<(You're in for a real treat. In this post, I'm publishing an answer I gave to one of my coaching clients, in which I describe one of my moneymaking strategies. I won't do this often. So sit back and get ready to take notes.)
Some people, however, wanted a “taste” of what kind of answers I give. Fair question. So I've decided to reprint an answer from a question I received the other day from a coaching student.
Question: “Michel, I don't have a proven product, and I don't have my own list. What should I do?”
Answer: Your best bet is to start where a product and market exist — and not try to reinvent the wheel right out of the gates. Since you can turn my answers here into a product, you have some fuel for a product in the future. But for now, you can apply this knowledge to an affiliate product to start.
First, start by being an affiliate to an existing, winning product, and create an entire machine that funnels your traffic into your own list. That way, you create leads, then turn leads into sales, and turn sales into upsells.
You tweak things along the way until you have winning formula. Later on, when you finally create and launch your own product, you have a well-oiled machine in place.
But here's the kicker.
During the process, you gather market research because testing things allows you to discover what sells, what's hot, what people are willing to pay for, what keywords do they find you under, what copy converts best, etc.
But as an affiliate, you are literally making money in the process of developing your own product. In other words, you're getting paid for researching your market, building your list and creating your product — even when you don't have a product of your own!
Getting paid for something you normally have to pay is a much more palatable proposition, if you ask me. All of this information will come in real handy when you finally do launch your own product.
First, start with your own opt-in page. Don't just send people to a sales page you're an affiliate of. You're putting your traffic at the whim and mercy of your affiliate provider, and it's just like sending your traffic into a big, black hole.
If the copy doesn't convert, you've lost the sale — and the traffic you've worked hard for or even paid for… Forever.
Instead, you drive traffic to your own squeeze pages, then push them to products you're an affiliate of, either as the “thank you” page once they subscribe, or through the autoresponder system once they are on your list.
That way, you make money in the process of gathering all this powerful data and learning what works. Plus, your opt-in copy gives you a great deal of market research data that will help you in creating your own product, as well as in writing your own copy.
Then, when you're done, you have a sales machine that's ready to go for when you do launch your own product to your newly established list.
But here's an extra tip.
A similar approach is using your copywriting skills to sell existing products with large markets that are in demand, but whose owners use poor copy to convert them. In fact, I do this all the time. You do what I call “The Success Doctor's Bypass Sales Surgery.” Here's how it works…
Tool #1. CB Engine Pro
Clickbank.com is probably the best affiliate program out there for newbies. Join Clickbank, and you now have an entire marketplace of digital products you can sell for a commission.
Next, you need to select a product. CB Engine is an “all-things” Clickbank search engine and tracking website. It offers a free trial, but it's only $9.95 for three months, so it's pretty economical.
This site is a goldmine. It offers tons of great statistics, from popularity, momentum, conversion, affiliate scores, and more. What I like about CB Engine Pro is using its various live reports to find products, such as “Brand New,” “Re-listed,” “Removed,” “CB Insider,” “Best Gains,” and “Movers And Shakers.”
You can then do a search for a product. But the results offer a ton of golden information into the product's productivity, which is a great start. For example, the search results will give you a list of products, in order of popularity, performance, sales, affiliates, momentum, and more.
The beauty of this is, you can see products that sell well. If you want to sell a product that's already using great copy and is proven to sell, go right ahead.
But for the sake of this example, this is not enough, since it tells you how many affiliates who help to pre-sell the offer (they might be promoting to their own established lists), and not necessarily how many “organic sales” (that is, non-affiliate sales) the copy actually converts.
The affiliates for a certain product may be doing a much better job than the sales copy itself. So simply relying on how popular a product is, by itself, can be a bit misleading.
But as a start, this tells you many things: the performance stats show how many referred sales the product made. If the “gravity score” is high, this indicates that the affiliates PLUS the sales site are both needed to make that many sales.
What is a “Gravity Score?”
According to Clickbank:
“Gravity: Number of distinct affiliates who earned a commission by referring a paying customer to the publisher's products. This is a weighted sum and not an actual total. For each affiliate paid in the last 8 weeks we add an amount between 0.1 and 1.0 to the total. The more recent the last referral, the higher the value added.”
And weighted means that the score is adjusted to reflect affiliate value and not just how many affiliate sales are made. This value is proprietary, and there's very little information on Clickbank's website on how they come to that score.
But a high gravity score combined with a low percentage of referred sales means that less affiliates are referring most of the sales, and therefore there is less competition among affiliates, and the original sales copy may be doing a poor job.
This is a great clue!
What is a gravity score used for? It is used by Clickbank to attract affiliates to sell products. Problem is, the market may be crowded, so a high gravity score can actually work against you.
But, with a high gravity score and a low affiliate sales percentage, that means the sales copy relies heavily on the affiliate's promotional efforts to consummate the sales. And it also means the copy is not as productive on its own.
Conversely, if the percentage of referred sales is high and the gravity score is low, then you know that the product may be poor — because there is not enough organic traffic, and the site, which is converting poorly, is getting most of its sales from affiliates.
(It could also mean that both the affiliate and the sales copy are doing a poor job. So in either of these cases, you need a few extra statistics to make a better decision.)
A site with a high gravity and high percentage means the site is almost entirely driven by affiliates. The copy might be poor, as the product relies heavily on affiliates to make sales.
However, the competition might be pretty strong. Competition is good, since you can do a bit of research to see how others are selling the product. The problem is, this might drive your traffic generation costs through the roof.
So a little less competition might be better.
But for now, the score Clickbank publishes tells you a lot: how many affiliates are promoting the product (i.e., how many competitors there are out there), and how many affiliates are successfully selling the product (as opposed to non-affiliate sales).
But what you want to know is how well the site is converting on its own (without affiliates). In other words, what you want are products that are in demand but not selling so well, so you can “take over” the sales copy and convert it at a much higher level.
(I'll come back to this very shortly.)
This means that you should look for a product with a high gravity score (meaning, the site is making a lot of affiliate sales), with a low percentage of affiliate sales (say, under 50%). Why? Because it tells you that the site is converting well with affiliates but not so well with organic traffic.
(This is just one piece of the puzzle. Here's the next.)
Tool #2. QuantCast
Then, go to Alexa.com, Compete.com, or, even better, QuantCast.com. Enter the site you want to “quantify.” (Not the affiliate link but the site's main URL.) It will give you the average monthly traffic.
If the site is old enough, QuantCast will also tell you the keywords used to drive traffic, the site's competitors, and the traffic's demographics (which give you a ton of insights into the market, and some great ideas on how to write copy for it.)
If you complete the other step above, the traffic stat alone tells you if the product is in demand. Now you have a pretty fair idea that the market is there.
For example, let's say you enter a product's URL and the result is 9,088 visitors. According to the chart underneath this statistic, there are pie charts indicating the types of traffic the site gets. Let's say it tells you that 92% are “passers-by” (i.e., unique visitors, as the rest are “regulars,” meaning they are returning visitors).
So 92% of 9,088 equals to 8,361 monthly unique visitors.
Now, of course, if all things are equal, it can tell you what kind of conversion rate they're getting. This measurement is not 100% accurate by any stretch. But, it gives you a pretty good idea of how much new traffic the site is pulling in and how much it converts.
After using CB Engine Pro above, you learn that the gravity score is 31 and the percentage of affiliate sales is 88%. That means that 12% of sales are organic.
So if 88% gives a gravity score of 31, then adding an extra 12% (to make it 100%) gives you a total gravity score of 36. (That means, you can make a guess that it made 36 sales in the last 8 weeks, i.e., 2 months).
Assuming the site is making 36 sales every two months, you double the unique visitors above from QuantCast. That means, 92% of 9,088 total monthly visitors, multiplied by two months — which gives you 16,722. With, say, 36 sales, that means the site's conversion rate (again, this is a score and not a true conversion rate) is
So this tells you that the site is getting traffic but it's converting poorly. This is not the complete puzzle, though. You still need a few more pieces…
Tool #3. CB Trends
Trends are powerful. As you know, you can easily use Google Trends, Compete.com or QuantCast.com to discover trends in the marketplace in terms of traffic.
But this site is specifically about Clickbank, and its sales and affiliate trends. It's a chart-based site that will analyze all of the performance factors mentioned above, but over a period of time. This gives you some clues as to the overall performance of a product.
Simply type in the product's Clickbank ID, and submit. The resulting charts tell you the momentum and popularity of a product over the last two months. It's pretty useful, particularly when compared to the other stats.
For example, you can see if sales are going up with a specific product. At the top, the first one is “popularity.” Popularity, in this case, means sales popularity, and the popularity of general versus affiliate-based sales.
The lower the popularity value, the more popular the product is with affiliates. (The best popularity value is therefore closer to “1.”) The higher the popularity value is, the more popular the product is among the general public (e.g., direct, non-affiliate traffic).
Knowing from QuantCast.com above that the site is getting pretty decent traffic, you can now make some educated guesses on the product's productivity. (Unfortunately, these are “guesses” nonetheless.)
If you see an increase in popularity value (which means the product is losing popularity among affiliates), this might be an indication that a vendor in question is not doing something right.
Sometimes, it means the product owner is doing something unethical, such as stealing commissions — although, this is an extreme case. But other times, it could mean that affiliates have stopped promoting the product because the copy simply doesn't convert.
(Those are the ones you want!)
If the product was really popular at some point, and if sales are on the incline, it could mean that the product is definitely in demand. You need more information than this, obviously, but it's a great starting indicator, anyway.
I already told you about gravity. The higher the gravity value, the higher the competition in terms of the number of affiliates promoting the product. This means nothing in itself. But when you look at the trend published by CB Trends, and when you compare it to the others, it tells you a lot more.
For example, if the product's popularity value is increasing (meaning it's becoming less popular among affiliates), and the gravity is high or increasing, the result is that the copy is getting better at converting non-affiliate traffic.
The owner is therefore converting more, and is probably doing so as the result of testing or tweaking his copy to better his conversion rate over time.
(Even if, as a result of this, you choose not to promote this particular product, this information is nonetheless pretty powerful, because now you can “spy” on their sales copy. You can easily use tools like the WayBackMachine.org to review previous versions of the sales copy to determine exactly what changes were made to make it convert better. But I digress.)
However, if the gravity score is increasing, referred sales are constant or decreasing, and popularity is decreasing among affiliates, this is perfect. It means:
- The product is in demand;
- Affiliates have stopped promoting it.
- Remaining affiliates are getting better;
- Fewer affiliates are therefore selling more;
- Thus, the copy, by itself, is not converting.
(Of course, there may be many other reasons, and with all things being equal. But this is a great start.)
So if the product is converting better with affiliates, but losing ground with affiliate popularity, this might be an indication that the copy is doing poorly on its own.
And if the “percent per sale” graph is constant or increasing, then you know there is not only demand for the product but also there are markets that are willing to pay for it.
Why? Because the “percent per sale” also takes into account refunds, which lowers its score. So if there are no changes, or if the percentage increases, then altogether, this tells you:
- The product is good (refunds are low);
- The market is there (people are buying);
- And the copy is simply not doing a good job (it depends too heavily on affiliates).
Why is this crucial? Because a low conversion rate doesn't necessarily mean the copy is the culprit. It could mean different things: that the market is not viable (there is no market for the product), or the product is not viable (there is a demand, but the market is not willing to buy it or pay for it).
You want a good product that has good traffic, is in demand, and has a market that's willing to pay for it, but with poor copy.
You now have an opportunity sitting right in front of you. All you need to do is increase the site's conversion rate. You not only have an opportunity to promote the product but also write the copy yourself.
Tool #4. Affiliate Cloner
The next step is to create your sales machine. You create the opt-in page, write the sales copy that sells the product directly, and generate traffic (either with articles, blogs, pay-per-click ads, search engine submissions, etc).
But you don't want your sales copy to lead to the product's own sales copy, which is redundant and what will happen if you use your Clickbank affiliate link as the order link.
That's where Affiliate Cloner comes in.
It's a powerful software that does many things. More than anything, it helps to protect your affiliate links from commission thieves. But one of its many features, and the one I prefer, is where you can bypass the affiliate product's copy and go straight to their order form.
Why is this cool? Because you can easily write your own salesletter, and when clients want to order, Affiliate Cloner sends them straight to their Clickbank order forms to buy. (Or straight to any order form of any product you're an affiliate of.)
This allows you to tweak your entire sales machine until everything runs smoothly and converts well. You literally have full control of the entire sales process, and use it to gather information, test and tweak the copy, and even build a list in the process.
In fact, Affiliate Cloner also lets buyers order directly from your emails to dramatically increase your selling options. If you use an autoresponder, you can use it to bypass sales pages entirely.
And of course, the “thank you” page is an underutilized piece of real estate. But since it's not your product, you can't change that. It's the only part of the sales process over which you have no control.
But there is a way around it.
You might login to Clickbank to retrieve your customers' info, and place them on a new list. (There is software out there that can do this for you. Even automatically. Personally, I use CB Accountant, which will extract customer contact data for you and export the list.)
Or, since they are already on your lead list from your first opt-in page, you can get them to signup to a new opt-in form (perhaps to claim a gift or extra bonuses after ordering from your affiliate link), in which case the system takes them off the “lead” autoresponder list and places them on the “client” list, where you can send them a new series of emails to upsell them on other products.
Anyway, you keep doing all of this until, when all is said and done, you simply change the final product for your own product once it's completed, and pocket all the profits.
Hopefully, this has been helpful.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.