Content creation is a key part of being a fitness entrepreneur.
But not only is content a great vehicle to help you land clients and sell products, it can also enable you to earn money through affiliate marketing.
In this article, we’re sharing affiliate marketing 101 to help you understand what it is, how it works, and how it can help you grow your fitness business.
Let’s jump right in…
With affiliate marketing, you earn a commission by promoting another company or person’s products.
Here’s how it works...
Affiliate marketers find products they like or use from trusted brands and earn a percentage of the sales they generate by promoting these products. Sales are typically tracked through affiliate links that tell the seller who referred each sale.
Most brands also include a cookie window.
A cookie is a digital tool embedded in the website that tracks how people access the site. An affiliate link with a cookie window allows the site to remember who referred each visitor for a number of days. So, with a 14-day cookie window, the visitor has 14 days to make a purchase after initially visiting the site from an affiliate link.
For example: Let’s say you really enjoy a certain brand of protein powder and it has an affiliate program. After joining that program, you’d earn a percentage of each sale referred by one of your unique links.
For affiliate marketing to work, there are three key parties that need to be involved:
The brand or seller is the company or individual who makes the product and fulfills the orders. For example, Gymshark or Peloton. Without the brand or seller, there’s nothing to promote and sell.
This is where you come in. As an affiliate, your role in the process is to help the brand reach new potential customers — this could be by featuring the brand on your social media profiles or including links on your website.
These are the people who buy the products and, without them, there’s no revenue for the brand and affiliate to share. The consumer discovers a brand via an affiliate link, and when they make a purchase, the brand will pay the affiliate at a set commission rate.
Let’s take a look at a real world example from the fitness industry to show you exactly how affiliate marketing works.
Myprotein (the brand) has an affiliate program that pays an 8% commission rate. Stephanie Joshi, a fitness influencer and entrepreneur (the affiliate), is a member of this program and includes Myprotein within her content on YouTube.
For everyone that follows one of Joshi’s links and makes a purchase (the consumer), she’d receive 8% of the sale value — so $8 for every $100 worth of products sold.
Affiliate marketing is widely used in almost every industry. But fitness entrepreneurs have a few distinct advantages over other industries…
As trainer and entrepreneur Kyle Axman told us, fitness entrepreneurship is all about “content content, content.”
Whether you’re a personal trainer in a gym or selling digital products, creating content online is one of the best ways to grow your business — and everyone in the industry should be doing it.
Yet, content is often the biggest barrier to entry for affiliate marketers. If you don’t have an audience, there’s no one to sell products to — and building an audience from scratch purely for affiliate marketing is very difficult.
As a fitness entrepreneur, though, content is likely already driving plenty of leads and revenue for your business. So, affiliate marketing is a simple way to drive a little extra revenue without investing tons of additional time and effort.
For example, Eric Champ has built up a huge audience of 150k followers on Instagram and uses his bio link to share a bunch of affiliate links with his audience:
But don’t let the size of Eric’s audience put you off; you don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers to get started with influencer marketing. Ruth Atkinson is a runner and coach with just over 2,000 followers, and she works with a couple of brands as an affiliate.
Sometimes, having a small but engaged audience will be more impactful than having tons of followers who don’t pay close attention to your content. And engagement, while many-faceted, can be driven by trust.
As a fitness entrepreneur, people follow your social media profiles, visit your website, and ultimately hire you because they trust you.
In a world of misinformation, you’re a source that people look to when they want to know more about your area of expertise. And when it comes to getting consumers to part with their cash and click ‘purchase’, trust matters more than anything else.
When a brand partners with an affiliate, the affiliate acts as a bridge between the brand and consumer. And promoting a product is essentially a co-sign that with all your knowledge and expertise, you endorse this product and the brand that sells it. So, if a consumer trusts you, they’ll have a better sense of trust for any brand you introduce them to.
For brands, trust is hard to build. Working with respected affiliates is a great way to authentically connect with potential new customers.
There is so much choice out there in almost every product category and there has never been a better time to be a consumer.
For example, a quick Google search for “exercise clothing” generates over 682,000,000 results and before you even scroll on the page, you might see ads from: Athleta, Vuori, Alo Yoga, Outdoor Voices, Fabletics, and Bandier.
Though this is great for consumers, for brands standing out is a constant battle. In almost every category, there’s so much competition, and advertising costs just keep going up. WordStream reports that the average cost per click (CPC) for Facebook ads across all industries is $1.72, and just a few years back in 2018, AdStage found that the average CPC was $0.48.
So, when traditional forms of advertising get more expensive, affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for brands to reach consumers without having to pay out of pocket upfront.
For affiliate marketing to be successful, you need to have an audience. And the best advice for building an audience is to pick a clearly defined niche.
Fitness is broad, and very few people actually make it as a “fitness” entrepreneur without specializing in one or a few specific areas.
By focusing on a niche, you can vastly reduce the competition.
For instance, there are hundreds of personal trainers out there. But how many trainers are there focused specifically on helping rec league basketball players to improve their sport-specific fitness? Probably not that many. If you become the go-to expert on basketball fitness for 30–40-year-old rec league basketball players, you’re well on the way to building your own niche fitness empire.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of fitness entrepreneurs who niched down to build their audience:
When you’re first starting out, try to niche down as far as possible to build connections with a specific audience — you’ll be surprised how niche you can go and still build an audience large enough to build a thriving fitness business.
Once you’ve defined your niche, you next need to figure out what your audience is craving. This will help you with planning your content but also deciding what types of brands and products you might want to promote as an affiliate.
The easiest (and often most overlooked) way to better understand your audience is pretty simple: Talk to them.
There’s no better way to learn what your audience needs than to ask them. Often, the best questions to ask for audience research are open-ended ones to help you uncover some problems and pain points your audience is experiencing.
(Just fill the blanks with topics related to your niche.)
Once you’ve come up with a few questions, you could put out a survey to your email list, link to it from your social media bios, or even ask the questions during online classes or coaching sessions.
What you’re trying to find with these questions is an opportunity.
Say you coach busy office workers, and a few of them tell you the hardest part about getting in shape is sticking to a healthy diet during workdays — the opportunity there could be to sell meal replacements, protein shakes, or meal kits.
If you’re a fitness entrepreneur who has worked with clients in a specific niche before, you probably also have really good intuition about what your target customers need, so don’t be afraid to trust your gut here too.
With your audience needs clearly in mind, you should now come up with a list of dream brands you’d love to work with. These are the companies you’d be most excited to promote to your audience.
Ideally, try to come up with 10–15 options.
If you’re struggling to come up with more than a couple of brands off the top of your head, here are two simple ways to find brands you clearly care about:
By doing this, you’ll uncover brands that you already have a relationship with, and as we’ll cover a little further below, this is key to successful affiliate marketing.
With your dream brands list assembled, it’s time to start applying to affiliate programs.
The first step here is to craft a pitch to brands to make yourself stand out (and increase your chances of being accepted into the program).
Though not all affiliate programs ask for you to pitch before joining, it’s always handy to have. And writing a clear pitch will also help to clarify your own thoughts about how you position yourself to potential partners.
When writing a pitch think about:
Hypothetically, let’s say you’ve followed through on the idea of being the go-to fitness expert for rec league basketball players. You could say:
I’m a fitness entrepreneur focused on helping rec league basketball players perform at the highest level possible [what makes you unique].
As a college athlete, I played basketball at Wichita State for three years before graduating and building a career in the fitness industry. Now, I'm a qualified PT with 10 years of experience [your specific expertise].
I’ve built up an audience of over 15k followers on Instagram and have an email list of 5,000 people [your audience size]. I’ll be promoting products to my followers on Instagram via my bio link and will also write reviews and share new launches with my email list [how you’ll promote products].
Now that you have your pitch, you can start applying to join affiliate programs. I’ve found the best way to find which brands have affiliate programs is to take your dream list and hit up Google to search for “[brand] affiliate program.”
So, if you wanted to see if Fitbit has an affiliate program, you’d search “Fitbit affiliate program.”
Another way to uncover affiliate programs is to visit brand websites and look for a page about affiliates. These will often be in the footer or under a page like “Partnerships” or “Work with us.”
For example, Myprotein has a “Ways to work with us” link in its footer:
And it leads to a page that introduces its affiliate program:
You can also sign up to platforms like Skimlinks, ShareASale, and Pepperjam to browse available affiliate programs in the fitness niche.
Once you’ve been approved by a brand as an affiliate, it’s time to start promoting them.
Whenever you join an affiliate program, you’ll be given a specific link to use that will include tracking code so the brand can assign any sales to you. It’s important to ensure you’re using this link anywhere you’re promoting that brand so each sale can be attributed correctly.
One of the most straightforward ways to get started is to add affiliate links to your social media bios for products and brands you love. Once you’ve signed up as an affiliate, you can literally get this done in minutes. And then, gradually, you can start sharing links across all of your social and other platforms like blogs and email.
This is incredibly important. As we mentioned above, trust is important in affiliate marketing on both sides of the equation:
That’s why it’s incredibly important that you work with brands that you care about, understand the mission and values of, and, importantly, use and trust the products of.
Remember: People follow you for a reason… and that reason isn’t so that you can promote products to them.
No one wants to follow social accounts or read blogs from people who are always selling products, so try to keep your feeds interesting and limit the number of affiliate-related posts you share on any channels (whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, your blog, or email).
“I try not to do too many [promoted posts],” says Axman discussing his Instagram account. “I don't want my page to be all ads because that's a turnoff.”
Axman tries to only do one or two product-focused posts a month to ensure his feed doesn’t feel overly promotional. “Sometimes I'll literally just post a picture of me because I know that in a week I'm going to post an ad,” he says.
“Recovering from training with my [X Brand] protein bar.” Let’s be honest — that’d be a pretty dull update, and your audience probably won’t engage much with that content.
When it comes to writing posts to promote affiliate brands, try to inject some personality and tell stories that your audience will be interested in.
For example, check out the below post where Axman mentions UCAN:
He starts out the post by explaining how hard it can be to train for an Ironman. This makes the content relatable and interesting — and you can see by the 400+ likes and comments it generated that people found this content engaging.
By making the post about his training and not solely focused on UCAN, Axman created a conversation, and many of his followers commented to wish him luck on his training. The more interesting and engaging your content is, the more people are likely to see it… and therefore, the more people might click your affiliate link and make a purchase.
Every brand will have specific rules about where and how you should promote their products. When you join any program, you’ll have to accept a bunch of terms and conditions, and it’s important to read through them and give yourself a clear understanding how you can promote that brand.
Generally, brands will have rules around:
If you break any of these rules, brands might remove you from their program, and consumers might also lose trust in their relationship with you.
In most countries, you are also legally required to disclose that you’re sharing affiliate links. So, on a website, you need to have a disclosures page and a note on each page to say you may earn commission from products purchased from links. And on social, you usually need to include #ad or #sponsored in your posts to make viewers aware that you are in some way being compensated for this content.
You can read what the FTC says about affiliate marketing relationships and disclosures here.
There you have it… just about everything you need to know about getting started with affiliate marketing as a fitness entrepreneur.
No matter what stage of your entrepreneurial journey you’re at, affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn some additional income and grow your business.
Affiliate marketing enables you to make this additional income without having to spend hours coaching classes or putting together unique training programs for clients. It’s not exactly passive income, as it’ll take some work to do it well, but once you’re all set up with brands, you can secure another income stream for your business from the comfort of your sofa through posting content and driving traffic to your affiliate links.
So, what are you waiting for?