Welcome to Part One of our two-part series about starting your own affiliate program.

“There are basically TWO ways to make money online:

  1. You can sell your stuff.
  2. You can sell other people’s stuff.”

–Jeff Walker

So, you’re already selling your own stuff – now it’s time to get other people to sell your stuff for you. It’s called affiliate marketing, and you’ve probably heard of it before, even if it you haven’t done it yourself yet.

The basic concept is, other people promote your product in exchange for a percentage of every converted lead they send you.

It’s a win-win situation: you make more money because you have lots of people out there talking about you, and other people make more money because they get a cut of your sales. It’s like having your own personal cheering-slash-money-making squad to back you up.

Let’s talk about the components of a successful affiliate program. Here are 11 tips to help you drive more sales and bring in big revenue.

1. Spy on the big guys

All the big names have an affiliate program. Every so often, take a peek and see what they’re up to and learn from the experts. Here are just a few to check out:

Eben Pagan
Frank Kern
Jeff Walker
Brendon Burchard

Imagine how much more these guys earn when they’re all out there talking up each other’s products, in addition to their own. That’s the awesomeness of having affiliates on your side.

2. When it’s time to sell, rally the troops

When Marie Forleo launches B-School once a year, it seems like “B-School” is the word on everyone’s lips. Well, those folks aren’t just random people. Click around and see how Marie’s affiliates go all-out to rally their readership in different ways:

Amy Porterfield
Mastin Kipp
Danielle LaPorte
Alexis Neely
Randi Buckley
Jenny Shih
Kathryn Hocking
Gabrielle Bernstein

3. Affiliates aren’t robots – they’re people

One thing you’ll notice as you look at all of these B-School links is that every affiliate talks about the product from their own individual point of view. Everyone answers the question “Why buy B-School through me?” But all of the answers are different. That’s okay! In fact, it’s preferable. There’s no cookie-cutter solution to how someone should promote your product.

4.  Incentivize sales with bonus material

You might have also noticed that Marie’s affiliates offer bonuses for their buyers – usually involving additional content, a mastermind group or one-on-one time with the affiliate herself. This kind of added value is a huge incentive for people to buy. (Keep that in mind when you’re giving your affiliates advice on how to move your product.)

5.  Find people who are willing to put their reputation on the line

The other big thing here: these affiliates believe in the product! That’s super important. No customer is going to buy something if the only recommendation they get is “oh yeah, buy this thing so I get a kickback.” Nuh uh. Not going to cut it.

When you’re looking to build a partnership, you want to find people who are passionate and able to speak eloquently about why they believe in you. Are they willing to put their reputation on the line for you?

6. Audience is everything

You also want to make sure your affiliate’s audience is a good match. If you’re trying to sell a product or course about attaining mindfulness in everyday life, that might be a great fit for someone whose readers are yoga enthusiasts. But, you wouldn’t want to waste your time on someone whose readers are only interested in flipping houses and investing in real estate. They won’t care about the mindfulness product, and they won’t buy it.

7.  Know the difference between evergreen and launch

If your product is available 365 days a year, it’s smart to give your affiliates an evergreen program they can follow on an ongoing basis or at their convenience. That way, they’re constantly moving their readership toward your cash register.

If you follow a launch model, make sure your affiliates know exactly what they should be doing and when: when the pre-sale period begins, when the sale period begins, and when it ends.

8.  Be a leader

To make this work, you’ll need to do a lot of hand-holding. Some people have a preconceived notion that affiliates are super motivated because they want to get their cut of your profits. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need your help to be successful. After all, most affiliates have their own products to sell and their own businesses to run.

So, it’s up to you to show them the ropes and make their job as easy as possible. Give them plenty of information. Plan waaaay in advance (their editorial calendars might already be scheduled 8-12 weeks out). Be proactive about giving them guidelines, ideas, pre-written copy, pre-designed assets, a calendar and anything they might need to sell, sell, sell.

9.  Hire an affiliate concierge

Affiliates are more than selling machines! They want to feel connected to the product they’re promoting, and they want to feel good about working with you. It’s up to you to manage these relationships, so that they pay off now and in the future.

It helps to have a dedicated affiliate concierge on your team who can be your affiliates’ point person. Your concierge can answer questions, help locate affiliate links, send reminders about what to send to their list and when, write custom copy, and lots more.

Having a dedicated team member available is an awesome way to let your affiliates know you value their time and support their efforts.

10.  Wait before you pay up

So you had a fantastic promotional period and you made tons of money. Way to go!

Now for the hard part: time to pay up. Of course, you’d love to sit on all of that hard-earned money yourself…but sharing the wealth is the whole point of running an affiliate program.

The key thing to remember, especially if you’ve never done this before: Only pay your affiliates AFTER your refund period has ended. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take this into consideration.

You don’t want to cut checks for dozens of people, only to have their leads refund their money 30 days later. That’s a major financial no-no.

11.  Calculate your financials before diving in

Okay, so this all sounds great. But it’s time for the biggest piece of the puzzle. None of this advice is worth anything unless running an affiliate program makes financial sense for you.

Some people jump into things without calculating if their business can handle giving away 50% (or a similar percentage) of revenue per product sold. It’s a lot of money to hand over without running your numbers first.

Before you jump on the affiliate bandwagon, let’s figure out how much you’re making in profit vs. how much you’re spending to keep your business going.

For example, if you’re selling a $100 product, and if you need about $60 per product to go towards paying your expenses, you can’t expect to give an affiliate 50% ($50) of that sale. You’ll come out ten bucks short on each converted affiliate lead. Not a smart move.

But, if you’re selling a $500 product, and you need about $60 per product to go towards your expenses, it’s no big deal if you pay out your affiliate 50% ($250). You’ll still be bringing in $190 per sale.

Not sure where you stand financially? Click here and scroll down about ⅔ of the way to calculate your revenue.

If the numbers look good…you’re well on your way to affiliate success!

Stay tuned! Next week, we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of running your program, including tech, taxes, and finding affiliates who are right for you.

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