What membership site models will be the most profitable for your business? (Yes, you can combine more than one!)
It's a question you'll need to answer in order to create a membership site that will enhance and grow your current business. There are different types of online course sites and experiences you can create based on your strengths as a teacher, leader, and business owner… and what your ideal customers are willing to invest in, too.
In short: the type of membership site you choose can make or break your offer, and affect conversions and the long term sustainability of your site.
A membership site is a place where free or paying members can log in to access their content, courses, and community. You can charge a one-time fee for access or build in a recurring revenue stream with monthly or yearly payments.
7 Types of Membership Site Models
In this guide to membership site models, you'll see the leading membership site types along with membership site examples for each one.
1. A Community-Focused Membership
The community-focused membership site is all about facilitating strong relationship-building among your paying members.
Some of the identifying features of a community-focused membership include:
- A member directory, where users can search for, and connect with, one another.
- Forum, so members can easily carry on group discussions.
- Masterminds, where members receive a high level of support, feedback, and resources.
- Accountability tools, so members are empowered to follow through and achieve their goals.
- …or other “people-driven” benefits.
There are a number of things to think about when creating a community focused membership site, from membership goals to mapping out the engagement interaction paths that will be available inside your membership site.
The best part about this type of membership is that people are more likely to stay with you as active paying members once they've made great connections in your community. You might be interested in a WordPress member directory plugin that allows members to customize their profiles, opt out of the listing, or connect with each other more easily.
Example: Tara McMullen's CoCommercial community.
2. The All-You-Can-Eat Education Buffet
Think of this style of membership as the Netflix of online learning: a member joins and has access to a bunch of content from day one. It's a library of courses that continues to grow over time to incentivize current customers to stick around and attract new clients, too.
You can do that using quizzes that guide people to the right next step. Or, you can connect them with the appropriate material by offering sophisticated search functionality, or even giving recommendations based on previous courses they've enjoyed.
Many education buffets offer a wide range of topics to attract a large client base. However, when you're just getting started, it helps to have a focused outcome in mind that appeals to a very specific audience (rather than trying to be a jack of all trades).
Focus on getting a targeted set of courses done well, and branch out from there.
Example: BrainPop‘s online learning portal for kids.
3. Coaching and Accountability Membership
This type of membership is often called group coaching, and it packs a lot of value for the participants.
There are a few different ways to offer coaching and accountability with this model:
Generally, you’d offer live office hours or coaching calls where members can show up, ask questions, get support, and accountability. You can also create opportunities for the coach or leader to keep track of participants’ progress, encouraging them if they get stuck along the way.
In our busy modern world, there aren't a lot of places where you can get individual attention from someone with a lot of expertise… at least, not without breaking the bank.
If coaching is something you love and you want to help your clients achieve their goals (without putting a cap on your earning potential), this might be for you!
Example: Erika Lyremark's Mark'd Mastery.
4. Done for You Resources
This type of membership offers a big time savings for its members by eliminating time-consuming work and offering a resource that can be used as is or with minor tweaks.
If a teacher, ministry leader, or blogger needs new content each week and can simply take your material and tweak it… They'll stay on board to save time and keep getting your new materials.
It's a no-brainer for the right clients, and if you're drawn to this type of membership it's likely because you've BEEN your ideal client so you can create the best materials for them.
This type of membership will see you creating a lot of consistent content, so think through the best way to organize it from day one.
Anything that saves people time is highly valued, and if you're already seeing interest, you know that the demand is there. All that's left is a matter of marketing it properly to get the word out.
This type of membership tends to be extremely stable, because of the recurring needs of your specific set of clientele.
If you're already doing the work creating this type of content, and people are asking how you do it or if you ever offer it… then this might be a great type of membership site for you to offer.
Example: Lesson plans created by teachers on Education.com.
5. Retainers and Other Service Memberships
The best way to describe this type of membership is a client dashboard. It can be used to facilitate the process of onboarding a new client… Or, you might use the membership site after the services have been delivered, as a way to stay in touch with a client and offer additional training or resources.
It’s set up to communicate with your clients, retainer engagements, and other services… so you’re freed up to focus on the service itself, whether that’s interior design, copywriting, or health coaching.
Depending on which step of the client process your membership site will take over, you'll want to create a map of the steps that you generally take when signing up a new client, while you're working with them, or after you wrap up an engagement.
This is a no-brainer type of membership for freelancers, agencies, and anyone who works with clients already. It's also a great way to onboard 1 on 1 coaching clients, and build in a clear process to keep everyone on the same page.
Example: SnapCopy uses credits to manage client copywriting projects.
6. Internal Training Turned Into a Profit Center
As your business grows, you’ll start to amass a lot of internal knowledge that you want your whole team to become familiar with. Having a membership site to host internal training, onboarding videos, exercises, and other resources is extremely efficient.
You can keep track of who on your team is up to speed, and easily bring in new team members and help them onboard quickly.
If you're working with a team, you've probably already started recording short training videos for how to do certain things in your business, or run weekly/monthly training sessions that are recorded. You might have even started to create a company wiki to house this information.'
Example: Digital Marketer turned their own internal company training into a paid certification program that they've continued to improve and earn from.
7. The Dripped Content or Dripped Release Course
Some membership site models are a natural fit for things that happen every month or every week. For example, you might be creating a new piece of content to match the astrological changes happening each month.
Or, you might be creating an online course that would be better consumed over time, like music lessons that must be mastered before moving on.
Doing this type of membership might mean you need a drip course plugin, or other way to release content over time if you're not creating it live each month or week.
Example: Whole Woman by Sarah Jenks is a monthly membership that follows the cycles of the moon with dripped content, and also combines other elements of the membership site models above.
How to Choose the Best Membership Site Model for Your Business
In the end, you know best who your current clients are and what you can offer as a benefit to help them grow.
Don't be concerned if none of the options above feels like the “perfect fit”. You can always mix and match to come up with the perfect balance of materials that will engage your clients and bring in a stream of recurring revenue.
Want this post in downloadable format along with 10 ways to overcome the most common membership site struggles? Click below to grab it now.
This isn’t your first rodeo: you already have an online course (or many!).
Now it’s time to look at ideas for improving online courses, so your participants get all of the amazing results you know are possible for them.
You’re in the right place, because we’re going to take a look at an entrepreneur who had run an already successful online course for 5 years… and what she did to kick up the learning experience.
Meet Kendrick Shope and her online course called Sales School
Kendrick Shope is the creator of the leading sales training for women entrepreneurs, and the Authentic Selling® process which has created millions of dollars in revenue and new business for her clients.
Kendrick hosts her own daily talk show, and reaches nearly 100 thousand followers in six continents. She has been featured on the Steve Harvey Show, NBC, Forbes, and INC to name a few.
Before starting her own online empire, she spent two decades delivering top performing sales results for 3 Fortune 500 companies.
Our case study starts 5 years after Kendrick’s first round of her result-oriented Sales School program.
You see, Kendrick had been running her multi-million dollar course Sales School for 5 years, and she knew she wanted to improve the online learning experience for her students.
Here’s what one returning student had to say after the site update:
Now let’s take a look at the 7 strategies to improve online learning that Kendrick used, and how you can apply them to your business too.
Organize content using an intuitive navigation
In the early days of Kendrick’s Sale School, the program was run almost entirely within a Facebook group.
That meant students had to search for content, and finding things from previous weeks of the online course made it difficult to keep up or review.
Over the years, Kendrick built a beautiful membership site on WordPress to house the lessons and content of the course.
But one thing that Kendrick’s team realized is that just because a website is beautiful, it doesn’t mean that it’s functional.
That’s one simple way of improving online courses, no matter what platform or how much content you have to teach!
Track progress to motivate online learning
By adding progress tracking to the online course’s members area, Kendrick was able to provide a road map for students.
As participants watch training videos, complete assignments, and practice their sales skills in their own businesses…
They see how far they’ve come, and they’re more likely to finish each module, thanks to the completion bias.
The completion bias is our tendency as human beings to feel good when we finish what we start.
By implementing progress tracking checklists using AccessAlly, Kendrick was able to tap into human nature to help people extract the value out of the online course they signed up for.
Progress tracking is also helpful as an online course creator because it allows you to see how students are moving through your content. It shows trends and can highlight especially challenging areas that you can improve.
Offer bonuses and goodies for completion
Of course, improving an online course by adding progress tracking is just the first step… Kendrick took it even further by adding in bonuses and extra goodies when a module is completed.
Kendrick is always teaching her clients and students to do the common things uncommonly well, and when it comes to strategies to improve online learning… that goes double.
Really think through the bonuses or extra content you might offer a bonus for completing a course. It needs to feel like a reward, and not just more work to get through.
Kendrick’s enthusiasm is contagious, and her bonuses are truly motivating and rewarding for her students.
Setting up the online learning experience to unlock bonuses upon module or lesson completion isn’t hard with AccessAlly, it’s the intention behind it is what takes the most thought.
Overdeliver during live facilitation, and bring in additional coaches
If there’s one thing that Kendrick Shope has always been known for, it’s overdelivering for her students and clients.
Way back in the early days of her Sales School program, when it was delivered via live video trainings… Kendrick has rocked the live facilitation aspect of online training.
Answering participants’ questions, helping them role play, jumping into the nitty gritty and offering to edit sales scripts and emails… Kendrick is fully present for her students when she’s running her online course.
But as an online course scales and more students join in, it can become difficult for one teacher or facilitator to handle all of the questions and give the same level of feedback alone.
That’s why Kendrick brought in additional Sales School certified coaches to help new participants get the same hands-on learning experience, without burning Kendrick out.
If you run online courses, and you’ve noticed that you’re not able to answer all of the questions on your live group facilitation calls – then it might be time to hire on or train additional coaches to help you.
Follow-up based on student engagement and check in on social media
Kendrick has always had a “no student left behind” policy, where she would work with her course participants until they got results in their business.
But the onus is on the student to ask questions, and raise their hand when they fall behind or get stuck.
One way to catch people who might be falling off the wagon is to look at their engagement and their progress, and reach out before it’s too late.
Kendrick and her coaches check in with students on social media, and make sure that people are having a good learning experience and most importantly are implement what they learn.
With AccessAlly, it’s also possible to see who hasn’t logged into the online course members area, and check in with them.
Sometimes people sign up for online courses before they’re ready to participate, but if you’re offering a live round of a course then you’ll want people to join in for the live sessions to get the best experiences.
Ensure smooth purchase and login experience
One often overlooked way of improving online learning is to make the on boarding experience glitch-free.
It’s easy to set up an online course platform and shopping cart and assume that it can handle a big launch and student registration period without a hitch…
But not all online course plugins and integrations work seamlessly together, which can lead to a choppy registration and login experience.
Kendrick’s Sales School launches had always felt a little chaotic, with last minute fixes because of login issues or other access blips for her students.
After switching to AccessAlly, Kendrick and her team realized that the peace of mind they got from having a smooth purchase and login experience for their students was worth way more than the price of the plugin.
Plus, thanks to AccessAlly’s cross-selling dashboard functionality, Kendrick could display both the free video series alongside her paid courses all in one place.
Here improving the user experience leads to more sales, fewer support requests, and a better learning experience, too.
Call in experts and bring in complementary resources
The final tip in our list of 7 strategies to improve online learning is simple, and it doesn’t involve you as a teacher doing any additional work.
During Sales School, Kendrick often reaches out to her colleagues and fellow experts to help answer questions and provide resources for her participants.
The benefits are clear: as a teacher, Kendrick shares from her area of expertise and brings in the complementary resources and teachers to help her students succeed.
This way, she doesn’t need to be an expert in “everything” and she’s still improving online courses because it’s not just a static experience but it will differ based on the questions people ask.
Kendrick taps other people’s expertise in a very classy way, by sharing the answers to students questions and giving full credit to the colleague who helped out. It’s a win-win experience for everyone involved.
As a course creator yourself, you can do this informally for on-the-spot questions or you can have other experts create content right inside your members area, too.
Migrating Course Platforms Top the List of Ideas for Improving Online Courses
Undertaking a course platform migration is not for everyone, but if you find yourself considering switching course solutions to improve your online courses, then Kendrick’s experience will be helpful.
Here’s what Kendrick had to say about her migration to AccessAlly:
Now let’s take a look at what tech systems Kendrick was using before, and what her transition looked like.
Improving Online Courses: The Tech Stack
Looking to improve the learning experience, Kendrick’s team undertook the migration of existing members using AccessAlly’s migration plugin and building a new version of the membership site.
The final tech stack looks like this:
There are not a lot of natively integrated Ontraport LMS plugins on the market, but another aspect that was useful for Kendrick’s team was the ability to pull in the affiliate information into the membership area, too.
Kendrick’s team plans to make use of AccessAlly’s order forms and abandoned cart follow-up functionality in future launches.
Design and Development of the New Online Course Environment
I asked Laís Cerutti Scortegagna, the designer responsible for the new course set up what she thought of the migration project.
Here’s what she had to say:
“My favorite part was being able to create a learning environment that really supports the level of the learning experience Kendrick offers. We were able to personalize it and make it as actionable as Sales School is.
Kendrick gives everyone action steps and being able to mimic that inside the members area was a breeze.
Creating the structure was super easy with the AccessAlly course wizard.
The migration system also makes it so easy to migrate to AccessAlly. The tag system made it easy for the team to create the drip release automation in Ontraport.
But there are special details that AccessAlly made easier and are worth mentioning:
- creating a beautiful dashboard that creates desire with different course icons for who has an who doesn't have access
- being able to use the students' names to welcome them
- creating checklists for each module and bonuses that reveal once they complete it
- easy to create a beautiful login page
I also really liked that AccessAlly with Divi makes it a dream to create membership sites.”
Improving Online Courses Starts with Your Intention
The biggest takeaway I want you to have from this case study is that having an attitude of constant improvement is key.
Kendrick’s Sales School program started off as a totally live program run in a Facebook group, then from year to year she upped the learning experience.
Each time, she put a lot of heart and thought into helping her students succeed with the program.
In turn, she upgraded her technical systems, and hired team members to help her develop the technical foundation for her online course to scale.
Finally, she migrated to AccessAlly to provide the level of online learning automation and personalization that she knew would deliver the best results for her students.
If you want to see if AccessAlly is the right online learning plugin for your business, then book a demo.
Your website is more than just a tool that gives your business a face online. It can be a business in itself.
Here's what I mean by that:
One of the best ways to increase your income (without working more hours for dollars) is to set up a membership site platform.
A membership site becomes the hub of your online training, allows your fans to connect more, and gives you a community of fans to ask for input, information, and questions.
When done well, it can provide an amazing source of recurring revenue for your online business.
Here's the dream:
You create your courses and set up your WordPress membership site. You integrate it with your email marketing system Drip, so you can still use the same tags and email automation software as before.
Then, you just kick back and watch as the membership site sells itself and keeps your students engaged like a well-oiled machine…
Sounds like a pipe dream, right?
Whether you're offering online courses, products, a social network, or any variety of resources inside your membership site, you can absolutely automate the whole thing, using just two tools: AccessAlly Pro and Drip.
If you use ConvertKit for your email automation marketing platform, then you know how powerful of a system it is.
But you might be wondering what the best way to integrate ConvertKit with a WordPress affiliate plugin might be…
There are a few generic WordPress affiliate plugins on the market, but which one is right for you? We’ll answer that question and more below!
What Do You Plan to Sell With Your Affiliate Program?
The first question we need to answer to help you choose the best ConvertKit WordPress affiliate plugin integration is this:
What do you plan to offer? It could be…
The good news is that there are different WordPress plugins that handle many of these options.
If You Sell Online Courses, Digital Products, or a Membership Program… You’ll Want To Check out AccessAlly
While there are a few WordPress affiliate plugins that integrate with ConvertKit using Zapier or other add-ons…
There’s a brand new option on the market for ConvertKit users when it comes to affiliate plugin integration, and it’s called AccessAlly.
With AccessAlly’s mobile friendly order forms you can now track affiliate cookies and run your own affiliate program.
Why is it ideal for those who offer online courses, digital products, and membership sites you ask? Because AccessAlly also handles delivery of each of these types of offerings.
In fact, AccessAlly is a ConvertKit membership plugin too!
Let’s take a look at how easy it is to set up an order form and an affiliate program on WordPress for ConvertKit.
Setting up a ConvertKit affiliate plugin integration
The first step is to integrate ConvertKit with your WordPress site using AccessAlly.
Next you’ll want to create the products you plan to sell, as well as the offers that go along with them.
The benefit of AccessAlly’s 3-step order form is that you can follow-up with anyone who doesn’t complete their check-out using ConvertKit’s automation functionality.
Finally, once you have your products in place you can create the affiliate program in AccessAlly.
In AccessAlly’s affiliate plugin functionality, all you need to do it make someone an affiliate is assign a tag in ConvertKit.
This gives them the ability to access your affiliate center on your WordPress site, where they can get their affiliate links, stats, and more.
Delivering Courses and Products using ConvertKit
Delivering your online courses and products using AccessAlly is easy with ConvertKit’s automations. You can do dripped content release, or instant access – it’s all based on tags.
You design the course or membership structure in AccessAlly, while your WordPress theme handles the look and feel of your site.
From there, ConvertKit handles the delivery of emails and decides when to unlock access. It could be a daily challenge, a weekly course, or a monthly membership… your automations in ConvertKit power it all.
Plus, you can decide what kind of affiliate program you want to run.
You decide what affiliate commission structure you want to offer, how long you want to track affiliate cookies and if you’re offering a recurring product you can also choose how long you want to pay affiliates.
Get Started with the ConvertKit Affiliate Plugin WordPress Integration in AccessAlly
So if you’ve been looking for the right affiliate plugin on WordPress that deeply integrates with ConvertKit… you’ve found it!
Check out AccessAlly and get started integrating your ConvertKit account with the checkout pages and affiliate system.
I found it.
The closest thing to passive income you can earn online.
It’s good old affiliate marketing.
Now before you dismiss the idea entirely… I need to say it: what it takes to achieve affiliate marketing success is not what you might expect.
I’m sharing the numbers with you because I know that we don't see a lot of realistic affiliate marketing success stories…
Here’s the thing: most affiliate marketing is ineffective and can be a waste of time.
Unless you do it the way I’m about to show you today.
What Type of Affiliate Marketing am I Talking About?
When it comes to affiliate marketing success, there are two sides to the coin…
You can be the one creating products and enlisting the help of other business owners, by creating your own affiliate program. You get more exposure, and you pay a cut of your sales to your referral partners.
Or, you can be the one recommending products as an affiliate and earning a commission.
Most long term business owners end up doing both, but in this post I'll be talking about my income and experiences being an affiliate for other companies.
(I talk more about how to create an affiliate program here.)
(Second sidenote: You might be delighted to know there's a ConvertKit affiliate plugin integration, if you want to start your own affiliate program.)
Now let's look at what successful affiliate marketers know, that I had no clue about in my first year of business.
How To Do Affiliate Marketing Right (Plus My Surprising Numbers)
When I started out in my very first business online in the health space, nearly 10 years ago, I didn’t know anything about affiliate marketing.
I quickly learned that I could become an affiliate for another company, and earn a commission when someone who came from my link purchased.
It seemed simple enough, and there are plenty of affiliate programs you can sign up for…
From big ones like Amazon, niche product sites, software, and online programs…
Since my business was brand new, and I didn’t have a product or online course to sell, I signed up for one of my “competitors” affiliate program.
Then I sent an email to my tiny email list (it was about 50 people at the time) with an affiliate link for their online course…
A week later, I had made a handful of sales and earned $132.
Email Marketing + Affiliate Promotions
I was stoked! That was my first taste of “passive income”, because I didn’t have to create a product or show up to deliver a service…
I just wrote an email and hit send.
The downside? I had tapped out this opportunity…
Even though I knew that my audience responded well to this offer, I couldn’t just send the same email again.
But there was a better way, that I had yet to figure out.
Writing Affiliate Reviews on Your Website
Fast forward a few years…
I’m in the next iteration of my business teaching people how to get techy with it (funky dance videos included).
Because I was often talking about tech tools and systems, I decided to sign up for the affiliate programs of the ones I was already recommending.
I also realized that people often had a hard time deciding between multiple competing systems, so I put together some comparison posts.
In the end, I wrote a few in-depth reviews about some of the tech tools that I was using and knew a lot about.
One of the email platforms that I recommended was Aweber (yep, that’s an affiliate link!).
Soon, people were finding my review and comparison posts and I started to see people who weren’t on my email list signing up through my affiliate link.
Before I knew it, I was bringing in $200 a month from my recommendation for just one system. (Even after I stopped recommending it and started talking about other email marketing platforms.)
Over the years, I’ve amassed over $15,000 in commissions from just this one company… Pretty amazing right?
The Difference Between One Time Affiliate Promotions and Residual Affiliate Efforts
So what was different between my one-time $132 cash infusion and my steady $200 a month approach?
Yes my reach was much smaller in the early days… but the biggest difference was that my reviews continued to bring people in over time.
The search engines were doing a lot of the heavy lifting for me… and I was able to offer my opinion on the product and help people make the right decisions.
I kept my reviews as unbiased as possible, by sharing both the good and the bad and I was very clear that my links were affiliate links.
Plus, the affiliate program offered a recurring commission structure, so I knew that the money was going to continue to steadily trickle in over time.
Why You Might Want to Invest Your Time in Affiliate Marketing Even If You Have Your Own Products and Services
If you’ve read this far, then you know you can make a modest amount of money by aligning yourself with products that you love and recommend anyway.
But it goes even further.
Writing in-depth review articles and doing comparison videos also positioned me as an authority on the topic.
This in turn helped me to attract more clients for my services, and in turn sell more of my own products, too.
You see, if someone is researching something with the intent to buy then they are more likely to buy other related services and products, too.
Having highly ranked review posts helped me to build my email list and attract more of my ideal clients.
But here’s how I feel in love with affiliate marketing all over again in a big way…
How I Went On To Make Multiple Six Figures in Affiliate Income
My involvement in affiliate marketing had been positive up to this point, but things were about to get crazy.
In 2011 I decided to sign up as an affiliate for my mentor Marie Forleo’s B-School program.
I decided to write a review of the program after having gone through it and gotten so much out of it myself, and because I knew that Marie could really help her students succeed.
This was a $2000 course, and the commission was 50%.
The B-School program was not available all year, but Marie had a great set of free training videos that showed people what to expect if they signed up for the course.
After the enrollment period, I had earned $11,000 dollars.
Now, you might be thinking: wow, that’s amazing – I want some of that passive income action!
But here’s where my next affiliate marketing tip comes in…
Offering Bonuses as an Affiliate Marketer
You see, in 2011 I was a web designer and I knew that people who signed up for B-School could benefit from having a website created for them.
So I offered everyone who purchased B-School through my affiliate link a website project…
This is where the “passive income” story falls apart.
I worked my buns off for that commission, but I ended up delivering some great starter websites and making friends for life with these people in the process.
I also learned that offering bonuses in an affiliate review can be very effective, because it helps you deliver more value than just your opinion…
This is especially important if you’re promoting something that has a lot of other affiliates, and that may have a “launch model” where people need to make a decision to buy before registration closes.
The next year, I revisited my B-School review blog post, updated it with more in-depth information and decided to switch out my bonuses.
This time, I decided to offer some consulting sessions – these would be easier to deliver and would still be very useful for the people who signed up through my affiliate link.
I ended up with over 50 sign ups, and I was on the phone in back-to-back consulting sessions for weeks. (This was no hardship considering I brought in over $50,000.)
Fine Tuning Your Bonuses and Adding In Other Forms of Marketing
At this point, B-School was such an important part of my business that I was also asked by Marie Forleo to come on board as the resident tech trainer for the program.
Each year, I put more energy behind my B-School promotions… from sending emails, posting on social media, updating my review post, and answering individual emails from people who had questions.
The interesting thing was that because B-School was becoming more popular, more people were researching B-School before signing up and finding my review.
So each year I saw a bunch of new email sign ups during B-School season… and this was great for my business, whether they signed up through my link or not.
I ended up earning multiple six figures in B-School commissions over the years.
Each year I also revisited the bonuses that I offered.
I learned that offering 1 on 1 time was extremely beneficial, but that I could also offer more group bonuses… like a ticket to my live events, or access to our courses or software instead.
That was still not the passive income that everyone strives for, but I felt really good offering a lot of value because it was such a big part of my business revenue.
Bringing In Facebook Ad Retargeting
As digital marketing continued to get more sophisticated, I also tried a few other things in combination with affiliate marketing.
One example was to run Facebook retargeting ads to people who had visited my review posts…
That way I could remind them about my bonuses and give them another chance to sign up through my affiliate link.
The great thing about Facebook ad retargeting is that you don’t need to spend a lot on your ads, because you’re just showing them to people who have already expressed interest in the program or product you’re recommending.
But everything starts with having a really high quality review post or video, that people are finding through the search engines.
How You Can Earn More With Thoughtful Reviews
Okay, so you might be thinking that some of this affiliate marketing stuff feels really out of reach.
I admit that I was in the right place at the right time, when it comes to B-School. And I continue to proudly recommend it to new and established business owners who want to master modern marketing. (Although it’s no longer as big of a revenue source now that our business has shifted into software.)
But each year there are new “blockbuster products” and affiliate opportunities.
Not to mention lots of long term residual income affiliate programs, like our own AccessAlly affiliate program.
So let’s take a look at how you can construct a winning affiliate review, and how you can set your review up to show up in the search engines when people are doing their research…
Types of Affiliate Review Approaches
The product you're recommending will usually lead itself to one of these types of affiliate marketing success paths.
- Resource page link: if the product is something that anyone visiting your website could benefit from. This is a simple link in a resource page like this, with a quick explanation of who it's for and why you use it or recommend it.
- Direct review post: this was the type of post that did all of the heavy lifting in my B-School promotions. This works well if people are not comparing two different things, and they really want confirmation before they buy.
- Tutorial post: this is a great way to provide value by teaching how to use a tool or product. It's also a great way to explain why you recommend a product, by showing how it works.
- Comparison post: this type of post usually pins 2 or more competing products against each other. The more personal you can be when creating a comparison post, the better – since most people can compare basic things like price and features themselves. What they really want is the personal experience. Here's an example with 10+ products being compared, and with a fewer number.
What to Include in Your Affiliate Review Post
What you include in your affiliate review can really impact the effectiveness of your efforts.
If you’re going to spend the time reviewing an affiliate product, make sure that it covers these basics – and that your review is valuable for people whether or not they purchase.
The sale should always be a secondary consideration, and the goal of your review post should always be to share your own experience with the product and to help people decide if it’s right for them or not.
Here’s what you need to include in your review:
1. An Affiliate Disclosure
It’s important to be transparent and let readers know that your review contains affiliate links.
Being honest with your readers about your motivations for publishing a review not only helps them trust you more, but it also keeps you compliant with FTC regulations.
Example disclosure: I’m a proud AccessAlly affiliate, which means I earn a commission for any sales I refer. I personally use AccessAlly to run my business and membership site, so I share this review from my first hand experience (including both the good and the bad!).
2. Video (Optional)
Video is optional, but it can help you get your point across and share your story with a product more authentically than text.
If you’re creating a video review, upload it to a public platform like YouTube and use some of the keywords people might use to help your video appear when people are searching.
Make sure to include your affiliate link or a link back to your full written review on your site in the video description.
Include a verbal affiliate disclosure in your video too – it’s best to be upfront in all of your affiliate partnerships.
3. These Key Points (Sample Outline Below)
Affiliate marketing success starts with including the right details in your review.
Here’s an example of the flow you might use to review a software tool like AccessAlly.
Post Title (Example: WordPress LMS Plugin Review)
What I’ll Be Covering
Who This Review Is For
Why You Should Listen To Me As a Reviewer
What I Was Looking For
How I Found AccessAlly & What It Is
What I Like About AccessAlly
If You Use [CRM], Here’s Why You Should Check Out AccessAlly
Final Call to Action and Affiliate Link
Include your affiliate link throughout the post, and be sure to put your affiliate disclosure before you link to the product.
Be as honest and personal as you can be: don’t just repeat the features and details anyone can find on the product’s sales page…
People who are researching a product or course want to know what results you personally got from it, not a regurgitated “feature list”.
How To Pick Your Bonuses
If it makes sense to offer bonuses, here are some suggestions to help you put together a great bonus package.
First, think about the type of person who will be signing up for the product you’re recommending… what other things do they need?
Is there anything you can offer that will make them more successful? Think about things that complement the offer (not distract from it).
You’ll also want to check the affiliate program terms, to make sure that what you plan to offer as a bonus is allowed.
For example, some affiliate programs don’t allow you to offer bonuses worth more than the program price or the commission you earn.
This prevents people from offering SO much that it devalues the original program, and makes people feel suspicious about the “over compensation” in the bonus department.
Similarly, offering to give cash-back may be against the rules of an affiliate program. For example, if you plan to split the commission with the person purchasing – that would reduce the price of the product for the person buying and give them an incentive to buy through your link…
But again, this devalues the product and may not be allowed.
So here are the types of bonuses that tend to do well:
- Your own existing courses and products, if they’re relevant
- A training course or program specifically designed to go along with the product (for example a “how to use XYZ course”)
- Templates, checklists, highlights that help people implement or get results faster
- Group coaching, live events, or other “face time” with you
- Access to you for feedback or questions along the way (it’s especially helpful if you make the effort to check in with people over time – and it shows you care!)
Other creative things you could do is donate all or a portion of an affiliate commission to a charity.
The most important thing is how you frame the bonuses: as something that brings additional value, without making the original product feel inferior.
Bonuses should remain the cherry on top, and not become the focus of your review.
If your bonuses could be a paid offering on their own, you could split them off onto their own individual sales page, and link to them from your review instead.
How to Optimize Your Affiliate Marketing Efforts with SEO
Now that you’ve spent some time writing or recording your thoughts about the product you’re recommending…
It’s time to make sure that your post shows up in the search engines, so that you can get the full benefits and effects of this strategy.
The first step is to do a little bit of keyword research… start off by thinking through what people might be searching for if they’re thinking about buying this particular product, a competing product, or even just wondering about the possibilities in this category.
For example, for AccessAlly you might realize that people are searching for a “ConvertKit LMS plugin”.
Now, you’ll want to type that into Google, preferably into an Incognito or Private browser, and see what comes up.
You might see some suggested related keywords while you’re typing, and you might also get more ideas for keywords based on the results.
You’ll want to pick one main keyword and then 2 other related keywords. So in our example, that might be “ConvertKit WordPress integration” and “ConvertKit course plugin”.
Now here are the ways you’ll use these keywords in your review, to increase your odds of showing up on the first page of the search results:
- Use the main keyword in your post title
- Include images that are relevant and set one of your keywords as the image name, description, or caption / alternative text
- Use these keywords where they naturally come up in your text (this isn’t about stuffing your post with a bunch of keywords, but if you can weave them it where it makes sense, it’ll help tell the search engines what your post is about)
- Use the keywords in your sub-headings as it makes sense
- Link to your post from other relevant pages or posts on your site
- Write the description for your post in an SEO setting area or plugin, and include your keywords as long as they sound natural
- Make sure your URL for your post includes your main keyword
- Once you hit publish on your post, share the post on social media and include your keywords as they make sense
Putting It All Together – How To Have Affiliate Marketing Success
I've covered a lot in this guide, but the most important thing that can help you reach affiliate marketing success is your attitude.
If you're in it for the long term, then it doesn't matter if your first commission payment is small… it will continue to grow over time, and by adding up all of the referrals you'll make in the next decade, you'll be glad you started.
Affiliate marketing may help you fund your main business like it did mine, or it could help you take more time off, pay off your mortgage, or save a little extra for a rainy day.
The key is to get started today.
The sooner you do, the sooner you'll be earning referral income and reaping the rewards with your strategic affiliate marketing success!
I grew my email list by over 15,000 using this social media challenge idea… and in today’s all-new AccessAlly tell-all post, I show you how you can too.
Many people have seen the popular 30 Day List Building Challenge that we’ve been running for the past few years… some people say it’s the best training on list building, and even better than many paid trainings they’ve purchased.
That warms my heart.
I’ve also noticed that many people who take the challenge decide they want to start their own “many day challenge” around their topic of expertise.
Maybe it’s a self-love challenge, a meditation challenge, a fitness challenge, or even a bust through your blocks challenge.
I’m all for it – and today I’m going to share with you exactly how we created our challenge, and how you can learn from our mistakes along the way… so that your challenge can help you build your email list with engaged participants and potentially help you sell more of your programs and offerings, too.
You're in the right place.
Our in-depth guide will help you get set up the right way!
But first … I have a question for you:
That's a big question. Timing is everything, especially when you're bringing affiliates on board.
Start too early and you might end up with a pile of paperwork and no revenue. But if you wait too long, you might miss out on valuable revenue and reach for your business.
The biggest trouble with finding a good balance? Affiliates are often synonymous with “pay as you go marketers.”
Push that thought out of your head.
Most marketing advice tells you to market more, spend more on ads, and push harder.
Well, I got fed up with the “more, more, more” approach.
There’s only so many Facebook ads you can optimize before you get blue in the face. So I asked myself…
“What if there was a way to take better care of the interested people we already have?”
There is! But most marketers don’t focus on this part of the sales process, because it’s not as sexy.
What’s responsible for recapturing 43% lost sales in our business?
A simple abandoned cart email sequence (which I'll share with you in a moment).
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Abandoned Cart Email Follow-Up
Let’s get right down to it: abandoned cart email sequences have quietly been making the online retail industry millions of dollars.
(Sidenote: the abandoned cart email funnel is a lot like building a regular sales funnel in ConvertKit or Infusionsoft, for example.)
What is an Abandoned Cart & Why Should You Care?
Someone is said to abandon a shopping cart online, when they click on the “buy now” button or “add to cart” button… but do not complete their order.
I’m sure you’ve been in this situation before yourself: you’re on the fence, you’re evaluating options, or you get sidetracked and maybe even change your mind about buying.
The statistics are bleak.
According to Statista, 75% of people abandon the cart when they click the “buy now” button…
That means you’re spending 100% of your marketing budget, but losing 75% of potential buyers.
That's a leaky bucket, if I ever did see one.
But what causes people to abort their order? Part of it likely comes down to ease of ordering, and the stats from Barilliance back this up, with highest abandoned cart rates happening on mobile devices.
- Desktop: 73.07% average shopping cart abandonment rate.
- Tablet: 80.74% average shopping cart abandonment rate.
- Mobile: 85.65% average shopping cart abandonment rate.
Other reasons why people might not complete an order, also according to Barilliance's data, include:
- Unexpected shipping or other undisclosed costs
- Having to create a new account
- Just conducting research (not ready to buy yet)
- Technical glitches, or security concerns
- Long and confusing checkout, or bad return policy
- Declined credit card
With all of these in mind, we can devise a good strategy to follow-up (especially with those who were not ready to buy quite yet!).
How Online Cart Abandonment Differs From Offline Sales
As a teenager, I worked in a retail store and learned a lot about buying psychology.
Think about it: when you go to the store in person, if you pick up an item and walk to the cash register… it’s unlikely you’ll change your mind.
But you might walk around the store first, and decide to put the item back on the shelf… and walk out.
An astute salesperson might notice your behavior and ask if you have any questions, if you want to try things on, or if they can take these items to the register for you.
That personal touch can save a sale.
The best service oriented sales people are not afraid to talk to potential customers and make sure they've found what they needed.
If only there was a way to use this approach in an online sales setting… Well there is, and it’s called abandoned cart email follow-up.
Why Abandoned Cart Follow-Up Automation Works
Just like the sales person who notices you might be changing your mind and getting ready to walk out, with online automation marketing you can intervene before you lose a sale.
How? By capturing a name and email address before you ask for credit card or payment details.
If someone completes their order, then perfect – you’ll send them their welcome email and deliver your digital products or courses.
But what if they fill in their name and email, but get distracted before they can fill out their payment information?
That’s when you apply a tag in your automation marketing platform, and start the abandoned cart follow-up sequence.
This is a simple sequence of emails that reminds the potential customer that they started to buy but didn’t finish.
You can use these emails to continue the service-oriented sales conversation… just like you would in person, you can ask questions and have people reply to get clarifications.
But do these emails really work?
According to stats collected by Moosend, 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, and from there 21% of people click through and 50% of these people complete their orders.
Not all abandoned cart email sequence follow-up campaigns are created equal, so let's take a look at what worked for us.
How We Used an Abandoned Cart Sequence to Recapture 43% of Our Lost Sales
At AccessAlly, we know that buying software is a commitment and that people might get cold feet when signing up.
So we use our abandoned cart functionality, and if someone doesn’t complete their order within a few hours of starting the process…
We kick off an email sequence, which starts off by asking if there were any technical problems during the ordering process.
With a global business, sometimes credit cards from other countries decline, or a browser crashes…
I prefer to keep the first few emails as non-emotional as possible, and focus on getting the potential client to click back to finish their order.
Who knows, maybe their kids walked into the room, their credit card was in their other pair of pants, or they had an appointment to get to.
After the first few emails (spaced a few days apart), we move into more benefit-focused emails. These are the ones with the testimonials, case studies, and reasons why they’ll benefit from signing up and completing their order.
Finally, we offer a one-time only savings incentive if they purchase within the next few days. This is handled by AccessAlly’s coupon functionality, and adds real individual scarcity.
All told, our abandoned cart email sequence comes in at 6 emails that get progressively more emphatic. If they don’t purchase within this sequence, then we back off and assume it wasn’t the right time.
What NOT to Do in Your Abandoned Cart Follow-Up
Okay, now you might be intrigued because recapturing an extra 43% of your lost sales sounds awesome…
But there are ways to piss off your potential customers, if you don’t set up your abandoned cart automation the right way!
The worst thing you can do is to use a tech stack that doesn’t track abandoned and successful purchases properly… and offer a discount to people who just finished ordering.
You laugh, but it has happened and you will lose brand loyalty and customers faster than you can say “broken cart”.
Here's how this recently went down: a friend of mine purchased a product, and got the welcome email to download it… and then 1 hour later, they got an email offering a discount on the product they just bought.
How did the company handle it? They didn’t own up to the automation mess-up, and just said “thanks for buying”.
If you’re going to set up an abandoned cart sequence, you need to have that service-oriented attitude and make it right for your customers if things don’t work as expected. Offer to apply the discount, or give them something else to make up for the mistake.
With AccessAlly’s shopping cart functionality, you won’t run into this type of mishap… but you still need to think about the content of the emails that you send.
Offering a discount immediately after someone abandons the cart is not the best way to go, because it trains people to abandon and wait for a special offer.
Which brings me to abandoned cart examples from different industries, and how they handle the incentive to complete an order.
Abandoned Cart Examples From Different Industries
I wanted to see how different online retailers handle the abandoned cart email flow.
Some do it better than others, and you’ll notice that most of them start off simple and ramp up the incentive or time urgency to get people to say yes.
Bonobos Abandoned Cart Example
This isn't a specific “abandoned cart promo”, instead it's a new customer discount.
The next follow-up email keeps it light and asks if there were any issues with processing the order. (Or if life just got busy!)
Huckberry Abandoned Cart Example
For physical products, offering free shipping is a great incentive to get people to the finish line. Here Huckberry gives a special code and shows the exact item that was in the cart.
Winc Example of Abandoned Cart Email
Here's another example from Winc, which offers $20 off your first order and also links to some of their specific products.
Notice that they really downplay not completing the order and keep it casual, with that extra incentive to come back and finish the order.
Your Marching Orders: Start Implementing Your Abandoned Cart Sequence Now
You’ve seen a few abandoned cart email examples, and you understand why it’s important to plug the leaky holes in your check out process…
Now it’s time for you to flesh out your own abandoned cart sequence, and get it implemented.
If you’re currently making sales, I would move this “abandoned cart email sequence project” to the top of your to-do list… before any other marketing or customer acquisition tasks.
Recapturing even an extra 25% of your lost sales could make your current marketing efforts more profitable, and pay for a little extra time off to enjoy the sun.
Pick a Shopping Cart Platform That Offers Abandoned Cart Functionality
The first step in getting this project underway is to set up a shopping cart platform that has the ability to track abandoned carts.
There are a few things you'll want to look for in shopping cart abandonment solutions, like the flexibility to tag and automate follow-up based on what someone started purchasing.
Many older ecommerce systems are behind the times here, so you’ll need to do a little research to see what will work with your existing set up.
If you use a modern automation marketing platform like ConvertKit, Ontraport, Drip, ActiveCampaign, or Infusionsoft, then the AccessAlly plugin for WordPress is a great option.
AccessAlly has a 3-step checkout process, which captures the name and email before moving onto payment details.
It then applies a tag to your email marketing platform for this potential client, which allows you to kickstart an automation if the transaction isn’t completed within the specified amount of time you select.
Take a look at the full list of AccessAlly features here.
Write a Sequence of Abandoned Cart Win-Back Emails
Now that you’ve got the right systems to set up your abandoned cart automation, it’s time to write the win-back emails.
Here are the emails I propose:
- Oops – did something happen?
- Complete your order
- Here’s what people are saying
- Don’t miss out
- Special offer expires soon
- Last chance for bonuses
Send 1-2 hours later. Ask if there was a technical issue, and link back to order form to complete.
Send 4-24 hours later. Link back to the order form to complete checkout. Ask for a reply if they run into any issues.
Send 24 hours later. Testimonials and more reasons to complete the order.
Send 3 days later. Give them a bonus or special timed offer, to get them off the fence that expires in X days.
Send 2 days later. Remind them about the special bonus or promo code, and that it expires soon.
Send 1 day later. Final reminder about the bonus/promo and last call to complete the order.
Block some time on your calendar right now to dedicate to writing these emails.
Or better yet, if you sign up for AccessAlly and the Online Courses Simplified program, you’ll get swippable abandoned cart emails to take and edit for your business.
Optional: Add a Special Time Sensitive Promotion to Your Sequence
Many of the abandoned cart examples we looked at offer some sort of time sensitive special offer.
Let's be clear: you don’t have to offer these, because a simple email sequence to follow-up with those who don’t complete a purchase will result in more recaptured sales.
But if you want to increase conversions even more, consider adding something time sensitive to your abandoned cart emails.
Depending on your price point and products, it may make sense to discount or to add extra bonuses to get people to say yes.
Remember, these are people who were interested enough to start the purchasing process… they’re warm and they need some reassurance that they’re making a good decision.
That’s where offering additional bonuses can help: give them an additional digital product or course, maybe some done-for-you templates or special access to you.
This process is called “stacking the bonuses”, and you want to sell the free bonuses so they really understand how this will help them achieve their goals.
Similarly, if you decide to offer an expiring coupon or discount, make sure that you focus on why you’re giving them this break. It should be to help them and serve them, and not just to make another sale for your business.
Any Abandoned Cart Questions We Can Answer?
Whether you’ve been on the end of an abandoned cart sequence that got you to buy (I know I have!) or you’re just getting ready to set one up for your business…
I’d love to answer any questions you have about abandoned cart emails and automation, so let’s hear it.
There’s no shortage of tech platforms for hosting and selling digital products: you’ve got PayPal, Gumroad, email, Stripe, and even Dropbox.
There’s a good reason for the plethora of options…
The digital product and online learning industry is on track to reach $25 billion dollars by 2023.
Billion with a B.
And the barrier to entry for selling online courses and other digital goods is pretty low…
If you can connect with an audience through social media or blogging… then it’s just a matter of putting your expertise into a digital program that people can purchase and access online.
That’s exactly what Becca Tracey did when she founded The Uncaged Life. She’s the business expert coaches and service solopreneurs turn to when they need help getting going online.
Reverse Engineering Becca’s First $100,000 Digital Product Launch
Becca has been in business online since 2011. She started her business out of a camper van while rock climbing across the USA!
Along the way, she experimented with many different ways of working with clients, before ever launching a digital product.
Here’s what I love about Becca: she believes in building a business that gives you a LIFE, and she's walking her talk.
That’s why she decided on a launch-based business model for her program Uncage Your Business, which she now runs twice a year.
Not having ongoing clients all the time lets her live up to her uncaged name.
She takes 4 to 6 months off a year, and usually plans her trips based on where the weather is good for rock climbing!
Her most recent launch brought in over $100,000… but it wasn’t always this way.
As with most people who start out selling digital products, she had modest course sales that slowly built up over time.
The progression of Becca's program sales from year to year.
She evolved her course materials based on feedback from participants, and continued to deliver results for each person who signed up… which allowed her to raise her prices.
But that still begs the question, what did she DO to sell that many spots in her online course?
The Secret Was a “Low Key, Personal Touch” Approach to Selling Digital Products
Contrary to popular dogma, you don’t need a ton of big name affiliates, a fancy 3-part video series, or to hire a super expensive copywriter to do well with your own course launches.
I asked Becca what she did to have a successful launch, on her terms and following her business values.
Here’s what she had to say (pay attention, this is golden!):
“For this launch, I kept things ridiculously simple.
I did some list building with Facebook ads for a few weeks prior to launch, and then launched with pretty much just emails to my list!
I had about a one week open cart period and packed as much value into my emails as I could.
- Engaged in my Facebook group by doing Facebook lives
- Installed a live chat on my website where I personally answered every question that came in
- Sent personalized voice replies to people inquiring about the program through email
It was all about low key, personal touch for this launch – and it worked!”
But before she launched, she knew there was something that needed to be addressed.
You see, while she had been gaining traction with her marketing and program delivery, she realized that her technology hadn’t been keeping up.
It was time to ditch Dropbox, and build a tailored course website
Here’s what Becca had to say about making the transition to a new automated course and membership solution:
“I was running my program for the last 3 years in dropbox (of all places!) and I knew that it was time to level up and make it easier to use for my students.
I really wanted a system where I could customize the platform with my branding to match my shiny new website, and also one where I could track progress and be able to see how students were doing throughout the course.
AccessAlly let me do both those things and was the obvious choice!”
What peer mentors had to say about the new membership site
Obviously moving from selling online courses through Dropbox and setting up a login portal for members through AccessAlly is a big move.
Becca brought in her peer mentors, who had seen the previous rounds of the program and she shares that:
“They were blown away. They knew I was revamping, but they had NO idea how great the course would look and how simple it would be to navigate.
One of them, a professor and a stickler for seamless user experience, was so impressed with how great everything looked, how easy it was to use, and how cool it was that we could track students’ progress.”
You could say that selling digital products doesn’t have to be done in a bare bones way… you CAN put your personality into your online courses.
In fact, what happens when you do is just short of miraculous…
Students react to the new branded members area
Because of the way Becca promoted her course with her personal touch approach, it was key that the user experience continue to be personalized.
The worst thing that can happen for a course creator is to have a great “sales experience” but a lack luster “learning experience” for customers.
Luckily, with AccessAlly and the newly designed membership site, student retention was front and center.
In fact, Becca shared that with the new site she has “happy students all around!”
Here are just a few of the messages she received 4 days into the course:
“So far, this is the best course I have taken. The most interactive. The clearest. And I’ve done them all.” – LeighAnn H.
“YES I’m clear, I’m excited, I’m glad I signed up for this course – I'd still be going in circles and doubting myself at every turn. This has been everything so far!” – Chinasa A.
Making the transition to a new course platform – here’s what you need to know
Becca has seen a return on investment for her move to a new membership site platform…
But if you’re just getting started selling digital products, you might not be ready to upgrade to a customizable course platform like AccessAlly.
Here are some things you should think about as you decide which tech stack you’ll need to sell and deliver your courses and programs:
- Will this tool automate the selling and delivery of my programs (so you’re not manually processing anything)
- Will I reduce customer support requests by switching to a more streamlined course platform?
- Can this tool scale with me as my business grows over time?
- Will I be doing the technical implementation or will I hire someone to do it for me?
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the decision making process for what tools you’ll use to offer digital programs online.
Live life uncaged
If you’re a new business owner, trying to figure out what to do next to grow… then Becca and The Uncaged Life is where it’s at.