Recruiting Joint Venture Partners
If you have not done so, it is recommended you read over Part 2 – Recruiting Affiliates For Your Product first.
As promised at the end of the last ‘episode’, this third and final tutorial in the merchant marketing series is going to focus on what I called ‘the third key’ of selling your own products.
This one is all about finding joint-venture partners who can promote your products, how they are different to affiliates and what you need to do to convince them that you are worth working with.
As always, there’s lots of ground to cover so let’s get straight to it, starting with what the difference is between recruiting affiliates (as detailed in the previous tutorial) and joint-venture partners.
In essence, affiliate and joint-venture partners do a similar job for your business when you launch your own product.
They both act as an intermediary who introduces details of your product to their contacts, prospects and customers and you agree to pay them for every successful sale they generate.
Beyond this basic similarity however, the relationship between business derived from joint-venture partners and from ‘ordinary’ affiliates begins to look very different.
To begin with, you find affiliate by publishing details of what you have to offer on the market in an effort to attract the attention of as many affiliates as possible. In other words, you pitch the offer out there and invite affiliates to get involved.
With JV partners however, you tend to make the first move by asking them to get involved.
This happens because the idea behind a joint-venture operation is that you are actively searching for online marketers (or others in your niche) who have something of great value to offer to your business.
Think of it this way.
If you register your product with Clickbank and it attracts 100 affiliates, you have no idea who those people are.
You don’t for example know whether they have any online marketing ability or experience, whether they have a website that is successful or whether they have a mailing list of targeted prospects.
What you do know however is that if you have someone promoting your product who does have extensive experience in your niche, plenty of successful websites, a recognized ‘expert brand’ and big subscriber lists of targeted prospects, then you are dealing with someone who can really rocket your product into the stratosphere.
You can also be pretty certain that these top-level marketers do not spend an idle hour or two browsing around Clickbank to find new products to promote every day.
For a start, they do not have an idle hour (they’re too busy working on their next moneymaking project) and because their marketing ‘clout’ is so extensive and obvious, they know people with products to sell will approach them rather than it being the other way round.
In effect, ordinary affiliates get offered a standard ‘take it or leave it’ package deal but when it comes to joint-venture partners, you need to make them an offer that they can’t refuse, something that makes it worth them using their incredibly valuable time to work with you.
We will consider some of the more important aspects of how you approach JV partners later in this tutorial. To begin with, we’ll look at various ways of finding potential JV partners.
There are many different ways of finding joint-venture partners who might be willing to work with you on your product launch. Some are covered in the Joint Ventures section of the Journey Into Internet Marketing tutorial series. Here’s a few of the most effective strategies for finding ‘experts’ who would make excellent JV partners in your product launch.
Attend conferences and meetings…
Whatever niche you operate in, there will be seminars, conferences and meetings held from time to time. These will be the events where the top people in your industry are guest speakers, VIPs and so on.
Meeting these people is probably the best way of laying the groundwork for future joint-venture operations with them. Even if you can only talk to them for a couple of minutes, the important thing is to leave them with a business card and a memorable impression.
By doing this, you have opened the door to future discussions. As this is all you can realistically hope for in this situation, it’s ‘job done’ as far as you’re concerned.
To give yourself a reason to approach and talk to this individual, do your background research before you attend the meeting. Find out about them, their interests, their websites and their business activities so that you have a ‘hook’ that you can use to begin the conversation.
For example, if your research turns up that they are a big baseball or hockey fan (particularly if you can identify their favorite team), you have a great icebreaker that you know is going to appeal to them.
Another highly effective strategy is to give them a small gift representing the area where the meeting is taking place, assuming that they have come in from out of town (which they will have done most of the time). Nothing expensive or too cheesy, just a small local memento that they can tie together with the business card you give them.
Get on their mailing list…
If you are actively promoting your business activities on the Internet, you will regularly come across other marketers who are doing exactly the same thing.
Subscribe to their mailing list and keep their information safe because the very fact that you are on their list indicates that they are building a database of targeted prospects in your niche. These are therefore ideal people to approach with the JV proposal before your product goes live, and they are the people to do it for you.
Despite the fact that this strategy is almost childishly simple, it is one that I have used with every product launch I have run in the last five years and every time it has brought thousands of dollars in sales. It’s simple, but don’t ignore it.
If you ‘lurk’ or participate in the major forums in your niche for any length of time, you will quickly begin to recognize who the most respected and revered members of the forum are.
They will usually tend to be the most active members, those with the most posts to their names or you can spot them by the fact that as soon as they start a new thread, everybody immediately jumps on board even though the subject of the thread is nothing to write home about.
These are the threads where dozens of members (often new people) pitch in with ‘Way to go, Bob’ or ‘Excellent post, Jenny’. They are obviously bandwagon jumping, trying to associate their name with that of an expert, so you need to keep an eye on the individual who started this thread.
Once you have identified a handful of likely ‘suspects’, start to get involved in their threads yourself.
Try to post a response as soon as they open a new thread because the closer you are to their original ‘starter’, the more likely they are to notice you. If you are a little controversial and challenging, this will do even more to bring you to their attention.
However, whilst controversy and challenge is acceptable, rudeness or insults are not so you have to be careful not to overstep the mark.
Even so, this is a good way of getting your name in front of people who appear to be recognized experts in your niche, people who you can approach with a JV idea in the run-up to your product launch.
Use JV sites…
There are a handful of sites where marketers post details of an upcoming product launch and invite JV partners to participate in that launch.
The best known site is JVNotifyPro.com and if you take a look, you’ll recognize that many leading online marketers use this particular service to attract JV partners:
Incidentally, another advantage of this site is that by viewing the way other marketers structure their JV partner invites, this should help you build a clear picture of how you best present your own offer.
This is extremely important because one of the first things that potential JV partners want to establish is just how professional your approach is.
Top marketers do not for one minute want their good name associated with amateurs, so the presentation tips you pick up from JV Notify Pro can be absolute gold dust.
Tailor your initial approach
As suggested earlier, whilst your ‘general market’ approach to recruiting affiliates will be a fairly standardized one, your approach to JV partners should be anything but.
Using the ‘finder’ strategies highlighted in the previous section, you should put together a list of potential JV partners well in advance of product launch day.
You are going to approach each of these ‘JV prospects’ on an individual basis, with your approach tailored to how you met them, what you know about them, how they operate their business and so on.
For instance, if you met Mr. XYZ at a conference and have given them a small gift plus your business card, you need to follow this initial contact up as soon as possible to ensure that you fix yourself very firmly in their memory.
You might for example call them on the Monday or Tuesday after the weekend of the conference to say ‘Hi, great to meet you, I hope we can meet or talk again sometime soon’ to ensure that they don’t forget you.
On the other hand, if you have found someone that you think might be able to help you through a forum, you should also approach them through the same forum.
Send a message intimating that you have a project that they might be interested and ask whether they would object if you send them further information. The chances are pretty good that they won’t object.
What’s in it for them?
Yep, it’s that hoary old chestnut yet again, the ‘WIIFM?’ question.
But believe me, even JV partners are going to ask exactly the same question as everyone else when you approach them with your proposal.
Your proposal therefore has to be capable of answering this question.
Okay, the first thing that you must do when you send the proposal is make sure that it stands out from the crowd. They receive hundreds of JV requests every month, 98% of which never get opened because they use ‘JV request’ or something of this nature as the proposal e-mail title.
A ‘request’ screams at them that you are asking for something. This is definitely not something they are interested in (who are you anyway?) so it won’t even get opened.
Instead, the title should be something along the lines of ‘How do I promote your products’, ‘Can I make money for you?’ or ‘I’m your affiliate’, all titles that focus on them and the benefits they will receive rather than you and what you will get.
And whatever you do, do not address your proposal ‘Dear Webmaster’, ‘Dear friend’ or use any other form of generic greeting. Use their name (and make sure you spell it right) because a generic greeting suggests a marked lack of care, attention and professionalism.
The next thing to consider is, what do you have to offer these people?
Okay, you are giving away 75% of the sales proceeds as the commission but this is no more than they would get if they signed up as a standard Clickbank affiliate.
They are unquestionably way beyond being a standard Clickbank affiliate. Offering them the standard deal is therefore likely to be seen as insulting and will be rejected out of hand by most prospective JV partners.
In other words, you must offer them something more, something special that is not available to ordinary affiliates.
Perhaps surprisingly, the first thing that most of your prospective JV partners will be looking for is some degree or level of reciprocity.
They want to know that if they help you out, you will do the same for them in the future.
Now, the basic reason you have approached them is because you want them to market your products to their prospects and customers, in other words, their list subscribers.
They will almost certainly ask you to do the same when they launch their products, but maybe you don’t have a list at the moment. Okay, be honest and upfront about this but at the same time, put forward a couple of mitigating ideas.
Firstly, as a result of this product launch and your efforts to build a JV network, you will have a mailing list within a couple of weeks of the product going live.
The problem with this is that there is of course no proof that it will happen. You therefore need to find other ways of reciprocating in case you have no mail list by the time they launch.
You might for example offer to do stuff for them at no cost if you don’t have a mailing list when they launch their next product.
For instance, if you have copywriting skills, you could offer to create their sales copy at no cost, or if they need e-book writing or videos created, you can offer to do this for them instead. In other words, offer whatever skills you have at no cost in lieu of a mailing list that does not match theirs.
It is important that before you start approaching JV partners, your sales system must be fully functional and it must be optimized and tested.
To begin with, your sales page must be optimized before you approach them because no top-line marketer is interested in testing the effectiveness of your sales copy for you.
You must therefore do this in advance and have statistics available for click through and conversion rates to prove that you have optimized your marketing materials.
To do this, find a few ‘beta-tester’ affiliates through your connections and ask them to promote various test versions of your site to a limited number of list members so that you can (1) establish which version works best and (2) put together the necessary statistics.
You need to do all of the legwork for your JV partners and be on hand to give them any help or assistance that they need at any time as well.
As you cannot be expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is helpful if you have a partner in a different time zone who is capable of helping you. However you do it, you must provide all of the support and assistance your JV partners might need exactly when they need it.
In terms of ‘legwork’, you must establish with each individual JV partner exactly how they want to market your product to their prospects. You can go away and create any appropriate materials that they need to follow this marketing plan through.
For example, if they want a series of e-mail messages to send to their prospects every three days, you need to write those messages for them.
You then follow up by reminding them to send these e-mail messages to their list members on the day it is due to be sent, making sure that you point them in the direction of exactly the right message as well.
When you do so, remind them how they will benefit from sending this e-mail out just in case in the daily hurly-burly they have forgotten why they got involved in your project in the first place to slip their mind.
If they need banner advertising creating, you create their banners to their specifications. If they want PPC advertising materials, you write the ads and (if this particular partner looks like they could be a real winner) you might even test some of the ads so that the materials you deliver are fully optimized in advance.
When something close to the final draft version of your product is ready, send it to all of your potential partners so that they know exactly what they are dealing with.
This enables them to ask questions which help ensure that they have all of the most appropriate information when they give your product the big push.
At the same time, it allows you to ask for recommendations and suggestions from their side of the table too. Not only does this enable you to improve the product (you are picking the brains of some of the top people in the industry), it also means that the product becomes a little more important to them after you incorporate the changes they suggest.
Finally, pile additional bonuses and prizes into the pot.
Run a competition for the most successful JV partner in outright terms with tech gadgets, computers, Rolexes and the like up for grabs. On top of this, try offering additional cash prizes for the most traffic sent to the offer page, the most successful banner ad campaign and so on.
No matter what business you are in, the guys at the top of the tree are ultra-competitive and they love being number one, particular when it’s fun getting there and it puts extra cash in their pocket to boot.
One final JV thought.
Whilst of course most of your attention has to be focused on keeping your JV partner happy, it also helps if their support staff and assistants are happy too.
These people can be invaluable when it comes to smoothing over difficulties, making sure that jobs that need to be done get done (e.g. outgoing e-mails sent on the right day at the right time) and so on.
They can become your ‘insider helper’ and yet very few marketers ever think of extending their gratitude to these people. If therefore you reward them, you will reap the benefits now and many times over in the future.
Whether you are marketing through affiliates or JV partners, you rely on them to do the marketing of your product for you. You should therefore be very careful not to compete with them.
For example, do not run your own optimized PPC campaign (perhaps apart from during prelaunch testing) because if you have grabbed all the best keywords, it makes it very difficult for them to make money. This could easily dissuade them from getting involved in your project.
Similarly, Search Engine Optimization that is too well done is a double edge sword. Great SEO could put your site at the top of the organic search results but this is not going to help your affiliate and JV partners make additional sales.
One of the things that will influence the decision of all intermediaries (especially affiliates) about whether it is worth getting involved with your project is the degree of competition in the market.
If they are fighting against you for the same business pie, it is likely to dissuade an awful lot of them from helping you achieve the success you desire.
If therefore you choose to market through intermediaries, it is your job to find as many intermediaries as possible and not to market your own product. Let them do their jobs while you get on with yours.
In this tutorial series, you have learned why it is better to use intermediaries to sell your products after you have created them. You have also been introduced to several different ways of finding suitable intermediaries.
In terms of selling your own product, the easy part is the product creation.
It is the marketing aspect that is far more challenging.
Many marketers who are not aware that genuine marketing choices exist follow the difficult (if not impossible) route of trying to market themselves. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them fail miserably.
However, you should understand by now exactly why using intermediaries is the way to go, so this should be a trap that you never fall into.
And here’s a final thought.
Every time you successfully and profitably launch and market a product using affiliates and JV partners, it gets easier to do so next time.
Next time, the JV partners you had to work so hard to convince this time will agree almost automatically and they will recommend your product to other potential JV partners as well.
At the same time, affiliates who made lots of money from your first product offering will look out for the next one so that they can jump on it at the earliest opportunity.
Two or three successful products down the line, partners and affiliates will come looking for you rather than the other way round.
You create the product, put it on the market and then let your ‘sales team’ take care of sales whilst you spend your time creating your next superstar product.