Using mailing lists in affiliate marketing

Using mailing lists in affiliate marketing
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Many affiliate marketers are convinced that mailing lists are something from the prehistoric period and are morally outdated. However, not only is this traffic source alive and well, it can generate great results if used right. In this article we are going to talk about this traffic source, how to collect the email database, and how to stay in the red using mailing lists.

According to Mantis Research, email marketing is still on: 59% of the respondents agree to receive personalized content by email, and only 12% are against it.
Even though nowadays most people communicate via messengers and social media, mailing lists are still a great driver of sales: according to Statista, 4,26 billion people use email, and the email marketing total revenue stands at 10,89 billion USD.

Table of contents

Advantages and disadvantages of mailing lists in affiliate marketing

Let’s start with the positives:
  • Easy tracking of performance indicators: mailing services provide detailed statistics;
  • High automation levels: you can set up variative funnels with separate email chains for different audiences and situations;
  • Mailing lists are inexpensive: you only need a mailing service and well-designed messages.
  • It is easier to build up a trusting relationship with your audience, increasing the loyalty.
  • The target audience can find the email with the offer that interests them at any time.
  • The relevant and fresh database of your audience will give you a great ROI.
  • Mailing lists can be the main or an additional traffic source useful for setting up cross sales and letting your clients know about new offers.
And what are the downsides?
  • The client base will inevitably burn out over time, and email open rates will go down.
  • Many people distrust mailing lists due to the prevalence of spam.
  • Service rules might prohibit advertising certain affiliate products via mailing lists.
  • You should be extra careful when drafting emails, as even a single wrong word might be the reason for your email going to the spam folder.
  • You should agree on using mailing lists for promotion with your partners. This traffic source is harder to monitor, so some advertisers might be against it.
Mailing lists will work with most vertical markets, but make sure to carefully read the mailing service rules to know about any potential restrictions; it is obviously better to stick to clean niches. The most popular vertical markets today are:
  • Education and infobusiness. Mailing lists are great for priming your audience with free educational materials, checklists, useful advice, etc.
  • Almost any goods. You need to find the relevant target audience and motivate your clients with discounts, gifts, and special promotional offers.
  • Finances. These can include promotions of banking services, investment and brokership services, and help with loan approvals. In these cases you need to pay special attention to carefully creating the sales funnel with the main focus on gaining the audience's trust.
  • Nutrition. Stick to clean offers. Usually people buy wonder treatments when they are in an emotional state; however, if you manage to create a wow-effect in your emails, this will help you with your sales, especially if you assemble your target audience carefully and your database is fresh.
  • Services. These can be house improvement, building, or design, tour packages, etc. You need to prime your audience well with useful advice, content and cases.
  • Gambling and betting. These are usually considered less than ideal for mailing lists; however, you can be successful if you’re careful. People are always looking for easy ways to make money, and this is the focus of most funnels.
  • Dating. The common desire to sort out their romantic lives does not depend on people’s financial situation and other factors. The key here is to find the right offer, especially if you’re using a special mailing service. Adult content is not a good idea for mailing lists.
  • Sweepstakes. People love raffles and lotteries and react well to emails offering to take part in a promotion.

Mailing lists are great for most vertical markets; the key point is to analyze the address database and carefully work out the sales funnel.

The inside workings of mailing lists

Email marketing has seen few changes over the years. As before, everything is done in the usual steps: collecting the database, setting up the mailing service, developing the sales funnel, testing and analysis. However, if you use ages-old selling tricks, chances are they won’t work: you need a contemporary approach. Let’s see what you should pay attention to.

The address database

Here you can choose one of two options: buy a ready-made database or collect it yourself. The first way is easier, but is illegal in many localities, as you should be able to collect user information only with their consent. Moreover, the quality of such databases is questionable. You can go two ways:
  • Free databases. While this option looks attractive, as you don’t have to spend time and money, you need to remember that there is no quality to speak of, and your chances to earn anything at all are close to zero.
  • Paid-for databases. The quality here is higher, but the databases can still be old. It’s hard to check what the seller is saying about the database, and prices can vary widely.
You can also use special services that check email addresses validity, but they also cost money.

A database that you create yourself is much more reliable. There are many ways to collect the data for it, the main ones are:
  • If you have a website, you can always add a form to collect contacts, add a pop-up window, or use the email field in the order form. You can use lead magnets: useful materials or videos, a discount or a promo code.
  • Another option is to use a separate landing page. You can direct traffic from social media, messengers, etc. there: you just need to offer something that people will be willing to share their email for.
  • If you have already collected an email database for an offer in a particular niche, chances are it will also be good for similar products, so you can use it for future offers or for advertising similar products and services.
  • Finally, social media and messengers are great traffic sources. You can collect data using communities, personal pages, targeted ads, or using specialized bots.

These are the most common ways of collecting data for your database. The important part here is to amass a loyal target audience: it will take time, but the database will be significantly more effective than a purchased one.

Choosing a mailing service

While you can always start from scratch, it is usually too costly. For affiliate marketing purposes you will need a professional mailing script that you will install on a dedicated server or a VDS. Prices can go up to $5000 and higher, which is in itself considerable.

An even easier option is to rent a script and a VDS. If your database is clean, one VDS will be enough, if it’s more questionable, then you will need several others to create SMTP servers. A setup like this will help even with mailing lists using free databases, and it will offset your budget by $50-100 while allowing you to send up to 10,000 emails per day.

Another simple option is a mailing service. This is a ready-to-go solution with email templates and other functions. For instance, you can use the following services:
  • GetResponse, an e-CRM platform offering a lot of useful functions, including automation, which starts at $15$ per month.
Choosing a mailing service
  • SendPulse. Offering a free CRM and a landing constructor, it supports SMTP and pushes, and you can create up to 3 chat bots; the pricing starts at €4.55.
Logging into Google

Creative materials and other nuances

Nowadays you need to be careful when drafting emails. Bad formatting, long texts, or no structure easily kill conversion and send you emails to spam. Use the following trends:
  • Minimalism. Everything needs to be in a single image. Nothing superfluous, only essential information for potential clients. You can add clickable links for a diverse target audience.
Minimalism. Everything needs to be in a single image.
  • User experience: an unboxing video or a client’s review.
User experience: an unboxing video or a client’s review.
  • Pictures of people. Faces attract attention and increase the chances that the audience will read what’s next to the image. The texts should be short with a clear call to action.
Pictures of people.
  • Stylish design. Nowadays emails often resemble landing pages, where each block has its place.
Stylish design.
  • Interactive materials. Users can choose one of several options, take part in polls, etc.
Interactive materials.
  • Gamification. This greatly helps to draw your audience’s attention and understand its preferences.

Modern mailing lists

Today your focus is not finding new subscribers, it’s working with the audience you already have. Let’s talk about the main points:
  • An email should not be long. It needs to be light so that it is opened quickly even on slower connections — otherwise it will be sent to spam immediately.
  • Make sure you know how spam filters work. Sometimes even the mere absence of an unsubscribe link can cause the email to be sent to spam.
  • You should constantly work with your database: delete the addresses of inactive subscribers and those who have sent your emails to spam.
  • An adaptive design is a must, as more than 50% of emails are read on smartphones. Check how your images are rendered on different devices. It’s best to keep the email width to 600px on web versions.
  • Make sure that your sales funnel is variative, taking into account how a user reacted to previous emails. A great solution here is to use polls and surveys, which will help you partition your audience.
  • A/B testing is a must: you’ll never know for sure what your audience will like most.
  • The subject and the snippet of the email are crucially important.
  • Personalize your emails whenever possible.

If a domain was never used to send mass emails, work with it first, otherwise your emails will go directly to the spam folder.

Indicators and metrics of a mailing list

These are the main indicators and metrics of a mailing list:
  • OR shows the percentage of users who have opened the email.
  • CTR shows how many users have performed the target action.
  • CR (conversion rate) shows the percentage of the audience who have performed the target action after opening the landing page.
  • ROI is the difference between your income and the money you’ve spent on the mailing list.
  • FR (forwarding rate). If an offer is truly valuable, users can forward it to their friends and acquaintances.
  • BR shows the percentage of emails that were not delivered. To calculate all these rates, the relevant number is divided by the total emails sent and multiplied by 100.


Mailing lists are an old-fashioned traffic source that still can be used in most marketing niches today. It’s almost impossible to invent something radically new here, but this is also an advantage: trends can change, but the mechanism has stayed the same for years.

Today mailing lists are not too popular, yet this is also an advantage for beginners in affiliate marketing, as the competition here is lower. Furthermore, according to the latest research, this traffic source won’t become history any time soon. Even if your main focus is elsewhere, it is still prudent to collect a database of email addresses and use it to drive additional income.

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