I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Are you interested in expanding your reach, tapping into new audiences and making more sales? On this episode of the Rebel Boss Ladies Podcast we're diving into how to use affiliate programs, strategy, implementation, technology to sell your digital products.
Joining us today is Kelly Morrison, the founder of CreateYourAffiliateProgram.com where she shows digital product and course creators how to leverage the power of affiliates to create a profitable affiliate program that helps them make more income and more impact.
Kelly started as a Virtual Assistant about 11 years ago and did a lot of affiliate work for her clients. She says that it became pretty clear from the beginning that none of them were utilizing affiliate programs as much as they should have been, and it ended up becoming her expertise and the area that she built her business around.
I’m personally a huge fan of affiliates because they're truly one of the sole reasons why my business has grown as rapidly as it has. Affiliates are a huge part of what has made the Rebel Boss Summit successful over the past two years. It's a truly remarkable and an incredible strategy that you can implement in your favor.
What are affiliates and affiliate programs?
Kelly says that before you can understand what an affiliate program is, you have to understand what an affiliate is:
- Someone that promotes you or your product to their community
- In exchange they receive some sort of commission (usually monetary)
An affiliate program is everything that you put in place to manage your affiliates. “It's the tech pieces, the communication, the commission payouts, all of the nitty gritty of making sure that your affiliates are taken care of.”
How do you know if you’re ready for an affiliate program?
Kelly says that you’re ready for an affiliate program if you have a viable product or course.
What does she mean by viable?
Viable products are products that sell. This means your product and marketing messages are spot on and you want to have all of the sales pieces in place for your products. This includes making sure all of the back-end pieces on your end are set up and taken care of.
You don’t want to set up an affiliate program if:
- You’ve just created your product and don’t know how it will be received
- You’re not sure on the feedback for your product.
For example, if you're selling a product that you've never had any customers for, you're not quite ready for an affiliate program.
However, if you've sold your product before and you know that your customers are benefiting from your product or having success with your product, then that's when your product is viable and you can have affiliates promote for you.
You don't want affiliates promoting a product that is not viable or is not a good product, because then that reflects on the affiliate, which then reflects on you.
Let’s say you have a newer product, but had a successful beta with positive feedback, testimonials, and you were able to modify that product to better serve future customers. Are they ready for an affiliate program?
Kelly says yes. “They are ready for an affiliate program because they've gotten the feedback necessary on their product to know that it can be successful. So it's not that they just whipped up this product and are trying to put it out there. They have feedback. They have, what to me is a viable product if they've run a beta test on it or a beta launch of it.”
The pros and cons to selling digital products with an affiliate program
Affiliate programs are definitely a big undertaking. As with all things related to digital product sales, there are definitely pros and cons to having one.
Pros – low-cost, list building
Affiliate programs are a great way to build your list. Whether you have a small list ora big list, they’re a great way to get in front of people that are not already familiar with you. You can leverage your affiliates’ audiences to grow your own audience and list. Then, you can nurture those people and hopefully turn them into future customers.
If you have a tiny audience, this can be a huge pro for you because you're basically leveraging your affiliates audience instead of burning your own. If you feel like your audience is burnt out, an affiliate program can be a great resource.
You also don't always need to have affiliates promote your products directly. One strong strategy is you can have them promote your freebie, and work with affiliates solely for list building purposes.
Affiliate programs are also very low-cost. It's not going to take you a lot of money to set up an affiliate program.
You don’t need to spend money to make money with digital products, for example by paying for ads. There is a lot of people out there who are not spending any money on ads and they're just selling their products through their own evergreen systems or through an affiliate program. Affiliate programs can be just as powerful as Facebook ads and way lower cost.
It's also just a great way to grow brand awareness. So even if people are not joining your list the first time an affiliate shares about you, they are becoming more familiar with your brand and your company and your product.
Cons – additional work, especially on the tech side
Affiliate programs can definitely take a little bit of work. If you're not tech savvy it can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be! Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the tech by using an easy tool to set up your affiliate program.
The biggest part of affiliate programs is making sure your affiliates are well taken care of, which can be a bit cumbersome to balance with other work.
If you're in the middle of a launch and you're trying to do affiliates, that's a whole other piece of your launch that you have to add in. This is the most important part of running a good affiliate program, so make sure you plan for this in advance before bringing in affiliates.
Finding great, ideal affiliate partners that will sell your digital product
There is some work involved in setting up an affiliate program, and it comes down to having the ideal affiliate relationship. So what makes a really great affiliate partner?
Kelly says the number one source of affiliate partners are your current customers or your past customers. Anyone that has bought your products or program and has loved it or had a great experience with it are the people that you want affiliating for you. They have personal experience with your product or service and hopefully they're raving fans after having worked with you.
Another great source would be someone that is in a complementary industry as you. For example, if you sell a product that's website templates, you might want to work with a website designer as an affiliate for you because then they might need the product or service that you have. Just make sure that their business is not directly in competition with what you’re selling.
This lets you tap easily into word-of-mouth marketing, especially when the afiliate has experience with your product and they can talk about it in a natural, non-salesy way.
One of the perks to having affiliates that are past clients and raving fans is that they're going to talk and share about your products anyways. They might as well make a little commission and the process, because it gives them even more of an incentive to do so.
Nurturing and supporting your affiliates to success
Affiliates are going to drive the success of your sales, so you want to nurture and support them so that they’re successful. What steps can you take to support your affiliates?
First, you want to make it super easy for your affiliates to have everything that they need in order to promote for you. Remember – your business is top of mind for you, but it's not top of mind for your affiliates. Make sure they can easily find:
- their affiliate links,
- all promo materials they need to promote your product or service,
- how they’re doing as an affiliate, like how many clicks they are getting, and
- what kind of commissions they can expect to receive.
The way to do this is to stay in close communication with your affiliates. When someone agrees to be your affiliate you need to onboard them, kind of like you would for a client, and give them a welcome packet and information. You could also send them an email, giving them everything that they need in one place.
What you don't want is to make it difficult for your affiliates to find their link and promo materials. Make it so easy for your affiliates to have everything that they need, and their success will lead to your success.
Remember, they’re doing a huge favor for you and going out of their way to sell your product, so you need to treat them like royalty!
Inspiring and engaging your affiliates: incentives, commission and communication
Staying in close communication with your affiliates is one of the best ways to make sure that they feel supported.
One of the ways that you can stay top of mind for your affiliates is by sending them regular updates on how they’re doing. For example, you can share how many people have clicked on their link, or how many buyers they’ve had. That gets them excited and we'll have them wanting to affiliate more for you.
Always keeping your affiliates informed and excited is just a good way to get them to do what they agree to or have said that they would do.
Your incentive package can also do a lot to engage your affiliates. As the product seller, you get to decide what your commission rates are going to be for your affiliates. You can't expect somebody to promote something if they're going to make nothing off of it, so creating a decent incentive package for opportunity for them is going to be important.
So what is a good affiliate commission rate?
Kelly says that there’s no right or wrong answer to that question, because it varies from product to product and person to person.
When you’re deciding your commission rate, you first need to figure out what will excite your affiliates. However, you don't ever want to pay your affiliates more than you're making on the product because you still want to make a decent profit. Usually 40 to 50 percent would be the max, but anywhere from 20 to 50 percent is a good.
If you have a pay-by-month product, like a membership site, you can also set up a recurring commission rate. Even something like a 20 percent rate can really excite your affiliates, because it’s a recurring 20 percent, but it does take a lot more work to sell than a one-off digital product.
Affiliate tech: what you need to sell your digital products with affiliates
The tech side of implementing a successful affiliate program can be pretty intimidating. Affiliate tracking software doesn’t need to be overwhelming, expensive or hard to set up.
The tool that Kelly recommends, LeadDyno, is easy across the board and works regardless of which sort of website you're using or where you house your products. She says it’s pretty great, for a few reasons:
- They offer a free trial, so you can kind of get in there and set it up and get a feel for it.
- LeadDyno is super easy to set up. They walk you through step-by-step wizards so you can have it set up easily.
- Setting it up isn’t time intensive. You can have your affiliate program set up in as quickly as an hour.
- You can set up an affiliate center. You can put all your materials in one place, your affiliates can track their links and everything straight through leads. So that everything in one place for your affiliates.
- It integrates with all of the regular payment processors and big website platforms, and add it to anywhere that you can add code
I also recommend that when you’re thinking about what technology you should use, you should also explore the tools that you’re already paying for.
If you have an online course, programs like Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi have built-in affiliate programs. If you already have access to a check payment processor like ThriveCart or SamCart, you can use their built-in affiliate options. Depending on what you’re paying for, you may not even need additional software!
Do you need to have a team to help manage your affiliate program?
Supporting and managing your affiliates can be a big undertaking, but it is pivotal to the success of an affiliate program. Can you do it as a one person shop, or do you need to have a support person and a virtual assistant helping you manage it?
Kelly says that you can absolutely manage your affiliate program yourself. “The key to being successful is to just making sure that you have your affiliate onboarding process in place, so setting up your tech, knowing how you're going to welcome your affiliates, and knowing how you're going to reach out to potential affiliates, you can systematize all of that.”
Once you have everything in place and set up, which can be time sensitive, you just need to monitor and make sure your affiliates are taken care of. It really comes down to creating good systems and automating some of that process. Once that initial work is done, creating the welcome packet, template graphics, and swipe copy, the rest is easy from there.
One important point to remember though, is that it is possible to have too many affiliates. If you can’t take care of all of your affiliates, then you definitely have too many.
Don't get caught up in the idea that the more people you have promoting for you, the more you can grow your list or sell your products. More isn't always the best if you can't support them and take care of them, so it’s better to have less affiliates, that are more engaged, more supported, and better align to the ideal audience for your product. When it comes to the number of affiliates, quality is definitely better than quantity!
Free Guide: Affiliate Programs 101
Want to learn more about how to start an affiliate program? Head over to Kelly’s site and grab her freebie, Affiliate Programs 101 Guide. It outlines the five steps that you need to go through and start your affiliate program.
Kelly believes that it doesn’t need to be difficult, time intensive or expensive to set up your affiliate program and this guide will show you the five necessary steps to set up a profitable and successful affiliate program.
//LINKS IN THE SHOW//
Check out Kelly’s site, Create Your Affiliate Program
Grab Kelly’s free Affiliate Program 101 Guide
Find Kelly on Instagram and Facebook at Create Your Affiliate Program
Check out Kelly's favorite affiliate tracking software here: LeadDyno