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Chapter 4

Affiliate Marketing Case Study: ConvertKit

<< Table of Contents Go to Chapter 5 >>

In this chapter, I’m going to share a case study to show you what effective affiliate marketing looks like “on the ground.”

This case study is based on a product I’ve recommended for a long time that’s also become one of my biggest drivers of affiliate income. From 2015 to 2017, it brought in a whopping $315,000 in affiliate revenue.

ConvertKit is an example of a product I promote as part of a long-term strategy. It’s a great example of an affiliate resource I promote to my audience that can benefit and serve them over the long term and hopefully I earn a healthy affiliate income at the same time.

Although I love and use ConvertKit myself (and the founder, Nathan Barry, is a good friend of mine), the point of this chapter is not to promote the product. Instead, I’m here to show you how I’ve promoted ConvertKit.

And I’ve done so in a very specific way: by D-O-I-N-G. This strategy has helped me be very successful in promoting ConvertKit as an affiliate. Those letters stand for:

Before we get into the details of the D-O-I-N-G approach, here’s a little background on how I got started promoting ConvertKit as an affiliate. ConvertKit wasn’t my first email service provider. My first one, back in 2010, was AWeber. AWeber was great as an entry-level email tool, and I also promoted it as an affiliate, making up to $2,000 a month at one point. And that income still comes in each month, because I get paid a recurring commission for every month a person I refer stays on, even though I’m not actively promoting the product anymore.

Eventually, though, I needed an email service that was easier to use with more advanced features. For a while, I turned to another tool called InfusionSoft, which was good, but still not exactly what I needed. Shortly after I started using InfusionSoft, a friend of mine, Nathan Barry, reached out to me to ask how I was doing with the new tool. Nathan had recently started a new email service provider, ConvertKit.

We met for coffee in downtown San Diego a couple weeks later. After catching up about personal stuff, the conversation turned to business. Nathan asked me a lot of questions about my needs, experiences, and desires as a blogger, podcaster, and digital marketer. He didn’t try too hard to plug his new tool, except toward the end of our conversation when he said, “Hey, if Infusionsoft doesn’t work out for you, let me know, and we can see how you might be able to use ConvertKit.”

I didn’t think much of his offer for a little while.

But over time, I started growing more and more frustrated with Infusionsoft. So I reached back out to Nathan to see how ConvertKit was doing. I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were experiencing constant growth month after month. New features were being added on a regular basis, and after a couple of side conversations with other users, I was happy to hear extremely positive reviews.

That’s when I asked Nathan to demo the current software for me over Skype—and I was blown away. I loved the intuitive user interface, along with the tool’s segmentation and automation capabilities.

Seeing what the tool could do, it wasn’t long before I decided to switch from InfusionSoft, and Nathan’s team even helped me migrate my email list. I’ve been using ConvertKit very happily ever since.

That positive experience has shown up in terms of my affiliate revenue from ConvertKit too. Although I was happy with my AWeber affiliate income, since shifting to ConvertKit, I’ve broken into a new level of affiliate income and success. Part of that is because ConvertKit is an amazing tool—but a lot of it has to do with how I leveled up my promotional efforts with the D-O-I-N-G approach.

Let’s learn all about it now!

Digging Into the D-O-I-N-G Approach to Affiliate Marketing

Let’s start at the beginning, with the first part, D, which stands for demo.

D: Demo the product

Affiliate marketing is technically easy to do. All you have to do is get your affiliate link and start sharing it with your audience. It’s easy to stop there and think you’ve done enough.

But if you’ve been with us since the beginning of this series, you know that a crucial practice in affiliate marketing is to take products that are not your own and treat them as if they were your own. If you were selling your own product, you’d show people what they were going to get before they got it, right? But most people who do affiliate marketing just share a link and a couple of sentences and call it good.

Instead, as we talked about previously in Chapter 1, you need to show the product in action. That’s where the demo comes in. People are more likely to buy when they know what they’re getting and exactly how it will help them.

The best way to do this is with a video demo that shows people two main things: 1) how they can benefit from the tool and 2) how to use it.

In 2015, I created a YouTube demo of ConvertKit. In the video, I talk about the benefits and features that made me fall in love with ConvertKit: ease of use and setup, beautiful design, powerful statistical analysis, segmentation and tagging, and a lot more. Along the way, I show screenshots of ConvertKit in action, so viewers can see exactly how to accomplish different things using the tool.

ConvertKit Demo

Interested in ConvertKit? Here's a demo to help you get started and use this powerful email marketing tool.

When you search “ConvertKit demo” or “ConvertKit tutorial” on Youtube or Google, my demo is typically one of the top results. It’s been viewed nearly 30,000 times as of July 2018, and it’s driven a ton of traffic both back to my website and through the affiliate link mentioned in the video description.

When you’re thinking about creating your own demos, you want to show not just the features and benefits of the tool, but also make it fun and show your personality. In the ConvertKit demo video, although you don’t get to see much of me (it’s just my voice with a Screenflow video), I’m just being myself. I could have made a stiff, mechanical demo that was all about just conveying the relevant information—and it would have been shorter too—but who wants to sit through that? Instead, I’m relaxed and sharing my honest opinions, using words like “cool” and “powerful” (and yes, “nice”!) to convey my excitement about ConvertKit’s capabilities, in the hopes that excitement will be shared by my audience too.

You want to create a thoughtful demo that shows you care about creating informative content while also keeping your audience engaged and excited to try the tool. And of course, make sure you include calls to action (CTAs) to go through your affiliate link, as well as disclosing your affiliate relationship with the company.

You don’t want to bombard your audience with these CTAs, though, and if you’ve provided enough valuable, engaging content in the demo, you shouldn’t have to include more than one or two CTAs. In my ConvertKit demo video, I only mention my affiliate link and status twice very briefly, at the very end:

“Go ahead and check it out: And I look forward to seeing how you are able to use it. Like I said, ConvertKit’s coming out with a lot of other stuff in the future too, to make our lives even easier. Hopefully this is helpful. Cheers. I appreciate you. That affiliate link one more time, which I do get a commission from if you do go through that link, is Thank you so much, and I’ll see you in the next video.” [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]

In other types of content, such as blog posts, I might share my affiliate link a little more often, for instance at the beginning, middle, and end of a post. But in either instance—whether a video demo or a blog post—the content itself does the “heavy lifting” of sparking someone’s interest in trying out the product, so I don’t have to hit my audience over the head with my affiliate link.

O: Offer Answers

The next step is to offer answers to people’s questions. This is huge, because if a person asks you a question about a product, they’re likely already interested in it. They may just be on the fence, and if you can be the one to answer their questions, that may give them the final piece of the puzzle to go ahead and make a purchase, knowing there’s someone there to provide product support if they need it.

That’s why I always offer support for ConvertKit and the other affiliate products I promote. When questions come in, I’m quick to answer them because I want to make people feel comfortable with the idea of spending money on this thing I’m promoting.

The combination of the demo and offering answers is powerful. If you put together a thorough and helpful demo, you’ll likely answer a lot of people’s questions in the demo itself. But even if your demo covers all the bases you can think of, you should still offer to answer people’s questions. Why? Even if they don’t have any, just the fact that you’re offering this assistance will make people feel more comfortable and inclined to buy the product through your link. Remember, you want people to trust you and feel secure in their investment.

Want an example of how you could offer support in this way? Here’s what I say toward the end of the ConvertKit demo video I mentioned in the previous section:

“I’m here to answer your questions too. If you’re watching this on YouTube, ask your question below; I’ll do my best to answer it. If you’re watching this on the SPI blog, go ahead and leave your question in the comments section. Or, if you want to send me an email, that’s totally fine too. Happy to help, because I really believe in this product.”

I also offer to answer people’s questions about my affiliate products via other channels, including email and social media. People often reach out to me on Twitter, because Twitter makes it easy for me to reply quickly. It helps that there’s a character limit, too, because it forces both parties to get to the point.

Offering to answer questions also makes people feel secure about the fact that if they were to have questions later on, once they’re up and running with the product, you’ll be able to answer them. This is especially important if the product you’re promoting is of a highly technical nature.

So, offer support and people will be more at ease about buying through your affiliate link.

I: Interview

When you’re promoting an affiliate product, having other people talk about the product, and the story behind it, can be a powerful way to get people excited about it.

A great way to do this is to interview the founder of the product on your podcast. ConvertKit founder Nathan Barry joined me on episode 244 of the Smart Passive Income podcast, titled “Bootstrapping a Business.” But here’s the thing. We didn’t actually talk about the product itself much at all! We talked about his story, and how he bootstrapped the company and grew it successfully. We talked about how I met him and built a relationship with him and his company, eventually becoming an advisor to ConvertKit.

Because the product itself—as well as my affiliate relationship with ConvertKit—was not the focus of the interview, listeners were able to focus on how much care and quality Nathan put into creating the product and cultivating the company’s culture. As a result, in a way, they were able to start building a relationship with him too.

I only mentioned my affiliate link at the very end in a casual way, as almost a natural conclusion to the episode.

The ability to augment your affiliate marketing efforts by interviewing the founder of a product you’re promoting is a great reason—among many—to have a podcast. Even though Nathan and I recorded the episode in 2016, people are still downloading and listening to it today. I also reference the episode a lot when I mention ConvertKit, which helps make it an active resource in promoting my affiliate relationship.

So, if you’re planning to promote a new affiliate product, see if you can get the founder of that product on your podcast. If you can’t get access to the founder for a podcast interview, consider an email interview or maybe a video interview over Skype or Zoom. And if you can’t get the founder, try for somebody who represents that company at a high level. If that’s not possible either, aim for somebody who’s used the product and knows it well, hopefully somebody your audience is already aware of and respects.

We talked in Chapter 2 about the importance of promoting a product yourself, showing how much you know and love it and the great results you’ve gotten from using it—i.e., showing proof. When you’re the only one doing the showing, there’s always the risk, however small, that your efforts may come off as too promotional. On the other hand, as the Nathan Barry podcast episode showed, interviews are powerful because most of the selling that’s done is indirect—and often, you won’t have to talk about the product much at all.

N: Never Recommend More Than One of the Same Kind of Product

Next up, you should never recommend more than one solution for a specific type of problem. This is a really important rule, and one that generates a lot of debate. And there are exceptions, which we’ll talk about in a second.

But first, what exactly do I mean by never recommending more than one of the same kind of product?

Well, if I were to recommend ConvertKit, but also recommend other email solutions like AWeber or MailChimp, it would dilute the strength of my primary recommendation. You need to pick one, because otherwise people are going to be confused. I went the route of recommending multiple similar products once, and it didn’t go well. People said, “Wait, I thought you were recommending this one. But now you’re talking about this one? What’s the difference? How is it better?”

You don’t want people asking themselves even more questions about which product makes sense for them. That’s why they came to you in the first place! So, yes, I’ve made my decision, and the only email service provider I recommend to people is ConvertKit.

ConvertKit is the only email service provider I recommend.


Are you recommending more than one product right now that’s essentially the same type of solution? If so, you’re diluting your affiliate marketing efforts and reducing the amount of income you can make. Yes, sometimes it’s great to give people options, but it can also work against you.

Now, if someone were to say, “Hey, Pat. I know you recommend ConvertKit, but what other solutions are out there?” then of course I’m going to be honest with them and tell them what other options they have. I’m not going to say, “Sorry, Dave. There are no other great options out there.” That would be lying. There are other great email service providers out there. But the one I use, recommend, and trust will be there to help my audience is ConvertKit.

Plus, as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, only having one recommendation doesn’t make sense for some types of sites. For example, if you run a vacuum review site, you can’t get away with promoting just one product, as that would go against the entire aim of the site. You can certainly highlight featured products and recommendations in different categories. But when people are searching for helpful comparisons of similar products, the N rule likely won’t apply.

Here’s another example from one of my own affiliate promotional materials that you might remember from Chapter 1. In one of my YouTube videos, I review three different podcasting microphones.

Best Podcast Microphone

What's the best podcast microphone you can use to still sound like a pro? Which ones are easy to use (i.e. via USB) and won't cost you a ton? In this video, I unbox and demo 3 of the most popular USB microphones podcasters use that are each under $75.

Here’s the key: Even though each of these products is very similar (they’re all microphones), I use the review as an opportunity to differentiate them according to their best uses, then make specific recommendations about which microphone should be used for different scenarios. For instance, in the video, I end up recommending that you not use one of the microphones for podcasting at all—instead, I recommend another use case that makes more sense for this particular microphone. I’m comfortable including my affiliate link to each of the microphones because I’ve made the effort of differentiating them for my audience.

As you can see in the video description, I include affiliate links to purchase each of the microphones I review.


G: Get the Product in Front of Your People

This final one is a big one, and it represents a mindset shift I’ve undergone over the past few years. Often, people become timid when it comes time to put products in front of their audience. If that describes you, whether it’s your own product or an affiliate product, then I want you to shift your mindset—to one of excitement about sharing something you know will help your audience. In fact, it’s your obligation and your role to do that, and you should embrace it. Because if you don’t, you’re not serving your audience in the best way possible.

It’s not about being pushy or aggressive; it’s about being motivated to get the product in front of people. You’ve done the research, you’ve used the product, you’re offering answers, you’ve created the video demo, you’ve recorded the interviews. You know the product can help your audience, so get it in front of them! Talk about it on your podcast, and on other people’s podcasts. Share it in blog posts. Create more videos about the benefits and capabilities of the product.

That’s exactly what I’ve done and continue to do with ConvertKit. I believe in the product, and the company, so it’s my responsibility to get it in front of my audience so they can benefit from it like I have.

I’ve used lots of methods and channels to get ConvertKit in front of my audience, including:

When it comes to getting the product in front of your audience, it pays to be creative! On that note, I wanted to share one more pretty novel way I’ve gotten ConvertKit in front of my audience. In a March 2018 video, I congratulated ConvertKit for a huge milestone—hitting $1 million in monthly recurring revenue (MRR). In the video, I also shared 8 important lessons for people looking to start and grow a business, ones that came directly from ConvertKit’s example in becoming a $1 million MRR business.

The video was a response to a single tweet by ConvertKit’s founder, Nathan Barry, about the company’s $1 million milestone. But I built on that tweet to tell a much richer story about the company and how they were able to accomplish something so remarkable. You can see the whole thing below.

The Million Dollar Tweet

Can a million dollar tweet help you scale your business? Definitely. Watch this video to learn 8 important lessons to start and grow a successful business.

The key in this video is that I didn’t focus that much on the product itself—and especially not on my affiliate relationship with them—but on ConvertKit the company, and how they used 8 powerful and ethically minded principles to grow their business rapidly. These are principles anyone who’s trying to grow their own business the right way can learn from and implement.

And you can do the same thing I did with this video. Ask yourself, what can I learn from the success of a company I have an affiliate relationship with? How can I use that company’s example, and the principles behind its success, to help my audience and deliver them value?

When you do that, you’re getting the product in front of people—but you’re also giving them so much more.

Time to Get D-O-I-N-G!

Well, that’s the D-O-I-N-G formula! I hope you find it as useful as I have in promoting your affiliate products. As a reminder, here’s the formula again:

Once you start D-O-I-N-G, you’ll start succeeding with your affiliate marketing. Here’s to your success!

On to Chapter 5 >>


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Continue reading the SPI Epic Guide to Affiliate Marketing

BEGINNING Affiliate Marketing Strategies

CHAPTER 1 How Affiliate Marketing Works

CHAPTER 2 How to Start Affiliate Marketing

CHAPTER 3 Affiliate Marketing Tips

CHAPTER 4 Affiliate Marketing Case Study: ConvertKit << You are here

CHAPTER 5 Avoiding Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

CHAPTER 6 12 Tools To Take Your Affiliate Marketing To The Next Level

CHAPTER 7 Affiliate Marketing on Amazon

CHAPTER 8 Taking Your Affiliate Marketing to the Next Level


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