Affiliate marketing is a win-win-win offer for all involved—but that doesn’t mean everyone will sign on.
Recently we posted a tutorial on how to use affiliate marketers to grow your course. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, affiliates are independent marketers who refer your course to learners, and usually receive some kind of commission in return. Affiliates may be learners within your course, but more commonly they are free agents, working on your behalf to bring in a new audience.
It is relatively easy to start an affiliate program for your course, but that doesn’t mean any affiliates will sign up to work with you. After all, if your course isn’t very good, they may waste a lot of time trying to pitch it to unimpressed learners. Even if you do have a great course, attracting affiliates may take a lot of work. The payoff can be high, but you will have to market it just as well as your actual course to succeed. Here’s how to start.
1. Know who your ideal affiliate is.
Affiliate marketers come in all shapes and stripes, but the ones that will work best for your course should demonstrate a knowledge of you and your industry, as well as an intuitive understanding of your target audience. These affiliates will be able to recommend your course with more authority, and bring in learners who are well-suited to your material.
Of course, it’s not a problem if some of your affiliates are newer to your industry, but it will mean that they will usually work harder to attract new learners. You’ll be more successful with a half dozen well-seasoned affiliates who understand online education and your subject matter than with several dozen less effective advocates.
2. Optimize your affiliate recruitment page.
Create a page on your website dedicated to your affiliate program, and have it be the hub of your marketing programs. Optimize it for SEO, and have it be the main page you share across social media, in your email campaigns, and in any other publicity campaigns.
Optimizing your pages goes beyond basic SEO. It also means improving the usability through information hierarchy, streamlined submission forms, and informative and well-written on-page copy. If you’re serious about your affiliate program, don’t hesitate to give this page some extra treatment to make sure it performs well.
3. Announce your program wherever possible.
Once you know your affiliate audience and have built a page tailored to their interests and needs, you shouldn’t hold back from making your program known. Publish it on your website, send emails to your professional contacts, and include the announcement in the footer of your emails. Convincing affiliates to market your course isn’t usually difficult, you just have to get the word out.
4. Be extra vocal on social media.
Social media is an especially worthwhile place to talk about your affiliate program. There’s a whole network out there of affiliate marketers, and even though many don’t work in your industry, they may know others who do. Social media is the easiest way for many of them to forward your information, and it’s also the easiest way for you to get in contact with affiliates directly.
5. Put some ad money behind it.
Many online educators are sometimes hesitant to put money toward advertising programs that don’t directly correlate to more sales. In this case, putting Google Ads money beyond an affiliate program can seem like adding a middle man to a process that could be much more straightforward.
However, dollars spend toward affiliates tend to yield exponential returns. While the advertising you do on your own might result in a certain number of sales, the same number of resources devoted toward recruiting new affiliates can yield several times that number of new students. By that math, the PPC budget it well worth it.
6. Network at industry events.
Your industry doubtless has many networking events, and these are attended by a variety of individuals, some educators, some learners, and some potential affiliates. Networking can be a great way to grown your affiliate program, because it puts you in direct contact with the people you hope will go on to sell your course. In turn, they can learn about your course from you in person, and that can help them pitch it to learners down the road.
7. Offer extra rewards for affiliates who recruit the most new members.
Many referral programs offer reward tiers based on how many new students a learner recruits. For instance, some programs might offer a learner a cumulative 10% off the course subscription price for every new learner they bring in. If a learner manages to recruit ten new learners, then in theory, they could reduce their own course costs to zero.
For affiliates, the details can be different but the idea remains the same. Instead of offering a percentage off course costs, you could raise the commission percentage they earn for every certain number of learners they bring in.
8. Work with affiliate directories, management organizations, and super affiliates.
You may be working hard to discover affiliates, but those affiliates are likely working just as hard to discover you. This is where directories, affiliate managers, and super affiliates come into play. By working with these organizations, you can more readily connect with those looking for promising programs to sponsor.
9. Reach out directly to influencers in your industry.
Not every affiliate thinks of themself as such. There are plenty of influencers who might happily cash in a check based on the new referrals they lead to your course without ever consciously self-identifying as affiliates.
Because of this, you would do well to contact potential affiliates, such as major industry influencers, directly. Even if they don’t think of themselves as affiliates, they may jump at the chance to earn a little extra income on the side through your affiliate program. Look for bloggers, podcasters, or even other course instructors covering adjacent topics. You could even offer to promote their program in return.
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to grow your course, but it won’t happen on its own.
As we said, growing your affiliate marketing program will require marketing of its own. But once you’ve built a strong network of affiliates, they will not only grow your course for you, their success will build on itself to recruit more affiliates. Affiliates are an investment in your long-term marketing success, so don’t be afraid to devote resources to drawing them into your program.