With the rise of cloud computing, SaaS came as the most suitable software distribution model. Software as a service is not only more cost-effective for organizations and individuals who depend on such technologies, but also provides versatility and agility.
This model has also benefited the software vendors themselves. For one, they typically benefit from lower development and hosting costs.
Additionally, it allows for a recurring revenue stream. However, this change has been met with new challenges, especially in finding new ways to promote SaaS products.
With a practically seamless licensing and distribution method alongside new trends in marketing, software vendors were inspired to develop creative, unconventional ways to promote their products.
While some have surprisingly embraced text messaging apps, others have always turned to the reliable but highly complex affiliate marketing model.
Why should you use affiliate marketing for SaaS?
Affiliate marketing offers SaaS companies the same key benefits as any other business.
Probably the most important advantage of this marketing model is that it is quickly revealed. Having an army of marketers motivated enough to bring you paying customers gives you instant access to markets you might not otherwise be able to enter. This allows you to scale much faster.
Despite the significant growth you can derive from the strategy, affiliate marketing poses a relatively low risk for SaaS companies. Of course, the success of your campaign will depend on your payment plan. However, affiliates usually only get paid when you do so, so your exposure is next to none.
Although the affiliate marketing model limits your financial risk, you should still examine your costs and consider the advantages over your other options. Realistically, affiliate marketing is unlikely to lower your customer acquisition costs. However, marketing through affiliates offers greater cost efficiency; that means every dollar you spend will give you results sooner.
How to develop affiliate campaigns for SaaS?
There really is no universal template for successful affiliate campaigns. This is especially true as SaaS companies vary widely in a number of ways, including price, nature of software, and business model.
Still, if you’re a software vendor looking to develop an affiliate campaign, here are the general steps you should take:
Step 1: Make sure you have a marketable product.
This may seem obvious, but a lot of companies really fail at this.
Often times, businesses turn to affiliate marketing to avoid having to develop their own marketing strategies. However, keep in mind that affiliates are not responsible for making your product marketable. They should only be around to sell products that already have a proven market.
So, before engaging in affiliate marketing, make sure you have already tested your software and have a proven product/market fit.
Additionally, you need to have an effective sales funnel. By using a funnel generator, you can monitor and optimize your collateral for maximum conversions. This includes your landing pages, the onboarding process, etc. are included. Otherwise, you won’t be able to attract even the best performing affiliates.
Step 2: Adopt the appropriate mindset.
The mindset doesn’t usually form part of campaign development, but it actually plays a critical role in the success of any affiliate marketing strategy. As you go through the process of planning, developing and executing your strategies, your mindset greatly influences the level of success you can achieve through your campaigns.
Many companies – software or otherwise – start by mistake by finding the least amount of money they can pay to motivate their subsidiaries. However, adopting the mentality of paying as much affiliates as you can afford is actually the best way to keep all parties happy. You want to partner with your affiliates, not exploit them.
Step 3: Develop a competitive payment plan.
There is no such thing as an industry standard for compensating affiliates that market SaaS products. It really should depend on your specific offer, business model, goals, audience profile, and the type of affiliates you want to attract.
To develop a competitive payment plan, you must first examine your business model. How do you earn your money? Is your revenue per customer recurring, one-time, or both? Based on your response to these questions, determine how you want to compensate affiliates.
Keep in mind that just because your revenue model is repetitive doesn’t mean your payment plan should be, too. It should all depend on what you can actually afford and what will encourage your affiliates to do so.
For this, it helps you evaluate your customer lifetime value (CLV) and churn rate so you know if it’s worth paying a heavy commission initially, but maintaining overall recurring revenues.
Also, find out what you’re paying your affiliates for.
Most commonly, SaaS companies pay a commission for every purchase. However, technically affiliate marketing allows you to pay at every step of the buying process. So you can pay for leads, specific actions or any indicator of engagement.
Step 4: Determine how you will recruit your affiliates.
Before you start recruiting affiliates, you need to decide between a network or in-house affiliate model. While it’s often more prudent for SaaS companies to start with in-house affiliate marketing, both definitely have their advantages.
Public affiliate programs allow you to use platforms like Clickbank, ShareASale, and Commission Junction. These networks not only provide you with a platform to manage your affiliate relationships, but also give you access to a valuable network of experienced affiliates. However, despite their benefits, these public platforms give you limited control over who can market your software and how they choose to do it.
On the other hand, running your own affiliate program leaves a lot to work out on your own. However, a limited, invite-only model, which allows you to select affiliates based on their qualifications, gives you full control. Additionally, it allows you to work closely with each of your affiliates to identify ways to improve your processes and collateral for better conversions.
Step 5: Empower your affiliate marketers.
Thus, you have developed and optimized your entire affiliate marketing campaign and even amassed a significant number of affiliates.
Unfortunately, your work does not end there. In order for your affiliates to sell, you need to provide all the support you can. For starters, this means making sure your product is performing and you’re ready to support the customers they bring.
Additionally, you need to work closely with your affiliates, listening to their feedback and continuing to improve your offerings. This includes not only the software itself, but also any marketing collateral that is intended to support the performance of your affiliates. This includes landing pages, onboarding processes, external content, etc. are included.
Finally, make sure that payments are made on time. Set a payment plan and stick to it. Affiliates must be paid on time and without errors. Rarely will an affiliate stick with a particular SaaS product, so they won’t think twice about leaving you to another software company that cares enough to pay them on time.
So, is your SaaS company ready for affiliate marketing? Review the key steps through this SaaS affiliate campaign development checklist:
- Make sure you have a marketable product.
- Adopt the appropriate mindset.
- Develop a competitive payment plan.
- Determine how you will recruit your affiliates.
- Empower your affiliate marketers.
Unlike adopting email or SMS marketing practices, affiliate marketing is much more involved. SaaS vendors wishing to take on this marketing model need to provide ongoing support to their affiliates while making sure they have a strong product and market fit above all else.
However, a carefully crafted affiliate marketing campaign may be just what a SaaS product needs to scale up, expand distribution, and bank.