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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Internet marketing is all about knowing your customers right?  Well, it takes a little more than knowledge to be an effective marketer.  As a result, I’ve been spending some time with an unlikely bedfellow to learn more about affiliate marketing and effectively marketing online.

Enter online pharmacies.  Did you know that consumers purchase billions of dollars worth of brand name and generic pharmaceuticals online every year?  Personally I like to fill my prescriptions at the local CVS or Walgreens, but who am I to judge? 

Google and other search engines have made it quite difficult for these websites to promote via search.  So how do they continue to sell their products?  Where do they get their traffic from?  What I found is that the approach is not what you would think.  In fact, I was surprised to discover that the email techniques that one might assume go hand in hand with this type of operation is not a strategy for legitimate sellers.

What’s the answer to the riddle?  Okay.  Imagine if you have a product that everyone within your market wanted but you couldn’t use conventional marketing to reach them.  What would you do?  Enter the RX affiliate network  and a handful of other networks that bring together buyers and sellers.  Search engines aren’t the only game in town.

In fact, we know that word of mouth, forums, and other social communities are a popular way to influence buying decisions.  This is how marketers in particular niches are achieving success.  Instead of depending on costly pay-per-click ads or even organic results, they are leveraging the power of micro-bloggers, social media, and influencers to reach their audience.

Taking a page from the affiliate marketing playbook
Now that I’ve shared with you my findings on non conventional marketing, let me give you some insight into these affiliate networks and how they operate.  Sites I’ve mentioned like those above are essentially online brokers that act on account of the supplier.  They will chose suppliers based on a set of criteria (size, trustworthiness, distribution capabilities, etc.) and approach them – introducing them to the network of approved vendors.  In the case of the RX affiliate network, I asked them how they find reputable partners.  Their particular network consists of licensed pharmacies and as a result, they stand out from the hundreds of other fly-by-night websites in the niche.  This is also true of vendors like Clickbank or Paydotcom which require an approval process before you can be added to their network.

When I pursued the question, I came to understand the value of using legitimate, well sourced vendors.  In addition to credibility, established suppliers already have networks and existing customers.  The affiliate site can leverage existing relationships and even receive recommendations from satisfied customers of these suppliers.  I equate this to buying a customer list that you know is good.  Additionally, the legitimate vendors provide services that the disreputable providers just can’t offer, helping the affiliate network stand out.  This comes into play as the network attracts partners to sell the products.

Similar to Clickbank and other affiliate networks
Just like popular affiliate networks, sites offering products from manufacturers or service providers can benefit from bringing together buyers and sellers on a digital platform.  Doing so allows manufacturers to focus on what they do best, producing quality goods and services and marketers can focus on sales and promotion.  As we all know, marketing requires a completely different skill set and is generally not apparent among product manufacturers.  

In fact, the best affiliates know how to do this like no other.  Sites like RX affiliate network set themselves apart to attract the best suppliers and sellers.  Regular payments, free templates for shops to get up and running, high commissions rates (30% commission), referral fees, and customer service are all essential for making the most of productive buyer and seller connections. 

Affiliate networks provide manufacturers and distributors access to sellers- plain and simple.  Looking at this in depth, the benefit is that many if not most of these “sellers” already have an audience waiting for a specific need to be filled.  In this digital world, sellers can look very closely at potential offers and only promote those offers which they can sell. Their motivation?  Commission!  In fact, the term “super affiliate” was created because so many people make a living selling affiliate products.  The best part is that sellers do not have to manufacture anything, hold inventory, deal with shipping hassles, or billing concerns.

Whether you’re selling informational products or medicinal compounds, connecting with sellers who already have an established audience is the key to success.  The analogy I like to use is that of the traveling salesman.  You can knock on doors all you want, but it takes a lot of time and you’ll never get to all of your potential prospects.  If you hold a meeting to talk about your products and invite resellers who have an audience waiting for you, then you can expand your reach instantly.  There are many lessons to learn from affiliate networks.  The key is to apply them to your business.


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