Affiliate marketing: why it’s an effective SaaS distribution channel and how to get started

Affiliate marketing can be a faster and more cost effective way for SaaS brands to reach new audiences and customers. Here’s why affiliate marketing is effective for SaaS brands, along with tips on how to get started building a successful affiliate distribution channel.

Saas platform affiliate
Marc Sachdev
Marc Sachdev
Principal Product Marketing Manager
Read time: 5 mins

The average person can see up to 10,000 ads every single day. As consumers, we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements both in person and online. But if you stop to think about the ads you’ve been exposed to in even the last few hours, it’d probably be difficult to recall every one of them. 

SaaS brands need to find a way to stand out and break free of the ad blindness that can lead to wasted marketing dollars — but could affiliate marketing be the answer?

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful marketing distribution channel for SaaS brands when established and run correctly. Let’s dive into how affiliate can be effective for SaaS marketing and how you can get started building a successful and scalable program. 

Why an affiliate program needs to be a part of your marketing strategy

The amount of data online is massive and growing exponentially every day. In 2020, over 500,000 Tweets were posted every day and Facebook generated 4 petabytes (one million gigabytes) every day. This increase of content and information creates a complex buying environment for companies and customers. 

Marketing is more expensive and competitive, and customers face growing confusion about what brands they can trust. Consumers turned away from traditional advertising and toward their networks for recommendations. 

A company’s reputation serves as its greatest referral resource as more people are relying on third party review sites, customer feedback, and networking to find reliable products and services. According to Salesforce’s B2B Sales Benchmark report, referral-generated leads converted 3.63 percent compared to 0.78 percent of marketing-generated leads. 

In the SaaS world, affiliate marketing looks like content partnerships, in-depth software reviews or comparisons, or posts from industry leaders and subject matter experts. Today’s B2B affiliate marketing focuses on spreading educational content and product information. 

What exactly makes affiliate marketing so successful? Here are some of the biggest factors. 

1. Affiliate marketing helps build trust

Trust forms the basis of affiliate marketing because it showcases real audience stories with their already established audience. Marketing teams create traditional marketing materials internally and it’s getting harder to convince consumers to trust words coming from businesses. 

On the other hand, affiliate marketing gives real-life insights and perspectives from the customer. Affiliates can share stories in their own words, generating authentic connections with audiences. 

Affiliate marketing doesn’t read like an ad. Instead, it seems like a recommendation from an already trusted source. Affiliate partners create more authentic distribution and convince interested parties faster. 

2. Affiliate marketing isn’t a gamble like traditional advertising 

Traditional marketing requires your team to invest cash upfront to get materials in front of the right audience. Even with the right budget and strategy, confinements of traditional marketing like rising ad costs and ad blindness leave you with little control. With affiliate marketing, you only pay based on conversion or sale, you set the costs, and ads appear in more natural areas that increase chances of engagement from your audience. 

Affiliate marketing allows you to get your brand name and message in front of a large audience with little upfront cost. Acquiring a new customer requires a smaller investment so you can reduce your return on investment and increase profit margins. And because your affiliate’s audience is already warm, you’ll spend less time convincing them your brand is trustworthy.

3. Affiliate programs strengthens existing partnerships

Bringing trusted partners on as affiliates can also deepen your relationship with them. When your partners have something to gain by seeing you grow, they become invested in your success. 

Affiliates become more than just partners—they become your advocates. Often, affiliates get excited about working with brands and sharing their stories; they will look for opportunities to continue working with brands that value them. 

4. Affiliate partners supports other marketing objectives

Affiliate partnerships programs boosts other marketing efforts, such as content marketing and SEO. Partners share stories about working with your brand and perspectives on how your SaaS solution can help their audiences These efforts raise your online authority and drive links to your site. 

When working with affiliates to create content, consider how these efforts work in conjunction with other plans or strategies. Looking at your marketing plans from a holistic perspective can foster better results across the board. 

Tips for creating an effective SaaS affiliate marketing program 

Your affiliate marketing program relies on having the right strategy, team, and tools in place in order to see the most results. Programs need to be designed and implemented the right way to see real results. 

SaaS affiliate programs see the best results when they: 

1. Prioritize building strong relationships with partners 

Successful affiliate programs depend on partners willing to advocate for your brand in authentic ways — something that doesn’t happen overnight. It requires investing in relationships with existing partners so they’ll want to help your brand succeed. 

Focus on delivering superior services and results for partners before trying to put an affiliate program in place. Create systems, processes, and programs that help set them up for success, including things like onboarding, contracts, and a set payout structure. Giving your affiliates the tools they need to succeed can help both of you see stronger results.  

2. Create an affiliate-first commission structure

For an affiliate program to work, your partners want to feel like a part of your business and to get adequately  incentivized. 

When deciding how, what, and when you’ll pay affiliates, select a model that’s easy to understand and benefits all parties. Set up bespoke payments that align with the relationship you build with each affiliate. 

3. Track partnerships with a management platform

A partnerships management platform makes it easy to keep an eye on where you are generating leads and when they reach various stages of the sales cycle. More efficiently monitor your growth rate and keep track of the multiple conversion points often associated with SaaS subscription models.. 

Using a platform can ensure your affiliates are getting compensated appropriately and you can monitor which partners are delivering the most value. 

Start building an effective SaaS affiliate program today 

An affiliate program can deliver stellar results for your SaaS company when you run your program with the right tools. For all the ins and outs of using referral partnerships to fuel business growth, check out the  Ultimate guide to SaaS affiliate marketing.

For more ideas and guidance on SaaS affiliate marketing, check out these resources:

Stay in the know. Get our monthly newsletter right in your inbox.


You have successfully signed signed up to our newsletter. Keep an eye on your inbox...

Invalid email values your privacy.