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How to Create an Affiliate Program for SaaS Companies (2024 Guide)

June 19, 2024
How to Create an Affiliate Program for SaaS Companies (2024 Guide)

Creating an affiliate program for your SaaS company can be a game-changer, but it requires detailed planning, the right team, and strategic execution.

This guide will walk you through actionable steps to set up a successful affiliate program, with insights on roles, timelines, and how to avoid potential hurdles.

What to Expect from Running a SaaS Affiliate Marketing

When creating your own affiliate program for SaaS, it's crucial to keep the big picture in mind. Every decision you make should align with your ultimate goal. This means that it may take weeks to build a solid affiliate program foundation before launching it. You’ll want every tool, tactic, and partnership to drive towards the outcome you’re aiming for.

Here are some factors that may take planning time and resources:

Creating a successful affiliate program for SaaS requires a strategic approach. Every decision, from crafting enticing offers to selecting the right partners, should contribute to your overarching goal. The preparation step can take weeks and lots of resources, but it ensures every tool, tactic, and partnership propels your program towards achieving the desired outcome.

Let's delve into some key factors that require careful planning:

  1. Choosing the right affiliate program software takes trial (and error)

The affiliate management tool you select will greatly impact your program's efficiency. So, set aside time to try out your options thoroughly. Most affiliate software offers a free trial. This is a great opportunity to test its features, integration, and customer service.

  1. Training and support are key

After setting up your affiliate program, your team needs to learn the ropes. This will require comprehensive training and continuous support. See if the affiliate program software offers an onboarding program, learning videos, or documentation to guide you.

  1. Learn and tweak your affiliate marketing strategies

Launching your program is just the beginning, not the finish line. Over time, you'll gather feedback, analyze data, and make ongoing adjustments to optimize your affiliate program's performance.

Planning Your SaaS Affiliate Program

Before committing to any affiliate software or reaching out to any affiliates, sit down with your team and plan out what you want your SaaS affiliate program to look like. Not just in terms of the revenue it generates, but also who will be doing what, how it will affect your branding and marketing, and what time and resources will be dedicated to it.

Here's how to create an affiliate program for SaaS from the ground up.

1. Define Your Affiliate Marketing Goals

You need laser-sharp clarity on your goals. We're not talking about vague objectives like "increase sales." Think about what it means to your brand and business growth (short and long-term). The following aspects may inspire you:

  • Customer acquisition: Do you want a flood of new users? Then you may want to target specific demographics or pain points and choose micro influencers as your affiliates.
  • Brand awareness: Is it your brand's mission to become a household name? Then it's vital to track impressions, social shares, and backlinks. You'll also need to double down on creating branded content for and with your affiliates.
  • Boosting customer lifetime value: Aim to upsell, cross-sell, or slash churn rates? Decide how you want your affiliate program to help. Different commission structures for different types of affiliates might help.

Remember that your affiliate program goals will be your guiding light, shaping every decision you make. So, take the time to define them.

2. Understand Your Audience and Your Affiliates

Based on your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), find affiliates who have substantial authority and followers among your target audience. This may require in-depth research, but recruiting the wrong affiliates means you won’t be able to sell your products to your ideal customers.

"Who your ideal affiliate profile is going to be will vary a lot based on who your ICP is. So, for example, if your ICP is a solopreneur who's building a Saas business, then you want to find affiliates who can put you in front of these people, right? Ultimately, you want affiliates who can consistently get your offer in front of your ICP."

Emmet Gibney
CEO at Rewardful

Additionally, consider how many people you could reach by partnering with the affiliates. Don't be blinded by potential affiliates with massive followings. A handful of passionate, engaged affiliates will always outperform a horde of lukewarm promoters.

Related: Follow these six steps to effectively find and recruit your best affiliates.

3. Run a Competitive Analysis

The SaaS affiliate marketing landscape is booming, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the competition. However, this crowded space can be a goldmine of insights.

By conducting thorough market research and competitive analysis, you can identify both the strengths and weaknesses of existing programs. This valuable intel allows you to carve out your niche, capitalize on its shortcomings, and develop an affiliate program that truly resonates with your target audience.

4. Divide Tasks and Appoint an Affiliate Manager

Even if you're starting small, clearly defining roles from the get-go is essential.

This doesn't mean you need a massive team right away, but create a clear understanding of who's responsible for what. Here are some examples of key roles:

  • Affiliate Manager: They oversee everything from recruiting and onboarding affiliates to nurturing relationships, analyzing data, and driving continuous improvement.

Planning to recruit an affiliate manager soon? Check out the qualities and skills an affiliate manager should have in this How to Recruit an Affiliate Manager guide.

  • Content Creator: They craft compelling visual and written content (think blog posts, email templates, social media copy, or video tutorials) that affiliates can leverage to promote your product.
  • Data Analyst (or Affiliate Manager): Keeping a close eye on the numbers is crucial. This role involves tracking affiliate performance, identifying trends, and uncovering hidden opportunities for program growth. In smaller teams, the affiliate manager often wears this hat as well.
  • Technical Support: The tech whiz behind the scenes. They ensure a smooth operation of your affiliate tracking software, troubleshoot any technical glitches and assist affiliates facing integration or reporting challenges.

You might combine roles, outsource some tasks, or even hire a dedicated affiliate marketing agency. The key is to have a clear structure, so everyone knows their responsibilities.

Building Your Affiliate Program

Now that you've nailed down your strategy and assembled your dream team, it's time to build the infrastructure that will set your SaaS affiliate marketing program apart.

1. Pick Your Affiliate Software

Your affiliate marketing software is the engine that drives your program, so it needs to be reliable, powerful, and user-friendly.

Call us biased, but we recommend Rewardful as your affiliate program software. Why? Rewardful is designed to answer all your SaaS affiliate marketing challenges. We offer rich customization of affiliate dashboards, advanced automation of commission tracking and payment, and short installation and learning curves for both you and your affiliates.

Learn more about Rewardful features and how we help our customers earn $50,000 monthly affiliate revenue.

2. Offer Competitive (and Sustainable) Commission Structures

Enticing commission rates is a powerful tool for keeping your affiliate partners motivated. However, it's crucial to find the sweet spot between attracting affiliates and ensuring program sustainability for your business. To stay competitive, analyze what other SaaS companies in your niche offer.

Don't have time to research? Don’t worry. We've already done the legwork and compiled insights on ideal commission structures in this guide.

3. Create Crystal-Clear Program Policies

Your affiliate program policies should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Ensure they are up to par and compliant with the relevant regulations. The agreement should also include everything from commission terms to prohibited practices (like self-referral fraud and outbid Google ads).

Pro tip: make your program policies easily accessible on your website or affiliate portal. The more transparent you are, the more trust you will build with affiliates.

4. Pitch Your Affiliate Program on a Strong Landing Page

Your pitch, or landing page, is your first impression. It's your chance to make a splash and convince potential affiliates that your program is the best game in town.

The best strategy is to lead with value. That shouldn't just be the commission rate. Highlight the unique benefits of joining your program, such as exclusive content, early access to new features, or co-marketing opportunities. Regardless of how you reach out, make sure it is personal.

5. Empower Your Affiliates With Content and Support

The more you invest in your affiliates, the more they invest in you. A well-trained and supported affiliate becomes a loyal advocate, consistently driving program growth. So, after assembling your dream affiliate team, empower them for long-term success. View them as an extension of your brand and equip them with the knowledge and enthusiasm they need to champion your product.

Provide ongoing support and access to a comprehensive library of marketing materials. This ensures they have the resources to continuously promote your product, not just in the initial launch phase. Equip them with enough content and strategic guidance to develop long-term content plans featuring your product.

Check out our affiliate marketing asset guide, packed with ideas to jumpstart their creativity!

Managing and Growing Your SaaS Affiliate Program

After your program has gone live, there is still work to do. Ensure you have prepared for this before the affiliates start to roll in.

Set up a data-driven feedback loop

  • Your affiliate dashboard is your strongest tool. Track key affiliate program metrics like clicks, conversions, customer lifetime value, and ROI.
  • Analyze the data to identify your top-performing affiliates, successful strategies, and high-converting channels.
  • Use these insights to refine your commission structures, promotional materials, and partner outreach.

Establish a consistent communication plan

  • Create a content calendar for regular newsletters, updates, and webinars.
  • Deliver personalized feedback and support to both top performers and those who need extra help.
  • Foster a collaborative environment with a dedicated forum or Slack channel.
  • Actively seek and promptly respond to affiliate feedback and concerns.

Cultivate a happy affiliate community

  • Provide a dedicated online space for affiliates to connect, share ideas, and support each other.
  • Recognize and reward top performers with public acknowledgements, exclusive perks, or other incentives.
  • Encourage collaboration and cross-promotion among affiliates.

Create an Affiliate Program with Rewardful

Building and managing a successful SaaS affiliate marketing program can be a significant undertaking, especially for a solopreneur. Leverage powerful affiliate program software like Rewardful to streamline your workload and free up time.

We offer features that automate tasks and simplify key processes, such as seamless Stripe integration, bulk payouts via PayPal and Wise, and robust fraud detection. This will allow you to focus on what matters most: growing your program and nurturing affiliate relationships.

Sign up to Rewardful today and enjoy a 14-day free trial!

P.S. Want to dig deeper into the A to Z of launching a SaaS affiliate program? Join our FREE affiliate marketing course, and get access to 12 super informative videos, no strings attached!

Affiliate Marketing Software

Rewardful Team

Explore affiliate and referral marketing insights with Rewardful. Access our articles, guides and the latest company updates.

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