Lessons Learned from a 14 Year Old Affiliate Marketer

When I first started tinkering around with websites (back in the early-mid 90’s), I came across what I thought was going to make me rich.

I was a teenager. In my world, EVERYBODY bought CD’s… and there was this great new program from this new company called CD Now and this other company, “Amazon.com,” who sold books online — they wanted to pay ME money for sending them customers. Awesome! I had two Angelfire websites, so I couldn’t wait for the cash to start rolling in.

I told my parents, my friends, and everybody I could think of, that “if you’re going to buy a house, go to www.angelfire.com/or/djsobie” — click the link — it will take you to CD NOW and you can buy CD’s as you regularly would. I was a genius… Until my friend, Milke – the voice of reason, asked, “why would I do that?” – to which point I said, “because I make money” — to which, he said, “What if I buy my CD at the mall?”

The back-and-forth continued. What a jerk. Why wouldn’t he want to buy CDs on the internet? And why wouldn’t he want to buy them through my website (Dj Sobie’s House of House — a page dedicated to electronic music)? We were friends, right?

Needless to say, not only did none of my family nor friends, none the 1037 hits my website had materialized into any sales (yes, I had an old-school hit counter… that I inflated by hitting “refresh” a bunch of times). I was soured on the whole thing. Surely they’re stealing business I’m sending them, and not paying me. That’s it.

Internet Marketing Lesson Learned

It wasn’t until years later that it hit me. I can’t just hang a shingle (website or otherwise) and expect customers to pour in. Most of the time, entrepreneurs are just not that lucky. Obviously, this is where marketing comes in, but the same rules apply to marketing: customer’s don’t just buy because you exist or have a flashy Facebook ad, or brochure. Existence, for most, is not enough. I guess I could add to that lesson by also mentioning that people only act if there is something in it for them.

My take-away from this is simple. Our economic system is based, in theory, off of the equal exchange of goods and services. If you’re not offering something that people value, they are not going to offer you their money. Nobody valued my little web page, because, in all honesty, it was stupid. It had literally no worthwhile content on it (other than a .gif of a rotating mirror ball – which I prize highly). I doubt it was indexed by search engines (other than, perhaps, a member directory for angelfire sites), and there was no incentive to buy. It was just a link on a dead page.

How is your business a link on a dead page?

Is your site well indexed? Do you give people a real reason to be there and to return (from their perspective, not yours)? Do the things you offer for sale seem like logical, coherent “next-steps” in the user experience of being on your site? Have you made me want to do what you want me to do?

This is the essence, if not responsibility, of website ownership. A website is not a business card, it’s a tool for serving your current and prospective audience.

Let’s not have ugly sites that beat our visitors over the head with non sequitur call-to-action links and useless content. The web can be a better place!

Go Get ‘Em Tiger

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