The Power Of Intermediaries
Welcome to the first of three tutorials in the merchant marketing series which form a part of the ‘Internet Marketing’ tutorial project. In this series, we are going to focus on marketing tactics and strategies that you can use if you are selling your own product on the Internet.
In the main, I am going to focus on ideas and concepts that are appropriate to selling information products because digital products tend to be the type that most online marketers will create and sell.
However, many of the concepts outlined in these tutorials could easily be modified to sell other forms of products as appropriate.
Okay, let’s get going…
When they first start marketing on the Internet, it is natural that beginners will usually opt to run a business that they can get into quickly and easily, one that does not require a great deal of technical ability, past experience or money.
Consequently, most online ‘newbies’ naturally gravitate towards affiliate marketing or niche marketing using blogs and sites that they monetize with paid advertising programs like Google AdSense.
Everyone has to get started somewhere and given the advantages of these particular business models, it is perfectly understandable why most beginners launch themselves into Internet marketing either with affiliate marketing or by creating AdSense mini-sites.
Of course, one of the great things about both of these business styles is that it is possible to start making money from a standing start. In fact, it is possible to make a lot of money without having any resources behind you, so the advantages are obvious.
Nevertheless, if you listen to the sage words of those who have been marketing on the Internet for a long time, you will quickly realize that if you want to make real money, you need to create your own products and/or services.
There can be little doubt that in the big scheme of online marketing, all of the top players, the people who genuinely have made millions from marketing on the Internet have all done so on the back of their own products.
Even the so-called ‘super affiliate’s’, individuals who make hundreds of thousands of dollars from affiliate marketing every time a big product launch comes along still make the lion’s share of their income from selling their own products.
Yes, these people make a lot of money from affiliate marketing but it is peanuts compared to what they make from promoting and selling their own products.
Perhaps not surprisingly, having your own product to sell has a mass of advantages in comparison to selling the products of others as an affiliate or promoting on behalf of others with advertising on your site.
The first and most obvious advantage of having a product is that you are completely in control of everything from beginning to end.
You come up with the initial idea and you decide what kind of product you are going to create. For example, are you going to publish a book, a video series or perhaps a combination of both?
After this, it is your decision whether you create the product or whether you outsource the work, how much involvement you have in the creation of the marketing materials and so on and so forth.
In effect, from beginning to end, you control the product creation process.
In financial terms, the advantage of this is that it is you that makes the decisions that dictate whether the product that will ultimately ‘pop out’ at end of the production line is profitable or not. Your role in this is important for a couple of reasons.
To start with, you are in position to select a profitable market where there is lots of money to be made before creating your product to match the needs and desires of people who populate that market.
Secondly, you make all of the marketing decisions as well, so you effectively dictate how it is sold, where it is sold and how much people need to pay to get their hands on your product.
There are other significant advantages attached to having your own products that can ultimately put a lot of money in your pocket as well.
The first significant factor is that because you have control of the front-end product, you have complete control of the backend of your sales funnel, which allows you to decide what additional products should be recommended to your new customers.
As an example, if there are additional products to be offered as ‘upsells’, you decide what they are, how much the customer has to pay and where the money generated by these additional sales goes.
Secondly and perhaps even more importantly, once you start creating your own products, you can start to build your own brand on the back of these activities as well.
In other words, having your own product enables you to start the process of becoming a well-known name in the online marketing industry or in whatever niche you operate.
This is very significant in terms of the long-term profitability of your business because once you become a recognized and acknowledged expert, selling future products and services becomes increasingly easy.
With your first quality product, you put yourself on the map so that with subsequent products, you can build upon a growing reputation for creating innovative, exciting, viable and profitable products.
In this way, your products become increasingly easy to sell because of your expanding reputation.
It would however be extremely difficult to build ‘a name’ for yourself if you are making money as an affiliate marketer and impossible to do so if your main income comes from niche sites monetized with advertising.
The bottom line is that if you really want to make it to the top of Internet marketing, you need your own products and/or services to have any realistic chance of achieving your goals.
As suggested already, the first thing that you must do if you want to make money selling your products is to create products that meet peoples needs or wants.
It makes sense for it to be far easier to sell a product that focuses on a ‘hot’ market like video marketing than it is to sell something which has a far narrower appeal such as an e-book about growing turnips.
It’s common sense that if you have a broad or large potential market place, you will sell more than if your market is very limited and narrowly defined.
By way of illustration, let’s imagine that you are considering creating a high-quality video marketing course which will comprise a series of training videos that show people how to market using videos, step-by-step.
The first thing that you need to do before starting the creation process is establish who your target market is going to be.
This is important because after all, until you know who you are going to sell your product to, why would you start creating it?
In this case, your market is going to be anyone who is marketing on the Internet who is interested in selling via the power of video.
Depending upon how you have targeted your product, your market could be absolute beginners who want to learn video marketing from the ground up, or it could be marketers who want to improve or advance their existing video marketing skills. In an ideal scenario, your product would target both sections of the market by offering something for everyone.
Knowing who your target market is, is a good starting point because if you know there is a valid market of hungry potential customers, you have a strong green light to go ahead with the project.
It is however only a starting point because the next question is probably even more important.
This next question is how are you going to get information about your product into the hands of your target audience?
In essence, there are three options open to you.
The first option is to use paid advertising resources to put information about your product in front of targeted prospects. These are people who have used one of the major search engines to look for information of the kind offered by your product.
This is definitely a viable and ‘doable’ way of getting product information into the hands of the right people, those who are most likely to buy your product. It is therefore a realistic option assuming you have the advertising budget available to fund such a campaign.
There is also a caveat about the advisability of using paid advertising included at the end of tutorial three of this series which could be highly relevant in certain circumstances. This is not however relevant at this juncture.
Option two is for you to contact targeted prospects directly using your own resources in one way or another. The information about your product goes directly from you to them and they base their buying decision on the information that you provide to them.
The third option is to use intermediaries who present information about your product to their own targeted prospect bank on your behalf. These are individual prospects to whom you have no access other than through the services of an affiliate or partner.
We are going to ignore paid advertising in this tutorial series.
Consequently, from this point on, we are going to concentrate on options two and three so that you have a clearer picture of the realities of marketing your own products on the Internet.
As with most situations in online marketing wherein you are comparing one option against another, both of these marketing strategies have advantages and disadvantages.
Nevertheless, most experienced marketers would agree that at the end of the day, one of these two strategies is far more powerful and ultimately more profitable than the other…
Let’s begin by investigating the notion of marketing your products through your own efforts. In this situation, there are many marketing channels that you could utilize even after ignoring paid advertising.
To begin with, assuming that you already have a mailing list of prospects and/or customers who represent a good match for your product, you would, quite obviously, market your product to your subscribers.
Depending upon the size of your list, the length of time your subscribers have been with you (and therefore how well they know, like and trust you) and the effectiveness of your e-mail marketing copy, you could generate a lot of sales from your own list.
The effectiveness of this strategy is entirely dependent upon how your product matches the interests, needs and desires of your list subscribers.
There are for example some markets where this approach will work very well because the product/subscriber match is good, whilst other markets may contain consumers who are not as fond of receiving e-mail advertisements about the product.
For instance, continuing with the video marketing example, this is a product that should have broad appeal to anyone who is marketing on the Internet.
Hence, this would be a product that you could successfully market to a mailing list of article marketers (who want to move their marketing efforts to the next level), those who currently use pay per click advertising (who want an effective free promotional option) and basically anyone who is marketing on the Internet.
You could even promote the product to a mailing list of off-line business owners who are on your mailing list because they are interested in taking their business and marketing activities online for the very first time.
If on the other hand you have created a product that focuses on some secret turnip cultivation method, then your mailing list members will need to be a very close match (e.g. root vegetable growing enthusiasts) if you are to have any success marketing your product to your subscribers.
In short, there will be situations where you can successfully promote your product to your list members but there will also be cases where this is just not going to work.
Beyond this, your ability to market directly through your own efforts is naturally limited by the resources, skills and bank balance you have available to you.
For instance, you could start writing articles for publication on directory sites to publicize your new product but this would involve a lot of hard work if you are going to do the job yourself. You could of course outsource the work but this is going to cost money.
In our video marketing example, you are the video marketing expert and you would therefore be very capable of marketing your product using videos.
However, there is again a question of resources and available time to consider because making videos and submitting them to sites like YouTube can be quite time and labor intensive.
The truth is that apart from the situation where you have a targeted mailing list, and a landing page which is ranking in the search engines, there are not too many attractive free, direct marketing opportunities available.
This is particularly true if you want your product to reach the widest possible audience, which of course you do.
Remembering that one of the major attractions of having your own product is that you can start to create your own online brand, this only happens if your product reaches a large audience.
This is not going to happen if the sum total of your marketing efforts is mailing your subscribers, writing half a dozen articles and publishing a handful of videos on YouTube.
Ultimately, the major advantage of marketing directly is that all the money generated from each sale stays in your pocket.
The flipside however is that if you market directly (and assuming that you don’t have 10 million super-targeted subscribers on your list) you can only put product information in front of a very limited audience and therefore your earnings are by definition limited too.
If you now compare the direct marketing scenario to a situation where you use intermediaries to market on your behalf, almost everything changes.
To begin with, your market reach is only limited by the number of intermediaries you can find who are willing to promote on your behalf.
Similarly, you can find intermediaries in exactly the markets that your product is aimed at, many of whom will have their own subscriber lists.
Thus, by combining just these two points, you can easily extend your marketing reach from connecting with just a few hundred reasonably well targeted prospects to reaching hundreds of thousands of laser targeted prospects who are in the market looking for a product exactly like yours.
If you are marketing through intermediaries, they also do all of the hard marketing work for you and do not cost a penny when they do so. All the traffic they send to your site is completely free right up until the moment of a prospect becomes a customer.
Every single bit of marketing activity they undertake is at their own expense (measured in terms of either time or money) because you only pay them for successfully generated sales.
It’s ‘no sale, no pay’ from your point of view.
Another major plus point of this particular business model is that using intermediaries to market your product tends to become viral.
As an example, if you recruit half a dozen top affiliates who start pushing your product, they will very quickly begin pulling in money for you. At this point, other marketers see what is going on and want their piece of the action.
Hence, you start off with half a dozen experts marketing your product for you and end up with 100, 200, maybe even 500 marketers on your team, who knows?
And to bring these people on board, you did absolutely nothing. All you did was build a top-notch product before handing the marketing over to a team of expert intermediaries who did the rest of the initial marketing and recruiting on your behalf.
There’s no doubt about it, marketing using intermediaries has got to be the way to bring your first product (and every subsequent one) to the market.
Okay, I hear you. What’s the catch?
The catch is…?
To give you a clue to the answer, what we are talking about here is marketing using affiliates and joint-venture partners.
Think about your own knowledge of affiliate marketing through a network site like Clickbank and you might see what is coming next…
‘The disadvantage is that I’m losing money because I have to pay affiliate commissions’
Well, of course you have to pay your affiliate. After all, you don’t pay them a penny to market on your behalf and if they were not going to get paid for successful sales, why would they want to make you sales?
But ‘losing money?’
I hardly think so…
Say you market your $40 product directly and through many hours of hard work and application, you finally manage to land 200 sales. That’s great because you keep almost every penny, so you have $8000 in the bank.
On the flip side, you wasted 10 hours a day for four consecutive days writing articles, creating videos, bookmarking your site, creating mini-sites and so on.
If you price your time per hour (based on what you could earn if you were marketing rather than writing articles, creating e-mail messages etc) at a very conservative $25 an hour, then those 40 hours amount to losing $1000. Your Internet figure is therefore $7000.
Not bad but it’s hardly going to buy a Ferrari, is it?
Now compare this to a scenario where you use affiliates to sell your products and assume you are paying them 75% commission for every successful sale.
If you have a top-notch product (which you absolutely must have) that has a broad market appeal (like your video marketing training course), you should be able to attract hundreds if not thousands of willing affiliates to promote it.
In this case (based on my own experience), you would expect your sales to be measured in thousands instead of hundreds as well.
If just one marketer with limited resources and market reach can sell 200 units of your product (i.e. you), how many can 100 or 500 affiliates sell?
Remember, many of these affiliates have far more resources and targeted prospects than you do, with the top affiliates having advertising budgets running into thousands of dollars every day.
But let’s be conservative here by imagining that you have only 20 affiliates who do no better than you. This amounts to a grand total of 4000 sales grossing $160,000 of which you receive 25% for doing almost nothing after the product goes live.
You net $40,000 and do not spend a single minute marketing. Which of course means that all the time that you would have spent marketing is now free to do other profitable things such as create your next profit-wringing product.
So in reality, by using affiliates, there’s no money to be lost, only free money to be gained.
There really is only one conclusion to be drawn from this tutorial.
Once you have created a top quality product, the only sensible way of bringing it to the market is to use other people to do all of the hard work for you.
In short, you need to find affiliates and joint-venture partners if you want to make as much money as possible and to start building your recognizable brand at the same time.
In the next tutorial, we will start looking at the ‘nuts and bolts’ of building your own marketing empire using the services of affiliates and JV partners.
It is now recommended you proceed on to Part 2 – Recruiting Affiliates For Your Product.