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Most Common Mistakes Made by Failed Affiliate Marketers

Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

The sad truth is that most people who try their hand at affiliate marketing fail. 

Some make no money at all and some make so little that they'd have been better off saving change from under their couches over the years than investing time and energy into the process. 

The good news is that all of these mistakes are totally avoidable. 


" The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

-Otto von Bismarck


So, whether you are new to affiliate marketing or just feel like you aren't gaining any sort of traction in spite of your efforts, avoiding these mistakes can help you achieve your goals of becoming a successful affiliate marketer. 

1. They Gave up Too Soon

Giving up is the #1 reason marketers fail. This sounds obvious, but just remember, the process isn't a get rich quick scheme. It is absolutely a "get rich business" if you are willing to stay the course and put in the work. 

Even if you have nothing to show for your work yet, don't give up. Most affiliate marketers don't find success quickly but when they do, they will almost always tell you it was well worth it. 

"  Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never – In anything great or small, large or petty – Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

-Winston Churchill

Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never – In anything great or small, large or petty – Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” – 

2. They Weren't Providing Enough Value

There is no exchange of money into their is an exchange of value. In internet marketing, it takes a lot of consistent FREE value before you can start netting large paydays. 

I don't believe in "passive income," in the traditional sense of the word. 

All income is earned at some point. The blog posts you write now or the videos you spend hours editing may seem like unpaid labor now, but over time, they could net you a life changing amount of money. 

Develop awareness and ask yourself, "am I taking more than I'm giving?" Most affiliate marketers who failed didn't help very many people along the way. 

I highly recommend that every affiliate marketer reads that book, Jab Jab Jab Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy World by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Yes, I know many of you might not love his style (I enjoy it personally) but I don't care. Set that aside and get this book ASAP.

This is a must read. 

3.They Promoted the Wrong Products (and Too Many of Them)

Why is it that many affiliates can't sell world class products?

The answer: the products aren't relevant enough to the audience that the marketer serves. 

If I'm selling a software that costs $395/month it doesn't matter how great it is if my audience is people who can't afford it right now. 

If I'm selling a nutritional supplement to my niche of bass fisherman (don't laugh, I've seen this done) they aren't going to buy. That isn't why they know, like or trust me! 

The products you promote should directly address the most common needs of your audience. The needs that they have (literally) said they need filled. 

Solve the problems of your audience and you will get paid. That is the bottom line. 

Make up new problems and you wont. 

4. They Never Built Up Trust (or They Lost It)

The entire affiliate marketing process is based on trust. 

The reason some people can sell millions of dollars worth of a product and others can't sell a single one is that one affiliate has earned the trust of their followers. 

Merchants are literally paying to leverage the trust that affiliates have earned. 

If there was no trust factor, there wouldn't be much need for affiliates. 

Affiliates earn trust in several ways. 

  • Trust Building Factor #1 By Being Painfully and Consistently Honest. 

It doesn't matter if you know everything or not, your followers just want the truth. You don't need to be a guru in your niche to make big money as an affiliate. I don't consider myself to be a guru in any of the sub niches I make money in (with the exception of internet business). 

It's ok to show that you are human. In fact, showing your imperfections makes you more relatable. When people relate to you, they can relate to your recommendations. They can see how if it works for you it may work for them because you are like them. 

No one is perfect. If you create a perfect persona, you will relate to no one. 

  • Trust Building Factor #2 Only Promote Quality Products and People

It is hard to gain someones trust and easy to lose it. Keep this in mind every time that you consider promoting an affiliate product. 

Your brand name is attached directly to the ones that you promote. 

Yes, you can always make some, "easy money," by promoting something crappy that has a handsome commission but the  

  • Trust Building Factor #3 Standby the Products You Promote after the Sale

If you ensure you follow step #2 and only promote quality products, this will make sure that you don't have to do much work after the sale but regardless, you will always have some customers who are dissatisfied with the product you pushed to them. 

This is inevitable but sometimes, you will need to get involved yourself if the merchant isn't treating the customer with the same high quality that you have built your brand name around. Remember, the products you promote are attached to your brand. 

  • Trust Building Factor #4 Actually Care about Your Audience

Think about this for a minute. If you succeed as an affiliate marketer, the people who buy from you will be playing a role in allowing you to live the life of your dreams!

Treat them with the respect they deserve. If you lack empathy and don't actually care for your audience, you need to figure out how to will yourself to OR leave this business. You won't make it if you don't care. 

5. They Never Built an Audience

Many people try to make money in affiliate marketing without being a "face" in the industry, but in my experience, this is very difficult to pull off. 

Paid ads will only get you so far. 

Building an audience allows you to communicate with them and sell to them over and over and over. 

If you aren't building an audience in the form of an email list, social media followers and personal relationships, you will fall behind and never scale your results. 

When you build an audience consistently, you will consistently make more money. 

It's just basic math. Let's say you have a product to sell and you have a following of 1,000 people. Lets say that this following is from a blog like mine here at entreresource.com and you are emailing them with the occasional affiliate promotion.

Let's pretend that you sell a product that converts at 2% and pays you $100/sale. You send an email and make 20 sales. Thats a total commission of $2,000.

Sweet! 

Now, lets pretend that you continue this growth each year for 3 years. 

Your list is now 3,000 people. When it's time for the same promotion, your now making 60 sales and $6,000 in affiliates.

Also keep in mind, that conversion rate should be going up (all things being equal) if you have been cultivating a relationship with your audience over that 3 year period. 

6. They Stopped Learning

I learn something new about marketing every single day. 

Digital marketing is an industry that is always in flux and you absolutely have to keep learning to not fall behind. 

The affiliates that make it invest time in learning the following...

  • They Learn More About Their Niche

I said you don't need to be a guru in your niche to make money but if you're serving a niche you should be gaining knowledge continually. Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com is a perfect example of someone who started out as someone who was (by his own admission) inexperienced.

He started his blog in 2009 and has been making money online now for over 8 years. He is an absolute expert in this business at this point. If he didn't get better in 8 years, would people still take him seriously? No, they would feel he has been faking interest in the topic and doesn't care to practice what he preaches.   

  • They Learn How to Create More Compelling Sales Copy

Affiliate marketers must become sales copy experts. If your sales copy (which can include more than just the written word) isn't getting better over time, you need to be more deliberate in learning how to make it better. 

No matter what your niche is, you should always be improving your ability to articulate the benefits of what your selling and why your audience would benefit from it. 

  • They Stay Up to Date on the Changes in the Digital Marketing Landscape

As I said before, the business of internet marketing is always changing. Things that work today might not work tomorrow. Things that worked for you yesterday may not work today, or next week, or next month. 

Great affiliate marketers keep their thumb on the pulse of the digital marketing industry and adapt as necessary. 

7. They Didn't Promote Enough

There is a fine line between selling too often and not enough. 

While it seems the common pitfall would be that people have their hands out more often than they give a hand, many affiliates fail because they are too afraid of being seen as pushy or salesy. 

I totally get this fear. This fear isn't a bad thing because it keeps us from losing sight of the big picture BUT if the fear keeps you from promoting enough to justify the time you spend giving value, you will burn out and won't earn what you're worth. 

I strongly believe that you can be selling something constantly IF you are providing constant value and only promoting products that you know actually help your audience. 

If they do help your audience, you have an obligation to promote these products to them! 

Yes, by being afraid of being "salesy," you might be hurting yourself and your audience. 

This is why selecting products to promote is so important. If you promote bad products, you're always promoting too much! 

If you feel the need to apologize for promoting often, you're doing it wrong. 

TIPOne way to avoid being pushy and salesy is to properly segment your audience. This applies particularly to email marketing (my #1 source of affiliate sales). Tools like ConvertKit allow you to tag and segment subscribers in a way that makes sure that you send promotions to people who will actually appreciate them. One tag I always make sure to use is the "bought (x)" tag. "(x)" in these tags is replaced by the product. If someone already purchased a product, it's rude for me to keep selling them on it! This is how you get unsubscribes and unfollows in record rates. 

8. They Were too Passive Too Soon

Selling affiliate products at a high level requires active engagement and sales.

Simply creating a lot of content and then stepping back to collect commissions for the rest of your life isn't as feasible as it sounds. You need to keep providing value. You need to keep contacting your audience regularly. You need to keep reminding them why one of your affiliate products would benefit them. 

Passive income is great, but serious income is better. Passive will come at scale but if your goal is to make hundreds of thousands of dollars as an affiliate, you need to be actively working your audience non-stop. 

Don't just sit back and hope your blog posts or YouTube videos keep driving sales. 

Take part in large scale promotions and really create massive "revenue events" from time to time. 

A huge portion of my lifetime affiliate earnings have come as part of week long affiliate campaigns. 

Campaigns in which I was writing 1-2 emails PER DAY and ensuring that I was getting every sale that my list and social media following could offer. 

About the author

Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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