For affiliate marketers everywhere, conducting effective market research (also known as “MR”) can be one of the hardest parts to gaining traction and momentum in their quest to make money online. Even with all the research, blogs, e-books, and mentors in the world, figuring out what to sell and how to sell it can be intimidating. Many affiliate marketers get stuck in the research phase. Or worse, they hurry through it, brush off their findings, and proceed when they should have returned to the drawing board.
To take some of the guesswork around market research for affiliate marketing campaigns, we’ve boiled down the process into five effective steps.
Step 1: Take a look at your market.
Before proceeding with market research, you will want to identify and select the market you are working in. Don’t let this decision alienate your audience or demographic though. You may have a problem or product in mind that fits into a certain sub-category, but keep in mind the fluidity of many demographics. In fewers words, don’t pigeonhole yourself right out the gate.
That all being said, the first step to conducting effective market research is to take a good look at the market, or niche, you are working in. Sit down for a long research session with these questions in mind:
- What products exist that are similar to mine?
- What are the top selling products in this niche?
- Who is promoting products similar to mine?
- Are people having problems with any of the products that are similar to mine?
According to Kyle Kostechka, a business development manager here at ClickBank, when it comes to this step of market research, you’re looking to see if there’s room for a product or for improvement:
“You want to ask yourself, ‘Can I do it better or good enough?’ or ‘I think this is a problem and nobody is doing anything about it.’ You want to survey the landscape to see where you can most effectively fit in.”
At this phase, if you are feeling discouraged by a lack of apparent need for your offer or an overabundance of products, don’t get discouraged yet. Proceed to the second phase to better understand consumer behavior.
MR Hack: Subscribe to bloggers who promote similar products to yours to get a good idea of their demographic, copy style, and marketing approach. Keeping up-to-date on similar products will keep your research grounded.
Step 2: Survey your audience.
Once you have a broad idea of what that market is currently offering, it’s time to drill down a little bit through surveying.The first step is to design a survey using a survey creator platform. We suggest Survey Monkey for sheer usability and convenience.
Design your survey with easy to answer questions that require little effort on the part of the survey-taker. If you are selling a digital product, come up with five to seven headlines for your product and ask whether or not the survey taker would buy the offer. If you are selling physical products, throw in some actual pictures of the physical product.
Once your survey is complete and reads professionally in an unbiased way, send it to your email list and give recipients about a week to complete it. According to SurveyMonkey, 80% of results are typically collected within seven days.
The goal of this survey is to obtain a general idea of what people would buy. When the survey is complete, look for the “would buy” percentage to be over 85%. That may seem like a high number, but since this survey is a hypothetical and there is no real cash on the table, you’ll want a commitment rate that is higher than average. Survey percentages are not indicative of what your actual conversion rates will be, so don’t get too excited if you have a product that polls particularly well.
If you receive your results back and they indicate that there isn’t a need or desire for your product, you can start the research process from the beginning to get a better idea of how to optimize your offer.
If the results show that there is an overwhelming need or desire for your offer, great! But there’s still more to do. Proceed to Step 3.
If you don’t have an email list yet, don’t fret. You have other research options. Step 3 will provide you with some relevant and meaningful feedback.
MR Hack: If you’ve already established other offers or products, offer a coupon at the end of the survey for a discount percentage off their next order. This will help the survey-taker feel appreciated and boost sales for you.
Step 3: Do some face-to-face research.
Now, we understand that “face-to-face” means something very different in 2020 than say, in 2019. But hear us out. Before you pull the trigger on scaling your offer, you’re going to want some real, live feedback about your offer. There are two really good options for getting this kind of feedback.
The first is The Coffee House Approach. This approach requires actually leaving your desk to go interact in the wild–following all applicable COVID-19 protocol, of course. Coffee houses historically have been places of interaction, communication, and idea-sharing, so you’re more prone to find someone willing to talk to you about your offer there than anywhere else. Catch someone in line and offer to buy their coffee for them if they can give you ten minutes of their time to take a look at your website. If they decline, hey–no worries, try again.
When someone does accept, get right to the point. Show them a headline or image of your product and ask them if they would hypothetically buy it. Because this in-human interaction is a bit more intimate than the internet, they will likely offer a reason why or why not out of courtesy. This information is market research gold. If you can keep these participants talking, they will reveal to you their opinions, their pain points, similar products they’ve used and liked or didn’t like, as well as information about them to help you better understand demographics. Not only that, but you may find invaluable networking opportunities that would have otherwise been inaccessible just over the internet.
The second is The Reddit/Facebook Approach. Both of these social media platforms tend to be less curated than LinkedIn or Instagram so people’s frustrations may be a bit more evident. Find groups who are dealing with issues that you believe your offer or product may solve. Offer a $5 Amazon gift card to anyone who is willing to hop on a Zoom (or Skype, or Slack) call and give you some feedback. It’s important to make this interaction feel intimate, so clean up your work space and turn on your camera.
Try for at least fifteen unique interaction sessions, either from The Coffeehouse Approach or the Reddit/Facebook approach. Use the information you find from this step to finetune your offer and product. While this data will not be scientific, it will be hugely helpful for you when you go to write sales copy around this offer or future, related offers.
Even if you get a lot of negative feedback, don’t throw out your idea just yet. There’s still a bit more research to complete. Proceed to Step 4.
Step 4: Do some paid media testing.
Paid media testing is the final step in your market research journey. Facebook ads are a good place to start. You can also work with any partners who operate in the same niche to test your offer on their email list and guarantee them earnings per click or pay them upfront. Either way, this step is where you’ll have to shell out some money to get the data. Budget your marketing funds for at least three iterations of testing to boil down what works and who it works with.
You should expect higher engagement and conversion rates because you’re targeting a hyper-specific audience. If you choose to scale your offer, expect those rates to dip a bit.
Even though you may feel inclined to go big in this step, we suggest keeping it small. Refine your offer through the iterations of these tests the best you can to get all the insight you can before making decisions.
The data you accrue in this step will come in the form of actual sales, which means this step may not feel as much like research as the other two. Trust us though, these sales are more than just money in the bank–they’re indicative of how well your product or offer is performing in a certain demographic with paid advertising. These are ideal conditions and if you’re not seeing positive engagement and conversion rates, that may be something you want to continue when you proceed to the fifth and final step.
MR Hack: Don’t use the same partner’s email list twice.
Step 5: Scale or start over.
If you get all the way to step five and your data is not instilling in you a founded and rational sense of confidence regarding the success of your offer, go back to Step 1.
I know. That seems harsh. But starting over isn’t a failure. Kostechka would argue that market research is more than worth it:
“Doing market research mitigates failure upfront. You’re going to work through the research and, even if you find out the offer is bunk, the information you’ve learned covers the energy and loss you’d experience if you pushed an offer that wasn’t ready.”
If you do find that all signals say go, it’s time to scale your offer and go big. For more on how ClickBank can help you with that step through automation and growth, sign up here.