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Websites and services based on Web 2.0 concepts—blogging and interactive online communities, for example—have impacted the affiliate marketing world as well. These platforms allow improved communication between merchants and affiliates. Web 2.0 platforms have also opened affiliate marketing channels to personal bloggers, writers, and independent website owners. Contextual ads allow publishers with lower levels of web traffic to place affiliate ads on websites.
Email Marketing: Email can be an effective way to maintain a connection between your business and its customers. You can purchase email addresses of customers and prospective customers, but the best results usually come from emails collected on your website. You can entice people to give you their emails through a quality free offer, such as a downloadable resource, called a lead magnet. Once you have their email, you can send a newsletter, special offers, and other information your target market would be interested in—as long as you follow laws and regulations around email marketing.
In a number of recent articles, where I've interviewed some of social media's rising stars such as Jason Stone from Millionaire Mentor, Sean Perelstein, who built StingHD into a global brand and Nathan Chan from Foundr Magazine, amongst several others, it's quite clear that multi-million-dollar businesses can be built on the backs of wildly-popular social media channels and platforms.
A sales funnel reflects the prospect’s journey or path that takes them from awareness to becoming a customer. It encompasses actions you take to create this journey or experience. The sales pipeline, on the other hand, is the specific stages that a deal or opportunity moves through in your sales process from the salesperson’s perspective. See our article on the eight sales pipeline stages every sales team should have.
You’ve given the prospect all of the information they need to make a decision by this point; they simply need to make it. Lots of people get stuck in this part of the sales funnel, so it is your job to nudge them closer and closer to making a sale without being too pushy. A great option would be to throw in a bonus for free to to offer a limited-time discount.
Of course, implementing this isn't easy. You need to first develop your stories, then decide on how you're going to convey those stories and at what drip-rate. For example, your first email or two might go out on the day they first signup, then one email per day might go out afterwards. How much of that will be story-based and how much will be pitches?
Focus on reviewing products and services that fall within your niche. Then, leveraging the rapport you have created with your audience and your stance as an expert, tell your readers why they would benefit from purchasing the product or service you are promoting. Almost anything sold online can be reviewed if there is an affiliate program – you can review physical products, digital software, or even services booked online, like ride sharing or travel resort booking. It is especially effective to compare this product to others in the same category. Most importantly, make sure you are generating detailed, articulate content to improve conversions.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
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When beginning your affiliate marketing career, you’ll want to cultivate an audience that has very specific interests. This allows you to tailor your affiliate campaigns to that niche, increasing the likelihood that you’ll convert. By establishing yourself as an expert in one area instead of promoting a large array of products, you’ll be able to market to the people most likely to buy the product.
Personalization: As you build out your inbound marketing and marketing automation strategy, you will learn more about your leads. This learning process will empower your company to re-invest that data into refining your marketing strategy. Marketing automation software will help you streamline this process and build 1:1 connections with hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of users.
Some merchants run their own (in-house) affiliate programs using dedicated software, while others use third-party intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. There are two different types of affiliate management methods used by merchants: standalone software or hosted services, typically called affiliate networks. Payouts to affiliates or publishers can be made by the networks on behalf of the merchant, by the network, consolidated across all merchants where the publisher has a relationship with and earned commissions or directly by the merchant itself.
For instance, in the Awareness phase of a sales funnel (the first stage), you’re focused on what your customer sees, hears, and feels as they are becoming aware of who you are. In the Prospecting phase, which is the first phase in pipeline stage, you’re focused on what the salesperson is doing to find qualified leads and to build awareness within their target markets.
CRM software has features like event scheduling, case management, and task management that help you plan and execute activities that coincide with the stages of your sales funnel. This software makes it easier to implement your sales funnel by showcasing upcoming and overdue activities, which keeps you focused on the activities that matter throughout the entire sales process.
To help you get started, we’ve created a sales funnel template you can use to create something that works for your business. It’s a PowerPoint document with prompts that you can customize based on the specific stages you feel are the best fit for your customers. This template will help you think of each stage in your customer’s journey and what should happen in each stage. It will also help you map out your own sales funnel stages unique to your business.
Case management tools are especially helpful at the end of the sales funnel when the prospect becomes a customer and you want to handle and track support issues. Effectively managing support issues leads to increased customer loyalty and improves your chances of getting repeat business and referrals. Having case management in your CRM enables you to build customer loyalty because support issues will be top of mind until they are resolved.
Because often, there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle-of-the-funnel marketing automation. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have a steady flow of leads. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database, and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there.