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Is Affiliate Marketing Hard? 9 Reasons Why People Fail At Affiliate Marketing


When I tell my friends and family that my ‘side hustle’ is affiliate marketing, I usually get two questions. First, what is affiliate marketing, and second is affiliate marketing hard. In this post, I’m going to quickly answer the first question, spend some time answering the second question, and discuss why some people have success with affiliate marketing, while others fail.

Click the image below to watch a video where I discuss this very topic.

Watch this video to learn if I think affiliate marketing is hard

What is Affiliate Marketing?

In very simple terms affiliate marketing is the process of recommending products or services to customers on behalf of a company. If a customer purchases a product or service using your special link (called an affiliate link) you can receive a commission.

This is the very basics of affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is much deeper than this definition, but this definition is good enough for now.

Now, on to the topic at hand: is affiliate marketing hard?

Is Affiliate Marketing Hard?

In short, no affiliate marketing isn’t hard. Affiliate marketing is not hard for the simple fact that you are recommending products and services customers want to buy. A good affiliate marketer is solving a problem, fulfilling a need, or answering a question.

In addition, affiliate marketing isn’t hard from the perspective that you don’t have to come up with your own unique product, you don’t have to deal with customers directly, and you don’t have to deal with any of the problems that come along with other types of businesses.

Affiliate marketing is just a different type of marketing in which every day people like you and me are (or should be) offering assistance based on knowledge and experience.

The question then becomes: if affiliate marketing isn’t hard, why do some many people fail at making money with this type of business? I believe there are a number of reasons why people fail with affiliate marketing, which I will discuss in the next sections.

In my opinion, there are at least 9 reasons why people fail at affiliate marketing.

  1. Don’t think of it as a real business
  2. Spamming affiliate links
  3. Not working long enough
  4. Not working hard enough
  5. Not willing to invest in themselves
  6. Selling low ticket items
  7. Not willing to invest in the necessary tools
  8. Not understanding the data
  9. A lot of bad actors

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these reasons a little closer.

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Many Don’t Approach It Like A Real Business Opportunity

There is a perception of many new affiliate marketers that you can declare that you’re an affiliate marketer and you will instantly start making money online (in the same way Michael Scott declared bankruptcy in an episode of “The Office”).

I think there are two things that people don’t understand with affiliate marketing. First, it is a real business. Every business needs to find a way to add value to someone’s life. Think about any major business and the value that it brings to any individual’s life.

For example, Mcdonalds, Love or hate the fast-food restaurant, but they bring value by offering fast meals at a low price. A good affiliate marketer should find a way to bring value to someone’s life by answering a question or solving a problem.

People who fail at this part of affiliate marketing, usually fail to make money online.

Second, affiliate marketing is still marketing, and most people don’t spend the time to learn the basics of marketing. Many people think that you can just grab your link and start building your dream house on the beach.

Let me say this again: affiliate marketing is marketing.

To make money with affiliate marketing, I recommend investing a little time, and money learning the basics of marketing. Learn about buyer’s habits, learn about the 4 (or 7) P’s of marketing. Again, failing to learn the basics will result in failure.

Spamming Affiliate Links

Another reason why people fail at affiliate marketing is many grab their affiliate links and send it out all over the internet. They add their links to their personal Facebook posts, random Facebook groups, and on and on and on.

This will almost never work for two reasons, you don’t understand your target audience and you’re not adding value. For example, from time-to-time, I am tagged in a Facebook post where someone is promoting a purse (handbag), make-up, and other types of stuff that doesn’t apply to me.

Usually, I never respond, but this a great example of why affiliate marketing won’t work for that marketer. They aren’t targeting the right people, which will lead to no one buying, and that marketer will get frustrated and quit. This person clearly doesn’t understand that you need to target the right audience to make money online.

Marketing is about solving problems, and posting your link any and everywhere there is an input box isn’t going to work either. I see two types of spammers, people that just think the link up in a new post, and people that reply to posts with their affiliate links.

Neither of these options is going to help you build a business. It is important to remember that you have to add value to someone’s life. What problems are you solving by the “spray and pray method?” How have you addressed their concerns? Most likely you haven’t which means you haven’t built trust.

In addition, most people are very fearful of being scammed. Putting up an affiliate link with no context, and little information does not build trust. And, for the most part, customers only buy from companies they trust. Back to my McDonalds example, people only buy from Mcdonald’s because they know and trust the company is going to provide a level of service quickly and cheaply.

Successful affiliate marketers don’t spam links.

Not Working Long Enough

Another common problem I see with affiliate marketing is the pressure to make $1,000 per day immediately. This is an unfair expectation, and it’s not really the newcomer’s fault. These see, and compare themselves to the affiliate marketers on YouTube that have built 6, 7, or 8 figure business. What they don’t realize is that it can take YEARS to build that kind of business.

Just like any other successful business, it can take a long time to start seeing the level of success that you want, and most don’t have that kind of patience and persistence. While you can start making money online with affiliate marketing in a short amount of time, short is relative to other online business opportunities.

I recommend setting 3, 6, 9-month realistic goals to track your progress and success. Start off will really small goals like 10 YouTube subscribers, 3 organic views to my blog post. These short and medium-length goals should help you to keep working through difficult times.

Not working long enough can also mean not working long enough hours in the beginning, which I’ll talk about in the next section.

Not Working Hard Enough

The weird thing about affiliate marketing is that it is sold as “the only business opportunity you can work just 15 minutes per day.” While that may be true eventually, if you’re just starting out with affiliate marketing, you should be working much hard than just 15 minutes per day.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, affiliate marketing is a real business, and real businesses take time, energy, and effort, to launch and nurture. If you’re planning on doing affiliate marketing after your “9-5” be prepared to stay up long hours to meet your objective.

 If you’re not willing to invest 3 or 4 hours per day to start a business, then I would look at something else to make additional money online.

Here was my “day in the life” when I first start affiliate marketing:

  • 4:00 am wake up and get ready for work. This includes getting the wife and kids ready.
  • 5:15 am: leave for work
  • 6:00 am arrive at work
  • 2:00 pm leave work (no lunch break)
  • 2:30 pm get home and do something (create a video, edit a video, keyword research)
  • 3:00 pm Pick up son
  • 3:05 – 7:30 family time
  • 8:00 pm – 12 am: create something (create video/ blog post, Pinterest pins, keyword research) I call it growing my business

I know this is extreme, but if you want your business to succeed you have to be willing to sacrifice. If you’re not willing to sacrifice time, then you must sacrifice money. You will still need to spend time learning about paid ads on popular networks.

My goal is to outwork everyone is my space, and I think it should be your goal also.

Not Willing To Invest In Themselves

Another common issue, and you that I personally faced, is not willing to invest in yourself and business. We’ve been told that you can learn everything you need from free methods like Facebook, blogs, and YouTube.

And, while there is a ton of information on those platforms, it can be difficult to find all of the information consistently. Just as if you enrolled in a university to learn how to become a marketing expert, I recommend investing in a course to learn affiliate marketing.

The best part about affiliate marketing is the blueprint to success has already been mapped out. Before you enroll in a course, make sure they are showing you everything they know about affiliate marketing. Also, make sure they are frequently updating the content because affiliate marketing is always evolving.

Investing in a paid course can save you a ton of time with paid ads, reduce your frustration, and give you access to a group of like-minded individuals to help you find the level of success you’re looking for.

Unwilling To Invest In Necessary Tools

This may be the biggest mistake of my affiliate marketing career. I, because I was being cheap, did not want to invest in email marketing. I didn’t want to spend $100 per month because I didn’t see the value in it.

I think I’ve left $100s if not $1000s of dollars on the table because I didn’t see the need for email marketing. It wasn’t until I invested in myself that I realized that email marketing is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Again, the blueprint to success with affiliate marketing has been laid out over and over again, you simply need to copy this blueprint and put your own stamp on it. One necessary tool for affiliate marketing is email marketing. I talk a lot about email marketing, so I won’t elaborate on that here.

If someone recommends a tool, do a little research, and buy the best tool that you can afford to grow your business.

Selling Low Ticket Items

This problem is a little less obvious to the new affiliate marketer but can be a key reason why they fail to make money online. Most new affiliate marketers are told, “go get your affiliate links from Amazon Associates and promote away.”

The problem with this is Amazon doesn’t really pay anything, and new affiliate marketers will see that the commissions versus what they are spending isn’t worth it. If you do the math, you would need to see hundreds of Amazon products per month just to break even with the cost of email marketing.

If you’re new to affiliate marketing, most likely, you don’t have the traffic to generate hundreds of sales per month.

I recommend finding products that either offers high ticket commissions ($100 or more per month), or products that pay monthly recurring commissions. High ticket commissions allow you to cover the cost of email marketing with one sale, and recurring commissions allow you to stack revenue month after month.

Not Understanding The Data

The data is key to successful affiliate marketing, but it’s the most overlooked aspect as well. Understanding the key metrics within your niche can be the difference between $1000s of dollars per month. There are a ton of different metrics to know, but I will list a few of the most important.

  • Click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Time on Page
  • Watch time
  • Cost per click
  • Page speed
  • Affiliate window

These are just a few of the more important data terms you need to learn and understand to make money with affiliate marketers.

A lot of Bad Actors

Bad actors are a problem for any and every business but are especially for online businesses. Bad actors are those people that will do and say whatever it takes to make a sale. They use shady, scamming, scrummy tactics to generate income.

These people use bait and switch tactics, promise the world, and make everything more but give you little to nothing in return.

These bad actors have made it difficult for the real affiliate marketers because people are more skeptical, everyone is now an affiliate marketer, and governments from around the world are imposing more regulations to limit exposure if it’s citizens.

It isn’t much you can do about it except continue to add quality content, solve problems, and add value. Eventually, high-quality content will rise to the top.

How Do I succeed in affiliate marketing?

Here are a  few tips that may help you find success with affiliate marketing:

  • Invest in yourself and business
  • Set short, medium, and long term goals
  • Create a plan
  • Add value to someone’s life
  • Keep creating
  • Celebrate the successes

The best way not to fail at affiliate marketing is to see affiliate marketing as a business. Just like a business, you will need to invest in tools, training, and other stuff to grow your business. Enter into affiliate marketing with the understanding that you may not make 1000 per month immediately, but with consistent and deliberate effort you can make money online with affiliate marketing.

Finally, I think the best way to succeed with affiliate marketing is to just keep creating. You will figure out what does and doesn’t work for you and your business. You may start your journey with blogging and realize you hate writing, change to paid ads because you’re impatient (like me), or realize something else along the way.

Whatever it is, just keep creating.

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