Affiliate Marketing :Horrors & Revelations

BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF AFFILIATE MARKETING

Affiliate Marketing needs no introduction in the Entrepreneurial world. It’s leaving its mark on both small and big corporations alike. This year, Affiliate Marketing Spending is estimated to be at 6.8 billion U.S. dollars in the United States alone. Next year, there is a projected growth of about 6 million dollars in spending. That’s a lot of money for an activity which has been historically likened to your everyday greedy salesman. In military language, Affiliate Marketers are the foot soldiers of most corporations, working tirelessly to convince customers to buy a product.

Although there have been many advances, Affiliate Marketing has not been spared from the dark side of human ambition. As much as there are success stories of people making a huge fortune, equally horrifying stories of unethical behavior by affiliate marketers are not unheard of. Annoying Ads on blogs and websites make a person all but wonder if there are any ethics in the art.

What is Affiliate Marketing

According to Encarta Dictionary, Affiliate Marketing is the use of a central website to market the products and services of other sites. That’s a pretty blunt way to put it. If we were to put it in a more simple way, we would say it’s marketing the products and services of others to get a small commission on every sale. For example, a 10 per cent commission on a T-shirt which costs $100 would mean that an affiliate marketer would get $10 on every sale. This means that the more sales that an Affiliate Marketer makes, the more the earnings.

If you are a follower of Vigilante Scholar, chances are that you have read my blog post titled Rape Chinese!’ The Two Most Common Words in Zambian Ghettos. In that post, I had talked about my failed attempt at being a salesman. To be honest, I didn’t do my best. That was a classic example of a situation where a man’s ego overrode a good life lesson. But just in case you are one of the few Vigilante Scholars who haven’t read it, feel free to click on the link above. Anyway, I digress.

You see, Affiliate Marketing works very much in the same way as your everyday salesman. In fact, you could think of it as being a door to door salesman for a particular company and your neighborhood as the Internet. Then you could also think of the doors as email addresses and the classic salesman’s slick tongue as Ads and Promotions.

The process is very straightforward: You get a link from a website that is selling a particular product called an Affiliate Link. After having done that, you then distribute that link in whatever channels that tickle your fancy: A Blog, YouTube Channel, et cetera… If a person purchases a product using your link, you get the commission promised by the company that gave it to you. Get the idea?

The Upside of Affiliate Marketing

There are obvious advantages and pros to Affiliate Marketing. The following is small list:

  1. It Requires Less Work: Unlike my futile attempts in the Salesman’s world, Affiliate Marketing doesn’t require as much effort as walking from door to door trying to convince people to buy a product. Pound for pound, it requires less physical exertion. With the help of digitization and the internet, you could literally make sales while you sleep.
  2. It’s time efficient: Since machines work around the clock to show Ads to potential buyers, you have time to do something else. Like I said, you could literally make money while you sleep or while watching a football game.
  3. You could make a fortune: Despite its turbulent nature, Affiliate Marketing has made a lot of people achieve financial freedom. People who become skilled at it have high chances of becoming Super Affiliates i.e. people who make six-figures or even seven-figures annually.
  4. You get to solve real human problems: I believe that businesses of all kinds are world changers. They provide jobs for us and will probably shape our future. From the color of our toothbrushes to the softness of your mattresses, companies continue to impact our lives at an unbelievable pace. When you are an Affiliate Marketer, you get to be part of that Ecosystem. You have the chance to solve people’s problems by providing them with the goods and services that they need.

The Downside of Affiliate Marketing

Like every other good thing in life, Affiliate Marketing is not without flaws. Here’s a small list of some of the cons:

  1. Miss out on building relationships: One of the biggest shortcomings of Affiliate Marketing is that you miss out on opportunities to build relationships with the customers that you sell your product to. Because you are the intermediary, the company that you are selling for is the one that gets to keep tabs on customers. After you get paid, there’s no responsibility attached to you whatsoever. (which brings me to reason number two):
  2. Affiliate Marketers are not exactly seen as Knights in Shining Armor: I find it very ironic that Vigilante Scholar endorses the idea of Affiliate Marketing but the words; ‘Vigilante’ or ‘Savior of the Day’ are the last thing that the General Public would use to describe Affiliate Marketers. As previously mentioned, they are seen as greedy and heartless business people who care nothing about customer satisfaction- no less respect for privacy.
  3. Acquiring and learning the Necessary skills can be tough: Affiliate Marketing is still in its infancy. Besides the obvious advantage that there’s a huge earning potential, this also means that acquiring the necessary skills could be challenging. There’s a lot of good online material to learn from. However, not all of it is created equal. From my own research, I have found that the most successful Affiliate Marketers are those that use a ‘trial and error’ method. This means trying out all sorts of ideas, both the good and the bad, and then painfully sticking around to see which ones work. Suffice to mention that not everyone has a heart large enough to lose a few hundred dollars before seeing a change in their income.
  4. Income is uncertain: This point is closely tied to the previous one. There’s a lot of uncertainty in Affiliate Marketing. You can make as much as $5,000 per month or as little as $20. It all depends with the strategy that you use. If you have a weak stomach for uncertainty and fluctuating revenues, then Affiliate Marketing is probably not for you.  

Final Advice

Now, let’s wrap up this post with a few words of advice. From my point of view, I think Affiliate Marketing deserves a chance. It has its shortcomings, but I feel that it deserves attention from that Entrepreneur who is looking to make a few extra dollars in passive income.

My next post will be particularly helpful for those who may be interested in trying it out. On the other hand, I also completely understand those who may not be interested, there are many ways to kill a rat and Vigilante Scholar will reveal all the hacks and tricks it could possibly find.

THE DAY THE SUN TOOK A VACATION

Ancient Egypt is a civilization that has fascinated scholars from all around the world for many years. The Egyptians built the pyramids, perfected mummification, were rumored to be the first to invent the wheel, instituted embalming techniques and so much more. Moreover, there are a few civilizations in the history of mankind that were as enthusiastic about their traditions and beliefs as the Egyptians. Through their funny-looking inscriptions on their walls called hieroglyphs, they made their beliefs known to both the living and the unborn. Even the Bible had written about this great society when it recounted the slavery of the children of Israel. Oddly enough, however, their stay in Egypt has never been recorded in the hieroglyphs.

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs: Ancient-origins.net

As a Vigilante Scholar, I have long been fascinated by this civilization and I found some very interesting gems about Leadership. The Egyptians practiced what theologians call a polytheistic religion. Meaning unlike the Jews, Christians and Muslims, they believed in the existence of several gods. Chief among these gods is the god Ra, who was believed to be the sun god of the sky who controlled the day. He is equivalent of the Greek god, Helios, except that he didn’t have a chariot to ride in the sky. In place of that, he had a sun boat. Today, it has been scientifically proven that what causes a solar eclipse is the movement of celestial bodies in the sky; the alignment of the Sun and the moon to be more specific. The Egyptians saw this differently. They believed that what causes a solar eclipse is the traveling of the sun god Ra to the underworld. On those travels, they believed that sometimes he would get attacked by a demon snake which would then swallow him. Since the sun god is swallowed, the obvious conclusion in the Ancient Egyptian mind was that this definitely had to be the cause for the eclipse. Of course, today these ideals sound absolutely ridiculous. But in ancient times, they were a creed that the Egyptians not only held but also enforced.

My own personal account of an eclipse was back in 2001. It was a total solar eclipse and the people who saw it can attest to the fact that it was spectacular. On that day, birds decided to turn in for the night although it was only 10 a.m. or so in the morning. They were completely taken by surprise. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures but my memory of it still remains.

The Egyptians weren’t the first nor the last to talk about the disappearance of the sun though. The very famous poet, Lord Byron, had actually envisioned himself in a dream where the sun was extinguished and complete darkness reigned on the earth. He described what a miserable existence it was as every person’s heart, as he put it, ‘was chilled into a selfish prayer for light.’ There was no difference between night and day because there was no moon to differentiate the two. In the poem, people forgot their passions, desires and ambitions. They burned their homes, work places and other important building so that they could just get a fire to stare at each other. Snakes became harmless as they lay side by side with human beings so that they could just get a glimpse of some light. To add a little flavor, I bet the entire world put a heavy price tag on match sticks and anything that can burn. The international monetary fund would’ve invested millions, if not trillions of dollars, in research in how to bring the sun back. Lord Byron concluded by saying, darkness was the universe. Sounds pretty dark and hopeless doesn’t it? This, ladies and gentlemen, is the day that the sun took a vacation.

Lord Byron’s dream

Now, imagine how much money people would pay the guy that could convince the sun to make its vacation short. No doubt the Ancient Egyptians would classify such a person as a demigod because he helped Ra in his plight in the underworld. The big corporations would pay him all they have got because he solved a ‘global’ crisis. He would be given the Nobel Peace prize and his seat would be secured among the immortals, right next to Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Alexander the Great. He would move from being an ordinary man to a great Leader who rescued the world in its time of peril.

This little scenario brings out the point that I am trying to drive across in this post: A vision is born at the moment you realize that a sun is simply taking a vacation and not gone forever. However, I don’t mean for you to take this literally. I mean that would bring us to the same reasoning level of the Egyptians. To clarify, ‘the sun taking a vacation’ in this scenario means you identifying something that people need and going to work at it. Find what people complain about. To use Lord Byron’s words, find things that cause them despair, hopelessness and anguish. As soon as you identify that thing, then congratulations, you have just discovered the genesis of a vision.

As we all know, the sun is a very important celestial body. Its presence literally determines whether or not we will see the next day. So now, let us translate that into entrepreneurial terms: In today’s competitive world, there is literally a market for everything. So, you must create a product that is unique and different from your competitors. Specialization is not only important but it is also vital for you to succeed. The Leadership Mentor and Author of several bestselling books, Dr Myles Munroe once said, ‘Trees never take their fruit to the market nor do diamonds convince people to look for them.’ His viewpoint was that the real reason that people look for diamonds and sell their merchandise to the world is because society has put a premium of these products. Often than not, industries that I can classify as a ‘Sun taking a vacation’ are extremely hard to get into and require lots of money.

To give you a sense of where to begin, I am going to suggest a business model that might work. It’s called dropshipping. Have you ever wondered how companies like Amazon were able to build their online presence and become the giant that they are today? The company is arguably the best E-commerce business in the world. When Amazon doesn’t physically have the product that it has listed, it uses dropshipping to fulfill its orders. Dropshipping is an amazing entrepreneurial business model that can earn you income if you know what you are doing. It means creating a website that sells particular items and when an order is made, the manufacturer itself ships the items directly to the customer. The beauty about it is, you don’t have to stock all of the physical products in order for you to sell. No need to have a store to package your inventory. I classify this type of business model as ‘a sun taking a vacation’ because the demand for products and services on the internet is huge. It’s become a very popular business model and entrepreneurs are making good money with start up costs that are close to nothing. Now, before you jump on the dropshipping bandwagon, there are few things you should consider: The first thing is that nothing is ever that easy. I mean if it were that easy then everybody would do it right? And if everyone does it, then the market would become saturated hence making it difficult for you to make a profit. The laws of supply and demand obviously might work against you. Its just basic economics. Be that as it may, however, there is always a way for you to find a niche in a particular market and turn it into a money-making venture. To do this, you have to spend a lot of money on advertising. In internet marketing, a conversion is the percentage of the number of people who visit your site and are likely to buy your product. In e-commerce, the average conversion rate is about 2-3 %. This means that if you can get 100 people to visit your dropshipping website, at least 2 people are likely to buy your product. It’s plain simple, the more traffic you receive to your website, the more you are likely to make a sale.

Now, for those of us who wouldn’t want to be involved in starting a dropshipping business from scratch, there is still some options that are available. You can buy a pre-existing dropshipping business and then manage it yourself to create more profits. Websites like Empire Flippers have tons of dropshipping websites that they offer up for sale. However, using this route involves a lot of investment on your part. The advantage is that you don’t have to work as hard in marketing as it would be if you are starting from scratch. On the other hand, the obvious disadvantage is that its costly. For argument’s sake, a dropshipping business can cost as much as $250,000 on Empire Flippers .

To conclude, there’s never been a time in modern history that Entrepreneurs can position themselves for success as today. Dropshipping is just one of the many business models out there that is a ‘sun taking a vacation’. Its operational costs make it easy to earmark yourself for success as an Entrepreneur. Please feel free to reach out to Vigilante Scholar with any questions about dropshipping. Your personal experiences are also welcome. I would like to hear your different stories about this. Until then, keep hustling.

‘Rape Chinese!’, The most common words in Zambian Ghettos: Self- Leadership Lesson on Entrepreneurship

Growing up in Zambia has been a ride, to say the least. Like most Zambians, there have been challenges along the way, and yes! I do say challenges and not problems. But I am grateful for the little blessings that God has afforded me, which I should mention that not every person in the country has had. For example, not everyone has had the chance to graduate High School let alone see the four walls of a University. Most of them never make it beyond the eleventh grade and that is due to several genuine reasons. I am not a stranger to this kind of place because I have been on both sides of the coin. I have felt the bitter pain of a long campaign to get yourself to college only to be disappointed by a lack of funds. I have known the loneliness that is found in sitting at a small shop in Chisokone Market only to make less than 5 Kwacha after a day’s work. I believe that for the many Zambians living in Ghettos out there, getting a decent education up to college level looks to be more of the privilege of a few than a reality of the many. Out of work and unemployed, most of them turn to entrepreneurship to be a light to their paths. A beacon of hope in a dark tunnel of immense poverty. Although most of them work from hand to mouth, having an entrepreneurial mind can make all the difference between starvation and making it to the next day.

Entrepreneurship is a special kind of self-leadership that is rare to find among the educated. That is why it usually falls on those who don’t have much faith in the educational system. There’s no doubt that the ability to make wealth is a talent of some sort. Not everyone has been graced with it. However, the level and number of entrepreneurs that spring up in Zambian Ghettos challenge that assumption.

The words ‘Rape Chinese!’ usually exclaimed with vigor, are the most distinctive words you will ever hear in a Zambian Ghetto or Mine Area. Relax! The words don’t literally mean what they imply, I mean that would just be barbaric. They don’t mean that we should go out of our way and rape Chinese people. Rape is a common Zambian relish that is often found alongside our traditional meal, Nshima. Chinese is also another common Zambian relish. I have never really bothered to ask where these names came from but they are very common. It’s quite normal for you to walk to a vegetable stand and tell the seller that, “Hey, I want rape.” Or you would hear old friends telling each other at dinner that, “My wife knew that you like rape and that’s why she served it.” I know, it’s strange. It’s only recently that it dawned on me that this wasn’t probably the best name to give to a vegetable. Anyway, what does this have to do with Self- Leadership, and Entrepreneurship? Well, the answer is in the form of a story. Like I said earlier, most Zambians struggle with finances and they are forced to sell anything so that life doesn’t grind to a halt. One of the ways that they do this is through selling vegetables by making rounds in neighborhoods. They would yell at the top of their voices saying, ‘Rape Chinese’ and a customer would stop them to buy. The same goes for other products like Charcoal and used Car Batteries. There was one man I met who taught me a very important lesson on Entrepreneurship. Usually, selling vegetables like Rape and Chinese is done by women and it is quite rare for you to see a man in that type of business. But this man was different. There was something he was doing that was attracting more customers than most of his competitors. I will tell you about his secret shortly.  You see, it’s not about what product you are selling but it is about how you sell it. At the end of the day, it is the salesperson that makes the money. During my job hunts in Kitwe, I had the opportunity to test this theory out and see if it works. There was a company that was training salespersons to sell lotion and other cosmetic products and I applied for a job. After getting the necessary documents, I was called for an interview. Sitting in that office, I was only bothered by two thoughts: How much are these people going to pay me? and do I really have to talk to strangers to make money? To cut the long story short, I was paired with a mentor, and off we went to convince people to buy our products. My mentor told me that out of 100 people, chances are that 95 people will say ‘no’ to your pitch in selling them the product, only about ‘3’ would say ‘yes’ and the rest would tell you to come back tomorrow. I remember thinking to myself, “Man, those are way too many Nos for me to take.” Going from customer to customer, I watched my mentor use every trick in the book to convince a potential customer to buy. At the end of the day and in an almost prophetic outcome, we had only managed to sell five of our products. We never split the money at that point because I was still a newbie. So, my mentor told me, “Well, you did well today. Make sure to come back tomorrow for more.” Nope, I never went back. I don’t know if it was my ego or my sense of introversion that made me change my mind. Like the many of us, I couldn’t take the brunt of people rejecting my product 95 times in a day and only making a loose commission on sales. Nonetheless, the lesson was learned. In those few hours, my mentor taught me a lot about human psychology when it comes to buying. You have to be charismatic in the way you sell your product. People are emotional creatures and respond to things that make them feel good. I don’t know about you but I think feeling good is a good incentive to buy someone’s stuff. Now, let’s go back to the man I mentioned earlier before I digressed into this tale of tales. The man’s secret into making more sales than his competitors was his charisma. Instead of going around and chanting the common mantra of ‘Rape Chinese’, he added a little charisma to the mix. He was saying in Bemba, ‘Umuti wabwali!’ which translates to medicine for your Nshima in English. Then he added a high-pitched intonation of the word ‘Yeah’ before every sentence. The kids loved it. They would follow him around the neighborhood as he sold vegetables and unknowingly, increase his popularity in the neighborhood. I had also tried to use the same tactic on this post. Be honest, when you first read the title ‘Rape Chinese!’, The most common words in Zambian Ghettos: Self- Leadership Lesson on Entrepreneurship, what was the first thing that came to mind? Crime in the ghetto, right? Raping Chinese women to get some money? All sorts of thoughts came to mind of which, unless you have lived in Zambia, vegetables were the last on that list. I should mention, however, that this wasn’t an attempt at charisma. Lord knows I don’t have the talent for that. But the main point remains: grab the attention of your customers by engaging them through spurs of charisma.

Then, you also have to work hard and sacrifice. It takes a little bit of yourself to be an Entrepreneur. Unfortunately, Entrepreneurship is not one of those skills you can just wake up in the morning and master. It takes time and effort. You must put in long hours of work and discipline yourself to a workable schedule. People will follow and are more likely to buy products from someone who is consistent. From my point of view, the man I mentioned earlier showed a high level of consistency in his work. I observed that he would usually pass by our neighborhood before midday almost every day.  The importance of consistency cannot be overestimated.

“Without commitment, you will never start, and more importantly without consistency, you will never finish.”

Denzel Washington

So, to conclude, always show charisma and consistency in your endeavors. I can bet that you would be able to achieve some sustainable results in doing so.

P.S. Don’t yell Rape Chinese unless you are in Zambia.