Affiliate Marketing Beginners Checklist – Part 1

It is really hard to educate people about affiliate marketing. Once people get it and just want to learn new things and check out different approaches and new avenues, things are much easier.

I dealt in the past frequently with absolute newbie’s who either had no knowledge about internet marketing at all, or worse, had some weird mix of information that could be described as a mash-up of correct information, old information, false information, incomplete information, myths and personal experiences from memorable (negative) exposure to not-so-glorious examples of the internet marketing branch. The first group is rare and probably the easier one to work with. They are like an empty sheet of paper, clean and virgin, never exposed to the harsh environment of internet reality.

The second one is IMO the vast majority of people and they are much harder to educate. They are not like an empty glass where you can start pouring new knowledge in. There is also a lot of dirt that must be taken care of beforehand and also along the way (those nasty buggers tend to pop-up again and again, even if you thought that you already weeded them out).

I wrote several things in the past where I point people to, who are interested in the subject, for example:

That is a lot of content and in most cases refer each of those resources to a number of other resources as well. However, I am still not happy with it and think that it still misses several points to cause the so-called “Aha-Effect” for people. This is more of a feeling than anything else. I don’t have any facts to back this up, but this is not relevant to me. The feeling was enough for me to sit down and attempt another approach to the subject and write something new up, entirely from scratch.

It’s not an easy task and it will probably take a bit of my time to complete. I wanted to wait and publish everything at once, but then decided to publish already what I had and extend on it later. One trigger for this decision was an email conversation with me, some other affiliate marketers and Karen Jackie from, which resulted in this post of her two days ago.

Okay, the toughest part was for me to determine where to start. I consider this first part the most important and critical one, because it addresses the subject from a higher perspective, but is essential in its core. Everything else that will follow is already much more specific and technical.

Comments and Feedback Wanted

Please let me know if my attempt this time was any good. I also encourage other affiliate marketers to amend on my post in the comments section. Also feedback from the people who this post is actually for, the affiliate marketing newbie’s is very much appreciated. Does it make sense? Do you understand it? Does it help you or did it make things even worse and more complicated than they already were for you? Thanks!

Affiliate Marketing Beginners Checklist – Part 1

First of all, affiliate marketing is not a way to become rich quickly, period! If you believe that or hope, either forget about it quickly or go elsewhere to waste your time on chasing your Golden Goose.

Anybody who tries to sell you something that claims otherwise is something you want to watch out for. Ask yourself what the person has to gain from offering you to tell you a foolproof way that is easy and quick to make a fortune on the internet. Do you have to pay that person something to get access to that secret knowledge? Does the person provide a 100% guarantee that his method will work for you too? I mean a foolproof and unconditional guarantee and not a guarantee that is followed by a lot of fine print that explains to you that “100% guarantee” is not the same as “absolute guarantee” and that 100% is only an approximation and not a fixed value.

Nothing Comes from Nothing

Commitment, Consistency and Time are key factors that may allow you to make a living and day job out of affiliate marketing one day. Only very few made it ever to great riches, if you define riches by only monetary standards. There are many more, if you define “riches” a bit more openly, such as “being the master of your own life”, being your own boss and work on your own terms, for your own benefits and on your own clock rather than working day in and day out to increase somebody else’s fortune on their schedule and on their terms that you have to accept and follow.

But also to that point it is a long way to travel. The good thing is that you don’t have to do affiliate marketing full time. There is no “everything or nothing” choice to be made. You can do it on the side to supplement your income or to monetize something that you are already doing anyway. Actually most affiliates fall into this category, some by choice, others because they are unable to take it to the next level for one reason or another.

Things are much easier, If …

The best single thing that will help you to be able to spend the needed time and get you back going rather than to give up, if something you did, wasn’t working as well as you thought it would, or hoped or wished, is passion. If you are passionate about what you are doing and not just do it because of the potential rewards, you will be able to overcome drawbacks, disappointments and “hard times”. It will keep you going, paid, paid only little or not paid at all. Choosing a subject where you are passionate about instead of something you don’t care about at all and only do it because of the money has another side effect that will help you with what you are doing. People tend to be much more knowledgeable and interested to learn more about things where they have a passion for.

Knowledge is a valuable asset, an asset that your targeted audience might not have and look for. Honest passion can also be felt and seen in what you create out of this passion. Something that people will recognize and what people who are not passionate about the subject and try to do anyway try to emulate, but never seem to get right. People usually trust and listen to people much more who are passionate about the things they do and talk about. This is called attention and another vital element to successful marketing.
What are you passionate about? Do people who are not as passionate as you are, but interested in the subject have any needs that you could fulfill or help them with to fulfill it themselves?

Are you really ready? Affiliate marketing is not for everybody. If you need somebody who tells you what to do all the time, affiliate marketing is not for you. If you think that having a paycheck with the same amount every two weeks or month is “security”, affiliate marketing will never be more than a supplemental stream of income for you. Maybe it is not the right thing for you. Maybe you lack the commitment or thought that it will be much easier and a walk in a park. There is no shame in admitting this error, you are not alone. Thousands and thousands of failed affiliates who thought the same and learned the truth the hard way abandoned their dreams of quick riches through affiliate marketing and quit the business altogether.
You are still reading this… Why?

Selling Somebody Else’s Stuff versus Your Own

So you want to become an affiliate marketer? The difference between an affiliate marketer and a marketer/small online merchant (who just started out) is that if you become a merchant yourself, you are selling YOUR products to YOUR own customers. You don’t do that as an affiliate. As an affiliate you promote SOMEBODY ELSE’S products, the products offered by a merchant.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that you don’t have to carry any inventory, worry about the fulfillment of orders, online payments, customer service, returns etc. You also don’t have any risks that are usually coming with the ownership and storage of inventory.

The bad thing is that people who you are referring to the merchant become the merchant’s customers and not yours, at least not because of the products that you are promoting. That means that you have to create an additional value proposition the merchant can/does not offer that will make the same people come back to you in the future. You also have to keep in mind that whatever share you get for the referral, is overall still less than what the merchant will earn in profits from your marketing efforts (there are exceptions, but this statement is generally true).

However, there are enough margins to make this proposition commercially a success and to grow a relationship that is profitable and beneficial for all involved parties.

Value Proposition and the Alignment of Goals

When it comes to promoting somebody else’s products, think about how to do something that the merchant himself cannot or will not do himself, but something that is adding some sort of value to the process. This value can be a lot of different things and depend on what the merchant and the customer see as valuable. This can be very different depending on the specific vertical the merchant is in and from what the merchants goals are, particularly when it comes to his affiliate program.

Driving sales is one goal, but it is not the only one. Often is customer acquisition an important goal for an affiliate program. Some also use the program for customer retention and for branding purposes. Usually does a program have all those goals, but they are weighted differently by each merchant. It is important to understand what the merchant’s main goals are, because this will determine, which of your marketing efforts will be seen by the merchant as valuable and good and which ones may not.

A misunderstanding between the partners about what those goals are is often the cause for conflicts and disputes down the road that can result in the end of a peaceful and friendly relationship that lasted a long time before that.

Okay, that’s the end of part 1. Part 2 will follow when I get around to writing it up :).

Carsten Cumbrowski

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

5 Responses to Affiliate Marketing Beginners Checklist – Part 1

  1. Jesse Bouman says:

    I’d like to add to part 1 that buying anything that can help you succeed in this field is way too early in that stage, you can only decide on the quality of something that you buy if you understand and know what you want and need. (no offense to all the good marketers out there with good products, but once somebody knows what he wants and need, they’ll find your product and can decide if they need it and judge it after using it).

    Other than this small comment, Carsten you put out a great piece again, I am looking forward to part 2!!! .

    Last addition for aspirant affiliates: don’t be afraid to communicate with the merchant you choose, as Carsten states most of the conflicts and disputes result out of poor communication (from both parts).

  2. Junior says:

    Great post Carsten. Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Looking forward to part 2.

  3. Carsten Cumbrowski says:

    Hi Jesse, thanks for your comment. Well, your comment says in other words what I also tried to communicate. Pick a niche that you like, that is a passion or hobby or your profession. Something you enjoy, something you know something about and can relate to. This alone helps with so many details later on, that picking something else is almost certain to be a failure in this day and age.

  4. Carsten,

    The idea of producing content versus being an affiliate marketer is part of a big revelation that I had yesterday, thanks to some mental pushing by Wayne and Sam. I’ve been a content producer my whole life, but never coherently put anything together. Over the past year I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to be an affiliate marketer. I’m sure I could do well at it, but that’s not really being true to who I am. I will always be involved in the broad world of affiliate marketing, but probably more from the side of someone who uses it to distribute their own content. And I will still have that part of me that experiments with marketing other people’s product because I find it fun and interesting.


  5. Niche says:

    Totally agree with you
    I have even had newbie affiliate marketers i.e the clean empty glass variety, taught thenm solid principles on affiliate marketing and then they have gone out, bought these get rich quick products and gone off the time proven methods

    Go figure!