Affiliate program tips and tricks?

Hello All,

After some research and discussion about affiliate programs including with our friend @mijustin I’ve decided to try out starting one for Thermostat. You can check it out here if you’re interested https://thermostat.io/affiliate. This page needs to get better but it’s a start. Of course if any of you have audiences that would benefit from customer satisfaction surveying I’d love to have you as a partner.

I’m using this new (I think) tool called https://getrewardful.com and I have to say it’s pretty good. I’ve tried a number of affiliate tools over the years and they’ve mostly been between terrible and unusable. It’s definitely got a ways to go, but so far it’s been nice to work with.

What I’m particularly interested in right now is to hear from those of you who are already running a successful affiliate program. Were there things you found to be big wins? Did you do a lot of outreach to get started and what types? Any other tips and tricks you might have would be great.

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Not trying to discourage anyone, but it’s not very easy to make affiliate marketing work for SaaS, unless you’re in some specific fields surrounded by marketers and influencers.

I’m saying this as a founder of an affiliate tracking tool for SaaS (firstpromoter.com) and dealing with almost 1000 SaaS companies.

Here’s a few tips I gathered over time from my observations having direct access to a couple hundreds of successful affiliate programs of SaaS companies, mostly B2B:

  1. have an idea who are your most important affiliates and keep an open, personal communication channel with them. Drip emails help immensely, but they are automated, for affiliates that have high potential(like if they are a well-known blogger) contact them regularly, have a chat with them and try to help them promote your product, brainstorm strategies

  2. once an important affiliate signs up, try to make him/her commit to a deadline to promote your product(webinar, blasting to email list, posting a blog post, etc) and make sure you remind about that

  3. I think the easiest way to get high quality affiliates is to make webinars with top bloggers and influencers in your industry. They are less likely to turn down a webinar from a quality product like and affiliates+webinars work very closely. Podcast got also really popular lately.

  4. to some top influencers you can give discounts to their audience and also, maybe like a free year membership to the influencer, to grab their attention. Top influencers are bombarded with affiliate request so you’ll need to provide more value

  5. you can create personalized landing pages to some affiliates, they love that(you can include that in your recruit pitch). FirstPromoter has a feature called “direct url tracking” that can track visits and sales from a specified url, without the need of a referral link.

  6. at the end of the day, the most important part is the quality of the affiliates AND your relationship with them. If they don’t trust you or your product, they won’t push it and they will just stay dormant. If they don’t have traffic and followers, even if they push it, you won’t get much from it

  7. you need patience :slight_smile: This rarely ramps up in a short time, but even a good affiliate can bring a nice extra revenue stream and a positive ROI.

Quick note about tracking tools:
At the beginning, it won’t matter much what tool you use because most likely any tool can work. The issues appear later when the program starts to lift off and you need certain features to improve the program or you need to automate certain parts and you can’t or you find the integration is not working well, etc.

The migrations are super hard so it’s a good idea to compare features a bit and other basic stuff (like it’s a side-project or not, does it work flawlessly with subscriptions, does it support both one-time charges and recurring commissions in case you’ll be selling some extra stuff later, the API) so you won’t be forced to switch to something else down the road - we do lots of migrations and it’s painful for our customers.

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We recently added an affiliate program as well. We used Linkmink, a young solution that focuses on integration with Stripe. It doesn’t offer everything more mature solution may do but it works quite well and founders are very responsive. What I like is that they pay affiliates on our behalf, which simplifies our admin a lot!

The best success of our affiliate so far has been with somebody that specialized in SEA (Search Engine Advertising). They do a better job than us in optimizing an Ad campaign and I’m happy to give a share of our revenues for that (and reduce/stop our own Advertising campaign as a result).

It’s hard to tell whether all people referred through these ads would have come to us via our organic search presence. But I think many of them wouldn’t have.

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One thing I do not understand about affiliate programs is how do people manage the bookkeeping/accounting side of it? This becomes particularly hard if you are in Europe: if your affiliates are individuals, you need to hold their personal data (which is a pain under GDPR), and then you need to sign agreements with them and provide tax reporting to authorities for any payouts made under the program. Every time I looked at this, it was too costly, unless I only wanted to have several affiliates.

I’ve been looking for a service that would take care of all that, but haven’t found one (my business is based in Poland).

The affiliate platform we are using pays referrers and sends us a consolidated invoice every month (with their letter head). We book that invoice as an normal expense for the service offered by that company (managing referrals). Our accountant didn’t highlight any issue with this way of doing things, but maybe I should double check :slight_smile:

This sounds fantastic and it’s exactly what I was looking for. I’ll take a look at LinkMink, but I’m afraid it will turn out that they do not operate worldwide.

Our company is Dutch, so if it works for us it should work for you?

Only thing to keep in mind at that point is that they currently charge us by credit card (if you have a US bank, they can also debit your account directly). It works because our payout amount is still reasonable but may become an issue if our affiliates do a very good job in sending us customers :slight_smile:

Last I heard they were working on SEPA debit as well for us in EU.

It should indeed work! I will check them out, thanks!