Passive income. It’s the holy grail of online business, the dream every entrepreneur chases.
But passive income isn’t just one plan or income stream. It’s made up of several different types of cash flowing into your business, and one of the most popular is affiliate sales.
Promoting products and services through affiliate programs allows you to:
- Earn cash without having to write books, create courses, or do any of the heavy lifting associated with product development
- Get paid for sharing valuable resources with your readers, fans and clients
- Earn recurring income thanks to cookies (little pieces of data) and ongoing referral tracking
Imagine referring a client to a product such as my friend, Matt McWilliams new free eBook, Affiliate Freedom: The Quick Start Guide To Making Money Online Without Creating a Product.
If and when she makes a purchase, you get paid. But even better, because of ongoing referral tracking, the next time she makes a purchase—even if you haven’t made another promotion—you’ll get paid for that as well! That is the power of affiliate marketing, and why it’s such a big part of your passive income plan.
Of course, you can’t just start signing up and dropping links everywhere.
Well, you can, but you won’t have a lot of success.
Instead, you’ll want to put some thought and planning into your affiliate promotions, so that you can provide your audience with relevant resources they need and want, and so that you can grow your passive income as well.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Before you get started though, let’s talk for a minute about affiliate programs.
Not all are created equal, so when you’re researching options, be very careful to thoroughly read the terms of service.
You want to fully understand how sales are tracked, how long cookies last and when payment is made and any payout thresholds that exist.
If something isn’t clear, reach out to the program manager before you begin promoting. It’s frustrating to make sales and not be paid due to a misunderstanding of the fine print, so take the time to do this first.
Step 1: Set Up The Infrastructure
You can get started with promoting affiliate offers quickly—all it takes is to sign up for a program, grab your link, and start sharing.
But if you take the time to correctly set up your infrastructure, you’ll find it’s much easier to:
- Collect data (so you know what’s working well in the workbook above)
- Promote products on the fly (without having to log in to an affiliate center and hunt down a link every time you want to share a resource)
- Change your mind about what you’re promoting (especially important when companies change their offers)
You don’t have to spend a lot of time or energy on this either. There are just a couple of pieces you need:
- A way to create branded short links
- A way to track your results
There are a number of ways to create branded short links. You can purchase a domain just to house your affiliate links, such as www.yournamelikes.com or www.yournamehelps.me.
From there you can either install software such as YOURLS (open source and free, but a little techy to install).
Yet another option—if you’re running a WordPress site—is to install a plugin such as Pretty Links.
Both the free and paid versions of this plugin give you unlimited link redirects, allowing you to turn ugly, long affiliate links into more clickable short links.
And make no mistake, short links are more clickable. Think about it. Which are you more likely to click on, this:
Clearly, the second link, which is shorter and readable will earn many more clicks than that scary looking long one.
The second goal of your affiliate marketing infrastructure is tracking.
You need a way to track the number of clicks your links receive, and while any good affiliate program will give you this information, it’s nice to have it in a handy dashboard where you can compare programs.
Any of the paid platforms or plugins will provide this information, and allow you to see, for example, which of the hosting companies you recommend receive more clicks.
Note: It is not a good idea to rely on unbranded link shorteners such as bit.ly or goo.gl. While these services are convenient, the links are often seen as spammy, and the service can vanish, leaving you with hundreds of broken links to track down and fix.
Step 2: Start With The Products You Use And Love
Now that you have the infrastructure in place, it’s time to start thinking about what products and services you’ll promote.
For most business owners, that starts with the products you’re already using. Here’s why:
- You know the pros and cons of them and can speak about them with authority
- You’re already a fan—and fans make better evangelists than anyone else
- Buyers will trust your recommendations knowing that you use the product
Think about the coaches and mentors you follow online.
You’ve likely seen them promoting affiliate products. You may have even purchased some of them. And by far the most effective promotions are those that maintain their authenticity.
You’re more likely to click-through to find out more about a product or service if the email or blog post is authentic and transparent, sharing not only the good but also the bad.
Here’s another reason to begin with the products you’re already using: chances are good that your ideal audience needs them, too.
For example, if you’re a business coach and one of the marketing strategies you share with your clients is to create free webinars to grow their mailing list, this is likely a technique you’ve used yourself. That means you have a preferred:
- Landing page creators such as LeadPages or Instapage (my new fav!)
- Webinar hosting solution (I always recommend BlueHost)
- Mailing list providers, like ConvertKit or the free MailerLite
Promoting these to your clients and fans is a natural, easy fit. In fact, making recommendations of this sort is more about helping your readers than it is about making a sale.
Step 3: Research Complementary Products
What other resources does your idea client need?
Complementary products and services are handy to have as well, whether you’re a business coach, a health coach, a freelancer or a service provider.
Think about the strategies and solutions you most often recommend to your clients.
- What other help will they need to make use of your ideas? Using the example above of a business coach recommending free webinars for list building, your client may want to run Facebook ads to drive traffic to her webinar. If you’re not an expert, this is an ideal complementary training you can promote. All it takes is to find a valuable training program with an affiliate program, and you can add to your revenue stream while helping your clients.
The list of possibilities for complementary products is endless, and you can find dozens simply by searching for [product] + “affiliate program” in Google.
A few options to consider are:
- WordPress themes and plugins
- Business training
- Facebook ads training
- Graphics programs
- Service providers (Virtual Assistants, Online Business Managers, copywriters, etc.)
- Other coaches in different fields than you
- Templates and checklists
- Web hosting
- Project management systems
- File sharing programs
- Social media tools
- Shopping carts
- Payment processors
Step 4: Review Your Autoresponder Series For Opportunities
Your mailing list is the ideal place to make affiliate offers.
Since the majority of people on your list are likely not buyers but instead are seeking information, it’s the perfect chance for you to share your best resources with them—both your products and affiliate promotions.
If you have existing autoresponders, now is a good time to read through them looking for opportunities.
For example, if you have a series of emails that promote your group coaching program, what happens to subscribers who get to the end without purchasing? For most online businesses, these subscribers are simply lumped into a segment to be sent the occasional broadcast message.
But what if instead, you move them into another sequence that promotes your competitor’s program?
Perhaps these subscribers, like the potential clients in step 4, simply don’t resonate with you. They might find Betty Business Coach a better fit, and you would be doing them a disservice by not introducing them to her programs.
Look for related product placements as well. If you send an email with instructions for setting up a new website, you should also link out to your preferred hosting provider, WordPress theme developer, and any important plugins you recommend.
The same goes for any actionable content—if you’re asking your readers to do something, be sure you’re also sharing the tools they’ll need to get the job done.
You can also create an entire autoresponder series around affiliate promotions! People love to know how others run their business, manage their time, organize their household, budget their money, and any number of other tasks.
Create a downloadable resource guide with affiliate links to your recommended tools, then set up a landing page to collect addresses.
In your email follow-up series, you can dig deep into each tool, explaining what it is, why you like it, and any tips you have for making it work better.
And of course, you’ll populate these emails with your affiliate links.
You’ll grow your list AND generate some passive income as well!
Remember to grab your free copy of my favorite affiliate manager, Matt McWilliams, new eBook, Affiliate Freedom: The Quick Start Guide To Making Money Online Without Creating a Product. It is awesome!