Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular online business models. And there are many ways to reach your audience and drive affiliate sales. Blogging, social media marketing, and video marketing are popular options. So why invest in email marketing as well?
Read on to learn about the important role email plays in affiliate marketing, and how to harness it to grow your business.
Why Build an Email List for Affiliate Marketing?
Email marketing has some distinct features that make it one of the best ways to sell affiliate products. Email can help you:
1. Build relationships
Most online shoppers today hate sales pitches. They come off as self-serving, and consumers don’t know if everything salespeople say is really true.
92% of consumers today trust peer recommendations over advertising. So how do you convince your audience to buy? By becoming one of their peers.
Email marketing gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with your audience. Use your emails to illustrate your expert knowledge in a niche area, offering helpful tips and advice for your subscribers. Address them like a friend and over time, they’ll begin to trust you like one. Then when you do recommend an affiliate product, no one will see it as a sales pitch. Instead it’s a recommendation from a knowledgeable peer.
2. Nurture leads
Most people don’t make impulse-buys when they shop online, especially if it’s a high-dollar item. They want to learn more about a product and its value before deciding to buy. Very rarely will you be able to convince someone to buy an expensive affiliate product by mentioning it in a blog post. Email marketing gives you the opportunity to nurture leads and help them decide to buy.
Detail the product’s features and applications, compare it to similar products, etc. A popular (and effective!) affiliate marketing strategy is trying out a product yourself. Then you can document your experience for your audience. In your email messages you can deliver valuable content that helps your audience learn about the value of a product over time.
3. Reduce marketing costs
Simply put, email is one of the most effective and affordable marketing tactics out there. All you need is a quality email automation software and time to build your strategy. There’s also no need to invest in fancy graphics in your emails or newsletters. Studies have shown time and again that plain text emails are the most effective at driving marketing goals.
Here’s an example of simple, plain text marketing email promoting an affiliate product:
4. Deliver a personalized message
One feature of email marketing that makes it such an effective channel is personalization. Using automation, it’s possible to segment your audience into different groups and deliver more relevant messages to them.
For example, say you run a health niche blog for men over 60. You collect audience data using form fills and on-site behavior. You notice some of your audience are more interested in exercise while others are more interested in diet. You could segment these two groups then deliver a targeted email series that speaks to the interests of each.
When people read your blog, social posts, or videos, the message needs to be generalized. With email marketing, you can get more granular, and use this relevance to drive more affiliate sales.
To show the possibilities, here are the pillars of email segmentation:
5. Create more opportunities to sell
As an affiliate marketer, you spend a lot of energy attracting new traffic to your website. Most of these site visitors will consume your content then leave, never to return again. But what if you could capture their contact information on this first visit? Then you’ll have more opportunities to interact with them and sell affiliate products down the road.
Lead magnets and newsletter signups are great opportunities to capture contact information. Then it doesn’t matter if a visitor clicks your affiliate link and makes a purchase. Having their contact information gives you more opportunities to upsell other products through email.
3 Easy Steps to Email Marketing Success as an Affiliate Marketer
Step 1: Start building your list
The first thing you need to succeed at email marketing is a list of contacts who might be interested in your affiliate products. To achieve this, you’ll need to use signup forms to capture email addresses from your site visitors.
This is assuming you’ve already generated a healthy stream of site traffic with your marketing tactics. If not, read this post on traffic generation strategies first.
There are lots of different ways to get email signups from your website. The most common method is setting up a call-to-action to sign up for your newsletter. Here’s an example from my site:
Another popular option is to create lead magnets. These are premium content resources, such as an ebook, special guide, template, worksheet, etc.
If you’re looking for lead magnet inspiration, try checking out the Backlinko blog by Brian Dean. He creates all sorts of gated content, including content upgrades, exclusive access blog posts, and more:
You can also create a free mini email course, host a webinar, or use other strategies to capture email addresses.
Step 2: Create your emails
In email marketing there are two main types of messages you can send out to your list:
Autoresponders are a series of emails that you send out to different subscribers at different times. For example, if someone visits your website and downloads a lead magnet, this can trigger an autoresponder series to go out to them. These emails are paced out, delivered over a series of days or weeks. These emails work together as a whole to achieve a goal, such as convincing your audience to convert.
Broadcasts are individual emails that are sent out to all relevant subscribers. They’re not a part of a series and are usually not triggered by audience behavior. Often broadcasts are time sensitive messages. For example, a newsletter, digest, sale announcement, or new product launch could be a broadcast email.
You can send broadcasts out to all your subscribers. Or you can target certain subgroups, such as people interested in a certain topic or product category.
To develop an effective email marketing strategy, you’ll want to use a combination of broadcast and autoresponder emails.
How to Build an Autoresponder Series for Affiliate Marketing
Your autoresponder series should include a variety of different email types. This will help you maintain your audience’s attention and drive engagement. You don’t want to send a series of emails just promoting products.
- Introductory email
You’ll create one initial email that introduces your audience to the autoresponder they signed up for. What you write here will depend on how your audience signs up. If you attracted them with a free ecourse, then this email will explain what to expect in the course. If they downloaded a lead magnet, this email can give them access to it and hint at more valuable content to come.
Use this email as an opportunity to introduce yourself as an individual. Explain a little about your background, expertise, and why you want to help them on their journey to learn more about your niche topic.
Here’s a good example of an introductory email for a free email course from Freelancers Transformation:
- Niche value emails
The vast majority of emails you send out as part of your autoresponder will be value emails. These include content that educate subscribers and help them solve a particular pain point you address in your niche. You can easily turn a blog post into a value email by summarizing and linking back to the original content.
It’s okay to mention affiliate products in your value emails if they’re relevant to the topic at hand. Just don’t actively sell them at this point.
- Relationship building emails
This is another type of email you want to appear at intervals between your value emails. Relationship building emails are about telling a personal story. You want to connect with your audience as an individual so you can build trust. Relationship building emails usually retell experiences from your own life. They show readers that you understand what they’re going through. You also have experience under your belt to help them navigate their own journey.
Here’s a nice example of a relationship building email from Martin Dasko of Studenomics:
- Product emails
Towards the end of your autoresponder series, you’ll start delivering targeted product emails. These are aimed at illustrating the value of your affiliate product. They can also be an opportunity for your subscribers to make a purchase. Product emails include important information to help your audience make a purchase decision. Illustrate features and show product comparisons. They can also include a product review or simple recommendation for a product you use and love.
- Sales email
The last email of your main autoresponder series will be a traditional sales pitch. Some of your audience may have already converted from your product emails. Now is your last chance to win commissions with your autoresponder series.
Use whatever tactics you can to close the sale, such as reiterating how the product has helped you or by highlighting a special sale/promotion.
Step 3: Analyze and adjust
To schedule and automatically send out your autoresponder sequence to subscribers, you’ll need to invest in marketing automation. This is a valuable tool to help you optimize your strategy, as you also need to track each email and analyze performance.
Here are some important areas to focus on when analyzing and adjusting your email marketing strategy:
Optimize subject lines
Your subject line is probably the most important aspect of your email content. It provides your audience with a preview of what your content is about before they click through. If your subject line isn’t compelling enough, then they’ll never open the email and consume your content.
Your email marketing software will have options to A/B test different subject lines with your audience. Create different versions of your email content with different subject lines and track which gets a higher open rate.
Track content engagement
You’ll also want to analyze the content of your emails. This helps you determine their relevance and effectiveness at driving your marketing goals. The best way to see if your subscribers are interested in your email content is by tracking engagement. Are they reading your emails? Are they clicking through on internal links back to your blog content?
Like with your subject lines, you can also A/B test different kinds of content with your audience. Sometimes it’s your call-to-action that needs improvement. Or maybe your emails are too long. You can test all these elements and more to see what is the most effective. Identify which kinds of content generate the most engagement form your audience, then create more of that type.
Track affiliate performance
You can do everything possible to optimize your email message. But if the product you’re promoting isn’t a good fit, nothing else matters. If your autoresponder has great open and engagement rates but doesn’t lead to many sales, this is probably the reason. Track the performance of your various affiliate products. This ensures you’re always recommending the most relevant products for your audience’s interests and needs.
The Bottom Line
In today’s digital world, there are so many ways to reach new audiences and promote affiliate products. But platforms like social media, YouTube and the blogosphere have become so crowded. It can be challenging to build the personal relationships you need to convince your audience to buy. That’s where email marketing comes in. Build a list of targeted contacts, create a lead nurturing autoresponder and optimize it. You won’t regret the investment when it leads to more affiliate sales in the long run.