Is it possible to start an affiliate program for FREE? Like actually get people promoting your business without spending money on tools, tracking systems and a bunch of other things? The short answer is YES. The longer answer is YEEEEESSSSSS!
And I’m going to show you EXACTLY how to do it.
Even if you’re just starting out, I’ll show you how to find affiliates so you can start making money from them…without spending a dime!
Frankly, this “free” approach is NOT something that you want to do very long, but it’s a great way to make a few thousand dollars without spending anything.
Then, once you get some traction, you can use that money to upgrade to something better!
Let me start by saying wholeheartedly…an affiliate program is the single best way to scale your company.
And oddly enough…I used to actually coach business owners NOT to start one.
I actually advised AGAINST getting affiliates involved in product launches, course sales, and product sales.
UNTIL you’re really ready.
My strategy boiled down to this…
Run an internal launch or two.
Do some paid traffic.
Then, involve only a couple of affiliates.
And, on top of that, it was a year-long process!
I’d go on to say that bringing on affiliates is great IF you have an existing 7-figure business and a new product and you’ve got lots of revenue coming in.
But then…I came to THIS realization…
That’s terrible advice for MOST people!
Most people don’t have money to do paid ads.
They can’t just go out and start running Facebook ads or LinkedIn ads. They are expensive.
So you DO need affiliates when you first start.
But that does bring up another challenge…affiliate software costs money.
Now, I’ve seen EVERY affiliate system out there.
There are some good ones but…
Just the other day, I wanted to work with a client.
They are using one of the “supposedly” premiere affiliate CRM affiliate systems on the market today.
I needed to know who the client’s ‘inactive’ affiliates were.
Simple request. Simple response.
Not so fast Sparky!
There are about 2,000 affiliates in their system.
Only about 700 of them are committed to a particular promotion.
So, I wanted to know how many of those 700 were inactive?
You would think a good affiliate system could tell me.
That there’d be a button I could press that would say, ‘show me all the inactive affiliates for this promotion.’
So, I had to download a spreadsheet of all the sales and compare it and do this and that…really?
This is SUPPOSED to be one of the best systems there is out there!
And it comes with a BIG BUCKS investment!
So, spending a fortune is no guarantee.
But we’re not talking about spending ANYTHING.
Let me show you how to start an affiliate program for free.
How do you start an affiliate program in a way that allows you to start actually making money without spending a dime?
There are two steps to pulling it off…
First, let’s start with the tech side.
Understand this: you don’t NEED to buy anything.
You don’t even need a free version of anything.
Sounds good Matt…keep talkin’…
I’m going to show you how to track leads and sales…WITHOUT spending any money.
Second, I’m going to show you how to find your first five affiliates.
Ones that will actually make you money.
If you’re in a really small niche, it might be your first three affiliates.
The cool thing is you can rinse and repeat what I’m going to teach today.
But let’s focus on the first five.
Okay…shall we begin?
I’m going to assume most of you already use an email system.
(If you don’t, get ConvertKit. It’s free for your first thousand subscribers.)
You don’t have to spend a dime.
Let’s say I had one affiliate and I didn’t have an affiliate tracking system.
What I would do is I would create a clone of my offer page.
It would look exactly the same as the one I’m using to attract prospects to a webinar where I will offer my paid course.
But, instead of sending people who sign up to MY email list, I create a link that tags them to my affiliate.
Say my affiliate’s name is Rudy.
And let’s say Rudy is promoting my offer. I create a special link for Rudy so that when prospects click the “register now” button and enter their email address, that “lead” will now be tagged as being from Rudy.
Suppose Rudy sends 100 people to you.
When somebody is tagged as one of the people Rudy signed up for a webinar or the webinar replay actually BUYS the product or course, we can manually go look them up in the email system and see that person came from Rudy and pay him his commission.
Then, say we get a sale or two from someone named Rick.
Same thing. We go in manually, find HIS sales and send him HIS commission.
This is a super easy way to manage your affiliates without having to set up anything special.
Just to be clear…this is not scalable once you have more than two or three affiliates.
There’s no reason to do this long-term.
Here’s how you move to the next level…
You operate this way for, say, your first, second, and third affiliates.
As those affiliates make more sales, before you know it, you have $1,500 in your pocket.
THAT’S when you move up.
Fifteen hundred bucks will pretty much pay for any affiliate tracking system out there.
But the key is…you got your affiliate program started for free.
In the example above, your affiliates don’t have to promote anything but the free webinar.
However, say Rudy DOES want to promote the course. You do the same thing.
You set up a sales page that’s a clone, and you tag anyone buying from the page as being from Rudy. It’s what’s known as a two-step order.
So, the first step is that they entered their email address and maybe, their first name first.
Now, that contact is tagged to Rudy.
If there’s a sale made, Rudy gets the credit.
And so it’s very manual.
So, how DO you find those first five affiliates?
I’m going to give you a couple of ways…
If you’ve sold something, go to your customers.
If you have some existing relationships in your industry, go to those people.
Those are going to be the best people.
But, if you literally have never sold anything, here’s what you’re going to do.
Go to this website called Google. (ever heard of it?)
Think of your biggest competitors.
Now, forget about them.
I want you to focus on the number three, four, and five players in your industry.
For example…if Coke and Pepsi are the big ones in the soda industry, who’s the RC Cola?
Better yet…who’s the Mr.Pib?
Think about who those people are.
Then, look them up using Google and you’re going to find their affiliates.
For the biggest companies out there, their top affiliates are going to be unapproachable at first.
They’re usually pretty engaged with that company.
Those companies can pay really well. They convert well. Everything is established.
But when you start getting around the fourth, fifth, and sixth based companies in that niche, they’re going to have fewer affiliates, so they’re easier to find.
Their affiliates are going to be smaller, which is good.
By the way, this is a big mistake a lot of people make…WHALE hunting!
I was talking to a guy the other day…a prospective client for our Your Affiliate Launch Coach program…and he was like, ‘well, my CEO is telling me I can get all these whales.’
Then I asked him a few key questions…How many affiliates do you guys have right now? What’s your revenue for your affiliate program?
My point…don’t set your sights on whales in the beginning.
Focus on the minnows and the flounders.
Get the small fish and build from there.
The truth? You don’t want to go get a whale right now.
Here’s why…when you’re first starting your affiliate program, things can go sideways.
When it doesn’t go right with a whale, you’ve lost them forever. And your reputation will likely take a hit.
But, when you develop some relationships with smaller companies, you get a chance to allow them to know, like, and trust you. And, their expectations will be lower.
And if something goes wrong…like your sales page is down for an hour in the middle of a promotion, you can get away with it.
In the webinar, they’re less likely to be like too upset.
They’re probably going to give you another chance because they’re smaller.
So, stay away from whale hunting in the early going.
You want small affiliates at first because they present an environment that allows you to scale with them.
You can help them. They can kind of become a part of your family, so to speak, and grow with you.
And SOME will end up being whales in a few years.
So going back to our example where you look for those 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th affiliates.
If you are in a smaller niche, you might be looking for the third biggest.
In a big niche, it might be the 8th biggest.
But find the people who are promoting your smaller competitors and then find their affiliates and email them.
You can get the template for the email right here.
That email was one of the main reasons I was able to build an affiliate program that generated a million dollars a month.
In only two years!
I didn’t have the contacts. I didn’t know anybody in my industry. We started this company right after my dad passed away so it’s not like I could take advantage of his connections.
And, we didn’t know ANYBODY in the niche.
We were the absolute outsiders.
That email really was the star of the show.
In essence, here’s what it communicates…
‘Hey, I saw that you were promoting such and such product.
I have a similar product. Here’s how it’s similar. Here’s how it’s different.
Are you interested in promoting it as an affiliate?’
One of my guiding principles is the “four sentence rule.”
In fact, our clients are not allowed to send an initial email that’s longer than four sentences.
Because, in the beginning, you’re not looking for a YES.
Too many people, when they reach out, try to give affiliates everything they need to make a decision.
As in..we were founded in 2006 and I’ve been teaching this for 17 years and we’ve had more than 2000 students and we have a 40% Commission and our course costs this much and here’s our big month and here’s what a celebrity said about our product and on and on and on…
An email that length is painfully long.
Obviously, they know nothing about 2022 attention spans.
You lost me.
Just think…what do YOU do when you see an email that’s a mile long from somebody you don’t know?
Live by my FOUR SENTENCE RULE.
What you WANT to do is generate three magic words.
“Tell me more.”
That’s ALL you want them to say.
Tell me more about your program. If it’s a launch, when are the dates?
There’s a reason I use a different approach when I reach out to prospective affiliates.
If you haven’t promoted me before, it’s an absolute must..
I’m reaching out to you cold. We have no connection. None.
I might start with something like, ‘hey, our launch is coming up this fall’ knowing full well that many people think of fall as any time after school starts.
To me, fall is Labor Day and beyond.
All I’m looking for is ‘I’m interested, tell me more.’
THEN we can say ‘our launch is October 8 through 21st. Do those dates work for you?’
It’s a conversation starter.
They might tell me straight off the dates don’t work.
That opens the door for me to come back with ‘hey, that’s fine, we’ll be doing it again in the spring or tell them about something else we have coming up.’
Now we’ve got a “back and forth” chin wag going.
See how that works?
What we find typically is, out of ten responses, we’ll get one YES, two NOs, and seven of the “three magic words” variety.
Nothing wrong with NOs either. Think about it.
There are only two reasons why they would say NO…either the topic doesn’t fit or they just really don’t want to promote anything.
The dates don’t work is the third reason, but it’s not really a reason on the front end.
Usually, if we’re vague enough about the time period, they might tell us they have their big launch in the fall and I don’t promote anything that time of year.
When they do, there still could be an opportunity.
We can come back and say, ‘hey, no worries…let me tell you a little bit more about it. Would you be interested in promoting in the spring?
Parting thought…Just make sure that you don’t let the tech hold you back on this.
It’s super easy.
Just apply what I taught you today and you’ll be able to start your affiliate program for free.
4 thoughts on “How To Start An Affiliate Program For Free”
Tell me more
What do you want to know more about Rudy?
Thank you! I’m a newby trying to figure this out and this was very helpful!
That’s great to hear Sonia!