Tupperware Party

Your Wallet Is Cordially Invited

JULY 10, 2011 | PAULA WRAY

You're all familiar with the Tupperware party and its endless spin-offs from Mary Kay to handbags to sex toys. A friend or relative invites you to a "party" at her house where you are obliged to purchase items you may or may not want from a sales rep. You understand that your friend/sister/aunt will get a cut of the sales. It's as American as Apple Pie.

On the internet, we have something similar. It's called affiliate marketing. I'm sure you've noticed those website ads, and you probably figured some big company was trying to get richer.  But you may not know that the little guy (e.g. me) can earn a piece of the pie too. After all, it takes money to buy a domain and pay for web hosting, not to mention your highly-paid editorial staff. Through affiliate marketing, small sites can try to recoup their costs or even (dare I dream) turn a profit.

So to return to our Tupperware analogy,  the invitees are the website viewers, the party is held at the website you are visiting, the party host is the website owner, and the sales rep is Google Adsense or Amazon or Commission Junction for instance.

The difference is that on the internet, you are not allowed to be so obvious with the sales pitch. You have to be coy. For instance, you cannot directly ask your guests to "click here" and buy something, and you can't imply that the company is recommending or sponsoring your site. Imagine if you were hosting a kitchenware party; the sales rep laid out her goods and did the demonstration, and then you said "well thanks for coming everyone... so long." And heaven forbid you should buy something for yourself! That is an absolute no-no. So it behooves the host to invite many, many guests in hopes that someone will decide on their own to make a purchase.

I am new to affiliate marketing so have a lot to learn. Experts recommend that you work the pitch right into the text, e.g. "I just finished reading Gulliver's Travels, and by darn, I think you would like it too (wink, wink)." It seems rather mercenary and insincere. You don't want your friends to feel like you only invited them to take their money.

So here is my resolve. I'll come right out and tell you what I'm up to (in this post), I will only promote items and companies I feel good about, I will never lie to you (except an exaggeration for comedic effect), and I will try to keep on blogging whether or not anyone ever buys the "Tupperware."