Affiliate marketing – like any other skill – is one that takes time and education to develop. Sure, some people have a natural ability for marketing and selling products, but even these people aren’t born knowing how to install a WordPress blog or cloak an affiliate link. In all cases, some level of education is required to turn these newbie marketers into titans of internet industry.
Because these knowledge gaps exist, there’s a thriving market for information products, in which people trade their own experiences for money. Unfortunately, not all of these info products are created equally. Some are incredibly high value, while others are flat out scams – which makes the question of how and when to invest in your internet marketing education a very valuable one for new marketers to consider.
The following is the evaluation process I use, which I’d highly recommend to anyone who’s either just starting out in this business or trying to decide whether or not to buy a new product, course or tool. Just ask yourself these three questions…
Question #1 – Can I Afford This?
Have you ever watched the Suze Orman show? It’s pretty cheesy, but I love the sections where she brings on listeners who want to know if they can afford to purchase the things they want. These listeners lay out their finances – including existing debts, savings, living expenses and so on – and Suze makes the final verdict of “Approved” or “Denied” based on whether these purchases will hurt their financial futures.
(Pro tip – the Suze Orman show makes a great drinking game… One drink for every “Approved” listener, plus two drinks for every “Denied” listener equals the recipe for a fun – and educational – night!)
After watching the show for a while, you start to look at your own finances – and your potential internet business-related purchases – a little differently. I’m not joking when I say I’ve thought about how my financial picture would look displayed on Suze’s “Can I Afford It” screen… If you haven’t seen the show, the general point is that, no matter how much you might think you “need” something, if your finances aren’t in order, then you can’t afford it.
That shiny new market research tool that’s going to find you high traffic, low competition keywords and make you waffles at the same time? No matter how much you might think you “need” it in order to grow your business, if you’re putting it on a credit card because you can’t afford to pay it off all at once, you truly can’t afford it.
So stop telling yourself that you’ll make up the purchase price with increased sales – you can’t guarantee that, and there are plenty of free tools and resources out there that will help you grow your business to the point where it’s generating enough income that you can then start to reinvest your profits into your education.
It sounds harsh, but setting up a simple rule where you don’t buy anything if you a) can’t pay for it with cash and b) can’t pay cash without it disrupting your other living expenses is one of the smartest things you can do to set your business up for success. If you don’t believe me, send me your email address and I’ll send you a copy of the Visa bill I packed full of purchases I couldn’t afford and then spent over a year paying off… 🙂
Question #2 – Do I Need to Pay for This Information?
There are tons, and tons, and tons of free articles online that will teach you much of what you need to do. Heck, just take a look around this site and you’ll find free instructions on how to choose a domain name, install WordPress (both automatically and manually), perform good on-page SEO and do all the other tasks you’ll need to do to run a successful website.
Beyond Common Sense Marketing, there are a number of other ways you can find answers to your questions for free:
*Google it – Very little that’s done in the world of internet marketing is truly unique, so chances are if you’re experiencing a problem or have a question, other people have gone through the same thing and posted the solutions they came up with. A simple Google search for your question can turn up a number of surprisingly good answers that can save you from spending money you don’t need to.
*Post your question in an industry forum – If your searching turns up nothing, you can always post your question to other people in your industry through forums. My personal favorite for affiliate marketers is the Warrior Forum, as I’ve had a number of great experiences getting thorough, actionable answers to my questions from more experienced marketers there over the past five years.
*Consult support resources – If you’ve purchased any tools or subscriptions to help run your affiliate marketing campaigns, their support resources can be an incredibly helpful, often overlooked resource. Two that come to mind for me include Market Samurai and Aweber – both products provide “Help” resources that go beyond technical questions and share a substantial amount of strategy information that’s extremely useful for new marketers.
If, after consulting all of these resources, you still aren’t able to find the answers to your questions, it might be time to turn to a paid product. In that case, I’ve got one final question for you…
Question #3 – Am I Buying from the Right Person?
If you do decide to seek out paid information, ensuring that you buy it from the right person is critical. These days, anyone with a few hundred bucks can set up a completely legit looking website full of false claims and made-up testimonials, so it’s important to do your due diligence before handing over your hard-earned money.
There are two filters I like to apply to any potential info product purchases: will this purchase improve my business strategy and is the author in a position I’d like to be in?
Personally, I prefer to buy information products that relate to strategy versus technical details, as most technical information can be found using the resources listed above. I focus on strategy purchases, including research tools and information products, instead, because I know they’ll have a measurable impact on my business.
For example, I can search the Aweber help section for technical details on how to set up list segments or broadcast message split tests, but I might decide to purchase a product on email marketing to learn how to apply these lessons to my business in order to increase my subscriber numbers.
Finally, when evaluating potential business purchases, I’ve found that it’s always a good idea to learn more about the person or company I’m buying from to see if they’re in the position that I want to be in. In my opinion, it’s always better to learn “from the horse’s mouth” than from an info product someone else has regurgitated in order to make sales.
As an example, next year, I’m planning a few new blogging projects and want to be sure I’m using the best strategies to launch and grow them. There are thousands and thousands of info products on blogging out there – including plenty from people who have never run a successful blog in their lives – but I chose to purchase from the most recent “Only 72” sale, as many of the sellers who contributed courses to the product are all in the position I’d like to be in within a year or two.
That’s my process for analyzing potential purchases, but now I’d like to hear from you…
Do you make investing in your business a priority? If so, how do you determine which items to purchase and when to purchase them? Share your thoughts below in the comments!