You’ve heard all the online marketers say it before: the money is in the list. Some marketers (we won’t name names) have even referred to their lists as their personal ATM machines. Just to be clear, we aren’t advocating referring to your list as your personal ATM machine, but there is definitely a lot of truth in the expression.
The reason marketers say that the money is in the list is simple. Without a list of email subscribers (people who have given you their permission to communicate with them), selling your online course – or any product or service, for that matter – is tough. Having an email list of highly targeted prospects for your business gives you the power to generate immediate revenue whenever you promote (within reason) a product to them.
But what if you have a small list? Or what if you have no list at all? How will you market your online course, and more importantly, generate sales? The answer: by working with Joint Venture partners.How to find #JointVenture partners to promote your online course. #teachonline Click To Tweet
So what exactly is a Joint Venture partner?
Joint Venture partners (also called JV partners, promotional partners, or affiliate partners) are people or organizations that have an email list of people who are in your target market, and who agree to promote your online course to their list in exchange for a commission or percentage of sales. You provide the product. They provide the list. You split the sales. It’s a win-win for both parties, and that’s why they are so effective.
In this article, we’re going to show you how to find suitable Joint Venture partners to promote your online course, how to approach them, and how to work with them successfully. We spoke with a LOT of experts on this topic, so you’ll find their insights sprinkled throughout this article.
Now, before we show you how to implement Joint Ventures into your course marketing strategy, let’s talk about why Joint Ventures are so powerful.
Note: We’ve created a workbook for you to download and print out to help keep track of all the steps in this post. Working with partners is a long process, so it helps to have a tracking document like this. Get it here.
Benefits of working with a Joint Venture partner:
In addition to generating revenue from your online course sales, there are several other benefits that make working with Joint Venture partners such a powerful marketing strategy. In no particular order, here are some of those benefits:
1. You don’t need an audience
The most obvious benefit of working with a Joint Venture partner is the exposure to their audience. In order to sell your online course, you need an audience to promote it to. More specifically, you need a targeted audience, one that is actually interested in your course topic. It wouldn’t do you much good to promote your dog training course to a bunch of cat owners. You need to get your course in front of the right people.
Building an audience is a lot of work, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. So if you have an online course, but you don’t have an audience (ie. a targeted email list of potential buyers), working with a Joint Venture partner is your best option.
We asked Sol Orwell, the Co-Founder of Examine, to share his insights with us. Here’s what he told us about the benefits of working with Joint Venture partners:
“At the end of the day, marketing is about distribution and exposure. Joint Venture partners give you access to an audience that you normally would not have access to.” Tweet this.
2. You don’t have to spend money on advertising (free exposure)
With most Joint Venture partners, you don’t pay anything upfront to work with them. Instead, you pay them a percentage of the sales that are generated when you sell your online course to their audience. So basically, when they promote you to their audience, you’re getting free exposure.
You only pay your Joint Venture partner if sales are made. And since you’re paying them with money that you earned from the sales (sales that you would not have received otherwise), you’re not spending any money out-of-pocket. The money you keep after paying them their share is pure profit.If you have an #onlinecourse but no audience, find a #JointVenture partner who does. #teachonline Click To Tweet
3. It helps you to build your list
Working with a Joint Venture partner is also a great way to build your email list. For example, if you host a webinar together (more on that later), you end up collecting the email addresses of everyone who registers for your webinar. Even if those people aren’t able to attend your live webinar, because you have their email addresses you can send them a link to your webinar recording and/or add them to your email newsletter.
4. You get to leverage the trust they have with their audience
Building a large email list, and more importantly, earning the trust of that email list is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort. That trust that a Joint Venture partner has with their list is exactly why you want to work with them. When they promote you to their list of people who trust their recommendations, that trust gets transferred to you, making them more likely to buy from you.
We spoke with Iman Aghay, Founder of Success Road Academy and the creator of Ultimate Course Formula about this. Here’s what he had to say about the transfer of trust that occurs when a Joint Venture partner promotes you:
“Joint Venture partners are lending their credibility to you, so you become credible. Although their audience doesn’t know you, they know the partner. And because they trust the partner, they trust you.” Tweet this.
5. Higher conversion rate than paid advertising
When compared to spending money on advertising to promote your online course to an audience that doesn’t know you (aka cold traffic), the conversation rate of your marketing will likely be higher when it comes from a Joint Venture partner. Why? Because the people who are directed to your website trust the person who sent them there. So in that sense, using a Joint Venture partner to promote your online course can often be more effective than using paid advertising.
Here is what Iman Aghay told us about the impact referrals from a Joint Venture partner can have on conversion rates:
“You can see the difference in the conversion rate on your landing page. For example, let’s say you’re running an ad on Facebook and you’re getting a 15-30% conversion rate. Most likely, if you run a similar piece of marketing to the same landing page but through an affiliate, you will get a 60-70% conversion rate, because when a person lands on your landing page through an affiliate, they already trust you. They already know that somebody else is vouching for you. Anybody can put an ad on Facebook, but not everybody can build a relationship with a partner.” Tweet this.
6. You can work with as many Joint Venture partners as you want
Another great thing about this strategy is there is really no limit to how many times you can use it. As long as the person you partner with has an audience that would likely be interested in your online course, and you are not in direct competition with them, you can work with them.
We spoke with Matt McWilliams, an Affiliate Manager who has helped numerous entrepreneurs and online course creators execute successful product launches including Lewis Howes, Jeff Goins, Peter Voogd, Ray Edwards, and others. The word he used to describe this benefit was scalability:
“The biggest benefit is scalability. There are only so many Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads or SEO that you can do. Everybody has a ceiling. There’s a finite amount of people that you can reach on your own. But if you’re working with JV partners, that limit is much higher.” Tweet this.
The Bottom Line: Distribution + Credibility
As you can see from the benefits we listed above, the impact that working with Joint Venture partners can have on your business is hard to ignore. But if we had to summarize all of those benefits into two words, those words would be distribution and credibility.
We spoke with Dana Severson, the Director of Marketing at Promoter, and distribution and credibility were the exact words he used to describe the main benefits of working with Joint Venture partners:
6 reasons why #JointVenture partners are a great way to promote your #onlinecourse. #teachonline Click To Tweet
“The two biggest benefits that I look for in any partnership are distribution (how many new people can I reach?) and credibility (does the association improve our social proof?).” Tweet this.
Where to find potential Joint Venture partners:
Now that you know why working with Joint Venture partners is so powerful, let’s discuss how to find them. Here are a few places that you can find a potential Joint Venture partner to help promote your online course:
1. Your network:
The first place that you should look to find a potential Joint Venture partner is your existing network. These are people who already know, like and trust you. Who do you know that has access to your target audience? Who do you know that could refer you to someone who does?
Reaching out to your personal network is a strategy that Matt McWilliams recommends as the starting point for finding a Joint Venture partner:
“Start with the people you know, especially the ones that are in your niche. Those are going to be the best people to work with.” Tweet this.
2. Your Existing Customers or Email List
Your existing customers and/or list of email subscribers can be a great place to find a Joint Venture partner because these are people who have already purchased your product or service (or at the very least, consumed your content), and are familiar with what you do and what you offer. Some of these people likely have access to your target audience, or are able to introduce you to someone who does.
We spoke with Sohail Khan, the world’s premier Joint Venture Expert and the co-author of Guerilla Marketing and Joint Ventures with the late Jay Conrad Levinson. Sohail has generated millions of dollars for himself and his clients using Joint Ventures. Here’s what he told us about leveraging your existing customers to find your next Joint Venture partner:
“Your existing mailing or customer list is one of the best places to find potential JV partners. Why? Because your customers have already done business with you. They know you, they know your business and they probably have a relationship with you. They will trust you and follow your recommendation if you’ve built a good relationship with them and you’ve only sold and endorsed quality products to them.” Tweet this.
Do a Google search to find blogs related to your course topic. Many bloggers do not have their own products or services to sell to their audience, but would be happy to promote your online course to their readers if they think it is something that they would be interested in. You could even give a blogger free access to your course before you ask them to promote it, so that they know exactly what they would be promoting to their audience.
According to Iman Aghay, people will sometimes choose to promote you simply because your content has value to their audience, and not necessarily because of the money they stand to make when their audience buys from you:
“People are willing to promote you for reasons other than just making money. There are affiliates who are actually looking for your content. The reason they’re promoting your product is not because of the money that they are going to make, but because of the content that you have.” Tweet this.
4. Podcast Hosts:
Search for podcasts related to your topic on iTunes. You can also check the New and Noteworthy section and the What’s Host section for the categories most related to your topic. Make a list of the podcasts that serve your target audience, and head over to their respective websites to get in touch with their hosts.
Pat Flynn, for example, hosts a top ranked business podcast called the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Although Pat does not personally have any courses about creating passive income online, he has a very large audience that is interested in the subject. For that reason, Pat will often become a Joint Venture partner for the guests on his podcast who have an online course that his audience is interested in.
To give you an example, shortly after appearing as a guest on Pat’s podcast in 2015 to discuss creating and selling online courses, David Siteman Garland and Pat hosted a webinar together. Pat invited his audience to attend the webinar where David shared his insights on creating and selling online courses. At the end of the webinar, David pitched his course called Created Awesome Online Courses to the attendees, and split the sales revenue with Pat. It was a win-win for everyone involved. David acquired more students for his course, Pat made money, and Pat’s audience got to learn about a specific strategy for making passive income online.
Here is a screenshot of the Registration Page for the webinar they did together (they used LeadPages to create this):
Take a look at the bestsellers list on Amazon for the categories that are most related to your course topic. Your goal is to find books your target market is buying. You can also search for books using the main search bar to see which books appear in the results. Make a list of all the authors that have written books about your topic (or related topics), then head over to their website to get in touch with them.
6. Other Online Instructors:
Other online instructors can be great Joint Venture partners because they already have an audience of people who have purchased an online course. The key with this strategy is to search for online courses that complement your course topic but are not your direct competition. Once you find a course that fits this criteria, contact that course’s instructor. Course marketplaces such as Udemy and Lynda are great places to search for online courses.
David Siteman Garland (Create Awesome Online Courses), for example, will often promote other people’s online courses to his students. In early 2016, David promoted a course called Your First 10,000 Readers by Nick Stephenson. Many of David’s students are authors who are interested in learning how to build their email lists. Since list building is not a topic that David personally teaches, doing a Joint Venture with Nick Stephenson made perfect sense. Once again, it was a win-win for everyone involved.
Here is a screenshot of the Registration Page for the webinar they did together:
7. Facebook and LinkedIn Group Owners:
Search for groups about your topic on Facebook and LinkedIn. Find out who created each group and send them a personalized message and contact request. Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are great places to do market research for your current and/or next online course. Consider becoming a member of those groups so you can participate in the discussions.
8. Conferences and industry events:
Search for conferences and events related to your course topic and get in touch with the host of those events. If you can, meet them in person (a face-to-face interaction is more personal than an online interaction). Anyone who organizes an event is likely to have several hundred, maybe even several thousand people in their database that are interested in the same topic.
Matt Astifan, host of a Vancouver-based Meet Up group called Internet Masterminds, for example, often becomes a Joint Venture partner for people who have online courses related to internet marketing. He sometimes invites those people to speak at his event, or alternatively, he co-hosts a live webinar with them where they sell their online course to his audience and split the sales revenue with him.8 ways to find a #JointVenture partner to promote your #onlinecourse. #teachonline Click To Tweet
How to reach out to a potential Joint Venture partner:
Once you’ve put together a list of potential Joint Venture partners, the next step is to reach out to them. But before you do, you need to understand something very important.
Asking someone to promote your online course is basically asking for a favor. So unless they know you personally, or you’ve helped them with something in the past, they may not be comfortable promoting your online course to their audience (an audience that they’ve likely worked very hard to earn the trust of).Asking someone to promote you is asking for a favor. Help them before you ask for help. #teachonline… Click To Tweet
Add value to a potential Joint Venture partner before you pitch them
Instead of pitching someone who doesn’t know you straight out of the gate, spend some time to add value to them first. Comment on their blog. Subscribe to their email newsletter. Attend one of their webinars. Share their Tweets. Buy their product. Leave a positive review for their book or podcast. Refer a client to them. Attend their live event. You get the idea. The point is to get their attention by supporting their work.
This is the approach that Michael Ugino, Co-Founder and CMO of Sellbrite, recommends:
“Follow their work, understand their message, and if possible get an intro from a trusted medium.” Tweet this.
When you support someone else’s work first, they are much more inclined to support yours when you ask them to. The goal here is to build a real relationship. It’s easier to ask a friend for a favor than it is to ask a stranger. Here is what Sohail Khan told us about building relationships with potential Joint Venture partners:
“Help them out with something. Find something about their business, their website, their ad copy – whatever – that could use a little help. Make sure it’s something that you actually have experience with. Do this without being insulting in any way and you will have just made a new friend. Build on that friendship and keep on helping each other out. When the time comes for you to bring up a proposal, they’ll be all ears and 90% of the time, it’s going to happen.” Tweet this.
You should also check to make sure that the person you reach out to doesn’t have an online course that competes with yours. You want someone who has an audience that would most likely be interested in taking your online course, but who is not your competition. Your course should complement what they are already providing to their audience.
For example, if someone has an online course that teaches people how to become a freelance graphic designer, and you have an online course about Adobe Photoshop, then your course complements theirs, it doesn’t compete with it. In that scenario, it would be appropriate to reach out to them.
Working with Joint Venture partners that provide a complementary service to the same target audience has worked out well for many entrepreneurs, including Devesh Khanal, the Founder of a conversation optimization consultancy. Here is what he told us about working with Joint Venture partners that serve the same customers:
“For agency work, Joint Ventures have been great for sourcing leads. The #1 problem for most agencies is getting in front of more target customers. A great way to do this is to find other companies that already have your target customers and form a partnership. Most businesses can find these ideal partners – companies that serve the same customers in a complimentary way. For example, an SEO agency and a PPC agency.” Tweet this.
Send a personalized email to each potential Joint Venture partner
Once you’ve built a relationship with a potential Joint Venture partner (or have at least gotten their attention by supporting their work), the next step is to email them.
When you send a potential Joint Venture partner an email, it needs to be a personalized email that you wrote specifically for them. Sending a personalized email is very important. If your email comes across as a generic email template that you send to several people, you probably won’t even get a response from them.
Here is what Jason Quey, a Growth Strategist for Content Marketer, said to us about sending emails to potential Joint Venture partners:
“While I use social media to get on their radar, I always want to send them an email. This allows a more personal connection without the distractions of another tweet, Facebook message, or any other notification.” Tweet this.
Introduce yourself to them (tell them who you are, who you serve and how). Compliment their work and prove to them that you’ve actually done your homework by mentioning specifically why you appreciate what they do or how their content has helped you.
Next, tell them you have an online course that you think their audience would be interested in and that complements the products and services they are already selling. Tell them you would like to discuss the possibility of doing a Joint Venture together and ask them to get in touch with you if they are interested.Always send a #JointVenture partner a personalized email. Generic emails rarely get a response.… Click To Tweet
Keep in mind that the purpose of this first email is simply to peak their interest and start a conversation. It is not to ask them to promote you right away. As Dana Severson pointed out to us, it takes a bit of courting to get some to agree to finally agree to do a Joint Venture with you.
“Depending on the size of the company, you may need to court them over time. Find the right contact, follow them on social channels, respond to their posts — basically just create a relationship. When the time is right, email them with a short, but compelling pitch. Sell them on the value you bring them.” Tweet this.
Schedule a meeting
Once you’ve heard back from a potential Joint Venture partner, we recommend scheduling a phone call (or Skype call) with them. A phone call is more personal than an email, giving you the chance to build rapport with them as you work out the details of working together. An in-person meeting is even better, but in most cases a scheduled phone call will suffice.
If you decide to work together, it is best to outline the details of what you discussed together in writing. This will help prevent any misunderstandings from happening later on. Here is what Jon Tavarez, the Founder of Vantage Internet Group, told us about verbal agreements:
“Verbal agreements don’t matter. Make written agreements that are very simple and transparent.” Tweet this.
Psst: Keep track of who you’ve reached out to and what needs to be done to start the partnership with our free workbook –
How to work with a Joint Venture partner:
There are many ways to structure a Joint Venture, but since your goal here is to sell your online course to their audience, our recommendation is to host a live webinar together. A live webinar gives you the chance to add value to their audience by sharing some of your best content with them upfront. Then, at the end of the webinar, you pitch your online course to the attendees.
Webinars are a separate topic from Joint Ventures, but if you’d like learn more about them then check out our article The Complete Blueprint To Selling On Webinars.
When it comes to co-hosting a webinar with a Joint Venture partner, there are essentially 4 main steps involved in the process that you should discuss with your prospective partner before you agree to work together:
1. They promote the webinar to their email list
The first step involved in this process is for your Joint Venture partner to send an email to their list to invite them to your webinar. Make it really easy for them to do this. Provide them with specific email copy to send to their list (subject line, bullet points, webinar details, etc.) along with a link to your webinar registration page. Provide them with at least 2 or 3 emails to send to their list (an initial webinar invitation email, along with some reminder emails).
According to Matt McWilliams, it’s best to work out all the details of the webinar and the responsibilities (including email communication) of your Joint Venture partner several weeks in advance:
“A big mistake we’ve made in the past is not getting the stuff that partners need to them well in advance. Swipe copy, logins to affiliate centers, all the important dates, contest details, etc. Get all that to them weeks in advance. Your partners’ lives don’t revolve around your launch. Give them everything in advance so they can schedule it.” Tweet this.
2. You build your email list as people register for the webinar
In order to attend the webinar, people will need to register for the webinar using their email address. You’ll need to set up a Registration Page for your webinar. We recommend giving away a free resource (an ebook or a PDF guide, for example) in exchange for registering. Make sure your Joint Venture partner knows that promoting your webinar to their list is going to help you build your list, and that they are okay with that.
After someone registers for your webinar, they should receive a confirmation email along with a series of reminder emails leading up to the webinar. After the webinar is over, be prepared to send a link to the replay to all registrants (many online courses sales come from webinar replays). Email communication with webinar registrants is typically your responsibility.
3. You host a live webinar together where you sell your course
Although some Joint Venture partners will want to simply email their list the invitation to your webinar and not actually host the webinar with you, we highly recommend encouraging them to co-host the webinar with you. They don’t have to stay for the whole thing, but if they are able to personally introduce you to their audience at the beginning of the webinar, this will help to increase sales since that personalized introduction will edify you to their audience.
Don’t leave it up to your Joint Venture partner to decide how they introduce you to their audience on the webinar. At a minimum, you should provide them with a one paragraph bio that helps to position you as an expert on your topic before you begin your presentation. Also, make sure your Joint Venture partner is aware of the technology you will be using to host the webinar. It’s a good idea to have them show up early so you can quickly test the audio, video, and screen sharing capabilities before the presentation begins.
Most importantly, make sure you deliver an EPIC presentation to your Joint Venture partner’s audience. Provide them with a ton of value upfront, and then transition confidently into presenting your online course. According to Iman Aghay, not being able to do those two things is actually insulting to your Joint Venture partner:
“When I’m hosting a webinar for a person, there are two things I expect them to be able to do: show up professionally and deliver amazing content to my list, and at the end of that webinar, convert a lot of people on that webinar to their program. It’s insulting to an affiliate if you ask them to host a webinar for you if you can’t provide great value to their audience and you can’t close at the end.” Tweet this.
4. You split the revenue from course sales with them
Agree on a revenue split ahead of time (we recommend doing a 50/50 split). Clarify how and when your Joint Venture partner will be paid. If you’re using Thinkific to sell your online course, we’ve made it super easy for you to handle this. All you have to do is add a new user to your course (using their name and email address), add them to your course’s affiliate program, and then input the amount they are to be paid for each sale. When you host a webinar together (and when you email the replay to the registrants), use their affiliate link so you can track all sales that come directly from their audience.
Friendship first. Business second.
As we wrap up this article, we would like to stress one more very important point, and that is that the key to making a Joint Venture partnership work is to invest the necessary time and effort to build a relationship first.
Yes, it is wonderful when someone promotes you to their audience and you both make money when you sell your online course. But getting there doesn’t happen overnight. Be prepared to spend several months building a relationship with a potential Joint Venture partner before they agree to promote you. This is a long-term strategy, one where building real relationships with influencers in your industry will eventually pay off.The key to making a #JointVenture work is to focus on building a relationship first. #teachonline Click To Tweet
We spoke with Yaro Starak, a highly successful business blogger who recently generated over $100,000 in sales of his blogging course in a two week period with the help of his Joint Venture partners. He reminded us of the importance of having a “friendship first, business second” mindset. Here’s what he told us:
“Start reaching out to Joint Venture partners and affiliates 6-12 months before you launch your online course. The biggest affiliates have a schedule. They plan in advance who they are going to promote. If they don’t know you or you give them short notice, they probably won’t promote you. You have to build a relationship with them first. Make friends. Then, when the time is right, you can talk to them about promoting you.” Tweet this.
Ready to use Joint Ventures to sell more online courses?
Well… that’s it! You are now officially equipped with more information about using Joint Venture partners to promote your online course than 99% of the online instructors out there. The big question now is what will you do with your newly acquired superpower?
Before you go, make sure you download our free Joint Venture worksheet. You can use this worksheet to help plan out your Joint Venture marketing strategy and keep track of your communication with each prospective Joint Venture partner you reach out to.
Tyler Basu is the Content Marketing Manager at Thinkific. In addition to creating helpful content for our community of online course creators, he is also a Podcast Host and the Publisher of Lifestyle Business Magazine, a digital magazine for lifestyle entrepreneurs.
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