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WD-40: Affiliate Lessons From a $475m Company

Almost everyone would have heard of and possibly used a can of WD-40, the all-purpose lubricant, whether it’s to loosen a screw, de-rust a bicycle chain, or if you were in the military, clean the barrel of a M-16. What you might not be aware of is the techniques you can adapt to grow your own business.

Even if you’re a 6- or 7-figure a year affiliate, what’re some of the lessons you might learn from the Nasdaq-listed WDFC?

In many ways, their business model is similar to a PPC affiliates – they’ve got a fat gross profit margin of 48.8% (pretty impressive given their size) with a pre-tax margin of 12%. Their average revenue per employee ranks in at a whopping $1.05 million per employee. Definitely nothing to sniff at.

Here’re the lessons for affiliates:

Lesson #1: The sweet smell of success

The company name: WD-40 – stands for “Water Displacement” and one of the early uses was to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion.

Ready for the lesson? The “40″ stands for the 40th formulation that the San Diego aerospace engineers (the term “Rocket Scientists” would be valid here) developed before they had a product that they were satisfied with.

Did your 3rd PPC campaign just crash and burn? Are you ready to give up? Did your 11th PPV buy fail miserably? Ready to throw in the towel?

One of the hallmarks of a successful affiliate marketer is:

  • Constantly testing new offers, new traffic sources, finding something which will stick
  • Being persistent and not having the expectation that something is going to work the first time you try it (although having some luck sure helps)

Lesson #2: Uncovering the secret formula

Competitors have said that WD-40 contains mineral spirits, which is a common ingredient found in cleaning products.

WD-40 have said as much, that 50% of the product contains mineral spirits, they’ve kept quiet about the other ingredients which are found on a list kept in a vault, safe from prying eyes.

Likewise, all marketers will use the same set of tools – Adwords, YSM, Bing, tier-2 networks, ad networks, etc. It’s the techniques that you’ll use to combine these sources that will generate the results you’re aiming for. As far as I’m aware, there’s no “secret” ad network that top affiliates have access to, that you don’t (unless you’re not aware of them).

It’s more important to figure out how an affiliate thinks and how they plan their campaign that will help you grow your business, versus just trying to copy/swipe landing pages and campaigns using spytools or trawling google.

Lesson #3: Be Innovative

Aside from the “normal” uses of WD-40 to remove rust from household appliances, grease a squeaky door hinge and oil hair clippers/sewing machines, some of the more innovative uses have included:

  • A bus driver in Asia who used WD-40 to remove a python snake, which had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus,
  • Police officers who used WD-40 to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent.

Being creative and innovative in thinking about your campaigns and using your tools isn’t something that you can always learn out of a book, although an active imagination helps.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Affiliate Marketing Tips series.

5 comments on WD-40: Affiliate Lessons From a $475m Company

  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach
    September 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm (4014 days ago)

    Love the lessons here, especially:

    “Being persistent and not having the expectation that something is going to work the first time you try it (although having some luck sure helps)”

    So many people are ready to give up when the first (or 2nd or 3rd or…) attempt doesn’t work as expected. Smart persistence is the key.

  2. Chris Peterson
    September 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm (4014 days ago)

    Hey Andrew,
    You are much regular considering the fact that you have way too many duties to take care of. Anyways, I liked the spirit of comparison as it makes much more sense to newbies to relate to such kinda stuff. Tell me, how did it inspire to write such a post?

  3. Jon Levine
    September 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm (4014 days ago)

    You know Andrew, there’s an old saying that every person should have two things in their toolbox: duct tape and WD-40.

    If it moves and it shouldn’t, use the duct tape.

    If it should move and it doesn’t, use the WD-40.

    You’ve nailed it with the WD-40 comparison to affiliate marketing. What’s the other tool that everyone should use?

  4. Corey
    September 30, 2009 at 11:45 pm (4014 days ago)

    Awesome post! Its interesting to see an analysis on a company like WD-40 and how to relate it to the web.

  5. rawbones
    September 30, 2009 at 11:47 pm (4014 days ago)

    I FAP with It – lol

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