Old School Affiliate Marketing BEFORE The Internet

If you’ve ever looked at ways to make money online, then you’ve probably heard of affiliate marketing. To boil it down; affiliate marketing is delivering internet users through SEO or paid advertising to a merchants website in order to gain a commission on a sale or some other action.

The internet makes it easy, which makes it very competitive … and so, not so easy. But affiliate marketing has been around a long, long time. Long before the internet was in full swing.

Here’s a true story about off-line affiliate marketing I think you’ll find entertaining and educational …

The Drunken Barber

Years ago, I met this dude who was a hair stylist. I can’t even remember his name but he was really hyper and had a real drinking problem. Just picture “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” mixed with Mickey Rourke’s character in the movie “Barfly”.

He was also a world class bullshitter … er … I mean schmoozer.

And although he never had a problem getting a job; he was a very good stylist and worked at some of the top salons … he couldn’t keep a job to save his life because of his partying. So he was always looking for quick cash.

Enter affiliate marketing. Being the barfly and conversationalist that he was, he managed to strike up a deal with a local bar to bring in customers and he asked me to help him design a membership card. So here’s how it worked …

He had these cards printed up, with the bar’s logo and little boxed numbers all along the edges that could be punched out with a standard ticket hole-punch (no modern day swipe-and-scan gift card stuff here). The card entitled the patron to one free drink, limited to one use per day, and cost $50, so that’s less than a dollar per drink. A pretty good deal.

The whole idea behind this promotion is that most people have more than one drink when they go to the bar, so to the bar owner it’s like a discount/rewards card to get people into his place. And of course, the hero of our story gets paid $50 a pop for schmoozing and selling these cards to his fellow barflies around town.

His plan was to sell 300 cards and rake in $15000. I don’t know how it went, but he was a pretty good talker so I’m sure he did alright.

So as you can see, affiliate marketing has been around for a while. It’s about great offers that sell themselves to a targeted crowd. It’s also about creative deal-making with merchants that pay off for them on the back end.

And it’s not just an internet-only business.

6 thoughts on “Old School Affiliate Marketing BEFORE The Internet”

  1. Hey Mike,

    It’s the kind of idea that can be used for a lot of different businesses. These days, I know you have to be careful how and where you do this kind of promotion for a bar … because it’s generally illegal to incentivize patrons to drink “more”.

    But the mechanics of the idea are solid. That’s the real bread and butter.

  2. What I find most amusing is the number of companies today that don’t utilize email. The larger business chains are starting to do so heavily – several bookstore chains come to mind… but many businesses still haven’t quite figured out that their biggest asset is their current customer base, and the best way to keep their products in front of their customers is with an email newsletter mailing.

    If you run a small business, and are not routinely and actively gathering your customer’s email addresses, you’re leaving money on the table.

  3. This is some good Old School, I use it every day in my fund raising biz and have used it for more than 30 years. It’s used in the Auto Parts Biz too.

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