If you are a B2B SaaS company  – you are always on the look out to leverage new marketing channels to bring in qualified customers or clients. One that comes to mind, but often gets the most confusion around is: affiliate programs.

And the real crux behind the question, in my opinion, is: Are there SaaS affiliate marketers or publishers out there, that would promote my product or service to bring qualified customers?

Truth be told: mileage varies by what target customer a particular SaaS company is going after, but with that said, you can use the below factors to determine whether or not an affiliate program could work for your B2B SaaS company.

Factor 1: Size and Scope of your target audience.

If you have a very narrowly defined target customer or client, the chances an affiliate program will work are much lower. Why?

Affiliates/Publishers, especially in the B2B space, are looking to have decent leverage over the audience type it can go after. They are going to be looking at scalability after they test how to promote your products and services. If there is a smaller cap on reach, the chances are that they can be profitable on their promotions (with considerations on conversion rates and LTV if you have recurring commissions)  – it is much more riskier for them to take.

Factor 2: How customers actually buy and consume your service.

This is more important than SaaS company’s might realize. If you have a self-service model (where a customer/client signs up to use your service on their own) it is infinitely easier and more straight forward for affiliates to promote your service.

If you have a lot of “hand holding” during your sales process (demos, RFP’s, etc.) affiliates will be less likely to influence that interaction making an affiliate program harder to work out for you (not to mention tracking attribution for these partners).

Factor 3: Test!

The last factor is less of a factor and more of advice. There can never be 100% confidence, given if the above factors are not met, that an affiliate program would not work for your B2B company.

The barriers to entry are quite low (in terms of technology and acquisition cost) to launch an affiliate program (and if you are considering one, check out this helpful guide to launch one).So always consider testing one with your current customer base or small, targeted group of marketers to see if it would work for you.

Still not convinced an affiliate program is right for B2B SaaS companies?

I think the best way to show that an affiliate program can work for a B2B SaaS Company, is to show you two SaaS businesses that have thriving B2B affiliate programs.

Shopify B2B Affiliate Program:

Shopify has a thriving affiliate program of bloggers, agencies, and more referring clients to their B2B commerce product. It’s a great example of a B2B business that has done some really amazing things with their partner program.

LiveChat Inc. Affiliate Partner Program:

LiveChat, a B2B SaaS company that sells live chat software to other online business, is a primary example of how you can have a successful B2B SaaS affiliate program.

Are you still stuck on whether or not your B2B SaaS company would get anywhere with an affiliate program? Leave a comment below – I’d love to more about how I could help. 

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Taylor is the Founder of The Up Foundry. 7+ years starting, managing and growing affiliate programs for Technology, subscription, and SaaS-based companies, Taylor works with clients all over the world to generate millions in sales and revenue from their affiliate programs each year.

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