Affiliate Marketing for SaaS: A Complete Guide
A quick Google search shows that for the most part the affiliate marketing industry is tailored to e-commerce. And affiliate marketing for SaaS companies is often overlooked.
But there’s plenty of reasons why affiliate marketing works for SaaS companies.
It’s cost-effective, offers personalized promotions & targeted audiences, and builds customer loyalty.
Here’s how it works:
If you’re a SaaS company interested in affiliate marketing, but don’t know where to start, this article is for you. We’ve made a checklist covering everything you need to start your own SaaS affiliate marketing program.
1. Choose an affiliate tracking software
There’s a couple options when it comes to running an affiliate marketing program. Will you use affiliate networks or in-house using affiliate tracking software?
While both have their pros & cons, affiliate networks are typically not ideal for SaaS companies, especially if you are just starting out.
Affiliate networks can be pretty costly, with commission and management fees being charged on top of the affiliate payout. And as we mentioned before, the industry favors e-commerce, so most networks are comprised of publishers within retail niches.
For these reasons, most SaaS companies opt for using affiliate tracking software and running their affiliate program in-house.
Tapfiliate is an affiliate tracking software designed specially for SaaS — providing all the tools to easily set up and manage a SaaS affiliate program.
SaaS features include tracking subscription payments, recurring commission structures and following trial signups to when they become paying customers.
2.Integrate affiliate tracking with your site
Affiliate marketing works by tracking clicks from the referral link — posted on blogs, websites, social media posts, etc. — to when someone makes a purchase.
This means you’ll need to integrate your site with Tapfiliate to track clicks and conversions.
You can choose from 30+ integrations here. The more popular integrations for SaaS companies include Stripe, PayPal and Moonclerk.
If your integration isn’t on the list or you have a custom step-up, then you may still be able to integrate using one of the guides below:
For most integrations, it’s a pretty painless process. This can be done with copy & paste modules, plugins, or integration guides.
Then, you can use the Tapfiliate Integration Tester to make sure everything is good to go.
3.Set your commission strategy
For most industries this is pretty straightforward — a visitor uses a referral link to buy a product and the affiliate earns a commission on purchase.
But for SaaS, it can be a bit more complex.
That said, there are two important questions that will guide your strategy:
- What will you count as a conversion?
- What will you pay as a commission for a conversion?
What is considered a conversion can vary based on your marketing goals.
Conversions can include:
- Pay per clicks: pay affiliates for any traffic they send to your site.
- Pay per lead: pay affiliates for any lead generation, like a trial sign up.
- Pay per sale: pay affiliates for any completed purchase, like a paid subscription.
Most SaaS businesses offer a free trial, so it makes sense to only pay a commission when the referral actually enters a paid subscription — not just a trial sign up.
Tapfiliate’s Customers functionality tracks from when a customer signs up for the trial until they become paying customers. When the customer enters a paid subscription, the conversion will be attributed to the affiliate.
Your commission rate is not only how much you will pay for each conversion, but also how often.
Commission frequency is unique to SaaS, as most businesses use a subscription based model.
This means instead of a one-time commission, affiliates earn each time their referral pays a subscription fee — whether it be weekly, monthly or yearly.
Recurring commissions are a huge incentive for affiliates, and is a driver for referring quality leads that will be long-term customers.
Additional commission considerations include:
- Fixed or % based commission rates
- Limits on recurring commission amounts or frequencies
- Commission tiers & bonus rewards
- Payout limits, payout periods & payout methods
Like we said, SaaS commissions can be complex.
We’ve created a guide to SaaS commissions, you can read here.
4. Customize your affiliate program
Your affiliate program should be an extension of your existing site — giving affiliates the same look, feel and experience throughout.
Customize elements of your affiliate program to match your branding. This includes:
- Setting up a custom subdomain
- Adding your logo to the dashboard
- Creating a matching sign up page
The sign-up page should be personalized to fit your affiliate program goals. Share why affiliates should join and what benefits you offer.
Then, make sure this page matches your branding. It’s likely the sign-up page will be featured in your website, commonly in the footer. Use branded colors, fonts and verbiage so there’s a seamless transition between your site and the sign-up page.
If you’re wondering what you need on the signup page, we’ve covered everything you should include here.
Terms of Service
The terms of your affiliate program shouldn’t be skipped over. It’s your written guidelines for your program and sets the tone.
Terms of service can be featured on the sign-up page.
Again, it should be personalized to fit your needs. Common topics covered include affiliate obligations, fraud detection and promotion restrictions. It can also incorporate other terms of service agreements from your brand like trademark and privacy policies.
5. Creating marketing assets
Provide affiliates with the branded materials to use as part of their promotion.
- Social Media Posts
- Text links
Marketing assets will be uploaded in your dashboard, then affiliates can share them directly to their social channels or embed them on websites.
In addition to these marketing assets, consider the other ways you can help affiliates with promotional content. After all, this type of content is what makes affiliate marketing for SaaS so effective.
Provide affiliates with a branding kit that includes your logo, font, and any related company images.
Share any notable awards, reviews or media features for affiliates to include in their promotions. Such as “Ranked Best of 2020” or “Featured in X Magazine”.
Communicate any sales, offers and discounts to highlight — including promo codes and sale time periods.
And finally, explain!
SaaS can sometimes be complicated to promote as it’s not a physical product and it’s constantly changing. Give affiliates a guide to your software, including a list of functions and features. This type of information makes for great tutorial content on YouTube.
Be sure to let affiliates know about any updates or major changes to how the software works. This way they are promoting the most accurate and up-to-date information, and avoid misleading their referrals.
6. Promote your affiliate program & recruit top-notch affiliates
Then the most important part, affiliates!
There’s several ways to get the word out about your program and start recruiting affiliates.
Publicize your sign-up page
Make your affiliate sign-up page widely available and easily accessible. This can include:
- Having a dedicated page on your website
- Place in the footer of your website
- Add to your email signature
- Include in customer support interactions
- Feature on social media bios & posts
Invite your existing customers
You can invite customers directly using Tapfiliate’s Affiliate Recruitment feature.
By enabling this feature, your new customers can become “affiliate prospects”. This will automatically send them a referral link that they can use to promote your business to others.
When they drive a new conversion or customer, the affiliate prospect will be immediately promoted to affiliate status and invited to log in so they can view their performance and find more of your program’s resources.
Research & reach out
Spend some time researching your niche.
Who is talking about it? What are they saying? Where are they saying it?
Reach out to bloggers, websites, industry experts and influencers. These types of affiliates can put your product in front of built-in niche audiences, which boosts brand awareness and gives a stamp-of-approval for your product.
Again, this is another way SaaS affiliate marketing is unique.
SaaS affiliates have the ability to show audiences your software in action. They can create content that illustrates how the software works, the key features and the benefits.
And given the nature of software, this content can be extremely effective.
For example, anyone searching how to create a logo is likely to come across a video from Dansky. Dansky is a popular YouTuber who creates tutorials and how-to videos specifically for Adobe products. He teaches design skills with step-by-step instructions for audiences — and then he includes referral links to purchase the software used in the video.
7. Welcome new affiliates
Give your affiliates a warm welcome to your program.
Set up your affiliate communications and personalize any messages you send.
- A welcome message on your dashboard for when an affiliate joins your program.
- Congratulatory e-mails when your affiliates perform an action, like a created a conversion or have been approved for a program.
- Additional email triggers for more detailed program actions.
- Format the text of e-mails notifications sent to affiliates
From there, we’ve outlined how & when to communicate with affiliates here.
Now, you’re ready to go!
Tapfiliate offers a 14-day Free Trial, so you can see how the software works with your setup. You can get started here.