Don’t Get Screwed by a Bad Affiliate Program

In this post I’m going to tell you about my first big mistake (mistakes) in affiliate marketing, and what I learned from it.

I had some vague idea of affiliate marketing, or at least I’d heard about it from a guy on YouTube, talking about how to make money from YouTube. But I didn’t start paying attention to the idea until I saw an ad on Facebook talking about time and place freedom (as well as financial freedom). That got my attention. That sounded good. 

The ad was promoting what I’ve now come to know is called a high ticket offer – which means big commissions; that sounded good too. And it made it all sound so easy. All I had to do was direct some traffic to their funnel and they’d take care of the hard part of closing the sale and handling all product delivery and customer service follow-up. 

Again, I was aware of sales funnels, but I now know I really didn’t understand them. I certainly didn’t understand the most important parts of them. But hey, the sales pitch worked on me. It seemed like a good product. They promised several different types of products to promote, with more to be added (there wasn’t), and I would be part of an affiliate marketing community (that was true). 

All I had to do was direct traffic to their funnel. 

Now I had been working on learning online marketing, and trying to figure out Facebook marketing. Affiliate marketing seemed like a good way to do that. Someone else has developed the product. Presumably it’s a proven product, people are buying it. They take care of the sales. They take care of the delivery and customer service. 

I had been trying to sell products and services; I was trying to develop some of my own. I was trying to build my own funnels. I was trying to close sales and deliver the products. I had gotten a few sales calls scheduled, but no sales. 

Wait I take that back. I did sell one PDF, I can’t even remember what for, for about $10. I wasn’t making much progress. 

So I figured I’d start with learning the marketing, get good at that selling other peoples’ products, with their proven funnels. Then I could start developing my own stuff later, once I knew I could consistently generate quality leads that predictably resulted in sales.

And I wasn’t actually wrong. That’s not the mistake I made. 

First mistake I made was I didn’t research affiliate programs. I didn’t know a good program from a bad one. I didn’t understand how the system really works. I just signed up for the first thing that came my way.

And as I worked at learning Facebook marketing (long story short), spent a lot of money, directed a lot of traffic to the offer I was promoting, made no money, and then got my Facebook account shut down for some absolute BS, I did learn about what kind of product a should actually be marketing on Facebook.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Yes you want to promote a high-ticket item that can generate large commissions, but that can’t be the only thing you promote. Yes you have to generate good commissions to pay for the marketing, but if the only thing you’re selling is really expensive, it will be much harder to get any sales – especially from cold traffic. 

You need introductory offers, upsells and cross-sells to cover the costs of the marketing. Then you can scale and get those larger sales that will convert at lower rates.

It doesn’t matter how big a commission you get off a sale is, if it costs you more money in advertising to finally get someone to buy the product, you’re going to go broke. The average cost per sale has to be less than the average commission. That’s really hard to do starting out if all you’re selling is a big-ticket item. It’s certainly not how to learn, or how you test a funnel’s effectiveness.

  • Most people won’t buy from you, certainly not the big ticket item, the first time you make an offer. You need to be able to follow up with your leads. You have to be able to nurture those leads from being cold traffic, warming them up to hot leads that buy. BUT you can’t do that if you don’t get some form of contact information from them so that you can follow up.

The program I was using was collecting my lead’s emails for themselves. They were doing the follow-up. Now they can follow up with those leads indefinitely, making them all kinds of new offers for years to come – I won’t get any commissions on those other offers. 

If you want to succeed in affiliate marketing, you need to build a relationship with your customers. You may not be producing or delivering the products. But your product is trust, that’s what you’re selling. People are trusting you to point them toward good offers.

But if all I do is pass the leads onto someone else, so they can follow up with them and build trust with them – they’re the ones that are going to get the benefits. Which would be, consistently getting high ticket sales (those take some trust), repeat sales, and sales of new products in the future. 

Perhaps the people who developed that program I started with had all the right intentions. But in the end they created a system that got me (and probably most of the other people involved) to spend a lot of money and time to get them leads they didn’t have to pay for. The numbers were working out for them. They didn’t need to develop a high converting funnel with a low cost per sale, because they weren’t really paying the cost. 

And they didn’t teach us how to capture those leads we were paying for for ourselves, so we could follow up with them. They weren’t teaching us how we could make other offers to the leads we generated. So whether it was intentional or not, they were taking advantage of us. 

To dive a little deeper into the topic of how to spot a bad affiliate program – you could watch this video I made.

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17 responses to “Don’t Get Screwed by a Bad Affiliate Program”

  1. Nathan, you are so on it! There is a lot of hype on the net and I feel very Blessed to have found Dean to guide me through the “brier patch”. Thanks for you insight in this post.

    1. Hi Nathan, that first affiliate business experience sounds discouraging but a huge teaching opportunity. Thanks for laying it out for us!

  2. Nathan, I hear what you say, and of course, there are some bad programs out there, but in my experience the vast majority of the programs have people making good money from them…. its not that they are bad, its that they are not a good fit with my audience, or I am not doping the work needed to put the offer in front of people. There are more bad marketers than bad programs! All the best

    1. We all start out as bad marketers, but we can’t become good marketers if we can’t properly test our ads. Even good marketers have to go through a testing phase, and if all a person is trying to sell is a high ticket item with a high cost per sale the testing is going to be very expensive – which is not how a new marketer should start. But I’m going to talk more about this in my next post.

      I would agree that most systems are probably good, or at least OK, so if a person just sticks to it and does the work, they will succeed. But there are some bad ones, and it’s important to know how to spot them. I also wouldn’t identify a program as good just because some people are making good money from it – because they may be doing that by taking advantage of a lot of other people’s effort.

  3. Thank you for sharing your valuable insights and the lessons you learned from your early mistakes in affiliate marketing. Researching and understanding affiliate programs, diversifying your product offerings, and building relationships with customers are crucial for success. It’s important to learn from these experiences and continue to refine your strategy in order to thrive in the affiliate marketing landscape.

  4. Sneaky people in that affiliate program you joined! And smart of course.

    Good for you that you’ve found out that you need be able to follow-up with people yourself.

  5. I learned very much like you did. Eventually i began to understand that is about providing vale to other. I too have spent far too much on facebook with few results. Thanks for your explanation about good and bad affiliate offers.

  6. Hi, Nathan!
    My husband was the first one of us interested in affiliate marketing. He tried so many programs that were not worth the hype for various reasons. When I came across Dean Holland’s The Iceberg Effect, I really liked it because it explained what affiliate marketing is in general and wasn’t trying to sell a specific product. I finally thought I could do this! I can follow these steps! And I haven’t looked back 🙂

  7. Thanks Nathan,

    I liked that you looked at whether a product is worth promoting if you are paying more in advertising.

    Is that not a good reason to start with free traffic to capture the leads yourself and see how well a product does before you purchase traffic?

    1. Yes, if a person wants to do organic traffic and has the time for it, because it takes way more time, then that is one way to go.

  8. Nathan,
    I agree there are a lot of affiliate marketing programs out there. Some are good programs and some in my opinion just want to take advantage of you. It is important to research each one. Whichever program we chose we must work on it continuously and we must be able to capture our audience.

  9. Oh man, this post resonates with me. I have spent thousands of dollars on products promising the moon, sun, and stars, only to discover that the process was missing key ingredients to be successful. The promotion piece is heavily exaggerated, and the product is not thoroughly tested. Ultimately, it’s a failure; we all move on to the next one. It becomes an endless cycle. I have found a true gem in Dean Holland and know without a shadow of a doubt that I will succeed, as will you, my friend.
    I look forward to following your journey. Oh, and great video, by the way. You are a natural.

  10. Nathan, you are absolutely spot-on with this post. I’ve been in similar situations where I’ve been spun a line about something and I immediately think if I do this my life will be better instantly. But of course it isn’t as you know. I love your video, the way you describe very clearly the different concepts you are discussing. Where I struggle is not producing the content but it’s getting people to actually sign up and capture the email. Do you have any advice around this? Thanks, Atif

  11. Hi Nathan, you certainly have had your share of being taken advantage of. I think we’re all on the right path now that we’ve discovered Dean. Your video was right on the money. Well presented and so professional! You have a great screen presence. I wish you all the best.

  12. Nathan,
    Great story! I loved your video. It is so spot on!

  13. Nathan, this was incredibly helpful. I enjoyed reading your experience in affiliate marketing… especially that it wasn’t exactly successful in the beginning (not that I wish that for you or anything). I gained a lot of insight why this process isn’t successful for some… which I haven’t always fully understood. I have been “learning the ropes” of affiliate marketing for a while now and truth be told I haven’t fully grasped why some businesses are super successful while others have not been. But after reading this, it makes much more sense. Thank you… I gained a lot of value from this!

  14. Hi Nathan, lots of shiny stuff on the web, to bad they tarnish so quick. Definitely have to be careful, I think your in the right place now.

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