staff, wouldn’t it make sense to have someone with this experience and drive on your team?
Jason Brown is an affiliate and digital marketing consultant with 18 years experience in web development, online marketing, and digital strategy.
At work, he consults marketing agencies on how best to drive lead generation and ecommerce sales for their clients. He is also currently building several SaaS tools for online marketers.
At home, he is a married father of 3 who enjoys cooking, traveling, and boating.
Follow Jason on Twitter @leanvertising and his blog at leanvertising.com.