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Selling Affiliate Products

Increase your income by promoting credible products that meet your clients' needs.

You probably already recommend health and fitness products to your clients. What if you could receive a cut of the profit when clients purchased stuff you told them about? This technique is called affiliate marketing, and it’s one way to bring in revenue without having to actively provide a service, as you do with one-on-one training.

As an affiliate, you don’t need to devise salable resources or equipment on your own. You simply promote other people’s products and services to the built-in customer base you already possess: your clients and website/blog visitors. Read on to learn how affiliate sales work and how they can boost your bottom line.       

What Is an Affiliate Program?
Being an affiliate means you market another person’s/company’s products or services for a commission. The growing popularity of e-commerce has made affiliate programs a common form of Web-based marketing. Such programs exist for everything from small entrepreneurial businesses to large companies, such as Amazon.com.

To be an affiliate, you sign up with a merchant who offers an affiliate program. You then place a special link on your website, blog or e-newsletter that leads your site’s visitors to that retailer’s site, where products or services can be purchased. When people who click on your affiliate link buy an affiliate item on the merchant’s site, you get a percentage of the profit for that sale, whether the customer buys right away or waits. The retailer can tell it was you who referred the customer by the identifying code in your affiliate link. A merchant’s website usually includes affiliate pages where you can track traffic and sales from your links. Some affiliate programs also rely on third parties, like ClickBank.com, to handle tracking, accounting and payouts on behalf of the vendor.

For offline affiliate marketing, you might be provided with a distinct website URL so the retailer knows customers came from you. Alternatively, customers might be asked at the point of sale who referred them (tracking is less reliable this way).  

Earn Affiliate Commissions
How much of a cut you receive for being an affiliate usually depends on the company, the product and its price. A company may offer you a commission of 10% to 15%, but if the product has a high price point, even a modest commission can add up. Typical affiliate-sold products—such as DVDs, e-books, audio programs, books, supplements and fitness gadgets—range in price from about $15 to a few hundred dollars. 

Affiliate compensation might not amount to much at first, but it’s still cash you collect while you’re busy doing other things. “My affiliate sales started as 20 bucks here, 15 dollars there,” says Leigh Peele, personal trainer and owner of Avidity Fitness in Greensboro, North Carolina. “It was nothing jaw-dropping, but nice to receive an e-mail every so often that said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve made a sale!’”

If you have the interest, you can step up the time and attention you spend on promoting affiliate merchandise. For instance, instead of just placing links and/or product images on your website, you might write up product endorsements to publish on your blog or in your e-newsletter. With effort, affiliate sales can become a decent side business. Peele promotes hundreds of affiliate resources in addition to products she’s created on her own. “The amount of commissions I received for affiliate products started growing to the $100 range per day, and sometimes more,” she says. “I can easily pay my bills with what I make through affiliate sales.”
Enjoy Passive Income
Being an affiliate marketer is relatively hassle-free, and there are no upfront costs to you. That’s why so many trainers view this role as an easy and enjoyable adjunct to their main job as an offline trainer. Even when you make a commission, the responsibility of processing and fulfilling orders lies entirely with the merchant. As an affiliate, you don’t have to worry about creating an online storefront, handling customer service, stocking inventory, processing credit cards or packaging and shipping merchandise. Your function is just to “talk up” and/or make people aware of the vendor and its products. In return, you receive passive income whenever a sale is made.

Passive income allows you to increase cash flow without actively trading time spent for dollars received. For instance, you can be working with a client, reading or commuting and still cash in as an affiliate if someone whom you referred to a retailer makes a purchase. “Affiliate sales are the fastest, easiest way I know to create an additional passive revenue stream for your business,” says Dave Soucy, personal trainer and owner of Perfect Fit LLC in Manchester, New Hampshire. His affiliate business includes offline sales in the form of nutritional products to his boot camp clients and online sales of information products, such as e-books.    

Match the Product to Your Business 
To determine which products or services to market as an affiliate, consider ones that logically complement or enhance the services and/or products you already provide. Obviously, anything you promote must appeal to your client demographics in some way. For example, if you run a women-only boot camp, you could promote apparel like sports bras or an e-book on weight loss for women. Luckily, the field of health and fitness provides lots of options for affiliate opportunities, says Peele. Obvious choices include exercise gadgets, health-focused books/e-books and workout DVDs.

It also pays to be creative. For instance, when people lose weight and get in shape, they seek other lifestyle changes, such as a new way to dress or an adventure vacation. “New bodies lead to new lives and new adventures,” says Peele, who suggests thinking outside the box by becoming an affiliate for travel programs.

Ensure Quality Control
Becoming an affiliate allows you to profit from the product recommendations you make to clients and website visitors. To ensure your endorsements are genuine, though, you’ll want to personally test or research everything you recommend. The best affiliate choices are those you’d happily advocate even if you didn’t stand to profit from the recommendation. Soucy says that a sure way to lose credibility or kill the value of a large database of customers and prospects is to recommend lousy products.

“Generally,” he says, “I only recommend products that I’ve either used myself or I know the person who created [them]. I won’t recommend something I don’t believe is a quality product. If I haven’t purchased it myself, I often get a review copy from the creator of the product.”

Protect yourself, too, by researching merchants. Check references, and investigate the company’s credibility. For example, has the merchant been successfully working with affiliates for a long time? Does the merchant possess the platform, experience and credentials to create the products you plan to promote? The time it takes to evaluate products and research potential merchants can be a downside to being an affiliate. However, quality control is vitally important, says Peele. And once the leg work is done, the affiliate process becomes more automated.

Plus, adds Peele, being an affiliate can ultimately save you time, especially if you wish to spend fewer hours training without a drop in income. When you have a roster of helpful resources for your clients, you take some of the pressure off yourself to provide that content through products of your own or on a per-client basis.

You’ve Got Sales
For trainers who wish to test the waters with e-commerce and increase revenues through passive income, joining one or more affiliate programs could be the answer. “I wake up every morning to e-mails in my inbox telling me I’ve sold products while I was asleep,” says Soucy. “That’s pretty cool.” n

Affiliate Resources to Get You Started

If you’re interested in being an affiliate marketer, read up on programs, and research some of the products that are available for affiliate promotion. Here are three resources to get you started:

  • www.associateprograms.com. This includes lots of articles for every level of affiliate marketer, including the beginner; you can also search this site for available affiliate programs, useful tips and an affiliate forum. 
  • www.clickbank.com. This third-party online retail outlet has about 100,000 active affiliates and a marketplace containing more than 10,000 digital products available for affiliates to promote.
  • www.cj.com. Commission Junction operates a global network for affiliate marketing for publishers (aka affiliates) and advertisers (also known as merchants).

Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a fitness professional and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals. She writes for IDEA, Health, Prevention, and Self, and has co-authored books on postnatal fitness and yoga. With a master's degree in human kinetics, Amanda has worked in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, including time spent as a program director and vice president for a chain of all-women clubs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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