18 May 2020
We love publisher’s cases as much as you do — you can find all the stories in the “Success stories” section on our website. Having analyzed them we chose several universal tips and patterns that fit almost any business model.
Most of the tips are suitable for content projects, although there is a couple that will be useful for traffic arbitrage. There is little quantitative and a lot of qualitative assessment — we cannot confirm these parameters with figures, but we can vouch for the publishers who give us such advice.
Start with MVP
Start your promotion from the moment you got MVP (Minimum Viable Product). To put it in layman’s terms, your website (channel, group in social net) should have the basic functionality so that you could already start showing it to users and attract an audience. Even if you are a terrible perfectionist, remember: the best is the enemy of the good, especially at the start.
Example: let’s say, you are doing a blog. You can spend several months testing different CMS, setting up sections and polishing the design, take your time looking for illustrators, and only after all that publish your posts. As a result, the amount of time your materials could have been indexed by the search engines and slowly move up in the SERP, was wasted on “bells and whistles”.
Naturally, you should not go all slapdash: your task is to set your priorities and figure out what feature of your site is of the primary value to the user, start with that feature and then (in the background) work on completion of everything else. In blogs (Telegram and YouTube channels, personal websites, groups in social networks) start with the content, and then move on to the design (make “passable” designs of front pages and avatars, and then experiment with the design). On website of affiliate stores first try to upload at least one category of products or coupons correctly, and only after that go for millions of products from Chinese marketplaces.
This approach will help you test your business model and realize its weaknesses at the very start. Don’t you agree, it would be a shame if you spent a lot of time and money on creating a website with the design worthy of Behance or Dribbble top, but in the end it would turn out that nobody needs your newt breeding blog beside yourself.
Conclusion. Can your product deliver minimal value and be of use to the user? If the answer is “yes” — call up your audience and watch its reaction.
Choose your topic
To ensure that CPA marketing brings you not only money, but also pleasure, choose a topic that will not make you bored in a week. Streaming about credit cards can be cool and profitable if you are personally interested in the topic of financial literacy, economics, and banking. If your interests are Corgi breeding, fishing or make-up, then you better stick to these topics, because it is unlikely that you will be able to prepare an advertising text or a product description that would drive the user to apply for a credit card or a loan.
This does not mean that you should be 100% expert in the topic: you can experiment and increase your expertise together with your subscribers. Many beauty bloggers “rose to fame” this way: most of those who now rule the market of channels in the “Health and beauty” segment do not have the specific education, they simply experimented with cosmetics and style, buying products in chain stores, and talked about their impressions for the viewers. Naturally, if you are an expert in a certain area, you will inspire more trust from the viewers, because you would be able to consider a product or a service not just from the «like — dislike» point of view, but also support your opinion with evidence base: economists would talk about the best credit card conditions, chemists could assess the contents of cosmetics, doctors would recommend sports equipment, that helps maintaining customer’s health.
Conclusion. To quote Elena Galant’s interview in our blog, here is some advice: choose the topic you would be willing to cover for free. That way you will be able to go on for quite a while, and if your model does not “take off”, you will not regret spending time on it, because you were genuinely interested.
Hobby or business?
Treat your job as a publisher either as an expensive hobby, or as your own business — in a serious and responsible manner, yet ungrudgingly. In the first case, you will calmly perceive financial and temporal losses, in the second case you will be able to plan your steps strategically and learn to think in terms of expenses and income, profit and loss. Ideally, you should try to combine these two views — approach the matter with a burning heart and a cool head, no matter how high-flown it may sound.
By no means should you treat this work as “moonlighting” or a way to make some quick cash. Affiliate marketing is a tool that will help you monetize your existing traffic, you can build a business model on it, but don’t take it as a “Moolah” button, by clicking on which money will come pouring on you.
Keep in mind, that there is no universal business model that will instantly bring you millions: you must cultivate it yourself based on the tool you’ve been provided with. Feel free to burn all the books about “50 insights and business hacks from successful people”, because they all come down to one thing: a little bit of luck and a lot of work.
Conclusion. Approach the creation of your project for CPA seriously — there is still no magical “Moolah” button. Whether it is a hobby or a business — first and foremost it is the time you are investing, and we are talking weeks, months or even years.
Time VS money
The publisher always has a choice: to make it quicker, but more expensive, or slower, but cheaper. If someone tells you that there are business models without investments, this is a scam. You have to invest if not your money, than your time that you could have spent on earning money with freelance or any other work (in theoretical economics it is called “cost of missed opportunities”).
There is another principle: the more time you spend at the start (on training, collecting information for content preparation, market analysis), the smaller amount of money you will need to spend later. Obviously, there will be errors (that is why we advise to keep testing your creatives, content, conduct A/B testing on the website). But the more you learn at the start, the more small details you will take into account in the process (which may ultimately turn out to be not that small).
Instead of delegating your work to freelancers and bloating your team, learn to handle personally the things your business model will be based on. Write your own articles, master basic free image editors, learn to make simple website. All the information is available online, in most cases it is absolutely free — having learned this you can independently launch the project without depending on third-party contractors. And then later, when the model reaches self-sufficiency, you can scale it up by involving assistants and outsource routine tasks.
If you already have a starting budget, invest it in yourself, namely in training. It will save you the time you could have spent searching for free information on the Internet. There is plenty of courses where you can find online and offline courses on building websites, marketing, creative thinking, copywriting. Please, note! We are talking about courses that teach you to do specific things with your own hands — we are not recommending business motivation courses, because if you reached this part of the article you are already quite motivated.
And the last but not the least: do not invest your last money in the development of the model. Your budget for testing and promotion should be planned in such a way that its loss does not have a critical effect on your wallet. At first, most likely, you will go in the red — and that is normal. With experience, you will understand how to reduce costs and make profit.
Conclusion. At the start, spend more time on self-study, and if you want to invest money and accelerate your progress, it is better to spend it on courses, rather than freelancers who will do everything for you. Paying for contractor’s services is a short-term purchase, paying for courses and webinars is an investment in oneself, and it will definitely prove useful in the long run.
Traffic is everywhere
The misconception that slows down many beginners is “I will never attract users without investment”. We have already described how the investment does not always mean money, it can also mean time. Digging deeper:
- In the beginning you need a crowd — the more people you bring in at the first stage, the more willingly other people will subscribe to you. You can easily get your first hundred of subscribers in a social network group or on a Telegram/YouTube channel among your friends and acquaintances. If they are not yet sick of your insipid GIFs for any holiday, then they will show understanding and take your request to subscribe to the group quite seriously. Most likely, you participate in a dozen group chats and have a couple of hundred friends in social networks — use this resource and invite people to your group, channel, website. Do not foist yourself on them, rather tell them simply and honestly, what benefits you can bring them.
- So, the psychological border of 100-500-1000 subscribers has been hurdled. Next, we begin to gather an audience little by little using external resources: look for similar groups up to 1000 people, suggest exchanging guest posts and reposts, sharing audiences, arrange joint projects (for example, broadcasts for YouTube bloggers, raffles in groups and Telegram channels). This will help to achieve two objectives at once: diversify your content and get a new audience.
- Some sites develop organically better than others. For example, text blogs, affiliate stores with good descriptions, YouTube channels, TikTok accounts have the opportunity to get great coverage due to high-quality content and built-in algorithms that happily promote this content in search results and recommendations. Telegram channels are not indexed by search engines, there is no rating or official catalog of channels, so they require advertising in other channels or reposts. Context and targeting generally work only when there is money in the advertising account. Therefore, when choosing a platform, you should understand that the speed of building an audience will be different everywhere.
- Remember: every site has a limit on the number of subscribers and leads, which depends both on your resources and the capacity of the platform in general. Telegram has a general limit on the number of users of the messenger, in arbitrage there is a budget limit, in content projects there is a limit on the frequency of publication of your materials. Be prepared for that and do not be afraid: any budget and process can be optimized and scaled up by connecting new offers, subjects, sites. And while you are at the start, do not think about the limitations — think about how to get more users with the least investment.
Conclusion. Traffic is everywhere and anywhere — but do not expect to reach your target parameters in the very first month of work. Build up the momentum gradually, track your progress, and watch what drives it the most.
Bike or hoverboard?
There is a “Blue Ocean Strategy” according to which markets are divided into red oceans (highly competitive, with identical products and services) and blue oceans (low competition, offering unique goods and services). Naturally, everyone wants to get into the blue ocean to avoid competition and get all the “hype” on innovative services that never existed before.
But when you invent a unique idea, that has no analogues that you know of, think about why it still has no competitors in the market: is it because the idea is truly brilliant that it never occurred to anyone, or because there is simply no demand for it?
Example: you can spend a lot of time creating a Telegram bot that would choose clothes for the user upon receiving the user’s parameters and budget. It is a fine idea, there is nothing like it, there will be many subscriptions (people will be interested to see the recommendations) — here is a great example of a blue ocean. But will the users make purchases? There is no telling — many people need a variety of offers, they would much rather browse the catalog on their own, read the reviews and make their choice out of hundreds of models, than be content with a selection of 5-15 products chosen by a bot. Then the question is: was it worth developing at all?
Sometimes it is better to start with a model that has already proven its efficiency: a channel, an affiliate shop, a group. Take a standard model (for example, a channel on Telegram or a Facebook group about discounts) and narrow the topic (there are discounts on sneakers, goods from China, electronics — make a channel about discounts on children’s goods, jewelry, pet products, needlework). Use it to study the demand in that niche and your skills in attracting traffic. Want to do something extra — add your bot to the channel.
Conclusion. Do not reinvent the bike wheel, if it had been invented before you — start with a model tested by others and look for something new within it. And if you really want to implement your unique idea, do an MVP and test it on an external audience. Why external? Of course, your friends and relatives will say that everything is super and you are great, but only an opinion from the outside will be objective and point out the flaws directly.
Stay on top of things
Even if you are a sociophobic sloth, who decided to become a publisher to stay at home, avoid human contact and milk his little model, you cannot make a successful project if you go by your opinion only. You need to be in the know of literally everything that happens in the market:
- New platforms and tools. Maybe your blog is already outdated, and you should turn your attention to social networks? Or you have outgrown the short video format on Instagram and the time has come to record full-featured reviews on YouTube? Unfortunately, you have to part with the old formats — no matter how comfortable you feel about the good old LJ, new platforms have come in its place a long time ago, and their algorithms will help you move forward.
- Delusions are evil. If your audience does not convert, the problem is not in the audience, it is in your business model. Some say that TikTok is a social network for school children. And what is wrong with that? They may not always be buyers, but they are definitely consumers, moreover they are generating the trends in their world. There is another misconception that young people are not solvent. But trust me: they are the ones who will collect the required amount or find some side work to buy “the one and only smartphone” or “legendary sneakers”, and they are the people with the strongest desires and highest motivation to buy.
- Follow the pop culture. Even at the risk of ruining your refined taste. You do not have to watch the same TV shows and listen to the same music as your target audience, but you’ve got to speak their language and know who they idolize and why. Read reviews and comments about new films, TV shows, performers, learn what makes them special, what got the audience hooked. First of all, pop culture influences trends, and second, you can use the acquired information when preparing your creatives. “Dress up for the company New Year’s party as “Game of thrones” characters. Are you Daenerys or Cersei?” Such content will attract an army of fans of the series, and all you need to prepare it is a few pictures off the internet and a couple of review articles. This sort of advice may seem weird, but… Subscribe to channels with memes that your target audience reads: the first thing that appears “riding on the hype wave” is memes, they are the first indicator that the topic is actually popular.
- Socialize. Log on to chat rooms and message boards, ask questions, but be specific: if you ask a question like “how can I make money on Telegram”, you’ll get flipped off or kindly asked to Google it. Experienced publishers are prepared to give their reviews about an affiliate network or a new platform, other than that they would only answer specific questions: “I have a website on WordPress, it has many sections, how do I change their order? Tried X and Z plugins — didn’t help”, — that’s an adequate question. “I just can’t understand WordPress, help!” — it can’t be helped.
Conclusion. A little less prejudice, a little more curiosity and desire to try something new. But do not spread yourself too thin: if you run a YouTube channel, develop your Instagram and write a blog simultaneously you can hardly dedicate yourself to all those media to the full extent and the result will be uneven. And keep your finger on the pulse of the market: technology, goods and services, culture and all external factors that can affect your business model (both for better and for worse).
Naturally, this list is not complete, and there are a dozen more “commandments” that will be generally useful for all publishers, regardless of their business model. Do you disagree with our list or, perhaps, you have something to add to it? Write your opinion in the comments — we will discuss it