What does it really take to build an affiliate business?

Take a look at this equation:

Affiliate Offer + Traffic = $$$

A traffic source, an affiliate offer, and maybe a quick landing page in the middle.

One doesn’t need more to run a successful affiliate business, right?


While the three components traffic, lander, offer are enough for a skilled affiliate marketer to make some money online, it’s a fault.

And I’m guilty of having made this mistake in the early days as an affiliate myself.

But what’s wrong with this approach?

It’s short term thinking. You simply don’t build a reliable, consistent, and sellable business that way.

Although the combination of media buys, to advertorial (for example), to offer can indeed generate nice profits, it’s not sustainable.

And simply not very smart.

It forces you to jump from campaign to campaign to campaign.

And the thing is not sellable, because we don’t build sellable business assets.

Here’s how we can change that…

The Video That Sparked This Post

The man on stage is Anthony Sarandrea at the Affiliate World Asia in Bangkok 2019.

Building A Sustainable Affiliate Business

You haven’t built a business.

You have an offer and a traffic source.

We need to focus on building a sustainable business.

Here’s the first (and argubly the biggest) issue that most affiliates have:

You’re Having A One-Night Stand With Your Traffic

Most affiliates run one of two models:

Direct Linking

You’re most likely either direct linking…

[ Traffic Source ] -> [ Offer ]


Advertorial Landing Page

… or you’re driving your traffic through an advertorial to the offer:

[ Traffic Source ] -> [ Advertorial ] -> [ Offer ]

The traffic (people!) click, and they either buy from you or they don’t.

Maybe you retarget them a little bit.

But really, that’s it.

They’re out the door and now it’s on to the next and the next and the next…

You’re Here For The Next Crack Hit

As an affiliate markter, you ask yourself:

“Does TikTok work?”

“How do I get Snapchat to work?”

“How do I lower my cost on Facebook?”

At the same time, you’re missing one important piece:

RPC - Revenue Per Click

Revenue per click is extremely important because you (can) have control over it!

As more an more businesses go online, traffic costs will only go up from here.

In fact, traffic costs are rising each year.

This is especially true for quality traffic sources.

And we don’t have control over that.

What you do with that click, and how much value you extract out of that visitor to your site, or the impression you’re serving, you have control over that.

Therefore you need to know this important metric:

How much money do I make per impression or per click?

Owning The Customer (Without Owning The Offer)

What does owning the customer mean?

Owning The Customer
The ability to reconnect with someone you already paid to get in front of to sell them more stuff.

You could also call this list building 101.

Building An Income Vs Building A Business

I really think marketing is the lifeblood to business.

And affiliate/performance marketers are among some of the world’s greatest marketers.

But, unfortunately, many don’t look at themselves as business people.

What If…?

… the marketing gods came today and slapped you on the hand and said you’re never allowed to buy (paid) media again …

What do you have to show for at that point?

How much longer would you be making money? Would it be a year? A month? A week? A day? An hour? 5 minutes?

That’s why we need to be…

Thinking long-term and building a real business instead!

From today on, you are able to start building some legs in your business.

Keyword: Stability.

Why Do You Need To “Own” The Customer?

If you’re running “direct linking” campaigns or the “advertorial model” (see above), you’re basically doing all the hard work but get nothing in return long-term.

You create a lot of the “spillover” for the brands but you make zero out of it.

Everyone is focusing on “getting them cheaper” instead of getting more money out of your customers.

When Was The Last Time You’ve Got Excited Because Facebook’s CPMs Went Up?

When Facebook gets more expensive, it pushes competition out.

Of course, you can only stay in the game and still profit if your LTV is high enough.

LTV - Customer Lifetime Value - is what you (can) have control over.

Can You Play Top Of Funnel?

In other words:

Could you convert someone off of a generic TV ad or a billboard on the side of the road?

Could that be a profitable play for you?

If not, there’s some work to be done:

The Key To Building A Real Business: Data

  • email adresses for newsletters, daily deals, down and upsells
  • phone numbers for SMS, RVM, callbacks
  • physical adresses
  • retargeting pixels
  • credit card information
  • push notification subscriptions
  • chat subscriptions
  • monthly paid subscriptions (membship sites, recurring revenue)
  • community data (facebook groups, forums)
  • brand value (direct search traffic, SEO)

The real question though is:

What are you doing with that data?

What Are Some Of The Results Of Applying These Principles?

  • Higher LTV = you make more money (per customer)
  • Competitive advantage = whoever can spend the most to acquire a customer, wins.
  • Get out of the “rat race” (campaign, next campaign, next campaign, …)
  • The same effort is necessary as optimizing any campaigns
  • Building long term, sellable business assets

3 Steps To Owning The Customer…

Step 1: Build A Brand Around An Affinity, Not Just An Offer

  • build around affinity: A topic/niche
  • shareable name
  • cover multiple offers under one name

“Vegan Nation” instead of “best-diet-pills.com”.

A real, recognizable brand.

Step 2: Owning The “Pre-Sales Page” Vs The Offer

  • fill out info (name, email) to
    • download (guide, PDF, eBook, cheat sheet, …)
    • get a coupon
  • SMS text or email to opt-in to
    • get xyz (guide, coupon, “deal”, …)
  • take the quiz (… to see if you qualify, before sending them the offer)
  • create an account for “personalized offers”
  • push notification subscription
  • retargeting pixel

Create something of value.

Put it - just as a little step - in between the flow or your funnel that you have.

It can be a digital product or a quiz, or something else of value.

Not just an advertorial.

Step 3: Recurring (Paid) Membership Site Or Facebook Group

  • “Prime members” buy an average ~$1,400 a year worth of stuff on Amazon, regular customers only spend ~$600 - “stickier customers”
  • COSTCO makes more off of membership (double) than they do selling products - you’re paying for access to “offers” (discount club)
    • they break even on the leading/front-end offer and make money on the back end through subscription etc.

Think Long Term. Think Real Business.

Think data.

Think business assets.

Think Sustainable.

  • get out of the “campaign rat race” and add stability
  • traffic costs will only go up from here
  • compliance will only get tougher
  • but all these challenges push competition out
  • long term investments:
    • build a team (hire a-players)
    • build systems
    • think about non-traditional traffic (podcast advertising, direct mail, tv, SEO, …)
  • build a sellable business
  • call your customers and talk to them
  • greater purpose: 1,000’s of people see your ads, challenge industries, do something long lasting

At the very minimum, and if you get nothing else out of this article but this:

Build a list.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you find this article helpful!

Thank you for your reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start And Grow Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Today!

==> Free Download: Online Business Blueprint (PDF)