The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Partnerships


Creating a software-as-a-service (SaaS) partnership with people who work together is challenging. For the software company, the main challenge is reaching your targeted audience. It would help if you also improve your brand awareness. After all, if your target market doesn't know about you, what good is your service? 

You can undoubtedly use numerous marketing channels to promote your services. You can use inbound and outbound marketing. There are even paid and unpaid channels. However, if you want your SaaS marketing and distribution to reach the next level, it's time to build a SaaS partner program.

This blog post will look into a SaaS partner program, its types, how you can build one, and some examples you can learn.

What Is a SaaS Partner Program?

A SaaS partner program involves partnering with third parties who agree to promote your software to new audiences. You reward them every time they provide you with a new customer. 

The reward can be anything from tangible incentives, cash rewards, or a sales commission.

You can also partner with other well-known companies to share a standard customer base. This way, you can help each further boost your brands' reach. Creating a customer exchange channel could be equally valuable for both partners.

Some major SaaS brands, like Zendesk, HubSpot, SEMrush, and Databox, launched their partner programs early. As a result, they could scale their business, increase revenue, accelerate growth, and encourage user retention.

SaaS partner programs include: 

Referral partnership: Software users refer other people to it for a commission. Generally, the commission occurs in the form of discounts, credits, or a percentage of sales.

Affiliate partnership: One typical SaaS affiliate program involves partnering with website owners, experienced and new bloggers and content creators to promote your product.

Reseller partnership: Business partners with agencies, consultants, and managed service providers (MSPs) to sell your product in their software marketplaces, alongside other programs.

Agent or broker partnership Agents or brokers provide meaningful connections with potential customers and promote your service to those likely to buy it.

Integration partnership: Businesses integrate products with your product. You all list compatible product integration on your marketplaces and earn rewards when anyone buys from there.

referral vs affiliate vs partner vs technical partnerships

What are B2B partnerships?

A B2B partnership is a mutually beneficial collaboration between two businesses or between a company and an individual. It helps both parties grow and achieve value. 

This partnership could be marketing, sales, distribution, or business opportunities.

Notably, B2B partners remain independent from your business. They are not your employees, even though they – and you – enter into a formal partnership agreement. 

How to Build Your SaaS Partner Program? 

Now you know the functions of a SaaS partner program, we can discuss how to build a SaaS Partner program, by choosing the correct partnership type. Let us help you create your personal SaaS brand.

Choose the SaaS Partnership Type 

First, you should determine what type of SaaS partnership program your business needs. You have multiple options, including referral, broker, reseller, affiliate, integration, and agent partnership.

The program you choose will depend upon various factors, including:

  • your goals
  • the size of your SaaS company
  • how much you're willing to invest
  • available time and resources
  • and more
referral vs affiliate vs partner

Each model needs to be moderately understood. It is crucial to know the model's benefits and weaknesses. You will want to know what help or hindrance it will provide in the future. 

Ultimately you will want to know how long it can take to see results.

Find SaaS Partners 

Not all SaaS partners are created equal. Choosing the right fit for your SaaS partnership should feel right. You do not want to force anything as this will lose you money in the long run. 

So you will want to decide what types of partners you want. Which ones will be best suited to promote your SaaS product. 

Content creators could be the most suitable choice. Your sales funnel could benefit has a large following and speaking directly to your audience. Or, you can partner with agencies with existing clients. They will market your product alongside their services.

Three things to consider: 

  1. Should the partner have a maximum audience base?
  2. Are local, regional, or national partners the best fit to achieve your objectives?
  3. What advantages does the partner bring to your business? 

Whatever your choice, make sure it suits your business needs. Also, determine your partner's goals, conditions, and challenges. Therefore, you can cater the partnership to them. Furthermore, your partners should receive all the support from other customer-facing teams.

Reach Out to Potential Partners 

After you have found a couple of SaaS partners, you will need to reach out to the potential partners. 

Here is what you should do:

  • Contact them with your product pitch.
  • Let them know your partnership goals.
  • Communicate what you and the partner can achieve together. Discuss the long and short-term benefits of the partnership and the kind of partnership you're looking.
  • Maintain lines of communication open and listen to your partner. Observe how you can help alleviate the challenges they face.

Remind them of the incentives you offer in exchange. Therefore, this will set clear expectations, resulting in a seamless beginning to your partnership.

Since you will be dealing with multiple partners, you can recruit an entire team. They can be responsible for handling and managing your partners.

Read more here on how to find people to refer to your SaaS.

Select the Right Partner Incentives 

Encouragement is the most vital for the success of your partnership program. Listening to your partners will determine how they are motivated. Most partners will help you grow as you provide them with money and feel a part of your team.

But, what kind of incentive can you present them?

Money is the most common reward. However, it would help to consider how your partners value their influence on your product. It would be best to reward them as they promote and sell more of your SaaS products.

Some other forms of commission can be: 

  • Sales commission
  • Sales performance incentive fund.
  • Tangible incentives include a free trip, an online shopping gift card, or an expensive gadget.
  • Extra promotion of the partner's product or service.
  • Co-marketing or lead generation opportunities.

Take our affiliate program, for instance. Their tier reward program divisions are split into three tiers and are based on how well an affiliate is doing.

As a partner moves up the levels, they'll unlock new benefits. In short, the more sales a partner brings to the business, the more commission they should receive. When you go up to the top level, they receive a 40% discount on Reditus subscriptions for 36 months.

Screenshot of the Reditus Marketplace

How do Software Partnerships get Created?

The first task you should complete is answering questions. Before you initiate conversations with potential partners, you must look at what you offer to the partnership.

Answer these questions about your SaaS business:

  1. What skills do you bring to the partnership?
  2. What will you provide as a service?
  3. Who is your target customers?
  4. How is your competition at a strategic disadvantage?
  5. What makes you different in the market, and why should people choose your product?

The potential partnership needs these questions answered. Therefore, you will be able to discuss what you are good at, and then partners will know how they can fill in the gap with their particular niche. 

Note: If you have trouble answering these questions, search through your email. Look at what recruiters are asking you. You did not receive those emails by mistake. Your experience and background triggered something in their database. 

The first set of questions focuses on your assets. We will also discuss the second list of questions focusing not on what you need to grow your business:

  1. What related skills need improvement?
  2. What aren't related services currently offered?
  3. What strategic strengths do your competitors have over your business?
  4. What commodity do you provide in the marketplace? Why do clients work with you, or why did they go elsewhere?

These questions focus on your liabilities. These are the shortcomings in your company and items you currently can not offer a possible partner. 

Look outwards

Now you have a list of assets you bring to the table and things that are potentially holding you back. When assessing a partner, you should also try to inventory their assets and shortcomings. 

As a result, you will be able to help discuss how they can thrive with your partnership. You will be able to discuss what the partner is good at and how the partner can receive the necessary tools to be successful. 

The best collaborations come from situations where both partners can strengthen each other's offerings.


Discovering a suitable partner takes a long time! To encourage you along the process, we will share some of the lessons we have learned regarding finding and working with different partners.

The best partnerships are those you know well enough to want to work.

First, it's essential to figure out what you bring to the table: technical expertise, leadership, vision, financing, marketing, or sales.

Additionally, you need to inventory the skills you lack and look for someone who can complement them. I often see two technically minded people partner up and butt heads over best coding practices.

While neither might possess the skills to deal with money or marketing, partnerships should fill in the gaps providing a better collaborative experience.

However, make sure your partnerships are with people with similar values and goals. You do not want the association to butt heads with philosophical differences. 

Before entering into any agreement, discuss each side's objectives. Let your partner discuss their end goals. It might be different than your own 

It's better to be honest here than to find yourself entangled a year down the road arguing.

Illustration of Commission-Based Affiliate Programs

Where To Go From Here?

If you made it this far, you are serious about getting into a SaaS partnership. You might also possess a technical background, and some of these business concepts may be new to you. 

Take a moment and a deep breath. Think back to when you first learned the code for "Hello World." Do you remember the first time you compiled a program or printed something out to the console was an eye-opening experience?

These experiences put you on the journey where you are today. You will continue to learn and improve your business partnerships, too. 

The above moment you remember was when I started to see computers differently. Suddenly I knew that I could make computers do practically anything I wanted instead of being limited to what you can do with pre-packaged software. 

The Bottom Line

I hope this article gives you a small glimpse into the world of possibilities of partnering up with different people and companies. If, like me, you've mostly worked for companies for most of your career, you may think that there are only a few types of arrangements to choose from full-time, part-time, freelance, etc.

However, as in software development, you are only limited by your imagination in business development. I hope you found this helpful guide to building great partnerships.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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