Use this banner section for site-wide announcements, news updates, big changes and more.

How to Build an Affiliate Program for SaaS Products

If you're looking at new ways to increase new customers and revenue, then developing an affiliate program could be a great way of doing just that.
How to Build an Affiliate Program for SaaS Products
January 10, 2023

We work with Founders, CEOs, MDs and Marketing Leads to scale through PPC.

Achieve your growth potential with Lever.

Get a free proposal

Building an affiliate program for SaaS products can be a powerful way to increase your product's visibility and drive more sales. 

In this guide, we’ll give you every step you need to set up a successful affiliate program.

We even helped one of our clients, Uplisting, create an affiliate program that drove $700,000 in sales for them!

Why build an affiliate program?

  • Motivate your customers to refer people
  • Incentivize influencers and other key players to recommend your product 
  • Track referrals so you can better quantify their impact on revenue
  • Grow your referral traffic more effectively

Do affiliate programs make sense for B2B SaaS products? 


Most B2B SaaS products have subscription revenue models that are oftentimes $100-500 per month if not more. High recurring revenue means you can give your affiliates a great offer. They’ll not only receive recurring revenue, but with a high subscription cost, it can be meaningful money for them. For example, if you offer affiliates 10% and your product is $300 per month, then they’d need to refer 10 people to make $300 per month. This makes affiliate partnerships much more lucrative for both parties. 

Here’s just one example. We helped one of our clients, Uplisting, set up an affiliate program four years ago. To date, that program has brought in $700,000 in revenue. You can read the full case study here. 

What’s the difference between a referral and an affiliate program? 

There’s some overlap with these terms. 

Referral programs are designed for current customers who want to refer other people. 

Affiliates can be customers but they’re also people outside of your company’s ecosystem, such as influencers, newsletter owners, blogs, and more. This can open up the opportunity for influencers in the space to be monetarily rewarded for referring people to your product, without it necessarily meaning they are a customer. 

Here at Lever, we like to call it an affiliate program because we understand we’ll be inviting current customers, but also other players in the space like influencers. 

What are the different types of affiliates? 

  • Influencers (YouTubers, etc.)
  • Newsletters 
  • Comparison websites (these can be CPC-based)
  • Content affiliates
  • SEO affiliates
  • Customer referrals

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the step-by-step program we use with clients. To start, here’s a quick overview:

  • Look at your competitors 
  • Research affiliate software 
  • Choose your commission structure
  • Create “terms and conditions” for your program
  • Build a landing page 
  • Identify affiliates in your space 
  • Set up tracking and messaging for each affiliate type
  • Contact potential affiliates
  • Monitor signups 
  • Monitor performance 

How to build an affiliate program 

Step 1: Look at your competitors 

How are your competitors handling affiliates? Here’s how we like to structure our research: 

Competitor Name Reward Cookie Duration Landing Page Link
Example A 50% of all payments for first 12 months 90 days
Example B 20% of all payments for first 12 months 30 days

Step 2: Research affiliate software 

We can save you some time on this step! Here’s some information we’ve already pulled:

Name Cost Link Notes
Partnerstack Custom pricing Software and network together. Take a fee on each commission
Rewardful From $49/mo Software only
Tapfiliate From $119/mo Software and network
FirstPromoter From $49/m Software only
Everflow From $750/mo Software and network

We’ve personally worked with Rewardful with other clients and have had great results. Again, here’s the case study on our work with Uplisting which is published by Rewardful, our software choice. 

When deciding the software you’ll use, consider your software needs. Here are some of our requirements:

  • In-app tracking
  • Campaign creation
  • Affiliate management (account creation, tracking commissions, etc.)
  • Affiliate dashboard 
  • Payout management 
  • GDPR compliant 

Step 3: Choose your commission structure 

In step 1, you researched how your competitors are structuring their commissions. Now it’s time to decide the right structure for your company. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Do you want to give a flat dollar amount or percentage of revenue?
  • What amount (or percentage) will motivate your affiliates?
  • Considering your other costs, how much can you afford to give away to affiliates?

Step 4: Create “Terms and Conditions” for your affiliate program 

You don’t necessarily have to hire a lawyer for this. In the past, we’ve used Rewardful’s Terms & Conditions (T&Cs) as a template for writing our own. Keep in mind your T&Cs should cover: 

  1. Registration process 
  2. Commission and payment terms with the cookie window
  3. Promotion terms (messaging, brand bidding, if they can use PPC, creative materials they can use) 
  4. Termination of affiliate 
  5. Liability 

You may want to note that social media influencers in the US need to follow guidance from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Step 5: Build an affiliate landing page 

You can link to this page in your website’s header or footer for people to easily find it. Your landing page should include: 

  • Payment terms and cookie window 
  • Who is a good fit for the program (customers, influencers, etc.)
  • Resources for affiliates like sample messaging, etc.
  • Call-to-action to sign up

Step 6: Identify affiliates in your space 

Affiliate recruitment is typically a manual process as there is a need to build relationships so that the affiliate prioritizes your offer over others.

In this process, we will need to: 

  1. Identify quality affiliates 
  2. Contact them 
  3. Sign up
  4. Monitor performance 

To identify quality affiliates: 

  • Build a list based on your competitors. You can perform a backlink lookup for your competitor to build a list of websites that are bringing traffic to them. From there, find the contact information for the person who handles their affiliate relationships. This is usually found on their website. Please note this is our preferred method! 
  • Perform a Google search for your type of product and add “comparison” or “alternative” or “review” to find SEO-focused affiliate links you can reach out to

Keep in mind that not all affiliates are created equal. Prioritse the affiliates that will likely bring the best performance. 

Create a list of affiliates you want to target: 

Website Name Email Type
Comparison Website
SEO affiliate
Content affiliate

Step 7: Set up tracking and messaging for each affiliate type 

Before reaching out to anyone to invite them to your program, you’ll need to set up: 

  • Info doc, creatives, and messaging per affiliate type
  • Custom email journeys for the affiliate types
  • Tracking CRM for tracking interactions with affiliates (Airtable works well) 
  • Offers - special offers for certain affiliates if applicable 

Step 8: Contact potential affiliates 

We recommend contacting potential affiliates via email. As we mentioned in the last step, it’s best to write custom email journeys for each affiliate type. The aim of the outreach should be to have a call. 

On the call, focus on: 

  • Can this affiliate drive leads?
  • What commission is interesting to them? 
  • What do they need to get started? 

We recommend using a CRM for your outreach as it may take a couple of emails before setting up a call. This will also allow you to track the success of your outreach.

Step 9: Monitor signups 

Now that you’ve started talking with our target list, you need to make sure that they sign up and start to promote your product. Affiliates can be notoriously slow, especially if they have similar solutions they're promoting. 

One way to get better results is to initially incentivse them by offering a higher commission or some other offer for the first couple of months. 

Step 10: Monitor performance

You can use your CRM to monitor if an affiliate is actively promoting your product. If they're not, continue to follow up and ask why they aren't. This can help you troubleshoot, and also remind them of the offer. 

The nice thing about affiliate marketing is that it’s relatively low risk. There is a low cost per customer because you only pay when the user becomes a customer! However, it’s still best for performance to identify key affiliates and continue to forge long-lasting relationships with the top performers.

Step 11: Approve payment if needed 

When you use software like Rewardful, the payments are automated and synced through Stripe. This depends on your software selection, so be sure to stay on top of payments. 

Next Steps 

By leveraging the power of affiliate marketing, you can tap into a network of motivated individuals who will promote your product and bring in new customers. Remember to carefully plan and execute your affiliate program, providing clear guidelines and incentives for affiliates. If it’s helpful, you can print out this article and follow it step-by-step! 

Looking for someone to build and manage your affiliate program for you? We’re on it. 

Affiliate programs are game-changers for SaaS products. We’ve seen it firsthand with our work with Uplisting which brought in $700,000 in revenue for them. Reach out here for a free proposal – no call needed.

Continue reading

The Reality of B2B Marketing in 2024

The Reality of B2B Marketing in 2024

In 2023, B2B companies had limited resources, slashed budgets, and felt increasing pressure from investors. As a result, the B2B marketing landscape changed. Traditional lead generation doesn’t work the same way it used to. 
The Correlation Between Ad Investment and Growth: Here’s What We’ve Found

The Correlation Between Ad Investment and Growth: Here’s What We’ve Found

In our most recent article, we discuss the correlation between ad investment and growth so we can determine whether these two correlate.
5 Things to Consider Before You Start Your PPC Strategy

5 Things to Consider Before You Start Your PPC Strategy

Developing a PPC strategy before diving head first into executing an advertising campaign is imperative. There is a lot to think about and to make it work for your business will take time, resources and investment.
Customers get great results with Lever
Get a free proposal


Enter keywords and click search.