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Proven Sales on Autopilot: How to Make Affiliate Marketing A Winning Strategy in Online Business

Jul 25, 2023
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Are you an online course creator, coach, membership or custom service provider looking for proven strategies to increase sales in your business? Maybe you’ve heard talk around the Web about affiliate marketing and are wondering whether this strategy is right for your online business? Done right, affiliate marketing can do double duty to increase your sales and your base of raving fans and customers. Let’s take a look at what affiliate marketing is and how you can use affiliate marketing as a winning collaboration strategy in your online business. 


What is Affiliate Marketing


Affiliate marketing is asking other people who are passionate supporters of your products and services (your affiliates) to spread the word about your business (marketing) in exchange for a commission on each sale made from their referrals. This can be a powerful sales tool for your business because people already familiar with your products or services are spreading the word about your products or services, most likely to people outside of your immediate sphere of influence. This army of affiliates become your brand ambassadors. When an affiliate shares your product with their audience, there is an extension of the know-like-trust factor from you to your affiliate’s audience, making the decision to buy much easier for customers that don’t yet know you. 

affiliate marketing word cloud on graph paper

Affiliate Marketing Programs are a Win-Win


As noted above, affiliates are your brand ambassadors. While it's always amazing when your affiliates are able to send through customers who make an immediate purchase, there are benefits to you even if you don’t see sales right away. Many potential customers will click through an affiliate’s link to investigate your offer. They may decide not to buy from you immediately, and instead might opt-in to your email list to learn more about you or download your amazing lead magnet. You’ll be able to grow your email list even if you don’t make sales right away, and these customers may purchase products or services from you in the future. 


Affiliate programs are also a win for your affiliates in a couple of ways. First, they get to earn a commission for referring sales to you. While it does take some work, receiving a financial reward is definitely a win for your affiliates. Second, they get to promote worthwhile and irresistible offers to their customers. It can be very difficult to filter out really good offers online. If you are connected with someone that you know, like and trust, it’s a value-add when that person makes a referral for a quality product or service that has the potential to benefit you. 


Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing in Your Online Business


Once you have products and services that are selling at a good clip, you can set up your affiliate program. And program is the key word here. You’ll want to be thoughtful about the details of your affiliate program or you could end up not realizing the results that affiliates can provide and alienating your affiliates. Here are 7 steps to take to get your successful affiliate program launched,


Step 1: Map Out Your Affiliate Marketing Program


You’ll want to think through the details of your program. This step has several parts to it. Start by answering the following questions about your program:


  • Which of your products or services will be included? 
  • What will you offer as a commission for them - it can vary from product to product. Remember, you want the commission to be large enough that’s is worthwhile for your affiliates to promote your product. 
  • What are the logistics around paying your affiliates? 
  • Do you have requirements for your affiliates? For example, do they have to be your customer? Do they need a specific audience size? 
  • Will you require your affiliates to promote during certain times, for example during your annual launch?
  • What will your minimum promotion requirements be?


Step 2 - Determine How You Will Select Your Affiliates


There are a few considerations when deciding who can be your affiliate. It can be as easy as setting up a link to sign up and letting anyone who fills out the form become your affiliate, or you may want to be more discerning in who can be your affiliate. As your reputation is at stake, I’d recommend some level of screening before accepting an affiliate. You want to be sure that your affiliates align with your values and utilize the promotional strategies that you’ve put in place for your products. Although applications are a lot of work, I believe it’s worth it in the long run because you are likely to avoid complicated and unpleasant situations that can arise from allowing anyone to promote your products or services. 


Step 3 - Identify Your Affiliate Software That’s Compatible With Your Program


Once you’ve laid out your affiliate program plan, you’ll want to identify software that can meet your needs.  Affiliate software is essential for an affiliate marketing program because you’ll need the software to track leads so you can credit payment to your affiliates. Some platforms where you host your products may have affiliate software built in, such as Kajabi or ThriveCart. 

words content creation surrounded by lightbulbs

Step 4 - Create the Marketing Materials for Your Affiliates 


As enthusiastic as your affiliates might be to promote your products or services, they are probably much less enthusiastic about creating the marketing materials needed for promotion, such as graphics, emails and other copy. You’ll want to create a resource hub in a shared folder, for example on Google Drive or DropBox, so that your affiliates can grab what they need quickly and easily. 


Step 5 - Create a Communication System to Use with Your Affiliates


As a first step you’ll want to welcome your affiliates to your affiliate marketing program. You will probably want to set up a few emails over a period of a few weeks to introduce them to your products and services and outline your affiliate program. Less information spread over more emails is probably more effective than all of the information in one email. Everyone’s email boxes are pretty full these days and it’s easy to miss an email. By sending out several emails to your new affiliates it’s more likely that everyone will receive most of them. In your emails let them know where they can find your portal, and guide them to bookmarking it for easy access later. 


There are a few other details you’ll want to include when you communicate with your affiliates:


  • When are your big promotions and launches - let them know the dates you’ll want their help with promotions.
  • What tasks will you want your affiliates to do during your promotions ~ will they need to email their lists, post on their social media accounts or run ads?
  • Will you offer any incentives to the affiliates with the most engagement and/or the most affiliate income?

form of affiliate agreement with pen on top

Step 6 - Get Your Affiliate Contract Terms and Conditions in Place 


Your affiliate marketing program would be incomplete without terms and conditions for your affiliates. Having contract terms in place with your affiliates is an essential part of your affiliate marketing program for several reasons. Here are some of the key terms your affiliate terms and conditions should cover:


  • Acknowledgement that your affiliates agree to your terms and conditions.
  • Application process to become an affiliate. 
  • Your commission structure for each product included in your affiliate marketing program.
  • How commissions are determined and the use of automated tracking software.
  • How and when commissions are paid.
  • The legal relationship between you and your affiliates. 
  • What marketing materials are provided and how the affiliate may use them.
  • Your expectations regarding your affiliates’ marketing practices.
  • The term of your affiliate agreement and how it can be terminated.
  • Disclaimers about the affiliate program.
  • Confidentiality requirements for your affiliates. 
  • Limitation of liability and indemnification. 
  • Dispute resolution.
  • Language to aid in contract interpretation. 


Having a legal contract in place with your affiliates will help manage expectations right from the beginning of your relationship and reduce the likelihood of disputes developing down the road. Your contract terms and conditions can be set up as a click-and-accept terms and conditions to make it easier to onboard your affiliates though the contract process. To learn more about these types of contracts, read my blog Three Essential Components to Make Your Online Business Contracts Enforceable

plants growing out of stacks of coins and dollar bills

Step 7 - Set up a Payment Process and Collect Your Tax Forms 


Last but certainly not least, you’ll need a system in place to ensure that you pay your affiliates on time and in compliance with tax requirements. When setting up your payment terms and processes, consider any refund periods that you may have in place for your products, as you’ll want to pay your affiliates only after any refund periods have expired. While there’s always a chance a customer could initiate a chargeback, your terms and conditions can cover what happens in this situation. You may be required to provide your affiliates with a 1099 after the end of the calendar year if certain conditions are met. You’ll want to ask your affiliates to provide you with a Form W-9 or W8-BEN as the information provided on these forms will help you determine whether you need to provide a 1099. 


Set Up Your Affiliate Marketing Program for Success


Affiliate marketing programs can double up the wins for you and your affiliates.  You get wins because you have loyal fans and customers helping you promote your products and services and this can lead to increased sales. Your affiliates get wins because they have the potential to earn income while providing their customers with information about quality products and services that can help them in their businesses. If you’re just getting started in thinking about an affiliate program as a means to work collaboratively with other online business owners, a great resource for you is Collaboration Station, run by the fabulous Meg Burrage. Inside of Collaboration Station there are lots of masterclasses and opportunities to meet other incredible online business owners looking to collaborate in many different ways, including through affiliate marketing programs. I’m one of Meg’s affiliates - all of her programs are overflowing with incredible value and provide you with the opportunity to connect with other online business owners.  


If you’re struggling to put together an affiliate agreement that checks all the boxes I have a customizable Affiliate Terms and Conditions template available in my template shop. Click here to learn more:  Customizable Affiliate Terms and Conditions Customizable Template


This blog contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.