Simple Optimization: Keep Moving Them Through the Funnel

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

A few weeks ago, I wrote how I create affiliate marketing angles in systems.
Campaigns can be chaotic and unpredictable. But thinking in systems can help you at least understand the processes more.
Besides angles, I believe that optimization is another area you should focus more when it comes to systemizing.
I’ve always said that profitable campaigns are built, not discovered.
Occasionally you can launch a campaign and it’s immediately profitable. That’s great, and you should milk it as hard as possible.
But that’s not the way real life works. 
Most of the time the campaigns start off either breaking even or you’re bleeding money. You’re going to have to split test your way until you figure out the right combination that profits.
I understand that it can be stressful to split-test a campaign if you’re losing money each day.
Am I wasting my time with this campaign, or do I have to keep testing? There’s so many different variables to test, I don’t even know where to start!
Have you ever felt this way?
Don’t worry. Everyone goes through this stage. It’s natural.
The more experience you get, and the more positive references experience you get, then the easier it is to deal with the ups and downs of campaign launches.
So, back to optimization. Which order do you do things in? What the fuck is multivariate testing?
It can be overwhelming, and you’ll understand everything in time. 

I want to share with you a framework that’ll help you a bit more when it comes to optimizing a campaign to profitability.

Thinking in Funnels

If you’ve ever been in sales or marketing, you’ve heard the term “funnel.”
I actually first heard the phrase in one of my first marketing classes at Georgia Tech way back in the day.
For our assignment that day, the Professor talked about a struggling car dealership.
This car dealership was losing money each month and the owner had no idea what to do.
He brought in a sales consultant to come in and improve their systems.
The salesman breaks down their process into a funnel as shown.

First, you contact people who are potentially interested in buying a car.
Second, you try to book an appointment with them to see the car.
Third, they show up to the dealership and take a test drive.
Finally, you sell them the car.
The goal is simple: get more people into each stage.
There’s naturally going to be people who book an appointment but don’t show up. There are people who do a test drive, but decide not to buy the car right?
Well, that’s where optimization comes into play.
The class broke off into different groups that were in charge of each stage.
My team was in charge of getting people who have booked an appointment to actually show up.
33% is the established benchmark. That means right now, only 33% of people show up.
The goal was to utilize different techniques to increase that number. Getting that number to 50% would significantly boost the bottom line.
So, how do we get people to show up?
Some of our ideas were:

  1. Call them the day before to remind them, and see if they have any questions.
  2. Send a reminder email with tips on how to prepare, and give them directions.
  3. If they missed the appointment, contact them immediately to re-schedule.
  4. Set up and send them a Google calendar invitation.
  5. Find out if they have a ride to the dealership. If they were close enough, perhaps someone from the dealership could pick them up.
  6. Provide a free gift (e.g., a lunch voucher) if they show up.

That’s a lot of options.
But you’re limited by time and money. How do you pick which one to do?
That’s tough to answer, but I’d probably start off with the first four. They’re easy wins.
Number five has costs. Picking someone up for a ride to the car dealership means you’re paying for the employee’s time and gas for the car.
What about incentivizing people with a lunch voucher? You could start attracting low-quality leads who are only there for a lunch voucher.
Remember that if you’re spending money, you really need to know your numbers.
Instead of looking at the process as a whole, break the sales process down into different stages.

Visualize Your Affiliate Campaign as if it’s a Funnel

Affiliate marketing was confusing to me when I first started.
Someone said I needed to improve my ads. Another person said that the offer is the most important thing.
I didn’t have a way of visualizing a campaign or any framework to work from.
It hit me later on that you can view a campaign as a funnel.

I drew an image similar to this on a sheet of paper.
To simplify the optimization process, I told myself…just get them to the next stage.

Increase the click-through rate at all stages.
The first thing I did was to figure out what the weak links were.
This meant figuring out where I sucked the most in a campaign.
If you have enough experience, then you start developing your own internal metrics.
You might figure out that a landing page of this type should be at a 20% landing page click-through rate. One that is 15% means it needs a lot of work.
If you don’t have internal benchmarks then you can ask around.
What kind of EPC are other people getting on the offer? What are their conversion rates?
Be careful when you’re asking for other people’s benchmarks. Every campaign is different.
Next, you should come up with a game plan for each stage. It’s good to create some sort of checklist that you can always refer to in case you’re stuck.
Click on Your Ad

  1. Test the Targeting / Placements
  2. Test the Headline
  3. Test the images

Clicked on the Offer Page

  1. Increase your landing page speeds
  2. Test the Copy
  3. Add in Social Proof / Testimonials

Convert the Offer

  1. Split test different offer
  2. Split test the SAME offer across different affiliate networks
  3. Test different models for the same offer (Straight sale vs trial. Pay per sale vs Pay per lead)

Don’t Forget Your Goal

The goal is to make money.
I repeat, the goal is to make money.
Don’t chase a high click-through rate at the expense of your conversion rates.
Imagine that you’re in the car insurance vertical.

You want to get a higher click-through rate on your ads, right? You start creating ads featuring sexy women in front of crashed Lamborghinis.
Your click-through rate is through the roof!
But despite the higher CTR, you’re ultimately less profitable compared to your tamer ads.
What happened?
You’re attracting the wrong prospects.
They’re not really interested in signing up for car insurance. They just clicked the ads because they saw a hot woman.
Same thing goes for offering free lunch to people at the car dealership. Are they interested in buying a car, or are they interested in the free lunch?
People interested in a Bentley don’t care about your $5 Subway voucher.  
One other thing I want to point out is to see if you can increase the number of stages in the funnel.
I kept the examples as simple as possible for explanation purposes.
What if there’s another dealership, but their sales funnel has more stages?
After the sale is over, they’re upselling you on car service and maintenance. They have an email campaign asking for referrals and positive reviews on social media.  
Wouldn’t that make more money?
I think that’s one of the problems facing affiliate marketers.
If you’re simply doing ads → landing page → affiliate offer, you don’t have a lot of options to increase sales.
It worked easily for so many years because the market was inefficient.
Traffic sources didn’t know how to deal with marketers who broke the rules, and most large companies didn’t know how to advertise online.
But now a lot more people know about digital marketing and affiliate marketing techniques.
How are you going to adapt?
One thing that I’ve been preaching lately is to add in more “levers” to your campaigns through capturing emails.
Once you capture a prospect’s email, the funnel process gets longer and more profitable.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Lead Gen Engine.
One final note about campaigns: there’s always something to improve.

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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