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157 – How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

157 – How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

In this episode, we share our initial misconceptions and how our mindset shifted in a different direction when it comes to affiliate marketing.
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Listen to our full episode on How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player.

Five Key Takeaways for How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

1. Two types of affiliate marketing and why we avoided it for so long

Affiliate marketing can be categorized into two types: There’s 1️⃣ affiliate marketing for other products, which you may have noticed or already use in your tools page, your links, YouTube description boxes, etc. We think this can be a great, fairly simple, (small) passive income source. Then there is 2️⃣ affiliate marketing for your own offer and program, which is what we’re going to talk about.

We avoided affiliate marketing for so long because it used to feel icky, for us, in the same way selling can feel. For Caroline, first and foremost, she thinks affiliate marketing gets conflated with Multi-Level Marketing (or MLMs 🤮). However, the two biggest differences we see between affiliate marketing and MLMs are that (1) MLMs make their money primarily on their “downlines” and the products are usually not very good, while the type of affiliate marketing we prefer and use within WAIM has real tangible value and, we would argue, as a product is vastly underpriced. Another difference is that (2) there is no multi-level piece to our affiliate system! It’s really just customer referrals.

For me (Jason), the terms “affiliate marketing” and “referral network” seem so different although they are the same thing. I avoided it and didn’t like it at first because of the websites that use it poorly where it’s just a page with a lot of affiliate links and ads all over the place and you don’t really get an answer to the question you’re searching for.

For Caroline, especially, affiliate marketing felt like it had to be this big program and production. This goes back to our “good enough” podcast episode and making it bigger and better than it needs to be when you’re getting started. If you think about it, you simply need a referral link.

2. How our views have changed on having an affiliate program

We think of affiliate marketing now as a decision to pay affiliate commissions rather than Facebook [Meta] ads. We would rather use our “ad budget” to pay back our community and we, in total, have paid them $166,422 so far. For us, everybody wins. We get a marketing engine and our members benefit by getting recurring income, which serves our bigger mission of helping people use online business as a means of living a better, more fulfilling life, whatever that looks like for them. Also, we decided if we were going to do have our own affiliate program for WAIM, we want to be more generous than most so we offer 40% lifetime commissions.

We believe there’s lower risk in having our community be our affiliates rather than something like Facebook ads because we’re paying someone who knows our community values and they are probably sharing those with their audience when they bring someone into our community. This helps keep our culture pre-qualified. We love that we can focus on the product itself of WAIM and that trickles into customer satisfaction, which trickles into members wanting to share it and talk about its awesomeness.

3. How our affiliate program works, the tools we use, and our numbers so far

We sell WAIM Unlimited twice per year, in the Spring and in the Fall. For our affiliates, we basically do a month to a month and a half lead-up time to get them prepared to promote WAIM. We have a whole schedule of emails that go out that mention best practices if you’re going to do a bonus to promote WAIM during our launch. We try to make sure that people get multiple touch points and multiple reminders that you can’t just send one email or post one time on Instagram and think that you’re going to have someone be convinced to buy a $2,000 product. We also make it very clear that if you don’t want to get our affiliate emails, you can simply click a link and you won’t receive emails about being an affiliate for WAIM anymore.

Our membership is run on Restrict Content Pro (aff link), which is a WordPress plugin that allows our members to get an account and have restricted access to different pages on our site. There’s a second plugin called Affiliate WP (aff link) that connects with Restrict Content Pro and then gives our customers permissions to be an affiliate, create an affiliate link, and have an affiliate dashboard to look at where they can set up their affiliate account and how they get paid. They plug in their bank account and then they have links that they can generate and they can see their stats, clicks on their link, and conversions. From the inception of this affiliate program, we’ve done a 30-day rolling payout, which means we wait 30 days before we pay someone out manually to verify the affiliates that we’re paying and then submit the payments.

Our numbers in the last two years:

4. How our affiliate program experience has evolved

We mentioned this whole “good enough” idea and how it gave us permission to not get overwhelmed by building a team to do an affiliate marketing program for WAIM. When our members finally asked us if we have affiliate links for WAIM in 2020, we sat down and looked into Affiliate WP. It was a challenge to set up and think through the bank account part of it, but we got past that hurdle to finally get it set up.

Then we thought about how we were going to make it easy for our members to be affiliates and promote WAIM. We asked ourselves about the experience that they would have as affiliates and we had the idea of creating some Google docs to guide, inform, and remind them of WAIM’s benefits, values, details, etc. This was 2020 when Notion wasn’t hugely prevalent for us yet. We did the Google Docs version for four or five launches, and only in our Fall 2022 launch did we get frustrated with the experience of the Google Docs and create a nicer-looking PDF because we hypothesized if something looks nicer and it’s easier to digest the information, someone is more likely to read it, and therefore someone’s more likely to be an affiliate.

If anything, this is a good example of us feeling reinvigorated about promoting the affiliate program! Eventually, we found this to still be a little confusing about where each of these things lives (even though 235 people have helped bring other people to WAIM at this point!) Finally, now we’re at this place where we thought about updating the PDF, but then came up with something that could be even better and we’ve created a Teachery course and made it into a resource hub so that we can update that every month for our affiliates. Here’s what that hub looks like:

WAIM Unlimited Affiliate Hub


5. Final tips for creating your own affiliate program

One of the things that we think is most important is timing. It makes sense to add an affiliate program to whatever it is that you’re selling once it’s selling predictably and consistently and people are getting into the product and getting value from it. If we would’ve started an affiliate program with WAIM in the very beginning, it would’ve felt a little disingenuous because we didn’t even exactly know what we were selling. But fast forward to 2020. We had the coaching that we were doing every single month and had reorganized everything. We had started building our core product (WAIM Un-Boring Roadmap) and that really felt like we had something valuable that other WAIMers could promote to other people and those people are going to get immediate, awesome value.

The other part of timing is just waiting until people are asking for it. We think a very good indication that you’re ready to start an affiliate program for what you’re selling is you have your customers saying, “Hey, can I promote this?” They’ve been in it for a couple of months or a year and now they’re excited to help promote it.

We already reiterated this in the last section, but the idea is to start small. It doesn’t have to be some big thing with team members and this and that. Start with the simplest, best version that you can and grow it from there. Google Docs > Notion > PDF > Hub. That’s the route we took and it’s worked well!

You want to have a communication plan at least a month in advance with your affiliates. If you’re doing launches like we’re doing, give people enough touch points to promote. We recommend at least four to six emails and to make sure your affiliate content is thorough and actionable. If you have any type of live interaction with your customers, have a whole portion where you talk about your affiliate program (even just for 10 minutes). It doesn’t have to be very long, but long enough that it gets people to see the value and to feel excited too.

The last guiding thought is to try and make it EASY on yourself and your affiliates. Make it simple for someone to know where to find the affiliate area to get their specific link, how to create a link, what the commission is, and when the payouts are. Make these questions that someone’s going to think about really easy for them to find the answers to. We also always encourage people to put their copy and email content through their own filters. We don’t recommend just copying and pasting our examples. We give our affiliates talking points and help lead them through how to come up with their story and their unique angle so that they can share it confidently with their audience and so that they don’t have to do quite all of that heavy lifting themselves.

Show Notes for Episode 157: How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

We are breaking down our affiliate program for our main offer (WAIM Unlimited). Just a few years ago we weren’t interested in “affiliate marketing” at all. We share those initial misconceptions and how our mindset shifted in a different direction, with the help of our paying customers who were asking if they could promote WAIM to their friends and subscribers.

Nearly 70% of our new WAIM customers in the past 3 years are from our existing customers (affiliates) and we love this for multiple reasons: Not only because it keeps us from having to spend money on marketing and advertising, but because we know our members are only going to attract people who share our similar values.

Some business owners might hear that we’ve paid our affiliates $166,000 and think that’s money that could’ve gone into our pockets, but we see it as a great way to re-invest in our members and thank them for their efforts!

We hope this chat about affiliate marketing can give you some concrete ideas on if setting up affiliates is right for your business.

Links mentioned in the episode:

Restrict Content Pro (WordPress membership plugin)

AffiliateWP (WordPress affiliate plugin)

Full Transcript of Episode 157: How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

⬇️ You can also download the .TXT file of the transcript

Caroline: Welcome to What Is It All For? A podcast designed to help you grow your online business and pursue a spacious, satisfying life at the same time. We are your hosts, Jason and Caroline Zook, and we run Wandering Aimfully, for an unboring business coaching program. Every week, we bring you advice and conversations to return you to your most intentional self and to help you examine every aspect of your life and business by asking, what is it all for? Thanks for listening. And now let’s get into the show.

Jason: And I’m here too. Let’s get into this podcast. Carol, are you ready to podcast?

Caroline: Yeah. You say that you want, like, a podcast, like…

Jason: Studio.

Caroline: Studio, but isn’t this nice? It’s like we’re by the big window. There’s light. It’s comfy.

Jason: For those of you who are on our email list because we don’t share on social anymore, maybe you saw it in our Switzerland video where we announced that we were living in Portugal on our YouTube channel. I was just thinking, like, the visual for them of what do you mean? Like, where you’re sitting? Just wanted to paint the picture.

Caroline: Right. We’re in the living room, and there’s a big wall of wind… of actual doors, the sliding doors, and so it’s just it’s beautiful. It’s light. I can see the ocean from my corner right now.

Jason: I mean, I do like that, but I don’t like when I edit these episodes and there’s, like, a slight echo in the room, and I’d like sound deadening.

Caroline: Okay. So you want to go to a cave instead. Cool.

Jason: Just like the mic so we can swing around and feel like.

Caroline: Important.

Jason: Official online business people.

Caroline: That’s what you really want? You want to feel like an official online business person?

Jason: Don’t you want the microphones that everyone uses so that you feel official?

Caroline: Yeah. You’re not official until you have either the little desktop thing or the arm.

Jason: You got to have the arm.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: The desktop thing is not official. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Yeah. Welcome to our podcast, where we ramble about these things. We start every episode these days with a little pramble, which is an update on our lives living in Portugal as we just alluded to. What do you want to share this week about our lives here in this country that we live in?

Caroline: Okay, well.

Jason: That’s very far away from where. We were born.

Caroline: It is. I think we need to start actually with the delightful.

Jason: Bullet point number three?

Caroline: Bullet point number three. The delightful interaction that we had with our favorite neighbor.

Jason: Yeah. This is yesterday.

Caroline: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m learning words, so if I say bad Portuguese, that’s just me trying to practice. In case you… I think we talked about our friend, Fernandez, maybe last episode. Fernandez is our 83-year-old neighbor who is just a treasure of a person, and we’ve kind of become friendly with him. He lives in this Portuguese house that we pass on the way to our little neighborhood gym. And so I’m always like, I hope Fernandez is out there.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Really, it started with, I hope Nikki is out there because Nikki is the dog.

Jason: Nicky Chuck. We call her Nicki Chuck.

Caroline: We call her Nicki Chuck. And we have decided she is a chorgi. We don’t know what kind of dog she is, but she’s sort of like a cross between a chihuahua and a corgi. So she is a chorgi. And it started with us just like really wanting to be friends with Nikki. Nikki Chuck. But then we met Fernandez. Okay, so that’s to get you caught up. Now, Fernandez has this farmland next to his house that he’s always tending to. 83 years old, just like out there. We caught him yesterday. Just like spraying some stuff. Out there with a literal hoe. A literal hoe, hoeing his land.

Jason: I don’t know how big acres are, but I believe this is probably like a quarter acre of land. If I had to guess and someone’s like you have to guess, I’m going to say a quarter acre.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: So it’s not small, but it’s also not like so gigantic that you can’t walk it with one single hoe and be tilling the land.

Caroline: But like, wow. So we stop by, we say hello to Fernandez as we normally do when he’s out there.

Jason: This is not in the gardening moment.

Caroline: No, this is not in the gardening moment. This is in our on the way to the gym moment. And we chat a little bit and he said… we were asking him about the land and everything. And he told us this great story about how one harvest he had eleven tons of potatoes the land produced. And we didn’t ask him how much money he made selling those potatoes.

Jason: He said he sold nine tons.

Caroline: And you know, it’s amazing. I found all these fossils and we were like, what? And if you don’t know, the area that we live, the nearest town is called Lourinhã. That’s like our town. Lourinhã, sorry, we’re learning. Lourinhã. And it’s known as the European capital of dinosaurs. It’s like where they have found the oldest, biggest land…?

Jason: Predator.

Caroline: Predator. Dinosaur.

Jason: Fossil.

Caroline: Okay.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: In our little town of 6000 people,

Jason: Lourinhã. There’s like four roundabouts in the town and all of them have like a dinosaur situated in the middle.

Caroline: Yeah, exactly. So the whole town is like dinosaur themed. And so he’s talking to us and he’s like, I found fossils. And we’re like, this is the dinosaur thing. And he goes, because, you know, the sea used to be on this land. And so he was basically telling us that the area used to be underwater many, many years ago.

Jason: Yeah, millions of years ago.

Caroline: He’s telling us the story. We’re like, yet another great interaction with Fernandez. We go to the gym, we come back, we waved to him, he’s our friend. Later in the day, we take an afternoon walk.

Jason: Yes.

Caroline: And we go by Fernandez’s house again. This time he’s hoeing, he’s out in the land, hoeing. And he’s probably how far away from us do you think?

Jason: I mean, about as far as he could get away in his quarter acre.

Caroline: Right. As far as you could get away. He sees us. He looks up from his hoe. He sees us.

Jason: We were just giving like a nice wave far away.

Caroline: Not a chatting moment, just a wave, right? We see him start to… okay, run is a strong word. It’s not a run.

Jason: It’s an 83-year-old running.

Caroline: But it’s sort of like sort of that run that people do when they’re, like, trying to cross the street. And they don’t want to look like they’re just running, but they’re walking.

Jason: I call it a mom scuttle.

Caroline: He mom scuttled. So we just see him start to mom scuttle towards off the land. And we’re like, no.

Jason: You don’t have to run.

Caroline: Please don’t fall. Please don’t fall. It’s not stable land. And we’re like, what is he doing? He’s mom scuttling. Finally he comes back from his… we stop because we’re clearly… he wants us to stop.

Jason: Our attention.

Caroline: And he comes back with like a crate full. And we’re like, what does he have in his hand?

Jason: We thought maybe potatoes?

Caroline: I thought it was these, like, old potatoes that he was going to give to us. And I thought, patatas. And I thought, great.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Batatas. I don’t know. Anyway, then we look, and in his little crate he has all of these fossils that he’s collected from his land. And some of them are so incredible. They’re like these chunks of old rock with like a nautilus shell, like fossilized inside of it. And he’s taking us to each one. He’s showing us these teeth, which were like dinosaur teeth, shark teeth, like, I don’t know, like a bone from like a spine.

Jason: It was like a vertebrae.

Caroline: Like a vertebrae.

Jason: The best part is he was like, there’s so many that I just stopped picking them up.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: So when they turn the soil over and I don’t know that they do it that much anymore because he’s 83 and they don’t produce much on the land anymore. But he said that when they used to, there were so many fossils that they just stopped picking them up and they would just turn them back into the soil. That’s amazing.

Caroline: And then my favorite thing is he launches into you never know what life wisdom you’re going to get from Fernandez. He launches into he’s like, I had to show you because because I needed you to know I wasn’t lying. We were like, Fernandez, we don’t think you were lying. And he goes, lying is the worst thing. And then he launches into a life lesson about just how much honesty is important and all the problems of the world are created through dishonesty. And I was like, yes, absolutely. I am so glad I came to this TED Talk. And we just left. And we’re like, here is a hidden benefit of living.

Jason: Let me tell you.

Caroline: Moving to a different country that I didn’t foresee.

Jason: Let me tell you what was not on my vision board.

Caroline: Not on my vision board was going through Fernandez’s fossils that he found on his potato farm. I didn’t have that on my 2023 list.

Jason: So if you’re wondering what our lives are like in Portugal, this is a summation.

Caroline: But that’s the amount of delightful little spice of life moments that I love about living here. And you can get that anywhere if you’re looking for it.

Jason: And I think also we’ve never really lived in a place where there’s kind of like a rural type of vibe. I wouldn’t even call where we live rural. But like Fernandez, he and his family have owned a lot of the land around here at certain times. And a lot of it was agriculture and whatever. And so it’s just interesting that he’s still here and that’s still here. But to juxtapose that, we had a little date night at the sushi restaurant in town and it was like a perfectly lovely, very modern sushi place. Everyone says it’s like the best sushi around here.

Caroline: It was delicious.

Jason: It was also a private dinner because it was Sunday night and not a single other person dined inside the restaurant. Everyone got takeaway except for us.

Caroline: We even went at seven. We thought that was quite late.

Jason: Quite late. On a Sunday night at seven, for those of you who don’t go out to dinner on Sunday nights, imagine going out to dinner at 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday. It was very weird for us. We were like, we’re just going to do it, we’re going to mix it up. So that was delicious. And I just think that’s a fun like yes, we live by an 83-year-old man who has a fossil collection, but then we also have a modern sushi restaurant that’s delicious that’s right down the road.

Caroline: Definitely.

Jason: Yeah. And then I think the other thing we wanted to share is we had some friends over. We hosted a dinner night.

Caroline: It was our first.

Jason: Just another couple.

Caroline: Like have people over for dinner. It was a couple who lives in our neighborhood and it was just so fun to cook and light some candles and we chatted for 5 hours. We talked, which was so fun. And that just shows you how thirsty I was for social connection. Well, I think all of us were actually. Yeah. And so that was a nice experience. And it was one of those things where I think it had been so long through the COVID years and traveling and so it had been so long since we could just kind of sit down and chat with other people in that way.

Jason: And I think what’s interesting too is obviously when you’re talking to people for 5 hours who you don’t know, they’re asking questions like, oh, what did you do before this? What’s your work history? And they’re not asking what your work history is, but you get to that.

Caroline: What’s your CV?

Jason: And so for us, we haven’t had new friends in five years, ten years. And so to sit down with people who are like, oh, you don’t know that I Wear T-shirts for a living for five years.

Caroline: We got into the T-shirt wearing and boy, people…

Jason: That blew some minds.

Caroline: People’s minds are like, we do what?

Jason: And for us, it’s such a throwaway thing because we lived it.

Caroline: And it was such an era ago, sometimes we just even forget, because it’s not…

Jason: Like I did that?

Caroline: Yeah, I know.

Jason: That was the thing that I did in 2009? That’s wild.

Caroline: And it’s kind of fun to revisit your own journey in that way, right?

Jason: Oh, for sure. And then I start to think about all the fun stories, and you don’t have to think about all the bad stuff and losing money and having to borrow money.

Caroline: But I think you do a really good job of sharing, because you can see when people get excited about that, right? And they go, what? And you were on…? That’s such a cool idea, and blah, blah. But I think something that you do really well that I want to commend you on is you don’t just share the glossy bits.

Jason: Of course.

Caroline: You say, yeah, all of that was cool, but what wasn’t cool was, here’s how it led to burnout, and here’s how I let my health go. And I think you’re really good at even with new people, it would be very easy to allow people to believe the glamorized version of that.

Jason: Of course.

Caroline: But I think it’s just your value of transparency.

Jason: I’m not out here living that hashtag influencer life on Instagram, where everything’s perfect.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: You know. I’m living in real life.

Caroline: That’s cool.

Jason: So, yeah, that’s our update, I think the other thing we wanted to just share, for those of you who might be curious, we’ve now been living here. We just realized we’ve… are in our fourth month, so, like, we’re literally 25% of the way through our first year of living here. And I would say extremely happy is a fair phrase to sum up how we feel.

Caroline: Possibly the happiest.

Jason: And it’s been rainy and chilly.

Caroline: I would say optimal.

Jason: And nice and windy, and the weather has not been the beautiful Portugal weather that we had in the summer when we were here, but that’s coming. It’s already starting to warm up and getting at mid 60’s.

Caroline: And I don’t even care.

Jason: And, yeah, it’s amazing. And I think it’s one of those things every single day, we try and have extreme gratitude for the ability to have moved here, to be able to have found this place, the house that we have, and the fact that it came furnished so we don’t have to do any of that. We’re so lucky and fortunate.

Caroline: And I think we don’t share that to say, like, oh, look how great our lives or whatever. I share that because I know a lot of you have been listening for years and you know that even though we’ve always been grateful people and we try to be optimistic people, we’ve run into our own share of rough patches and…

Jason: We’ve been kicked out of two places that we lived in since we’ve been running this podcast and kicked out is I think a harsh way to say it, but we thought we were going to be living there for longer, but we got told we had to leave, basically.

Caroline: Yeah. And anxiety struggles and work challenges and all of that stuff. And I think as much as I don’t want to be the person who shares all the best highlight reels, because I think that’s really hard when you’re someone listening to that and you’re going through something and you’re like, whoa, must be nice. I also don’t want to do the opposite of that, which is to get to this place where we can’t share our wins and we can’t share when we are happy because I think it’s an important piece of when people are in maybe a rough patch, reminding them that you can get through that. Because look at us, we have gotten through that. And everyone’s problems are different, of course, and different scales. But yeah, I’m just in a place right now where I feel so much gratitude for pushing through those hard times. I feel so much gratitude for taking this huge leap of faith in what was last year’s trip, because it led us to here and taking the leap of faith to move to a different country despite all of the hurdles that it’s not easy to move to a different country.

Jason: Not at all.

Caroline: But the life that we now have access to on a daily basis because we made that decision and took that leap is just one that is really satisfying to me.

Jason: Yeah. And I hope by continuing to share our little updates. And I know this is true because I read the emails that you folks send through that it is motivating for you to chase down a dream, for you to have a full time travel year if you’re going to do that or even just travel full time for a couple of months. Or if you’re thinking about moving to a different country, maybe you’re hearing someone talk about a similar country that you’re thinking about, or even just any country, and you’re like, you know what? Those challenges do sound challenging, but the result of the getting through those seems worth it for other people, and I believe it’s going to be worth it for myself, too, and my family or what have you. So, yes, we hope that sharing the things that we have going on here are a good example of what’s possible and not just staying in maybe what’s comfortable.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Cool.

Caroline: Great.

Jason: All right, that’s the end of the episode. Thanks for coming out.

Caroline: That was the preamble.

Jason: So, affiliate marketing, we want to talk about this specifically about how we use affiliate marketing for our core product, which is Wandering Aimfully Unlimited, our coaching program, but thought maybe we’d go off the top and just like get some of the other affiliate marketing stuff out of the way. Just so there’s no confusion when we’re talking about affiliate marketing for the rest of this episode.

Caroline: Yeah, and I have no idea if you’re listening right now and you’re listening because you just haven’t even heard of affiliate marketing and so you’re just trying to get an understanding of it. Or if you’re someone who really knows that you want to start using it to promote your own offer, I hope it will be beneficial for both people in those camps. But this is probably more for people who don’t have a strong understanding of what we mean when we say it’s affiliate marketing. Jason is going to give you kind of the lay of land.

Jason: Yeah, very simply, it’s just promoting the one version that we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about, it’s promoting a product and then earning a commission if someone buys that product through a link that you have that you promote. So a very good example of this is on all of our YouTube videos, in the description of the video, we have links to different products on Amazon. We have links to our VPN that we use. We have linked to our phone provider that we use to have a digital SIM card with data on it. So all of those things are just like products that you can put in a description of a YouTube video that are easy. Also like a Tools page on your website. So this is something we’ve had for a couple of years. This is not a new thing that people are doing, but it’s been around for a long time. But it’s a great way to show people like ours is set up. It’s like here’s our core business suite and some things aren’t affiliate links. We have Zoom listed on there, but it’s more just to share that we used that because it’s helpful and do it. And we want other people to know like, this is what we use and we believe in it so you can have a link to it. But then also, like we’ll talk about here, Restrict Content Pro is like our membership plugin that goes behind the scenes that has an affiliate link. So we earn a commission if people sign up and use that. So a Tools page is a really good way. And the other thing I wanted to just mention was I think affiliate marketing, when not done in a gross way and we’ll talk more about how we’ve seen that done and not wanted to do it, I think when it’s very simply done for this type of stuff, of promoting other people’s products. It’s a great small passive income source. And that’s not to say it’s a lot of money, but making an extra $100 or $200 a month pays for groceries. It pays for… it’s really easy to just set these things up and then not have to worry about them too much. I maybe check on our links once a year just to make sure that a product on a website has not gone away, or that the Convert Kit, for example, hasn’t changed their affiliate platform behind the scenes and you have to update links.

Caroline: And it’s also a way that you are using something as leverage, meaning an audience that you’ve probably spent years trying to build. And a lot of times we think of building an audience in order to sell your own thing. But an audience is also valuable. If people give you their attention, that’s valuable. And especially when you’re promoting products that you really believe in. And again, as we’ll get into, that’s just kind of our line is like, do we actually use these things? Do we actually think they’re beneficial? I think it’s just such a no brainer. Again, it’s not like a ton of money, but why not?

Jason: Yeah, like, Notion is a great example. We promoted Notion to everybody for years because it’s just been so groundbreaking and helpful for our business. But it wasn’t until literally, like, six months ago that they started an affiliate program. So we were already promoting Notion. Now it’s just awesome that we get to update a link that we could make some type of money from that if people use our link, it’s just a really helpful thing to have. But what we’re going to talk about is how using affiliate marketing for our own offer and program has been incredibly helpful and really, for us, it’s like our main marketing engine for Wandering Aimfully these days. But let’s talk about why we avoided it for a while and kind of how we felt about it when we first looked at it. It might be how you feel about it right now if you’ve never really dipped your toes in.

Caroline: Yeah, the funny thing is, I still feel like I have this baggage around the term affiliate marketing because… and I don’t know, everybody has their own perception, right? But that term, I came at it with such a connotation, like a negative connotation, and I think maybe there’s different reasons for that. One for me that I know is a big one is I just for a long time felt like people conflated it with direct selling or multi level marketing. Like, when they heard affiliate marketing, they’re like, oh, you mean like MLMs? And it’s like, for me personally.

Jason: I love M&M’s, personally. I’m fine with it.

Caroline: For me personally, I have some objections with MLMs and kind of the predatory nature of them. And so I never wanted to be kind of in that same bucket. Right. I think the main difference to note is that affiliate marketing is very different to me than multi level marketing for a couple of reasons. The first one being, like, I think one of my main gripes with MLMs is that a lot of times the product that they’re selling is kind of shitty and it’s really just a vehicle to try to get people into the promise of selling. And then, as we know, the multilevel nature of it is that the more people you get in, it’s like the the thing that they’re selling doesn’t even become important. It’s just the money that you get from people buying in, right?

Jason: It’s like a triangle.

Caroline: Exactly. There’s more people to buy… anyway, and so that’s a big difference, is that WAIM Unlimited, which is the offer that we have an affiliate program for our core offer, has tremendous value. And I would even argue it’s probably vastly underpriced for the value that it has inside of it.

Jason: Some people have told us.

Caroline: You know, you’re not. Getting leggings that are ripping, you’re getting like…

Jason: Your getting leggings that are going to last you a lifetime.

Caroline: You’re getting real training, you’re getting real tools, you’re getting real skills. Okay. So I think that’s a big difference. I think the second thing is there is no multi level to it. So we’re not having affiliates sell WAIM and then they bring in people under them and create a little sales force of WAIM affiliates under them and then get a percentage of their commissions. That’s not how it works. It’s very simply just like the same thing as most software products or anything. It’s like you get a one time sort of finders fee for bringing someone into the fold and that’s how we run our program. So I think for me, it was just a little bit of getting over, honestly, the idea that some people would probably have that perception. And it’s like, did I really want to not use that as a marketing mechanism just because I was afraid of the perception of a handful of people?

Jason: Yeah, and I think it’s also interesting too. I just look at it… just the term affiliate marketing versus referral network. Those seem so different to me and what they are, but they’re the same thing. It’s the exact same thing. Yeah. For me, why I didn’t like it and really avoided it for years is I think we’ve all landed on these websites, especially when you’re trying to search for a product in Google or an answer to something and you land on a site that’s just, first of all, terribly designed, there’s ads all over the place, and you don’t actually get an answer to your question, but yet there’s just, like, links all over the place to everything that are affiliate links. And you’re basically on an affiliate marketing website for someone who’s really good at gaming SEO.

Caroline: So their whole game is they write articles to try to get you to their website so that you’ll click on the software tool, the product or whatever that will solve your problem.

Jason: Even if it’s completely unrelated. It’s just a bunch of crap that they’re just putting on a page.

Caroline: Right. And so you can feel that manipulation happening and you’re just like, ugh.

Jason: And those are the things that it drives me insane because I’ll be searching for something and there’s a whole bigger conversation here about just like, search is broken and SEO is broken and how does that get fixed? But nonetheless, I didn’t want us to be a part of any of that. I didn’t want anyone to ever feel like, oh, gross, you guys are just like putting affiliate links out there and having other people do it’s. Like, no, we just want our members who are super happy and love WAIM Unlimited to be able to have a way to promote it and get a kickback for promoting it to their friends and to feel like it’s a win win for everybody. So all that being said.

Caroline: Yeah. And one thing I want to say, before we move on, of what was holding us back as well, not just the perception angle, but also, and this is a recurring theme in my life of something that holds me back, is in my mind, I thought if we were going to have an affiliate program, if I got over myself, and I said, okay, it’s not a multi level marketing, so let’s do it. I held off for so long because I felt like it had to be this big initiative, like this big program. And cut to last week’s episode about kind of setting your good enough standard. This is something, again, I struggle with. In my mind, it has to be bigger and better than it actually needs to be.

Jason: Right.

Caroline: And I would see kind of the more big players in the online business world we all know, like the Marie Forleos and the Amy Porterfields, and we know these people. And my only reference point of affiliate programs was like, these big people because obviously their reach is so big that I would see overlap of people promoting their products. And I was like, oh, and the little bit of research I did, podcast episodes and things like that, of these big people who have these big programs. It was like, oh, and then I hired like five people to run my affiliate program, and I have a whole team and we have these incentives and these crazy prizes.

Jason: Everyone gets a BMW.

Caroline: And a leaderboard and this and that. And I was just like, okay, well, we don’t have the resources to do that, and I don’t want to run a shitty program for our members. I want them to really enjoy it, so I guess we just can’t do it. That was sort of what I thought.

Jason: And what’s hilarious is that when you start to look at like, okay, let’s just look at what we could do. What someone really needs is just a referral link.

Caroline: I know.

Jason: And then the basic information about your program… because they already know it. It’s not like they need to be taught about. No one can be an affiliate of WAIM Unlimited who isn’t a member of WAIM Unlimited. That’s an important thing. We get people who email us all the time and like, hey, can I promote WAIM? Only members can do it because we don’t really want to have to educate someone and we don’t necessarily want someone who’s not an ideal fit for our community to be bringing in other people to our community.

Caroline: And I would never want someone… what’s very important to me is that the person talking about WAIM Unlimited has experienced WAIM Unlimited.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: That’s the most important thing to me. So that’s why we don’t do that. But yeah, what actually got me over the hump of all these things we just mentioned in this section is something we’ll talk about at the end of the episode where we have just like some general tips if you want to do your own affiliate marketing for your offer. But I just thought it was worth mentioning here, which is that what finally got me over it is just enough WAIMers started asking for a referral link that it kind of allowed me to get over myself because I was like, well, our members are asking for this. And this was before we even had a program. And so it kind of allowed me to just dip my toe in enough without having to create this big program.

Jason: Yeah. And what I think is a great showing that your members actually love and care about the product is for the first two years, we basically said, no, we don’t, but if you want to promote it, we really appreciate it. And it’d be like, okay, sure, I’ll still promote it. It wasn’t like…

Caroline: They got nothing from it .

Jason: Yeah. Zero credit.

Caroline: Because we just didn’t have any link. Yeah.

Jason: We were still into like, we think affiliate marketing is completely shitty and we don’t want to do it phase.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: So I think from there we…

Caroline: So how have our views changed, basically?

Jason: I think one of the big turning points for us was if we started paying affiliate commissions every single month, would that feel better than paying, say, for Facebook ads to grow our membership?

Caroline: Exactly. This is kind of how I think about it in my head, and I don’t know where this mindset shift came from, but it finally occurred to me, like, I think we had reached a point in our business where we were going to have to like, it was worth doing some type of paid marketing. Right?

Jason: Right.

Caroline: And I was like, okay, what is that going to look like? Is that going to look like me running Facebook ads and paying Meta some type of paid advertising dollars?

Jason: Mark doesn’t need more money.

Caroline: He doesn’t need that.

Jason: He’s funny.

Caroline: And also, yeah, I don’t want to pay that system. No shade to you if you need it for your business.

Jason: By all means. It’s just for us, it’s one of those lines in the sand that we’ve drawn.

Caroline: But it’s like if you don’t have to, I don’t want to. And so then I thought, okay, well, what really is the difference between paying for an ad to bring someone in to WAIM or paying our members to bring someone into WAIM?

Jason: Right.

Caroline: What really is that difference? And so I just thought to myself, that’s the way I view it. Almost, when I see that affiliate expenses number every month, I think of it as an ad budget. But how amazing. And this is where the whole, like, everybody wins kind of concept comes in, is I go, okay, but we have an ad budget, so we’re a business and we pay for advertising. Cool. But then our ad budget goes directly back to our members. That makes me feel good, because one of the whole points of people signing up for WAIM and one of our core missions is to help people use online business as a means of living a better, more fulfilling life, whatever that looks like. If we can, by having someone be a WAIM affiliate, give them a small chunk of recurring income every month, that maybe that’s enough to pay for child care, maybe that’s enough to pay for groceries or some type of leverage. Maybe that’s enough for them to pay to go to a coffee shop once a week and be able to work on their side project. You know what I mean? Those things matter. And so I just finally was like, well, okay, is it Facebook ads or is it this?

Jason: Right. Yeah. So I think one of the fun numbers to share and I just looked at this and we didn’t write it down, but I remember it. So we’ve had over 1000 people join Wandering Aimfully in its multiple iterations over time.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: So, you know, it started in Buy My Future, then it was Buy Our Future, and then it turned into Wandering Aimfully in 2018. And so for those three projects combined, we basically have a thousand members that exist in WAIM. Of those, 400 people have signed up to be affiliates, which I think is cool. It’s a good amount of people. I think we’ve actively paid because I think I saw the number 200 people. We’ve paid at least one. Well, not just one, but they brought in one person, which is very interesting. So that’s really cool. And we do have the numbers from our last two years of launches that we’re going to get to to actually share some of that. But all time, as of looking it up today, we’ve paid out $166,000 to our affiliates, which is nuts to think about that number and to think about that number going, like you just said, right back to the people who we love to hang out with, we love having in our community, we love showing up for coaching sessions every month, to know that that money is going back to them and not to a big corporation. And to know that that money is also attracting more like minded people that make the community better, that, to me, just feels like such a good way to spend that money, as opposed to just pumping into ads and fingers crossed, hoping that you’re getting the ROI that you want from those ads.

Caroline: So you just brought up two points that I think are worth mentioning that also changed my perspective. The first one is what you said about, I think, having an affiliate marketing program for us. One of the reasons I actually have come to love it is that it helps us keep our culture inside of WAIM Unlimited what it is. And so every single coaching session we go over, these Our WAIM community values. And we’re trying to cultivate a culture of vulnerability where you don’t feel like you have it all figured out inside WAIM. A culture of diversity, where we celebrate uniqueness, a culture of aiming for enough, like, really this notion of pushing back against hustle culture. These are all things that we intentionally talk about inside of our community, and we intentionally talk about when we promote WAIM. So we attract those people. The beautiful part is that when your main marketing engine is affiliates, all of our members are already a part of that culture, and they’re probably talking about those same values to their audiences. And so when they promote, they attract people who align with those values. And it almost sort of pre qualifies people to have a propensity toward those values to begin with. So we’re not having to work so hard to remind people like, hey, this is not a place for that type of competitiveness, or this is not a type of place to act like you have it all together or… It’s like the realness. And so that’s one thing I love, is that we don’t have to work so hard to kind of build that culture from the ground up. And then the second part is, to me, it’s a lot lower risk than something like Facebook ads, because Facebook ads is like you’re dumping a bunch of money into the system. You’re not in full control over whatever CPM or whatever the acronyms are that you’re paying the cost per acquisition. Right. For us, we know exactly what the cost is for acquisition because it’s a flat 40% commission rate.

Jason: Yeah. So I think just to dig into this a little bit, because I think it’s really worth understanding, when we pay out a weekly payout, as we do every single week to our members, that is money that has already been generated as revenue for our business. When you pay for a Facebook ad, especially when you’re getting started, that’s a risk that you’re taking that you hope it pays off. And I think anybody who has tried Facebook ads knows that you never make money off of Facebook ads in the beginning. And what I learned when I was doing the Facebook ads thing in like 2014 and 15 to try and sell a course was what would work for like six months would then all of a sudden stop working. Like photos of me with my face in the thing worked really well, and all of a sudden photos of me with my face were terribly not working. And so you’d have to adapt. You’d have to change. And what I love about this is that our affiliate program is something where we pay on average now, every month, $10,000 a month. That’s not going to change due to anything out of our control. So it’s like, as long as we keep providing a ton of value, as long as we keep showing up for our members, as long as we keep promoting that we have launch coming up and that affiliates can be a part of it, that will continue to work because it has shown that it has worked for years. Whereas like a Facebook ads campaign can work really well for like six months. But then what happens when an algorithm changes?

Caroline: And I would push back a little bit and say that’s not to say that it won’t change, because I think marketing is always changing and techniques are always changing. But I think the point you’re trying to make is that it’s a little bit more predictable than the volatility of something like a Facebook ad.

Jason: And it’s more predictable and the money going out the door because you’ve made the revenue from someone bringing someone in that then you will pay out.

Caroline: And then my last point that I love it so much for is because we love to make the experience of WAIM better. Like, we’re always focused on how can we make it better for our members, how can we make it more valuable? And so every ounce of energy we put towards making the product better is a better experience for our members, and it only creates a stronger desire for them to share that then with other people because they’re happier, right? And so it’s like this way of like, when you pour into your product, we’re actually pouring into our marketing engine at the same time, which I like.

Jason: Cool, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how our affiliate plan or our affiliate program works. And I want to talk about this both from like a tech stack perspective, but then also just from logistically how we set this up. So for those of you who don’t know, we sell WAIM Unlimited twice per year, in the Spring and in the Fall. So for our affiliates, we basically do like a month to a month and a half lead up time with them. We mentioned this in our coaching session. We send emails and then we have a whole schedule of emails that go out. It’s like four to six emails that go out that mention best practices if you’re going to do a bonus to promote WAIM during our launch, like how to think about that. If you’re going to set up your own website to promote WAIM, here are some examples of other WAIMers who’ve done this. And then also just like a lot of questions and things about WAIM that you can copy and paste and use, like the benefits of WAIM, the newest products of WAIM that we want to focus on. So we give a bunch of lead up time, trying to make sure that people get multiple touch points and multiple reminders that you can’t just send one email or post one time on Instagram or whatever and think that you’re going to have someone be convinced to buy a $2,000 product.

Caroline: Which is also meta, because you can’t just send one email to your affiliates or your members and think that they’re going to want to be an affiliate.

Jason: Exactly. And that’s why we send four to six emails leading up to launch and we also let people opt out. So we make it very clear if you don’t want to get these emails about being an affiliate, click a link. And I think as of right now, there’s like 50 people who’ve opted out in our email list. So I think people are interested, especially when you’re just very honest and forthcoming about why you’re doing this. So from there, as Caroline mentioned earlier, we do a 40% commission for our affiliate system. So if someone brings a new member, it’s $2,000 paid through payment plans. We would then pay that affiliate $800 via payments every week.

Caroline: And I don’t know what the industry average is, but I know when we decided on our percentage, Jason and I both sat down and said, whatever the average is, we want to go above and beyond quite a bit of whatever that is because we want to come at this from a place of generosity, recognizing that if we do an affiliate program and people are coming in through that means, why would we not kind of reward that effort? So it just made sense for us. We just try to lead with generosity in everything we do. And so that 40% is, I think, quite a bit higher than most.

Jason: It definitely is. So yeah. So let’s get into kind of like the tech stack of how this works. So our membership, as I mentioned earlier, is run on Restrict Content Pro. And actually in the show notes, I’ll put some of our affiliate links to these different products in case you want to check them out and use them.

Caroline: Full disclosure though, there are pros and cons to Restrict Content Pro.

Jason: Oh, absolutely.

Caroline: It has served us fantastically well and will continue to serve us. There are just a few things that we wish that it could do better.

Jason: Oh, and there are pros and cons to MemberSpace, even if you use Teachery as an example, has an affiliate program.

Caroline: But if you are looking for some type of membership…

Jason: Through WordPress.

Caroline: System, through specifically through WordPress, it has served us incredibly well and continues to.

Jason: Yeah. So Restrict Content Pro runs the membership side of things. So that’s people being able to purchase WAIM Unlimited and get an account and then have restricted access to different pages in our site, like the new dashboard that we’re working on, et cetera. But there’s a different plug in that we have to use that’s called WP Affiliate or Affiliate WP. I think it’s Affiliate WP that connects with Restrict Content Pro and then basically gives permissions to be an affiliate, create an affiliate link, have an affiliate dashboard for people to look at, where they can set up, how they get paid. So they plug in their bank account and then they have links that they can generate and they can see their stats, they can see clicks on their link and conversions and all that stuff. So those are the main two things that basically run everything. And I just wanted to share that from the inception of this, we do a 30-day rolling payout. So we wait 30 days before we pay someone out. I am the one every single Friday morning pressing pay affiliates and then verifying the affiliates that we’re paying and then submitting the payments.

Caroline: Right. So walk people through that. So let’s say that we have all these affiliates and people signed up through the launches. And so what happens is when people’s payments come through.

Jason: Yeah. So Penelope referred Trish to WAIMer.

Caroline: I think you’re going to trap yourself in a little bit of a scenario here. So let’s just table Penelope and Trish for now.

Jason: Aww. They were so lovely.

Caroline: Okeydoke, let’s try it.

Jason: So Penelope was an existing WAIMer.

Caroline: Great.

Jason: And during our launch, she brought Trish over and because Trish was super excited and she’s got her online business going and she’s just ready to learn some stuff from WAIM. So Trish signed up with Penelope’s Link. So Penelope is going to get and she used the $100 payment plan.

Caroline: So every time Trish’s payments come through.

Jason: Yes. Penelope gets 40% of that.

Caroline: Forty percent of that payment. And so what’s happening is Affiliate WP or whatever is like kind of carving off that 40% of that payment that’s coming through and it’s sitting in.

Jason: So it’s not carving it off from a standpoint of we don’t get that money, it’s carving it off from a standpoint of you…

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: Owe Penelope $40.

Caroline: Exactly. So that is a good point. And that’s why I want to walk through this. So it’s like, we get the money, but then it’s telling us, hey, you owe…

Jason: Penelope.

Caroline: You owe Penelope this much money.

Jason: You got to pay Penelope her money.

Caroline: You better pay Penelope because you said 40%. And so then what’s happening is it’s basically doing that for all of the people in a given week, where however many payments of the Tricia’s of the world come through across that week, it’s giving you a list of okay, you owe Penelope, this much you owe Donald this much, you owe… I hate improv.

Jason: Chip, Dale, Nicki, Minnie, Gaston.

Caroline: Ariel, Belle.

Jason: This is what you need to when we get into improv games, you got to go with something you just know really well. So, like Disney characters.

Caroline: Sebastian.

Jason: Dory.

Caroline: Nemo.

Jason: You got it, babe.

Caroline: Okay, we’re taking this so far. It’s the same joke that we’ve been laughing about for, like, 45 seconds.

Jason: It is true.

Caroline: It’s saying, okay, this is how much. And then Jason is going through and saying, Payout. Payout.

Jason: Yeah. Luckily, I just have one one button to click. So it is actually very simple. It’s just I look at it and I go, does this seem right that Penelope is getting $40 this Friday and then Donald’s getting $400 this Friday? Why is Donald getting $400? Oh, because he had some people on the faster program that came through. So I can just verify because, like I just mentioned, it’s not taking the money out from the beginning. So this is money that we pay directly from our bank account then to these other people’s bank accounts.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: It’s a cash flow thing you have to pay attention to. So anyway, those are really the nuts and bolts of how this works. We don’t generate reports for our members. Thankfully, again, Affiliate WP does have, like, a reports page, so if people want to look at that, they can look at that. And then we do a recap every launch for our members during our coaching session. We have a little section called Field Notes in our coaching session, where we review things we’re working on our business and we basically break down our launches and share how things did, which we’re going to share with you right now if you love numbers because I love sharing numbers.

Caroline: I know. I know you do.

Jason: Yeah. We’re going to share these numbers.

Caroline: I know you are.

Jason: Great. So I just wanted to cobble together. So we’ve been running our affiliate program for three years now, but I just went back and did two years because I honestly was lazy and didn’t feel like going back to a third year.

Caroline: Thank you for being honest.

Jason: Yeah. So I’m going to give you the numbers for 2021 and 2022. So let’s just call it the last two years. So we’ve done four launches in those times, and in those four launches, we have brought in grand total 340 new WAIMers to our program. So our program costs $2,000 in total. So that total overall revenue. Maybe some people canceled, maybe there are refunds, but let’s just pretend everybody paid in full was $680,000 in the past few years, which is unbelievably amazing, and we are so absolutely grateful that we can make that amount of money. Of those 340 people that came in, 235 of them came from affiliates. So almost 70% of our new customers came from affiliates. So those affiliates directly helped generate of that $680,000, $470,000, basically, of that revenue, which is incredible to think about. Like, that is amazing.

Caroline: Yeah. And something to note, too, is especially as the years go on, you see the affiliate percentage climb because more people know about WAIM and then more people know about the people who sell as an affiliate. And so if you’re on our email list, but you know you’re also on the email list of, say, Penelope.

Jason: Oh, yeah.

Caroline: You’re like, well, I’m going to buy through Penelope.

Jason: I’m going to use Penelope’s link because she’s doing a cool bonus.

Caroline: Because I want her bonus.

Jason: Yeah, exactly.

Caroline: So that happens a lot.

Jason: That’s one number we haven’t looked at. And honestly, I think it’s just due to the fact that we don’t care that much, which is like, how many people were on our email list that are completely, 100% unique just to us versus may have had overlap.

Caroline: Which is fine. Yeah, exactly.

Jason: And again, it’s one of those things we just don’t care.

Caroline: Yeah. Because it’s working. And again, we’re so happy. We’re just not those people who are like, oh, am I giving too much of my profit margin away to my members? So what you’re really asking is, would you rather keep all that money for yourself, or would you rather kind of spread it around to your members and we live a great life, and we have plenty of money, so I would rather give it to her.

Jason: Absolutely. And that’s not to say that we are like having a bank account that’s overflowing with money like, Donald, who you mentioned is who we’re talking about.

Caroline: Is that who I’m thinking of who swims in the money?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: That’s Donald?

Jason: No, Scrooge?

Caroline: Scrooge?

Jason: Donald?

Caroline: Scrooge McDuck.

Jason: Scrooge Donald McDuck is his full name. I think we’re just combining a couple of Donald’s characters. And also we’re saying Donald so much, by the way. But that’s okay. Well, because of yeah, I know, but we went Donald Duck. We went Disney. So I just want everyone to like, he’s got an orange bill. He’s Donald Duck. We’re moving on. Okay. So let’s kind of recap how our experience has evolved with our affiliate program. So you mentioned this whole good enough thing, and I think it’d be really helpful for especially for those of you who are listening to this, you’re like, okay, I want to do an affiliate program, affiliate marketing for my program. I want to do it for my course or for whatever. I’ve been doing this for years. I have people who love it. They want to promote it. I want to set this up. How do I not get into the overwhelm of, like, I need to build a whole team to do an affiliate marketing thing?

Caroline: Yeah. So let me just tell you, do you remember the first launch that we launched affiliates? That’s what I don’t know.

Jason: This is why I didn’t go back to 2020, because I think it was Spring of 2020.

Caroline: Somewhere around there. But what I think is so funny is finally, so many of our members have been asking, finally, Jason and I sat down and looked into this Affiliate WP thing. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a challenge to set up and think through the bank account, like part of it or whatever.

Jason: Oh, yeah. It’s logistics and…

Caroline: But we got past that hurdle to finally get it set up. And then I was like, okay, well, how are we going to make this easy for people? Because that’s another thing. And we’ll talk about that in the tips at the end. People are not going to sign up to be… I mean, of course you’re going to have people who are already asking, so they’re going to do it. But you want to make it as easy as possible for people to confidently and authentically sell your offer, right? And so I’m thinking, okay, what’s going to be our experience? But I know I can’t create the team and the thing and whatever. And so Jason was like, okay, how about we just create some Google Docs?

Jason: Just like some Google docs.

Caroline: And I was like, okay.

Jason: And this is 2020, so Notion wasn’t hugely prevalent for us yet.

Caroline: Yeah. And so Jason, to your credit, you were like, okay, and I’ll tell you exactly what the docs were. One was sort of like an FAQ.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: So it was just like, how much is the commission?

Jason: When do I get paid? How long does the cookie last? Like, all these things.

Caroline: FAQs. Another good…

Jason: That actually did mean, like cookie, like a browser cookie, not like the cookies I made yesterday.

Caroline: How long do the cookie…? Oh, I just remembered I have those cookies. Jason made the best cookies yesterday.

Jason: For you. Not for me. They’re not my favorite.

Caroline: No. We have a discrepancy in the texture of a cookie. I like a crispy, crunchy cookie.

Jason: I want a soft chewy.

Caroline: And he made these, like, crispy crunchy ones yesterday that I’m still…

Jason: I just want to throw them away, to be honest.

Caroline: Give it to me.

Jason: They’re garbage. They’re like coasters.

Caroline: I love them.

Jason: I know you do.

Caroline: Crunchy. Anyway, sorry, someone’s like, what were the docs? Okay. An FAQ doc.

Jason: Yes.

Caroline: Building your…

Jason: A launch plan.

Caroline: A launch plan doc. So it’s basically like details on what is WAIM Unlimited? Just some basic things. And what are the benefits of WAIM Unlimited? What’s included?

Jason: Some email prompts that were in there.

Caroline: Yes. And it was like, okay, here’s what you should do. When and where are you going to promote WAIM and how, et cetera. So that was kind of like a launch plan for them. And then the third one was like, more examples of swipe copy and creative assets.

Jason: Brand assets.

Caroline: Brand assets. And so those were the three pieces, and they were, to be quite honest, not formatted that well. Like, we tried our best. There was overlap.

Jason: But they worked.

Caroline: And we just did our best. And we did that. It was just those docs. And we would update it for every launch. So it would be like, here are the new dates for the upcoming launch. Here’s the new thing we’re adding to WAIM. Here’s whatever. And so we did that for, like, four launches. Four or five launches. Only now, this past one, Fall 2022.

Jason: You just got so frustrated with Google Docs.

Caroline: I was frustrated with the experience of the Google Docs, and it was finally, like, I did the thing where I said it was good enough, but now it’s not good enough anymore.

Jason: Which it took two years to get to, which is totally fine.

Caroline: Yeah. And so I wanted to create this nicer looking PDF because I thought if something looks nicer and it’s easier to digest the information, someone is more likely to read it, and therefore someone’s more likely to be an affiliate. So we created, like, a nice little kind of guide.

Jason: If anything, I think that’s a good example of just we have no data to say that that PDF was loved by anybody, that it was opened that much. But it made us feel reinvigorated about promoting the affiliate program, that sometimes you just need that to go, we’re sending out these damn Google Docs again, and like, no, we’re sending out this beautiful PDF.

Caroline: And I was like, it’s confusing to me. It’s confusing to me of where each of these things live.

Jason: Yeah, but clearly it’s not confusing to 235 people who have helped bring other people to WAIM.

Caroline: True. And finally, now we’re at this place where we went to go update the PDF. And then I was like…

Jason: This could be even better.

Caroline: This could be better. And so we just now have basically taken a Teachery course and created, like, a resource hub so that we can update that every month.

Jason: Which is a great example of the versatility of Teachery and so many of our members have already been doing that. Teachery customers have already been doing things like this. They… shout out to like Michelle Rohr and Alejandra’s of the world. Yadzia is another one that comes to mind. They have been putting together these courses, quote unquote. But it’s not a course, it’s just a resource of information.

Caroline: A container to put similar information.

Jason: Which I just love because it makes us then think like, oh, yeah, you can totally do that. You’ve created this affiliate hub, which is really fun. Also using one of our Teachery Theme Pack templates.

Caroline: Which is something…

Jason: That you tweaked.

Caroline: This is something that you get inside of WAIM Unlimited is last Fall, we created basically the new feature of Themes. It’s like a pre-designed course template. And so I just used that and it was, like, a lot faster.

Jason: I mean, you did it in, like, two days.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: It looks great.

Caroline: So that is kind of how our affiliate experience has evolved. The details have not evolved, but how we give people information has evolved. And we share that with you, A, to give you ideas, but B, to also say, if it’s just going to be Google Docs for the time being, that’s going to work, it’s fine.

Jason: Absolutely. And you shouldn’t force Google Docs, Notion, whatever to work for two years for you into until it feels like, okay, I need to reinvigorate this, or until you’re getting so many questions from people that they’re not able to promote.

Caroline: Your point is, don’t be Carol. Don’t make it out to be so much bigger and better in your head than it needs to be.

Jason: I think it’s not don’t be Carol. I think it’s just acknowledge when you are being Carol.

Caroline: Okay.

Jason: And then you just have to be like, okay, this is what I’m being, and I need to just be good enough.

Caroline: Yeah. I also want to say for myself, there’s plenty of times when that quality comes…

Jason: Of course.

Caroline: Comes in handy, just as there’s times when it holds me back.

Jason: All right, let’s get to some final tips here on building an affiliate marketing program, or affiliate marketing for your program or for your membership, whatever you’re doing. One of the things that we think is most important is just timing. And so it makes sense to add an affiliate marketing offer to whatever it is that you’re selling once it’s selling predictably, once it’s selling consistently, once people are getting into the product and they’re getting value from it. This is our personal opinion. I’m speaking for myself, but I think for Caroline here as well. If we would have started an affiliate program with WAIM in the very beginning, it would have felt a little disingenuous because we didn’t even exactly know what we were selling.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: We didn’t know the problems that it solved. We didn’t know exactly how someone would get value. But fast forward to 2020, we had the coaching that we were doing every single month. We had kind of reorganized everything. We had started building the roadmap, and that really felt like, okay, this is a valuable thing that now other WAIMers can promote to other people, and it’s going to feel like they’re going to get in and those people are going to get immediate awesome value from this.

Caroline: And as a side note, I think it’s just going to create too much complication, too. If you’re trying to figure out how to run an affiliate program and how to speak and have a communication plan with them, as you’re still trying to figure out your communication to how to sell your offer, I think it’s going to be a lot. So kind of focus on one thing at a time, like get your offer, really to the place where you have a repeatable strategy. You know there’s sort of like product market fit, so to speak, and then layer an affiliate engine on top of that.

Jason: Yeah. So the other part of timing is just waiting until people are asking for you for it. So I think a very good indication that you’re ready to start art and affiliate program for whatever it is that you’re selling is you have your customers saying, hey, can I promote this? And do you have an affiliate program for this? And it’s not like at the very first email they send you about this thing. It’s like they’ve been in it for a couple of months or a year or whatever and now they’re excited to help promote it.

Caroline: Yeah, and then we already reiterated this in the last section, but just the idea of like, start small, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. It doesn’t have to be some big thing with team members and this and that. It’s just start with the simplest, best version that you can and kind of grow it from there.

Jason: Then you want to have a communication plan so at least a month in advance, if you’re doing launches like we’re doing, but give people enough touch points here four to six emails. Make sure that they’re nice and thorough. If you have any type of live interaction with people, like, we have our coaching sessions. This month, for us, we’re going to have a whole portion where we talked about our affiliate program for like, I mean, it’s like ten minutes, it’s not even that long, but it just gets people excited about it. They can see the value of it. And then always allowing people to opt out of those emails in some way so that they don’t feel like they’re going to get hammered over the head. Like, I’m on a couple of email lists where there’s no way to opt out of those affiliate emails and they just keep doing it. Like, guys, some of us don’t want this. We don’t want to promote your thing. We’re just happy to get your email updates. So give people an easy way to opt out just with a tag or whatever.

Caroline: And this is also the tip of having a communication plan. Again, this is why it’s helpful to do this once you have some sort of repeatable launch strategy because again, it’s going to be very confusing to have to think of what’s my email marketing plan to sell my offer and what’s my email marketing plan to my affiliates. That’s a lot. And so for us, we know exactly what we’re doing during the launch of our list. So it’s very easy to then just layer on cluing in our affiliates to be like, hey, we’re going to do a roadmap preview again this time and here’s the new product that we’re adding to WAIM Unlimited. Here’s what some of our emails are going to be about. We’ve already decided those things and so it’s easy to just clue them in versus if you haven’t figured that stuff out yet, again, it’s going to feel overwhelming to try to figure it out and then clue your affiliates in.

Jason: Yeah, and I think the last guiding thought is just to try and make it easy. So try and make it simple for someone to know where to find the affiliate area to get their specific link, how to create a link if they have to create something, what the commission is, when the payouts are. Just make these questions that someone’s going to think about really easy for them to find the answers.

Caroline: And that’s where the kind of the swipe copy and some of the assets come into, is we always encourage people to kind of put it through their own filter. Don’t just copy and paste, but give them talking points and help.

Jason: Make it easy.

Caroline: Help lead them through how to come up with their story, their unique angle on WAIM Unlimited so that they can share it confidently with their audience so that they don’t have to do quite all of that heavy lifting themselves.

Jason: Absolutely. All right, those are our thoughts on creating an affiliate marketing system for whatever program, course, thing, membership that you sell. And again, that’s just our specific way of doing it for our membership program. We know that for some of you, you may have, like, evergreen products, and, like, what about evergreen? We don’t know. We don’t have evergreen products, so we don’t have a lot of advice to give on that. I’m sure you could use a lot of these exact same tactics, but we use the launch model, so it’s very helpful for us to kind of know that we have these chunks of time set up to work on it, so we don’t feel like we’re always kind of working on our affiliate marketing stuff. It’s just two times a year we have to check in on it. And if we’re creating a new thing, we create a new thing. Otherwise, we just let it rock and roll.

Caroline: Yeah. I hope you found this interesting and just kind of gave you the overview, the lay of the land. And it’s been top of mind for us because we just put together this new hub and the affiliate marketing plan for our Spring enrollment, which…

Jason: It’s coming soon.

Caroline: Is coming very soon.

Jason: Like four weeks away when this episode goes up.

Caroline: If you are interested, it’s going to be March 20 through April 4. So if you want to mark your calendars, feel free. That’s a very soft pre-pitch.

Jason: Oh, nice.

Caroline: Well, soft pitch.

Jason: It’s very soft. Yeah.

Caroline: Just mark your calendars.

Jason: It’s like my cookies.

Caroline: No, they’re not soft. They’re hard.

Jason: No, no, that’s how I like my cookies.

Caroline: Oh, your cookies.

Jason: The coasters that I made yesterday are not soft.

Caroline: I’m going to have one right now. I’m going to have a post-podcast cookie.

Jason: I don’t like them. All right. But I like you. You guys are great. Okay, bye.

Caroline: Thanks for listening. Bye.

157 – How We Built a $500,000+ Affiliate Program in 3 Years

(Big Fat Takeaway)

Add an affiliate program to your offer once it's selling predictably, consistently, and your customers are asking for it.


This article written by

Jason Zook

I'm all about that Cinnamon Roll life (that just seemed like a "cool" way to say I love baking and eating cinnamon rolls). Also, I co-run this WAIM thing as well as Teachery. Currently, 75ish% completion of Tears of the Kingdom 🧝‍♀️⚔️.

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