How to Grow Your Online Course Business with Affiliate Marketing

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Affiliate marketing is a great way to boost your business if you offer courses online. In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett tells how to grow your online course business with affiliate marketing.

If you’re not familiar with it, affiliate marketing is a system that allows other entities to earn a commission by funneling paying customers your way. An affiliate receives a unique link that identifies them. It feeds into a tracking system so that customers who visit your site via that link and pay for your product generate a reward for that affiliate.

Incentivizing others to do marketing for you expands the reach of your marketing and increases your income. They share their link through a variety of channels including email, social media and blog comments. Your result is an average revenue increase of 15% to 40% depending on your model.

Our LifterLMS course development platform integrates with two affiliate management systems: AffiliateWP and iDevAffiliate. AffiliateWP is a plugin that resides on your WordPress website and ties into your checkout. You set up affiliate commission structures and accounts, and they get their own dashboard. In contrast, iDevAffiliate is a hosted solution that remotely serves your website, handles your affiliate accounts, tracks customer activity, and processes commissions.

Before beginning affiliate marketing you should know there’s no guarantee it will significantly boost your traffic and conversion rates. However, if you invest time and recruit a diverse group of good affiliates your results will be greater – especially if you can attract super affiliates.

Super affiliates are seasoned experts who know what they’re doing and have a track record to prove it. You’ll want to look for the ones working in your niche and reward them well with up to a 50% share of the revenue they bring you. If you consider that’s revenue you wouldn’t otherwise have, then they’re worth the commission.

You may also join with businesses that serve your same target market but offer a different service or product from yours. They become your affiliate, and you become theirs. You can also achieve a triple win if they provide quality and incentives, you provide quality and incentives, and the end customer is happy with both of you. This way you collaborate without being in competition.

You’re more likely to be successful with affiliate marketing if you’re already active and teaching students. Knowing how to grow your online course business with affiliate marketing can really help you promote and expand your current eLearning business.

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Episode Transcript

Hello, welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about how to grow an online courses business through affiliate marketing.

Now, if you’re new to affiliate marketing all it is it’s a system and a way of rewarding affiliates with your other people or businesses that promote your courses or your memberships with some commission based reward that only happens when those people actually do some marketing that creates a sale. Now, what kind of marketing are we talking about?

Well, when you become an affiliate you get a unique link that ties into some tracking mechanism. Then somebody clicks on that link and then goes buys a product it’s recorded that that course purchase was generated to this link or from this affiliate. At LifterLMS we’re an affiliate ready platform – we integrate with AffiliateWP. Then there’s another third party platform that built an integration with us called, iDevAffiliate. Go check those out if you’re a LifterLMS user and using that to sell online courses, and you want to add your affiliate program.

Essentially, just to tie it all together, affiliate marketing it’s just another way to grow your income and to get other people marketing on your behalf so it grows your marketing effort. You’re incentivizing other people to market on your behalf through posting their affiliate links through your courses in their emails. Let’s say they have a mailing list, or in social media like on Facebook or Twitter, or in a comment on whatever social network. Those are all different channels for affiliate marketing.

One of the questions that people often ask when they’re just getting started is, “How much more income can I expect to get as a percentage of overall revenue if I commit to and explore affiliate marketing?” Well, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. The answer truly is that it depends on … You could get affiliate as a percentage of total revenue could go from 0% to 100% of your revenue it just depends on your model. In a lot of cases that I’ve seen people grow their revenue in the neighborhood at somewhere on average between 15% and 40% of their sales or through an affiliate channel. That’s just what I’ve seen loosely by looking at a lot of people doing affiliate marketing. A lot of the affiliate marketing I’ve done myself with all my courses and that sort of thing.

How do you get started in affiliate marketing? Well, the first thing you need to do is: If you want to attract affiliates you need to get an affiliate management system. If you’re using LifterLMS you should check out our AffiliateWP integration so that’s one thing. Then there’s the iDevAffiliate integration and just come on over to LMS Cast and we’ll have links to those so you can find out more information about that. AffiliateWP is a WordPress plugin that gives you an affiliate management system so it brings an affiliate system right on to your WordPress website right there.

It’s another plugin that sits in there besides LifterLMS and ties into the LifterLMS checkout. That you can create affiliate counts and users can have a dashboard. You as the owner of your site can define different affiliate percentages or commission structures like, “I want to offer affiliates 50% revenue share or a 30% revenue share.” Those affiliates need a way to log in to their affiliate account and see how they’re doing. That’s how AffiliateWP works which is made by Pippins Plugins. It is a great well respected WordPress plugin in development business.

iDevAffiliate is a little different. It’s more of a hosted solution that lives somewhere else. You create an affiliate system over there, you send your affiliates there to log in and create user accounts and get their affiliate links and download various creative that you put there for them to use like banner ads and things like that. Check out iDevAffiliate they do have an option where you can host it on your own server instead of getting into their monthly recurring fee for a higher one-time fee. Again, it’s still a separate place to manage affiliates.

If you want to become an affiliate and promote the LifterLMS products that are paid, you can do that on our site and you’ll notice that we do that currently through a third party called ShareASale. If I was running an online courses website, I would seriously check out AffiliateWP so I could have that all in one place. Affiliates would just be another user on my website that can manage all that affiliate stuff. Just wanted to walk you through the user experience of how an affiliate works and how if you really want to grow your revenue through the affiliate channel, there’s a bunch of things you need to consider. I wanted to spell some common misconceptions upfront that you need to address head on.

That first one is: If you build it they will come. Just because you’re creating an affiliate system it doesn’t mean people are going to magically find your affiliate program and start signing up and your sales are just going to blossom from there. You need to invest time, you need to recruit affiliates. I recommend actively recruiting affiliates. You can write a blog post about your affiliate program. You can reach out to your existing user base see if any of them are interested in becoming affiliates. Most importantly what you want to do is you want to reach out and recruit what are known as super affiliates.

A super affiliate is someone who’s experienced in affiliate marketing hopefully in your niche. They just know what to do, they have a track record, they’re full-time affiliates, that’s how they make majority of their income. They may have a team with them to help with whatever affiliate campaign they’re going to do around your courses and memberships. You want to find those super affiliates these are people who are not new to affiliate marketing and are already showing success in your niche and your industry. I would encourage you to avoid the, “If you build it they will come.”

The other thing I recommend is especially in the digital world, it’s important to really reward affiliates. If your course is a digital course and even if it includes some live components and it’s going to include your time, I recommend that you be very generous with affiliates. It’s not uncommon to have a 50% revenue share where you’re giving away half of the income to the affiliate for bringing that customer to you. Now, in a lot of cases that’s the customer you would have never seen anyways. What’s wrong with losing out on half of the income there?

It’s really important and you want to really incentivize those affiliates. When you offer 50% on an expensive course, say you have a $100 or a $500 or even a $1,000 course, that’s a lot of money. The affiliates would be really interested in earning an extra $250 to $500 for getting an extra conversion for you. Think about attracting those super affiliates, think about rewarding them handsomely and just being open to having an affiliate program as a way to grow your base.

The other important thing about affiliate marketing is that you want to have a diverse group of affiliates. When you’re promoting your affiliate program you really want to keep reaching out and seeing who you can find in your industry and have an open mind. I always try to steer the conversation away from competition to collaboration. You don’t necessary want to go after someone who’s a competitor to a direct competitor of yours and invite them to your affiliate program.

Let’s say you have a course on starting a business like a business or entrepreneurship course. You might want to reach out to somebody who’s also serving the new business owner niche. For example, let’s say a company that provides legal help with forming an LLC or an S Corporation. They might be interested in becoming affiliate to share your course. You share the same customer but you’re not necessarily direct competitors to each other. It’s important to look at other businesses that are serving your same customer so that there’s just a natural win-win situation there.

Just to talk a little bit more about affiliate marketing in creating what I call ‘The Triple Win’. A really great strategy is when you’re doing affiliate marketing in creating systems and programs, you want to make it so that everybody wins that’s what it’s all about. Let me give you an example: Whenever you’re building an online course or looking into affiliate program, you want to always make sure that the end user, the end learner, is winning. It’s the most important thing. The best marketing is a really happy customer or a student.

When you’re doing that you want to … If you’re just giving your course … If you’re course is just good that through affiliates you’re able to reach more people and change more lives, that by itself it’s a wonderful thing. That’s a win there. You can also do a coupon so that’s tied a specific affiliate like you can do that with the LifterLMS AffiliateWP integration. What you do is let’s say there’s an affiliate who has an email list with the type of people who are your ideal students. This person with this email list puts on a webinar, invites you to speak. You come there and you do a presentation about something in your niche or giving away value for free which again makes the potential customer gives them a win. It makes the affiliate look good because you’re providing free value.

Then at the end of that webinar presentation, you offer people a 25% discount on your course. You give them a coupon code. That coupon code is tied directly to reward that affiliate who invited you on the show. You can see all the different ways that the end user is winning even they clicked it, you see affiliate coupon and go through the transaction. They’re getting a discount, they’re getting free information. The affiliate is winning because you’re bringing value to his platform and to his audience and you’re also creating a new revenue stream. People start converting on your offer for your course, your membership. There’s affiliate income for that affiliate. Then you of course win because you’re getting more people on your platform, getting more revenue and just really expanding in that way.

That’s a little bit more of an advance take on affiliate marketing but affiliate is a really important marketing strategy for promoting your online course platform. I recommend that you don’t start with affiliate marketing as your way to build your initial student base. Affiliates are going to want to know, especially the good ones, that you’re already have some success through your own marketing and promotion efforts and your platform is already active and has students. Once you get rolling and you’re starting to get sales and you’re looking to grow your online course business platform, the affiliate channel is a great avenue to look into as way to grow your base.

That’s it for this episode of LMScast. You can reach me on Twitter, @ChrisBadgett. Again, head on over to and find this episode about affiliate marketing and we’ll have links to some systems that you can check out that also happen to work with LifterLMS. All right, thank you.

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