The Downside of Affiliate Marketing

This is an expanded article from a Facebook post I wrote earlier today in an internet business Facebook group I'm apart of...

About 20 minutes ago I got an email from Squarespace - a company that I've had an affiliate relationship with for the last year or so. The email stated quite plainly that they have decided to take a different route with their external partnership program.

Effective immediately, my affiliate agreement with them will be terminated.

Just like that, I've lost $300-$500 of revenue. [Original post said $100-$300, but my revenue had been climbing the last few months]

About this time last year I had received a similar email from another company (SmugMug) I was affiliated with about changes to their affiliate program which resulted in a drop of revenue for me from a few thousand dollars a month to a few hundred.

Yikes.

And it's not just the money I've "lost". It's also the sunk-time I've spend creating content (mostly video tutorials) that I use to promote these products.

When I read that email today I felt really disappointed. A bit angry. Certainly frustrated.

I wanted to send a reply to Squarespace that said - "Fuck you! You can't do this to me. I've got kids to feed!"

I even typed that out. But I laughed at the absurdity of those words.

I knew the risks of signing the agreements with these company's. I read the fine-print. It's their choice to change the rules. I can't get mad at that.

 
 

I hit the backspace. I took a breath. And decided to take a few minutes before I responding. [Responding and replying are different things in my mind.]

So this is a post about the downside of affiliate marketing. It's an ugly truth. I've lived through it twice now with significant consequences to my business.

Did I finally learn my lesson? Am I pissed off enough to quit this affiliate marketing B.S.? Do I run to my internet business Facebook groups and tell my friends that affiliate marketing is a serious waste of time?

Hell no.

Despite this latest set-back I still love affiliate marketing. It's one of the best revenue models I've ever utilized in my business.

3 reasons why I still love affiliate marketing:

  1. I don't have to create a product. Product creation is freakin' hard. A product like Squarespace takes years to build, dozens of employees, and serious coin. That's not for me. But what I like doing is selling it as if it was mine. And brining in a percentage of the sale feels great -- when it's authentically done, of course.
  2. I love making recommendations to friends and family when I come across a product or service that I really think is great. An authentic, thoughtful recommendation can be a true gift. Even though I don't have an affiliate relationship with YNAB (You Need A Budget), I am always recommending it to friends when I hear about their money problems. Many have bought the software, gotten out of debt, and thanked me for the awesome recommendation. Add in an affiliate relationship where I get a commission for bringing in that new customer, and that's a win-win-win! [YNAB closed their affiliate program too for some reason. But it didn't affect me like SmugMug and Squarespace has.]
  3. Affiliate marketing is perfect for folks just starting their internet businesses (on the side). Most online guru's we get our daily dose of business advice and inspiration from run their empires as their full-time job. Many of them actually have teams that do a lot of the work. But for many of the "students" like us, we have full time jobs and families and we have to figure this stuff out in the evenings and weekends. Affiliate marketing makes it (relatively) easy for us to generate some revenue without breaking our backs. I learned that from the Internet Business Academy (yep, that right there is an affiliate link!)

What did I learn from this experience?

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket. If something like this happened to a revenue source that was any more than 20% of my income, I'd be so screwed. Be business smart on this one and diversify your affiliate revenue! Have multiple affiliate relationships. Don't rely too heavily on one.
  • I'm glad I have my day-job. Similar to number 1, if that email affected my personal income to a significant amount, my reaction would be much more emotional and the consequences would be severe. Instead, it's just a bump in the road.
  • It's ok to take risks. I took a risk. It worked for a year. I made some money and now it's over. I'm glad I took the risk, and I look forward to the next opportunity. It's a risk I took with my eyes wide open.
  • It's ok when the world changes. I'm glad that I can calm my mind, rationally think about what this news means to me, and respond in an open-minded, open-hearted manner, rather than react with fear and anger.
  • Tell your friends about the experience. They will give you support - and maybe even ideas for some good next steps. I'm so grateful for my Internet Business Mastery Academy Facebook Group. They understand the struggle. They've been witness to my journey.

Things will be just fine.

I'll make new partnerships and new tutorials. I'll find new opportunities to serve and create and promote products and services I love. (And I do love Squarespace).

So when I sat back down to respond to the email from Squarespace, I was able to think clearly and ask them an important question that I hadn't thought about until after I took some time to digest. The question was:

Can you confirm that the coupon code "Oakley" will still work so that anyone that watches my tutorials will still be able to still save 10% on their Squarespace account when they sign up? I know that I won't receive a commission, but it would be great if I could leave those tutorials up because people find them helpful.

Squarespace agreed.

So even though it's no longer a win-win-win..........my tutorials can still be a win for someone. :)