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A Guide on Affiliate Marketing for SaaS and eCommerce

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A penny for your thoughts?

Oh!

Yes, everyone’s curious about how Uber and Amazon scaled to what they are today through their affiliate programs. It was revealed in a report by Social Media today that every year, affiliate marketing generates $4.5 billion in the United States, $1.7 billion in the United Kingdom, $1.3 billion in Germany, and $4 billion in the rest of the world.

Now, that is huge!

If affiliate marketing does all these and more for businesses around the world, why do many businesses leave the affiliate marketing program checkbox unmarked?

During conversations with some founders, I often hear them say things like “but affiliate marketing doesn’t work in our industry.” It’s interesting that many businesses are not tapping into the wellspring of affiliates because of this ignorance.

The main goal of affiliate marketing is to incentivize third parties to promote a business and attract customers.

Every business in the world wants to make sales, and for sales to happen you need customers, and for customers to find you, you need a marketing strategy.

Affiliate marketing is one of the few marketing strategies that do not require any upfront investment. Get your program running, find some trusted affiliates, and viola! You are good to go.

In this article, we will discuss in great detail beginner topics and dive deeper into two industries: SaaS and eCommerce.

Table of Contents

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Simply put, affiliate marketing incentivizes third-party marketers (affiliates) to spread the word about a product or service. It is noteworthy that these affiliates could be other companies or individuals who do not necessarily have first-hand experience with your product.

In return for their promotion and conversions, these affiliates earn a commission for every successful referral.

Affiliate marketing has become one of the cheapest and most efficient forms of marketing since affiliates get paid only when they cause a sale to happen.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

The main goal of all affiliate programs is to drive profitable customers. One great thing about affiliate marketing as mentioned above is that if you are able to put together a strong program, you should see a high ROI in very little time.

Affiliate marketing guide for saas

Differences Between SaaS and eCommerce

SaaS – Software as a Service, is a business that creates software to solve problems. Everyone uses one or more of these software tools in their everyday activities, from typing and editing to communicating via emails and hosting a website.

SaaS businesses are essential in the corporate world today as they provide the tools necessary for effective daily activities. Most SaaS companies are B2B and run on a subscription business model.

eCommerce on the other lists goods online for purchase. Most B2C businesses today run an online store, and this is because the online marketplace is thriving, with more and more people looking to have their needs met from the comfort of their homes especially post the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having eCommerce stores also exposes local businesses to customers from other parts of the world, which is why popular British departmental stores like Harrods and Debenhams deliver products to overseas customers.

3 Key Differences Between SaaS and eCommerce

eCommerceSaaS
Mostly B2C and C2CMostly B2B
Requires shipping and logisticsNo physical goods to handle
Direct sellingSubscription-based business model

There are a few mega-corporations that run both SaaS and eCommerce all at once. For example, Apple Inc manufactures and ships mobile phones (iPhones) to consumers along with the software operating system (IOS) that runs the mobile phones.

Read this article to learn more differences between eCommerce and SaaS.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work For eCommerce?

If you have an online store with ready-to-use products and are looking to market them to online shoppers through affiliate marketing, two of the first questions you should answer before you launch your affiliate program are:

1. Who are the primary consumers of your products?

Bear in mind that you have to be smart when recruiting. This is because your affiliates would have to match your niche. For example, if you run a beauty store that sells beauty products, your affiliates for this particular line of products should be women who wear cosmetics. Recruiting affiliates should be done thoughtfully so that your products are seen by the people who need them. 

2. When will you pay commissions?

There are several forms of accepting payments from your eCommerce customers. These include prepaid options or cash on delivery. Remember, your affiliates will be getting commissions off the money they make you through their referrals and note that deliveries could go wrong for several reasons.

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For example, let’s look at these two situations:

  1. A customer returns a prepaid order and processes a refund because the product arrived in a bad shape. You have a no refund policy but you do not expect this customer to bear the loss, so you sent a refund.
  1. A customer’s credit card got missing and the criminal used it to make an order from your eCommerce store. The “customer” reports to their bank and they approve a chargeback

What if you have paid the affiliates responsible for these failed conversions before the refund and chargeback were made? Who would have borne the loss?

Think these through; at what point in the transaction process would your affiliates get their commissions? What payment options would you make available for your customers? How long after the delivery would a customer be able to request a refund?

As soon as you have answered these questions, you are ready to launch your first program.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work For SaaS?

These days, everyone wants to own a SaaS business and tons of people have kicked off, and hundreds of SaaS businesses are launched every day.

Now, this can mean very great competition for these founders, but it also opens a door of opportunities if done right.

70% of SaaS businesses think affiliate marketing did wonders in scaling their startups. As a SaaS founder, this is where you cash out big time by inviting individuals or websites to promote your software to their communities in exchange for a commission.

Why should you do this?

Well, first off, your competitors are doing it. You too should.

Next, in a world where there are many options for users, it opens a door of opportunities by making you reach people from outside your geographical region. You can make a solid income for your business by growing your affiliates.

You can grow your own SaaS business with affiliate marketing, as the more you network, the more customers you reach.

Having an affiliate program for your SaaS business creates a win-win from every conceivable angle:

  • SaaS businesses can increase sales with little cost and no risk.
  • Your affiliates are incentivized to never stop promoting your software offerings.
  • Your potential users learn about your software’s offering that could benefit them from an affiliate they trust.

How to Run a Successful Affiliate Marketing Program for SaaS and eCommerce

saas

Running your eCommerce Affiliate Program

By leveraging the power of affiliates, knowing which products to promote, and creating ad campaigns to drive sales, you will see significant growth with consistency. Check out these proven tips for a successful eComm affiliate marketing program.

i. Attach Incentives

Online shoppers enjoy seeing discounts and other incentives attached to products. These loyalty sites offer customers a portion of the commission you give them for sales, so they build a loyal customer base.

They also generate plenty of traffic and can drive significant sales of your product in no time.

ii. Give Out Coupon Codes

Coupon codes are a great way to have affiliates promote your eCommerce store, serving as another way to track affiliate performance and activities. With coupon codes, there is a win, win, win situation.

The customer gets a discount. The affiliates earn their commission, while you sell more products.

iii. Provide Eye-catchy Creatives

Since affiliate marketing is driven by content marketing, a well-written copy, eye-catchy graphics, and other creatives should be incorporated.

Your affiliates create much of this content, but you can boost their efforts for better performance by sharing additional assets they can paste into their blogs, social media, and other channels.

By providing marketing assets for affiliates, you’re likely to see more conversions, build greater brand awareness, and strengthen your affiliate partnerships.

There are many free and affordable resources available online, along with time-saving tools to help you get the job done faster.

iv. Invite Old Customers to Join Your Program

Offering incentives such as free products, discounts, and commissions to old customers is one of the most effective ways to attract new visitors to your online store.

These old customers do not have to be online shoppers themselves, they might have visited your physical store. If you run a physical store alongside your eCommerce store, I recommend having a flier ready to give information on how and the benefits of joining your affiliate program.

If your products are great, they would jump on the offer and convince their friends and family to visit your online store.

v. Hire an Affiliate Manager

If you try to run an affiliate program on your own, you will quickly fall into the trap of accepting every affiliate that applies to promote your products, and that’s not always a good idea.

You will need to be strict with the affiliates you accept because accepting dodgy affiliates — those who want to make money from everything and don’t genuinely care about your products — could start putting their links on disreputable sites. That won’t do any good to your credibility, or your SEO strategy.

But an affiliate manager handles all that for you. They’ll vet your affiliates before accepting them as partners, manage payments, and attend affiliate events on your behalf while you focus on the other needs of your business.

Having a single person to “own” your strategy makes it easier for you to build relationships with your partners, too. They’ll know whom to email when they have a question and get valuable feedback that could help your program become more successful. Isn’t that the goal?

vi. Strive to Have a Competitive Edge

Have a team of innovative affiliate marketing experts carry out periodic research on best practices and new trends in the industry as you would in your other marketing endeavours.

The online marketplace could be very challenging to manage. If a competitor with bad products markets properly and offers good incentives to customers, do not be shocked when his sales triples in a short time.

Also, brainstorm approaches that can make your affiliate campaigns stand out to potential affiliates. These could include offering bonuses at every milestone or higher commissions for high-performing affiliates.

vi. Use an Affiliate Tracking Software

Affiliate tracking is the process of managing, tracking, and automating affiliate marketing activities, usually through the use of special software like Metricks and different plugins installed on the affiliates’ websites.

The sales, conversions, and clicks from the affiliates’ websites are being tracked to measure the performance of affiliates.

This helps the advertiser or eCommerce business owner to attribute each conversion and accurately reward affiliates. 

Metricks automates payouts and offers a multiple access campaign feature that allows all affiliates to access all an advertiser’s live campaigns on a single sign-up. We have made managing your 

Running your SaaS Affiliate Program

By now, you should have understood what SaaS businesses do. If you want to start a SaaS business or already own one and are looking to promote it using affiliate marketing, you can find your own way in affiliate marketing, but there are already established approaches that are proven to work.

To guide you in getting started, we’ve listed the most popular and some of the best tips and tricks to start getting tons of subscribers through your affiliate marketing program.

i. Offer a free trial

This is not topping the list for no reason. Nobody would pay for software without first having a feel of it. Clients do not want to read a long blog post about your product features, they want to experience it, to see how it meets their needs.

Your users do not want to be told how good your products are, give them a chance to use those products and know if it solves their problems or not.

Also, note that your free trial must allow access to all the features of your products for a reasonable amount of time.

Free trial periods range from as little as three days to as many as sixty days. It is totally up to you and your team to decide this, however, this must be done smartly, depending on what problem your software solves.

For example, if your software helps marketing teams create short marketing videos for TikTok, you can offer a 3-day free trial.

It would only take a few minutes to create one short video and three days should be enough to explore the product, on the other hand, if your software helps businesses host their websites or mobile apps, your free trials should not be any less than 30 days, this allows the user experience all the product features, use and test your web hosting software.

The idea is to provide enough free trial periods so a potential user will not get stuck in his task while trying out your product sample.

ii. Hire experienced affiliates

You should hire affiliates within your niche because anybody would take a Chelsea boots recommendation from any Instagram influencer, but they would only want professional advice when they want a software to host their website.

You can advertise your SaaS affiliate programs on platforms for tech enthusiasts. These could be Facebook groups, Telegram channels, Reddit, Quora forums, etc.

Here are quick ways to find the best affiliates for your SaaS product;

-Look for Webmasters

These affiliates own their websites and drive traffic through these websites. They can monitor and follow all the website traffic they get and divert it to other websites, such as redirecting traffic to product pages.

A webmaster can keep tabs on everything related to a website. They monitor its performance with search engines (SEO), functionality, speed, and design. Webmasters even keep track of content, campaigns and marketing efforts.

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Webmasters make some of the best affiliates for SaaS businesses.

-Find niche Bloggers

These are the most prominent social influencers in the digital space.

Any new SaaS founder wants to be in a mutually beneficial relationship with influential niche bloggers, and most vendors will pay bloggers a wonderful commission for improving their sales.

-Review Sites

A review website can be a great affiliate marketer for SaaS products, because customers in the bottom funnel want neutral, unbiased user reviews from sources unaffiliated to your SaaS business before they make a buying decision.

Review websites that get a lot of traffic can charge a hefty commission from the products they drive traffic to.

-Coupon Sites

Online buyers often look for coupons and discounts. Find affiliate marketers who can leverage this opportunity and offer good discounts to their audience.

-Search Affiliates

Some affiliates specialize in search-based marketing, they strive to win recurring commissions from many different SaaS programs.

Search affiliates are experts targeting particular ‘searchers’ on Google, YouTube, and social media.

They engage with the searchers of certain products or keywords and redirect them to the right SaaS products

-Use the right tracking tool

Tracking software is provided by SaaS businesses to help automate and optimize the processes involved in affiliate marketing.

When choosing these affiliate tracking software, you should consider the product features of each of these software and how they would meet your individual needs.

Metricks is an all-in-one tracking software that does so much more for advertisers, from automating payouts and providing real-time notifications to offering affiliates all of an advertiser’s affiliate programs at a single sign up, we have made the process a lot faster, easier, and more effective for both SaaS business owners and their affiliates.

-Do not stop updating

Keep in mind that there are many more options for your clients to choose from. As a result, you do not want to have an outdated product. Always be on the lookout for best practices and new ideas to stay relevant in your industry, and do not stop updating your software.

-Have a wealthy learning centre

It is important to note that some of your users would be inexperienced or novices, so you have to enlighten them on your product, how to use and manipulate their dashboards, how it solves their problems, etc. To achieve this, you can write blogs, make demo videos, or have a 24/7 support team on standby.

-Incentive Programs

Affiliate marketers sometimes leverage incentive programs to drive people to certain products that they’re promoting.

The affiliates will bear the cost of providing these incentives, and the product vendors will offer a set commission for the buyers they get.

Email Marketing

Affiliate marketers target email subscribers as much as product vendors do.

Usually, the difference is that product vendors may not have large email lists. While affiliate marketers may have access to thousands or hundreds of thousands of contacts.

They can send out attractive offers via email and redirect the potential buyers to the products for a monthly commission.

Ready to Start?

This article contains all you should know about launching an affiliate marketing program for your eCommerce or SaaS business, however, you have total control over how you would like your general program and individual campaigns to look to affiliates.

You can launch your affiliate program with Metricks today at zero cost.

Remember to play around the dashboard, read our FAQ or contact [email protected] if you run into difficulties while setting up your account.

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