(2023) How to Run a Successful SaaS Affiliate Program: Guide for Founders

Denis Shatalin
Founder of SaaS Camp
SaaS businesses have to make a name for themselves online in order to succeed, and one of the most effective ways of promoting SaaS is through affiliate marketing programs. Everyone is online these days, so what better way to spread the word about your business than through promotional campaigns using someone else’s platform?

Customers are more likely to hear about your service the more it’s talked about across different platforms. You can even target affiliates in your niche to reach your target audience and increase conversion rates. You only pay commissions when the desired results are reached, such as sign-ups or subscription purchases via affiliate links.

The more conversions you receive through your affiliate program, the more successful it is. Running a successful affiliate program for your SaaS can be tricky, especially for first-timers. But with my advice, you’ll be running your own in no time! At my SaaS camp, I’ve been able to help entrepreneurs grow their startup revenue with methods like affiliate marketing, so you’re in safe hands!

What Are SaaS Affiliate Programs?

SaaS affiliate programs provide members with their own unique referral link, which they then use to promote the service on their platform. You can restrict the type of members that can join the program by laying out requirements, such as a minimum follower count or owning a website.
For every desired conversion achieved using a referral link, you pay a commission to the owner of that link. You can establish what kind of conversion members should be aiming for, such as subscription sales. There are also different compensation structures you can use in affiliate programs, like one-time commissions or recurring commissions.
Most SaaS affiliate programs adopt the recurring commission structure, which involves paying a commission for every subscription renewal from a referred customer. The owner of the affiliate link that first referred the customer will receive commission everytime a subscription is renewed.

Examples of the Best SaaS Affiliate Programs

Screenshot of Thinkific's Affiliate Programs landing page
The Thinkific affiliate program offers members a 30% recurring lifetime commission for every subscription renewal. This compensation model relies on revenue-sharing, which means members are paid a percentage of a sale. Members only get recurring commissions from customers referred through their affiliate link.
Members have a 90-day cookie period, which means they only get paid a commission if a customer purchases a subscription within 90 days of clicking their affiliate link.
Screenshot of Shopify's Affiliate Programs landing page
Shopify’s affiliate program targets content creators, educators, and review blogs. The requirements for joining include:
  • Owning a website
  • Having an established audience
  • Creating original content (online courses, blogs, etc.)
  • Having experience with Shopify or another e-commerce service
Shopify offers members a fixed commission fee for every customer referral. There’s no limit to the number of referrals a single member can achieve, so they aim for more long-term affiliate partnerships.
Screenshot of Binance's Affiliate Programs landing page
Binance’s affiliate program offers members up to 50% commissions for every trade made using their affiliate link. Binance doesn’t have any subscription plans so they pay members based on the amount of sales they bring in. Only certain people or businesses can join the program:
  • An individual who has over 5000 followers on social media
  • Financial leaders with over 500 members in their community
  • Businesses with over 2000 members in their user base

Screenshot of Privy's Affiliate Programs landing page
Privy’s affiliate program offers members a 10% recurring commission with a cookie period of 90 days. Privy pays members every time a customer purchases a paid plan using their affiliate link or renews a subscription.

Why Are SaaS Affiliate Programs Important?

i. It Improves Brand Awareness

Affiliate programs can efficiently improve your brand awareness — you can reach other audiences through your affiliate members’ platforms. You can also establish the promotion requirements to ensure your business is receiving the right amount of exposure. For example, your affiliate program requires members to mention your company name and logo.

ii. SaaS Affiliate Programs Harness Trusted Authorities

Most affiliate programs require members to have an established audience or following, which implies that they’re a trusted source of information in the eyes of the public. Promoting through a third-party source with a loyal audience can boost your brand image and increase conversion rates.

iii. Generate More Leads and Sales

Since affiliate programs are commission based, it’s more incentive for them to work harder to promote your service and generate SaaS sales. Everyone profits from it, which can be a great source of motivation.

iv. Your Affiliate Program is Useful for Promoting New Products

Affiliate programs can be a useful way to promote new features or products. If you’re targeting members who fit your niche, you can use your program to advertise new software to the appropriate parties right away.

This can encourage new users to join and even generate some UGC for your business, such as testimonials. Why pay for UGC when you don’t have to?

How to Create SaaS Affiliate Programs?

Step 1: Set Strategic Affiliate Marketing KPIs

Before creating a SaaS affiliate program, you must first establish what goals you want to achieve with the program. For example, you want to increase sales or sign-ups. You can have multiple goals, but it’s best to hone in on the most essential one.

Set some marketing KPIs to help measure performance later down the line — this will determine how successful a program is and can help you improve your SaaS growth strategies to achieve better results.

Examples of KPIs you can use include:

  • Click Traffic - this refers to how many clicks your affiliate links receive within a set period of time, such as a month.
  • New Affiliates - this measures how many new affiliates you’ve gained, which can help you determine your program’s reach.
  • Top Affiliates - this refers to your highest-achieving affiliates, who bring you the most revenue. Focus on your top ten affiliates, and try to develop long-term relationships with them. Afterall, they’re the ones bringing in the most revenue!
  • Customer Referrals - this refers to how many new customers your SaaS receives through your program. The more you get, the higher your customer success.
  • Conversion Rate - this measures how many conversions take place through your program. Conversions can refer to any activity brought about by affiliate links, such as subscription purchases.

Step 2: Choose Competitive But Sustainable Commission Rates

Now it’s time to choose a compensation model and commission rate. Before deciding these things, however, you should determine what you’ll actually be paying for. For example, you’ll pay a commission every time an affiliate gets a new customer to sign up for your service. This should align with your affiliate marketing goals.

i. Long-term Partnerships

Most SaaS affiliate programs choose to pay members for every subscription sale and renewal since it fosters more long-term partnerships. Recurring commissions are used in these cases, which allows members to receive multiple commissions from customers they’ve referred. Every time they renew a subscription after first purchasing one will earn that member a commission.

It’s best to use commission rates as opposed to fixed fees when dealing with subscriptions because they can vary drastically in terms of cost. It’s also more profitable for affiliates and can attract more members. Commission rates are a percentage of a sale made on your service — it’s essentially sharing your revenue with your affiliates.

ii. Short-term Partnerships

If you’re aiming for short-term partnerships, it’s better to opt for one-time commissions or fixed fees. This limits the amount of payment a member can receive. You can also limit payment by establishing a customer-referral limit for each affiliate. For example, each affiliate will only be paid for their first 50 referrals.

Additionally, you can have a set time period in which affiliates will be paid for referrals or sales earned through their affiliate links. After the period is over, they’re no longer paid commissions. For example, members are paid for every referral they make in the first 12 months.

Step 3: Create Marketing Assets

Create promotional assets for affiliates to use in their SaaS marketing plans. This gives you some control over how your SaaS is advertised. You can even stipulate that affiliates must use the materials provided for them, which can include:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Logos
  • Banners

Step 4: Promote Your Affiliate Program & Recruit Top-Notch Affiliates

Now that you’ve finished setting up your affiliate program, it’s time to promote it and recruit high-quality affiliates. You can target specific groups by establishing entry requirements, such as a minimum follower count or ownership of a website. You should also decide how you want members to join. For example, create an application form for them to fill in.

There are several ways to promote your affiliate program:

  • Create a webpage for it on your SaaS website
  • Promote it on your homepage
  • Send out invitations to your customers
  • Promote on social media

Step 5: Track Affiliate Performance

Once you’ve begun recruiting affiliates, track your program’s success using KPIs, such as new affiliates and conversion rate. There are a few things you should be paying special attention to:

  • New affiliates or campaign activities - A program is useful as long as it remains active. This means new affiliates are still joining or new campaigns are being made.
  • The results achieved through your program - A successful program is one that consistently brings the desired results. Look at your average order value and conversion rate to measure this.
  • The amount you’re paying affiliates - A successful SaaS affiliate program is one that’s profitable, so you should be earning more than you’re paying.


SaaS affiliate programs are an effective method for raising brand awareness and increasing sales. You can reach new audiences and increase the chances of conversion by targeting affiliates in your niche. Creating a successful SaaS affiliate program involves a lot of steps — you have to establish goals, commission structures, and promote the program in order to find worthy recruits.

At my SaaS Camp, I work as a professional coach in order to help SaaS founders achieve their goals — which includes helping them create successful affiliate programs to increase their online presence and product sales.

I specialize in providing guidance for early-stage SaaS founders during their toughest stage of growth. Join SaaS accelerator today to get professional advice and start dominating the market.
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✋ Hey, it's Denis! Thanks for reading :) If you want my help with your startup, the quickest way to reach me is at denis@saascamp.com. I upload my best content on YouTube. Let's connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.