10 Inbound Sales Techniques For Affiliate Marketing
Learn how to easily use inbound sales techniques and apply them to affiliate marketing to attract a steady stream of new customers and prospects.
While there are quite a few affiliate marketing techniques and strategies out there that have been working since the Dark Ages, with all the changes to Google, the importance of social media and how affiliates attract customers online, things have shifted and changed dramatically. Placing ads everywhere you can think of and straight advertising are no longer the only or even the most effective way to do business.
Instead your prospects and customers are actively searching for information online.
- more importantly, they are out there looking for solutions to their problems
- you have a chance to meet them where they are, “warm them up”
- and help them solve their problem while you’re making your pitch
This process of meeting your prospects where they already are (online), is what this guide is all about – Inbound Sales. It contrasts to outbound sales where you go out and “cold call” customers, trying to drum up business.
Let’s use phone calls to illustrate the difference between inbound and outbound sales.
If your customers are calling in asking for a product, a service, consulting etc. those are inbound sales calls. If you have to get out the phone book and start cold calling people who may or may not be interested in what you have to offer right now, that’s outbound sales calling.
In the world of affiliate marketing, or marketing a local small business with various online and offline techniques, things will look a little differently, but the phone call example gives you a basic idea of how these two sales technique approaches differ from each other.
Below, we’ll go over how the two work and what sets them apart in more detail.
The main portion of this guide will be focused on the content I’m sure you’re most interested in – how to use inbound sales techniques, apply them to affiliate marketing and attract a steady stream of new customers. And a lot of that will have to do with creating killer content that showcases your expertise and earns your prospects’ trust.
Let’s dive in and talk a bit about inbound sales and why they are such an integral part of today’s affiliate marketing strategies.
Why Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is simply the way we do business most of the time in this age of Social Media and Google. Let’s start with a little definition. Inbound sales refer to sales and marketing you do where the customers find you and then get in touch in one way or another to learn more about what you and your business do.
The end goal is of course to turn these prospects into paying customers – ideally repeat customers.
- Inbound sales isn’t a completely new idea.
- Back in the day it used to be called word of mouth advertising.
- Before the internet, this left us with a fairly limited reach and slow growth.
To grow faster and get more leads into their sales funnel, businesses would rely on outbound marketing like most traditional advertising channels to gain their customers. The internet and content marketing have changed the game.
- Today inbound marketing is a much better play and frankly a better way to attract customers.
- No one likes to be cold called and sold to.
- But we are all on Facebook and Google each day actively searching for information, products, and solutions.
The goal with inbound marketing is to make sure you and your business are there when those searches are made.
In other words:
- instead of spending thousands of dollars in advertising both online and offline
- or paying for direct mailers
- you’re creating and sharing lots of content in a variety of formats so your future clients can find you.
Above we briefly talked about inbound and outbound phone calls to explain the difference between inbound and outbound sales. Let’s look at that in a little more detail and how it translates into online sales.
Outbound calls are calls where you, the sales person, call a list of numbers, hoping to come across a potential customer.
Often you don’t know much about the person you’re calling and you have no way to qualify if they’d make a good prospect before making the call. And of course you have no idea if the person you’re calling is even remotely interested in what you have to offer right now.
- Let’s say you work for a car dealership and are making outbound calls to try to sell a new car.
- You have no idea if the people you’re calling are in the market for a new car right now.
- That makes finding the right prospect and closing the sale a pretty tough proposition.
An inbound call on the other hand is when the customer calls you.
Going back to the car dealership example, this is when a potential customer calls you with questions about a particular car, or wanting to set up a test drive.
Here the chances of making a sale are much higher.
The same principles hold true in affiliate marketing with inbound and outbound techniques. In a lot of cases it depends on what you share and how you advertise to determine if it’s an inbound or outbound sales campaign.
Let’s run through a couple of examples.
- If you craft a blog post or article for your website that answers a question your potential clients have and get it to rank in the search engine, it is inbound marketing.
- If you’re paying to advertise your product on someone else’s website, it’s outbound marketing.
- You’re interacting in a Facebook group making connections with potential clients and sharing links to your website, where they can sign up for your list etc. – inbound marketing.
- You’re posting on your Facebook page, boosting your post to get it in front of as many people as possible – outbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is all about spreading great content far and wide and doing what you can to make people aware of you and your brand.
When they are good and ready:
- they’ll come to you and sign up for your list
- learn from you
- and eventually buy from you
Your goal is to get in front of interested people and draw them into your funnel.
Yes, sometimes that will involve paid advertising methods, but the main goal is to get your content out there and establish yourself as the go-to expert.
- Your job is to get in front of your target audience and capture their attention.
- The next move is up to your potential customer.
They choose to:
- sign up for your list
- like your Facebook page
- follow your blog
- or buy from you
Your job is to get in front of them and impress them with your content.
You don’t really start to market to them until after you have them in your funnel.
There’s a reason there’s a much bigger focus on drumming up inbound sales than making outbound sales – they work better. You don’t waste your time getting your offer in front of people who are not interested in what you have to sell. Instead, you’re using targeted content to attract highly qualified leads that are ready to get on your list, follow you on Facebook, and hopefully buy from you in the near future.
This technique is also sometimes called a soft sell.
You warm them up with lots of helpful tips, give them a chance to get to know you before you close the sale. Again this is much easier and more effective than going out there cold calling and making offers.
But the benefits don’t stop there.
With this inbound marketing method:
- you’re out there building a relationship with your audience
- they get a chance to get to know, like, and trust you.
- Not only will this help you close more sales, you are also building an asset.
Let’s say one of your first goals when you’re out there marketing your content is to get people on your list.
You now have a list of interested people that you can approach with offers over and over again.
- Not only can you sell them the product you just launched
- but also future related products you have in production.
And what about other people’s products?
- that’s right, you can sell them related products
- make other offers
- and collect a nice little affiliate commission along the way
That’s not possible with outbound marketing.
If you make an offer to a cold target and they decline, that’s it. End of story.
If you use inbound marketing and get them into your sales funnel first, you can:
- still profit from this lead
- even if the product you have to offer isn’t the right fit for them
- you simply look around and offer them something else
- sooner or later they will buy and either way you end up improving your bottom line.
Let’s say you teach a course on list building that mainly focuses on Facebook ads to grow the list.
- You build a list of people who are very interested in growing their list.
- Some will get your product, but some may not be interested in giving Facebook ads a try.
- But you have a fellow marketer with a brand new course on growing a list by hosting free webinars.
- Maybe that’s more what some people on your list are looking for.
Similarly, the list the other marketer built has people on it who are scared of doing a live Webinar.
You agree to cross promote to each other’s lists and everyone wins.
- you and the fellow marketer make more sales
- you each collect a nice affiliate commission
- and your subscribers find the solution they need to move forward with growing their own lists.
Since you can profit from your leads in multiple ways, it’s a lot more cost effective to work on inbound marketing.
Yes, even if you focus mainly on “free” content marketing strategies, there’s a cost associated with inbound marketing.
- you may not have a big advertising budget and you’re not paying for cold leads
- but you’re spending a lot of time and effort creating and spreading all this free content
- which attracts your inbound leads
- and your time and expertise are worth something.
Or maybe you’re at a point where you need more marketing materials and content than you can create yourself (hint – that’s a good thing). You outsource some of the article writing, blogging, and social media activity to a small team of writers and VA’s. That definitely has a cost associated with it.
See also: 12 Ways To Turn PLR Into Cold Hard Cash
That being said, dollar for dollar, in affiliate marketing, it is usually quite a bit more cost effective to do inbound marketing, if you do it right.
- How to do it right is something we’ll talk about extensively in the rest of this guide.
- In fact, we’re not just going to cover how to do it right, but also how to get better and better at it.
Before we head into that section, here’s one more important benefit of inbound marketing.
With this technique an affiliate marketer can figure out where your audience is at and you start to share content there, interact with your prospects etc. We already touched on this.
Here’s the important part.
- We all have our target market and then different subsets of people within that larger target market.
- Inbound marketing allows you to customize your message and your content for each of those subsets.
You can speak their language, use examples that apply directly to this group and then tag or target them specifically within your funnel with pre-written follow-up messages, tips, and of course sales offers.
That’s pretty powerful stuff.
How To Use Inbound Marketing To Get Sales and Inquiries For Affiliate Marketing?
We’ve spent a good bit of time getting a good grasp on what inbound marketing is and how it works in theory. Now it’s time to get our hands dirty and figure out what we need to do to how to get sales and inquiries.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about getting people to come seek you out when they are ready to learn more about what you have to offer. And that’s a good thing.
- It’s much easier to convert a sale if you have a person reaching out to you
- and interested in what you have to say and offer than it is to go “cold calling”
Different Ways To Get Your Customers To Come Find You
Let’s talk about how we can make this happen. The first step is that you have to be out there so you can be found. We’ll get into the specifics of how you’ll grow your reach and get people to come knocking on your virtual door a little later.
First let’s go over a few different places where your prospects can find you online.
These are also the first places you need to get in good shape to make all this inbound marketing work.
- make sure your look and message across all these channels is the same
- and that it represents you, your online business, and what you do well
Your Website or Blog
Your website is your hub, your store-front, your calling card. It’s the one- stop-shop where:
- potential customers can find you
- learn more about you
- and of course find your various resources, products, and the likes
Take a look at your site from your prospects’ point of few.
- Is it easy to figure out what you’re about and what you have to offer?
- Is it easy to get in touch with you?
- Edit and improve as needed.
See also: Cheap Website Design For Small Business
Your Podcast or Video Channel
If you already have a video channel and/or podcast set up, good for you. Again, double check and make sure your message is on point and it’s easy to find your website and get in touch with you.
If you’re not doing either, now is a great time to start.
The biggest key to making inbound marketing work is that people have to be able to find you. And not all of your potential customers respond well to the written word. Some prefer to listen to their content, others prefer to watch it.
Make sure you’re in front of them, no matter what medium and format they prefer.
Your Social Media Sites
Since we’re on the topic of getting in front of your audience and meeting them where they are, let’s talk about social media. It’s popular and different demographics prefer different social media sites.
- Make sure you’re easy to find on the sites your audience frequents.
- That will probably include Facebook and Twitter.
- In some niches it means being active on Pinterest.
- For other’s it is Blab, Snapchat, Instagram, or Tumbler.
- Figure out where your people are hanging out and then make sure you’re well represented there.
As always, make sure your social media followers know how and where to find you and get in touch.
Your Opt-in Pages and Lists
While you’re out there checking on stuff, take a quick look at your opt-in pages, opt-in forms and the way you have your lists set up. Checking to make sure everything is in good working order is something that should be done regularly.
Your list is an important part of your funnel
- something we’ll talk about more
- and you don’t want something to go wrong at this crucial first step
Know Your Customers – Know Your Target Audience
In affiliate marketing, you don’t want to waste a bunch of time and effort going out there and making sure you can be found by people who aren’t in your target audience. Instead spend a little time figuring out exactly who your ideal customer is.
Who Are They? Who Are They Not?
Think about your business, your products, and your unique selling proposition. Then sit down and come up with your ideal customer. It can be helpful to focus on one single imaginary person.
- Is your customer male or female?
- What do they do for a living?
- How much do they earn?
- What do they do for fun?
- How do they dress and act?
- What’s their level of education?
- What books do they read and what movies do they watch?
Get as specific as possible and create an avatar for your ideal customer.
This will help you craft and target your content and sales messages specifically to this audience.
Just as important as knowing who they are is knowing who they are not.
- It’s easy to get tempted to be broad.
- Let’s say you wrote a cookbook on healthy, kid-friendly meals.
- You may be tempted to target everyone.
Everyone’s got to eat, right? And we all appreciate some kid-friendly comfort food every now and again.
While that’s true, that’s not really your target market.
It likely isn’t the grandma or aunt who occasionally has kids over. More than likely your target market is young women in their 20’s and 30’s with toddlers or young children.
From there you can niche it down further by either targeting working moms or stay-at-home moms.
While both sets of moms are busy, stressed-out, and likely don’t get enough sleep, your language and content will be different for each group. Focus on one and niche down to serve that particular market.
In that case, knowing that working moms aren’t in your target market makes it a lot easier to fine tune your message and find out where you need to be able to be found online. Which brings us to our next point.
Where Can They Be Found?
Once you know exactly who your target audience is (and isn’t), it becomes fairly simple to figure out where they can be found. Take a look at what social media platforms they hang out on.
- What are some of the bigger blogs that cater to your target audience and that are in your niche (or a closely related one)?
- Are there Facebook groups for your target audience?
- How about Google+ Groups or Forums.
- Are there certain hashtags your audience uses?
Make a list of various places where you can find them and then make it a point to visit those places and sites regularly. They are perfect for learning more about your audience and starting to interact with them.
And of course, these are all places where you eventually want to be found to make the phone ring, metaphorically speaking, of course… unless you actually need the phone to ring and you’re reading this!
Speak Your Customers’ Language
While you’re “stalking” and getting to know your audience, pay special attention to their own unique language. Each little tribe or group of people has their own terms and acronyms they use. Photographers have them, so do knitters and middle-schoolers. Learn to speak your audience’s language.
This serves two purposes.
The first is that it’s a quick and easy way to qualify someone as they read your content or enter your funnel. If they don’t speak the language, they won’t get everything you’re talking about and usually leave. Unless they are interested enough to want to learn more, in which case they suddenly become part of your target audience.
The second reason why using your market’s language is important is because it builds trust. If you can talk the talk, you’re more likely to be accepted as part of the tribe. That trust will help you down the road when you start to convert prospects into customers.
Attracting New Leads Should Be A Daily Priority
So far you’ve gotten your site and media outlets in order and figured out who your target audience is and where you can find them. With that done, it should become a daily priority to get new leads.
Make a list of simple little tasks you can perform on a daily basis that help you spread the word about you, your brand, and your online business. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, but get in the habit of doing something every single day.
Free vs. Paid “Fuel” For Your Funnel
As you work on getting new people into your funnel, it’s important to pay attention to the results you’re getting from free leads (people that sign up for your newsletter for example), versus paying customers.
You may find that getting a few people to buy an inexpensive product from you results in a much more targeted and higher converting list, than offering a freebie and growing a much larger list of “freebie seekers”.
Knowing your metrics and paying attention to conversions will help you make smart decisions on where you need to be found and who should find you.
Qualify Your Prospects As Soon As Possible
Making someone pay a small fee to try out your products or services instead of giving away samples, is a great way to qualify your prospects. It doesn’t work for every single business model, but it’s something worth looking at.
Of course this isn’t the only thing you can do to qualify your leads.
We already talked about how speaking your target market’s language can help you qualify your prospects. Your overall message will do the same. Going back to the cookbook example, if you’re targeting working moms, talking about how hard it is to come up with healthy dinner ideas after a long day at the office, or the need for quick meal ideas when you’re running late coming home will resonate with working moms. It won’t resonate with stay-at-home moms, thus qualifying your leads for you.
Another great option is to create quizzes and questionnaires for your audience.
Not only will something like this help you qualify your leads as soon as they get into your funnel, it also gives you a chance to tag and segment them into different sub-lists depending on their answers.
- Come up with a set of questions that helps you sort your leads into different groups of people.
- Some will be a great fit for you and your business. Others, not so much. But that’s OK.
- Find someone else that’s a better fit for them, sign up for their affiliate program and send them over there.
- Then focus on your core target group and serve them well.
The better you get to know your audience and the better you get at defining your ideal customer, the easier it will become to create quizzes and questionnaires that help you find the customers you want to work with.
Pay attention to how others in your niche are using questionnaires and quizzes, and what types of questions they ask. If there are some big companies and corporations in your niche (Magazines are one good example), pay close attention to the questions they ask their readers. Companies with big pockets put a lot of money and research into these things. You can piggyback off their work, by using similar questions and approaches.
Map Out A Funnel
We started talking a little about your funnel and how it makes a difference if your leads were able to sign up for free or paid a small amount of money to get in. What we didn’t talk about yet is the funnel itself. Yet, it is the most crucial piece to the puzzle.
The basic idea behind inbound sales and inbound marketing is to get content out there, have people read it, click on a link and get to your site. Ideally at that point, you will get them on your list. From there, you start to email them regularly, sharing tips, content, and of course making offers. Along the way you build a relationship with your subscribers and get them to know, like, and trust you.
- the goal is to get them to make that first purchase
- and then get them to either buy more expensive products
- or come back for more of the same on a regular basis
- how you present the products and what you offer them depends on your particular business model
Let me illustrate the two different approaches by going back to our cookbook example.
You have plenty of recipes and cooking tips content out there that gets people into your funnel. There they sign up for a weekly newsletter and as a lead magnet, you also give away 10 of your best kid-approved healthy recipes.
Option 1: A Product Funnel That Goes From Inexpensive To High Ticket Item
The idea is to get them to buy something inexpensive at first to get them comfortable shopping with you.
In our example, that may be a small little digital cookbook that you can sell for $7.
- you work your way up to making a $27 sale for either a digital cookbook collection
- or a nice hardback cookbook
- you offer them an even larger bundle of digital products for $47
- and as a bonus they get to hang out in your secret Facebook Group.
- you offer a online class where you teach various ways to get even picky eaters to eat healthy.
- you charge $97 for the month long class.
Last but not least:
- you offer personal coaching or digital meetings where you work with your clients’ one-on-one
- creating a custom meal plan and list of recipes for her and her family
- full of healthy meals her kids will actually eat
- this may be your $297 product
Do you see how the price gradually goes up and up?
- And as they pay more, they get more access to you personally.
- This is the traditional funnel model for info product sellers.
Option 2 – Repeat Purchases
Another option is to focus on repeat purchases instead of moving them up to higher and higher priced items. This could be a monthly membership, or simply offering them similar products over and over again and enticing them to buy a few each month.
For our cookbook example, you may decide to come out with a new digital cookbook every month and market it to your customer list. The goal is to get your customers to buy each book in the series.
Another option would be to start a membership site:
- where for a monthly fee your readers get a new set of cookbooks each month
- or it could be a site where you share recipes, meal plans, tips and monthly video chats for example.
Of course these aren’t your only options.
You can mix and match the two models and come up with your very own funnel. I also want you to realize that this is something that will evolve as your business grows. Maybe right now all you have is one or two products ready to go.
That’s a perfectly good start. Or maybe you have a whole library of products, but no good strategy for what you should offer to your prospects.
In either case, you can greatly benefit from mapping out your funnel, which is what you should work on next. Get out a pen and piece of paper, open a word processor, or start a mind map. Take a look at what you have right now and start mapping out your funnel.
Make a note of anything you may be missing.
When you’re done, you’ll have a good overview of where you’re at right now and what parts and pieces you are missing. From there, you can make a plan for what you should work on over the coming weeks and months.
With your funnel in place, you’re ready to start profiting from the people that come knocking on the door, or making the phone ring… and that’s what this is all about.
Cast Your Net Far & Wide
To get more leads in your funnel which in turn make you sales almost on autopilot, you have to be out there so your prospects can find you. The further and wider you cast your net, the better your results.
That means getting good content out there, and getting a lot of it out on a regular basis.
You already know where your target market hangs out online.
- you know what social media sites they frequent
- what blogs they read
- what YouTube Channels they watch
- and what Podcasts they listen to
- ot’s time to get to work.
Start creating content for all those channels on a regular basis.
And as you’re learning about your niche, you’ll get a pretty good idea for the types of content your ideal customers search for. Create blog posts and articles around those topics and get them to rank in the search engines.
Make it a habit to frequent the big blogs your market reads.
Comment on there, get to know the blogger, and see if you can provide guest posts or be interviewed on the blog. The same goes for YouTube Channels and Podcasts. What can you do to become a guest on those shows, or at the very least, get a shout-out?
Continue to expand your list of places where your market hangs out and do something every day to be present there in one shape or form. Keep creating more and more content for your own site. As your site grows it will be easier for your future customers to find you.
It will also give you plenty of new material to share throughout your social media accounts.
- create fresh content
- repurpose the content you already have multiple times
- and use different formats including text, printables, audio, and video to reach as many people as possible
Remember to craft your content in a way that helps you attract your ideal customers.
Get Them Excited To Buy From You
Don’t be afraid to give away a lot in your content. You want to impress your readers to the point that they can’t wait to get to your site and buy your product. Wow them with your free content and share your expertise.
A good model to use is “useful but incomplete”. Teach them something that helps them reach the next step towards their goal, but not quite reach the goal itself. That content is saved for your paid products and services.
As you create all this content, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. It helps you make a connection with your readers that will help with the whole trust building process.
Use Tagging To Segment Your List
Here’s another great tip to help you make inbound marketing work. If you’re working in a niche where you’re serving several different sub-markets, it can be very helpful to tag and segment your lists.
For example, let’s say you’re writing cookbooks for kid-friendly food.
- You may have one segment of customers who are moms, and a smaller segment who are stay-at-home dads.
- Or maybe some of your books target vegetarians, while others include plenty of meat.
- Can you see how it may be helpful to know who your dads are, and who your vegetarians are?
You can start to segment and qualify with the content you share.
Create custom content for a particular segment of your audience, then send them to a dedicated opt-in page or opt-in form that automatically tags everyone that comes into your funnel through this channel with a tag.
Here’s how that may look in action.
We’ll go back to the kid-friendly cookbook example, and for this segment we’ll focus on vegetarian families. You could write a series of blog posts about vegetarian kid- friendly food. You can hang out and share links to that content in Facebook groups for Vegetarian moms, or even general vegetarian cooking groups.
Or you could go do an interview on a Vegan podcast.
At the end of your blog post, and during the podcast interview, invite readers to check out an opt-in page where you offer them a list of 10 Easy Vegan Snacks Kids Will Love or something along those lines. You can then either create a new list for these subscribers or tag everyone that comes in through this funnel with a “vegetarian” tag. With that done, you can then send them more targeted content and offers throughout the coming weeks and months – all for vegetarian stuff of course.
Test and Track Everything – That’s How You’ll Get Better
Let’s warp this up with one last tip. Track and test everything you do from where you post, what content you use, and how you’re reaching your target audience to how you’re getting them into your funnel and of course how well you’re converting them into customers (and then repeat buyers). There’s a lot to learn and a lot of improvements to be made.
- When you start to track everything you do, you can easily pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.
- That makes it much easier to focus your time and efforts on what’s working well. Do more of that.
Test and tweak your opt-in forms and your sales pages so you can convert more of your prospects into customers. This is a crucial last step. The better you get at converting, the less new leads and traffic you have to bring in.
Start simple by tracking your opt-in forms.
If you’re using the tagging we talked about earlier, you can get a good feel for what types of content are converting better than others. You can also keep track of links clicked and conversions via tracking software or something as simple as the Pretty Link Lite WordPress plugin. Start there and then make it a goal to learn more about testing and tracking as time and finances allow.
Let’s wrap this up with a little roundup of the things we talked about in this guide on how to use inbound sales techniques in affiliate marketing. I hope you have found this helpful and are ready to start “making the phone ring”.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of what inbound marketing is and how it is different from outbound market. You should also have a general idea of how it works and what the big benefits are of getting your prospects and customers to come to you.
It takes some time to get really good at this and there’s always room for improvement. Use testing and tracking to get better at what you do over time.
The rest is up to you. Get to work and start making the phone ring.