Does Your Small Business Depend on a Large Business?

This is a cautionary tale for online entrepreneurs, with a special warning for Amazon sellers.

A few days ago I read an article about an Etsy vendor who sort of got too big for Etsy


In case you’re not familiar with it, Etsy is basically a marketplace for handcrafted goods… artsy things and such. They had 1.5 Million sellers do a combined $1.93 Billion in sales in 2014, so it’s getting to be a pretty big operation. It’s a great opportunity to market your handmade stuff if that’s your ambition. It’s a way to leverage the power of the Internet instead of just selling at craft fair booths and similar venues. A potential downside is that your business still may not be easily scalable.

One of Etsy’s biggest sellers was a brand called Three Bird Nest, created by Alicia Shaffer. The above referenced article explains the details, but basically as Three Bird Nest grew to $70k a month in sales, the company had to utilize traditional manufacturing to keep up with demand, which became a conflict in the Etsy marketplace which is known for hand-made crafts.

As the article states, last month “Etsy suspended Three Bird Nest. Shaffer says it was over an Etsy customer complaint about an undelivered $20 order — a complaint, she says, that Etsy neither told her about nor gave her the chance to make right.”

Therein lies the crux of our discussion today. It’s about big businesses that are built on the backs of small businesses, and when those small businesses have fulfilled their purpose (growing the big business), they get pruned. That’s one perspective anyway. It’s also about small businesses that are built riding the coattails of big businesses, with success leading to a potentially unmerited sense of entitlement.

As someone who has been doing business online in various capacities since 1999, I’ve seen this pattern several times.

One of the more memorable examples for me was Google AdWords. In the early 2000’s AdWords was gaining momentum and doing all they could to get advertisers on board. In 2003 a marketing friend of mine named Chris Carpenter wrote a popular ebook called “Google Cash”, explaining how to use AdWords for affiliate marketing. While there is probably no way to prove it, I’d be willing to bet that Chris effectively recruited more new advertisers than any single Google employee during that time. I’m talking about tens of thousands of marketers who were spending untold millions of dollars on AdWords. I was one of them.

Between 2004 (Google’s IPO at $85) and 2007 (when the stock topped $700), the viral spread of the Google Cash method contributed to the fierce growth of Google’s revenue. While I have no idea how much revenue the affiliate marketers actually added to the bottom line, they almost assuredly boosted every aspect of the AdWords business by bidding up keywords in every niche. This resulted in the growth of Google’s earnings (which was and still is almost entirely derived from advertising), and ultimately in billions of dollars of market capitalization.

How did Google thank Chris and his army of affiliates for helping them build their business? Suddenly Google began implementing new AdWords policies, effectively banning the affiliate marketers and suspending their accounts without warning. Back to the Etsy situation, Alicia Shaffer says Three Bird Nest paid Etsy more than $360,000 of fees, making them “one of their top customers”. Interestingly, I had paid about that much to Google, but I was still a tiny fish. However, I knew guys who were spending millions on AdWords only to have their accounts suspended too, with no good explanation, no way of talking to a real person at Google about it, and no second chances.

Google was big enough that they didn’t need the affiliates anymore, and they realized that the affiliates no longer fit their business model. What it basically came down to was the affiliates were not bringing unique value to the marketplace. While I can certainly empathize with the sour grapes from the scorned affiliates, in retrospect it’s obvious that Google made the right decision for their business.

We saw the same pattern repeated when Facebook launched their advertising platform. They profited from the marketers who were quick to embrace the platform and evangelize it as an opportunity (once again well-timed with an IPO). Then when the platform reached critical mass they began to evolve their advertising policy and subsequently shake-out the marketers who were using the platform as a “business opportunity” as opposed to small businesses advertising their own products (this shake-out process is still in progress). Once again, the emphasis seems to be weeding out the advertisers that are redirecting traffic and creating “noise” instead of providing unique value to the marketplace. And once again, those spending millions of dollars are in no way immune.

While it’s easy to feel like the victim as a small business owner–and again I can empathize with the extreme frustration of these situations–it’s important to remember that the big business has a right to do business in its own way, and is not obligated to keep your small business alive. Successful large businesses are usually good at staying focused on their missions, and will revise their policies from time to time to meet those objectives.

In the case of Three Bird Nest, the final straw was a suspension stemming from a complaint about a relatively insignificant $20 order. Such behavior by a big business seems fickle from the perspective of a small business owner, but it’s not uncommon. I’ve seen Paypal accounts suspended for even lesser infractions. Trust me, the six or seven figures you put through your account last year will not make it immune from corporate risk assessment. If your small business presents a potential risk (financial, reputational, or otherwise) to a big business–even if it is theoretical or unfounded–they may sooner prune you than live with that risk. Risk assessment is often done by algorithmic methods, so it doesn’t consider whether you are a good and honest person.

In the internet marketing realm, one of the dependency bubbles that I’ve seen forming lately is Amazon FBA (Fullfillment by Amazon). While there are some distinct differences between FBA and the previous examples in this article, the lead-up to the present time is a familiar tale. Marketers have been pitching FBA as a formulaic business opportunity. Essentially, you find a product that will sell on Amazon, have it cloned and manufactured overseas, ship it to Amazon’s warehouse, and watch the autopilot income roll in. Granted, the barrier to entry is much higher than let’s say Google AdWords, but the same principle applies.

We already saw the process happen at least partially with Amazon Kindle. The marketers rushed in with the bizop mentality, and Amazon quickly adapted their policies to quench many of those purported business opportunities. Amazon Kindle was never meant to be a platform for marketers to upload unlimited amounts of junk and profit from it, it was meant to be a marketplace for real book authors and publishers.

Likewise I am doubtful that Amazon’s mission for FBA is congruent with the business opportunity that some marketers are claiming it to be. Don’t get me wrong, FBA is a business opportunity and Amazon will be the first to tell you so. Full disclosure – I’ve personally promoted some courses teaching the FBA opportunity (because it is a GREAT opportunity as of today), and I’m currently in the process of building an FBA business of my own. But unlike some of the promoters out there, I’ve never implied that Amazon wants to flood their marketplace with millions of cloned products from China. Also, whenever I’ve promoted FBA, I’ve included a caveat: I don’t know how long this window of opportunity will be open.

A few years ago, Amazon began to crack down on counterfeit goods in the FBA program, as documented in this article by Kevin Harmon. After selling 169,013 units on Amazon while maintaining an excellent seller reputation, his account was closed because of one complaint about a counterfeit DVD that probably wasn’t even from his inventory. One complaint. Sound familiar?

In the case of Google AdWords, their policies evolved to crack down on users that didn’t bring unique value to the marketplace. In the case of Etsy, it’s essentially the same principle. If Etsy allows mass production, they are allowing themselves to become a marketplace that doesn’t fit within their own mission and definition. In other words, traditional manufacturers do not bring the kind of unique value that defines Etsy. The key concept here is unique value…

Amazon is more broadly defined, because they are the marketplace for everything. However, the test of unique value will ultimately be applied to Amazon’s “everything” too. I don’t think FBA is going away any time in the near future, but I do think its policies will continue to evolve to meet Amazon’s objectives. I have some good friends who have been setting up their FBA business recently and found themselves having to jump through complicated new hoops that were being added to their chosen category (and that happened after they had already received their first big order from the factory).

This article on New Republic criticizing Amazon of cannibalizing the economy reveals some of the business philosophy that drives the policy. The article states,

“…frugality and innovation can only go so far in keeping prices headed southward, especially in the face of the stock market’s impatience. Growing profit margins depend, therefore, on continually getting a better deal from suppliers.”

In my opinion one confusing thing about FBA is understanding who is the supplier and who is the middleman. At first glance it may appear that Amazon is merely the middleman, taking their cut of the profits as they handle the transaction. In a sense that’s true, but an important element of the FBA program reveals that Amazon’s intent is not to be just the middleman. You see, Amazon owns the customers and the data. As an FBA seller you are running your own business, but Amazon owns your most valuable asset–your customer list–and they don’t even share a copy of it with you. So in that sense, the FBA seller is like a middleman and Amazon is the real business owner.

The article from New Republic proposes that Amazon’s profits (like Walmart’s) depend on continually getting better deals from suppliers. Common sense tells me one easy way to get a better deal: cut out the middleman. Unlike FBA sellers who have to do painstaking research to figure out what is good to sell on Amazon, Amazon owns ALL the data. They know precisely what will sell, and if they want to increase their profits they can do so by selling those products themselves.

I also predict that Amazon will begin to cut out more of the products that do not bring unique value to the marketplace. If there are ten identical blue shirts with the same design, simply being sold under different brand names, nine of those are not bringing unique value.

So what can you do?

1) As you build a business, consider whether you want to be dependent on one larger business. Piggybacking on a successful company like Amazon can be a shortcut to success, so your answer might be YES. But if you are looking to create a very long-term business you may want to consider other options.

2) Make sure you are bringing unique value to the marketplace, wherever that may be. It won’t make you immune to change, but based on the examples above it could improve your chances of longevity in the business. If your business model contradicts the objective of the big business in any way, that’s going to be trouble at some point in the future.

3) As you become successful, look for ways to untether yourself from the large business, such as transitioning to your own website and developing your own customer list and traffic sources (as Three Bird Nest is now doing).

4) Plan to to sell out if given the opportunity. As the article from New Republic states, Amazon “has a record of shredding young businesses, like Zappos and, just as they begin to pose a competitive challenge. It uses its riches to undercut opponents on price…then once it has exhausted the resources of its foes, it buys them and walks away even stronger.” In the case of an Amazon FBA business, they could technically kill your business without having to buy it. So it may be wise to sell your brand if given the opportunity.

5) If a big business does disrupt your business, don’t waste time mourning the loss. I’ve seen a lot of guys disappear from the online business world after they were slapped by Google or whatever. The ones who last are the ones who bounce back from adversity.

Agree or disagree? Have experience with these things? As always you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments below!

40 comments on “Does Your Small Business Depend on a Large Business?

  1. Tim Lajeunesse

    Good Blog and a nice heads up. I saw a similar thing happen a long time ago to me using Google Adsense but I dont blame them because I was using arbitrage and using Go Click ( who are no longer around) for advertisement. I eventually had my adsense account disabled because they thought my pages didnt provide what their advertisers wanted. I have since struggled to monetize my sites.

    Good post.


  2. Pete

    Hi Eric, (great article by the way)

    But how I see it is that the ‘Gurus’ bring about these downfalls ALL the time by using the extreme POWER of their cartels to promote the living daylights out of every good opportunity out there. As you say, Google Adwords got ‘viralled’ to death. Amazon FBA is getting the same treatment right now and will get the pruning done very soon.

    (I’ve even had Etsy and Udemy ‘shortcut’ programmes force-fed to me by the ‘Cartel’ recently too).

    Next, we have the ‘YouTube’ phenomenon which is getting the ‘Cartel-blasting’ at present, with our friendly Gurus telling us all how we can ‘cheat’ Google by using methods that are obviously ‘borderline’ to Google’s Terms & conditions. This will receive the same Slam-Down by Google which will effect all of the innocent Youtube users out there but will not effect the ‘Gurus’ because THEY are only interested in making Money from the information ‘about’ the deception, not necessarily walking-the-walk as it were, and they’ll move onto the next big ‘wave’ that is always on the horizon. (Pinterest is getting the toned-down treatment right now, but wait until the Youtube one hits the fan …. Hmmmmm??)

    Very recently MLM has come under fire. Firstly it was ‘Herbalife’, now it’s ‘Vemma’ getting the FBA treatment, and it’s no coincidence (in my opinion) that this unwarranted and eventually ‘unsuccessful’ attention has been the result of uneducated people being dragged kicking and screaming into the industry by the ‘Guru Cartel’ yet again.

    Until 4 or 5 years ago the Gurus were ALL to a man condemning MLM as Satans Own Weapon. Suddenly, Tony Robbins (A Good Man In My Opinion) shared his views on MLM and got involved. Suddenly, all the coat-tail-hangers from the Cartel had a change of heart, joined up to as many MLM programmes as they could get away with, and blasted the life out them, making numerous false claims along the way, and breaking almost ALL of the Terms and Conditions put in place by these ‘Honest’ Network Marketing/MLM companies, almost certainly bringing the industry into unnecessary disrepute. (After many of the Network Marketing Leaders had worked their socks off to get it cleaned up for ‘everyone’).

    I know that we both know of one such Guru (with a Vast contact list and a lot of CLOUT in the online world) who Vehemently decried MLM for years, only to jump on the bandwagon recently. I won’t name names here because I do have a lot of respect for the man and feel he’s probably gone through a bit of a ‘break-down’ recently, so enough said there.

    Anyway Eric I’m sure you get my gist 🙂

    The BIG! companies are in my opinion only reacting ‘normally’ to situations brought about by ‘Guru-Greed’ and it’s those GURUS who should be ‘brought to book’ and exposed as the charlatons they ‘really’ are. But of course we all know WHY that will never happen don’t we?? …… Hmmmmmmmm…..

    All the best, Pete.


    1. Phil


      Brilliant post.

      The concept of MLM in my opinion is very good, however after a stint with Amway GB around thirteen years ago, it became clear there were fundamental problems.

      I got completely disillusioned with being hammered with ‘buy the tapes’, ”buy this, buy that’. It got completely overwhelming and so stressful I quit.

      A number of years later Amway closed its GB operations and I have no doubt, Amway business owners that made a very comfortable living found they had no business almost overnight.

      Kleeneze (another MLM) in the UK has recently been sold to a private equity group. The company itself has suffered losses over the last few years. I wonder if the private equity company can turn it around? I really hope they can.
      I expect they have identified problems in the business and need to make the necessary changes sooner rather than later.

      I did have a spell with Kleeneze and received help from some really wonderful people whom while obviously knew that I would be contributing to their earnings, it was their ‘unique value’ (help) they were willing to give me when starting out. Unfortunately my father in-law died and this loss was badly felt by my wife. I decided to take a break, but did not get back into Kleeneze.

      Giving unique value while at the same time ‘building your list’ will provide long-term success. I am sure of it.

  3. Graham

    Excellent article – I hope people take the time to read and digest it.

  4. Cliff Dean

    A very good and informative article it’s information of this kind that keep one ahead of the game.

  5. Cyril

    This has always been the way of big firms.But on the net it is more sneaky

  6. Patrick

    Great post identifying the problem, but a little light on solutions.

    To sum up: “Eventually the big guys will change the rules and decimate your business. Don’t get discouraged. Get your own website and mailing list.”

    At the end of the day, you have to own your mailing list. I have always been wary of any business model that doesn’t provide you with your own customers’ name and e-mail address.

    In that scenario, don’t be fooled, you don’t own a business, you are simply a salesman for a bigger business.

  7. Errol Blackburn

    Hi Eric,
    Hope you & family had a great time “Not Working.” 🙂
    Thank you for this heads-up.
    This is a must read article especially for anyone just starting out in
    online marketing. Ideally they should structure their business such
    that no more than twenty five percent maximum of their revenue is
    dependent on any one client or supplier.

    To lose a quarter of your income is a massive hit to take but it
    is far better than losing the lot. I was on a training recently where
    Chris Carpenter spoke about this very thing you mention here
    regarding Google Cash.
    Keep up the good work Eric.

    Errol Blackburn
    P.S. I need to pick your brain regarding your Charitable Work.
    I’ve taken on a new challenge and I could benefit from your
    experience in this field.

  8. Gerry

    Hi Eric,
    thank you for the WARNING? it seems to me that a modicum of common sense is required
    when setting up a business, regardless of whether it is online or b/m. Jumping on the band
    wagon has always been a risky action to take. Research and deep investigation are a must
    before the final decision is made.
    Thank you Eric for all your guidance and helpful posts.
    Warm regards

  9. Juan Rademacher

    Great post Eric!

    This is such valuable information about the dangers of building your whole business, and potentially your entire livelihood on the backs of huge corporations that will always follow their own interest, and won’t give a second thought to cutting off thousands of small businesses.

    I am particularly glad to read your take on the FBA dangers, because I have read so much hype about how wonderful it is…

    Thank you Eric for the priceless advice.

    All the best,


  10. Danial Miller

    As a small manufacturing business in the field of thermal formed plastics, I spent many years building a substantial business using eBay as my main sales avenue. I had learned to use a program they had which was Turbo Lister in a way that took advantage of the basic eBay premise that items that were going to expire soon were and still are listed at the top of searches done by eBay users. To do this, it cost extra to run their TL program in this manner because they were timed listings. I personally spent a huge amount of time building listings of thousands of products we manufactured as concrete molds and other plastic items on the eBay site. We ran 3 day listings and spread the listings out as expiring every 15 to 20 minutes and also built an eBay store so we could drive traffic to our store using the process.

    We sold a LOT of product on eBay and had built our business on that venue over the years and hired employees and moved into larger facilities and all the things you do to scale your business. eBay shut us down in one day by simply shutting down their Turbo Lister program and introducing a new program that not only killed our ability to list on their site, but also killed our computers too if you installed the new program on your system, which almost all small businesses did at the time. In effect, if you had a customer list built on your machine, that got evaporated as well with no expectation of recovery or any attempt by eBay to remedy the software issues. It also killed your ability to work adding products or updating your eBay store.

    The only thing we maintained was a 100% positive feedback rating which we have maintained to this day, even though we do not use their system to sell our products at all anymore.

    Then, to top things off, we decided to sell a major part of our business after painfully building it back up again, but nowhere near the level we had been on eBay using our own web sites to do so. The new owners decided to move it to another state far away and then decided they didn’t need to pay for it.

    15 years of building a business only to have your life crash and burn around you is a heart breaker, and I mean that in a literal and physical way!

    To this day, I still do not understand the business reasons for eBay to do what they did to all of us small businesses as we were the financial life blood that built them to the level they got to. Suffice it to say, doing any kind of business under the thumb of a larger marketing platform of any kind was washed down the proverbial river for most of us.

    That said, an idea I had many years ago has started coming to life at this time for us. The main part of the plan was to create a program that eliminated the power of the big players like Google, eBay, Etsy, and all the others by building our small manufacturing business back up around a real customer base using a sophisticated affiliate program. Not the average online affiliate program, but one that relies on real people in everyday life. We found early on that the average person does not have the means to earn commissions using an affiliate program, and that window of opportunity is extremely huge if we could find a way to work with it. We did in fact find a way to open the doors and windows wide by giving those that cannot even turn on a computer by providing them with a physical way to do affiliate marketing that can be used for fundraising and earning money by individuals who put forth the effort.

    I do not want to use Eric’s blog as a platform to promote our new en-devour, as he has been a source of high inspiration for us in his newsletter and blog site. That said, at some time in the near future, we are hoping to build this new method of affiliate marketing up to a level that serious online marketing folks will turn their heads to take a look at it and see it for what it is. GoDaddy folks actually called us on the program in the beginning to see what we are up to. We satisfied them off the bat that it is indeed real, and extremely unique along with being an honest program that is set out from the beginning as a good thing all around. A true bootstrap business builder.

    I leave you with this parting message, NEVER give up! As long as you can still take a breath, you can keep going!

    1. Eric Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. dave

    A year of so ago I tried to get on Adsense,not as an advertising buyer but to make money from ads. I was told that I was not allowed to. I sent in a query and was told that it was because I had associated with 3 specific companies. One was an adviser company that I had dropped when I discovered that they were shady and I had never heard of the other 2. That was the end of this story.

  12. Chris Randall

    All good as usual Eric. Just watched some of a webinar last night about Amazon’s change to their review policy. Another area where you could fall foul even if your product is unique. Worth checking out if you are in FBA!

  13. Rich Rose

    Very nice blog post Eric. This is something that has been on my mind for a very long time and is one of the reasons why I have delayed getting involved in FBA. I agree that anyone that gets involved with Amazon or any other big business needs to figure out how to drive those customers to your own list without violating the rules of the “big” company. As many smart marketers have said, “you don’t really have a business if you don’t own the list!”

  14. Danny Easterling BA, MS, MPA

    Same thing happened to many people who almost reached the $100 payout mark for google adwords. No way to fight it either.

    Please help by sharing my link on facebook. I need a kidney transplant and need help>

  15. Keith

    Great article Eric!

    Would just like to add that just last month, Google is beta testing their home services lead-generation ads in the San Francisco market (reference below). Google is moving heavy-handedly into the lead-gen game, taking on the likes of AngiesList and HomeAdvisor, head-on. Smaller SEO specialists, focusing on lead-generation for smaller local businesses and services providers, will be trampled in this “dance to the death” of onlne behemoths.

    I was just starting my career in the home services lead-gen space… but I don’t have the bankroll to compete with Google.

    Keith S.

  16. Thomas Burke

    Good overview that would be helpful if read by any online marketer and and anyone who is thinking about getting into marketing online, especially those who have lost various account, suddenly like I have, with out a clear understand as to why. In some ways I like these companies, and use them, and in other ways I have a bad feeling about them. In many case people who have done nothing wrong have to pay for the bad actions of others.

  17. Brian

    We live in a world of interdependent relationships on virtually every level. While these relationships bring many benefits, every such relationship also involves one or more elements of risk. Risk in life is unavoidable, it CAN be managed and MUST be managed because your survivability and your resiliency are at stake. You don’t just throw up your hands and trust your fate to the whims of the gods.

    The real problem with most of us is:
    1. We don’t like to think about risk.
    2. We don’t know how to think about risk.
    3. We don’t know what to do about risk anyway.
    4. Risk management involves work – and sometimes costs – which we’ll run a mile in tight shoes to avoid.

    1. Eric Post author

      Good point, this is all about managing risk. To that end, I should emphasize that my article is not intended to discourage people from building businesses that are interdependent. Rather, they should be well aware of it and manage that risk accordingly. As I mentioned, I’m currently starting an FBA business in spite of the risks. No risk, no reward.

  18. Clayton

    I think that we are seeing the pattern starting to develop with Facebook ads. More recently we are seeing programs that teach us to run small ad budgets of say $5 to $10 per day for testing. Market evergreen niches and increase budgets in small increments. I am assuming that we need to fly under the radar.

    I have had the Google slap applied to me in my first ever Google Adwords ad. Lost my account first time out. I got started in 2011 when the proverbial stuff was hitting the fan big time.

    I joined the uber big FBA program that has been promoted for the last three years. I have been hijacked and had one of my products removed for a reason I have yet to know why.

    I am transitioning my business to my own platform and building my list that no one can take away. Don’t wait 4 years to build your list like I did.

    1. Eric Post author

      Yes I would say the shake-out in FB ads is still in process. As an ad platform, it’s still the wild west compared to Adwords. But it will continue to be refined as it matures.

  19. Larry

    Thanks for sharing this. It got me thinking again about amazon and all other big “fishes”.
    It was interesting to hear that Chris Carpenter was the one who made such a big impact on Google 🙂
    Very informative post here.

    Thank you Eric

  20. Scottie

    Has anyone had any dealing with Nextag?

    Their CPC seems very reasonable, But I wonder if they’re going to follow the same path when they get big?


  21. Dee Dee

    I noticed this pattern as well. It’s always been common with affiliate programs. In fact, as you mentioned Chris Carpenter, I was using one of his techniques recently (he’s moved on to Bing/Facebook) and as soon as I started seeing a lot of success, the vendor changed their TOS. I just smiled and moved on.

    I’ve also heard of Amazon getting exclusive deals with manufacturers seemingly just to drive down the prices of the competing products. I’m looking at those types of people with a good product to promote and trying to land those deals instead of going the “Made in China” route. In the end, I think we’d all be safer if we built a brand with a following and build a standalone site “just in case.” Look at Zulily and you can see that there’s certainly life without/in spite of Amazon. They proved the flash sale model is still viable but it has to be on your own terms, as Danial Miller commented on what happened with his relationship with eBay and the Turbo Lister program.

    Like you, I’m wondering where the gurus will strike next. They’ve already saturated t-shirts and local SEO. Once FBA is saturated, do you think they’ll hit the crowd-funding community or perhaps, one of the newer social media sites? General ecommerce stores are becoming popular on Flippa so so they might be able to leverage the fallout of being banned by Amazon and company as the next big thing.

  22. Rina

    Thank you Eric for tremendous Blog.
    I would like something to do, that does not cost a lot of money. The $ works out to much in
    South African money. I am a pensioner that cannot afford that type of money,
    that is why I am trying to find Internet home based work.
    Any money due to me must be paid into my South African Bank and no other bank.
    Am I asking for to much?
    Thanks Rina

    1. Eric Post author

      You would need some online payment solution for customers to pay you, such as Paypal or Clickbank. Then the payment processor/merchant would deposit the money into your bank account.

    2. Val Waldeck

      Hi Rina,

      I’m also from South Africa and have the solution for you if you want to become an affiliate for Amazon or Clickbank. Apply for the Payoneer card – here’s the link: It links you to a legitimate USA bank account which is acceptable to most companies and acts as a debit card. You can link your South African bank account directly and withdraw your money that way, or simply use the debit card at ATMs. Works very well. Banking a USD cheque over here is HUGELY expensive and often costs more than the actual commission and I can remember when I used to simply trash them.

      For other Affiliate companies like JVZOO, you can open a South African PayPal account and link it to your personal Bank account via a FNB profile.

      We may be living “in the sticks” with a hugely disagreeable exchange rate, but it works in reverse for us. Take courage.


  23. David Vallieres

    Great post Eric. Marketplaces online like Amazon. eBay, Etsy have always been a great venue for small sellers but you’re right- as soon as they see what’s selling on their platform they will step in and cut out the small guy. Amazon has already started this trend by creating their own brand of computer and electronics accessories called “AmazonBasics”. When searching for any kind of cable, shredder, usb cables etc.. they are coming up first on their website. All the sellers of those items (who may have been successful until now) are getting crushed.

    1. Pete Moring

      You do wonder HOW that is not an illegal practice??
      It’s akin to ‘insider trading’ as far as I can see, and THAT is definitely illegal in most countries 🙁

  24. Ted

    I bought Eric’s coaching program on Feb. 3 of this year hoping that I could start making money at least with affiliate marketing. I cannot get anything going so far. Can anyone out there guide me on how to start or what to do to start?
    I am not a stubborn individual, I can follow order. Please help.


    1. Micah

      Hello Ted,

      Of course! This blog isn’t the space to receive your more personalized coaching. But, there is a special place set up for that!

      You may submit questions to be answered in the coaching calls at the following link:

  25. Don

    Thanks Eric for returning from vacation with this one.

    How about another on the former ability to purchase software, when now one needs to pay a membership fee to use the same. This could lead to the same problem you mention in this blog–namely that after building a business on a subscription software platform, and suddenly the platform dies. Then what?

    Hey–I tried your NCIS and it was a learning experience. I feel it’s really necessary for me to create my own products and not be an affiliate of someone else in order to have the juice to keep going.

    Keep on keeping on!

    1. Micah

      Hello Don,

      Which platform are you concerned about? It’s unlikely that WordPress or Amember will be going anywhere anytime soon. You can also use many functioning versions, even if updates ceased to be created.

  26. David

    The Amazon Affiliate program is not available in Colorado, where I reside. Does anybody know of a way around this restriction, for residents of Colorado ?


  27. Grace Antonio

    Eric, great post! I love how you emphasized the importance of bringing a unique product to the marketplace. Ryan Holiday who wrote “Growth Hacker Marketing” touches on that exact point of PMF (product market fit) and how essential it is to generating revenue in your industry. 🙂

    I tried emailing you, but received an auto-response. If you’re interested, I would love to pick your brain about a co-branding opportunity!

  28. Adam

    HI Nic Article Thanks for tip


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