The software-as-a-service (SaaS) market is virtually flooded, and thousands of B2B solutions compete for the same customers every day. How can your business possibly stand out? Currently, SaaS only accounts for 15% of the total market share, so the sky's the limit. That's because, on average, companies spend $2,623/employee/year on SaaS. It's an incredibly lucrative business once you reach the right audience.
One of the most effective ways to amplify growth rates is through referral programs known as affiliate marketing. More than 80% of brands use affiliate marketing programs (including SaaS companies) to maximize sales through reseller channels. The industry is worth billions of dollars, and affiliate programs are one of the most popular and sought-after ways of marketing a tech company to date.
An affiliate partner is an individual or business (like a blogger, influencer, or creator) that partners with your brand to promote a product or service. In return, they earn commission from successful conversions. Together with these partners, you can develop what is known as an affiliate marketing program. These referral-based partnerships help to build and inspire communities to use your technology.
To grow the user base and expand operations, it's critical you find a way to break through the noise. This article will look at the best SaaS affiliate programs on the market by category, the essentials to include in your program, and the marketing tools that drive success.
12 Best SaaS Affiliate Programs
Employees use an average of 8.3 SaaS apps each. A well-structured SaaS affiliate marketing program will ensure you're among the eight. Here we look at some of the best affiliate networks organized by business needs:
eCommerce & eLearning
Coursera specializes in e-learning and offers courses from top organizations and universities. In addition, the online learning platform offers over 4,000 courses, projects, and certificates to students worldwide.
The Coursera platform offers affiliate partners a chance to earn up to 45% commission on their library of courses and Coursera Plus subscriptions. Products range from free courses to Guided Projects starting at $9.99 and pricing up to $30,000+ for degree programs. Partners can earn commissions from eligible purchases even if the person is already a Coursera user or multiple purchases from the same individual.
- Promotional materials provided
- Weekly affiliate newsletters
- Commission on existing users
Cookie Duration: 30 days
Commissions: 10% - 45%
Shopify is a leader in dropshipping and offers subscription-based software as an all-in-one ecommerce platform. Users can set up an online store and sell their products through Shopify.
The Shopify affiliate program has no maximum number of referrals, and there is potential to earn a generous commission (think $2,400 for a single purchase). There is also a bonus of $2,000 for any referral that signs up for a Shopify Plus account. For influencers, educators, or course creators that sell products online, Shopify can be a big moneymaker.
- Free promotional content
- Bonus payment scheme
- Priority support for your store
Cookie Duration: 30 days
CRMs, Email Marketing & Automation
Hubspot offers a full suite of sales, marketing, customer service, and CRM software and is a top SaaS business for growth hacking. Since 2006, the brand has been focused on customer relationship management, including online courses and digital marketing certifications.
95%+ of affiliates who apply to the Hubspot program are accepted. They can choose between a 15% recurring rate for a year, or a 100% one-time commission on the first month's revenue. Paid plans cost anywhere from $50 to over $3,000 per month. The commission payout threshold is only $10, so it's easy for partners to start earning right away.
- Long cookie duration
- Range of marketing materials
- No minimum sales
Cookie Duration: 90 days
Commissions: 15% -100%
Pipedrive has more than 90,000 customers on the books and is a market leader in CRM technology for sales teams. Their goal is to provide accessible software to salespeople in the field.
Pipeline offers two tiers for its SaaS affiliate program. The basic plan provides a 33% affiliate commission in the first year (monthly payments). For software and sales specialists, there's also the Pipedrive Expert program. In this case, the partner receives a 20% commission for the total duration of the contract. All affiliates can offer their customers a free 30-day trial (instead of the usual 14 days) to entice more buyers.
- Flexible partnership model
- Complete access to the resource center
Cookie Duration: 30 days
CovertKit is designed for creative entrepreneurs and is an email marketing provider that helps creators use an email marketing platform to build their audience. Features include email signups, landing page creation, and much more.
CoverKit's affiliate program is based on recurring affiliate payments for referrals. There's a 30% recurring commission payout as long as the customer's account remains active. The more subscribers a user has, the more significant the commission. The cost for a monthly plan ranges from $0 to $59+ per month for partners. With a strong email marketing strategy, the commission can grow quickly.
- Recurring payout
- High conversion rate
- No minimum commissions
Cookie Duration: 60 days
Moosend is a software company that helps brands create email marketing campaigns through automation, smart email templates, a simple drag-and-drop editor, and ongoing support for A/B testing. High-profile brands like Gucci and Ogilvy use Moosend, with its core feature set available free of charge.
The Moosend platform operates one of the top SaaS affiliate programs on the market, with prices starting at $8 per month for every 1,000 subscribers. Earnings will increase when referrals upgrade their plans. The brand pays a 30% recurring lifetime commission for successful referrals and even pays outside the 90-day window if the customer creates an account within that timeframe.
- Flexible cookie policies
- Effective email marketing automation
- Recurring lifetime commissions
Cookie Duration: 90 days
Commissions: 30% recurring
Website Hosting & Creation
Leadpages helps a business build landing pages, websites, pop-ups, alert bars, and more. In addition, the platform connects you with an audience, collects leads, and helps to close sales.
Promoting Leadpages gives you a cut of the subscription. Affiliate partners receive a base recurring payment of 10% for referrals. If they go above $50/month, there is an opportunity to earn 40% on new customer sales. If a partner reaches over $3,000 in monthly sales, the commission goes up to 50%. The brand also offers partner training and ongoing support to help boost sales.
- Affiliate training and support
- Dedicated affiliate webinars
- Good tech support
Cookie Duration: 30 days
Design & Creative
Canva is known for its easy design features like drag-and-drop uploads and an endless array of graphic design templates. They make creating images easy with designs for logos, social tiles, documents, videos, and more. It's an ideal tool for anyone trying to promote an online business through social.
Canva affiliates must have a special design or marketing audience to be accepted into the program. If a partner can tempt referrals to move beyond the free plan (monthly and yearly subscriptions), they earn an 80% commission on the first two months of any Canva Pro membership. If they sign up for a year, the commission is 25%. Partners can expect to earn up to $36 for each referral.
- Detailed how-to guide
- Live chat and customer support
- Community tips
Cookie Duration: 30 days
Quizzes & Forms
JotForm is an online form builder that allows customers to create and publish online forms for collecting payments, surveys, gathering data, and more. The drag-and-drop marketing software makes it easy for beginners to develop content and market in minutes.
The JotForm platform pays affiliates 30% recurring commissions with a monthly payout for the first year of each customer's subscription. For example, if they sign up for a Monthly Gold plan, the partner receives $29.70 monthly for an entire year.
Cookie Duration: 60 days
Communication & Support
Freshdesk specializes in cloud-based customer service designed to automate helpdesk support across all channels. Its cost-effective features are popular among online enterprises looking to enhance customer self-service and overall team productivity.
The Freshdesk SaaS affiliate program is part of the Freshworks group and follows a simple structure. For partners, there's a $5 commission for every qualified lead, and if they become a paying customer, the affiliate receives 15% of the sale cost. The program pays in local currency so that partners can work from anywhere in the world. Other Freshworks opportunities include Freshsales, Freshchat, and Freshteam.
- In-depth customer support
- Local currency payouts
- Simple sign-ups
Cookie Duration: 90 days
Analytics Tools & Research
SEMrush is a leading SaaS platform for analytics, SEO, and online visibility management. They offer a suite of tools including PPC, SEO, social media, and content marketing, that help to maximize channel revenue. The software is used by 1 in 4 Fortune 500 companies and does all the keyword research for you.
The SEMrush affiliate program has three payout options. For every click of the referral link and new signup, partners earn $0.01. This goes up to $10 for trial signups and $200 for every new subscription sale. The cookie life is a generous 120 days, and the affiliate program is run through Impact Radius. The last-click attribution model also ensures affiliate partners always get paid for their referrals.
- Dedicated affiliate team
- Super long cookie duration
- Last-click attribution model
Cookie Duration: 120 days
Commissions: $0.01 - $200
Accounting & Finance
Quickbooks specializes in accounting software for small businesses and freelancers. Developed by Intuit, the system features custom invoicing, multiple currencies, and payroll functions. In addition, the platform offers on-premises accounting solutions, as well as cloud-based applications.
The Quickbooks Saas affiliate program is pretty basic. Affiliate partners can earn up to 10% on any signup, and there's an affiliate discount that can be used to draw in customers. The brand offers an Affiliate Toolkit to help monitor revenue from referrals and will send out the first payment once the balance hits $50. The affiliate program is currently only open to individuals and entities in the United States.
- No minimum sales requirement
- Dedicated affiliate toolkit
- Monthly payout
Cookie Duration: 45 days
Additional SaaS Affiliate Programs to Consider
Essentials to Include in Your SaaS Affiliate Program
When creating an affiliate program, there are specific strategies and best practices that a business owner should take into account. Your program is what will entice top talent to promote your product/service. Here are a few essential to include when developing a SaaS affiliate program:
One-Time vs. Recurring Payouts
When creating a program, keep in mind that there are different types of commission structures to offer. The two main types are one-time payouts and recurring payouts. A one-time payout means one payment per customer referral. Recurring payouts mean the company keeps paying the affiliate partner commission as long as the referral stays. This is typically a percentage of the monthly subscription fee. One-time payouts are more money upfront, but if the referrals sent do not cancel, payouts build up over time.
Cookie duration tells how long referral customers have to make a purchase in order for the affiliate to be credited for the sale. When potential leads click on an affiliate link, their activity is tracked using cookies. The length of time those cookies stay on their device equates to the cookie duration. This timeframe can range anywhere from 24 hours to 120 days or more.
The cookie duration is essential because buyers these days mull things over and take time to make a decision, especially in the case of tech and SaaS products. The shorter the cookie duration, the less likely the affiliate will get credit for the sale.
Program Details + Clawbacks
Clawbacks are clauses in an affiliate contract that allow a business to reduce commission and cancel a payout if the customer changes their mind. For example, some SaaS affiliate programs require the referral to maintain a subscription for a set timeframe in order to pay out a commission. If the customer quits before then, the affiliate is owed nothing.
The same can go for customers who downgrade their plan. In addition, some companies might retain the right to clawback commissions if the referral changes their mind.
Conversion Rate Goals
It's important to set conversion rate goals with all affiliate partners. It doesn't always equate to a sale, either. Some campaigns are looking for signups or subscriptions to free trials as a conversion goal. Both parties have to be savvy about making the sale. It does no good for an affiliate to send business leads if the brand itself cannot convert them. It's a two-way street, and thus, conversion goals should be set for all parties involved.
Conversion rates will ultimately affect the affiliates' earnings per click (EPC) and their final commission, so it's crucial an organization handles each lead given to them with care. You should always share conversion and churn rates with your partners so they understand where they are performing, and where some work needs to be done.
One of the best ways to evaluate a SaaS affiliate program is to check with the partners themselves. Affiliate partner satisfaction can tell you a lot about the quality of a program, what's going right, and what can be fixed. Ask partners, has the program lived up to your expectations?
Also, look at the type of resources and support you're providing affiliates. Many programs will offer training, a dedicated support team, or an affiliate manager. Not only does this help partners get set up faster, but it also creates solutions for problems they might encounter during the program.
Affiliate Tracking and Analysis
Insights help to improve an affiliate's efforts, so whatever program or affiliate software you choose should give you the ability to track and visualize metrics such as visitors, referrals, leads, and purchases.
Look for other detailed features like leaderboards that readily display the most productive affiliates, timelines, and social tracking to grant a chronological overview of all your partners' actions. Partners can also track their progress to see where they stand, and how they can improve.
What are some common KPIs you can track?
- Ideal conversion rate - Percentage of affiliate clicks that result in a purchase
- Revenue goals per quarter/year - How much do you want to earn in a specific period?
- Unique sales - What is the number of unique sales from affiliate links?
- Qualified leads - Potential customers who have taken action during the sales funnel
It would be best if you chose commission rates that are sustainable for your business. Look at other brands in your industry that also run SaaS affiliate programs. What type of commission or rewards are they offering? You want to choose competitive rates, or you'll miss out on skilled partners. The idea is to select a rate that attracts the best affiliates.
Look at your average customer acquisition costs (CAC), profit margins, retention rates, and revenue. This will help you determine what you can afford to pay affiliates for each sale.
You also need to decide if you will pay a flat fee or a percentage on each sale. Look at the competition's commission structures to see what seems strategic and sustainable.
Lastly, plan to pay all commissions in cash, whether that's via check, PayPal, or a prepaid debit card.
Hiring an MSP vs. VAR
Are you looking to hire a value-added reseller or a managed service provider? That's another critical question to answer. When comparing an MSP vs. VAR, the most significant difference is their involvement with the end-user.
A value-added reseller operates on a transactional basis (per seat or license) or a short-term contract. In comparison, managed service providers operate on a long-term basis (annually) or with multi-year contracts.
VARs work on projects, whereas an MSP provides services at a steady rate. Subsequently, with the advancement of SaaS and cloud technology, the lines between the two roles have blurred.
Affiliate marketing drives innovation and introduces your brand to a new community. It doesn't require an advertising team or ad space, has low ongoing costs, and delivers a high ROI. In fact, affiliate marketing has grown an astounding 52% in the last few years, and in the United States alone, the industry is valued at $6.8 billion, with over 11,000 affiliate programs.
You should also think about what to include in your affiliate program. This includes one-time vs. recurring payouts, cookie duration, clawbacks, conversion goals, partner satisfaction, analytics, and commission rates. You should also consider whether a VAR or an MSP is the most appropriate type of affiliate.
Once you decide on the logistics, it's time to get started with a reseller partner program. The first step is to find a partner execution platform to manage it. Relevize is one of the only tools built for sellers and partners to maximize their channel sales revenue. Onboard new affiliates, launch paid programs, rapidly scale campaigns, and measure progress every step of the way. Want to know more? Request a custom Relevize demo today!