3 Must-Haves to Start a SaaS Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing at its core is really simple, an affiliate drives traffic to your website or app and they get paid a commission for a completed transaction. 

Most SaaS companies struggle with knowing when the right time is to launch an affiliate program, and while there are a lot of factors to consider, here are three absolute must-haves for launching a successful SaaS affiliate marketing program.

1. A sales funnel that converts

Having a sales funnel that reliably converts may very well be the most overlooked aspect of readiness for affiliate marketing, as it is not really mentioned in other articles online.

Think about it. Affiliate marketers are putting their time, money, and effort into driving traffic to your website, and they expect a reward. So it is absolutely essential that when their traffic is poured into the top of your sales funnel, that funnel is optimized to its highest possible conversion rate.

If you are in a competitive market, a high-converting sales funnel could be the difference between you working with top affiliates or not. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Make it easy to capture and convert the sale by eliminating as many unnecessary fields and steps as possible in your checkout.
  • The money is in the follow-ups! Are you sending abandoned cart emails if your customer doesn’t convert the first time?
  • If you have a freemium product, are you doing everything you can to help your customer find immediate success with your platform, thus giving them more opportunities to upgrade?
  • Is your tracking in place? Can you accurately report on how well your funnel is performing?

Until you know for certain you have a healthy sales funnel with a reliable conversion rate, you are simply not ready for affiliate marketing.

2. Product-market fit

Product-market fit is a key indicator that your product has a chance of being a success. 

So how does this tie into your SaaS affiliate program?  If you understand your customers in great detail, all of their pain points and how your product solves them, then you will be able to do two things:

First, you will be able to identify the very best affiliates for your program. If you know your customer well, you will be able to figure out where they hang out online, who they follow, what complementary products they use, and more. These communities, influencers, and software companies will be your greatest source of affiliates.

Second, you will also be able to create and provide the very best marketing material, market insights, and competitive intelligence to your affiliates to help them drive the most qualified buyers to your website or app.  Remember, your affiliates are an extension of your marketing and sales team so you need them to be armed with the best information, which speaks directly to the best prospects among their audience.

3. Long-term commitment

Have you got one year to spare?

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, affiliate marketing is hard work. Unlike paid media, which you can test, turn on/off, and scale by putting in more money once you hit a positive ROI, affiliate marketing never stops. 

Not only do you constantly need to build, test, and optimize everything like you would a paid media campaign, you also have to deal with humans who sometimes don’t show up, who don’t deliver on what they say they are going to do, or who sometimes don’t understand your product (even if you’ve given them everything they need to be successful!) This human element will take up the biggest commitment of your time, reaching out, recruiting, following up, chasing, reporting, and checking in with your affiliates throughout the process.  

Once you have built up a tribe of affiliates, however, people who love your product and understand your business, they will become your greatest champions and gladly bring you sales every single day. In some instances, a well run SaaS affiliate program can generate an additional 30% in new revenue to your product.


If you know your product sells when marketed to the right customer and you are willing to put in the time and work to build something lasting, then you are most likely ready to launch an affiliate program for your SaaS product. Of course, there is much more to it than the three things we’ve discussed, but at least you can know you are ready to take your first step on the journey.

The content for this post was drawn from a segment of the pre-recorded webinar The Essential Steps to Launching a SaaS Affiliate Program in which Gautham Prasad of SaaS Insider talks with affiliate marketing expert, Paddy McGill of eWebinar, and asks him to share how he built successful affiliate programs at different SaaS companies.

If you want to learn more, register for this free, 70-minute webinar now:

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