As part of shedding light on the “good” side of affiliate marketing, I think it’s important for merchants out there to get a better understanding of the different types of affiliates including who they are, what they do and how they think.

Too many people assume affiliate marketing is about “get rich quick”, multilevel marketing, pornography and online gaming, let alone scams, fraud and malicious activity. This is not the case for everyone and there are thousands of good affiliates out there who focus on smart and ethical marketing practices to drive incremental sales and value to a merchant’s bottom line.

I recently interviewed Nick Chertock, accountant by day, affiliate marketer by night.  Nick is a video blogger in the golf niche focused on the improvement process.  He promotes high quality golf training and practice related merchandise on a performance basis through blogposts, social media, product reviews, and his own online communities of golf professionals. His website is GolfProgress.net.

Q: Please tell us what you do and your interest in the affiliate marketing world.

“I’m a golf blogger and video blogger focused on the improvement process.  My website is a destination for average golfers who would like to play much better, those who are addicted to the game.  As an affiliate marketer I call attention to products like practice equipment, training aids, dvds, learning software, fitness equipment, and golf related gadgets and unusual merchandise.  

I own about 50 other domain names, mainly in the fields of health, fitness, and back pain.  I’ve been following affiliate marketing closely since I first heard of Amazon’s associate program in 2000, before I even owned my own computer or had been on the internet.  I read about it in Fortune magazine and as someone who had dabbled in “work at home” and direct mail, this seemed like a legitimate way to market other people’s products and be compensated well to do it.”

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a new merchant coming into the space, what would it be?

“Establish a real connection with your customer and you will build genuine trust which will allow you to rise above competing on the basis of price alone.”

Q: What would you say makes affiliates different from any other group of people you’ve worked with in the past?

“Affiliates are able to identify offers that visitors will be interested in that the visitor themself has never even imagined.  They are compensated only if they generate results for a merchant but at the same time they are free to change direction at any time, so merchants need to be aware that affiliates are not your sales force.  They are not a captive audience who will promote what you tell them to promote.  You must appeal to their desire not just to make money but to impress their own visitors in order to build long term credibility.” 

Q: For new people coming into the space, where would you say they should direct most of their time / attention?

“I still consider myself new to affiliate marketing in terms of how long I’ve actually been putting it into practice, but my recommendation, and what I’ve done in the last year, is to connect with influential people in your niche, build a sense of community with yourself as the leader, and put out unique and memorable content.  This assumes you are trying to build a long term business and are not attempting to simply broker web traffic.  Social media is a fantastic tool for becoming a thought leader.”

Q: Please give us one affiliate marketing prediction you see coming in the next year that you’re excited about and why.

“Interactive video excites me.  I’m talking about having clickable areas on top of a video that allows the visitor to both be led to other video content and to be directed to merchant sites to make purchases.  Think choose your own adventure in an online shopping center.

So as you can see, nick is just a regular guy who loves golf, business strategy and the affiliate marketing industry. Merchants can learn a lot from these guys simply by getting to know them and asking some good questions.

Stay tuned for more interviews of affiliates from different verticals and levels of skill set. Understanding your affiliate groups is one of the best ways to better leverage performance based marketing. Listen to them. Consider their suggestions. They will know how to help you more than you’d ever think possible.