If you’re like me, after an affiliate program launch or when you are researching how to grow an affiliate program that has been up and running for awhile – you might consider finding affiliates to promote your services.
But how do you do it? Especially for a Software as a Service Company? There is not a manual or easily adoptable game plan to run to. It takes a lot of creativity, testing, hard work and timing.
I’d like to break down all the ways SaaS founders, CEO’s, Marketing Managers can find affiliates to promote their product or service effectively.
Promoting your SaaS affiliate program:
This includes some of the many strategies you might have already done. However, here is several ideas you can easily execute:
1) To your customers – On your website/application you can:
- put your affiliate program signup link in your footer or top navigation of your website.
- Add your program signup link in your company email autoresponders: think invoices, newsletters, action oriented email triggers; essentially, where it makes sense.
- input an accessible link or prompt within your application (after they have logged in).
- promote the affiliate program to your returning customers, on your app login page.
2) On Affiliate Program Ranking Websites, Directories or Forums:
While this won’t get you loads of affiliates, given you are competing with other affiliate programs, it is true that communities focused around affiliate marketing are always looking for new offers to promote.
Here are some areas you should add your affiliate program to:
- High Paying Affiliate Programs: http://www.highpayingaffiliateprograms.com/
- Associate Programs: https://www.associateprograms.com/directory
- Warrior Forum Affiliate Program Directory (Paid) – http://www.warriorforum.com/affiliate-program-database/
- Affiliate Guide – http://www.affiliateguide.com/
- Affiliate Directory – http://affiliatesdirectory.com/
3)Through aligning partners or services (co-marketing)
Say you are a web hosting company and you are trying to promote your affiliate program. You could reach out to partners so that they could reach out to their affiliate partners. For example, Perhaps your partner is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and they have affiliates promoting their CDN service. They could send out an email to their CDN affiliates saying, “ABC web hosting company is offering a special commission rate to promote their web hosting service along side your promotion of CDN.”
Thinking outside of the box of the traditional ways of getting reactive affiliate sign ups can go along way of growing your affiliate program.
4) Sales or Account Management Affiliate Leads:
Your front line sales and account management team can mind you gold in terms of prospects or new customer’s that might be a good fit for your affiliate program. Why? They talk to potential prospects – even if they don’t end up using it themselves, their business could benefit from promoting you. But how?
Say, you’re a help desk SaaS software company. One of your Sales Executive’s talks to a enterprise customer that mentions – ” We are going to be an enterprise customer of yours, but we also are thought leaders in the customer support tech. space – and teach others how to best support their customers through strategies and tools”
Now, the customer didn’t explicitly say the words, “affiliate” -which is often where a Sales member might not think anything of it. You, as the CEO or founder, can create a referral incentive system that rewards the sales team member for sending your marketing manager or affiliate manager a lead. if the affiliate signs up and refers sales/commission – the sales member would get rewarded.
I believe there are so many missed opportunities in here; even if the prospect doesn’t up for your product or service initially – there could still be a business case for him/her to promote it. You just have to explore those opportunities.
Proactively finding individual SaaS affiliate marketers:
We are going to spend a lot more on proactive or outbound finding/recruitment of affiliates. Why? This is often the biggest question mark that SaaS founders come to me, trying to understand. The dissonance (I believe) is in the notion or question: ” How can some one who is not a customer or does not know my product – be an advocate and marketer of my product and service?”
To that, I always say: It’s about the unrealized value from both parties (your SaaS company and the affiliate partner/publisher) that you present to them.
5) Review or ranking websites:
This can range from small publisher sites all the way to Tech review websites – like PcMag.com, TopTenReviews.com, and Reviews.com.
I group these together as many of these websites have a review of your product and then they rank these providers (per category/industry) on a separate industry page with all your competitors. These are not mutually exclusive meaning – Your review can have little or nothing to do with how you are ranked on the website (this can be a moral conflict -I realize).
You might be skeptical and think a lot of these website are only going to want: flat fee ad placements, super high commissions, or very specific cost requests.
Not always the case.
In my experience, a lot of these review websites are willing to review your product/service and work off an initial CPA (commission) basis. If they send good traffic and you can garner them a good conversion rate – there more likely to negotiate a higher ranking placement (as if: they are getting paid $20 per referral and only getting 10 from your competitor, vs. $10 per referral but conversion rate is higher getting them 100 customers a month).
6) Organic Ranking Combinations & How To’s (Long tail):
Beyond the simple “Review” appending your software or industry term, there is could also be a lot of long tail industry terms or phrases that could be good affiliate prospect/potential.
Take for example, If you have a VPN affiliate program. Seeing popular searches like, “how to setup a VPN” heads good publisher results:
A good brainstorming exercise to get you finding opportunities is:
- Go through your help articles or boil down the common things that your customers say why they love your SaaS service.
- Google search variations and see what comes up as tops ranking articles, websites, or blog posts.
- Make a list to see if those publishers as possible affiliate prospects.
7) Competitor affiliates & deeper backlink Research:
Another way to look at growing your affiliate program with high performing affiliates, is looking at other competitors. No- I am not talking about stealing affiliates from competitors; that is highly likely to backfire since those affiliates probably have good familiarity with your competitor’s products and services.
However, some affiliates that promote one product or service can sometimes promote a competitor. This is in the form of:
- Industry Roundups: For example: Top 5 email marketing providers reviewed
- Competitor vs. Competitor: Leadpages vs. ClickFunnels -who is the best?
It’s likely that these type of pages are affiliates of multiple affiliate programs. If there are industry roundup posts that you are not on – I would approach them and see if there is a possibility to be reviewed and added in the future or work with them to see what is possible in the future.
You can also look at some aligning content that is well ranked and see who are the top referring URL’s to this content. Using SEO tools like ahrefs.com, provide a gold mine of backlinking and even redirect referring URL data.
8) Affiliate Networks:
This is reserved for SaaS companies who want bigger “network” effects beyond their internal affiliate program and have the budget to pay for it. Running aligning affiliate programs on networks like CJ.com or ShareASale.com, can be quite successful for:
- SaaS companies that have a broad customer market (reasonable price, not a lot of prerequisites to be a customer, etc.).
- SaaS companies that can support localization in other markets (for example: Latin/Spanish, German, etc.).
Please Note: There is often a common misunderstanding that, going with a network is good because, “that is where all the affiliates are at.” Not necessarily true. A network is good for some SaaS companies but cost prohibitive for others. Also – networks have a lot of restrictions between Advertisers (your SaaS company) communicating with Publishers/ Affiliates so the ability to recruit good affiliates can often be tough.
Targeted conferences are some of the best ways to develop relationships with others that might, in-turn, develop into great affiliate partnerships. While, obviously, the upfront cost to attend is high, I have found that the longtail of getting to know somone you have meet face-to-face sometimes trumps all other forms of active recruiting or finding affiliates.
The key is targeted conferences. Many conferences that are industry based just have a bunch of vendors or other Advertisers trying to do the same strategy. Some great conferences that heed good relationships (in my opinion) are:
Here are some others provided bt Affiliate Guide: http://www.affiliateguide.com/events.html
10) Running Facebook Ads & Retargeting
This is one strategy that I believe is truly under-rated and that many Advertisers are not even doing. The idea is simple:
- People come to your affiliate information/signup page
- If they don’t sign up for your affiliate program
- You run retargeting ads promoting the affiliate program to these individuals to get them to signup.
What kind of benefits does this create?
By marketing your affiliate program (perhaps using different mediums or value propositions beyond the commission structure), you can pique someone who has already had intial interest in the program, to convert to become an affiliate. A good example I have noticed is: ClickFunnels. They give you an onslaught of information on their affiliate signup page and then retarget you with a campaign on Facebook talking about how to: win a sports car by being a top affiliate of theres.
Another option is to take Create a Custom Audience (look-a-like audience) with Facebook Ads, by using the information you have on file with your current (preferably top performing) affiliates. Essentially, if done right, can attract more of the same type of affiliate performers.
11) Ask your Top Affiliates:
This can have great success: If you do it right. You do not want to come off as creating competition for your top affiliates (by bringing their friends or colleagues into the mix) and you don’t want to create an MLM option (these often never lead to success for all – just widens the gap between top performers and those underneath and can be an absolute mess).
However, if you ask them about what conferences they attend, what groups they are a part of — in a way the promotes learning more about them and also, causually, if they know any other people that could be a good fit for your program: it can lead to some great opportunities.
12) Specialized Advertiser-to-Publisher Platforms:
There are a couple of platforms that allow you to search bloggers and other publishers (on their platform) – to reach out to and connect by industry/product/interest.
A few that come to mind are:
Depending on your industry or vertical, you will have different results.
In closing: it just takes a little bit of creativity and thinking outside of the box when it comes to finding good affiliates. Many Marketers looking to focus on their affiliate program