Tag : business planning

Winning at Affiliate Survivor

affiliate survivalSometimes being an affiliate can be like participating in Survivor. To win you have to need to outwit, outlast, and outplay your competitors.

There’s a reason the show Survivor has endured on TV for 36 seasons. The premise is very simple. However, it plays out with unexpected twists and turns each time as the mix of various personalities navigate a social experiment with many factors out of their control. Participants surely understand the basics. Many are even super-fans or devoted students of the game. But crucial to the competition are adaptability and savvy in all facets of the game.

And while there’s no getting voted off the affiliate island, consumers do “vote”with their wallets. That means affiliates must be able to deftly navigate a myriad of areas including social, content, brand building, SEO, business planning and more. Faltering in any of those areas might extinguish your affiliate aspirations. Game over.

Outwit

Have a Plan – You’ve got to have a plan and execute on it. It’s inevitable  that things change – and rapidly. You’ll need to adapt and be flexible. But without a solid plan going in or an evolving plan, you’re not going to be able to move forward.You should review your business plans every 6 months and update as necessary.

Go Deep – Going a mile wide and an inch deep, isn’t going to get you to success. Instead think about doing the opposite. By focusing on a very specific niche and taking deeper dive into that specific market, you’ll be able to better serve the needs of the audience. It’s a more effective tactic to have a small, extremely loyal user base. , than a huge base that isn’t invented in what you are promoting. Maybe as a travel affiliate your niche is Las Vegas or vacationing families or roadtrippers or foodies.

Outplay

Leverage Content – One way to outplay rivals is to create content they can’t compete with. Because affiliates are often smaller companies they are more nimble than the brands they promote. This enables them to innovate more quickly. That’s true of leveraging content marketing as well. Creating unique, compelling content that has a laser focus on the target market, can be done very quickly by affiliates. And by using analytics it’s simple to see what resonates with the audience and what converts.

Be a Trendsetter – Get in front of breakout and seasonal trends. If you’re planning in advance it’s easier to see in July what might be hot for the holidays. There are also more seasonal events emerging – like Spring Break. Always be on the lookout for new trends in pop culture, art, among celebrities, etc. Often trends from other areas can be easily translated (with a bit of creativity) to specific niches. It might be a color that is hot, a style of decor or a something in fashion. For example if you’re a travel affiliate, you could leverage a return to nostalgia. More people are looking for experience getaways that recreate their childhood – like renting an RV and visiting all the National Parks or taking in baseball games at several major league parks.

Get Creative with Content – Think beyond the blog. Posts are great for some content. But think about mixing it up. You can use quizzes, infographics, video, reviews, user generated content. unusual content formats for recommending products and more. Variety keeps regular visitors interested. It also adds interest and can help with search rankings. Check out more ways to get creative with your content.

Outlast

Build a Brand – Consider what you’re doing to develop the brand of your affiliate website. That’s because brand building comes with many benefits. They include recognition, loyalty, a perception of size and quality, and the perception of experience and reliability.  These combine to provide a significant comfort level for potential customers. Establishing overall trust helps shoppers eventually become repeat customers, which can increase average order value and lifetime customer value – all important success metrics.

Think Recurring Revenue – With affiliate marketing, there is no assurance that your current strategy will work in a month. It could be Google updating their ranking algorithm, your favorite affiliate program shutting down, or media buying costs increasing. It’s wise to mitigate against the possibility of major changes.

Diversify Revenue –  Don’t rely on a single traffic source or a single monetization method. Affiliate, pay-per-click, sponsorships, paid placements all help your affiliate business from being vulnerable to one source of making money.

Look for New Promotional Opportunities – There may be some brands that perform well for your affiliate sites, but consider also joining new programs. Don’t get stuck in what’s working now. But you may be overlooking other programs to help increase your affiliate revenue and work well with in your niche.

Take Advantage of Tech Trends – Staying on top of what’s hot in tech can put you ahead of the competition. Whether it’s AI, chatbots, new mobile tech, blockchain and cryptocurrency developments or whatever else is coming down the pike, it’s always an advantage to be thinking about how developments might impact your business. Or better yet, how you can leverage that tech to make more money.

Careful consideration of all these areas can help make you the ultimate affiliate survivor with a sustainable, successful business.

Do Black Friday and Cyber Monday Matter Anymore?

black friday cyber monday holiday salesSpring may have just arrived, but it’s not too early for affiliates to be thinking about this year’s holiday season.

And with researchers predicting this holiday period to stretch for an even longer duration, it’s imperative affiliates understand shifting consumer shopping habits as well as how online retailers plan to tackle the holidays.

The Christmas Creep

Thanks to ecommerce, consumers can shop 24x7x365 on nearly any device. And better fulfillment options allow for delivery up to the last minute during the holidays. That’s good and bad news for affiliates. Those factors enable affiliates to promote holiday offers for a longer period and earn more money. But, it can also cause some consumers to become numb or even turned off at the barrage of holiday offers that start too early or last too long.

For Christmas studies show that many consumers begin shopping as early as Labor Day. In 2016 some 34 million people had already started their holiday shopping in early September, according to CreditCards.com and close to one million were already done by that time.

Consumers are becoming a little more accustom and slightly less annoyed by early holiday promotions, according to a survey by RichRelevance. Still, more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) said they were annoyed or very annoyed by holiday goods appearing in stores (and online) before Halloween. However, that’s down from 71 percent in 2014.

A week of Black Friday?

Complicating matters are evolving patterns related to individual shopping days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the past these single-shopping days often dominated the holiday season. But a shift has been taking place and these single-day events have also grown to encompasses multiple days. In some cases brands are divorcing these terms from the actual holiday period and also using them for other seasonal promotions (think Black Friday sales in July).

Research shows that recently Black Friday has gone on much longer than just the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, there are cases where it lasts for weeks. A recent Econsultancy study cites Amazon as an example of an online retailer stretching out a Black Friday event for up to 14 days.

In the Econsultancy survey, retailers were asked about the duration of their Black Friday events. Fully 35% characterized it as the four-day weekend (from Black Friday to Cyber Monday), while 45% said it extended beyond four days.

What Days Matter

According to Adobe, Cyber Monday was the largest online shopping day of 2017, accounting for $6.59 billion in sales. Black Friday ranked second with $5.03 billion. And Thanksgiving Day has also become a shopping holiday in its own right, responsible for $2.87 billion in retail ecommerce sales last year.

This research seems to underscore multiple points:

  • Black Friday promotions are continuing to bleed into the surrounding days.
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be as important as ever.
  • New individual shopping days are emerging.
  • Consumers remain responsive to big holiday shopping days.
  • These individual holiday promotions may be less about getting deals and instead about consumers’ desire to participate in the actual events.

But just as many consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier, many are also waiting until the last minute. According to MasterCard, the second largest weekly growth rate in US retail ecommerce sales during the 2017 holiday season occurred the week of December 17, when sales increased 23.7%. And December 23, a Saturday, was the second highest shopping day of the year. Now digital shoppers are postponing purchases until the eve of Christmas Eve.

So, it’s to the affiliate’s advantage to spread out the holiday sales since there is less likelihood of retailers’ websites crashing and delayed deliveries. But the surge of shoppers starting sooner, can also result in returns, which impacts affiliate commissions.

The bottom line is that affiliates must delicately balance the idea of seizing the multitude of holiday promotional opportunities, but not alienating or frustrating consumers.

Make a Difference in 20 Minutes

20 minutes productivityDoes it seems like there’s never enough time in the day to accomplish everything on your to-do list? We hear you. But we think that somewhere in each day you might have just 20 minutes that could be used differently.

Twenty minutes might seem like a big hunk of time to carve out of your jam-packed day. But then again, it might not seem like enough time to actually accomplish something meaningful. However,  20 minutes is the perfect amount of time (depending on how you use it) to see a variety of benefits, including:

  • Breaking up your routine
  • Helping you be more productive
  • Letting you tackle tasks you dread or having been putting off
  • Enabling you to learn something new
  • Sparking your creativity
  • Getting yourself connected to others
  • Allowing you time to rejuvenate and get centered

Doing things in short bursts and having a set time limit can make a big difference in your life and work.  

Here are some things that you can do in 20 minutes:

  • Go for a one mile walk (or run)
  • Take a power nap
  • Brainstorm blog post ideas
  • Write a to-do list for the next day
  • Run a quick errand
  • Call a friend and spend some time catching up with them
  • Write snail mail to a friend, family member, or business colleague
  • Do some yoga stretches
  • Update your phone, computer, tablet, etc
  • Clean up your desk
  • Read
  • Tackle interruptions that emerged from earlier interruptions
  • Calendar your to-do list and move items into scheduled activities
  • Blast through paperwork (or any other task you dread)
  • Get out of your office
  • Acknowledge someone else’s accomplishments in an email or a phone call
  • Decide the first thing you need to do tomorrow as schedule it as a priority
  • Attend to your network by asking a peer if there is something you can do to help them
  • Solicit feedback from your audience, peers or trusted advisors
  • Forward an article of interest to someone
  • Meditate
  • Organize something in your house if you work from home

Additionally, another thing you can do in 20 minutes is get some top-notch advice from experts who want to see your business succeed. Interested in learning more about a free 20 minute consultation with someone on the Chateau20 team to help take your affiliate efforts to the next level? Contact Tiffany Ponds-Kimbro (tpondskimbro@chateau20.com).  We’re here to help you.

Focus on the Big Picture of Your Affiliate Business

big picture affiliate businessSometimes affiliates can get mired in the day-to-day running of their business. That can mean a daily deluge of posting new creatives, updating offers, adding new content, and engaging and promoting via social media. It can be overwhelming – not to mention time consuming.

It’s often said that in order to move your business forward you need to work ON your business and not IN your business.Sometimes it’s difficult to see the larger picture. Especially when your earnings are the direct result of executing your daily tasks.

Imagine, instead of spending all your time on the day-to-day,  taking a full week to implement efforts that will make you more money. You may sacrifice earnings from a single week. Perhaps a costly choice. But what if that effort produced a 10 to 20% lift in weekly income going forward? Wouldn’t that make working ON your business a worthwhile priority?

Here are some signs that you might be working too much IN your business and not enough ON your business:

1. You’re Not Questioning the Status Quo

If you’re simply moving from activity to activity, or project to project without a plan, that is cause for concern. Growing your business is not just about getting the daily tasks done. You can hire someone to tackle those things. You shouldn’t always be heads down. Instead, you should be asking why are we doing things this way? What would take the business to the next level? How can I improve things? Are there new partners I can work with?

Red Flag: No planning blocks scheduled on your calendar.

2. You’ve Stopped Listening

You’re not seeking input from those working with or for you. You are not soliciting idea, insights or suggested improvements.  It’s never healthy to think or behave as if you have all the answers to every problem. By ignoring outside perspectives you’re missing out on more than information–you’re missing out on building team moral.

Red Flag: Thinking or saying: “This is how we’ve always done things!” is a signal you’re shut down.

3. You’ve Become a Control Freak

It’s your business and you know best what and how to do everything.

Expertise is valuable. Dependency is crippling. If your business can’t operate effectively without you, it’s vulnerable to instability. Doing more (and more) yourself, with higher expectations for better outcomes, adds personal stress–not professional scale.

Red Flag: A profound sense of ‘security’ based on your lengthy To-Do list.

4. You’re Unable to Admit Mistakes

The ability to admit you were wrong is no longer there. Or maybe you’ve become too attached to your ideas. Or maybe a strong sense of perseverance won’t let you stop – even when what you’re doing is unsustainable. In either situation, the result is ultimately the same: the big picture is lost.

Red Flag: You rarely acknowledge wrongdoing — even minor goofs.

5.You’re Just Too Busy

“I just don’t have the time to do anything else!” If that is your daily mantra, you may be in trouble. Additionally, it’s a problem if you’ve started to rationalize NOT taking the time to do other things. This is a clear sign that you have started down a path of potential misfires and bad decisions.

Red Flag: Others frequently tell you: You’re really busy.

If you find that you have experienced one or more of these warning signs recently, do yourself and your business a favor: take a half-day for yourself. Get out of your own way. Spend time away from your office and business. Think about where you want your business to be in the next several months or year. It’s a good time to dust off your business plan and see how close you are to the plan with your current state of affairs.

Get Unstuck from Your Routine

shake u your routine and get unstuckIt’s good to shake things up every once in while. And that includes your work routine.

Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Or not as productive as you’d like. Or perhaps you just need something new to get you inspired and motivated.

Having a routine is often the key to being productive – especially if you’re affiliate and working at home. But sometimes a routine can feel like a rut. You’re tackling that to-do list like a boss, but every now and again it feels like simply going through the motions. You’ve developed processes and put systems in place that make you efficient. But after awhile it’s like the movie Groundhog Day. If you know that feeling, it might be time to change up how you approach work on daily basis.

And while having a routine might make you more efficient, often it can lead to being stuck working in your business rather than on your business.

Here are some ways to shake up your routine:

Create a New Schedule

If you wake up at the same time each day and do the same tasks in a same order, try switching it up. Instead of heading straight for the home office when you wake up, hit the gym or go for a walk. Maybe you normally work at your desk for lunch. Instead try scheduling a lunch meeting with a friend or business contact.

Additionally, think about how your get through your daily to-list and how you can build in time for working on bigger picture issues. That might mean designating one day or half a day each week to just thinking about expansion, implementing new strategies, or developing a plan for future growth.

Change Locations

If you always work in a same location, try picking one day a week to work elsewhere. Maybe it’s a cafe, or a co-working space, or even another room of the house. Being physically located in a different environment takes your brain off auto-pilot. You never know what ideas your brief work hours in a new space might inspire.

Build in Flexibility

Being over-scheduled or having a monster to-do list, puts you in a state of constantly moving quickly to complete tasks in specific order and on time. It also means you have no time to just let your mind wander or to think about other issues. You’re simply in get-stuff-done mode.

Try pairing down on the number of must-do items. Having some breathing room and focusing only on your top priorities for the day or week will give you some flexibility in your schedule. It also means that if something important comes up, or there is an unscheduled interruption, you’re entire day won’t be thrown off course.

Get Creative – Literally

Take time out to be creative. Either do an art project or build something with no reason or obligation to do the project except to be creative. When you’re focused on something that uses another part of your brain, you often come up with solutions to other problems. It’s also good for your mind to relax and recharge and creative activities allow for that.

Learn a New Skill

Make a point of learning a new skill unrelated to your business or work. It can be anything – meditation, a craft, CPR  – whatever is of interest. Incorporating “practice” time will unstick the stuck.

Network

It an be invorgating to spend time with colleagues or peers. This is especially true if you’re isolated by working from home. So, whether it’s planning a once a week lunch with a different person each week or attending a local business meet-up, it’s good to interact with others. If making it out of the home office is overwhelming or not practical, you can try starting a mastermind group via phone or over the internet. Or think about trying to set up a call with one new person each week to talk about business opportunities.

Additionally, not every networking opportunity needs to be focused specifically on your business or industry. Often talking with people in other areas of business will spark on idea. You’ll also likely find that others face many similar challenges of running a business. They might have some good strategies for you. Or, at least, you can commiserate.

Find Help

If you’re in a financial position to hire someone, that will certainly help shake up your routine. Delegating daily tasks to others frees you up to think about growing your business. Instead of being mired in the day-to-day, your valuable time can be spent on bigger issues that could earn you more money. However, when hiring anyone, make sure to have clear systems in place and provide employees with the tools, resources, and instructions to independently complete their tasks. You don’t want overseeing every move of a new employee to be added to your daily to-do list.

Altering your current routine can spark innovation and efficiency. It will probably take a while to get accustomed to the new normal, but once you do, you’ll be firing on all cylinders. However, remember that your new routine may also eventually turn into a rut. So, you might want to think about shaking things up once a year or every 18 months.

Important Affiliate Issues for 2018

 

It’s never  pleasant to think about legal issues and regulations that might adversely impact your affiliate business. But it’s absolutely necessary to keep on top of such laws and proposed legislation.

There are two big legal issues that have been ongoing over the several months (and more) and affiliates need to understand how they might be affected going into 2018.

Net Neutrality

On December 14, 2018, The Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet.The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations. Those rules prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

What This Means for Affiliates

The action reversed the FCC’s 2015 decision to have stronger oversight over broadband providers. And it grants broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences. Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites.

Under the new law, ISPs can now potentially slow down their competitors’ content or block political opinions that can’t afford to pay for preferential treatment. ISPs could also charge extra fees to content companies.

Critics of the law fear that Net Neutrality will not be good for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs. These small business rely on the open internet to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise products and services, and reach customers. Net Neutrality proponents feel the need for an open internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation.

Telecom experts claim the companies could feel freer to come up with new offerings, such as faster tiers of service for online businesses willing and able to pay for it. Some of those costs could be passed onto consumers.

When it Takes Effect

It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so consumers will not see any of the potential changes right away.

What You Can Do

The Performance Marketing Association crafted a letter to opposed the law and vows to fight it on behalf of online marketers that are represented by the trade group. 

Online Sales Tax

For more than a decade there has been a battle over the collection of online sales tax. The crux of the issue is that states want to force online retailers to charge sales tax to consumers. The tax would apply to purchases even if the retailer is not located in that state the buyer resides.

The argument against enacting such laws are that state legislators have no standing to impose taxes on a business where there is no nexus. Currently, consumers are required to track and remit that sales tax on their own taxes. However, few do. States argue they are losing much needed revenue generated from this sale tax.

What This Means for Affiliates

For affiliates, the impact would be that retailers would rather simply shutter their affiliate programs than deal with implementing the complex tax fees and necessary tracking. That means thousands of affiliates could be cut from a program if a states passes such a law. Affiliates would then lose their own revenue or maybe even be forced to shut down their affiliate businesses. If this happened, the states would actually lose money. That’s because affiliate business would no longer be contributing to the local economy and paying their own individual business taxes.

Recently, several online retailers (Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court encouraging the Court not to review an earlier ruling from the South Dakota Supreme Court. That ruling prevents the state from enforcing a law that would give states more power to tax online retailers who don’t have a physical presence in those states. In October, the state of South Dakota petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

The South Dakota law would require out-of-state retailers that don’t have a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax from South Dakota customers and then remit those taxes to the state.

South Dakota’s case challenges the landmark 1992 Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota ruling. In that case, Quill, an office supplies catalog retailer, was not required to collect or remit sales tax in North Dakota because it didn’t have a physical presence there.

There is also proposed legislation that would make online sales tax a federal law. That solution is more palatable to affiliates because it would be a level playing field. A federal online sales tax would not likely have online retailers  closing their affiliate programs.

What You Can Do

  • Get educated on what is happening with legislation in your state. Several states already have passed such online sales tax laws.
  • Join the PMA to help fight state laws and stay abreast of ongoing developments.
  • Meet with your state and local government representatives and congressmen. Educated them on the negative effects such laws would have on your business.

 

Affiliate Business Planning for 2018

affiliate business plans for 2018

As an affiliate this may be your busiest time of the year. You’re finalizing holiday promotional efforts, executing on Q4 plans, and let’s face it – sometimes pushing just to keep on top of all the holiday marketing madness. But during all this holiday craziness, you also need to be thinking about planning for next year. Yes, 2018 will be here in just 2 short months.

Of course, you can simply head into the new year just doing what you’ve been doing. But the start of the year is a chance to evaluate what worked over the last 12 months, what didn’t, set new goals, and develop a plan for moving your business to the next level.

Having a yearly plan (or even a five-year plan) sets a clear path for success that can be adjusted as you go along. It also helps you prioritize. That means you can spend time more efficiently and rather than spinning your wheels.

Intensive Review Process

Data

Hopefully, you’ve been looking at all your data throughout the year and making adjustments as needed. If you haven’t been reviewing all of your data and looking at it year-over-year, month-over- month, you need to evaluate those numbers. This will give you a glimpse into the trajectory you’re on, and possible where you need to make changes. It will also provide some insight into setting percentage growth goals for the future.

It’s time to go deep and review all areas of your business – social media, conversions, earnings with each merchant, sponsorships, paid advertising, search, etc. For each of those areas, you’ll want to look at your ROI, and be sure you’re measuring the right things.

Processes

Streamlining how you do things is also worth reviewing. Look for ways to improve efficiencies – whether in terms of time or resources needed to perform specific tasks. What can be automated to save time? Are there tasks that can be outsourced? Additionally, think about how adding new functionality or setting goals will impact existing processes.

Forward Thinking

New Technologies

As you look ahead, you’ll want to contemplate any new technologies that might impact your business. Are there technologies or innovations that would improve your internal processes and run your business? What about ad technologies or marketing tools that make it easier to interact with customers, do retargeting, maximize your social media, etc.? Also look for tech that will improve the customer experience and increase conversions.

The Changing Marketplace

Additionally, it’s a good time to evaluate the overall landscape of your specific market. If you’re focused on apparel, look at data about how the market may have shifted including any changes in consumer shopping behaviors, changing demographics, areas that are underserved, and more. Think about how other factors such as the economic climate, social issues, etc. might change the market or present new opportunities.

Competitors

How do you stack up? Don’t focus on your rivals. But it doesn’t hurt to see what similar businesses are doing. Look at websites like Similarweb.com to get information about where competitors’ overall traffic, where their traffic is coming from,  bounce rates, etc. You can also look at their social media and see who they are engaging and how they are doing it. Have they broken into segments you’re not reaching? This can give you an opportunity to put new plans in place for

Set Goals

Have a Timeline

Come up with a realistic timeline for implementing all the new things you have planned. And set specific times to review those plans once they are place. Have specific goals in mind for what you plan on achieving. Is it  to sign up and be productive with a dozen new merchants? Is it to increase conversions by 20%? Whatever you opt to do, measure, review and adjust as you go on a regular basis.

Be Flexible

You should think of your plan as a set of guidelines – not an unchangeable set of rules. Keep your marketing plan where you can easily access it throughout the year. Write different marketing timelines on your calendar so that you know when to look again at your plan. Make changes to your plan as unforeseen events occur, and keep going.

A strong yearly business plan doesn’t have to be flawless from the start. It simply needs to be detailed enough to get you smoothly through another 12 months by incorporating your goals and methods for achieving them.