The old model for effective and profitable affiliate programs is broken. Period. It used to be that having a few big affiliates was all you needed to generate impressive results. But not anymore. Today, you want an ARMY of affiliates bringing in sales.
In this post, I’m going to reveal EXACTLY how I build successful affiliate programs that create affiliates who are engaged – and motivated. Not only do they take action, they become loyal followers who stay with you long-term.
When you use the affiliate success strategy I’m about to share, there’s no more struggling to find motivated team players every time you do a launch.
Instead, they’re going to promote pretty much anytime you ask them. And they’ll go the extra mile.
Like the affiliate who sent TEN emails on cart close day. TEN!!!
Why’d she do it? Because I sent her 10. She said ‘’Well, I thought that meant that I was supposed to do it.’
That blew me away!
THAT’S the kind of affiliate you want!
Okay…so let’s dive in… here’s the 3-part process for developing a successful affiliate program that creates devoted followers.
#1. RUN A CONTEST
Now, there’s a right way…and a “not so great” way to run an affiliate contest.
I learned how to do it the right way after crashing and burning a few times when I first started out.
The thing about contests is that they allow you to get smaller and medium-sized affiliates involved – not just the big guys.
Before we dive in, make sure you download my free report “Your First 100 Affiliates”. It will jumpstart your efforts to build a successful affiliate program so that you can start building that diversified army of small, medium, and some large affiliates.
Also, if you already have an affiliate program and want to take it to the next level but feel you could use some help, check out our training.
Fill out the application and set up a call with my team to see if we’re a good fit.
And I’ll tell you if it’s not. You might need a few months to get to the point where we can help you.
3 Keys To Running A Successful Affiliate Contest
1. Offer a Minimum Prize
This is a guaranteed prize that anyone with a little bit of extra effort can win.
One of our favorite qualifiers is this… if you make three sales, you get access to a course.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re promoting a $2,000 course. You tell your affiliates if they make three sales, they get access to the course. Costs you nothing! And it’s incredibly motivating for them.
A few years ago, we tried this with one of our clients. The previous year, with no minimum prize, they had four affiliates who had between 3-5 sales.
When they included a minimum prize, it produced over 200 affiliates that had between three and five sales each!
Even people from the year before who might have only had one or two sales were motivated to double and triple their results.
So, offer some sort of a minimum prize.
And if you don’t have a course, you could offer access to a launch recap. In world of internet marketing, that’s pretty powerful. Check out this example of an affiliate launch recap we did.
We once did a launch and said anybody that got five sales got invited to one of our masterminds.
For small affiliates, that’s a big deal!
They’re thinking, “’oh my gosh, I get to be in on this mastermind with this big internet marketer guy.’
You could also offer access to a membership.
Say the membership is worth $2,500.
You say, ‘Hey, make 5 sales and you get six months’ membership access into our program.’
It costs you practically nothing.
I’m always amazed when I hear someone say something like, ‘Oh, it costs me $2,500.’
No, it doesn’t.
Most of those people probably weren’t gonna pay $2,500 anyway…that’s the reality.
So offer a minimum prize – one that’s really easy to achieve.
And if that gets you 200 affiliates who get an extra one and a half sales, that’s three hundred additional sales at $2,500 a pop!
That’s a cool half-million dollars in extra revenue!
Now, for the second contest insider tip:
2. Offer Random Drawings
Okay, what do you mean by random drawing, Matt?
A random drawing is where you do something online.
Here are a few examples…
One time, we said any affiliate who did just 25 registrations a webinar is entered to win $2,000. That’s it.
Or, make just two sales this weekend and you’re entered. Who can’t do that?
We did one for Michael Hyatt a few years ago. Basically, here’s how it worked. Every email affiliates sent on cart-close day gave them an entry to win. If they sent seven emails, they got seven entries and boosted their chance of winning.
I specifically remember one of our affiliates telling me how that motivated him. He said, ‘Well, I know I can’t win any of these other contests, but this is one that I control.’
Instead of setting an ‘outcome goal’ focused where he finished on the leaderboard or how many sales he made, he set a process goal.
He KNEW he could control the number of emails he sent so, he created a ‘dedicated’ email address.
I think it was FtoF@Mattmcwilliams.com. (Free to Focus) So, we used that in all our promotional emails and then just automatically had those go to a folder. We had something like 784 emails in there. The next day I went into random.org, typed in 784, clicked on ‘generate random number’ and it pulled up the 407th email.
It took me like three minutes to run this contest!
Try and come up with contest ideas where there’s an element of randomness to it. Maybe 25 opt-ins or 25 registrations for a webinar. Even if you only have a hundred people on your list, you can probably get about 15-18 to register for a webinar.
From there, you just keep pecking away. Text a few friends and say, ‘Hey, are you interested in this?’ Maybe that gives you another four or five. Posting on Facebook could bring you another six or seven. Before you know it you’re over 25.
We’ve had people who literally had no list at all in the first launch that we ran for five days and they ended up with 25 sales and finished in the top 40 all from just texting and Facebook and instant messaging people.
Random draws are a powerful way to get people interested in your contest.
3. Deep Leaderboards
We’ve all seen Top 10 leaderboards right? That’s okay for some things.
But if you want your affiliate program RESULTS to soar, go Top 50.
Many times, I heard that having a deep leaderboard really got people fired up.
Stuff like, ‘I was in 39th place, but seeing my name, seeing my picture on the leaderboard was huge.’
Does it take a little bit of extra effort? Sure. But is it worth it?
We’ll do a picture leaderboard for the top 30, and then we’ll go as far down as is practically possible. They’ll see themselves in 63rd place and they’re like, “I just want to crack the Top 50. If you’re in 63rd place, what’s the difference between 63rd and 41st? Zip. But when you see you have a chance to slip inside the Top 50, it’s a motivator.
From your point of view, the more you engage people, the more they’ll respond.
And the numbers can add up fast.
Say you’re selling a $2000 product. If one person moved up 5 spots because they made an extra couple of sales, no biggie.
But what if 30 people moved up the leaderboard because they made an extra three sales?
That’s 90 more sales you may not have gotten without motivating them. That’s an extra $180,000 in revenue!
Say it’s a $100 product. Well then, maybe you get 50 people to move up.
There are many roads to the Great City.
And here’s another important factor that works in your favor. By constantly displaying a deeper leaderboard, people get to see their names in lights more often.
Would YOU ever get tired of seeing your name on a leaderboard? Of course you wouldn’t!
So, go deep with your leaderboard and watch the sales pile up.
BONUS TIP: Great conversions. Great copywriting. Knowing the right people. Having the right affiliates. All of those will add up to a successful affiliate program.
But FUN is the magic ingredient that will launch your affiliate program into the stratosphere!
Your affiliate programs should be fun – for you AND your affiliates.
Just because of who I am, I always made them fun. I sensed that my approach was a bit of a needle mover but I wasn’t really sure – until an unforgettable conversation I had.
I was talking to Kyle Young who was the operations manager for one of our clients.
And he said, “I want this launch to be so fun for our affiliates, that they’ll tell everyone about it and beg to promote it again.”
I thought, ‘Wow, that direct correlation between fun and results is real.”
In that particular launch, we kinda went overboard with the fun. But the more fun that we introduced, the better the results. We actually almost doubled our high-end goal for opt-ins during the launch. We more than doubled the opt-ins from the previous launch, the less fun one.
Obviously, there are more factors to a successful launch than just fun, but it definitely played a significant role.
The more fun we made, the more active the affiliates were and, most importantly, the more likely they were to promote in the future.
So how do you introduce FUN into your affiliate program?
Use Our “F.U.N.” Acronym as a Guide
“F”ocus on results:
While you want to amp up your affiliate “fun”meter, it’s important to have a clear result in mind.
Sure, have a laugh… but make sure you NEVER take your focus off the real goal: delivering results!
So the key here is to tie everything into a compelling call-to-action (CTA) for your affiliate. What do you want them to do? Mail about the webinars? Okay. Then make sure that the fun is tied to that.
Want them to start doing Facebook ads? Marry the fun to that. Maybe you want them to double their sales? Whatever you want them to do, make it clear that the action is the priority and ‘oh, by the way, here’s a fun way to do it.’
Be yourself. And, if sxazbeing yourself means boring and not fun, then be somebody else. 😁
I bought a T-shirt for Robby on our team. I think it was for his birthday. It was very unique.
On the front, it had ‘Always be yourself unless you can be John Galt… then be John Galt.’
Most of us have at least some semblance of humour. Right? So use it. If you have a dry sense of humour, be dry . If you’re sarcastic, be sarcastic. If you’re kind of goofy, be goofy.
Now, if none of the above are true and no one has EVER laughed at you in the past three years, then hire somebody to be funny.
Me? I kind of consider myself to be moderately funny. I think I have a decent sense of humor but I know when to bring in a professional.
And that’s what I did with a Jeff Goins launch a few years ago. I’m thinking…how can we announce these affiliate prizes in a fun way?
So I decided to hire a George W. Bush impersonator.
Hands down, my friend, John Morgan is the best George W. Bush impersonator out there. And a genuinely amazing guy. So we hired him to announce the affiliate sales prizes.
You can catch a sample clip of John’s “Dubya” impression here:
This video was hugely popular. Not only did it make people laugh, but it focused on results. It got people thinking about the prizes in a much more unique way than if I had just sent an email out or done a video of myself.
If you ever need a George W. Bush impersonator, check him out!
Sometimes you have to get a little crazy. A little goofy in the way you announce your prizes or the language you use in your emails. Don’t ignore this.
In fact, if you feel you need it, I officially hereby give you permission to be a goofball with your affiliates.
Here’s an example of an avatar Jeff created and shared in his affiliate Facebook group.
Keep in mind you need to be focused on results.
Nuttiness stands out. It gets attention. And it stands out in all the clutter.
Don’t forget…your affiliates are just like you. They are busy. Not lazy. They’re inboxes are jammed. They have slack channels blowing up. I’ve got 38 unread messages in slack right now. Those things are competing for my attention. If you want to break through to your affiliates, getting a little crazy might just be the way.
So to recap, make your program fun and your affiliates will remember it. Not only will they do better than expected, but they’ll also tell others.
Start thinking about how you can ‘fun up’ your affiliate program fun? What have you seen others do that makes it fun for people?
So that’s the first component of a successful affiliate program – run engaging contests, have fun and stay focused on results.
But keep in mind, there are two other important elements that make up successful affiliate programs.
You can have all the contests in the world but if you don’t nail these next two, you’re not going to get the results you want.
Let’s mush on…
Here’s the Big Daddy…COMMUNICATING with your affiliates.
And not just your big ones…ALL OF THEM!
I cannot stress the importance of having a communication plan with your affiliates.
You can download a free PDF of our communications plan template here.
This is the actual template that we give our affiliates to get them to mail more, promote more, and generate more sales.
It’s one thing to get your affiliates to promote your program…but it’s an entirely different thing to get them to mail 5, 10, 15, 20 times and go all out.
This template will help you to do that. We’ve been using it for years and can honestly say it will mean the difference between mediocre results and an affiliate program that generates superior results.
So what do you communicate? Take a look at the promo plan template.
See how it says on 1/27, we’re going to send the login and swipe for Monday. Then, on 1/28 that’s it’s being sent via email. So it’s got the channel, it’s got the email, subject line…
What’s the medium? What time are we sending it? Who’s it from? You wanna identify things like that.
Because it might not be just for me, we might send one from the client’s name, we might send one from you. It might be from my assistant or something. So who’s it from? What day of the week? What’s the date?
So we sent the login and swipe on that day. The next day we sent an email announcing the contest prizes. The following day, we’re going to post on Facebook and we’re going to announce a training webinar.
THEN we’re going to ask if they need anything going into next week. We’re going to remind them about the swipe copy and teach them how to use it.
Next, we’re going to keep going through this whole thing. We have a whole breakdown of everything we’re going to do to communicate with our affiliates day by day, starting months and months out.
Now, of course, the question is, what do you actually communicate with your affiliates?
The list is virtually endless so I’m going to walk you through a dozen or so of things that you can communicate:
1) Behind the Scenes Access
Let your affiliates come backstage. Give them a peek at what’s going on.
If you’re running a launch, let them in on how you prepare. If you’re shooting the videos for your pre-launch content, take your affiliates onto the set.
Give them exclusive access to what’s happening so they feel like an insider.
One of my favorite videos to do for our affiliates is when I’m on the set, recording the videos for the course or maybe for the pre-launch content, I’ll grab my selfie stick and just go for it with something like this:
“Hey guys…I’m on set and I just wanted you to get a look at what we’re doing here and thank you so much for your support.
We’re about two months from launch. I can’t wait. We’re really going to over-deliver for your audience. I can’t wait to serve them.”
I remember when I was recording and screwed up. I was SUPPOSED to say, “How do you promote affiliate products where it’s not slimy, salesy, or sleazy?”
While I’m doing this, I’m standing in front of my wife who is operating the teleprompter and recording and I say, ‘I’m like, ‘how do you do affiliate marketing without being slam sammy’
Take two. ‘How do you do affiliate marketing without being slamming your sites?’
It took me seven takes to get close! She’s cracking up and I can’t stop laughing.
I think it ended up at 10 or 12 takes for me to get through slimy, salesy, or sleazy and when I did, I was so excited at the end that I had to stop.
I was like, ‘Yeah, I got through that. Okay. We can cut to the next thing.’
We shared the B roll with our affiliates because it was super funny.
2) Lots and Lots of Videos
Don’t just send your affiliates email updates and texts.
Leverage the power of videos.
Like we did when we recorded a video and simply said “Hey, we’re super excited about this affiliate promotion and we’re really glad that you’re on board.”
In fact, I’m going to share the transcript from one of the videos that we did for our launch a year ago.
See if you can get a sense of how it would jumpstart interest and motivate affiliates.
Hey guys, real quick. I just wanted to give you guys quick updates. I know, as I said this morning, over 13,000 total opt-ins. This is awesome and had a lot of sales coming in. So that was fun. And gosh, what else we got going on?
Yeah. So I wanted to share with you guys the PDF that’s coming out tomorrow. It’s called Affiliate Marketing Sales Secrets. How to sell without being salesy, scammy, or sleazy. (YIKES! I can’t escape this!)
You guys should have seen me. I told Mark that I want to get the outtakes at some point and share them with you guys. Because the part where I say that took like nine takes. So I finally got it right.
We talk about the limiting beliefs about why conventional wisdom is wrong.
As I say here, ‘the biggest limiting belief that holds people back from success with affiliate marketing is the belief that affiliate marketing is salesy, sleazy or scammy.’ Hey, got it right. And we cover the five secrets of sales masters, and a lot of this comes from the great Zig Ziglar.
I quote him throughout the PDF and talking about secret number one, that to sell effectively, you’ve got to have passion and belief or you won’t sell anything at all.
Make sure you go download that PDF and check it out. It’s in the partner center grab your swipe and mail tomorrow because this one’s going to be one of the best ones yet.
3) Hammer Home The Dates
You cannot mention the dates enough. If there’s a promo for a launch coming up, hammer home the date.
Every email you send MUST include a reminder of the dates.
Remember that behind-the-scenes video I mentioned earlier I close with, ‘Hey, just remember guys, the promotion kicks off May 30th’. I’m constantly reminding them about the dates.
4) Create a Commitment Plan
We used to call these promo plans. Not anymore. Now we call them commitment plans – plans where you really want to spell things out for your affiliates.
You need to tell them when they should mail. When they should share. Guess what? When you create a detailed plan for them, they will follow it.
There’s a motivating force behind the word commitment.
The reason for that is a couple of years ago, we found we were running a promotion and I don’t know why, but I started calling it a commitment plan and people started using them more.
They started actually implementing what we put in the plan more. Psychologically it kind of makes sense, right? It’s a commitment that they’ve made.
Again, if you want to get a template of a communication plan from an affiliate perspective, you can get it here. It’s the same one that we use if you’re an affiliate manager and you’re going to give it to affiliates. The same exact plan. This version is simply just geared toward the affiliates.
The impact of this key sales tool has been invaluable.
If they say they’re gonna mail on Saturday the eighth, they mail on Saturday the eighth. If they say they’re going to post or do a Facebook live on Monday the 10th, they do a Facebook live on Monday, the 10th.
Pretty cool huh?
When you download the Commitment Plan template, there’s a spot to put your logo, who it’s for, and the dates. And, it’s color-coded so you change the colors to whatever you want.
5) Announce Contests and Prizes
Nothing gets people more excited than finding out what the prizes are.
I touched on this earlier in this post when I talked about contests and prizes.
You want to make a big deal of this when you announce contests and prizes.
In fact, I’m going to dive a little deeper here into this to cover some things I didn’t get to – like, types of prizes.
First off, there are two types of prizes: fixed and incremental.
The fixed prize is where someone is winning it – no matter what. This is risky when you’re starting off.
I don’t recommend fixed prizes and here’s why…
Whether the fixed prizes are top 5, top 10, or top 20 prizes, 10 prizes, top prizes, top 20 prizes, here’s the problem: You might be paying the first prize of $20,000 to somebody who only makes eight sales. Unless you’re offering a high-priced $10,000+ product, that sucks.
Incremental prizes are the way to go. Basically, the more sales they make, the more prizes they win.
If it’s your first contest, make the lower threshold prize level three or five. Then you can use increments of 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and so on, depending upon the prize.
For example, if it’s a $7 product, you may want to make the first prize level 10. Then 50, 250, or something like that. When we’re talking about anything over a hundred bucks, that’s kind of a good breakdown. Then you make those prizes about 7% of the value of the product on up to as high as 10%.
So start off with incremental prizes.
6) Share Testimonials
This is super important. When you get a particularly awesome testimonial, sharing it in your Facebook group is a great way to make them feel like what they’re doing is having an impact.
Make sure that you do this. If there’s a testimonial that comes in, jump on it. They are so powerful.
And when you get a testimonial, look up and see who referred them and then send it to them.
Like if Joe sends an affiliate lead and that lead buys, and then that person says, “Oh my gosh, this was amazing.”
Then make sure that you share that with affiliates. Share that with Joe. We got some testimonials a while back when we shared them with our affiliates, they were just blown away, absolutely blown away.
So share those testimonials. This is super important.
7) Use the Mail
One of the things I highly recommend is to stop relying on email and Facebook. Periodically send affiliates something in the mail. This is always popular with affiliates.
We haven’t done this with all of our clients, but we do something like a quarterly physical newsletter.
It’s basically four pages. One side is the mailing information, so there’s really nothing on there. That actually makes it three pages of printed content. It costs 50 cents to print and just postage to mail. It costs about $1.50 a person. You have a thousand affiliates, it cost you 1500 bucks. Sending them something in the mail really gets people excited.
For your bigger affiliates, you could do something extra special. The list is endless, just do something special for them. One of my favorite gifts I ever got was a custom-made Lego set.
And it was me. In fact, it was from Pete Vargas and he made two of them, one with glasses and one without, because I kind of go 50/50 on wearing my glasses. He sent me two versions of them, a Batman and a Superman. It had my custom-made Lego head and I thought it was so cool.
There are all types of things you can do as far as mailings that you can do to really move the needle. The important thing is – get creative, be consistent, and break the mold.
8) ALWAYS be on the lookout for Excuses To Mail (ETMs).
What are some of these ETM excuses to mail? What are some of the reasons why we would reach out to affiliates months in advance? What are we going to even communicate?
Well, testimonials and success stories “Hey, just wanted to let you know We had an amazing success story from somebody today. Thought I’d share it with you. Go check it out. A little quick three-minute video that talks about how this person used this product and how it changed their lives.”
By the way, remind them in these emails of launch start dates. Keep reminding them to keep planning the dates. Planning the dates. Planning the dates.
If you do a video where you share the story, wear a shirt like Stu does that has the start date on it and it keeps reminding them. Educate them. Share what’s working.
If you promote an affiliate offer and something works, just record a quick three, four-minute video and say, “Hey, this is what worked for me. Just thought I’d share it with you. You can apply it to our promotion, but also you can apply it to other promotions.”
9) Make sure you start a Facebook group and update it often.
You can post a countdown to the launch every week. Do that up until about 10 days before the launch and then go daily. You want to do multiple updates per day during a big promotion. Did I mention making it fun?
I remember we did this thing on the first day of the launch. It was like “post your launch face.” Everyone took selfies. We had 50 people there.
Insider Tip: your entire objective is to keep your stuff front and center – and top of mind.
10) Remember the Affiliate Golden Rule: Commitment and Consistency.
Think about it. If I asked you for your picture, wouldn’t you be a little bit more excited about the prospect of being on the leaderboard? Maybe you might go a little bit more out of your way to make sure that you end up on that leaderboard.
Ask if they need anything. This is simple and yet so powerful.
For example, if your launch starts on a Tuesday (I don’t recommend starting on a Monday), on Friday, you can send an email saying, ‘Hey, we’re heading into the weekend. I just wanted to check. Do you need anything for next week?’
It’s like a two-sentence email that generates a lot of responses. As a matter of fact, “I do. Nope. I’m good. I’m set up. I’m locked and loaded. I’m ready, Matt.” Okay, cool. Either way, either response is great.
And don’t be shy about asking for referrals.
11) Asking affiliate for referrals is the #1 way to get new affiliates.
So there you have it. This is only a starter list of what and how to communicate.
People ask me how often they should email their affiliates? How often should they post to Facebook? How often should they mail them?
The answer is very simple….a lot!
As I mentioned, the biggest mistake I see affiliate managers make is not communicating enough.
In our average 17-day launch sequence, we have 46 emails during and a typical launch. You’ll get about 75 emails from us over the course of seven months or so.
We’ll probably post a hundred Facebook updates. I mean, that’s a lot of stuff.
But this is what gets those small affiliates engaged and helps you create this awesome army of promotional partners which is what you want.
And it doesn’t have to be super time-consuming. You can do this in about an hour a day. Maybe during your launch, it’ll take you a little bit more.
The key is to communicate, communicate, communicate.
Now, on to the final ingredient in the formula to create a successful affiliate plan.
Okay, here we are at the final piece of the successful affiliate program puzzle…COACHING.
I’ve talked a bit about how you should teach your affiliates. How to host a productive training session. How you should create and send cheat sheets.
But I didn’t really go into very much detail.
So…pull in your chair because I’m going to give you some key tips and strategies about this extremely important element of your overall affiliate program.
The right contest can lift sales by 10, 15, or maybe even 20% with the right contest. You can lift sales, certainly, 20, 25% with the right communication.
However, with the right training and coaching, you can boost sales by a whopping 40%.
Our strategy involves a couple of key strategies. We motivate a bunch of small affiliates to make 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 sales. And we showed affiliates who would’ve made a hundred sales how to boost that to an additional 25 – 50 incremental sales.
That’s a lot of incremental cash!
And it’s all due to proper coaching.
Training affiliates so they can be as productive as possible means showing them best practices, walking through the calendar with them, and making sure they understand it
These aren’t super-advanced affiliate sales techniques. They’re the basics.
If you want to know the 10 secrets to closing more sales in affiliate promos that you can share with your affiliates then go listen to my podcast series here where I shared all ten.
Even though I am talking specifically with a client in the episode, you’ll be able to get the idea.
Teach them what’s working for you. If you ran a particular ad and it worked, share it with your affiliates. Do strategy calls with them. Get involved.
We give our clients worksheets they can actually go through on their own but it’s much more powerful and compelling when we get together with them to share strategies.
You don’t have to be the one who’s doing all the training.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you just HOSTING a strategy call. After sharing a couple of ideas, simply say, ‘Hey, why don’t you share an idea?”
Your affiliates will respond. Before you know it you have 15 ideas!
Here’s what I recommend:
About six weeks to two and a half months before the affiliate promo, host a big training. Make it into an event. You could even do this three months in advance.
Let them know some basic strategies about affiliate promos.
For example, how do they find their affiliate link? Where can they grab login information? How should they use swipe copy?
You walk them through all of that and then, starting about two months out, hold a weekly strategy call.
Especially now that you’re a ZOOM expert!
That way, you can all be there and see each other.
It’s your affiliate classroom.
You’re in a virtual room together and you’re going to present to them and share valuable strategies and how-tos with them…
This is your opportunity to walk through some of the stuff that they can do to promote and THEN…you open it for Q and A where you can mastermind together.
And like I said, nothing says you have to do all the teachings.
Again, when you train them, you’re also coaching them.
If you’re not sure how to do an affiliate training or have never done one before, click the image below to get access to the replay and the exact slides I recently used to train affiliates for one of our coaching clients.
And that’s the third and final component that makes for a successful affiliate program…
CONTESTS + COMMUNICATION + COACHING = SUCCESS!
Creating a successful affiliate program doesn’t have to be super complicated.
Follow this PROVEN formula (3 Secrets of Successful Affiliate Programs) and you’ll get superior results with your affiliate program.