You’ve decided to create your own online course, and you’ve already done a lot of the work.
Thanks to some careful research, you’ve chosen the perfect topic for your students, and you know where you’re going to host your lessons. Maybe your videos, quizzes, and membership site are all set up, and you’re keen to start interacting with some students.
Unfortunately, that’s where the problem often starts for course creators.
Attracting students to your courses can be a challenge, to say the least. If you’ve never had to sell something on your own before, it’s tough to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Fortunately, there is one marketing strategy that is super effective and works equally well for both beginners and established businesses.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to market your online courses.
The global industry for affiliate marketing is now worth $12 billion, and it's growing at a fast pace.
Affiliate marketing works so well because it builds on one of the most popular and credible forms of promotion there is – word-of-mouth.
With an affiliate program, you recruit people who can advertise your course on your behalf. They might write reviews on their blogs, post about you on other sites, and produce videos about your content. Every time their marketing efforts get you a new student, you pay them a small commission.
What’s more, right now is one of the best times to use affiliate strategies for your online course. As consumers continue to invest in more digital experiences, they’re looking for recommendations from credible influencers and authorities for what they should buy. That’s where your affiliates come in.
Why Use Affiliate Marketing for Online Courses?
Affiliate marketing is a fantastic way to improve your chances of sales.
Around 76% of online publishers say that affiliate marketing makes monetizing their sites easier.
Although affiliates are just one way to advertise your course, they’re one of the easiest and most affordable options. You only pay your affiliates when they make a sale, so you don’t need a huge budget to get started. This makes affiliate marketing very beginner-friendly.
Also, you get results much faster with affiliate marketing than you would if you were building an audience from scratch. You can choose affiliates that already have a connection with the audience you want to attract, and leverage their existing influence.
Plus, since you’re selling digital products (with higher profit margins), you can afford to pay higher commissions for more effective affiliates. Affiliate marketing offers:
- Budget-friendly market exposure
- Excellent access to a targeted customer base
- A fast way to find new customers
- Partnership and long-term collaboration opportunities
- Improved brand reputation (when you connect with the right affiliates)
So, how do you promote your online course with affiliate marketing effectively?
The following 5 tips will help.
#1 – Offer Generous Affiliate Commissions
One of the most common mistakes I see course creators making with affiliate marketing is offering commissions that are too low.
Low commissions, say 10%, will attract a very small number of affiliates. And there’s a good chance they won’t end up being the kind of affiliates who can drive significant results for you.
Remember, you’re selling digital products, and you don’t need to buy materials or ship products to anyone. That means you should be able to offer higher commissions. A lack of incremental costs will ensure you still have enough profit margin.
Giving higher commissions to your affiliates helps you to stand out from competitive course creators who want to attract the same sellers. You’ll be able to find a bigger number of affiliates, and you’ll find that they work harder for you to earn their income.
Ideally, I recommend offering at least a 30% commission. If you’re a brand-new company without a pre-existing reputation, you may need to start as high as 50%.
For instance, Jeff Walker, one of the most well-known personalities in the online marketing space offers 40% affiliate commission for his flagship course, “Product Launch Formula”.
#2 – Focus on Hiring Quality Affiliates
One of the benefits of an affiliate marketing program is that it allows you to use someone else’s authority and influence as a launching point for your brand. You can leverage the reputation and community of your affiliates to build your own sales opportunities.
However, you can only accomplish the right outcomes if you’re working with the right affiliates.
Finding influential, high-quality affiliates who can genuinely improve your ability to find and retain course students is crucial. The success of your affiliate program depends on whether you’re working with the right people.
Don’t make the common mistake of prioritizing quantity over quality. In other words, you don’t need 50 affiliates who are only sending you one new student a month each if you have 10 affiliates who are sending 10 each.
Even if you can only find one major influential affiliate who sends you the majority of your students, you can back that person up with some additional authorities to drive great results.
When searching for the right people to work with, look for influencers with a proven track record in their field. Analyze your competition and find out who they’ve been working with on their affiliate campaigns.
You can also check out popular YouTube channels and blogs in your niche and focus on getting people from those environments on board.
Finally, you should have a process for accepting affiliate applications and vetting them to make sure they meet your requirements.
#3 – Use the Right Tech for Your Affiliate Program
Running a successful affiliate marketing program on your own would be exceedingly difficult without the right tech.
Affiliate marketing software and solutions will give you the support you need to make your campaign more effective. These tools will allow you to create referral links, track conversions and clicks, automate commission payments, and ultimately grow your business.
There are several technology options out there for creating affiliate programs, but ideally, you would want your affiliate solution to integrate with your course plugin as well as your payment processor.
MemberPress, for instance, integrates with popular affiliate plugins like Easy Affiliate and AffiliateWP. So if you use MemberPress for creating checkouts, you should use one of these plugins.
The other option is to use a specialized cart solution like WooCommerce or ThriveCart, both of which have native affiliate tracking tools (and also integrate with MemberPress).
Alternatively, you can consider using affiliate marketplaces, such as Clickbank and ShareASale. However, I wouldn’t recommend this option for beginners who really want to create their own brand strategy. Affiliate networks take the control out of your hands and a significant cut of your profits.
#4 – Allow Affiliates to Promote Your Lead Magnets
Your affiliates should have access to all the tools you’re using to generate sales and subscriptions. The people who tend to have the most success with affiliate marketing are often those who support their affiliates in accessing things like free lead magnets and offers.
Give your affiliates the chance to access landing page links that connect directly to their affiliate account. Or you can choose to let them use other landing page builders, as long as the tracking is implemented.
You should be able to track when people download your lead magnet, and which affiliate sent them in this direction. If the people who use your lead magnet make a purchase in the future, you can reward the affiliate accordingly.
The great thing about this method is that lead magnets and offers are inherently attractive to customers. With these tools, you’re allowing your affiliates to be much more subtle about the way they share your course information. They’re not just asking people to go and sign up. They’re offering them the chance to access something valuable.
This customer journey, which begins with a free offer of value from you, often leads to more loyalty and better conversions in the long run.
The Easy Affiliate platform mentioned above has a built-in Affiliate Dashboard that makes sharing these sorts of links with your affiliates quick and simple.
#5 – Make Your Affiliates’ Lives Easier
Finally, affiliates are professionals who know how to drive positive responses from their target audiences. These experts have their fingers on the pulse of the audience, and they can encourage fantastic conversions for your course.
However, like any professional, they can perform a lot more efficiently if you do your part to make their lives easier.
Ultimately, it’s your job to ensure that your affiliates can promote your course as easily as possible. It should be simple for them to find their affiliate links and embed them into their content however they choose. These experts should also have access to all the additional resources and creative assets that might help them sell, such as email copy and content.
To ensure that your marketing strategy goes smoothly, set up a strategy for giving your affiliates excellent support, too. You should be able to answer questions and help them if they get stuck. The easier it is for affiliates to promote your course, the more results you’ll see.
Master Your Affiliate Strategy
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to take your course promotion strategy to the next level. With the right affiliate campaign, you can improve your reputation instantly, reach a wider range of students, and create long-term relationships with customers.
The key to success is building an affiliate strategy that works. With the tips above, you’ll be on your way to sensational sales in no time.