S1E20 – What is Affiliate Marketing? With John Wright

affiliate marketing with John Wright and Joran Hofman

Today’s episode discusses affiliate marketing data with our guest John Wright the Co-Founder at StatsDrone. Over the past two decades, John has gained a wealth of experience in affiliate marketing as a founder and manager of affiliate SaaS.

Why you should listen to John: John has much experience in affiliate marketing, having been in the industry for the past couple of decades. He leverages his academic engineering background to use data for business intelligence. He is keen to share his knowledge in affiliate marketing and business intelligence, which are increasingly important areas for SaaS founders in the digital business environment.

What is affiliate marketing?

John unpacks affiliate marketing as an arrangement with an individual or company over email to refer potential signups in exchange for a certain fee or recurring commission. A SaaS can establish traffic source tracking with an affiliate program in place. Ideally, a SaaS seeks to leverage the network of an affiliate partner through referrals in exchange for kickbacks.

Why a B2B Saas should set up an affiliate program

John argues that every B2B SaaS must have functional affiliate marketing in place to leverage other people’s networks for lead generation and signups. He lauds affiliate marketing as a powerful channel that enables SaaS to benefit from their own tools and data of affiliate partners for their growth. Due to familiarity, using an existing platform is beneficial because affiliates trust it. He advises that a SaaS should seek to start small in establishing an in-house affiliate software and scale it gradually in order not to burn money.

Common SaaS mistakes when establishing an affiliate program

 Our guest expert recommends that an affiliate manager should seek best practices for outreach efforts. As such, it is necessary to ensure email deliverability which translates that the email reaches the target audience and takes action. This is crucial because some opening messages could be better constructed with fewer links or more information. Also, John decries the tendency of some affiliate managers to treat affiliate marketing as a pure sales effort instead of relationship building. Further, he recommends that a SaaS hire a professional link builder to collaborate with the affiliate manager for the best outcomes.

Strategies for scaling an affiliate program

John says that a SaaS would greatly benefit from directly asking its customers to refer the company to the networks they have. Also, a SaaS should utilize SEO tools that provide competitors’ backlink profiles to determine top websites linking to them. After that, the affiliate manager should seek to establish a relationship by requesting them to list their site. By leveraging keywords, SaaS can determine the thought process of their ideal customer profile and consequently develop marketing content that targets them. Finally, running a Google search of the top-ranking content is helpful to learn about what the ICP is most interested in.

Ideal sources of affiliates for a B2B SaaS

John emphasizes the importance of outreach in seeking out new affiliates. However, he cautions against being too aggressive with the messaging to the point that it turns the potential affiliate. He argues that outreach is a natural way to generate demand through websites and social media sites like LinkedIn. He also advises that podcasts effectively reach potential affiliates and establish relationships.

Challenges in growing an affiliate program

Our guest expert notes that building an in-house affiliate software is the main challenge for a SaaS in growing an affiliate program. It often takes a great deal of time and sometimes lacks dynamic content that would gain the company affiliates faster.

The future of affiliate marketing

John says that automation will redefine affiliate marketing to the benefit of business intelligence for a SaaS. Automation would help companies still linking to broken affiliate tracking to migrate to their active alternatives or discontinue altogether. Also, tools with reverse engineering capability would enable businesses to access and evaluate competitor data to benefit conversion rates. Generally, John foresees a future in which affiliate marketing would become more integrated into the B2B SaaS industry.

Advice to SaaS founder with 10K MRR

John underscores the need to have an affiliate program in place to reap its benefits. Also, he emphasizes the necessity of understanding your ICP so that you tailor marketing messaging for them accordingly. As such, you should undertake outreach through the preferred platforms of your ICP. Our guest expert further advises a SaaS founder to seek help from the right people or organizations to save time and resources on what to do.

Advice to SaaS with 1M ARR

John emphasizes the need for efficiency and utilizing performance indicators for the SaaS. He also recommends leveraging the services of professionals in a non-full-time arrangement until the company can hire them permanently. Furthermore, you should always network and seek help from other SaaS founders. Crucially, a SaaS founder at this stage should always maintain communication with investors and customers to get new ideas and inspiration.

 Time stamps

  • (0:40) Introduction of today’s topic and guest expert
  • (01:27) Why you should listen to John
  • (02:42) What is affiliate marketing
  • (03:53) Why a B2B Saas should set up an affiliate program
  • (07:44) Common mistakes for SaaS when establishing an affiliate marketing program
  • (12:08) Strategies for scaling an affiliate program:
  • (16:35) Ideal sources of affiliates for a B2B SaaS:
  • (21:29) Challenges in growing an affiliate program
  • (22:34) The future of affiliate marketing
  • (28:00) Advice to SaaS founder with 10K MRR:
  • (31:08) Advice to SaaS with 1M ARR
  • (35:53) John’s contact information


00:30 – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode on the Grow your B2B SaaS podcast, where we discuss all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS, no matter in which stage you’re in. Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics, affiliate marketing. We will talk about affiliate marketing data with John Wright. John has been in affiliate marketing for over 20 years. He has experience with affiliate management, setting up and managing affiliate sites, and he’s now the co-founder of StatsDrone. Stats Drone is an affiliate program, stats tracker, primarily for Igaming programs at the moment, but they’re currently moving into more verticals. Welcome to the show, John. 

01:06  – John Wright
Thank you so much for having me. Love talking affiliate marketing, and I really love what you do with your SaaS software that helps people create affiliate programs. Once I saw the topic, your actual product, I got pretty excited because I’m like, I can’t think of any affiliate software that targets SaaS. It’s perfect. 

Into to John Wright 

01:23  – Joran Hofman
That’s what I thought as well when we got started. So happy to hear, I guess before we really dive into the topic, why should people listen to you today? 

01:31 – John Wright
For me, I do have a lot of experience, but one thing I’m getting very much into is business intelligence and affiliate marketing. So I don’t think there’s too many thought leaders in this space. And I’m not going to say I am a thought leader other than I have a degree in engineering and I really geek out on data. So I’m finding it really fascinating that the more I start studying this topic that’s not really written about or talked about in affiliate marketing, it’s interesting. And if you look at the business intelligence industry on its own, I think it’s already worth 30 billion. Business intelligence is going touch every digital marketing or digital channel that you could imagine, whether it’s SEO, affiliate marketing, you name it. And I believe that the projection rates of affiliate marketing are going to be greater than what’s already been projected by 2030. 

02:17  – John Wright
I think business intelligence is really going to amplify things and I sincerely believe that affiliate marketing as a whole isn’t as advanced as it should be. I think this is where we are going and it’s my job to share what I’m learning and share just interesting resources on that very topic. 

What is Affiliate Marketing?

02:34  – Joran Hofman
It’s a great combination you have, right? 20 years of experience in affiliate marketing, like the degree you have. I think it’s a really nice combination. I guess when we go really basics. So people who don’t know affiliate marketing yet, how would you explain it to somebody who has no knowledge on the topic? 

02:49  – John Wright
That’s such an easy question. There are so many ways of answering it. So I’m just going to go with the most basic. Let’s assume that you actually had an affiliate program to send people to your software. It can actually be literally a written agreement or an agreement over email where you say, hey John, send me a customer that signs up and I’ll pay you $100 or €200, whatever it is, or it could be even a recurring commission. That’s all it is. You can set up tracking in any way. It can be done manually. And I guess like in our most traditional sense of affiliate marketing, everything is usually done with the tracking link. So all you really need is the traffic source and however you want to set up your program, it can literally be done manually. Like people are setting up affiliate programs just using Google Analytics tags, just that basic that you want to get started. 

Why should a B2B SaaS company set up an affiliate program?

03:36 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. I mean, if somebody has access to the network you’re looking for as a business, you can ask them to refer you, and then from there you can give them a kickback fee. That’s indeed the idea of affiliate marketing when we dive deeper into B2B SaaS, because that’s what we’re going to talk about. Of course. Why should a B2B SaaS company set up an affiliate program, in your opinion? 

03:56 – John Wright
Good question. For us, it was a little ironic that we have software that helps affiliates save time and all that, so it’d be very silly for us to not have our own affiliate program. It’s like we live and breathe affiliate marketing. You have to have an affiliate program. I’ve seen a lot of thought leaders in the SaaS space, like Tk, where they just say, these are one of the things that you want to do and you must do, and it’s really important. You just want to make it happen faster where people are recommending you. We set up an affiliate program a year ago and on the spot without making any effort. I only had a couple of contacts that I knew were kind of like Super Connectors. As soon as that affiliate program was set up, it just happened instantly. I was getting customers and referrals that I don’t know if it would have happened as fast had I not set up that program. 

04:41 – John Wright
So I think it’s a very overlooked channel. I’m always looking at a lot of SaaS companies, and our job is to know the affiliate marketing space inside out. And when I see a lot of them don’t have it, I’m thinking the SaaS space, they really need to be aware of how powerful of a channel affiliate marketing is. It’s the fact that you can hypothetically use a software obviously like yours and be able to be set up and so quickly and just have the tracking links. The only thing you’re left to do is basically have an account manager or an outreach manager and just hit out those channels where you can ask someone to write about you, but if they’re not willing to write about you need that incentive. You’re just going to kick start it that much faster. You don’t know what you don’t know. 

05:23 – John Wright
I can’t think of too many SaaS companies that they would shut down their affiliate program if it wasn’t performing. And they’re not really going to share how well it’s doing for them unless you happen to actually be friends with them and you’ve networked with them where they’re willing to actually share the actual data. I don’t know very many companies that say affiliate marketing was a bad thing for them to do, like setting up that affiliate program. They almost all say, yes, this is valuable. 

05:46 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. And it depends a bit on how much cost of course you’re going to make up front. There are some tools out there who charge a lot of money. That’s where they might get off on the wrong foot, where they invest a lot of money and then they don’t get it back that quickly. But if you start really small, like for example what you did, right, you set up an affiliate program, people came to you, they have the trust in their audience, they start referring you, and then from there they convert into paying clients and then you can start scaling the program. I think that’s a nice way to get started. 

06:15 – John Wright
Yeah. And I would also add one more tip there where we built our own affiliate software in house and it took some time and cost some money. I think if I had to do it again, if I’d actually have known about your software about a year ago, I would have probably jumped on it right away. You just want to move fast and not reinvent the wheel. There’s so many different things that we can use, whether it’s data, visualization tools, affiliate software. We just want to spend more time focusing on growing our revenue, focusing on what we do, and not having to build extra side products. So there’s so many ways of getting it wrong. So I’d say just make something that’s simple and the other reason why that’s also a benefit of using an existing software. Affiliates, once they get comfortable using a platform, they like seeing familiarity or software as they recognize in the igaming space. 

07:00 – John Wright
This becomes a bit true where those software providers like analytics sell expert, for example, they almost become trust symbols. Affiliates will when they see that they’re joining that program that actually has that software, it becomes a bit of a trust. So there is something that’s important from the operators, the software provider side of branding. But affiliates, once they get used to this and they’ve been doing this their business for years, that familiarity is really important. It’s more than just having a really nice back end that they can say, oh, this is pretty cool, it’s going okay, I trust these programs then. 

Common mistakes made when setting up an affiliate program?

07:35 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I think you already mentioned one thing regarding my next question. Like you mentioned, you develop your own program or your own software, but don’t reinvent the wheel. What are other common mistakes you see yourself or other companies make while setting up an affiliate program? 

07:51 – John Wright
Okay, that’s an amazing question. I could probably spend a whole hour talking about that on another podcast. Usually you have an account manager or an affiliate manager that’s in charge of this, whether it’s that person or it’s the owner or the co founder of the SaaS company. When you start doing outreach, there’s a lot of things to learn. One of the first things I like to ask any account manager or affiliate manager is, do you know what DMark SPF DKIM stands for? And most of the time I’m getting blanks coming back. I’ve never heard of that before. Then sure enough, you can actually look at their DNS records and find out that they don’t have any of these things set up in place. These are things that help your email deliverability. So you really need to take a step back and go make sure you’re doing all the best practices for making sure that when you are going to outreach, send a message to a potential affiliate for the first time that the message is getting through and that you’re not hurting yourself such that it ends up in spam. 

08:47 – John Wright
There’s everything from not sending more than 50 to 100 messages in a single day, to having too many links on your opening message, to maybe not even having any links at all. And then it goes without saying, the other parts of it are people. They just blast you with too much information. We don’t have time to read a giant wall of text. And affiliates like affiliate managers tend to focus on things as if this is sales, which it is, but they overlook the whole relationship building. So as someone who’s run affiliate sites for think it’s been like twelve years at least, I get these messages coming in from affiliate managers, and I hate to say it, but most of them are just terrible, poorly written, and they all ask for a lot of the same things. Hey, I want your number one spot. I’ve got 2000 people asking for that number one spot. 

09:36 – John Wright
I’d rather actually have them not ask for it and go, how can we work together and just be extra smart about it? Do you have spots on your site that would benefit us where maybe your newsletter actually sends more traffic than your home page? So people, the affiliate managers, they just drive to the wrong spot where they just assume your home page is the Holy Grail. It’s almost like the number one spot on Google. Yeah, that’s very important. But you could be overlooking a lot of things. So I think it helps to warm up your emails, whether that’s still a thing or not. I think there’s a lot of people on the fence that say that’s not important, but I believe it still be. That still is true. There’s a lot of really interesting softwares that can make your life easier. I think affiliate managers should learn outreach, and I think actually, founders like us, as business owners, we all need to understand outreach. 

10:25 – John Wright
Because if you’re sending a message out to soil, of course you want it not only to be in their inbox, you want it to be opened and you want it to be actioned. And for me, the best people I’ve ever found to be good at outreach are people that work in SEO and link building because they are trying to make sure that they get their message across so they can actually not just get sales, but they’re trying to get someone to read a message. Open it. Action. It such that they can build a link. And this all comes back down to efficiency rates. I think these things are pretty important and they’re often overlooked. And the reality is there’s no playbook on affiliate management. There are courses on how to become an affiliate manager or best practices, but I don’t think there’s enough of them and I don’t think enough people actually go out of the way for it because any one of us could literally just be, oh, affiliate manager job. 

11:15 – John Wright
What’s involved? Don’t know. Do you need any experience that might be preferred? You don’t have a massive pool of affiliate managers just to pluck from. Technically you do, but it’s still a relatively new job term. You’re always going to find people to pick. Never even knew that was a job, and it’s definitely a big job. 

11:31 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, really nice. And I like the bridge towards link builders. I think you can learn a lot from them because they always send so many emails as well. So the technical setup has to be good for them. If they don’t end up in the inbox, then they’re not going to build any links. And then from there, you will need qualities to maintain the relationship. That is definitely sure. 

11:49 – John Wright
Yeah. I would say hire a link builder and get them to write your SOP so that you have your documents ready. That your new affiliate managers, you’re going to be educating them on the best practices for outreach. 

Strategies & Process to scale an affiliate program

12:02 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, that’s really nice. And once they start having conversations, then the relationship part comes in, of course. So let’s assume we set up an affiliate program. Can you share any strategies or processes you have used to really scale an affiliate program? 

12:16 – John Wright
I think in terms of what we do in the SaaS space, that doesn’t apply to other industries like Igaming is you can simply ask your customers, go, hey, do you know any friends for the software that we do? A lot of our customers, even though they might be competitors with other affiliates, a lot of them are still friends with each other. So it’s like networking. Ask them and a lot of them are big. Yeah, I didn’t even think about it. And then here you go. It’s the easiest way to get a couple very quick wins without trying. Next I would say are SEO tools like Hrefs or SEMrush where what you want to do is you want to find a competitor and you want to look at their backlink profile to see which websites are linking to them. And whether you have experience in using these SEO tools or not, that list is pretty interesting. 

13:02 – John Wright
You’re going to get a giant list of all the sites that are linking to them. And if you keep using these tools, you’re going to get basically a new list every month of new sites that are linking as long as they are active. And so that’s just a very quick, easy way to go. Who could I possibly target for websites to say, could you also list me or maybe get a blog post or just understand that they have traffic? And then of course, the easy one that everyone should be doing is a Google search and just basically think about what your ICP would be searching for and try to think about it from two layers. The first layer is the obvious, like, what keywords are you targeting? And then the second one is trying to get a deeper understanding of your ICP to think about what would they search for? 

13:48 – John Wright
That either is going to be directly going to you or indirectly. An example of indirect is for what we want to do, we are targeting, as of today, Igaming affiliates. So it’s like, well, there’s Igaming affiliate forums. There’s a lot of articles and tools about how to get started as an Igaming affiliate. It’s almost never ending when you start thinking about these ideas. So don’t just think about from a linear point of view of going, okay, I’m just going to Google the keywords that matter to me. It’s like try to get into their mind and go, what are they looking for? And they could be looking for anything. So I could actually produce an article on the best SEO tools for affiliates and that affiliate might actually read it. And they’re like, hey, I never even knew your software existed. And in my personal experience, for the tools that me and what my competitors do, most of our affiliates, we don’t have identity keywords, which is total ironic. 

14:38 – John Wright
Like, people don’t search for Igaming affiliate stats aggregator. That’s a mouthful. They don’t search for it, but they know it’s a pain point. So just try to think about what are direct pain points or indirect pain points. Just create that content. And I think content marketing is I think it’s something that a lot of SaaS companies don’t really focus on and the ones that do it well. Once again, you go back to Hrefs and SEMrush, look at their link building strategy, and you’re like, wow, you will see everything. Yeah. 

15:08 – Joran Hofman
And one thing to add on the third point you mentioned, if you do Google searches, you can find of course, content which is ranking well already, and then you can find out if you can get them as an affiliate in. So, like, writing content one yourself is definitely good. You should definitely do it. But it might take longer to rank. If you want to get quick wins, you might just want to search for content which is already ranking and out there. 

15:30 – John Wright

15:31 – Joran Hofman
But I guess just to summarize, like Ash, your customers, that is the quickest win because they know your value and they probably have a lot of trust towards potential clients just because they know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it. SEO Tools, Asia Apps and Rush like definitely a great one to find competitor affiliates. And then Google searches to see what your ICP is searching for. And not just direct, but also indirect. 

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Where to find new affiliates?

16:35 – Joran Hofman
It comes down to my next question. If you have to find affiliate for your own B2B SaaS at the moment, you gave three ideas already, but I guess where would you start if you now have to find new affiliates? 

16:47 – John Wright
I would just be straight up with outreach. In my case, most of my customers, they all have a website, so I know how to target them directly. Basically, I can do my keyword search. And outreach is something that I think as well, a lot of SaaS companies aren’t doing. And I think there’s a lot of discussions happening in the background where I’m pretty sure you’re the same as me. We listen to a lot of SaaS podcasts and it’s great that you actually have one. There’s a lot of people that they’re very bent on demand gen, and I love demand gen and I think it’s highly important. But I think there’s a lot of people that are saying that outreach is dead and people don’t want those messages. And I disagree. I think if you’re looking to build demand gen, which takes time, and to build all these channels, we all agree there’s multiple touch points, that someone’s going to take the time to make a decision to buy something. 

17:37 – John Wright
It’s no different than for me and for you and outreach. I look at as being one of those additional channels, like, hey, you know what? I’ve seen a LinkedIn ad, and that LinkedIn ad happened because they ended up on your website and then they left. And then that outreach is one more touch point. And if you don’t even have those touch points, start with the outreach. Just be very mindful that you don’t want to be so aggressive with the outreach that people end up start saying, hey, don’t contact me again. You want to do it such that it’s a natural way where think relationship building first. It sounds obvious, but you just have to go through your inbox to go, what are the best messages that you’ve received that made you want to just actually connect with that person as opposed to the ones that make you want to shut everything down. 

18:19 – John Wright
We know what the shut everything down looks like. We get them all the time. People are like, hey, SaaSsone is a great company, blah, blah, I’m ignoring it. But if they ask a question or go a different angle, that’s it. So if you’re able to do outreach, assuming that your ICP has a website or you know how to target them, go with outreach. And if that happens to involve, let’s say, LinkedIn, where you’re contacting these profiles, it’s the same principles. Do outreach the right way. I think LinkedIn restricts how many messages you can send, but think about it for relationship building. And I don’t know if it was you or someone else that told me that sometimes people will just connect with people on LinkedIn and not even hit them up with the marketing message. I’ve been doing that for quite some time. And just even the connection, that’s the first touch point. 

19:04 – John Wright
They might look at my profile and see that company. They might actually click on the link, or they might even Google search it after. It’s nice to win the race and try to get these sales as fast as possible. But I think in the B, two B SaaS space, people like to take their time making these decisions, and you have to respect it, and you got to be proactive, but not so proactive that you disrupt that new balance of where we are. 

19:26 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, I don’t think I’ve said it to you, but I don’t do it either. If I send connection requests, I’m not going to follow up with a marketing message. And especially, for example, what we’re doing right now, right, is the podcast. I share so much content that they will keep seeing my face all the time. So if you have that connection, that’s step one. And after that, they will check your profile out. What is this guy actually doing? Because I keep seeing him showing up on my feed. 

19:47 – John Wright
Yeah. And I’m almost hesitant about even recommending that as a tool. We’ve both set up podcasts because we know what we’re trying to do in terms of growing our business. But if everyone sets up a podcast and all takes the advice, we’re going to be flooded with an insane amount of podcasts. And it might happen anyways, but there’s enough work that goes into doing this, and not everyone’s willing to get uncomfortable and get in front of a screen. But depending on what your market looks like in my space, which is really weird, I looked at the affiliate marketing space and said, okay, let me look at the landscape of podcasts. There was some big ones, but there wasn’t really a lot, and I was kind of shocked. Look at your space, and if you think that your competition isn’t getting in front of this whole new marketing channel, be the first. 

20:34 – John Wright
That would be one more tip for growing your business, because you know and I know that when you start doing these things, you build connections really fast, and then you don’t even have to ask your guests, like, hey, can you recommend me to other people? It happens naturally. We now have this new connection from having chatted, even though we haven’t met in person, but it’s ten times better than an email. 

Any challenges and obstacles face when growing an affiliate program?

20:56 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. The only thing I can add is be consistent and stick to it. I think most of the podcasts will stop before they hit episode number ten because they don’t see any results. For example, this is, I think, episode number 20 when it goes out. So we did pass that mark. Like, we just got our first invite last week to have a live one on SaaS Leader Summit in Berlin. You have to stick with it, and indeed, once you get that traction, people will catch you new guests, and then things become a lot easier. So get past that first hurdle, basically. When going back to growing an affiliate program, can you talk about any challenges, obstacles you faced while growing an affiliate program and how you overcame them? 

21:39 – John Wright
Oh, another more tough question. First one, which I’ve already mentioned before, doing our own in house software took actually a lot more time than I thought. I’ve had experience like building small affiliate programs and using other softwares to set it up. It was probably a big waste of time, but what I knew on the market, I knew some software existed that would have probably done a good job, but I tried to incorporate things that I felt were very important. I like to complain about most affiliate software. It’s tracking links and banners. Banners are being mostly obsolete, and they’re not really coming up with really smart content or dynamic content that we can just use easily. Banners, they’re almost gone. But you just look at ad blocking technology, which I think is more than 50% of the world right now. Even if ad blockers aren’t blocking out banners, people tune them out. 

22:27 – John Wright
And your ads have to be either really sharp and lively, as if it’s video, or it’s got to be even less looking at the future. 

22:35 – Joran Hofman
Like how do you see the future of affiliate marketing? I think this is already run right where banners are going to be gone soon, or at least are already. Like what else do you see for the future of affiliate marketing? 

22:46 – John Wright
Yeah, I know for the tools that we are working on, we’re not just trying to save time for affiliates, but we’re trying to add that business intelligence layer. And I know we’re not the only company working on stuff like this. There’s quite a few of them and there’s going to be more. I think it’s this whole automation is going to make things interesting. And I think the knowledge and the automated knowledge is going to really take things to a new level. So just talking about some pain points that I’ve lived and breathed. We all live and breathe, but not everyone’s talking about it. I’ll give you the quick example. FTX went out of business back in the fall. There are still so many websites linking to FTX using an affiliate tracking link. I can find you so many examples of websites that are linking to broken tracking links. 

23:29 – John Wright
That’s one instant solution. We really should have some type of future where affiliates can actually have those links either pulled or migrated to something else. And I think that comes with feedback loops of actually knowing that not only have these programs closed, but having a central hub for stuff like this. We are working on stuff like that. So I’m excited to see how far we get where we can actually provide that feedback. We’re trying to build an authority in that space where you know everything about an affiliate program. What kind of data do they have? Do they have postbacks dynamic variable tracking links? Do they have API? As I think of that as like a bare bone minimum, but there’s a lot of work to do. But just to be able to know that I’ve seen so much happen in the igaming space where companies, when they change software, the old tracking links become invalidated. 

24:17 – John Wright
It’s how many of those old links are floating on the internet that are just not valid anymore. I think another one would be we don’t know which products and services have the best conversion rates, but all affiliate programs. This is another thing for affiliate managers. I can’t stand it when they say we are the best converting or the best performing affiliate program. I’m like you wouldn’t know that unless you actually had your competitors data and you don’t have that. I do think there will be tools that will be able to reverse engineer this data. We’re trying to work on a couple of things and I’ve heard of other companies working on different avenues to reverse engineer that. I think that will be an interesting future where that will be part of a feedback loop. So I think that the future of affiliate. Marketing is going to get weird really fast in the next two years. 

25:03 – John Wright
But I also look at it the way it is today. I know I’m not the only one that says it. I think the whole entire industry is behind from a tech point of view. And if you look at ecommerce is way more advanced and I think we got a lot of catching up to do. But once that happens, this is where I believe this whole business intelligence industry as it keeps touching everything around it. Once it touches affiliate marketing in a profound way, business is going to be a lot different and I think life will be easier for affiliates. 

25:31 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, because I 100% agree as and I think we have a lot of catching up to do with the other industries where affiliate marketing is not that common. Of course in B2B SaaS yet and things are somewhat simple still. I 100% agree. Like for one thing we are looking ourselves, for example, is to show conversion rates of affiliate programs. But it’s always tricky when you have new programs joining or do you actually want to show to all affiliates because are you then not going to demolish their affiliate program? Because we know everything, right? We know how many clicks they get, we know how many sign ups it converts into and then how many actually go to paid. If we start showing that, would it actually hurt their affiliate program? So those are the challenges we internally struggle with, for example. 

26:10 – John Wright
Yeah, I think the answers will come to the surface, but I think short term those affiliate programs at least need that data to say, hey, you convert at one fifth of the rate of all your peers. No one wants to hear that. But anyone that needs to hear that’s extremely important for them. That could be the difference of even staying in business. It’s the idea that you could actually double your conversion rate with either a couple of tools or understanding that your landing pages are causing major problems. Or maybe it’s actually you have a couple broken tracking codes inside your actual landing pages. You won’t know this unless you actually have data and you actually monitor the data. So I sincerely believe that as time goes on, these data is not really static. It’s your conversion rate can change and increase based on anything. It’s like what happens if you start getting more mobile traffic and your website is really not looking pretty on the mobile. 

27:04 – John Wright
You actually might see a change and if you look at the data, it should come to life. But I think this is the big problem today in affiliate marketing. Not a lot of people are looking at data and a lot of people also don’t have access to certain types of data. So some of the data is there, but even with some of it that is there, not everyone’s looking at it. And I think this is going to be what makes people change that once they see it. The data tells a compelling story. And that story in that example you brought up where, hey, you’re converting the worst out of all your peers, that’s very painful, but that will make you do something. 

Advice for founders growing to 10k MRR

27:40 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, exactly. And we’ve been taking to show it towards the affiliates, so basically they can see exactly how well do they convert the traffic. That’s maybe one step further, but 100% agree. Like it’s showing, of course, how the affiliate traffic is converting, but in the end it probably shows them exactly how the normal traffic is converting as well. So it indeed could kill a business if they don’t take any actions. We are coming almost to the end already. I always like to ask these two questions at the end. So when we talk about affiliate marketing, what kind of advice would you give somebody, a SaaS founder who is growing to 10k monthly recurring revenue? 

28:13 – John Wright
Hey, I would say have an affiliate program. Just the fact that when we launched ours, we got instant sales, it was that fast. I wish we’d paid attention to it earlier. And I do think we actually need to pay even more attention to it now. And that’s something that we’re looking at advancing. I think it really helps to truly understand your ICP and create content for them. And when I say that went through our business where we bootstrapped almost everything, but we did take on investors and they asked these tough questions like, tell us about your ICP, how well do you really know them? So we created these detailed documents and went down a rabbit hole of really mapping out that ICP doc. Once you do that, it really becomes clear what your marketing message is and what it should be. I think that’s a very valuable exercise where you can actually create content for them and know how to target them and know how to just make sure that you’re speaking to them in the way that they want to be talked to, be in the channels where your ICP is. 

29:11 – John Wright
That kind of sounds like common sense, but you really need to understand that my space is not the same as your space. And some people actually might be more on Facebook forums, other people could be telegram. In my case, it’s a mixture of LinkedIn and a couple of other big channels. Outreach, I think, is also critical and not a lot of people do it. So if outreach applies to your business where you can actually target, let’s say, hypothetical websites, then do outreach. And it’s one of your touch points. And I think the other one that a lot of people never overlook, and I’m going to say this a couple more times is just ask for help. US looking for investors was almost like asking for help. They basically ask really tough questions to go, how are you going to get to this ten K? And when you ask for help, if I could rewind time and replay my story again, I probably would have asked more for help in this exact area. 

30:07 – John Wright
I would have gone to people like you to say, hey, this is our plan. What do you think about it? And I have done this recently with our SEO strategy, with a lot of my SEO friends. And the stuff they came back with was just it wasn’t just a big laundry list. It was amazing feedback. And they all contributed different ideas. Some of them overlap. People just don’t really do that enough. And I think we in the SaaS space. We all want to help each other with the exception of maybe our competition. But ask for help. 

Advice for founders growing to 1M ARR

30:36 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. If you don’t have a network right now, there’s definitely tools or ways how you can get help. So to give an example, I’m a mentor on Grub Mentor. Maybe the pricing has changed, but I think for $99 or $69 a month, you can ask or you can have chats with as many as possible. So you can ask really for help there. Or join a SaaStop Founder membership where you have other SaaS founders in the same group, where you can basically give them your challenge and then they can help you as well. Your network doesn’t have to be an excuse. You can always find like minded people nowadays everywhere online. Let’s go past that. Ten K monthly recurring revenue. Let’s assume we passed that. What kind of advice would you give somebody who’s grown towards 1 million arr? 

31:17 – John Wright
I would say make sure you’re efficient in everything. Spend time looking at your costs. If you can save money, that’s contributing to your bottom line, where that’s money that you can spend? Invest, measure everything. I know in our journey about just getting started and building our own back end. Yeah, we use other third party tools to really see what’s happening, whether it’s churn or understanding retention. And the value there’s stripe is pretty cool. Nathan Latka’s, founder path. That one’s a nice one. And there’s lots of them. Paddle has really cool tools. There’s just a lot there. So the more you measure, the more you can really understand what’s working, what’s not working. And I think this helps you stay focused in the right sense, where a lot of people think, this is important. I just need more money in the bank. Yes, that’s true, but really know your numbers. 

32:03 – John Wright
I would also say if you think about hiring fractional consultants, that’s very valuable. Like, we would all love to have a $5 million budget where we can hire the full time, the CFO, the CMO and all those things. But there’s a lot of people out there that do amazing work, and they are consultants. And you have to remember that because they get to work with so many different people that their skill set goes up. Yeah, they’re not cheap, but they’re also not going to cost you a full time or a part time employee. And there’s a lot of these things that you can do that’s part time. We’re actually going through this right now where someone’s helping with our customer success and pricing. So it’s perfect to be able to do these things. I’d say you’ve already mentioned it and it’s network with other SaaS owners. 

32:47 – John Wright
We’re not always going to have the same journey or everything’s going to apply to us, but you can always learn from someone else and they might have a different take on it. And then of course ask for help. Ask for help and network. So ask it from SaaS founders. And I do think that for us, when went the routes of looking for investors, they bring a different type of challenge or thought process to looking at a company. And I think for us having every single angle covered, it was very valuable. I can’t think of having to sacrifice any one of the three of talking to customers, talking to other SaaS founders, and then talking to investors. I would hate to pull any one of them out. So it all really comes down to asking for help. And some of these investors have been really cool where they’re saying if you ever just want to pick up the phone or just schedule a call, I’m here. 

33:33 – John Wright
It’s like I’m not charging, I’m not asking for equity. There’s a lot of people out there that they genuinely want to help and I think they’re smart about it because they know that, hey, if you wanted to pick them as an investor, they’ve won you over. And those are people that are respect. 

33:48 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. And I think one advice I got from another sales founder is indeed, even if when you’re bootstrapping like ourselves, keep talking to investors. Even though you might not want to raise because the exact reason what you mentioned, as in they will give you new ideas. Like they will challenge you with the questions they have. They will make sure you’re going to be on top of it, even though you probably don’t need their money yet or don’t want to get an investment. Keep talking to them, as you mentioned. 

34:15 – John Wright

Final thoughts

34:16 – Joran Hofman
Nice. And regarding knowing your numbers, you mentioned fundapout. There’s profit well as well. Both have free metrics you can use. So if you just connect your tools, you can just getting to know your numbers in a free way. And of course they have a freemium model where at one point you can start paying them or you can do revenue based financing with founder part. But it’s really nice where you can just get those free metrics in there quickly. I guess my final question, do you have any final thoughts you want to share with other B2B’s House founders? 

34:46 – John Wright
I’m just going to summarize it what I said. A couple of times and I knew I was going to say it again, is just ask for help. I think a lot of people, as business owners, never really do that, and when you do, it opens up doors. Ask your customers for help. A lot of them, once they’re using your software, they want you to win as well. They’re happy to ask that from other people that work in other industries going, hey, if you know of anyone, or simply put, if you’re willing to be vulnerable in show your marketing plan, say, hey, do you want to rip this up and critique it? Like I said, when I did that with my SEO plan, I had a lot of really good SEO friends and they were happy to give a lot of feedback. I’ve learned a lot over the last two years, but now that I sit where I am today, there’s definitely a couple more areas I would have asked for help and that would have actually come from customers. 

35:31 – John Wright
From day one. The more we talk to them, customers, they tell you everything. If they like your product, they just basically blur it out. They give you their exact roadmap. If you’re not talking to customers, you’re making the most critical mistake in your business. That’s a fact. 

35:45 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, because in the end, we want to drive value for them, so we need to keep talking to them. I think this is a nice closure. If people want to get in contact with you, where can they do so and how? 

35:57 – John Wright
Yeah, my email is John at Stats drone.com and I happen to have a fairly common name, so if you search for John Wright, you’re going to find thousands of me, including there’s at least one John Wright in the Igaming industry and another person I didn’t think I’d run into that. LinkedIn is probably one of the best spots. Just search for John stats Drone. You’ll find me there. 

36:19 – Joran Hofman
Nice. We’re definitely going to add all the relevant links in the comments as well so people can click those. Thanks again for coming onto the show and sharing your knowledge today, John. 

36:28 – John Wright
Thanks for having me. I always enjoy these chats. 

36:31 – Joran Hofman
Cheers. Bye. 

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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