How To Create an Affiliate Marketing Program to Scale Your Coaching Biz

how to start an affiliate marketing program

Have you ever considered creating an affiliate marketing program for your coaching services?

If so, you can probably relate to how daunting it feels to even just think about taking that kind of leap.

Getting other people to promote your coaching packages and offers? Sounds like a dream come true!

But there’s more to building an affiliate program than meets the eye. And not every coach should create an affiliate program right away.

So how do you know if you’re ready? And how can you get started with your own affiliate marketing program? Keep reading to discover:

  • How affiliate marketing works
  • Pros and cons of affiliate marketing
  • Whether you should start an affiliate program for your coaching business
  • How to create an affiliate marketing program 

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

how does affiliate marketing work

Affiliate marketing is a performance-driven approach where you, as a life coach, team up with affiliates to promote your services. 

These affiliates – individuals or other businesses – get rewarded for bringing in clients or driving sales for you. 

If you’ve ever seen someone promote an Amazon product from their storefront, you’ve seen affiliate marketing in action. But affiliate marketing can work for anything anyone sells, from products to software to – yes – coaching!

The fact is, the process of creating an affiliate program can be quite intricate. But keep in mind that it can take your coaching business to the next level, expand your reach, and grow your business in the long run. 

The role of affiliates

An affiliate’s job involves endorsing your offerings on their platform – a blog, social media page, email newsletter, or even word of mouth if that’s how they best communicate with their network. 

They post content highlighting the features and benefits of your coaching program to attract potential clients. In this content are unique tracking links you provide, which direct visitors to your website. 

When someone clicks these links and completes a purchase (or another predetermined action), it triggers a reward for that affiliate. These rewards usually take the form of commission or referral fees.

Your role as the merchant

From your perspective, you gain access to wider audiences without heavy spending on traditional advertising channels. 

Instead, you pay only when desired actions, such as sales, occur, making affiliate marketing highly cost-effective. Win-win, right?

Besides paying commissions per sale (or lead), you’ll also equip affiliates with resources like promotional materials and training guides to help them succeed in their promotion efforts. 

For instance, last year, I ran an affiliate promotion for Tarzan Kay’s signature program, Email Stars. And in addition to providing email templates, Tarzan’s affiliate team also gave us cool graphics we could edit to insert ourselves into!

how to start an affiliate marketing program

This support not only makes things easier for your affiliates, it boosts the overall success rate of the marketing too.

Types of programs available in affiliate marketing

  • Pay Per Sale: This common type of program pays whenever traffic driven by an affiliate results in an actual sale.
  • Pay Per Lead: Affiliates earn money each time visitors fill out contact forms expressing interest in your services.
  • Pay Per Click: Affiliates earn revenue every time someone clicks ads placed within their content that take them to your website.

Starting an affiliate program opens opportunities for you, in terms of more exposure, and for affiliates looking for additional online income sources.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

If you’re looking to scale your coaching business, affiliate marketing is definitely one of the best options out there. But like any venture, there are both advantages and drawbacks.

Pros

  • This approach can help broaden your client base. Affiliates bring their own audiences into play – potential clients who may be interested in what you offer but wouldn’t have discovered your services otherwise.
  • ROI (Return on Investment). With performance-based payouts – usually pegged to sales generated by each affiliate – minimal financial risk is involved, making it cost-effective too.
  • No need to rely on ads and cold audiences: Marketing to a cold audience, usually from social media ads, requires a completely different strategy than marketing to a warm audience. Affiliate marketing allows you to rely on other people’s warm audiences instead.

Cons

  • It demands time and effort. All good things come with some challenges, and managing an affiliate program isn’t just setting it up; recruiting affiliates is only step one. You’ll need to provide promotional materials, track affiliate performance meticulously, and manage payouts regularly – all requiring time and effort.
  • Your brand reputation may be at stake. Maintaining quality control over how affiliates represent your brand poses another challenge. Reputation damage could ensue if they resort to tactics misaligned with values or portray services inaccurately.
  • Requires you to play big. While getting access to a wider audience is usually a positive, this isn’t always the case. Adding affiliates into the mix also means you’ll need the proper systems to support all the new coaching clients they bring in. And not every coach is ready for that.

Should You Start an Affiliate Program for Your Coaching Business?

I won’t sugarcoat it – not every coach should go ahead and start an affiliate program. This strategy could potentially expand the reach of your services and increase your revenue, but it also calls for thoughtful planning and management.

And without that careful planning, you could end up way over your head. 

Here are some considerations to help you determine if it’s the right move for your coaching business.

Scale and growth of a proven offer

If you want to scale your coaching business rapidly and reach a broader audience, an affiliate program can be an effective way to do so.

By leveraging the networks and audiences of other individuals or businesses (affiliates), you can increase your reach and potentially attract more clients.

But if you haven’t yet developed a coaching program that has proven results (and that you can deliver reliably over and over again), it’s too early to scale anything just yet.

Budget and resources 

Running an affiliate program requires some investment in terms of time, resources, and commission payments to affiliates. 

Yes, in theory, you don’t need to “pay” anything until your affiliates have made sales. But you’ll need to invest some time (and maybe money) to develop assets and support your affiliates.

Before you create your own affiliate program, make sure you have the necessary budget and bandwidth to manage it effectively.

Affiliate network

Consider whether you already have access to a network of potential affiliates who would be interested in promoting your coaching services. 

If you don’t have an existing network, building one will take time and effort.

Typically, your best affiliates will also be your best coaching clients. But it’s hard to start if you don’t have several past clients yet!

Brand reputation

Your coaching business’s reputation is essential, and it can be impacted by the actions of your affiliates. 

Choose affiliates carefully, as their behavior and marketing methods could reflect on your brand. For instance, if you’re against cold outreach, don’t reach out to affiliates who use it as their main method to make sales.

How to Create an Affiliate Marketing Program for Your Coaching Business

Have you decided that your coaching business is ready for its own affiliate marketing program?

If so, here’s how to set up an affiliate program and avoid potential pitfalls!

1. Define clear goals

Before you start your own affiliate program, take a step back. You first need to figure out exactly why you’re starting a coaching affiliate program in the first place.

For instance, are you seeking more visibility? Do you want to tap into a new niche of audience that you don’t have access to? Or are you simply trying to increase revenue and diversify your lead generation strategies?

The answers will shape every other aspect of your program – who should be selected as affiliates, their commission rates, and even the promotional materials they’ll use. So don’t skip this step.

2. Start reaching out to potential affiliates

Selecting affiliates that are a good fit to market your coaching program is crucial in creating a successful affiliate marketing program that will keep going long-term.

Affiliates should align with your brand values and have followers that match up well with those whom you’re targeting. For instance, if you’re a parenting coach, it wouldn’t make sense to work with a dating coach… unless this dating coach specializes in working with single parents!

You could consider fellow coaches or influencers within related industries who aren’t your direct competitors. Let’s take the parenting coach example from above – people who share similar audiences but don’t compete directly include:

  • Anxiety coaches who work with parents
  • Career coaches who have parents who struggle to achieve work-life balance
  • Business coaches who – once again – work with business owners who also happen to be parents

You can probably see the pattern here. Anyone who works with people who are also parents could be a good candidate.

But as I mentioned before, you can also email all your existing and past clients to see if any of them would be interested.

3. Set up your affiliate program

Have you gotten replies from potential affiliates who are interested in promoting your coaching program? If so, it’s time to start setting up an affiliate program officially.

Let’s review all the tech details you need to iron out.

Select a suitable platform 

Your first step in setting up your affiliate program should be selecting the right platform to manage it all. 

Look for online tools that offer comprehensive solutions for managing affiliates, including tracking referrals, calculating commissions, and generating reports.

Consider factors like ease of use, compatibility with your existing systems, and cost-effectiveness to meet your budgetary constraints as well as technical requirements. 

Some examples of online tools that support affiliate programs include but aren’t limited to:

Create clear terms and conditions

If you want to make a successful affiliate program, you have to create clear terms and conditions for affiliates that outline:

  • What constitutes a valid referral 
  • How commissions are calculated
  • Payout timing
  • Other important details (such as brand guidelines)

It’s an agreement that forms the legal foundation of the relationship with affiliates, so it should be thorough yet easily understandable. You may consider seeking help from specialized lawyers to ensure it’s done correctly.

Determine the commission structure

Affiliates will likely be more motivated to actively promote your services if they know exactly what rewards await them. 

You need to decide on: 

  • Type of commission (percentage-based or flat rate) 
  • Frequency of payment (one-time or recurring) 
  • Minimum payout thresholds
  • Prizes for top-performing affiliates

Determine the commission structure carefully to strike the right balance between enticing affiliates and maintaining profitability for your coaching business.

Build out affiliate resources

Next, you’ll need a few things to help your affiliates succeed.

You can start small and build out your affiliate library over time. Just keep in mind that the more tools your affiliate have, the more they’ll be driven to go out there and market your program!

Here are just some examples of the affiliate resources you can create:

  • Social media graphics
  • Email marketing templates
  • Prompts for social media content
  • Graphics for different ad formats (Google ads, social media ads, etc.)
  • Landing page examples
  • Free resources such as PDF guides and checklists
  • Access to you for short one-on-one interviews or live streams

Once you have your first affiliates, you’ll be able to get feedback from them to know what they feel they need from you.

4. Promote your program to potential affiliates

Once you’ve created an affiliate program, the next step is promoting it. This means spreading the word about your coaching business and convincing potential affiliates that partnering with you will benefit them.

Create a compelling affiliate page

To attract potential affiliates, you should have an informative page on your website dedicated solely to explaining:

  • Details about joining your program
  • How partnerships work
  • Commission rates offered
  • Payment methods used
  • Terms of service 

Beyond just providing necessary information, remember to highlight the unique selling points (USPs) that set you apart from others in the field to entice prospects into becoming partners. 

For example, let’s take a look at Amy Porterfield and how she describes the benefits of promoting her signature program, Digital Course Academy:

how to start an affiliate marketing program

Amy’s page highlights how affiliates can financially benefit from promoting the program – but she also focuses on how the program helps students, too. That’s why she also highlights the low refund rate.

Leverage social media platforms

Leveraging the power of social media is a no-brainer to find affiliates – especially if that’s already one of your marketing channels.

Consider creating posts about the benefits of being a partner or even running targeted ads, if your budget permits, to ensure a wider reach.

Email marketing campaigns

Direct communication is one of the most effective ways to find affiliates. And one of the main reasons for this is the sense of exclusivity. 

When you’re posting on social media, everyone can see. But when you send an email, it feels more personal. And in some cases – when your list is small – it truly is personal.

For example, take a look at the email that made me sign up for Tarzan Kay’s affiliate program.

how to start an affiliate marketing program

Why does this email work?

First off, the approach is conversational. And not only does Tarzan highlight all the benefits of promoting her program, but she also makes the required next steps clear.

5. Monitor the performance of your affiliates

The success of your affiliate marketing program depends on consistently monitoring and evaluating your affiliates’ performance. This doesn’t just mean counting sales or clicks but understanding their overall contribution to your coaching business.

Why monitoring is essential

Tracking is not simply an act of number crunching. 

  • It’s a way for you to detect successful techniques and places that require more attention. 
  • You can provide tailored support by gaining insight into each affiliate’s performance.
  • Beyond identifying strengths and weaknesses, effective monitoring allows early detection of potential issues before they escalate. 

For instance, an unexpected plummet in an affiliate’s conversion rate may indicate fraudulent activity or technical glitches affecting their promotional methods.

Metric matters: What should you monitor?

The most relevant metrics will largely depend on the nature of your coaching business and the goals set for the program. However, there are several key indicators every life coach should monitor:

  • Sales: This metric directly impacts the revenue generated by affiliates.
  • Click-through rates (CTR): A higher CTR indicates more traffic being directed to your site through affiliate links.
  • Conversion rates: This measures how many click-throughs result in actual sales, indicating the effectiveness of a page in turning prospects into clients.

Evaluate affiliate performance

Analyzing these metrics individually provides valuable insights, but combining them offers a clearer picture of overall performance among affiliates. 

High click-through rates and low conversion rates may indicate effective attraction, but difficulties in converting leads to clients.

Such findings should prompt further investigation as to why conversions aren’t happening despite initial interest. 

6. Reward high-performing affiliates

There are plenty of programs your affiliates could be promoting. But if they choose yours, make sure to recognize and reward your high-performing affiliates. 

When we acknowledge their efforts and success, it not only motivates them to keep doing their best but also inspires other team members to aim for similar achievements. It’s all about creating a supportive and driven atmosphere within the team!

Understand affiliate rewards

Rewarding affiliates go beyond mere gratitude; it’s a strategic incentive designed to enhance productivity and morale among your top performers. 

These rewards can take various forms, such as increased commission rates, bonuses, or even one-on-one coaching time with you.

The key lies in selecting incentives that align with what motivates your specific group of affiliates most effectively. For example, if financial gain is their primary motivation, giving them a cash bonus for hitting a certain number of sales could make sense. 

But if one of their primary motivations is proximity to you or your brand, you could even offer a private event or retreat for your top performers!

7. Optimize your program over time

Your affiliate marketing program should evolve with your coaching business. Optimize it based on performance metrics, affiliate feedback, and market trends. 

Feedback from your affiliates is especially important. After all, they’re the ones on the ground floor, doing the hard work!

Regularly engage them through emails or surveys about their experiences promoting your coaching services. This will help identify any potential issues they are facing.

It will also give you a sense of what motivates them most effectively – whether it’s higher commission rates, exclusive content access for promotion purposes, recognition, etc.

FAQs 

How do I start an affiliate marketing program?

To begin, understand your business goals and target audience. Choose a suitable platform, set up the program structure, including commission rates, and then promote it to potential affiliates.

What are the 3 main components of a successful affiliate marketing program?

A successful affiliate marketing program comprises a clear compensation plan for affiliates, high-quality coaching services, and robust tracking systems for clicks, conversions, and commissions.

Miss one of the above, and you’ll struggle to scale any affiliate program.

Grow Your Coaching Business by Creating an Epic Affiliate Marketing Program 

You’ve learned the ropes: from understanding how affiliate marketing works to weighing its pros and cons. The decision of whether or not to start an affiliate marketing program for your coaching business should now be clearer than ever.

Setting up an effective affiliate program can be a powerful growth strategy. Just make sure that you don’t jump in too early, as it could hold you back instead of helping your business grow.

Oh, and if you’re not quite ready to start an affiliate program yet, that’s okay! You can run a super-simple coaching business that fits your lifestyle – no fancy strategies needed. 

If that’s what you’re currently looking for, Paperbell can help you set up your coaching business the super-simple way.

Grab your free account to try it out for yourself!

how to start an affiliate marketing program
By Charlene Boutin
Charlene is an email marketing and content strategy coach for small business owners and freelancers. Over the past 5 years, she has helped and coached 50+ small business owners to increase their traffic with blog content and grow their email subscribers.
August 23, 2023

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