Adding a referral program in a B2B SaaS business seems like a great way to add an additional revenue stream. If not done correctly or at the right time, it can actually slow down sales and consume valuable resources inside a business.
During this interview, Joran, founder of Reditus, speaks with Gavin Tye about some of the common mistakes he has witnessed B2B SaaS companies make when considering a referral and partner program.
See the full video about this below, or read our blog 'transcript'.
Suppose you are interested in selling SaaS (software as a service), particularly B2B (business to business). In that case, you will do well to listen to the recent interview between Gavin Tye (Australian B2B SaaS sales guru and author of "Startup Sales Secrets") and Joran Hofman, the founder of Reditus (based in Utrecht, Holland). They discuss the benefits and pitfalls of referral, affiliate, and partner programs to build additional revenue streams. It sounds like a great way to go. However, it can slow down sales and consume valuable business resources if you don't do it well or do it at the wrong time. So, read this summary of what to do and when to do it when building an affiliate referral or partner program. Joran speaks candidly about his journey as a B2B SaaS founder. If you don't fancy reading or want all the details, click the link below and look at the fascinating full video conference interview.
Joran's company Reditus is a customer-centric partner privacy verified management tool for SaaS companies. Its purpose is to provide businesses with a (they only list business to business SaaS) company and data they can trust to create new revenue channels. It is a bit more expensive than Netflix, but sometimes Reditus deals cost as little as $50-$100 per month to get help setting up and managing your affiliate management program.
So, How do you and other startup founders add revenue streams?
Joran notes his experience from the Epsumo launch, kill your present revenue model. Absumo focused on finding better clients with one-time fees to find clients and revenue. Now he says Reditus focuses on MRV (monthly recurring revenue).
He loves SEO (search engine optimization) and knows that it helps you to stop having to place paid advertisements on LinkedIn, Google and Facebook, and other online platforms. His advice is to start getting into SEO early if you believe in your idea or product. Like Gavin, he knows it is a typical startup mistake not to pay enough attention early on to search engine optimization, website content, and partnerships.
He knows from his journey starting a B2B SaaS company that it takes time to develop a product, and companies often work on a shoestring and need to have money at the end of the month. The full benefits of an affiliate partner program and outsourcing sales take time.
"That goes for products, too," he says. "We took 18 mths because we wanted a good core system to track everything on the platform and make sure it works well before taking on clients."
Gavin knows it takes three times longer than you think it will to close a sale. "What you did takes three times more effort, too," he tells Joran.
Joran had other income streams when he was setting up. However, he admits that if you are going all in, you have to do things quicker than Reditus did.
Common SaaS mistakes in affiliate marketing
Another common mistake companies make when setting up referral partnership programs is that they must find their affiliate market fit. They need to have to pay clients before asking others to drive sales for them. "Partner and Affiliate marketing is asking others to promote your company and software for money, but if you didn't do marketing and sales before, how can you expect others to do for you." A founder needs to know how his company works to find the best affiliate partners.
Another common mistake in startups is believing that setting up an affiliate program will lead to a shorter sales cycle. Technical founders set up the program, and affiliates refer clients with no problem.
However, setting up an affiliate referral program takes a lot of time and energy, and the sales cycle actually becomes longer. Having someone else doing your SaaS marketing is an extra factor to figure into your business. High value or high revenue SaaS doesn't sell itself. As Gavin remarks, "affiliate partners go down the path of least resistance."
Suppose you work by yourself and have an expected sales cycle of six to twelve months. If that doesn't work, then it could be more like twelve to eighteen months with an affiliate sales partner before things flow exponentially and the company gets full momentum
Joran believes in optimization. The least effort for the most reward. Optimization takes time, money, and energy but has to be done. Joran advises companies to optimize their website sign-up to pay-up conversion.
His knowledge and experience tell him (and now you) that a company needs to be ready to scale up fully. When you have figured out how to do that, it is time to sign up for affiliate programs.
Gavin calls this the "cookie counter approach." Once you have a proven sales strategy and sales process and can't handle everything you need to do in a day, it's time to connect to the market and get someone else in to move things along.
Joran gives us a bit of detail and says that when a company has completed sales case studies, worked on their brand, and got some clients, those happy clients are a reference point for you, and it's time to go ahead and bring in partners. "It's hard to promote an unknown product or brand, almost impossible."
Gavin concurs. It would be best if you didn't get into sales affiliate programs to start a new revenue stream until you have an early majority. If your clients aren't in a good place on the technology adoption lifecycle, you won't have enough capacity to reach the big markets and use innovators.
Free Affiliate Program for SaaS
Reditus has clients who are before this stage. They have a free plan to help and guide clients through the process of setting up an affiliate program. However, he points out that you need to be ready to scale up before fully promoting the program. "You can have it live at this stage but don't expect too much from it until you've done it for yourself."
"This will allow your company to walk before it runs. You need to walk, test, test and test again. Fail early; it's a good thing. When you know where you are going as a founder by getting direct sales working, you are ready to move towards having others help you." This is the advice Gavin gives.
Other things that might affect revenue streams when starting up are raising capital, having shareholders, and other stakeholders.
Joran tells us how he feels from his own experience of founding a startup. "We were operating on a shoestring, so focused on recurring revenue. To develop a product, some founders raise capital before having sales and paying clients, so it depends. Angel investors help you develop an idea and find out how to sell it. Some investors will cut you some slack while developing your product and getting ready to scale up. After that, they pile on the pressure to turn your business into a money-making machine.
Gavin asked Joran to illustrate the best journey he has seen of someone implementing an affiliate and partner referral program.
"We have a client with 200k visitors per month. They have won the SEO game. They have lots of traffic from an established brand, and other companies are asking them for an affiliate program. They are ready to push towards more clients and take on people who want to refer them."
He notes that Semrush got big, giving affiliates a 40% lifetime commission. HubSpot rapidly expanded because it took on an early affiliate program and cultivated an extensive partner ecosystem.
So, what do these two experienced startup founders and salespeople think about recommending for founders who want to investigate partner affiliate programs?
Joran says, "I am happy to chat even if it is not the right time or fit for your company. Get in touch with Reditus, go to the website, and schedule a call. It is a struggle whether you have money or not. There are always new issues and challenges. It's how you deal with it; look ahead to where you want to take your company. Think long term."
They agree that it is easier to get your own house in order and working first, then introduce new revenue streams with affiliate programs. Encourage the company to grow incrementally, see if it works, and, if not, amend. Don't just outsource before you know what you are doing because there is a 99% chance you will fail.
Joran tells of his time as a founder, feeling like an octopus, doing sales, demonstrations, webinars, and customer support to find out what works. "When the company begins to grow, the founder has been there, knows what works, and that is the time to get affiliates and other team members on board because they have the founder's work, sales strategies, project records, and early fails to refer to.
Both Gavin and Joran are startup and growth mentors. You can find more advice from them at www.growthmentor.com
Contact Information Joran Hofman
Contact Information Gavin Tye
Gavin Tye's book to help startups develop their sales strategy called Startup Sales Secrets is available for you to grab your free copy here: https://go.salesmarketfit.co/book