There are a ton of different ways to make money online: selling physical goods, generating leads for businesses, monetizing traffic with advertising…the list goes on.
I’ve always been a bookworm, so when I started looking into online business models and stumbled across Clickbank, I knew I had found the model for me.
Clickbank is both an affiliate network and an online marketplace for “digital information products” (things like ebooks and membership websites, as well as software).
Most importantly for internet marketers who want to sell their own information products, Clickbank serves as a dead-simple shopping cart and a place to find thousands of affiliates.
I’ve been a Clickbank “vendor” for several years. I love being able to package up information and sell it, and Clickbank makes it really easy to do so.
One of the things that Clickbank has lacked (until now) is “lessons learned” from their most successful vendors. In addition to the Clickbank Exchange (which I attended last year and was absolutely awesome), CB is starting to hold webinars where they share the secrets of their top producers. I recently attended their first such webinar (hosted by Beau Blackwell, Clickbank’s “Client Knowledge Guru”) and wrote up some notes on it.
In this post I’ll outline the key points I took away from the webinar.
First Things First: Are You An Author or an Infopreneur?
Beau started out the Clickbank webinar by talking strategy before tactics. I think this is one of the missing ingredients for a lot of people trying to make money online. They jump into setting up a website or sending paid traffic to offers without first getting into the proper mindset.
The key is to move from thinking of yourself as an author to thinking of yourself as an “infopreneur”. Authors write an ebook, then sell it to an audience, then think of another ebook to write and sell. Infopreneurs, on the other hand, attract an audience of people interested in a topic; capture and cultivate prospects; remarket to their existing customers; and sell additional information products and services.
This is absolutely KEY, because if you’re constantly entering new markets, there will be a lot of “start-up costs” associated with learning a new market, etc.
Here are the key distinctions betweek infopreneurs and authors:
- Infopreneurs engage with their customers directly over time (and sell multiple products to the same customers), whereas authors rarely know who their customers are, and are always having to find new customers.
- Infopreneurs focus on Customer Lifetime Value, not one-off sales
- One key way that infopreneurs increase their sales to existing customers is through backend sales (such as upsells at the point of purchase; additional sales of own products through autoresponder messages; affiliate commissions through autoresponder messages ; etc)
** Sidebar: this point ties in with what Perry Marshall said on a recent webinar: 20% of customers are willing to buy your most expensive product. If you only have one product, you’re losing out on making much more money by not having a more expensive product to sell. **
Here’s a staggering figure for you: while the average Clickbank vendor makes $14,000 per year, the average infopreneur on CB makes $210,000. And while the average CB vendor makes $50 per sale, the average infopreneur makes $85 per sale (which doesn’t sound like much, but is actually 70% more revenue. Multiply that by hundreds or thousand of sales, and it adds up quickly!)
After giving his intro, Beau proceeded to outline the 7 things that separate Clickbank super-sellers from the laggards.
Seven Ways to Become a Clickbank Uber-Vendor
1. Sell additional products to the same customer over time
This is a huge waste, and something I’m guilty of. But encouraging repeat sales to the same customer is something I’m in the process of implementing, and I expect it will be a huge source of revenue growth.
Here’s my plan to generate ideas for new products and make sales (you can easily copy these steps):
1. Survey existing subscribers and customers about their needs to get ideas for new products. I’ve already done this, because I regularly survey my lists, and my autoresponder sequences contain messages that ask people to give feedback on products, tell me what’s missing, etc.
2. Either find affiliate products that meet your customers’ needs, or develop your own product. Because I’m big on niche research, I prefer to develop my own products.
Surveying your email list is so important that I want to mention it again: it can be a HUGE source of market intelligence. As a result of consistently asking my subscribers for their feedback, I currently have ideas for at least a dozen products that I’m confident will be good sellers!
3. Every time you develop a new product, give a free copy to customers who completed the survey. This is a great way to get testimonials for your sales page.
4. Once a new product is ready, send a broadcast email to your list, and add the product to your autoresponder sequence
5. Have affiliate “tools” made for the new product. These tools include banner ads, email copy, etc.
6. Let your affiliates know that the new product is ready.
In the webinar Beau mentioned that Clickbank’s top vendors get 50%-60% of their customers to buy at least one more product from them. As the saying goes, it’s much cheaper to sell more to existing customers than get a new customer.
Six More Ways to Create Information Products
If you don’t already have an email list, Beau suggested creating new products these ways:
- Take one aspect of your existing product that people really struggle with and expand that into a separate product
- Create a physical version of your product
- Make a video version of an ebook (tip: do you know a hot-selling Clickbank product that is only available in ebook format? How about making a similar product that’s in video format? I know from my own products that video has a higher perceived value than ebooks)
- Make a step-by-step guide on how to implement something
- Host a paid webinar
- Sell direct access to the author (i.e. you)
2. Offer upsells
An upsell is an additional product that is offered to a customer immediately after a sale (think of the cashier at McDonald’s asking “would you like fries with that? That’s a prime example of an upsell in the offline world).
This is another tactic that I knew about for a long time but only recently implemented. The result? 22% of customers take the upsell, which is a package of three ebooks that I offer for $37. The package is offered right after a customer purchases my $47 ebook/MP3 product (or $77 print guide/CD).
The power of the upsell is that it takes advantage of the “commitment” that a customer has made to you when they make a purchase (and we know from Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion that commitment works wonderfully as a persuasion technique).
Where can you find ideas for upsells? Use the six product creation ideas I mentioned above!
3. Offer continuity programs
A “continuity” program is pretty much what the word suggests: it’s an ongoing, or continuous, program in which the customer typically pays a monthly fee.
From an information marketers viewpoint, continuity programs are great because they result in stable monthly cashflow, because your customers are billed every month (not just once).
Here are some types of continuity programs mentioned by Beau in the Clickbank webinar:
- Ongoing membership site (the customer is billed monthly and only stops being billed when they cancel their membership)
- Fixed length membership. As the name suggests, this is a continuity program that runs for a fixed length of time. An example could be an e-course on the topic of pay-per-click advertising that runs for three months. Every week the customer would receive one lesson in their inbox on PPC advertising, until the three months is over. The customer would be billed monthly, but only for three months.
Jimmy D. Brown is a master of fixed length continuity programs (and come to think of it, he might have invented the concept.)
- “Of the month” club. A classic example of this is the old Columbia House Record Club, which used to send you one record a month for a monthly (or maybe it was annual) fee.
** Slight digression: when I was 14 I joined the Columbia House monthly cassette club (that’s right: “cassette”. I’m an old geezer). Being a teenager, I joined just to get the free stuff, and had no intention of continuing with the paid membership. After a year Columbia House sent me a bill, which I promptly ignored. After several more notices they sent a letter threatening to take me to small claims court. I sent them a letter back saying “I’m 14-years-old. Legally, there’s nothing you can do to me”. I never received a letter from them again. Pretty cheeky of me, eh? **
- Paid forum. We’ve all seen these. You pay a monthly fee and get access to a members-only online forum.
Another benefit of starting a continuity program (besides the stable monthly income) is that affiliates will be more likely to promote your product, because they only have to sell once and then they’ll get paid automatically for months afterward.
Two interesting stats from Beau on this: CB customers who are part of continuity programs are worth 300% more than customers who didn’t buy continuity programs; and CB vendors who run continuity programs make 550% more that those without continuity!
4. Improve conversions
Conversion optimization is one of the most neglected aspects of internet marketing, IMHO, and yet it can make a huge difference in sales. Think about it: you can make more money with the SAME amount of traffic. If you aren’t using Google’s Content Experiments (formerly known as Website Optimizer) or a similar program to split-test landing pages, you’re really leaving money on the table.
Conversion optimization is something I’ll be writing about on this blog in future, as I continue to run experiments on my landing pages.
Here are a few blogs I follow that have excellent resources to learn about conversion optimization:
5. Reduce refunds
Beau’s tips for reducing refunds include:
- Ensuring your product delivers on its promises
- Offering multiple product formats/delivery methods
- Ensuring your customer knows they’re purchasing a digital product (this used to be a big problem in my business. You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize they’re buying a downloadable produt)
- Making it easy to contact customer support
An excellent article by Clickbank on how to reduce refunds: (Clickbank Blog) How to Lower Your Refunds
6. Be an Affiliate (as well as a Vendor)
As I mention in my free report on niche research, this is why it’s so important to start your online business by choosing an audience to serve, NOT choosing a product to promote.
If you start a business that is focused on promoting a single product, what happens if that product goes out of fashion or (if you’re promoting it as an affiliate) gets pulled off the market?
If you start a business by focusing on an AUDIENCE to serve, on the other hand, you’ll have plenty of products to promote – because an audience has many needs. And those needs can be served with products!
One example of this is college students. Here are some of the products that could be promoted to those whippersnappers:
- Dating websites
- Weight loss programs
- Study guides
- Relationship ebooks
- Job-hunting ebooks
The key here is to earn commissions by recommending other people’s products to your own customer/subscriber list.
(But first you have to HAVE a list. Check out these posts for tips on building a list of your own.
As Beau said in the webinar, customers on your email list have already shown they trust you (by buying your product or at least opting in to your list), so at least some of them will trust your recommendations for other products.
Another great point made by Beau is to give a “personalized promotion” when promoting affiliates products to your list. Here are some of his suggestions for how to do that:
- “Unbox” the product and show exactly how it works (doing this on video is especially powerful)
- Offer a bonus (important tip: offer a bonus that complements the affiliate product. For example: if the affiliate product is software that doesn’t come with good instructions, offer a step-by-step PDF guide with screenshots as a bonus)
- Explain how the affiliate product complements your own product(s)
If you’re interested in boning up on affiliate marketing, here are some blogs that I personally follow and recommend:
Matt Carter’s Affiliate Marketing Blog (note: he only uses SEO to drive traffic, no PPC. Bad Matt! Bad!)
I also came across a decent WSO (Warrior Special Offer) on the Warrior Forum recently that gives step-by-step instructions on how to buy Bing traffic and build a list from it, then monetize that list with Clickbank offers: http://www.warriorforum.com/warrior-special-offers-forum/637376-new-pay-per-click-clickbank-best-long-term-method-out-there.html
7. Leverage the Affiliate Network
This is something that I’m totally guilty of: not putting enough effort into finding (and supporting) affiliates. Currently I have maybe ten affiliates that make regular sales for me. That could be a lot more if I put more effort into creating and promoting tools for affiliates (like banner ads, email copy, etc.)
Here are Beau’s suggestions for how to get your products in front of affiliates:
- Have an “Affiliate Tools” page
- Collect email addresses of affiliates on Affiliate Tools page; regularly communicate with those affiliates via email
- Keep affiliates up-to-date on improvements to your sales page, addition of new products, good ways to promote your products, etc.
- Try to increase affiliates’ earnings by improving conversion rates, adding new products, adding upsells, adding continuity programs, etc.
In Clickbank’s recent webinar Beau Blackwell outlined 7 tips for massively increasing sales of your information products. I’ve summarized those tips in this post. How many are you implementing?