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How to Create an Affiliate Marketing Program for Online Courses

How to Create an Affiliate Marketing Program for Online Courses

The online learning industry is booming. The worth of the E-Learning industry in the U.S. alone is estimated to be around $90 Billion in the year 2021. No wonder there is much competition in the realm of higher ed marketing.

Due to immense competition and educational institutions investing heavily in their marketing, the cost to put your name out there is not cheap. This puts independent course creators in a tough spot.

Unless you have an extensive marketing budget to splurge, you may want to explore cheaper marketing strategies to grow your business. After all, not everyone has an extravagant budget to hire influencers or do PPC - Pay Per Click marketing.

You may have created an awesome course to sell with a lot of potential, but if you can’t market it, it’s pretty much useless. 

This is where you need to play smart. We’re talking about exploring affiliate marketing for online courses.

In this guide, we’ll tell you how you can use affiliate marketing to promote your online course. We’ll cover everything you need to know about affiliate marketing to get students to sign up for your game-changing online course.

What Even Is Online Course Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an immensely popular marketing strategy today and it’s only becoming more popular each day. The global affiliate marketing industry is estimated to be valued at around $12 billion.

Okay, so it is popular, but even is it and how does it work?

Well, affiliate marketing involves offering some sort of incentive to individuals to refer customers to your business. By incentive, we mean a sales commission. For every successful referral sent your way, your affiliate partner earns a commission.

Here’s what an affiliate program looks like:

In an online course affiliate program, you’ll offer a commission to anyone who promotes your course. On every successful sale, you’ll share a piece of your earnings.

Affiliate programs involve providing a referral link or a promo code to your affiliate partners. Whatever sales are driven through your special link, your partner earns a commission. All of the sales will be tracked through your affiliate link, making everything straightforward and simple.

Affiliate partners can refer potential students through their own website, social media, or even through word-of-mouth.

How To Launch An Affiliate Program For Your Online Course

Elearning affiliate programs are not that difficult to launch, to be honest with you. If you have a solid course ready and can wait to get started, here are the 4 steps you need to follow to launch your own course affiliate programs.

1. Choose an affiliate marketing software

Before you get started, you need to choose an affiliate marketing software. An affiliate marketing software will simply allow you to manage your affiliate program. It’ll allow you to create referral links and efficiently track conversions, clicks, and referral commissions.

There are plenty of affiliate marketing software that you can use. 

Here’s a screenshot of Affise - an affiliate marketing software:

Using affiliate marketing software is easy. We’ll create a separate guide for it with a hands-on approach to help you get started.

Here are a few affiliate marketing software that we recommend:

  • Affise
  • Scaleo
  • Post Affiliate Pro
  • PayKickStart
  • Kartra

2. Decide your affiliate pricing and commission

Once you’ve decided which affiliate marketing software you want to go with, it’s time to decide on a commission package to offer to your partners. 

Offering cash incentives is the most appealing reward for partners. If you were to be an eCommerce brand, you can get away with offering free products or store credit. However, since you’ll be selling an online course, it is better to stick with cash rewards. 

When deciding a commission rate, you can go with two approaches:

  • Percentage commissions - Offer a certain percentage of each affiliate sale.
  • Flat-rate commissions - Offer a fixed dollar amount for each affiliate sale.

Usually, businesses running affiliate programs offer percentage commissions. An average commission can range anywhere between 5% to 30%. That being said, commission percentages are not fixed. It varies depending on the product you’re selling.

For reference, here are the affiliate commission rates of different product categories:

Product Category

Affiliate Commissions Rates (% of Sale)

Education

20%

Beauty

15-20%

Business

20-25%

Clothing

10-15%

Computers & Tech

15-20%

SaaS

20-30%

Services

30%

Financial

30-40%

In the education industry, the affiliate commission rate is roughly around 20%. But as we mentioned earlier, commission rates are not fixed. You can always raise or lower your commission rate to find a good fit for your course.

3. Recruit affiliates to promote your course

So you’ve decided on an affiliate commission to offer. What’s next?

Now, you’ll need to recruit affiliate partners to join your affiliate program. 

To help you onboard affiliate partners to join your program and promote your course, here’s what you can do:

A. Use social media

According to statistics, 56.8% of the world's total population uses social media. Considering that the world population is around 7.753 billion, the percentage of people using social media every day is just insane.

Why not use it to promote your affiliate program.

Use the power of social media to announce your affiliate program. Entice your followers to learn and join your affiliate program. Stress about the benefits you’ll offer to your partners.

Market your affiliate program by posting a promotional creative like this from GerResponse:

B. Use email marketing

Although email marketing might seem outdated with the rise of social media, it is still effective. It is also super cost-effective. In fact, if we consider ROI, email marketing has a higher return than other marketing channels. As per estimations, emails generate roughly $38 on every $1 spent.

If you have a substantial email list of potential partners to onboard, it’s time to start shooting those emails. Tell your email subscribers about your affiliate program and encourage them to spread the word about it to anyone who may be interested.

You can also always reach specific affiliates who you know can better market your online course. In that case, just send them a personalized email. 

You can use this outreach email template to get in touch with them:

Hi there [affiliate partner name],

I am [your name] from [your company], and we’re interested in collaborating with you. The campaign is for our [describe what course you want to sell and what it’s about], and we think you would be a perfect fit.

We’re planning to launch our campaign on [tentative date], and I wanted to know if this opportunity is something you’d be interested in. We’re offering a commission rate of [your commission rate range]. 

I would really appreciate it if we can get in touch to further discuss things in detail. It would give me the opportunity to answer all of your questions regarding our campaign.

Thank you,

[your name]

[your contact number]

[Link to your website]

C. Use your own website

You can also market your affiliate program on your own website. We’re not saying to add a huge banner on your homepage, but rather to link your affiliate program in the footer of your website. You can also market it through exit popups.

You will need to create a proper landing page for your affiliate program to highlight all of its perks. Your landing page should be of high quality. The content on the page should be top-notch and images should be appealing. Creating a professional-looking landing page will build your credibility. 

Aside from offering a compelling incentive, you should also make the application process smooth. Make the signup process easy for interested partners. 

When marketing your affiliate program, make sure you provide sufficient information. Cover information regarding the course you want to sell and the commission you’ll offer. 

D. Use third party affiliate sites

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of promoting your affiliate program yourself, you can also join third-party affiliate networks. Third-party affiliate networks like ShareASale allow you to get in touch with already established affiliates to help you market your product. 

One thing that we like about third-party affiliate networks is that they offer training resources that can eventually help you run your affiliate programs independently.

4. Manage your affiliate partners

Once you’ve onboarded affiliate partners to your program, you’ll want to stay in touch with your partners. To develop a strong affiliate program, you’ll need to regularly stay in touch with your affiliates. You can use email for professional communication. 

You must keep your partners up to date with any changes you make to your campaign. For example, if you’re running a limited-time sale, your partners must be aware of it. You must provide them with your course samples, creatives, images, and other resources that they can use to market your course. 

When managing your affiliates and your affiliate program, keep a close eye on the following matrices:

  • Your total affiliate sales
  • Your sales per affiliate
  • Your total payout
  • Your payout-to-sales ratios
  • Your gross margin
  • The total number of affiliates in your program
  • The number of new affiliates in your program
  • The number of affiliates who’ve left your program

Affiliate management apps make it super simple to manage your affiliate marketing campaigns. You’ll be able to create registration pages, affiliate tracking links, and look over analytics.

Are Online Education Affiliate Programs Effective For Online Courses? 


The short answer is yes. Running an affiliate marketing program for online courses is an effective marketing strategy.

For people only beginning their marketing venture, running an affiliate marketing program can prove fruitful. Even established educational institutes can benefit from affiliate marketing if they make it a part of their comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

To cut things short, here are 5 key benefits of using affiliate marketing for online courses:

1. Help you build brand awareness

2. Help you reach your target audience

3. Help you save your marketing expenses

4. Help you reach more prospects through unique content

5. Helps you build brand loyalty when you offer rewards

1. Help you build brand awareness

You may have come up with an amazing course to sell, but if no one knows about it, you won’t be able to get students to buy it.

Finding the right audience is a major challenge when selling online courses. Typically, you’ll have to do extensive market research and spend a lot of time, money, and resources to nail things down.

Affiliate marketing on the other hand can help you tackle these challenges.

Affiliate partners already have sizable audiences to which they can market your course. They take care of your marketing and branding. It wouldn’t matter to you whether they use social platforms or their own website to convert referrals. You’ll just be concerned with sales.

2. Help you reach your target audience

Along with helping you with your brand awareness, affiliates can promote your course to the right audiences. If you partner with an affiliate from the educational niche, that’s even better. 

3. Help you save your marketing expenses

As we’ve mentioned earlier, affiliate marketing is a cheaper marketing strategy compared to paid marketing like PPC, Facebook Ads, or Google Ads

Why is it cheaper?

Well, because you’ll pay a partner commission when someone actually converts a lead into a customer. You won’t be wasting your marketing budget on views and impressions.

Affiliate marketing is inexpensive and less risky compared to other marketing channels.

4. Help you reach more prospects through unique content

If you promote your course through Google Ads, you’ll be limited to ad copies and creatives. There’s only so much you can do with that. 

Affiliate marketing can help you promote out of the box. 

How so? 

Well, affiliate partners can promote your course through blog posts, testimonial reviews, infographics, and even videos. 

Think about the versatility. 

Affiliate partners can give students who are interested in your course an overview of your course by making it enticing and worthwhile. 

With unique content ideas, affiliates can make it easier for potential customers to sign up for your course. 

5. Helps you build brand loyalty when you offer rewards

Brand loyalty is everything for maintaining a sustainable customer base. It is super important to build a positive brand image in the minds of your consumers who will become your brand advocate.

This is why in affiliate marketing, it is super important to reward not only your affiliate partners but also those who signed up for your course. Rewarding your customers is an awesome way of building brand loyalty. This will ensure that your existing students will likely enroll in your future courses too.

Who Can You Onboard As Affiliates For Your Online Course?


When onboarding affiliates for your online course, you’d want people associated with the online education niche. 

To make it easier for you, we have listed down the best affiliates for your affiliate marketing program:

Existing students

Getting your existing student to promote your course is probably the best approach to getting new students to purchase your course. People are likely to be interested in your course if someone who has already taken your course recommends it.

Experts from the education industry

Experts related to the course you’re selling can also be ideal affiliates to promote your course.  For example, if you’re selling a course on cooking, you can onboard chefs in your affiliate program.

Industry experts can use their own websites or social channels to explain why your course is worth purchasing to their audiences.

Teachers or instructors

You can also partner with teachers and course instructors who you think to have knowledge regarding your course. Instructors and teachers have credibility and authority on the subject matter. They can use that to recommend your course to their audiences.


Time To Improve Your Online Course Sales With Affiliate Marketing


So this wraps things up. Hopefully, our affiliate marketing for online course guide has helped you take actionable steps in starting your own affiliate marketing program.

Since everything is going online these days, it is the perfect time to market your online course through affiliate marketing and save a ton on your marketing budget.


Manno Notermans

Manno is a wanderer of the world looking to make an impact and change the world for the better. He has over 10 years of experience working in various marketing positions. Manno’s main focus the past few years has been accelerating the growth of businesses, increasing revenue, and profit with out-of-box creative ideas and implementations.