You know about affiliate programs for companies like Amazon, but today I’m taking you behind the scenes of affiliate programs that may be a little less familiar.
Listen to Episode 56!
Ever gotten three (or five or fifteen) emails in the same day or week letting you know about the same free webinar/book/video training? Friends, you are in the throes of an affiliate program. You just might not know it. Want to go behind the scenes of affiliate programs? I do! I do!
Behind the Scenes of Affiliate Programs
Different Kinds of Affiliate Programs
As you may know, there are a lot of affiliate programs out there. The most familiar kinds are those with companies like Amazon, where you apply to be an affiliate and then at any time can use your affiliate links to promote products and receive a commission if someone buys that (or any) product after clicking through your links. They could click through a link for your favorite book and then realize they need dog food instead and you get a commission.
Other programs like ConvertKit (my FAVORITE affiliate program) is more specific. Someone has to sign up for a specific thing through your specific link. Each program has a different payout. Most are a one-time fee. ConvertKit is a 30% commission of all people that sign up under you, every month. (Sound good? Read more about ConvertKit.)
These programs work through distinct links and cookies, which track in ways I don’t understand because I’m not tech-y. Essentially until or unless people clear their cookies or the cookie expires, after someone clicks through, the sale will be tracked and you get a commission. Woot!
With some of these larger launch programs (which I’ll dive deeper into next), there is a lifetime cookie that does not expire. So for the affiliates in these programs, they just need someone to click through one time. Which allows these programs to do something smart.
Free Bonus to Paid Product
The lifetime cookie means that some larger affiliate programs and launches can think outside the box. What this typically looks like is a free book, video series, webinar, or other neat product. Many virtual summits work this way. You will see a link or receive an email about the cool free product, but when you click the link, a cookie is attached. If you EVER purchase the upsell that inevitably follows the free product or another related course, book, or package, the person who introduced you to the free product gets paid.
This works well because sales are more effective when they aren’t just tossed at you. Would you be more interested in a course if you were simply given a link to a sales page OR a free video training that gave great information before being given a link to a sales page?
What about Disclosure?
Exactly. What about it? Well, for the most part, people tend to ignore the disclosure part until linking to the paid part of the product. So for the free products, there is no disclosure. Someone could send you an email with a product they just really like OR an affiliate product.
I don’t like that.
It’s odd– I’m not always a rule follower. Not at all. But some things really get me when people color outside the lines. Disclosure is one of those.
I think it’s all about trust. I lose trust in people when they aren’t up front. I talk a lot about this in Episode 33 about disclosure. I’m not opposed to affiliate links or buying through them, especially for people I support, but I don’t want people trying to sell me affiliate products without telling me they are affiliate products. It feels…gross. SMARMY, even. And you know I’m anti-smarm.
Let me be clear: I feel very strongly that these free products need to be disclosed. It’s awkward because they are free, but STILL.
If there is a cookie involved, there should be disclosure. If there is a potential payment involved, there should be disclosure.
Unsure what should be disclosed? This epic post about disclosure and the FTC written by Rae Hoffman of Sugar Rae will explain it all. In detail. Check under the compensation section, number three to read why you’ll want to disclose even the free-to-paid-product model of affiliate sales. This is the most comprehensive post I’ve read on disclosure and with the FTC cracking down on multiple companies this year, it’s a good idea to know how to be above reproach. For the trust of your audience AND for the sake of legality.
How Do They Work?
Typically, you need a software and/or a manager to make this easier. I know that a lot of people use Infusionsoft for this and since it’s a tool I don’t use, I can’t really speak to it. There are also affiliate plugins for WordPress that will work with WooCommerce, so if you’re interested in running this kind of lifetime cookie affiliate program, you can check out something like Affiliate WP. Bryan Harris of VideoFruit wrote a big post about affiliate programs if you want more details from someone who has run a large program like this.
I hope this is enlightening as far as affiliate programs and how they work for launches! Questions? Thoughts? Worked on a big launch and want to add your note? Leave a comment below!
James Begley says
The ugly truth of affiliate marketing is that, some people making huge amount of money and still some people are struggling, no doubt. I appreciate your honest review.
Thank you for sharing, this is helpful for the beginners.
Hi Kristen, Yes, your article was very enlightening for me. Thank you. Affiliate programs have so many components, and the one that is rarely touched on is affiliate disclosure. Excellent information for me to follow.