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Cupcake Marketing: Affiliate Marketing Beyond the Internet

Internet Marketing in the Real WorldBrick and mortar businesses should steal their marketing plans from the internet.

The best marketing campaigns require creativity and flexibility. Doing what you’ve always done will result in the same outcome you’ve always gotten. And there is no better place to hone in on new tactics and marketing techniques than the internet.

With free thought and countless ideas flowing at an ever increasing pace you can find out what works and what doesn’t faster than ever before.

But are brick and mortar businesses taking notice of the internet marketing techniques that spread like wildfire? They should. Because they work.

Take affiliate marketing for instance. It is so prevalent online that just mentioning it leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths. This happens because it is so engrained in business on the internet that it is EVERYWHERE. And of course there are people who take advantage of the system and go overboard, SPAM and rip people off. These are the exception to the rule, but people take notice of the negative outliers.

But I digress.

Affiliate Marketing Offline?!

Affiliate marketing is so prevalent because, clearly, it works! So can we take this method offline and apply it to brick and mortar businesses?

“NO!” you may say, “how could you succeed if you send customers to your competitors in the real world?!”

Two responses to that…

First, the internet is the real world. Sure you are in front of the computer and not physically surrounded by people that you can look eye-to-eye, but the internet is nothing without people. And if a marketing technique works online, it is effective because real people respond to it.  Why not try it offline?!

And second, get creative!

A “Real” World ExampleInternet Marketing in the Real World

In some of my recent posts I have mentioned that competition doesn’t have to be competition if you make them your friends. Making friends with the store next door that sells exactly the same shirts as you probably wouldn’t get you very far. But this is where you get creative. Apparently making friends in unrelated niches can work too.

In a recent visit to Columbus, OH where I went to school (go Buckeyes!) I witnessed just that.

My friends and I went to a Thai restaurant in an area called “Short North.” So called because it is just short of downtown Columbus…to the north. Creative, right?

This Thai restaurant serves free dessert with every meal. This dessert comes in the form of a cupcake. I’m not big on cupcakes, but hey, it’s free! So I was going to take my free cupcake and be happy with it.

Only when we finished our meal we didn’t get any cupcakes. We each received a small slip of paper with our bill which we could take next door where our free cupcake would be given to us.

So, given our curious nature, we went next door. What we found next door was a store that sold clothes, jewelry, gadgets, widgets, everything under the moon, and…cupcakes? Except they didn’t sell cupcakes. They gave them away. In three different flavors nonetheless.

And when people stopped in to get their cupcakes, they stuck around to check out all the interesting things being sold in the store as well.

The Thai restaurant and the store next door were partaking in affiliate marketing! The store was offering a freebie that the restaurant could give away in exchange for traffic. Whoa!

I am not sure what the agreement was exactly. Maybe it ended at that: free cupcakes for traffic. But I do know one thing…the cupcakes were damn good. :)

Traffic is Traffic. Business is Business.

We all know that traffic is the lifeblood of websites and internet businesses. But I heard this rumor that traffic is just as important for brick and mortar establishments too! Can you believe that??? Go figure :).

I’ll up the ante here. Traffic is more important to brick and mortar businesses.

Not traffic, no clients. No clients, no sales. No sales…

But no sales in an online business means you’re losing the $10 you paid for a domain. Maybe a few hundred you paid for hosting. No sales with a physical location means you are losing hundreds per month (more likely thousands) on rent and utilities.

It’s easier to throw in the towel on the internet. Let your site sit there until the domain expires.

If you’re running a store you’re in it for the long haul, there’s no throwing in any towels. You have to hope you’re making enough sales for there to be a towel in the first place.


Do you run a brick and mortar business? Could you use affiliates to increase your traffic? Are there any other internet marketing techniques that could be applied to the “real” world?

25 Responses to Cupcake Marketing: Affiliate Marketing Beyond the Internet

  1. Dino Dogan says:

    Thats pretty clever. I dont run a brick and mortar biz of course, but if I did…thats pretty clever :-)

    • Eugene says:

      I thought so too! I walked out of that store and only then realized what had happened. Totally got sucked into their sales funnel.

  2. Jk Allen says:

    Hey Eugene!

    Nice share of an example. I don’t do any affiliate marketing but think the concept is cool – and I do find that it works…just from my time seeing others be successful using that model.

    Being that I’m on familiar at a non-detailed level when it comes to affiliate marketing – I can’t think up any other good ideas – but rest assured that I’ll be back to learn from the pros.

    Great read Eugene – Happy Friday!

    • Eugene says:

      I’ve definitely seen others do it and be successful. Whether it is selling their own products through affiliates, or being an affiliate themselves. But I’ve never seen it done offline before. Seemed to be working out for the both of them quite nicely. Now I’m thinking about what other internet tactics can be applied to the “real” world.

  3. I operate a dog sport supply store that is online; but we have clients who carry our products in brick/mortar locations. The real take away from this is learning from the relationships you build online; and bringing them into the public world. I remember walking into pet shops, showing them the products, and asking them to start carrying. Building a relationship – and getting things going.

    Whether it’s online or offline; you just can’t sit on your haunches. You’ve got to get out there, go to work, and get your brand into people’s faces.

    • Eugene says:

      I wish I had something to add to your comment. But I think you’ve covered it. Those are the basis: get off your ass and work, and build relationships. Everything else should fall into place.

  4. I was returning from one of my business trips to a neighboring city in a cab and the cab driver stopped at a place in-between and told me that the potato wafers in that place were too good! I checked it out, and it was too good indeed. So, I bought two packets. The cab driver was immediately given a small packet of wafers by the shopkeeper for his affiliate conversion. Later on, when I told him that the second packet was actually bought to be given to him, he was embarrassed!

    There is more affiliate deals going on in my place than one could imagine. But there is a thin line that divides affiliate deals and outright bribery.

    But I can say one thing – Even the Internet affiliate marketing succeeds because of trust that the readers have on the website. This is one concept that the Internet world borrowed from the real world :)

    Destination Infinity

    • Eugene says:

      You know, now that you mention it this is more widespread and I didn’t even realize it. Like when I was in a cab in Vegas and the cabby kept trying to get me to go a strip club instead of the bar because the “bars are dead today!!!”.

      Of course in this instance there was zero trust whatsoever, so it didn’t work. You’re right, trust is key in these situations, or at least leave the customer feeling like they are gaining some sort of value (like cupcakes :)).

  5. Hey Eugene – the first thought I had when I read your post was, “wow, what a great story!”

    My second thought? “I want to link to this post from my blog.” And I will. This is a classic post on how to JV. And it’s a fun story too (which you do well)… making it memorable while educational at the same time.

    Cross industry partnerships are a thing of beauty. Like the wedding planner who partners with a photographer, a cake maker, a stationary seller, a hair stylist, a travel agent, a bridal shop/tux shop, and a DJ/music group. The list can go on and on!

    The question to ask is, “Who else has my customer?” Clients are thrilled to hire someone you endorse — rather than go through the painful process of finding and hiring someone on their own. I know I am.

    This works online too. This is a really great story Eugene – with thousands… millions… of applications.


    • Eugene says:

      After I posted this I realized that there are so many application to this, and ones that I have seen in the past. Like I mentioned in a comment above for instance, cab drivers trying to get you to go to strip clubs in Las Vegas. They are obviously getting paid by the club to get people to go there and are hoping that they can change your mind once you are already in the cab going elsewhere. Didn’t really work though :)

  6. Eugene,

    Great real world example of affiliate marketing. Entreprenurial success really ca be just thinking a little bit, “outside of the box”.

    Whether you take solid marketing principles and apply them to the internet or vice-versa, good marketing is all about giving away something for free as a lure to show people other things (hopefully high quality)

    The fact is that this type of out-of-the-box thinking really works and this is wonderful example to show it.

    • Eugene says:

      I thought this was a really unique example. Like Theresa pointed out in her comment that it is done in industries like weddings where photographers and DJs work together. But I guess that example makes so much sense that it never really stood out to me as a form of affiliate/JV marketing (although it clearly is).

      But this cupcake case really caught my eye because it was so outside the box. The two businesses had nothing in common other than sharing a wall and being located next door to each other. But they worked together to create something unique you don’t often see. And it seemed to be working out for the both of them.

  7. Eugene says:

    That’s a good point. It’s a double-edged sword, really. On the one hand it is easier to abandon something that is doomed to fail, on the other hand it is too easy to drop something that could work out if you stick with it. But how can you tell the difference in advance?

  8. plumbing says:

    That was an extraordinary post. Very clever for me. It is so interesting for all business seeker. Thanks for sharing, i got some ideas.

  9. party bags says:

    Good luck to your marketing company. I hope it work well in the internet. Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. I really understand what you mean, I run a family business which manufacture food machinery and I have partner with other businesses in my region who specialized in packaging machinery and we both promote each other on our clients, and it really works

    • Eugene says:

      That sounds like a really good arrangement. Your companies are somewhat related too, which makes the arrangement even better. Have you measured how much it actually increased your business?

      • Well about 20-30% of my clients coming in that way and they are easier to sell because I don’t have to promote my business (others do it for me) something that increase my reputation

  11. I couldn’t help but smile, hard not to admire their cleverness. Who would’ve thought that a restaurant and a clothing store can work together and make each other better. Not me. Any traffic is better than no traffic at all. I am still quite impressed. :)

  12. That was very clever. I will definitely try that. Not every store neighbor gets along well. There is always competition yet if you cant beat them, join them!