Episode 169

Affiliate Marketing, Building Teams, Sales Funnels, and Pop Ups for Course Creators with Syed Balkhi

This episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about affiliate marketing, building teams, sales funnels, and pop ups for course creators with Syed Balkhi. Chris and Syed discuss the different aspects that go into a successful online business, and where your attention should be directed when you are building your team and sales funnel.

Syed is an entrepreneur and the founder of many SaaS (Software as a Service) products, including OptinMonster, WPBeginner, WPForms, List25, Envira Gallery, and many more. If you have done any work in the WordPress space, you have most likely heard of at least one of Syed’s products. Even if you are new to the space, you’ve probably typed your email into one of the OptinMonster forms on the LifterLMS website.

When you first start in business you usually don’t have the money to hire someone to do the things that you aren’t good at or don’t know how to do, so you have to figure a lot of that out on your own.

When hiring people and creating business partnerships, you want to find someone who has qualities and skills that compliment your skillset. Syed also emphasizes how important it is to write down processes and make sure the person you’re hiring has everything they need to succeed. You want to avoid overloading the people you hire with too many tasks, because then they get confused and frustrated, and then you get frustrated because they are not able to execute on all of the tasks to your expectations.

Chris and Syed talk about how to create sales funnels that maximize the value of your customers and best help them accomplish what they are trying to do. A lot of course creators are missing out on a large opportunity to upsell some of their customers to a personal training or mastermind group that offers more exclusivity and personalization to the learning experience.

The easiest people to sell to are the people who already buy your products or services, so the best way to maximize your profit is to create multiple products or services that target the same audience and help them further solve their problem or solve another problem they may have. Having specific targeted sales funnels that embody why someone came to your site is a great way to maximize the value of leads and get more customers.

Chris and Syed discuss the different ways you can use affiliate marketing to improve your lead generation machine and how you should go about getting your affiliates. Syed and Chris talk about how companies like ShareASale or Impact Radius give you great advantages when it comes to fraud detection. They also allow you to focus on growing your business rather than spending your time handling the payments and tax information.

Figuring out what percentages you should pay your affiliates can also be tricky, and it depends on what your profit margins are for the most part. If you are selling a software product, you will likely be able to pay more commission than on physical products. But Syed believes that it can be dangerous to give your affiliates above 50% of the sale, because this can disincentivize you to deliver on the product because you won’t be making that much on the sale.

To learn more about Syed Balkhi check out OptinMonster and Syed’s other products, WPBeginner, Envira Gallery, MonsterInsights, WPForms, Soliloquy, and List25.

You can subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined today by a special guest, Syed Balkhi from Awesome Motive. You may not know Syed from the name Awesome Motive, but I guarantee you’ve heard of some or all of his products. He has a SaaS, or Software as a Service, called OptinMonster, which a lot of WordPress users and other users use as well. We use it at LifterLMS.com. I guarantee you probably at some point have entered your email address into OptinMonster pop up on the LifterLMS website.
He is also the creator of WPForms, Envira Gallery, Soliloquy Slider. There’s an OptinMonster plugin to make OptinMonster awesome on WordPress. That’s in his WordPress ecosystem. If that wasn’t enough, Syed is also the founder of WPBeginner and List25, which are some media sites that have all kinds of information around WordPress, or List 25 gets into all kinds of interesting articles for entertainment and all that. You’ve probably come across those at some point on Facebook or somewhere.
First, Syed, thanks for coming on the show.
Syed Balkhi: Thanks for having me.
Chris: It’s really a honor to have you here. I’ve learned so much from you over the years. Even just watching what you do and reading stuff on your sites. I refer people at lifterlms. Sometimes when they have a support question that has nothing to do with lifterlms, do a google search, there’s the WPBeginner article at the top. Send ’em right over to that article. You’ve really just built a lot of great WordPress products, the media site there and OptinMonster has been a big part of how we grow our e-mail list and just do segmentation and get people what they need and when they are looking for it at the right time, and also capture traffic that we may not capture otherwise.
I’m just honored to have you on the show. I’m really honored to introduce you to the course building community here at LMScasts, people building memberships sites and courses that are looking for growth. You are kind of like the growth guy. When you touch something it just gets bigger. Things just tend to improve. You have a lot of strengths and I was gonna just kind of pick your brain about a bunch of topics.
Syed Balkhi: That’s the only thing I’m good at.
Chris: I’m sure you are good at a lot of other things too. Well, one of the things I just want to talk to you about first in watching you over the years and meeting you and some of your team, you are very good at building a team around a project or multiple projects and knowing what you are strong at. Knowing where somebody else is a better fit to do that part of the job. Can you talk a little bit about your transition from beginner solo entrepreneur to team builder and just give us some examples.
A lot of people building courses, I see it where they just burn out. They try to wear all these different hats. Maybe they are good at teaching, but they are not good at marketing. Maybe they are good at marketing, but they don’t really have the expertise, or they are not good at the technology to put on the internet. How do you build teams?
Syed Balkhi: It’s an interesting transition. When you are first starting out you usually don’t have the money to hire somebody to do the stuff. You start learning how to do all these things. You might not be good at everything, but you are okay at just about most things that you need to do. A lot of times entrepreneurs have a hard time making the transition or even knowing when is the time that you have to hire someone.
Over the years, I’ve hired, fired and failed at hiring. I think this is still something I’m growing and learning and getting better at. You probably heard the saying, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest.” That’s pretty common in the online marketing space. One of the first times that I ventured into outsourcing, I looked at the Philippines. One of the first tasks I outsourced was writing. Writing research, not just all of writing, but writing research.
I figured that I can write up articles really, really fast if I have all the right facts. I basically looked over at Philippines and start hiring virtual assistants, VAs. You pay them 300, 400, to 500 bucks tops, max at that time. They were working for me full time.
Chris: That’s per month right?
Syed Balkhi: That’s per month. If you have a membership site maybe that’s probably the cost of one membership sold in most cases. It’s totally a good investment. Are they going to be as good as you? Likely not. If you find one, you should let me know about it so I can hire them off of you, but likely they are not going to be as good as you are, but they will help you do one task. Take it off of your playlist. If you don’t do that, you are going to be burned out. You are going to start hating the [inaudible 00:05:22].
Basically, my philosophy is what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, do that. Everything else kind of go on. With OptinMonster, I can write code, but I’m not the best at it. I don’t do it very fast. I’m very slow. I have to look up a lot of things. I have to learn a lot of things so I partner with my co-founder in TTO Thomas Griffin on OptinMonster. He’s really, really phenomenal developer, but he’s not so good at the marketing piece. We were complimenting each other. We joined forces, created OptinMonster and then we started hiring.
Now, we have a pretty good hiring process in place. It’s a pretty automated process to a good extent. We post out to all the different job boards. People apply. We give them different test projects that are fairly automated. Once they’ve done all tests, [inaudible 00:06:17] interviews them and sees based on the responses who do we want to interview.
One of the things that in the early days I sucked at was writing down processes. I think I still am not very good at it, but slowly getting better. Writing everything down to make sure the person that you are hiring is going to succeed at the role that you are hiring them for. Also very clearly defining that role. When you are first starting out, you are like, “Well, you hire a virtual assistant and you are going to have them do 1,800 different things.” It’s going to frustrate you and frustrate them. They feel like they are not going to be doing the job right and obviously you are going to know they are not doing the job right, so both of you are frustrated.
Really clearly defining what are the three or five things that you want your virtual assistant to do. Have them do that. Maybe even make videos of you showing them how you would do a certain task so when you are bringing them on they can see, “Oh, okay this is how Syed does it. I need to do it this way” or they are like, “Syed, I know you do it this way, but I think this might be a better way,” which has happened to me a lot. Just because I’m doing it a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way of doing that.
Now we are 44 people team and grown over the years. I’m so glad that I’ve made that leap. A lot of times people are like, “Well, am I going to be able to pay that person full time?” Well, if you can’t then hire them part time. That’s also a thing. But $300 in Philippines or $500 in Philippines that’s super cheap. You should be able to afford that with your business. Make that transition. It’s going to save you time. The more time it saves you the better you are going to get at what you are doing and planning out where you are going. Not where you are at, but where do you want to go? How do you grow even further? It will give you that time.
Chris: Those are really good points. I like to say, “You got to move slow to move fast.” Sometimes you need to slow down for a second to create a job description or document a process and then you need to hire the right person who is not just going to execute the process, but also has the capability to improve it over time. Hopefully do it better than you on day one. That’s good stuff there.
Let me ask you some questions around current day. I’ve always been fascinated with this question and I see it in course creators too where some people really stick to one project, one course, they make it better, or one membership platform. Other people become serial entrepreneurs who want to just keep doing it. You appear to be a serial entrepreneur. What do you think it is inside of you that makes that serial thing happen?
Syed Balkhi: I don’t know if you’ve ever read … most good business books will have this similar concept of [inaudible 00:09:21] sales. Is the easiest person you can sell to is your existing customers. I give complimentary products so I can sell to my customers. Despite every single one of them came out from user suggestions. They are like, “We would love for you guys to build this” or I usually do a census once a year with the entire WPBeginner community and ask them, “Hey, what are some of the problems you are having? If you could have us build one product, what would it be and why?”
They will say, “We would love to use the form builder that’s actually easy for clients to use. Current ones, these are good, but the interface sucks. The process is to long and blah, blah, blah.” We are like, “Okay, that’s something we can build.” Or, “We would love for something that integrates google analytics really, really well,” and we are like, “Do we want to build or can we go about and buy one?” We bought Yost Analytics and rebranded to Monster Insights.
I would say the serial part, I don’t necessarily see as serial entrepreneurship. I see it as building complementary products for cross selling and up selling to increase the average lifetime value of a user that’s on your website or is in your community or is in your tribe. I would say I was a serial entrepreneur if I had an online business and then membership site and I was also running my doughnut shop and a bicycle repair place. I don’t know.
Chris: That makes sense. For the course creator, a lot of the talk these days has to do with high end program creation where online courses are a part of a bigger stack. You’ve got events, you have masterminds, you have productized services and you have this whole stack of other things. Maybe that’s a way to look at it, just serve your same customer with more offerings to solve their problems and get them more success.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely. How can you add more value? How can you help them accomplish whatever they are trying to accomplish? Obviously if you are in a business, then you are solving a pain point. How can you do it better?
A lot of times I feel that course creators are missing out on an opportunity. They are giving it away by not doing some of the higher end stuff. Let’s say if you have a course, why not give exclusivity to certain people? If they want to pay to be in a mastermind with you and be able to talk with you and if that is something you enjoy doing, then that’s a great upsell. Otherwise, your funnel stops. Let’s say you brought ’em on off of Facebook ads, they join your lead magnet and then they went on to buy your course. Now what? That’s the interview funnel. You don’t have any profit maximizer. You don’t have any upsells. You don’t have any cross sells. You would never be able to make more money from that one user afterwards except for what they are paying.
You can say, “Well, I don’t really care about all that. I just want to make sure this user never leaves.” Well, that is a reality check. Most people in the membership site will leave. Nobody stays forever. That’s why attrition is a thing. Natural attrition is a thing.
Chris: That’s a really excellent point. Speaking of funnels, course creators out there, they have their course, their paid course, and the generic funnel that we describe that a lot of people start with is they’ll do an opt in to get what we call an e-mail mini course, something three to five e-mails to teach ’em something. Then at the end it pitches a free course on the website. The end of the free course teaches a paid course on the website. Then at the end of the paid course you can start building a membership with course bundles and all these different things. That’s a basic funnel.
Even that can be overwhelming for some people. If we just go back to the very top of the funnel of we’ve got somebody on our website. Let’s say we’ve created some free blog content around our expertise, how do we best optimize getting people on the top of the funnel and then converting, moving them further along from the end of the that opt in?
Syed Balkhi: Top of the funnel, it’s very interesting dynamics. Most people approach it differently and I feel they do it wrong in my opinion. They have one opt in and they run it across their entire site. They assume that everybody that comes to their website has a single problem. If that was the case, then you would only have one blog post on your website and not 30 and each are talking about usually 30 different things. You are not going to write 30 different blog posts talking about the same thing. That would be stupid.
I think you want to create lead magnets that are relevant to the specific blog post. You can call ’em content upgrades. That’s the word that we use within the OptinMonster community, content upgrades. Content upgrades don’t just have to be integrated inside your blog posts with a download downlink. You can also use exit intent to have a pop up. Have a very, very targeted lead magnet. You will see your conversion go significantly higher.
When the user is signing up for a specific and very targeted lead magnet, you can funnel them down to a mini course if that’s what your lead magnet is. If your lead magnet is just a checklist or a workbook or a e-book, then you can lead them down to a course. Maybe there’s a middle step in there for a webinar. You lead them to a webinar and the webinar sells the course.
Those are some of the things you can do. Start somewhere. A lot of times when you start teaching a funnel with all these crazy different steps to somebody that’s new, they are like, “Whoa. I don’t know.” Start at step one. If you don’t have a course, start at the top. Start building that lead magnet. Start building the list. Then do a pre-launch with a course. Then add a profit maximizer at the bottom. Maybe add a tripwire, like a mini course that they can buy for like $9 or something so you can justify spending more money on paid acquisition by going to Facebook. Say, “These people are paying me nine bucks so I can pay Facebook nine bucks to just break even on the tripwire level so that I know that x percentage of the people that buy this $9 course are going to buy my $400 course.” You can do the [inaudible 00:16:05] there.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Syed Balkhi: A very simple funnel and then would go about adding whatever else that you want to add back and make more, increase your group.
Chris: Are e-books dead?
Syed Balkhi: Pardon me?
Chris: Are e-books dead?
Syed Balkhi: I feel that way to a good extent. Making very, very large e-books are dead. If you are making more easy to consume content in a checklist, even a workbook which is no more than a few pages long, not few pages, but 10 point font, few pages with 15-16 point font, that’s easy to consume content with some imagery, that’s working. We find that checklists work really, really well. We find that toolkits work really, really well. Cheat sheets work really, really well.
Those things work really well, but making an 80 page e-book or even a 30 page e-book is an overkill. Nobody is going to read your content. You might as well save yourself that hassle.
Chris: That can be a sigh of relief for some people if they think they need to write a 40 page book to get started. I know this stuff can be overwhelming if you are just getting started in marketing or building your funnel, but the first thing I tell people to do if they are stuck is well, just write one blog post. Then you can do one content upgrade. One step at a time.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely.
Chris: You talked about webinars as a conversion mechanism. We would all that potentially a sales conversion event on the backend of the content upgrade or the lead magnet. What do people do in a webinar? How else can you convert off the backend besides a webinar?
Syed Balkhi: What do people do in a webinar? You can substitute another mini course with a webinar.
Chris: Like teach live for an hour?
Syed Balkhi: Teach live, right. It could be recorded. It could be a recorded webinar, but you substitute out a mini course, because a mini course is done on people independent time. A webinar is when they are committed to you and you only. It will usually net out better results for you. In terms of other things, freemium usually works well. We find that with our workers, freemium work really well, but that’s more or less software.
It doesn’t have to be just software. If you look at audible, they give you one free book. You get one free book if you pay for the monthly membership. You can add some kind of value add to your own membership to increase immersion there. I’m sure Amazon has tried this with all sorts of things to make sure that, “Oh we can say, you can buy this book for 18 books or 17 bucks or you can get it for free with a monthly audible membership at this price point.” I think doing that, the e-book that you were going to give away for free which nobody was going to read, now put a price tag on it and say, “You get this e-book for free if you sign up for my membership site.” That value add, the bonuses are going to improve your conversion on the back end.
Chris: Awesome. Just to clarify terms, you mentioned the word profit maximizer. What is that?
Syed Balkhi: Profit maximizers are things that once you have hit the bottom of your funnel, once somebody has bought your core product, whatever your membership side is, how do you make more money from this user? You already have the user right there. It could be done through jv deals. It could be done through your own products. It could be done like an affiliates thing.
If I have OptinMonster for example, somebody who buys OptinMonster basic, I can upsell them. Do, “Hey, maybe you want to buy OptinMonster pro.” If I can segment the user that this pro user is actually an agency, I can say, “Hey maybe you should buy OptinMonster Agency.” Then I’m kind of done at the bottom of people that have bought my core product. Instead, now I can say, “Well, if you really want to grow your traffic, you might need to consider using a tool like [SEM Rush or Airefs 00:20:26]. I can either just give that as a value add or I can say, “Hey, buy Airefs.” I can do a deal with Airefs and they would pay me a commission for SEM Rush.
That’s an example of a profit maximizer, or I have WBForms. Starts with the free version. You upgrade, you buy the paid version. If you are basic then I want you to come to pro. Once you buy pro, then I can say, “Well, actually how do you know if your forms are converting well? You need an analytics solution.” Then I cross sell. After the core product, a cross sell, or a up sell or a jv deal is basically maximizing your profit from this one user, increasing your [inaudible 00:21:11] value. Increasing your value from that customer.
Chris: That’s really good. Well, let’s transition over to talking about affiliate. You mentioned the word jv, joint venture. What is the difference between joint venture and affiliate marketing?
Syed Balkhi: Affiliate is one sided. Joint venture is two sided. That’s the easiest way to put it. Affiliate is like, I can say, “Hey. Promote my stuff and I will pay you this commission.” Joint venture deal is usually two ways. I’m promoting your stuff and you are paying me and you are promoting my stuff and I’m paying you a commission. That’s joint venture. It’s two ways.
Chris: That makes sense. If a course creator wants to get into affiliate marketing, let’s talk about that a little bit. At lifterlms we have compatibility with the popular affiliate WP plug in. Another one called Idev affiliate, another system. Even selling the lifterlms software itself, we use something called Sharesale which integrates with [inaudible 00:22:12] commerce, which is more of a complete affiliate platform, as opposed to more of just the affiliate management on the website.
Can you describe the difference between a Sharesale and an affiliate WP?
Syed Balkhi: Yeah. One is way better. I would say the hosted platform like a Sharesale or Impact Radius is way, way, way like leaps and bounds better than any hosted solution that you have, whether it be affiliate WP, whether it’s affiliate Royale, whether it’s Idev affiliate for a wide variety of reasons.
Number one, the tracking that’s in place within Sharesale or Impact Radius is far superior that any tracking that you can get on your hosted server. Because when you are self hosting an affiliate program your server isn’t really meant for tracking. It’s easy to manipulate. You don’t have the same level of fraud detection and things like this. All you need is one bad affiliate who will completely destroy your monthly revenue for that month until you can catch that, once you start doing your month end financial books. Then you’re like, “What happened here.” Then you start looking in and digging deeper and you are like, “So and so affiliate conned me.”
The reason why I recommend Sharesale, I use Sharesale for our own products or Impact Radius is because these companies have mastered fraud detection. They are really, really, really good at it. The other thing from an entrepreneur point of view, if you are a course creator, you don’t have the time to send out monthly payments to the people. You don’t have the time to collect their tax information and then making sure that everybody that made more than $600, sending them a 1099. That’s not what you are good at. You don’t need to be doing that.
I would much rather pay Sharesale a very, very small fee and let them completely handle that. Another benefit of these networks like Sharesale or Impact Radius is that they have a network of tens of thousands of affiliates, if not hundreds of thousands of affiliates. Somebody else will likely go in there. If I’m looking for a specific product and I was like [inaudible 00:24:13] go and say security and look at which products are out there that have an affiliate program and then I would go out and try those products and see which one I like and then I can recommend that particular product to my audience, because I’m like, “Hey. Here are the three that I tried. I actually liked this one since you guys asked for it. This is the one that’s the better one.”
I almost never recommend, actually not almost, I never period recommend anybody to use a self hosted affiliate program. I would recommend that you use a hosted version like a Sharesale, like a platform. If you are serious about your business. If you are not serious about your business then don’t do it. If you’re not serious don’t do it.
Chris: I got to say we really like the hands off approach that we have with Sharesale. We set it up. We make sure there’s enough money in there. Auto deposits when it gets low and it handles everything. I love that.
Syed Balkhi: Yeah. One of the other crazy parts is if you are in Europe, if you are in the EU, you have crazy requirements with [BAT 00:25:14] and all this things. What I’m noticing now is some of the companies, the EU ones they are using their own internal systems. They are now requiring their affiliates to send them a manual invoice. They send out an e-mail to all affiliates, “Hey.” This is an automated e-mail. It says, “This was your commission. You need to send us an invoice with this payment information so that we can reimburse you.” That’s the legal requirements over there.
As a business owner you don’t want that. If you are in the EU, dude, get rid of that stuff and go move over to Sharesale and Impact Radius and let them do all that stuff. You don’t have to worry about this. Completely hassle free.
Chris: That’s awesome. I need to geek out with you for a second as an affiliate guy and ask you a question that may not make sense if you are just a beginner out there listening, but bear with us. It’s really not that crazy of a question, but I just want to make sure I understood it correctly. With Sharesale if I send an e-mail on Monday and somebody else with my Sharesale affiliate link and somebody else sends an e-mail to the same person on Tuesday with their Sharesale affiliate link, and that person ends up buying the thing, is it the first person who gets the commission, or the later person that gets the commission?
Syed Balkhi: You have the ability to actually configure that in your program. You can choose first click and you can choose last click.
Chris: Interesting. Why would you choose one or the other?
Syed Balkhi: Industry standard is last click and not first click, because first click has a lot of room for abuse. Let’s say that I run a very high trafficked website, all I have to do is draw up a cookie with my affiliate link into every user that comes to my website.
Chris: With a fake coupon or something like that?
Syed Balkhi: Not necessarily a coupon. One example would be, I take your affiliate link, let’s say lifterlms just hypothetically speaking, I take the affiliate link and put it in my style sheet, it’s [stylious SS 00:27:16] and make it look like it was an image asset. Everybody who comes on my website obviously has to load a stylious SS file. It will never load right. It will say that part is four four, but nobody sees that. It’s in the console there. That page is being loaded for you and you are getting that cookie.
Now it looks like I just dropped a cookie on everybody that could potentially by lifterlms technically speaking. Then somebody more genuine went an send out an e-mail newsletter and talked all about the benefits of lifterlms and convinced the guy, then the user went out and bought it but this guy who actually worked for lifterlms didn’t really get the commission because some blackhead guy did shenanigans like this. Actually, this happened in the earlier days of the internet. Some of the people who did it, they were doing it with E-bay affiliates. They were making millions of dollars a year and then E-bay caught on and they went to jail for this. It’s actually illegal to do, but that doesn’t mean shady people are not going to do it.
That’s why the industry switched away from a first click to a last click, because it’s hard to duke these kind of things. You can put something on like this, but it won’t work. That’s why the last click is the more standard thing.
Chris: Wow. I appreciate that.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely.
Chris: I’ve got some homework and something to check after this call. Let me ask you some more rapid fire affiliate questions. If I have a course or my membership course bundles, how do I set affiliate commission? Should I do 50%? Should I do 30%? Should I do 20%? Should I do 60%? What am I supposed to do? I feel like people pull it out of the air or they just hearing something like you have to split it with the affiliate or whatever. What do you recommend?
Syed Balkhi: It really depends on the margins in your business and what you are comfortable with. Typically on a e-course where your cost of production is not a whole lot, you see the affiliate commissions to be in the higher, like 50%. I consider 50% to be high. You have 50% commission happening on e-products. That doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Let’s say you offer way more value on the back end. You have a Facebook group and this and that that you have to continue to produce and you have employee costs, you have people costs, you have all this, you don’t have to offer 50%. You can say, “Well, I’m going to offer 35%.” You can also do tiered things. You can say, “Well, we start off at 30%, but if you can send this kind of volume, then well give you 40%. If you get this volume, then you get 50%. If you get this volume, you get 60%.” That happens all the time too.
There’s so many different ways to go about it. There’s no right or wrong way. It just depends on your particular business model. Are you looking at a long term or are you looking at just right now, how can I get the most amount of money this week or this month? You have to really think through these things. You don’t want to give somebody a 80% commission on your course and then on the back end be the one fulfilling it for 20% of the money. It doesn’t make sense at least from my point of view. Again, everybody has a different angle on their business.
I would not go above 50% as a starters. Usually keep it at 30%. I can bet you a lot of people would promote your course at 30%. The same people who will promote it at 50%, will promote at 30%. Those who wouldn’t will ask you for higher.
Chris: I think the next question too is 30% of what? Is it a $100 course or is it a $2,000 program with coaching.
Syed Balkhi: Right.
Chris: There’s all these variables that have to be-
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely. There are times if the higher the ticket, the lower the conversion is because it’s a higher barrier of entry. Instead of paying 10 bucks which nobody cares about and then paying two grand, it’s a tougher sale. A lot of times the higher end programs, I’ve seen would … first of all, they don’t have open affiliate programs. A lot of the higher ticket programs, they don’t have an open affiliate program.
Chris: To be an application only or invite only or what does that mean?
Syed Balkhi: Yeah, application only or invite only. A lot of times invite only because they realize that any affiliate program, let’s say you have a thousand affiliates, only ten of them are actually performing significantly. The rest of 990 are maybe making the 5% of sales or 10% of total sales. The top ten are making, the ten are making 90% of the sales out of thousand. Usually that’s what happens. So then why do you want to bother with all these? You want to just talk with these ten. A lot of times, the higher end courses only have invite only affiliates. Likely their friend, etc. or their jv partners and they do 50%. There’s a course for two grand, the partners are going to get a grand on that sale.
Some of the folks on the entry level would even give 90%. I’ve seen 90%, 100% of the course being given away. Let’s say if you make a sale of my $9 tripwire, I’ll give you $9 for the sale.
Chris: But I have the prospect in my funnel now so [crosstalk 00:32:48].
Syed Balkhi: Exactly. You have to do the math. You’re like, “Okay, I can sell them after $9, I can sell them a $200 course and I know x percentage will go through it. I don’t have to pay them a 50% commission on 200.” Now $9 looks very cheap ’cause you just paid them 5%. Does that make sense?
Chris: It does. If you want to be really scientific about it, you need to know your numbers and know your conversation rates, which is where something like Monster Insights comes in.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely.
Chris: Let’s imagine a sample user. Let’s say I published a book and it’s some small niche. It’s not like a New York Times best seller, but I’ve got my book. I decide I want to get into online courses. I create video lessons around the concepts in my book and I create a $300 course and then I have the up sale to $1,000 with a 30 day coaching program plus the course. I do my best to hustle and scratch and find my initial customers. If I think I want to explore affiliate marketing as a channel, what should I do? How do I recruit my first affiliates? Where do I go find them?
Syed Balkhi: Look at the people who are writing about the same concept. Who are the same audience that you have? You want to approach those people. A lot of times if they are any big, they are not going to listen to anything that you are saying because it’s a one way relationship so you have to add value first before you can expect something in return. If you go to somebody who has millions and millions of users, likely you are not the only person reaching out to them. That’s the challenging part, but if you have really good message and you have an audience and you can add value to a influencer, then absolutely go about doing that.
The strategy is fairly simple. You look at who has your audience and that’s going to be your affiliate. You can look at key words. That’s another strategy that different industries use. Who ranks for these particular key words then you go about seeing hey, is this guy promoting anything? If they are not, then you are like, “Hey, I noticed you have this blog post on how to lose weight or something like this and I noticed you are not promoting anything. I wrote this e-book and I think it would be immensely valuable to your users. Would you be open to a partnership deal where you can check it out. If you like it then you can recommend it and I’ll give you 80% of the sale or something like this.” Again, considering that this is your entry level offer, can you have a $1,000 course on the back end, 80% of a $20 thing is nothing ’cause you are selling $1,000 [inaudible 00:35:39] on the back end.
Chris: That’s awesome. The big takeaway there I think is if you build it they will not come. You need to do some work to go get some affiliates. You need to do some cold e-mails. You need to add value. Work for it a little bit. They are not going to just show up. Your initial customers might be interested in promoting your product, but if they are not really content creators or trained in what affiliate is all about, it’s not really the best play.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve … people should use a tool called [busimo 00:36:09]. You go on busimo, you type a keyword. Let’s say you are writing all about social media, you go on busimo, you write social media and it will show you the most shared articles about social media. You open those articles, see who wrote them. Start following them on Twitter. Start following them on Facebook. Engaging with their community. Building that rapport.
It’s hard work. That’s why not everybody can do it. I think everybody can do it. Not everybody does it because it is work. If you are looking for a quick win, well, this ain’t it, but if you are gonna do the work, then this is going to give you a lot of benefits over time.
Chris: Excellent. Well, let’s shift gears before we part today. I wanted to just talk to you a little bit about pop ups and opt ins. OptinMonster your product has been a big part of our business at Lifterlms for various things. If people are leaving it’s capturing a last minute chance for them to ask a question. It’s allowing us to identify some of the people that are using our free product. We have lead magnets and content upgrades that funnel through it. We do different things with it. I think it was maybe about a year ago I heard that pop ups … you were going to get penalized from an [SEO 00:37:24] perspective or something.
I pretty much just ignored it and kept doing what I’m doing. I’ve had no impact of that statement. First, I’d like you to speak to that news for people who are concerned about using pop ups for SEO and then I’ll ask some more questions.
Syed Balkhi: At OptinMonster our goal is to help business owners convert abandoning website visitors and to subscribers and then shortly after customers. The problem is real for not just you and me or any small business, but it’s real for even the larger business owners, because 70 to 80% of the users that come to your website, never come back. Once they leave, they never come back. You go and you google analytics you will see this chart that says 80% new users and 20% returning or 70% new users and 30% returning. Stats speak for themselves. That’s what OptinMonster tries to solve.
In terms of the google penalty, I actually wrote a several thousand word piece, like a blog post on OptinMonster blog. The answer is, having a pop up does not get you a penalty. Number one, that penalty is for mobile only. It’s not for desktop. What they are trying to prevent … you have to really understand what Google is trying to do. What Google is trying to prevent is things that Pinterest was doing. Things that LinkedIn was doing. Things that Forbes for doing. What they were doing, if you clicked on a Forbes article, you don’t actually get to the article. You get to a interstitial page with some motivational quote and an ad this big and you have to click on a button continue and accidentally you are going to click on that ad and Forbes will make money. That’s a terrible user experience. That’s what Google is trying to avoid.
If you wanted to look at somebody’s LinkedIn profile, you clicked on a LinkedIn link, but instead you got “Hey, download my app.” There’s no way for you to skip it except for that very tiny little link and you try to click on that but instead you go to the Google play store or the I app store in your IOS where you are forced to download an app. That’s what Google was trying to avoid. The wording, the very, very wording on that was they were going after interstitials. Interstitials are things that show up that prevents you from getting to where you were going.
Really, zero second pop ups are the ones they were going after. If you have a zero second pop up, I think you shouldn’t have it. We never recommend that. We have an option that you can put a zero second, but we never, ever recommend that. That’s number one.
Number two, Google had several different things that they were talking about. “Well, we would prefer that you don’t have a pop up, but you can have a floating bar or a scroll box.” One of the beautiful part about OptinMonster is from the very first day that we launched it in 2013, we kept our pop ups, desktop and mobile, completely separate. I understood that experience on mobile is completely different than experience on desktop. In 2013 the mobile users wasn’t as high as it is today in 2017, but even back then we were like, “Okay, we care about user experience.” If you wanted to put a pop up on mobile you had to create a separate one.
Now in OptinMonster you can select where your pop shows. If you are more cautious you can say, “Well, don’t show any pop ups on mobile.” A lot of people are doing that. A lot of our users are doing that. Some of the ones are saying, “Well, actually, I don’t want to show the pop up on the page they land, but if the user goes to the next page, then show the pop up.” Completely fair game. Other folks are saying, “Well, you know what? I don’t care. I’m going to show pop up anyways.” We haven’t seen any complaints there either. Again, because you are not showing intersticials. Some folks are saying, “Well, I’m going to use a scroll trigger. I’m only going to show a pop up once the user have scrolled on the mobile 70% of the screen size.” Then at that point the user has spent enough time on your website that you can prompt them for an action.
On desktop, you have nothing to worry about, but again, I always recommend against using zero second pop up. It will increase your bounce rate. You are going to lose that user. I recommend using multiple triggers, primarily exit intent. If you are not doing anything use exit intent. That thing just works. If you want to get more sophisticated you can combine scroll trigger and exit intent. Monster links work really, really well, which is a pop up that only shows up if the user clicks on a link or an image.
Things like that. Those are always going to work for you and there’s no penalty for that.
Chris: That’s awesome. Exit intent, that’s a really great … I’m not sure where or how you came up with the idea, but the goal with us, with our website, when we use exit intent, we are not trying to annoy people. We are just giving them one last opportunity, “Hey, before you go, do you have any questions? Can I help you with anything? Perhaps you didn’t find what you were looking for. Can I help?” That’s the purpose of the pop up.
Syed Balkhi: Right. The idea came … when somebody comes to your house for dinner and you have a great time. Then when they are leaving you are like, “Hey come back and see us again. Would love to see you guys again soon.” The [inaudible 00:43:01] person says, “Absolutely.” That’s the where the idea came from. What if I could do that? I believe that people that come to our website, I hope that they are having that kind of experience. They are enjoying it. They are finding it useful. When they are leaving, I can say, “Hey, can I stay in touch with you?”
I think that was the motivation behind the exit intent concept. In the past, pop ups were very time driven. You showed at 5 seconds, or 10 seconds or 30 seconds. I was using those old pop up scripts and people on my websites were getting annoyed. Then like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I can just not interrupt the user behavior of what they were doing and only show it when they were leaving?” Boom.
Chris: That’s it.
Syed Balkhi: And that was it.
Chris: That’s awesome. Well, that was a goldmine of information. I really want to thank you Syed for coming on the show. You’ve shared so much amazing stuff with us. I’d encourage any of you listening to go check out OptinMonster and Syed’s other properties and products, WPBeginner, Enviro Gallery, Monster Insights, WP Forms, Soliloquy and List 25. If you want to get into a little bit more of Syed’s story, I’d encourage you to check out podcast he was on with Johnny Naster called Hack the Entrepreneur. It was a great interview of Syed as well.
Syed’s also fun to follow on Twitter. Check him out there @SyedBalkhi and anywhere else you want to send the listeners Syed?
Syed Balkhi: I don’t know man. That’s a lot of places you [crosstalk 00:44:30] send people.
Chris: Right on. Well thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your insights with us. If those of you listening out there kind of have your mind blown, I just encourage you to just hit rewind or listen to this again. Grab a pen and paper and grab some notes. I guarantee there’s some action items in there for you to take action on.
Anytime I see Syed give a talk, I have a notebook. It doesn’t necessarily take long, but to implement some of the things I’ve learned. They consistently deliver results. Thanks Syed. We’ll catch you on the next one.
Syed Balkhi: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Chris.

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