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How to create an affiliate program in 5 steps

Here’s how to create an affiliate program that will boost your product sales and expand your circle of raving fans. Just follow our 5 steps for affiliate program success.

Making money while you sleep is a nice idea, but it’s often an overblown one. “Passive” income requires active work, at least in part.

Unless you’re not the one doing the work and an affiliate has your back. That’s the win-win beauty of running your own affiliate program:

You can set your customers up for success (as clients and affiliate marketers), which, in turn, makes them valuable lifetime customers who grow your business.

Today, we teach you step-by-step how to create your own affiliate program on Podia that runs smoothly and successfully.

We show you how to recruit and support potential affiliates for your online courses, memberships, and webinars, so they’re promoting and selling your digital products with ease (and profit).

Let’s get right into it.

5 steps to create a successful affiliate marketing program for your brand

Step #1. Decide which products you want to include in your affiliate program

Your first step in creating an affiliate program is to decide which products you want to include in the program.

While it is possible to include all of your products, it’s wise to start with only a few digital product ideas that are the most popular among your audience.

For instance, while Amy Porterfield sells several digital products, her affiliate program sells one product — her highly successful Digital Course Academy, which retails for $1,997.

Focusing on one (or a few) successful affiliate products is a practical way to provide your new affiliates with ample attention, resources, and support as they begin to promote your digital products to their networks for the first time.

Check out this expansive list of affiliate program support materials that Amy provides her affiliate marketers, complete with tutorials, webinars, and one-on-one success calls with Team Porterfield.

These are the types of high-quality content and support materials that you can create to help your affiliate marketers sell your digital products.

Whether you’re a solopreneur or entrepreneur with team members to help, you can make this happen when concentrating your efforts on executing 1–2 things very well.

It’s a bit like the concept of single-tasking — something that’s way more productive than multitasking.

Sadly, most of us are prone to the latter, and that explains why only a measly 5% of people finish their daily tasks.

Not that we’d expect any new affiliate program to produce such a robust collection of tasks and resources as Team Porterfield straight out of the gate, but you get the gist:

When starting out, highlight just a few products in your affiliate program.

You can focus on optimization moves — like adding more affiliate products, finetuning your messaging, and creating additional marketing materials — after you iron out any initial wrinkles in your new affiliate program.

Once you’ve settled on a few key affiliate products to feature in your program, it’s time to settle on payouts.

Step #2. Decide on your affiliate pricing and commission rates

The average affiliate commission rate falls between 5–30%, according to Referral Rock.

Conversely, according to Carson, the commission rate payout ranges from 10–40%. Here’s the breakdown for each product category.

If you’re wondering about the big affiliate networks, Amazon’s affiliate commission is 1–10%, and Shareasale’s payout stands at 20%.

Rather than following payouts for ecommerce and physical products, though, it’s about pricing your digital product affiliate commissions at a payout that makes sense for your specific online business.

As you know, digital products let you scale your online business in a way that a traditional ecommerce site doesn’t.

The glaring advantage is that you don’t have to worry about an inventory of physical products.

So, the amount of customers who can purchase your digital products is practically limitless, which lends itself to offering higher commission payouts to your potential affiliates.

Back to our Amy Porterfield example, her affiliates earn a 50% payout for every successful referral sale, the average commission being $30,000.

Needless to say, it’s worth starting lower and working your way up as you grow your affiliate program.

Digital products entrepreneur Michele Bradley, for instance, offers her affiliate marketers a 10% commission for referrals who purchase her products.

As for her affiliate program’s payout schedule, affiliates get paid through PayPal between the 1st and 15th of the following month from their commission sale.

Minessa Konecky, as another example, has a digital product affiliate program with a 15% payout for every referral.

You can see that the payout numbers are yours for the choosing.

Like with pricing your digital products, though, it’s a matter of researching the market for going rates and testing various commission rates, so you can attract enough quality affiliates to your program.

Overall, we recommend starting in the 10–15% payout range and moving upwards as your affiliate program grows.

Now that you’ve worked out the initial details of your affiliate program, it’s time to put some logistics behind it.

Step #3. Choose an affiliate management tool to set up your affiliate site

There are plenty of affiliate manager tools available on the market today — from fancy affiliate marketing software to DIY affiliate marketing plugins for WordPress — to set up your affiliate site.

But, we’d be remiss not to recommend Podia’s affiliate program feature — especially if you want to streamline your entire business operations and keep everything simple, clean, and lean.

Podia’s (truly) all-in-one platform lets you create, promote, and sell all of your digital products, which makes the affiliate program feature extra convenient.

This means you don’t need yet another third-party tool to integrate or dashboard to navigate.

And, like all the unique benefits of using Podia, you can manage your affiliate program from the same dashboard.

No need to take my word for it, though. I’ll let proof do the convincing.

To create an affiliate program, just head over to “Affiliates” at the top menu bar, and click “Turn on Affiliates”.

From there, you can fill in a few details on your “Settings” tab, like the commission percentage or fixed amount. You can also select product-specific commissions from this tab.

That’s really all there is to it.

Ready to scope the final look?

Check out Michele Bradley’s affiliate site.

Another shining example is Minessa Konecky’s affiliate marketing program for her online business, Direct to Success.

Easy on the eyes, no?

The user experience is easy, too.

Your potential affiliates can join your affiliate program by entering their PayPal email on your affiliate site.

Once affiliate sales start rolling in, your dashboard will reveal stats, like:

  • Affiliate sales

  • Affiliate revenue

  • Commission paid

  • Commission owed

  • Clicks

  • Conversion rate

And from your affiliate’s view, their dashboard will look like this:

Doesn’t get much cleaner than that.

By the way, if you want to see how seamless the backend dashboard is, mosey on over to this 14-day free Podia trial. Without needing your credit card, you’ll be able to see the simple payout and affiliate sales tracking process, too.

But OK. Affiliate platforms aside, there’s one more key step that requires frontloading a bit of work: creating high-quality content to support your affiliate marketers.

Step #4. Create high-quality content and supportive marketing materials

Out of the tons of marketing channels to choose from these days, we recommend focusing on two strategies to help your affiliate marketers sell your digital products and grow your own affiliate program — graphics for content channels and email marketing.

The first strategy we recommend is creating graphics for your affiliate marketers, so they can easily promote your affiliate products on various content channels — whether its social media channels or blog sites.

Given that 43% of consumers research and find products online through social channels, social media marketing is especially powerful if you have influencers in your affiliate network.

All you need to do in this case is provide your affiliate marketers with easy-to-post content for their social channels that makes promoting your digital products a breeze.

Check out how Minessa Konecky gives her affiliate marketers access to compelling graphics they can publish on their own site and social media channels.

If you have bloggers in your affiliate network, create graphics like this sidebar graphic promoting Michele Bradley’s 511 Workshops product.

This way, every time an affiliate blogger features a new article in their social posts, their audience will catch sight of your affiliate product image after reading the new article.

Another leg up that bloggers have is they can write an article featuring your affiliate products and sprinkle some search engine optimization (SEO) into it.

It’s even worth updating articles that are a few years old, too, when you consider nearly 60% of the top 10 Google page rankings are over three years old.

Just add relevant images, links, and content that promote your affiliate products, while still falling in line with the article’s main purpose.

The second powerful way to set your affiliates up for referral success is to encourage them to promote your products to their email list subscribers.

Not only does email marketing return $42 in ROI for every $1 you spend, but it’s also the first channel that people check each day.

Give your affiliate marketers email templates to use, like this one:

Hey [first name],

I’m so excited to share how [product] has changed my life.

[time frame] ago, I was [pain point].

It was so [emotional pain], I couldn’t [struggle].

Bear with me, there’s a happy ending to my story.

After searching the internet to try to [solve problem], I stumbled upon [product] and everything changed.

If you’re like me and want to [goal], then check out [product].

This is too good not to share.

To [achieve result] without having to [pain point], just hop on over to [affiliate product link].

[signature]

Or this email template that features unique product benefits.

Hey [first name],

A quick heads up: there are only [inventory number] left [in/of] [product].

So, if you want to [solve problem] once and for all, now’s your big chance.

Just head over to [affiliate program link] if you want to [benefit].

Here’s how [product] changed my life, and how it can change yours, too:

[benefit 1]
[benefit 2]
[benefit 3]

Remember, to [solve problem], all you need is the right simple system. [product] gives you exactly that.

Here’s that link again 👉 [affiliate product link]

[signature]

A final note in this section is to support your affiliates in any way that seems worthwhile, especially your high-quality affiliates who take their affiliate position seriously.

For instance, if you enlist extra-enthused quality affiliates who want to go the extra mile and optimize their social media outreach with Facebook ads, keep in mind you’ll want to help them sell with copywriting and give them messaging tips specific to your products and brand.

All in all:

As the online marketing master of your brand, you should hand over the most effective sales copywriting and marketing materials for your quality affiliate marketers to use.

The main takeaway is to provide them with as much high-quality content and marketing support as possible.

Now that you have a supportive marketing strategy in place to support your new affiliates, it’s time to do your own marketing and get the word out about your new affiliate program.

Step #5. Recruit your affiliate marketers

Naturally, we recommend the same marketing strategy when recruiting potential affiliates to join your own affiliate program — using both social media and email marketing.

Let’s start with your social channels.

As for the number of social media users, there’s no slowing down anytime soon, so it’s worth continuing your general outreach using social platforms.

Here’s how entrepreneur and psychotherapist Julie Bjelland promotes her affiliate program on Instagram.

A-Champs announces their referral program on Instagram using an equally simple post.

The point is to keep it straightforward and clear.

The same goes for your emails inviting people to join your affiliate program.

Consider this email template for recruiting your happy customers to join your affiliate program.

Hey [first name],

Thank you for being one of our best customers.

It’s an honor to see your success with [product name].

As you know, it’s our mission to [mission description].

How would you like to spread the love, feature your success story, and earn extra money along the way?

Just click here to become an affiliate 👉 [affiliate link].

[signature]

If you’re a Podia user, you can easily enter emails of people you want to invite to your affiliate program and hit “Invite affiliate” to automatically send the invite.

Regardless of how you reach out to invite your potential affiliates, there’s one common factor to consider.

It’s less about the number of affiliates in your affiliate program and more about the quality of your successful affiliate marketers.

Just like how most of your business revenue works, keep in mind your affiliate sales will likely follow the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your affiliate sales will come from 20% of your most successful affiliate marketers.

So, what’s key here is to recruit potential affiliates that are quality affiliates.

These are people who will follow your affiliate marketing tips and marketing strategy to a tee. They’re the ones who will act like small business owners and treat your affiliate sales and new customers like their own.

Look for the savvy affiliate marketers who care about landing pages and conversion rates, and optimization of each. The more they treat your business like their own, the more you’ll both win.

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Grow your business by creating a successful affiliate program

You can turn your happy customers into happy affiliate marketers by creating a successful affiliate program.

All you need are these two main ingredients:

  • Make it easy for quality affiliates to join your affiliate program.

  • Make it easy for your affiliate marketers to promote and sell your products.

Create your own affiliate program by following our five steps:

  1. Choose one to a few top-selling affiliate products to include in your affiliate program.

  2. Set your affiliate pricing and commission rates.

  3. Create your affiliate site using an affiliate management tool.

  4. Create high-quality content, graphics, and email copy to help your affiliates market to their audience.

  5. Invite quality affiliate marketers to join your affiliate program.

May you grow your affiliate program and business with happy customers and their referrals.

About the author

Cyn Meyer is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. Cyn also enjoys playing music, helping retirees live active, healthy, engaged lifestyles, and hopping into the ocean.