Building a mailing list as an affiliate marketer

One of the challenges of being an affiliate marketer is maintaining your own customers. When visitors get to your website one of your main goals is to send them off through an affiliate link to gain commission, visitors that don’t click through to a merchant don’t generate you any affiliate revenue. Ideally you would like them to come back to your website again in future in order to generate recurring revenue and not have to continually acquire only new customers. The problem is though, now that they have found what they are looking for from a merchant they may no longer need your website. One way to combat this and lure visitors back is through a mailing list.

A mailing list is one of those things which seems easy enough in principle but is actually something that you really to focus on and devote time to.

The first thing you really need is something worth mailing to people, this can be a number of things which I will expand on below including: product deals, site updates, unique data, competitions, cashback and joining a club/ community.

Product Deals
Deals are one of the primary things an affiliate can offer a mailing list subscriber. As an affiliate you no doubt either use software or research products you are looking to promote. You are generally in a good position to source great deals that a customer may otherwise miss just visiting the one merchant. This is something you need to plan ahead on though. If you are doing this by hand the time taken to craft one mailout has to be a consideration. If by software, you need to think about whether or not the deals will be relevant to subscribers. For instance the best deal on a baby pram is only going to interest a small niche group of customers, if this isn’t on topic for your site then interest will be low.

Site Updates
If your site is built around a stream of unique content this can be your mailing list offering. Great on topic new content will keep users coming back. This will only work though if you have high quality content, no one is going to want to come back to read the latest 300 word summary you brought online for SEO value.

Unique Data
Affiliates are generally aggregators of products/ services and deals. What you offer collectively is something that people can’t just get from the one merchant. Having this information across multiple merchants allows you in some cases to generate unique insights that won’t be possible from a single providers own data. A good example of this is Adioso, where you can signup for any email which will alert you when there are good airfare prices on routes that you have searched. A single airline could offer this, but would only include their own prices, reducing the effectiveness.

Another very popular model is cashback, giving your users a percentage (or all) of your commission as a payout. Users will usually signup for cashback, providing you with an opportunity to send out cashback reminders and, with permission on signup, a more generalized mailout.

People love competitions, a good prize is a great incentive for people to signup for a mailing list. A competition can also allow you to become the merchant and create your own affiliate program to drive traffic to it. Competitions can tie into your current promoted products and you may even be able to acquire your prizes at a cheaper rate in partnership with the merchants you are promoting. A word of warning though, there are plenty of low quality leads that will jump at the chance of getting in the running for free stuff. The kind that you are very unlikely to convince to pay for anything. So while subscribers may skyrocket, you may not see a lot of conversions from your mailouts. As a explain below, it is important to track conversions to continue to improve your mailouts into the future.

Build a community
Building a community around your offering is something that many want to do but only a few succeed. A community involves many people spending time around your website, obviously there aren’t enough people to go around for everyone to be able to do that. Rand Fishkin, one of the biggest names in SEO, has a lot of good advice on how to go down this path. It follows though that with a successful community people will be more than willing to signup for updates and other types of mailouts.

Next you need to make a commitment to actually using the list, often the time spent creating incentive for people to join and putting the code in place will be for nothing if the mailing list just sits unused or used in a haphazard or informal way. Sure you can start collecting now for the future, but I think the whole process works a lot better when coupled with an active newsletter. With a long gap visitors may forget even ever visiting your website.

You should also uphold the law which varies from region to region but usually involves not tricking users into signing up, giving mail out content that the user expects based on the text around their signup and providing an easy way for users to unsubscribe. 3rd party mailing list managers such as mail chimp, while providing plenty of other great features, will cover you on legal requirements.

3rd party software also generally gives you something else you should really have to make full use of your mailing list: user tracking. Knowing things like how many users are on the mailing list, how many have unsubscribed and what links in the mailout are being clicked on can help you better tailor a more effective mailout.

Give it a try, even if initial performance is bad, by committing to it, tracking results and iterating over successive mailouts you are likely to find eventually success. You will also learn a heap in the process, managing a mailing list is an important skill for the modern affiliate marketer

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