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How to start an affiliate program for SaaS

By Dustin Howes
December 13, 2023


Introduction imageAffiliate marketing is a powerful strategy for SaaS businesses, offering numerous benefits such as increased brand awareness, website traffic, and sales generation. But is it the right fit for your company? What about the right time? These questions and more will be answered in this guide, providing you with the knowledge and insights needed to successfully launch an affiliate program for your SaaS business.

Understanding Affiliate Marketing for SaaS

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where affiliates promote a product or service and earn a commission for each successful referral. For SaaS companies, affiliate marketing is an invaluable tool that can help drive growth and expansion.

Starting an affiliate program for your SaaS business comes with numerous benefits. One of the primary advantages is increased brand awareness, as affiliates help spread the word about your product or service to their audience. This, in turn, drives traffic to your website and ultimately leads to higher sales generation.

a happy man turning ads into cashAffiliate marketing is a low-risk, performance-based marketing model, meaning that you only pay affiliates when they generate results. This approach ensures that your marketing budget is spent efficiently, making affiliate marketing a cost-effective solution for SaaS businesses. Find more tips on how to maximize your affiliate marketing program for your SaaS company.

Setting Goals and Objectives

Before launching your affiliate program for SaaS, it is crucial to define your goals and objectives. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve with your program will help you create a solid foundation for success. This process includes identifying your target audience, such as potential customers or industry influencers, and determining the commission structure that will be attractive to affiliates while remaining sustainable for your business.

Businessman checking numbers before launching a space shipIt's essential to understand that businesses have full control over their affiliate programs, which includes setting commission rates and selecting partnerships. This control allows you to tailor your program to meet your goals and objectives while ensuring it remains aligned with your overall brand strategy.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Tracking Software

A key component to managing your SaaS affiliate program is selecting the right affiliate tracking software. This essential tool plays a crucial role in managing referrals, commissions, and payments, helping you maintain an organized and efficient program. With the right software, you can effortlessly track your affiliates' performance and reward them accordingly, ensuring that your program remains attractive and competitive.

choose your software wiselySeveral reputable affiliate management software solutions are available to help you successfully manage your SaaS affiliate program. Some recommended options include Impact, ShareASale, PartnerStack, Refersion, and FirstPromoter. Each of these platforms offers unique features and capabilities, allowing you to choose the one that best aligns with your goals and requirements.

Pro tip: Take demos with 3 different affiliate tracking platforms to weigh your options of price, functionality, integration process, and customer support.

Creating an Affiliate Agreement

An essential aspect of establishing a successful affiliate program for your SaaS business is creating a comprehensive affiliate agreement. This document outlines the terms and conditions of your program, ensuring that both you and your affiliates are on the same page regarding expectations and responsibilities. A well-crafted agreement can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes, promoting a positive and productive relationship with your affiliates.

Key elements to include in your affiliate agreement are commission rates, payment terms, and promotional guidelines. Clearly stating commission rates ensures that affiliates understand their earning potential and are motivated to promote your SaaS product. Payment terms, such as payout frequency and minimum earnings threshold, provide affiliates with a clear understanding of when and how they will receive their commissions. Lastly, promotional guidelines set standards for how affiliates should represent your brand, ensuring that their marketing efforts align with your company's values and objectives.

Don't make this document filled with legalese. make it so the common person can read and have a clear picture of what is expected of their promotional behavior and how you can take away commissions if they violate the agreement.

Recruiting Affiliates

Attracting the right affiliates to promote your SaaS product is vital for the success of your affiliate program. To recruit affiliates, consider reaching out to influencers, bloggers, and industry experts with relevant audiences. These individuals can effectively promote your SaaS product to their followers, driving interest and potential sales. Additionally, you can encourage your existing customers to become affiliates by offering incentives and support, as they are already familiar with your product and can provide genuine recommendations.

a partner manager hand-selecting fruit that is labeled affiliate partnersWhen evaluating potential affiliates, it's essential to maintain control over your partnerships, ensuring that your affiliates align with your brand values and objectives. This approach helps maintain the integrity of your program and guarantees that your affiliates are promoting your SaaS product in a manner consistent with your brand image.

Recruiting partners is to lifeblood of the program, but it is not for the faint of heart. There will be failures and lots of it. Affiliates are busy, especially good ones. If you see a 20% response rate to your outreach, you are winning!

Check out the latest affiliate recruitment tools I am using to kill it with my merchant clients.

Providing Promotional Materials

Equipping your affiliates with the right promotional materials is crucial to the success of your SaaS affiliate program. By providing your affiliates with banners, text links, and email templates, you make it easier for them to promote your product effectively and efficiently. These materials can help affiliates maintain a consistent and professional appearance in their promotional efforts, ensuring that your brand image and messaging are accurately represented across various platforms.

As you develop promotional materials for your affiliates, it is essential to ensure that they align with your brand image and messaging. Consistency in design and content not only strengthens your brand identity but also makes it easier for affiliates to promote your SaaS product to their audience. By providing your affiliates with high-quality and cohesive promotional materials, you enable them to focus on their core competencies: generating traffic, leads, and sales for your SaaS business.

Want a cheat sheet for all the steps I go through to launch a SaaS affiliate program? Download it for free right here.

get the checklist you need to create and launch your Saas affiliate program

Communicating with Affiliates

Maintaining open lines of communication with your affiliates is essential for the success of your SaaS affiliate program. By providing updates, sharing insights, and offering support, you can help your affiliates succeed in promoting your SaaS product. This proactive approach not only fosters a positive relationship between you and your affiliates but also ensures that they remain engaged and motivated in their marketing efforts.

Pro tip: Don't be a jerk. No one likes working with jerks. Come to the meeting prepared to help save the time of your valuable partners.

partnership and friendship of two guys in an office embracing in a roman forearm handshakeEffective communication with affiliates can include regular check-ins, sharing performance metrics, and offering guidance on best practices for promoting your SaaS product. By providing the necessary support and resources, you empower your affiliates to reach their full potential and drive results for your business.

Enhancing your communication skills and learning more about how to engage with your affiliates is crucial for the success of your affiliate program. Consider joining the educational course at to gain valuable insights and strategies that will help you optimize your communication with affiliates and achieve your business goals.

Monitoring and Analyzing Performance

An essential aspect of managing a successful SaaS affiliate program is closely monitoring and analyzing its performance. This includes tracking key metrics such as conversion rates, revenue generated by the affiliate program, and lifetime value of partners. By keeping a close eye on these metrics, you can identify areas where improvements can be made, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your program's performance.

frantic business woman grasping at numbers floating out of a computerMaintaining a continuous improvement mindset is vital for the success of your affiliate program. As you gain insights from your performance data, make adjustments to your program as needed. This can include refining your commission structure, testing different promotional strategies, or exploring new promotional channels. The goal is to continuously optimize your program to ensure that it remains competitive and drives the desired results for your SaaS business.

Motivating and Rewarding Affiliates

One of the key factors contributing to the success of your SaaS affiliate program is keeping your affiliates motivated and engaged. Sure, money is a big motivator of affiliate partners…but what else will get them moving?

Offering incentives and rewards to top-performing affiliates can be an effective strategy to maintain their interest and encourage continued promotion of your SaaS product. Consider pulling few of these levers:

  • backlink from your brand's site
  • A personalized gift for a killer campaign in Q3
  • Cross-promotion of the affiliate's brand in a newsletter
  • VIP commission rate for next quarter
  • Exclusive early access to new product features, training resources, or additional promotional materials.

These types of rewards can motivate affiliates to continue promoting your SaaS product and help them feel valued and supported by your company. By fostering a positive and motivating environment for your affiliates, you can maintain their engagement and drive better results for your SaaS business.

Wrap it up, Dustin

By setting clear goals, choosing the right software, and effectively communicating with your affiliates, you can harness the power of affiliate marketing to drive growth and expansion. To further enhance your knowledge, join the Performance Marketing Manager Community. Don't miss the opportunity to explore relevant resources on the website, such as the blog and affiliate management software recommendations, to help you achieve your business goals.

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