3 Essential Steps to Launching a SaaS Affiliate Program

Jun 14, 2022

If you’ve been hanging around the internet long enough, you’ve probably come across affiliate marketing – but as the owner of a SaaS business, you may not know how to launch an affiliate program, where to find affiliates, or how to reward affiliates. Choosing the right people or companies to help market your SaaS brand is vital to creating a successful affiliate program, so here are three things to keep in mind as you consider adopting this form of marketing. 

Note: This article is a great starting point for anyone looking to create a SaaS affiliate program, but the webinar posted below offers 70 minutes of useful and effective tips! 

1. Make sure you (and your business) are ready

Every SaaS business is unique, and that’s why there’s no perfect formula to follow when it comes to deciding whether you’re ready to start an affiliate marketing program. However, there are a few things that every business should have before doing so:

  • A product that reliably converts – Affiliates decide to become affiliates because of the rewards they receive by sending traffic to companies’ websites, so if your conversion rate is not significant enough to make it worthwhile for them, your affiliate program will be dead on arrival. Of course, conversions don’t have to result in a paying customer. They can also be freedmium or trial sign-ups. 

  • An understanding of your target audience – Product market fit means you understand who your best customers are, and therefore who the right affiliates are to promote your product to the right audience. Spend some time identifying individuals and businesses within your space, whose audiences would also be interested in your product.

  • Time & dedication – For affiliate partners, passive income is the name of the game. They’re in it for the long-term, so it’s important that you are willing to invest the necessary time and attention into nurturing long-lasting relationships with them.

2. Know where to find affiliates

Your affiliates need to be carefully selected so that everyone is given the best chance of  success. Here are some great places to find affiliates that will be a good fit for your SaaS brand:

  • Your customers – Your customers are already enjoying your product, so they’re going to be your best source of affiliates. A great way to find potential affiliates among them is to filter your customer list in a CRM like Hubspot or PipeDrive by whatever success metric you deem important. This will give you a list of top customers to invite to participate in your program.

  • Blogs & review websites – There are plenty of bloggers and websites that focus solely on promoting and reviewing software providers in an SEO-friendly way. Reach out to them to see if they’ll do the same for you. (If you join the webinar, Paddy will demonstrate how to use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to find affiliates like this).

  • Influencers & content creators – Never underestimate the power of an effective influencer. Connect with entrepreneurs (podcasters, thought leaders, etc.) whose audiences match your ICP and then find ways to help them grow their business so the partnership is mutually beneficial. For example, look for gaps in their content marketing and create new content related to your product that fills those gaps. Let them use what you create as a lead magnet and distribute it to the audience on social media or through email marketing to drive traffic and new customers to your platform. 

  • Communities & associations – Almost every industry has online communities and professional associations, whether they’re in-person monthly meetups or online groups on Facebook or Slack. A great idea is to contact the owners of Facebook groups to which your audience belongs and ask for a pinned post in exchange for a small monthly payment and an affiliate link. 

  • PPC affiliates – These affiliates can be a great avenue to explore, as they run ads to promote and sell your product. However, make sure you work with reputable affiliates who will not try to game the system by bidding against your product name, for example, which would drive up your own ad prices.

  • Media websites – You might not think of news and media websites in this way, but they can make good affiliates if they publish content for the industries you target. Sites like HARO let you make yourself available as a resource to journalists, which is how you can make your first connection with them.

  • Brand-to-brand partnerships – Partnerships can be a win-win for everyone involved. If your ideal customers and values align with other brands and products, reach out to them to form partnerships! You can work together to create co-marketing campaigns, joint webinars, case studies of shared customers, and more. 

  • Affiliate networks – Existing affiliate networks can be great, as they often have a wide reach and low upfront costs. There is, however, a much higher potential for spam affiliates when you go this route. 

3.  Decide how to reward affiliates 

Remember, affiliates get involved with products because they want to receive money by doing so. It’s that simple. There are a few ways to get money into your affiliates’ pockets (one of which is widely seen as the best way):

  • Recurring commission – This is by far the most common way for affiliates to receive income. In fact, 80% of SaaS affiliate programs pay recurring commissions to their affiliates. Since this is generally considered the norm, it’s the best way to attract the best affiliates. In general, your commission should be about one-third of your CAC and have a 90-day cookie window for attribution.

  • Cost per lead – In this model, affiliates receive a set fee for every lead they refer. Leads can be defined any way you choose, but that definition should be clearly agreed upon by both sides beforehand. 

  • Bounties – In this structure, affiliates are paid a one-time fee for every paying customer they send to you. Since this is a one-time payment, commission rates tend to be higher for this model, totaling 100% or more. There is usually a minimum customer retention period before the affiliate gets paid.

Want to learn more about starting a SaaS affiliate program? Watch the webinar below!

‍In The Essential Steps to Launching a SaaS Affiliate Program webinar, Paddy McGill of eWebinar shares his proven, step-by-step approach to building an effective affiliate marketing program for your SaaS company. Paddy has more than a decade of experience building successful programs of this kind for tech and ecommerce companies such as Thinkific, Restream, and now eWebinar, and has consulted for high-profile influencers and YouTubers with tens of millions of followers.

Register for the webinar to be given access to valuable templates, and to learn a simple process for identifying your competitors’ affiliates so you can reach out to them and explain why your product may be a better one to promote.

Written By - Chameli Kuduva, Founder - SaaS Insider