It takes a special kind of person to become skilled at affiliate marketing.
We’re not specialists. In order to succeed, we have to become experts in multiple areas. Almost all of us start off solo, and we’re forced to wear different hats. As an affiliate marketer, you have to create ads, manage your money, negotiate with people, manage your team, and solve one problem after another.
There’s a term in business called “T-Shaped” skills. It means to be an expert in a single field, while having a broad knowledge of several other disciplines.
People ask me what skills they need to be successful at affiliate marketing. You don’t need anything but a solid work ethic and persistence to begin. Over time, however, you will need to develop the following skills if you want to succeed.
Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
Affiliate marketing means you’re constantly solving problems.
Did you experience huge clickloss overnight? Did a competitor just enter your territory and is outbidding you? The tough part is you’re going to face issues and problems that no one else can help you with.
There’s no guidebook you can consult. The only people that can help you are your competitors, and you don’t want to reveal your precious campaign information to them.
Decision-making is just as important. Most people rely on their gut feelings to make decisions.
If you have multiple niches to choose from, how do you decide which one to pursue?
The good news is that it’s possible to learn how to become a better problem-solver and decision-maker. This is what I recommend:
- Study psychology. I study cognitive biases extensively.
- Use tools such as logic trees and decision matrices.
- Learn strategies to make better decisions. Consult with experts, consider all the options, and make rational decisions instead of impulsive ones.
Creativity & Marketing
This is affiliate marketing, so being a good marketer is necessary in this business.
Creativity can help you find interesting angles for your campaigns.
Even though you can make money copying other affiliates, my most successful campaigns were the ones I innovated.
First-mover advantage is huge in the affiliate marketing space, and in order to capitalize on it, you have to be creative.
Besides angles, you also have to learn how to write compelling ads & good landing page copy.
Our job is to sell and to make people take action.
Your potential customer John is surfing Facebook just for fun, so you have to be mighty convincing if you want him to pull out his credit card and pay $50 for your product.
How should you improve your marketing?
I would start by understanding the psychology behind what makes humans buy. What are their motivations? What words trigger them to buy?
Study copywriting. Observe other marketers.
- Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
- 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
- Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
Being an affiliate marketer does require some basic technical knowledge.
You need to learn how to build landing pages, set up your tracker, and deal with various issues that come up. This is the bare minimum of technical knowledge you will need.
My friend is a genius programmer and leverages his skills extensively. A few months ago, he showed me his setup over Skype, and it blew my mind. He designed his own software that optimizes his bidding according to a formula. He had a Dashboard built so his employees could only access parts of the campaign.
Even though you can outsource many of the technical tasks, I recommend all affiliate marketers understand the basics of programming.
Head over to CodeAcademy.com, and complete some courses (it’s free).
Affiliate marketing isn’t as people-oriented as some other industries are, but developing social and communication skills will help you.
I credit a lot of my success to the relationships I’ve formed in this industry. I have some affiliate managers who are my eyes and ears for what’s really hot.
I’ve masterminded and created joint ventures with others. I would’ve never figured out some of the aspects of affiliate marketing if it weren’t for them.
I also have people at traffic sources who give me insider information no one else has.
The majority of affiliates are awkward and have the social awareness of a potato. The industry tends to attract introverts, and working all day alone doesn’t help.
Just treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t let your ego get in the way of forming genuine connections just because you’re doing good numbers.
Side note: Don’t be creepy with your female affiliate manager.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Affiliate marketing is all about buying traffic.
Those clicks tell a story.
The conversions show you the types of people who like your product. Does a certain ad convert better? Are you profitable only during certain times of the day? Does Android traffic convert better?
These are the clues you use to optimize your campaign.
You, guys, have it easy now that we have so many tools to help us. Back in my day, I had to download the SUBIDs and create pivot tables/charts in Excel myself. Fortunately today, you can use tools like Voluum.com, which make analyzing your data easier.
Work on improving your ability to analyze the data so you can take the right actions. Make decisions based on data, not emotions.
Managing your money is essential in affiliate marketing because your cash flow is the lifeblood of your campaigns.
Start by being realistic about how much you make. Making $10,000 in profit is one thing, but it’s much less when you account for business expenses, taxes, and future failed campaigns.
Watch your bank accounts like a hawk. I know when each wire is supposed to hit each week, and I will pounce on the advertiser if the wire’s late. Make sure you cancel services you’re not using ($99 a month adds up). If you have money deposited at traffic sources you’re not using anymore, ask them for a refund.
Live below your means. I know you are tired of hearing this, but the reason why it’s repeated all the time is because it’s true. I’ve seen too many guys disappear from the industry because they were living a lifestyle they couldn’t afford.
Use your money to make more money.
It’s obvious that I’m obsessed with productivity.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but some people get much more out of them than others do.
People always tell me that they admire my discipline. What they don’t know is that I was the laziest student back at Georgia Tech.
I wasn’t born this way, and it’s taken a lot of work for me to develop my skill set. I started weightlifting & meditating. I block my social media during my prime working hours. I work in 50 minute focused sessions.
All this adds up. I can do more work in 4 hours than others do in 10.
I know some brilliant affiliate marketers who are realizing only 10% of their potential. Why? Because they can’t get motivated or focused.
Does that sound like you? Then know this is a skill you can improve (head over to AsianEfficiency.com)
Sooner or later, you’ll realize that you are the bottleneck and you need to start building a team.
Most super affiliates I know operate teams of people. I have in-house employees to manage campaigns; I have virtual assistants to help me; and I have other people who are vital to my success (maids, bookkeepers, etc.).
It’s not easy, and it’s a skill you have to develop. You have to delegate tasks, train the workers, keep them motivated, and deal with whatever issues they have.
Too Many Skills?
Does that seem like too many skills to learn?
The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in all of them to succeed. Some are less important than others, and some can be outsourced.
I’m horrible in the technical department. I could’ve invested time into improving my programming skills, but I’d rather hire other people to compensate for my weakness. Meanwhile, I choose to improve my skills in other areas such as problem-solving, data analysis, and all things marketing.
Another way to deal with your weakness is to think about the skills your employees bring to the table. If you have three guys who are disorganized, then bring in a hire who can calm the chaos.
I’ve noticed that people who tend to be the opposites make for the best partnerships in affiliate marketing. You might have one guy who’s the “face” and is great at communicating. The other guy might be more of a data analyst and a problem-solver. This kind of a team will work well because its members complement each other.
If you’re a beginner, it’s important not to be overconfident just because you have pre-existing skills.
Is it an advantage if you’re a programmer? Absolutely. But just because you’re a programmer doesn’t mean you’re going to make a lot of money. There are other very important skills you have to develop to ensure your success.
As Laozi said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
No one is born knowing how to be an affiliate marketer. Are you missing some key skills that I listed? Then develop an action plan to improve in those areas.
I had ZERO skills when I first started in affiliate marketing, and I had to develop each one slowly, over time.
P.S. What skills do you guys have now? What do you think you need to improve the most? Let me know in the comments.
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