If you’re running a SaaS business, you can’t rely on just one source of referrals, such as social media marketing or word of mouth recommendations. Even when it works well, no single strategy can get you where you want to go. If you don’t exploit all the available channels, you’re likely to have fewer paying customers, which means less potential for growth for your company.
To achieve sustainable growth, then you need other marketing strategies that will introduce new prospective customers to your business. And one of those strategies is affiliate marketing.
What Are the Benefits of SaaS Affiliate Marketing?
You can derive many benefits from affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is a logical extension of word of mouth, and allows you to distribute your SaaS product to a much more extensive network through your affiliates.
Here’s a quick summary of how affiliate marketing works:
The affiliate (or publisher) recommends your products and, when they refer a paying customer, they make a commission.
Affiliate marketing allows you to improve your marketing ROI while being cost-effective. That’s because you only pay affiliates when they deliver. In other words, the upfront investment and risks are low.
This means you end up lowering your customer acquisition cost, too, since you don’t have to shell out money for expensive ad campaigns to bring in customers.
How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
But how exactly should you get started with affiliate marketing as a SaaS company? One thing’s for sure: you can’t go into it without a plan. To be successful, you need to think things through every step of the way and be strategic. It may seem daunting to start but good planning can help you achieve your goals. Use online work schedule templates to chalk out your work to ensure you do not miss out any detail.
Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow to launch your SaaS affiliate program:
Choose – Join an Affiliate Network or Build Your Own
There are two main ways to go about affiliate marketing as a SaaS company. You can either choose to join an affiliate network or build your own. Each has its pros and cons.
If you join an affiliate network (such as CJ Affiliate or ShareASale), you can submit offers to readily available affiliates who are already part of that network. That means you can save a lot of time since you don’t have to start from scratch. However, the downside of this method is that you have to pay not just your affiliates, but also the network. According to Amnavigator, affiliate networks charge around 30% override. That means that for every $100 in commission you pay your affiliates, $30 goes to the network.
You also have less opportunity to build a personal relationship with your affiliates because the network takes care of everything-the infrastructure, reporting, payment solutions, and problem resolution.
With an in-house program, on the other hand, you have to spend more setting it up. However, it will likely cost you less in the long run because, without an intermediary, you only have to pay your affiliates. Because you’re dealing with your publishers directly, you’ll get the chance to develop a more personal relationship with them, which means it will be easier to build on their success for future collaborations. This method also gives you more control over what they do in terms of representing your personal brand identity.
Your decision will depend on your priorities. If you decide to go for the first option, it’s best to do your research before choosing a network. If you choose to set up your in-house program, check out some of the best affiliate programs so you can get some inspiration and learn from their good practice.
Tracking Factors To Consider
Once you’ve made your decision, you have to determine your tracking factors. Your tracking factors are the metrics that will help you determine whether your affiliate program is a success or needs improvements.
There are many tracking factors-or key performance indicators-you can track. Here are some of the most important:
- Revenue : Although organic and search traffic and clicks are essential, this is still the most important KPI. Traffic and clicks won’t matter if these do not translate to sales-and therefore, revenue-for your SaaS business.
- Clicks : Compare this with your number of sales, so you’ll know if your affiliate marketing is successful.
- Earnings Per Click : The EPC is the affiliate’s earnings per 100 clicks. We’ll talk more about this later.
- The number of new affiliates : You might wish to recruit a large team of affiliates, or work with a small but engaged few. Decide and set your goals accordingly.
- Average order value : This metric refers to customers’ average amount spent each time they buy via your affiliates’ referrals. The higher the AOV, the more people are spending on each purchase.
Your choice of KPIs ultimately depends on your priorities and on which aspect of affiliate marketing you’re trying to assess. For example, if your SaaS company is just starting, you might be interested in looking at clicks to know how much exposure your product is receiving through your affiliates.
You might also want to look at revenue to see if your company is growing. If you’re more concerned about scaling your in-house program at the moment, then you should measure the number of new affiliates joining.
Define How Much You’ll Pay Your Affiliates
Before you can start recruiting affiliates, you need to know how much you will pay them if they deliver. It’s natural for you to want to keep affiliate commissions low, but this can be a false economy. Offering generous payment terms means the highest performing affiliates will be keen to partner with you and will work hard to deliver results.
According to Monitor Backlinks, three things affect average affiliate commission rates: the industry, the product price, and the value the company sees in marketing.
Some industries pay more than others on average. The finance industry, for example, offers excellent commissions that range from 20% to 30%. The health industry offers commissions ranging from just 5% to a whopping 50%. In the SaaS industry, Supermetrics said the average percentage of the sales price paid to affiliates ranges from 15% to 25%. The modal commission rate is 20%.
In general, lower-priced products have higher commission rates, while higher-priced products have lower rates. Also, the more a company values affiliate marketing, the higher the rates it offers to keep its affiliates happy.
How much your affiliate commissions should be is your discretion, but remember this: happy affiliates will go the extra mile to get your product out there and make a sale.
Setting Up a Payment Structure
Now that you know your commission rates, it’s time to set up a payment structure. Below are the basic commission structures you can choose from:
- Revenue share model : You give affiliates a share of the revenue from sales made through the affiliate’s site.
- Pay-per-click or cost-per-click : You pay commissions for every click from an affiliate’s site to your SaaS website.
- Pay-per-acquisition : You pay when you acquire something. This might be a visitor signing up for your newsletter, downloading a free trial of your SaaS product through the affiliate link, or making a purchase.
- Pay-per-impression : You pay based on the number of times a website visitor views the advertisement.
Bear in mind that the more complicated a payment structure is, the less likely your affiliates are to prioritize your product.
If you have more than one SaaS product, you might be tempted to pay different commission rates for the other categories. But that could backfire, with affiliates choosing to promote your higher-margin products (with high commissions) and ignoring the lower-margin ones. The better option is to create a flat commission structure for all products and then run promotions and bonuses around the higher-margin product.
The Importance of Your EPC
The EPC is the affiliates’ earnings per 100 clicks of the affiliate link. It is calculated by dividing the publishers’ commissions by the number of affiliate link clicks and then multiplying the answer by 100. An EPC of $5, for instance, means that for every 100 clicks on an affiliate link, affiliates earn $5.
The EPC is crucial because it is how affiliates will determine whether doing business with you is worth it or not.
Good affiliate networks have this data on hand to help affiliates choose merchants to partner with. If you’re running your program in-house, make sure you make this information available. The EPC tells affiliates their earning potential. It will also tell them if a product is sellable or not.
For affiliates, a program that offers a slightly lower cut but has a high EPC is better than a program that provides a hefty commission and has very low EPC. That’s because even if commissions are slightly lower for each sale, the product is popular and enjoys high conversion rates.
How To Market Your SaaS Affiliate Program
Once you have everything in place, it’s time to market your SaaS affiliate program, you can use a SaaS SEO agency to help you with this. If you’re tapping an affiliate network, you don’t have to do much as the network will take care of it for you. If you’re running your program in-house, that’s a different story.
You don’t have to look far to promote your program. Posting details about it on your website is a great way to make it visible. That’s where you announce product updates and features, so why not also promote your newly-launched in-house program there?
Semrush, for example, has a dedicated page for its in-house program:
Ensure you include all your program details, such as the commissions that affiliates can earn and other benefits. Explain why they should choose your program over the others. Semrush, for example, boasts of its “international award-winning tools with over 6,000,000 users”, provides promotional materials, and has a dedicated team of experienced account managers to support affiliates. Find the thing that makes you stand out, and go ahead and show off about it.
Social media marketing is also great for promoting your program. You can join LinkedIn affiliate marketing groups and create a post inviting affiliates to join. You can also post on your company and personal LinkedIn accounts and ask your employees to do the same. Submit your program to affiliate directories, too.
Reach Out to Potential Affiliates
Don’t just sit back and wait for people to apply to your program. Reach out to potential affiliates proactively. To do this, start by identifying them.
There are many ways you can go about this. For example, you can look at your competitors and see who’s promoting them. Use social media and check out relevant hashtags. A Google search will help, too.
Finally, you can reach out to bloggers and influencers. For example, tech bloggers may be willing to review your SaaS product on their blog and join your affiliate program to earn commissions for doing so.
Once you have a list of potential affiliates, start sending them messages. If you don’t have their contact details, use an email finder.
A generic outreach email won’t cut it, though. The key to persuading affiliates to try your program out is to show them that you care. That means you need to personalize your message for each person you reach out to.
Introduce yourself and your purpose for writing. Include your program details and the benefits they can enjoy if they join. In other words, sell your program. Remember, the person you’re writing to needs to see there’s something in it for them.
Here’s a sample message to potential affiliates:
Hello (Name of potential affiliate),
I hope all is well with you. I’m (Your Name). Our company (NAME OF COMPANY) just launched our in-house affiliate program, and we’re looking for amazing affiliates who can promote our product. The product is fantastic and has conversion rates of X. You can earn outstanding and continuous commissions over time.
To give you an idea of the earning potential, our EPC is [$X] and our AOV is [$X]. Joining is free, and we’d be pleased to provide you with a premium subscription to our product so you can see its features and benefits for yourself.
If that’s something you’d be interested in or if you have any questions, do feel free to message me.
All the best,
Feel free to use this template or modify it to your liking.
How to Retain and Reward Your Top-Performing Affiliates
Your job doesn’t end once you’ve found your affiliates. For affiliate marketing to work, you need to provide them all the support they need. You also need to assess their performance through your set KPIs to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.
Don’t forget to reward your top-performing affiliates. That’s crucial to retaining them. Incentives for a job well done will motivate them to continue what they’re doing or to perform even better. And when your affiliates do well, your SaaS company benefits, too.
Here are some incentives you can offer to your best affiliates:
- Higher commission rates : Who doesn’t want to earn more?
- Personalized assets : Co-branded landing pages, perhaps?
- Exclusive deals and discount codes : These are great incentives because they translate to more people buying through the affiliate, which in turn translates to more affiliate earnings and company revenues.
- Prizes : why not offer a gift card or other prize for reaching sales and performance goals?
- Early access : Allow them to test and review your new releases before anyone else.
That doesn’t mean that you should ignore your low-performing affiliates. Instead, strive to motivate them and help them to do better through training, support, and access to improved marketing materials.
Affiliate marketing is a must for SaaS entrepreneurs, who tend to rely very heavily on word of mouth recommendations to sell their products. Affiliate marketing can expand word of mouth and distribute your products to a much more extensive network through your affiliates. It can also improve ROI while ensuring cost-effectiveness.
Affiliate marketing works best when you partner with affiliates who genuinely love your product. It’s a win-win – you make more sales, and they get to make money by recommending something they love.
Getting your affiliate marketing going requires some time and effort invested upfront. In this article, I’ve given you everything you need to jumpstart your program. Be strategic, put the work in, and care for your affiliates. Do all these things, and your SaaS company will be enjoying new levels of success in no time.
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