Affiliate Marketing for SaaS: A Complete Guide
Business-to-business software and software as a service (SaaS) products are a fast-growing industry. The market is competitive, and brands fight for customers’ attention every day. But if you are a SAAS brand, how can you stand out in the crowd?
One of the most prominent pieces of digital marketing advice would be to break through the noise and grow your client base.
This guide will take you through the various steps of creating an affiliate program, explain different payment methods, and help you understand how to use affiliate marketing and partnerships to gain new potential customers.
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 can easily be overlooked.
Ecommerce refers to an online business platform that markets or sells an external company’s products and services on its channel. In return, they’ll earn a commission on customer sales made. Ecommerce affiliate programs are becoming even more popular and are an effective way to increase conversion rates and online revenue that benefits both parties.
But there are plenty of reasons why affiliate marketing works for SaaS companies. SaaS affiliate marketing is based on a referral program built on a partnership. Affiliates or publishers are rewarded for driving leads or sales from their blog or affiliate platform to your website.
It’s cost-effective, offers personalized promotions & targeted audiences, and builds customer loyalty. First, when creating a budget for your affiliate program, you need to consider how much value your new customers will bring and how much you are willing to spend. Most affiliate schemes work on a commission-per-sale payment structure. But with SaaS, it can work differently - more on that later.
If you’re a SaaS company interested in gaining financial benefits from affiliate marketers 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.
Here’s what we are going to cover:
- Choose an affiliate tracking software
- Integrate affiliate tracking with your site
- Set your commission strategy
- Customize your affiliate program
- Creating marketing assets
- Promote your affiliate program & recruit top-notch affiliates
- Welcome new affiliates
- Help Saas Affiliates Be Successful
- Wrapping up
1. Choose an affiliate tracking software
There are several options for running affiliate schemes. 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.
Benefits of affiliate networks
Starting an affiliate program with a network can save time and energy. You don’t need to spend time searching for the right affiliate and paying monthly commissions. Affiliate programs take care of these things, and you can start earning revenue quickly.
You can research the affiliate network and its effectiveness. Before you decide on which software or network you will work with, you can ask for more information regarding their specialties in the field. Can they give you marketing tips and templates? Can they help you succeed?
Disadvantages of affiliate networks
Budgeting will always be a major factor and is mostly why people choose against working with a network. You should budget a fair amount to start with and cover all the initial start-up fees.
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.
Additionally, you don’t own the affiliate data as it’s third-party data.
For these reasons, most SaaS companies use affiliate tracking software like Tapfiliate and run their affiliate program in-house.
Tapfiliate is an all-in-one platform designed especially for SaaS — providing powerful tools to easily set up and manage a SaaS affiliate program, including a connection to the Admitad Partner Network with 100,000 affiliates waiting to promote your brand.
Advantages of affiliate tracking software
Gain accurate data regarding impressions, clicks, and other value metrics crucial in marketing decisions. Data is retrieved from cookies, and that information is returned to the tracking software via the advertiser’s server site.
Affiliate tracking software has built-in fraud detection modes that ensure the company is safe and protected.
You own all data, including affiliate data
SaaS has advanced features that include tracking subscription payment modes, recurring commission structures, and following trial signups when they become paying customers, which is easily managed with affiliate software.
Disadvantages of affiliate tracking software
There will always be competition, which is one thing you can’t control. Although signing up for an affiliate tracking software is a low investment partnered with high-profit benefits. Practically everybody can succeed in this field, but many forget it will still take time and effort.
Want to start a SAAS affiliate program? Try out a range of features: 👉get a 14-day free trial here
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.
2. Integrate affiliate tracking with your site
Affiliate tracking software refers to monitoring clicks and sales from referral links posted on blogs, websites, social media posts, etc. when someone makes a purchase.
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. This part creates pricing plans for referred orders by integrating with a shopping cart and payment gateway systems on your social media platforms.
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 digital product, and the affiliate partner earns a commission on the purchase.
The great thing about commission plans, whether you agree on a lifetime commission or a one-time commission plan, it encourages affiliates to achieve goals and attract and retain new clients.
But for SaaS, it can be a bit more complex.
That said, two important questions 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. Identify which campaigns provide a higher conversion rate, allow you to decrease costs, make campaign adjustments and increase revenue.
This is where cookies come in. Tracking affiliates and should be your main priority. When you browse a website and accept cookies on a website, you are allowing the site to track your online activities.
These cookies are responsible for assigning commissions to the affiliate account.
Conversions can include:
- Pay per click: 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 (including Tapfiliate), so it makes sense only to pay a commission when the referral enters a paid subscription — not just a trial sign-up.
Tapfiliate’s Customers functionality tracks when a customer signs up for the trial up to when they become paying customers.
The conversion can be attributed to affiliate sales when the customer upgrades to a paid subscription, or when a customer signs up for a free trial.
Although the focus is on the commission structure, you also want to pay attention to the cookie duration. Including cookie information in your report for SaaS products is essential.
Image source: Woorise
Your commission rate is how much you will pay for each conversion and how often.
Commission frequency is unique to SaaS, as most business owners use a subscription-based model.
This means instead of a one-time affiliate commission, affiliates earn each time their referral pays a subscription fee — whether it be weekly, monthly or yearly and no maximum commission rate is in place.
Recurring commissions are a huge incentive for affiliate sign-ups and are 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
Tapfiliate provides many tools and methods to engage affiliates and provide them with just the right reward.
SaaS clients can attract top influencers by connecting a customer to an affiliate using the Tapfiliate Lifetime commission feature.
- Award one-time commissions (e-commerce)
- Award monthly commissions (Subscription/SaaS)
- Offer fixed or percentage affiliate commissions
- Per category/product commissions
Like we said, SaaS commissions can be complex. Unlike traditional commission-based commission-based compensation, where affiliates receive a one-off sales percentage, the SaaS commission structure works differently because affiliates earn a commission every time a person signs up or registers for a SaaS product.
Maintaining a solid customer or client relationship is vital to maximizing your revenue.
Read our complete guide to SaaS commissions.
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 scheme to match your branding. This includes:
- Setting up a custom subdomain (included in all Tapfiliate plans)
- Adding your logo to the dashboard
- Creating a matching sign-up page
Check why Tapfiliate is the #1 choice among 👉affiliate software
The sign-up page should be personalized to fit your affiliate program goals. Share why affiliates should join and what benefits you offer.
Image source: Clickfunnels
Then, make sure this page matches your branding. The sign-up page will likely be featured on your website, commonly in the footer.
Use branded colors, fonts, and verbiage to seamlessly transition between your site and the sign-up page.
This is not just relevant to website or blog landing pages; the consistent design guidelines need to be pulled through to email marketing campaigns. Promotional material can also be included in newsletter articles to promote popular products or annual subscription discounts.
If you’re wondering what you need on the signup page, we’ve covered everything you should include here.
There is no limit to your creativity.
Whatever wild idea you think will help boost your subscription sales can be included on your sign-up page. Proper research is key to the success of any website page.
Terms of Service
The terms, also known as your affiliate program’s terms and conditions, shouldn’t be skipped over. It’s your written guidelines for your program that set 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 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 branded materials to use as part of their promotion.
- Social Media Posts
- Text links
This includes anything digital marketers can use to promote the business, products, or services.
The promotional material listed above is included in email newsletters, business presentations, sales letters, blog articles, website content, etc.
This may seem really simple, but the type of company will determine which of these creative assets will be most valuable to attract your audience.
The focus is on inbound marketing. The buyer will most likely do their own research before making a purchase or making a business inquiry.
That’s why inbound marketing strategies and assets must be well thought through to attract the audience’s attention.
Marketing assets will be uploaded to your dashboard; then, affiliates can share them directly to their social channels or embed them on websites.
Tapfiliate’s asset section
In addition to these marketing assets, consider the other ways you can help affiliates with promotional content. After all, this type of marketing material is what makes affiliate campaigns for SaaS so effective on various social networks.
Provide affiliates with a branding kit that includes your logo, font, and any related company images.
Share notable awards, reviews, or media features for affiliates to include in their promotions. For example, “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. Provide affiliate training and inform them about your software, including a list of functions and powerful features.
This type of information makes for great tutorial content on YouTube. Think of it as running two campaigns simultaneously, combining affiliate training with an informative step-by-step tutorial.
Be sure to inform affiliates 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
The most important part is your affiliates!
There are several ways to get the word out about your affiliate scheme and start recruiting affiliates.
Publicize your sign-up page
Make your affiliate sign-up page widely available and easily accessible.
Marketing your product or service online has many different avenues.
An affiliate program will depend on your business niche, but that doesn’t have to limit you in any way.
For example, even though SaaS products and social media are two different digital sectors, it doesn’t mean you can’t market and spread the word about your services there.
Linkedin is a great social media platform for interacting with numerous business leaders.
This can include:
- Having a dedicated page on your website
- Place in the footer of your website
- Add to your email signature
- Include in in-house affiliate support teams
- Feature on social media bios & posts
Image source: Reddit/Viator
Connect to Admitad Partner Network
With Tapfiliate you can connect to Admitad Partner Network. They have 100,000+ affiliates waiting to promote your brand and you can get connected quickly and easily.
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 an affiliate link that they can use to promote your online 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.
Collaborate with other SaaS companies
A bit more unconventional than other affiliates, consider partnering with other SaaS professionals and businesses with similar audiences.
Think of products or services you use together and can easily promote one another. For example, graphic design software and an email marketing platform would work great together.
Reach out to non-competitive brands with products or services that complement yours or are often bought by similar target audiences. Here are a few ways other professionals can promote each other:
- Write a blog post or product review on their site using affiliate links
- Recommendations pages on their website featuring products they use including affiliate links
- Refer clients with recommendations in EDMs
- Use coupon and promo codes exclusively for their customers
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 dedicated affiliate teams can put your digital 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 marketers use strategies that is unique in its own way.
SaaS affiliates have the ability to show audiences your software in action. They can create content that illustrates how the software works, key features, and benefits.
And given the nature of software, this content can be extremely effective.
For example, anyone searching for how to create a logo will likely 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 successful referral links to purchase the software used in the video.
7. Welcome new affiliates
Give your affiliates a warm welcome to your program. The affiliate game is all about relationships. Creating a good foundation for the relationship before the business becomes an affiliate partner is crucial, but now you have to up your game a continue maintaining that relationship.
You want to focus on making them feel valued and not treat them as if they are just a promotion machine.
Set up your affiliate scheme communication and personalize any messages you send.
When creating an email newsletter, the best practice is to set up a template with a newsletter tool.
Personalize the template with your own writing style, ad images, slogans, links, and ad call to action.
Newsletter tools are automated, and bulk emails will automatically be sent to your affiliates.
- A welcome message on your dashboard for when an affiliate joins your program.
- Congratulatory emails when your affiliates perform an action - like referring a conversion or have been approved for a program.
- Additional email triggers for more detailed program actions.
- Formatting the text of email notifications sent to affiliates.
Take the time to build trust and loyalty with them by communicating regularly with your affiliates. It also equips them to promote and gain sales for your program more effectively.
Email newsletters are an easy and effective way to communicate directly with your affiliates. It has several benefits and makes it ideal for communicating with your affiliates and your in-house team.
Important program information can be shared with the affiliate and can also be a reminder to partners who haven’t contacted you in a while.
How You Can Help Saas Affiliates Be Successful
SaaS marketing is challenging.
Overcome these challenges by proactively working with affiliates. Provide them with the necessary resources and support to effectively (and easily) promote your brand.
Share branding guidelines
Start by giving your affiliates the essentials of your brand.
Gather all branding materials and make a “branding kit” that can be easily accessed. Branding materials include logos, color profiles, typography, slogans, etc.
Image source: Vimeo
This will give affiliates a foundation for creating content.
Also, it ensures your brand will be displayed consistently in your marketing efforts - making it recognizable to audiences.
Prepare marketing materials
You’ll want to give affiliates some general direction with marketing text.
It’s helpful to provide affiliates with the following:
- Your brand’s ad copy
- Product descriptions
- Up-to-date features list
- Pricing lists with what’s included
- Any case studies or examples
Image source: Mailchimp
It’s also useful to provide a glossary of related terms, especially if the terminology is specific to your software.
Give your affiliates the space they need to market their own way, and to best fit their audience. Ultimately, that is the appeal of affiliate marketing - having genuine voices rather than tired, prepackaged ads.
Share high-quality images
Images are a way for your affiliates to give customers a sense of what the product is. Provide affiliates with high-quality images of your software, showcasing the interface and some of the best features.
If your software changes frequently, try to give the most generic version possible or keep close contact with affiliates for updated images.
Image source: Slack
Additionally, find general images that will convey your brand’s persona and give a sense of the company culture.
Since affiliates will be marketing your brand in different ways, through different channels, and to different audiences, it’s important to have some variety in your image collection.
If it’s a long blog post reviewing the software, screenshots of the interface would be great.
But, if your affiliate markets via social media, screenshots of the software probably won’t be that appealing or useful. Instead, try using an image that reflects your brand, possibly with a graphic that conveys how this will benefit customers.
Start using video content
Video is becoming the go-to content for affiliate marketing.
And it is particularly useful for SaaS.
Video shows your software in action — giving audiences insight into what it is used for, how it works, insider tips & tricks, and an overall sense of how it functions.
Popular videos for SaaS include:
- Software tutorials
- Explainer videos
- Product demonstrations
- Getting started guides
- Case studies
- Customer success testimonials
You can provide video as part of your affiliate marketing assets, or even work one-on-one with the affiliates that create video content.
Create content together
Another way to help affiliates is to be part of the content development. SaaS offers plenty of opportunities for content to go beyond a generic product overview.
Image source: The Everygirl
This is when having customers as affiliates comes in handy.
These affiliates have the ability to invite audiences into their experience allowing them to address the practical questions and interests of customers in a way traditional ads cannot.
Here’s a few writing prompts that are great for SaaS:
- How has the software changed their workflow?
- If they switched from another software, why and what changed?
- What has kept them as a customer?
- What concerns did they have about using the software and were these concerns solved? (Especially useful for highlighting excellent customer service)
Offer insight to your company
And finally, knowledge is power.
Ensure that affiliates can easily access information around promotions, updates, and any other relevant business information.
For example, if you are launching a new feature this week, give your affiliates the relevant information a few weeks before you launch.
This allows affiliates to ask questions and understand the new feature, giving them time to prepare content that can be shared with their audiences. Plus, they’ll feel part of the process rather than feeling as if they are being left in the dark.
A few ways to share this information includes mailing lists, newsletters, or a Slack channel made for your affiliates.
Additionally, share any positive press and placements about your business. Press mentions are a great marketing tool for affiliates - they give credibility with third-party validation and can position you as an industry leader.
Tapfiliate is specifically geared for the subscription and Saas business models. Quickly build your own partnership program with a solid foundation and technology to support it.
Track your affiliate programs, and make data-driven decisions to grow their reach and outplay the competition.
Not only does SaaS affiliate marketing make sense, but it is a low-risk marketing strategy. Generally, it boosts trial signups because SAAS products usually provide a free trial for users to test the program out.
Although the affiliate might not receive a commission on these signups, converting them into paid signups is easier than persuading new customers upfront.
You will create content to advertise your brand and get your name out there. You could take an extra ad step and insert some affiliate links.
Content creation is more than pushig sales. With SaaS products, you’ll have the opportunity of creating informative or educational content by showcasing to your audience how the tool works, its different features, etc.
Tapfiliate allows you to manage all your different affiliate programs in one place and see in-depth data from them. If you get stuck, be sure that there is a customer support team ready to resolve problems.
Having great success with increased signups and happy community of affiliates, you need a high-performing affiliate tracking tool.
Tapfiliate offers a 14-day Free Trial, so you can see how the software works with your setup. You can get started here.
Then, you’re ready to go!