Introduction & Boilerplate
What does it take to successfully market a software product using only the Internet? This is the question I was faced with in January 2005. I had just completed development of my Affiliate Success: eBay software and now all I needed was a couple of thousand sales I would be happy. I quickly realized that developing my software was just the first step. I knew this all along but I had not really put any energy into marketing while building my product.
As I began researching various marketing avenues I made the decision to share my marketing trials and tribulations with the world. The decision to do this was driven in no small part by a discussion I had with a certain super-affiliate who shall remain nameless at this point in time. Every series needs a little mystery and intrigue right? There are tons of books about emarketing and some even provide real-world examples but wouldn't it be fun to actually come along for the ride? To learn as I learn? To see the real deal, blemishes and all? And so, the series The Marketing of Affiliate Success: eBay was born.
Each installment is this series will be posted on my website as well as on several article directories, and will also be available via newsletter subscription. Each installment will focus on a specific marketing channel or approach. A few examples: marketing using ezine ad coops, marketing using Adwords, joint ventures, forum marketing, and website advertising, and niche newsletter advertising.
The Marketing of Affiliate Success: eBay - ezine Advertising Coops
This first installment of The Marketing of Affiliate Success: eBay is concerned with ezine advertising coops. At some point while searching for advertising opportunities I ran across a website that offered advertising within an ezine ad coop. The focus of the ad coop was home business related – a perfect fit for my product. My original plan was to do some focused ezine advertising but when I discovered I could have my ad placed in dozens of ezines I figured this would be a great deal. I must admit I was slightly suspicious when I noticed that they required me to subscribe to each newsletter but after another hour of research it was clear that all ezine ad coops had this requirement. Well, I thought, it does make sense that I should be a subscriber since then I will be able to verify that they actually run my ad.
The Concept Behind the Ezine Advertising Coop
The general idea behind an ezine advertising cooperative depends on your perspective. For ezine publishers, membership in an advertising cooperative is a great way to build their newsletter membership. Remember, in order to run the ad I had to become a subscriber to a bunch of ezines. The more subscribers a newsletter has, the larger the potential financial return on marketing activity and these guys are all about marketing.
From the advertiser's perspective, the value proposition is that for a minimal cost the advertiser can get his message in front of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Ideally, the coop will be focused on a niche that the advertiser's product fits into but this doesn't always have to be the case. Bottom line - the cost per pair of eyeballs appears to be very, very low.
My Campaign Begins
The sum required was minor - around $30. Not a big deal considering my ad would run in dozens of ezines with a total combined readership of well over one million people. So, although I was suspicious of the subscribing requirement, I figured I couldn't lose on the deal. Look, I thought, if only one person purchases my software I have paid for the ad and put $70 in the bank (before taxes.) It seemed to be a very favorable value proposition.
So, in a great flurry of activity I created an ad, revised it, threw it out, and created another! I worked feverishly to perfect my ad. Night became day, day became night and finally, I was done. Here is what I ran -
----------------> AD BEGINS
I Made $29,000 Last Year On Just One Of My Websites. So Can
You! I will show you how you can make thousands of dollars on
your website using my software and one of the leading affiliate
programs on the net today. One guy calls my software "Adsense
on Steroids!" without the Adsense! No website? Build a 27,000
page website instantly. http://www.shrubsoft.com/ase-ez1.php
----------------> AD ENDS
I will grant that it's a little cheesy but those $$ titles really pull clicks. My thinking was that since the ad cost was limited to my initial outlay, I could afford to pull all potential traffic - even unqualified traffic. My reasoning behind such a generic ad approach was that I felt it would be very challenging to pull any traffic if my ad referenced eBay Web Services and PHP. These words and concepts are alien to many people. I planned to use my sales letter to convert people with little technical sophistication. My approach and my ad copy was different when I entered the world of pay-per-click but that is the topic of another installment.
Next, I went to the website that offered the ezine ad coop service, filled out the form, and PayPal transferred the cash to the owner of the coop. I quickly received a response from my new ad agency and it had some very interesting information contained within it. I had to subscribe myself to over a dozen of the ezines. But it wasn't simple. Yahoo Groups hosted one ezine, several required I send emails to listserv machines, and in several cases I had to go to websites and fill out a form.
Ezine Ad Coop Campaigns Are Hard Work
One hour later I was regretting my decision to forego the slightly more expensive option of advertising without the need to become a subscriber to all those newsletters, but that was only the beginning of my regrets. I next had to confirm my subscription to various newsletters - double opt-in and all that. One of the ezines actually had me wade through 15 pages of surveys and "would you be interested in this offer" pages before finally confirming my subscription. I then found that the ezine had been dormant for seven months!
Finally, after confirming that I was successfully subscribed to all the ezines, I sat back and let out a sigh of relief. In the coming days about half of the ezine owners sent me notes informing me when my ad would run. The ad runs were spread across the next six weeks.
Am I The Advertiser?
With the ezine ad coop business behind me, I returned to my marketing research with the revised thought that if only two sales resulted from the goat rodeo I had experienced I would be satisfied. Within a few days the newsletters started arriving, and not just newsletters but plenty of highly valued and very important solo ads that were filled with text like this:
F.ree mo.ney for you. No effort required. Easiest MLM pro.gram ever!
They have to insert those periods or the SPAM filters will flag the messages every time. Why? Because the message is SPAM! Okay, I understand that SPAM filters are sensitive and sometimes you need to insert a period or two to lower the SPAM Assassin score of your broadcast message but these solo ads had a punctuation density so high that the messages approach being unreadable; I began to think I was reading Morse code.
It continued like that for six long weeks. They were easily six of the most painful weeks I have ever lived. It was interesting to note that many of the ezines were not delivered via email. The list owner would instead simply send a broadcast message informing me that the newsletter could be viewed on their website. Interesting thing though, the solo ads were delivered directly into *my* mailbox.
eZine Advertising Coop Campaign Results
The result of my ezine advertising campaign was 89 referrals from various newsletters in the cooperative to my ezine destination URL. I know because I created a specific URL with redirection code so I could track the click-through performance of the campaign. While I have no way of tracking each individual source since some newsletters were delivered via email, I did know the aggregate results and 89 click-throughs was not the level of success I had expected. More importantly, 89 click-throughs and zero sales.
The campaign was an unmitigated disaster. Of course the deck was stacked against me from the start. I quickly noticed that 95% of the ezine publishers had dozens of ads in each newsletter issue. There was generally a top, middle, and bottom sponsor ad and these ads were generally demarcated very well and they probably received decent response too but they were for "their" advertisers. I generally found my ad near the bottom of their newsletters in a special section for the ad coop. In many cases, the newsletter belonged to multiple ad coops so there might be 40 ads and five coop sections in each issue! The slickest trick I found was the publisher that actually had a special edition of his newsletter filled with ads. Yes, filled with ads. Sure he also threw in a syndicated article that he grabbed from one of the article sites but it was rather clear that his normal readers ignored the "special edition" of his newsletter each week.
Worse though was the quality of many of the ezines. The only original authorship in some of these ezines was the editorial and by the time I made it two or three sentences into that it became obvious why! If you believe we live in the age of universal literacy you are wrong. It wasn’t all bad though. Several of the newsletters actually provided some decent content but more often than not content came in the form of articles culled from the article sites. I don’t have a problem with article sites but I expect a newsletter to provide significant original value.
I did learn some things though. I know that a HYIP (High Yield Investment Program) is a really cool way to turn $10 into $20. I found that I really needed an e-gold account if I wanted to achieve financial freedom. I learned that the government *doesn’t* want me to know about the secret banking system, that my money was not at risk even though they didn't have FDIC insurance, and that I could truly take part in a risk-free investment that would double my money and pay me interest every single hour of the day. I learned that people apparently fall for this crap.
But most important of all, I learned that ezine ad coops exist for one reason only - to dupe people into joining a bunch of marginal ezines so they can market their crap to you. I discovered that the insult is that much more powerful because I gave them $30 for the privilege of being assaulted day after day with SPAM in the form of solo ads and substandard newsletter content.
If you want to advertise in ezines, locate ezines in your niche, subscribe, and once you are sure that they publish to high standards, toss them a couple of bucks. Ask the publisher what his subscriber count is. Inquire as to click-through rates on previous ads. You also need to insure you know where your ad will be published within the newsletter and when it will be published.
Please don’t misunderstand my message. I obviously did not work with *every* ezine ad coop so I can’t with conviction say that they all operate in this way or that they are all comprised of solo ad slinging, no original content newsletters.