This site uses affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you use my links and make a purchase without incurring additional fee yourself. Many thanks for supporting this website. Please see my legal page for more details.
Creating an awesome online course or a digital product like an ebook is only the start.
Once you have created a product, you have a launch. You generate some buzz and excitement, maybe offer a discount and all your die-hard fans jump straight on board.
But what about AFTER your launch? How will you continue to sell your digital course or product and continue bringing in profit every single month?
You could run ads to webinars and mention it every now and then in your Instagram stories but realistically, you won’t make a lot of moolah in between launches.
You start an affiliate programme and let others do the selling for you!
There’s only so many times you can keep reminding your own audience about your product before it gets a tad annoying. So to keep creating buzz, you need to keep reaching new audiences.
Sure you can do that with paid ads but trust, me it gets expensive! Running ads without assistance from an ads expert can be a bit of a minefield and ads experts will charge you a LOT of money to manage your ads accounts.
But what if there was a way to tap into new audiences without spending money?
You need an affiliate programme my friends. And some motivated, enthusiastic affiliates who’ve got your back of course!
The beauty of affiliate programmes is that you only pay your affiliates when they bring you a new customer. So it’s essentially a risk-free form of trust-based marketing.
Reasons why you might not have started an affiliate programme yet
Most course and digital product owners know they need an affiliate programme but they haven’t got around to it yet. Sound familiar? It’s just another thing on that never ending to-do list!
But it’s time to make it a priority and push it to the top of that list! You can’t afford to go more months without making any sales. And you can’t run a special offer every month either. Apart from anything, that devalues your product.
Here are some common reasons why you might not have gotten around to starting an affiliate programme and why these excuses just won’t cut it. (But you knew that already right?!)
You resent paying high commissions on that product you spent months creating.
Keeping 100% of the profit to yourself won’t amount to much if you’re not selling many copies.
Affiliates are helping you to reach new audiences that you wouldn’t reach otherwise. Audiences they have spent time and money growing and interacting with. Audiences that have come to trust them.
You’re not paying them for their time to send a few affiliate emails. You are paying them for access to that audience which they have been building for years.
Trust me, THAT is worth paying for.
And of course, you only pay them if they manage to bring you new customers.
So if splitting the profits is bothering you, consider how much money you are saving by having to run less paid ads. Think of the new audiences you can reach and with pretty much zero effort on your behalf!
You don’t have the time to set up a programme
I get it, you’re busy. You have a TRILLION things to do. You have new articles to write, fresh pins to create, new products to design, email sequences to plan, Facebook groups to keep engaged…
But let’s look at it this way. Having an affiliate programme will actually SAVE you time!
- You will spend less time planning recurrent sales and promotions.
- You will spend less time incessantly pushing your products (which can get pretty annoying for your followers anyway.)
- You will have more income which you can use to hire a VA to assist you with that never-ending to-do list. Heck, you might even make enough to take on a whole team to help you out!
You don’t know where to start
Confused about where to find affiliates? Not sure how you can keep them engaged and motivated to sell your products? Not sure how the tech side works?
I get it, I felt the same when I started. I was very familiar with affiliate marketing on the other side. I even teach other people affiliate marketing. But running my own affiliate programme? That was different and a whole new ball game.
My first affiliate programme had zero success. I paid $5 a month for E-junkie and had a very sub-par affiliate programme which I didn’t really promote. I had no idea how to keep my affiliates engaged and I just had a few friends enrolled.
So when I launched my new course Affiliate Marketing Superstars, I decided to take a course in running an affiliate programme. After all, a course about affiliate marketing needs an all-singing-all-dancing affiliate program right?!
So I invested in Zoe Linda’s Affiliate Programme Toolkit.
I now have an affiliate programme I’m proud of. Even without getting influencers in my niche onboard and with just a handful of affiliates, affiliates managed to drive 11% of the sales of my $5.3K launch.
Imagine how lucrative my affiliate programme will be in time when I have more affiliates on board, especially influencer affiliates that come onboard during my affiliate outreach efforts!
So hopefully, you’re convinced that starting an affiliate programme needs to be a priority?
In which case, let me show you how you too can have a lucrative affiliate programme.
Setting up your affiliate programme
Setting up the affiliate programme tech
If you are hosting your course or digital products on a platform such as Podia, Teachable or Thinkific, they do have their own affiliate programmes you can use.
However you may decide not to.
So I house my products on Podia. As a course platform, it suits me perfectly. I can host courses, digital products, paid workshops, webinars and memberships all in one place, it’s simple to use and it is significantly cheaper than alternatives.
However, I opted NOT to use their in-house affiliate programme. I found the 14 day cookie period too restrictive and knew it would not be appealing for potential affiliates.
I therefore chose to use Thrivecart. In addition to housing my affiliate programme, it also gives me the opportunity to promote both bumps and upsells at cart check out.
Bumps are small additional related purchases the customer can opt in for at checkout. Upsells are more expensive upgrades and additional products which are pitched when the person has already purchased the initial product.
But most importantly, Thrivecart gives me the opportunity to run my affiliate programme on my terms. I can set the cookie and the commission and change it for specific affiliates so if someone is performing really well, I can reward them by changing their commission rates.
The one downside about Thrivecart is the price. It’s a big one-off investment.
If you’re looking for something more affordable then I would recommend looking at Sendowl. I’ve never housed an affiliate programme there but I have been an affiliate with them and have always had a positive experience.
If you decide not to use your course platform in-house affiliate programme then you might save money by being able to choose a cheaper subscription then use a cheaper external affiliate programme like Sendowl.
Choosing Commissions and Cookie Periods
It can be tempting to choose a short cookie period or a lower commission to keep as much of the profit back for yourself. However, I wouldn’t recommend you do this for two reasons.
- Your affiliate programme wont be competitive with other affiliate programmes in the same niche and influencers may choose to promote someone else who offers a more generous commission or longer cookie period.
- You need your affiliates to do well and make lots of money in order to keep them engaged with promoting your course or digital products. The better they do, the more energy they will put into future campaigns and creating articles.
I recommend aiming for a commission of 30-40% and a cookie period of 6-12 months.
Creating your affiliate programme sign-up page
Firstly, you need to decide if you are going to screen your affiliates or let them sign up directly. If you choose to auto-approve applicants, you may have less experienced affiliates on your team.
This can sometimes skew your stats like EPC or earning per click. But for most affiliate program managers this isn’t an issue. It’s only really a concern when affiliates might be comparing your program side by side with another.
I personally screen mine not because I plan to reject anyone, but I would like to see that they have a plan to promote my products and aren’t just joining to try and get a discount by using their affiliate link to purchase the product.
(For this reason, I also do not allow new affiliates to use their own affiliate link. However, I will offer them discounts and freebies when they hit certain targets to thank them for their hard work.)
Once you have decided if to use a form application or link direct to the affiliate sign up, you need to build a page which is appealing to potential affiliates. It’s your opportunity to showcase the perks of your affiliate programme.
I also like to show a visual representation of potential earnings with a table showing how much you would earn if you sold various amounts of each product.
Make sure you include a FAQ section where you can answer commonly asked questions. Such as,
- What is the commission they will earn?
- What is the cookie period?
- Can they use their own affiliate link?
- Do they need to have purchased one of your products to be eligible to join?
- Can they lock their cookie by referring new potential customers to your free lead magnet?
- How and when will they get paid?
- Do you provide any swipe copy or promotional images?
Helping your affiliate get results
It’s in yours and your affiliates best interests to give them the best possible chance to do well with your affiliate programme. The more commission they earn, the more engaged they will be in promoting your products.
As well as providing them with the tools to give them the best chance of success, you also need to try and keep them engaged.
Providing resources for your affiliates
As soon as someone joins my affiliate programme, they are sent a welcome pack via email. this includes all the links and information they need. My promo pack includes
- A link to the affiliate dashboard
- An overview of what products they can promote and the key selling points of each
- The information they need about the programme such as cookies and commission rates.
- Creative content ideas including types of articles they could write and other ways to promote the product eg via email, Pinterest, a resource page, in emails, on social media etc.
- Promotional images for pins, Instagram stories, square and landscape graphics and also some mockup PNG files that affiliates can use to create their own graphics.
- Email swipe copy for a 3 part email series and for a one-off promotional email so my affiliates can choose what works for them and their audience. If you need help writing your swipe copy then I recommend getting this Affiliate swipe guide to speed up the process (and make it more effective!) I do recommend encouraging your affiliates to write their own copy in their own voice but providing swipe copy is good for when they are busy or not sure what to write!
- I also provided social media copy both in a medium form (e.g for Facebook or Instagram posts) and short-form (for tweets.)
- I provided a specific strategy for people who want to promote my course but don’t usually blog about blogging.
Keeping your affiliates engaged
It’s a great idea to set up an email series for your affiliates so that when they sign up, they enter into a sequence of emails designed to encourage and cheer them on. I like to give them ideas for how to promote my products as well as invited them to raise any queries with me.
I also offer the opportunity to chat directly with me to create a strategy which is centred around their niche.
When my affiliate programme has been active for a while, I plan to organise some audits with affiliates who are keen to improve their promotional strategy.
You may also want to set up a re-engagement sequence for affiliates who are not driving any click-throughs to your site. Some of them may have signed up with the best of intentions to promote you but life got in the way and a gentle nudge might be all they need to get motivated again!
Some of your affiliates will be students who have taken your courses or read your books or used your templates. They will sign up because they are excited to tell their friends and/or followers about their experience.
However, they may not be in the perfect niche to promote you. You may get some referrals but you will likely want a good mix of previous students and well-aligned influencers in your niche who have the perfect audience to promote your products to.
These influencers may not need to take your course and so if you want them to become an affiliate (and to promote you with authenticity) you may want to consider offering them free access to your course so that they can effectively review and promote it.
To find these affiliates, look for people who are aligned but not competing directly with you.
You may find people in the following places:
- On Instagram – search via hashtags and suggested users and take note of engagement rate.
- On Pinterest – take note of whose pins are ranking high on the search page for your main keywords. Look at who is ranking as suggested profiles when you search your keyword.
- On Facebook – look for influencers with engaged Facebook groups in your niche.
- On Spotify and other podcast platforms – look for recommended podcasts and those who appear in searches when you search your topic.
- On Google. Find people who are ranking for articles where links to your course or resources could be included.
When you reach out to potential affiliates, be very clear and concise about why you think they are a good match and what benefits your products would offer their audience as well as the benefits to them as an affiliate.
Keep your first email simple (no one wants to read an essay) and follow up a week later if you don’t hear back. Everyone’s busy after all!
Want some email templates for approaching potential affiliates? Then check out this affiliate outreach bundle.
Resources to help you start an affiliate programme
My FREE Affiliate programme cheatsheet
If you just want a simple road map and checklist for things you need to do then you can download my printable affiliate programme checklist for FREE here.
It includes 4 essential checklists to keep you on track to create an awesome affiliate programme
- Things to decide before you launch
- Things to include in your welcome promotional pack
- What to include in your affiliate email sequence
- Finding potential affiliates
Zoe’s Affiliate Programme Starter Guide
If you want a little extra help to plan a roadmap to starting your affiliate programme, get some tips on finding affiliates, choosing your tech, planning your outreach prep and creating an affiliate promo pack, then make sure you get your hands on Zoes FREE starter guide.
Affiliate starter kit
Ready to take things to the next level? This Starter kit is packed with goodies to save you time and help you get your affiliate programme up and running in no time at all!
Inside you will get access to
- An affiliate programme roadmap
- Pre-program preparation checklist
- Guide to writing buzz-building swipe copy
- Plug-and-play promotional pack
- Affiliate email outreach templates
- Affiliate management spreadsheet
- Affiliate launch planner
- Recurring management tasks guide
Individually these products are collectively worth $260 but is currently offered as a bundle for $27.
Affiliate Outreach bundle
Just interested in getting started with finding affiliates? This bundle contains spreadsheets to help streamline the process but also email templates to make sure your outreach email does not get ignored!
The Full Affiliate Programme Toolkit
If you’re really serious about growing an affiliate programme then I cannot recommend Zoe’s Affiliate Programme Toolkit enough.
I went from a dusty old affiliate programme which hadn’t earned a penny to having an all-singing-all-dancing affiliate programme that had earned me $583 (earning me the investment back plus some) within the first few days BEFORE I’d even implemented the affiliate outreach strategies!
And it looks like I’m not the only one. Here are just a few of Zoe’s many testimonials. It’s clear that her toolkit is super popular!
Inside the Toolkit, you will find:
- Step-By-Step Strategy Guide with video walkthroughs to set-up your program
- Pre-Program Prep Guide – prep your product for affiliate referrals
- Toolkit Roadmap (how to go through the Affiliate Program Toolkit – step by step)
- Private Facebook group with access and support from Zoe
- Weekly 1:1 office hours with Zoe via Voxer
- Weekly Fantastic Feedback days with personalised feedback from Zoe
- Affiliate Promotional Packet template – welcome packet, FAQs, content ideas, skeleton swipe copy
- The Guide To Writing Buzz-Building Affiliate Swipe Copy
- Workflow templates for affiliate research, outreach, re-engagement campaigns, JV webinars
- Email templates for affiliate invitations, welcome sequence, and automagic customer invites
- Outreach tutorials – how to find affiliates on Pinterest, Instagram, Google, and iTunes
- Affiliate management spreadsheet template (with 20+ collaboration ideas and how to run them)
- Affiliate Launch Plan (customisable timeline to get affiliates involved in your launch)
- Recurring Affiliate Management Tasks Guide
- Affiliate Audit tutorial – how to re-engage cold affiliates
- Black Friday Boost mini-toolkit – increase affiliate sales over Black Friday + Cyber Monday
- How to run a freebie swap – bonus training
- Affiliate Programs for Memberships – bonus training
- Affiliate promotional graphic templates – guest contribution from Basil & Bark
- How to work with affiliates for your virtual summit – guest contribution from Summit In A Box
- Working With Affiliates On The Right Side Of The Law – guest training from Casey Handy-Smith of Contract Casey
The price is doubling on August 19th 2020 (to be fair, it’s worth every penny) so if you are reading this before, then, I recommend jumping on board!
So how are you feeling now? Ready to rock your affiliate programme?!
Hopefully, I have helped you see that not all affiliate programmes are made equally and if you want an affiliate programme to take your products to the next level, you’ll need to make it AWESOME!
But you are now ready to do that with all these tools at your disposal!
Don’t forget to nab my FREE affiliate programme cheatsheet before you go!
Can you do a gal a favour whilst you’re here? If you enjoyed this article, would you pin it to your Pinterest board to help me reach other people who want to set up an affiliate programme!