When looking at different ways to promote your membership site, an affiliate program can be a pretty appealing option. Afterall, it's one of the few marketing channels where you don't have to spend any money until you're actually making money!
If you're not sure what we mean by an affiliate program, then this is when other people promote your membership site for you, in return for financial compensation (known as a commission) if someone purchases using their referral link.
Why Have an Affiliate Program?
Well, to put it bluntly, it can be a pretty great way of getting new members for your site without you doing all the heavy lifting yourself.
However, if we break that down further, then there are actually a number of reasons why it can be a good idea for you to have affiliates:
1. It promotes brand awareness – other people talking about your site will put you and your brand in front of a lot more people than if you're doing all the promotion yourself.
2. It can increase website traffic and leads – done right, an affiliate program will increase the number of people visiting your website and entering your sales funnel.
3. It should increase sales – if your sales page or sales funnel are good, then the increased leads will result in increased sales and a boost in members for your site.
4. It creates an ‘army’ of advocates – hearing your site is good from somebody else is much more powerful than hearing it from you yourself!
5. It's one of the most cost effective marketing options there is – you only pay when a sale is made, so you're not taking any risks with your money or spending more than you might get back.
6. You can completely tailor it to your needs – it's up to you how you run your affiliate program, there's no hard and fast rules, so you can do what works best for you and your site.
Who Can Become An Affiliate?
One of the first things to consider when setting up your affiliate program is how you will recruit your affiliates. Your program could be:
Members only – only people who are members of your site can become affiliates for it.
Public – anyone who wants to can become an affiliate.
Invite only – you hand select a few people to become affiliates for you.
I'm personally a fan of the members only option for membership sites and this is what we actually use for the Membership Academy. This approach increases the likelihood of attracting new members who are a good fit for your site, as your affiliates have experienced your site themselves so are better placed to describe your site accurately and know who it is best suited for.
However, each option has pros and cons and which you choose is entirely up to you.
If you decide on a public affiliate program then you are likely going to want to have things like an affiliate ‘sales page' on your website that tells people of the benefits of your program and what they are promoting. You'll also need to decide if the program is truly open to anyone (i.e they sign up and are automatically given an account) or whether you have right of refusal (i.e. they sign up and you have to manually approve the application).
Where Will Your Affiliate Program Live?
When it comes to actually setting up your affiliate program there are several different options that you could choose:
Affiliate Plugin – if you have a WordPress site then you can use an affiliate plugin. This means that everything will be kept on your site and you have total control over everything, but it may not be as powerful as a dedicated affiliate system.
Affiliate Platform – this is a third-party software which means your affiliate data will be kept off your website. These may have more features than affiliate plugins, but you will typically have less customisability and flexibility in things like branding.
Affiliate Marketplace – if you're running a public program then you might want to consider a third-party marketplace like Clickbank. These have the added bonus of being able to recruit affiliates for you, and will typically also reduce management as they pay your affiliates for you.
How To Create An Affiliate Program For Membership Site