S3E17 – How to setup affiliate marketing for B2B SaaS with Dustin Howes

How to setup affiliate marketing for B2B SaaS

Do you already have an affiliate marketing program set up for your B2B SaaS? If not, Are you considering setting up an affiliate marketing program for your B2B SaaS but unsure where to start? Fear not! In this episode of the Grow Your B2B SaaS Podcast, hosted by Joran Hofman, we delve deep into the world of affiliate marketing. Our guest expert, Dustin Howes, brings over 13 years of experience in affiliate marketing, having worked with renowned companies in the industry. With his extensive expertise, including hosting the Affiliate Nerd Out podcast and creating his own affiliate marketing masterclass, Dustin is the go-to resource for discussing effective affiliate marketing strategies.

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Dustin explains affiliate marketing as a process where a brand collaborates with websites that have relevant traffic. When visitors from these sites make purchases on the brand’s website, a commission is paid to the referring site, forming the foundation of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing for B2B SaaS

Dustin highlights the differences in affiliate marketing for B2B SaaS compared to e-commerce, emphasizing the potential for recurring commissions in the B2B space. He stresses the importance of having a well-converting website before starting an affiliate program.

Minimum Requirements for Setting up an Affiliate Program

Dustin recommends having a minimum recurring revenue threshold of $10,000 for B2B SaaS companies before starting an affiliate program. He emphasizes the need for a solid conversion rate and existing traffic to ensure the program’s success.

The Common Misconceptions about Affiliate Marketing

One of the biggest misconceptions in affiliate marketing, according to Dustin, is the belief that simply creating an affiliate program will attract partners. He underscores the importance of thorough preparation, competitive analysis, and attracting the right partners to ensure program success.

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing For B2B SaaS

Dustin outlines the benefits of setting up an affiliate program for B2B SaaS companies, including pay-as-you-go marketing, recurring revenue opportunities, and the potential to leverage a vast network of affiliates as virtual sales representatives. Check the top affiliate marketplaces for B2B SaaS in 2024

Common Mistakes in Setting Up and Managing an Affiliate Program

One common mistake highlighted by Dustin is underestimating the partner workflow during onboarding. He stresses the importance of nurturing relationships with affiliates, providing support, and motivating them to drive traffic and sales effectively.

Discover ways of managing your affiliates

Best Practices for Onboarding Affiliates

Dustin shares his approach to onboarding affiliates, including implementing a structured email campaign to guide new partners through the process, provide resources, and offer incentives to encourage active participation.

How to Boost Affiliate Success through Engagement and Motivation 

Building relationships with affiliates and offering incentives like bonuses for timely actions can significantly impact their engagement and performance within the affiliate program, as highlighted by Dustin.

Importance of Partner Personas

Creating detailed partner personas and prioritizing potential affiliates based on relevance and reach can enhance the effectiveness of affiliate marketing outreach campaigns, as discussed by Dustin.

How to Recruit Affiliate Partners 

Dustin emphasizes the importance of differentiating between high-priority affiliate partners and using personalized outreach to engage with them effectively, along with maintaining a consistent communication strategy.

B2B SaaS Scaling Strategies

As companies grow towards 10 million ARR, Dustin recommends leveraging long-term SEO strategies, collaborating with high-ranking publishers, and showcasing successful case studies to attract top affiliates and maximize program impact.

Advice for SaaS Founders

Dustin advises SaaS founders to focus on leveraging their network, exploring free advertising opportunities, and considering angel investments to accelerate growth and marketing efforts, especially in the early stages of building a SaaS company.

The Importance of AI in Marketing

Reflecting on the past, Dustin expresses a wish to have been more proactive in understanding and adapting to the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, recognizing its transformative potential in various industries. Check Shay Howe’s advice for integrating marketing automation into your SaaS

Key Timecodes

(00:36)Show and guest intro

(1:17)Why listen to Dustin

(2:14) What is Affiliate Marketing

(3:12) Minimum Requirements for Starting an Affiliate Program

(4:52) Misconceptions About Affiliate Marketing

(6:57) Benefits of Setting Up an Affiliate Program for B2B SaaS Companies

(9:32) Common Mistakes in Setting Up and Managing an Affiliate Program

(11:55) How the perfect Onboarding of Affiliates should look like

(14:09) Why it’s important to write content for your affiliates

(18:02) Dustin’s Ideal process for setting up an affiliate program

(20:47) The Importance of Patience in Growing an Affiliate Program

25:09 Can your Existing Clients be your Affiliates?

(25:43)  Best Practices for Onboarding Affiliates

(27:49) Influencers vs. Established Publishers: Which Content Strategy Reigns Supreme?

(29:24) Challenges in Affiliate Marketing Outreach

(31:57) Advice for Growing a SaaS to 10K MRR

(33:13) Advice for Growing a SaaS to 10M ARR

(35:13) Advice for SaaS Founders

(37:02) The One thing Dustin wishes he knew 10 years ago

(37:06) The Importance of AI in Marketing


[00:00:00.000] – Show Intro

Welcome to the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast. In this podcast, we cover all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS, no matter in which stage you’re in. I’m Joran Hofman, the host of this show and the founder of Reditus, which is a B2B SaaS that helps other B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. Being a founder myself means I’m going to the exact same journey as you are, experiencing the exact same issues, and probably have the exact same questions. And this is why I started the podcast in the first place. Get advice from industry experts on how to grow my B2B SaaS. So if you like this content, make sure to subscribe, follow, give it a thumbs up. Let’s just dive in.

[00:00:37.490] – Guest Intro

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to set up affiliate marketing for your B2B SaaS. My guest is Dustin Howes. Dustin has been an He’s been in affiliate marketing for over 13 years at companies like Commission Junction, Impact, WP Engin, Grovia, and Volution. Currently, he’s running a podcast called Affiliate Nerd Out. He’s an affiliate marketing consultant, has created his own affiliate marketing masterclass and he recently joined FI Stash, which is an affiliate recruitment tool as a CMO and co founder.

[00:01:05.520] – Joran

Fun fact, they are using Reditus as their affiliate management platform. I cannot think of a better person than Dustin to actually talk about affiliate marketing. So welcome to the show, Dustin.

[00:01:14.660] – Dustin

There Thanks for having me, man. Good to be here.

[00:01:16.940] – Joran

No worries. I’m going to ask always a really Dutch blunt question. Why should people listen to you today?

[00:01:23.230] – Dustin

My experience in affiliate is widespread. I’ve been on the publisher side, the advertiser side, the agency side, the network side. And now I have a continual drive to increase my education in this field with interviewing some of the best minds in this industry. And I’m up to 80 episodes at this point on Affiliate Nerd Out, and I’ve just conglomerated a ton of best kept secrets and industry best practices. And it showcases in the episodes that I tune out these days. It’s been a long road of developing this skillset, but I’m continuing to learn and love sharing my knowledge with the world here.

[00:02:10.740] – Joran

Love it. We’re going to start with the real basics. I guess for people, There are a lot of people out there who don’t know affiliate marketing, how would you explain affiliate marketing to somebody who’s completely unfamiliar with the topic?

[00:02:21.430] – Dustin

I like to say you start off with a brand that has something to sell, and then you have a website that has traffic that matches what that brand is trying to sell. Their traffic comes on over to the brand’s website, goes through the checkout process, and buy something, and then the brand kicks back a commission for that sale. That in itself is the base of affiliate marketing.

[00:02:51.800] – Joran

Then if we pull it all the way to B2B SaaS, because they’re recurring subscriptions to be sold, there’s also going to be recurring commissions to be earned.

[00:03:00.020] – Dustin

Different world than the e-com space. It is vastly different. Luckily, my background is in the B2B space over the last 6, 7, 8 years, focusing on that.

[00:03:12.090] – Joran

If you want to set up an affiliate program, what, in your opinion has to be minimal in place before even thinking about starting an affiliate program?

[00:03:20.710] – Dustin

I always like to make a clarification depending on the type of business it is. If it’s an e-commerce business, I always say your minimum viable level of starting an affiliate program that’s going to be effective is 1 million ARR. But with B2B, it is such a much lower recurring revenue spot. I like to say just 10 MK in recurring revenue is a great starting point. The reason being is SaaS products, B2B space. These products are the websites that usually turn out to be better converted converting because they are involved in the industry of conversions. If your website is converting and you have higher than a 1% conversion rate, affiliate program might just work with this booming industry that you may or may not have a ton of competitors in to go and find the right partners that are willing to partner up with you and send traffic. Those are my staples of standpoints of what do you need to before an affiliate program, make sure your traffic is converting existing so that you don’t burn the relationships with the partners that are sending traffic to you.

[00:04:39.520] – Joran

Exactly, because you can treat them, as you mentioned, like marketing partners, they generate traffic towards your site and you have the responsibility to actually convert that traffic into paid clients because otherwise they won’t get paid. And then, as you mentioned, you’ll burn the relationship. I guess one other basic question maybe, what are some of the misconceptions about affiliate marketing? Because I think everybody maybe Have you heard of affiliate marketing? There’s a lot of misconceptions out there.

[00:05:03.280] – Dustin

The biggest misconception and something I see so many brands try and fail is that you can create an affiliate program and it’s just going to magically turn into partners joining up and promoting your program. That could not be further from the truth. Creating an affiliate program is step one, but creating an affiliate program that affiliates actually want to join is a whole different story. You have to do all the preparation of having a good game plan in place, including doing your competitive analysis and partner personas and recognizing what partners are going to be a good fit and how to attract those partners into the program. These are all full-time jobs. This is a difficult vertical in marketing. You can’t just turn it on like Facebook ads. You have to do a lot of research. You have to do a lot of preparation, and then you have to go out and beat the streets to get the partners that you actually want to join into your program. Then after you get them to join, then you got to motivate them enough to actually get them content live and sales active live It is a long road, and no companies really recognize how hard it can be to grow your affiliate program.

[00:06:22.710] – Joran

Yeah, exactly. I think you touch a really good point, like the ideal partner profile. I don’t know if we can call it IPP, but it all starts with your ICP, the ideal customer profile, what everybody knows. I think one question you always want to ask yourself, who has access to my ICP in bulk? That could be almost like your IPP, where you want to get people who can recommend you towards the audience you’re actually looking for.

[00:06:46.890] – Dustin

I love that. It’s a reverse engineering situation. I love the term IPP. I’ve never used that before, but I’m going to start now. I love that. Nice.

[00:06:55.690] – Joran

If we go against a bit more positive side, why should B2B SaaS companies care about setting up an affiliate program? What are the great benefits of it?

[00:07:03.930] – Dustin

Incredible benefits. First off, it is pay as you go type of marketing campaign. You’re only paying when you actually get paying customers if you set up your affiliate program in the right fashion. And yes, it may be recurring over the lifetime, but with the SaaS model and B2B model, there’s a lot more margins that you’re getting than in the traditional e-commerce space. So you can afford to give away those profit margins in a certain capacity on a long-term value. And that’s going to enhance the affiliate partners that you have, motivate them even further because they’re getting recurring revenue, and you can use it as a bargaining chip, if you will, to get those partners into your program. Probably the biggest benefit of all is that you can have an unlimited amount of sales reps out on the internet beating the streets for you and growing your brand when you might have limited funds or internal folks to actually go and promote your product on a marketing capacity. The reach with affiliate marketing is broader than anything you can really do on any other channels and basically at a free cost to you as a company.

[00:08:22.390] – Joran

To tie back, I guess, what you said at the beginning, it is a full-time job. I could make it indeed sound easy, but if you go back to the beginning, what you said, it will take time and you will need to invest time to actually get it done. It’s almost like SEO, right? You have to spend a lot of time at the beginning, but after that, it can compound over time.

[00:08:38.610] – Dustin

Yes, absolutely. Speaking of SEO, affiliate marketing, a lot of the outreach that you’re doing, you might actually tie it into SEO in some capacity. The folks that are building backlinks for you could possibly be working as your affiliate managers as well. The sites that you’re reaching out to, they might be motivated by money or they might be motivated by a backlink somewhere else and an exchange of backlinks. Everybody has their own certain motivation when it comes to linking on the internet, and you just have to figure it out as you go when you’re reaching out to these folks. But there’s a great opportunity to do both with affiliate and SEO during your outreach campaigns.

[00:09:23.140] – Joran

Yeah, and I guess like a pro tip here, make sure your affiliate management tool actually has SEO friendly links, so it will help you also with the backlinks you’re generating for your affiliate program. If we dive deeper, so let’s say a SaaS company has set up an affiliate program, what are some of the common mistakes companies make? I guess like setting it up, but also managing their program.

[00:09:43.280] – Dustin

People often underestimate the value of the partner workflow when you’re onboarding. Just like any customer that you would put into a nurture campaign and drip campaign to purchase your product, you’re going to want to do the same with your partners because partners either come in naturally via happenstance or trying to join your affiliate program, or you reach out to them and ask them to come and join your program. They’re interested right now, and you need to hone in on that interest immediately. If you let it go, if you don’t reach out with some message to help motivate them to get started with content immediately, they’re going to move on to the next thing. Affiliates have a flightful mind, and they will go on to the next best thing and look for somebody that’s going to give them extra attention, extra backlinks, extra money, some sponsorship, whatever it may be. It is the time to grab onto that affiliate that has potential and do not let them go until we have some live content because this is the best time to react to that right now. A lot of companies fail with this understanding. They have a set it and forget it program, and maybe they have one email that goes out after they get accepted to the affiliate program, but that’s never going to be enough.

[00:11:08.790] – Dustin

You’re going to have to have some really highly motivated affiliate partner that takes just joining the program and does their thing without some phone call or follow-up emails or some piece of content that you hand-select for them or create for them to get started. It’s just not going to happen in most cases. Companies just never learn this lesson, unfortunately.

[00:11:37.110] – Joran

Yeah, so don’t do one email, follow up with them, even provide them the content. What I typically say to my clients is, think about how can you help your affiliates to make money. What do you want them to do? What do they actually need to do that? If you want them to start writing blogs, provide them the blog, for example, as you mentioned, how does the perfect onboarding look like? Multiple emails, not Every affiliate probably wants to jump on that call. What would you do if you want to have a semi-automated process?

[00:12:05.710] – Dustin

What I do for most of my programs is once I get on a platform like Red Toss, and you set up an API between the affiliate platform and your CRM. If you’re going to use the internal CRM, even better. But you need something that you can automate your messaging to them in some fashion. I usually bring them into my HubSpot, and I do a five-email campaign immediately after they join. So the first email is like, Hey, great. Thanks for joining up. Here’s your affiliate link. That first email has to have their affiliate link so they can get started immediately if you can. Day two, I send another email as, Hey, here are some of our assets. Here are our resources that you can use to build your own campaign. And let me know if you need anything else. Email number three the next day is, Here’s my phone call link. If you would like to set up a 15-minute call with me, I will help you get started and get you all the assets that you need. Then email four is about the brand, more about the brand, like your story as a company so that they get invested with you.

[00:13:15.600] – Dustin

Then email five is, What else can I do? What can we do to get started? If they haven’t gotten started yet, maybe this is the opportunity to send out a bonus opportunity. I’ll give you $100 if you get something live in the next month. Let’s get them motivated in some essence with that fifth email. Then if we don’t hear from them, if we send all of those, but potential in that partner, we’re still going to do another outreach individually directly from your email that says, Hey, if I create a blog post for you that is fully optimized for Google to rank, would you be able to put this link live with your affiliate links and see what response you get from that? Because I get really good responses from that and then have our internal content team make that happen for that partner.

[00:14:06.230] – Joran

I think it sounds so simple, but I think a lot of SaaS brands think, Hey, do you feel it’s going to join our program? Why do they write the content or they’re earning money while referring us, right? Why do they invest the time into it? Why would you even write the content for them? What’s the thought behind that?

[00:14:24.430] – Dustin

The thought is, I’m only doing this for certain websites that are going to have really good rankings on Google for the keywords that we want to get in. Our mission here is looking for domain authorities over 50 that have high potential. And the higher it is, the more potential they are. And then you’re looking at their existing articles and where we can put the affiliate link of your brand in those existing articles. So when you hand-select or create a piece of content for them, you can say, Hey, here are a list of other sites where we could be a really good fit for either a native campaign, a native ad spot, or just a hyperlink to a keyword that is going to be a good fit, or to the brand itself in hyperlinking. There’s just more opportunities on their website that they’re missing that you can figure out. But the key to all of this is getting your foot in the door and giving them something specifically like a blog post immediately so that you can get on their good side so that they want to do these things for you.

[00:15:36.810] – Joran

Exactly. It’s almost when you think about your SaaS, like time to value. Value for an affiliate is basically earning money, earning commission, so they need to generate a paid client for your SaaS. How do they do it? By putting an affiliate link out there. The more you help them to get to value, the more they’re willing to do for you as well. I think you mentioned it really well with the domain authority. You have your IPP defined, right? You You have found an affiliate who has access to the traffic you’re looking for. They match the domain authority you’re looking for. They reg on the keywords you’re looking for. Then from there, it’s really easy to spend that time to get them up and running quickly.

[00:16:13.230] – Dustin

A hundred %. Like I said, the higher the domain authority usually equals the higher the potential. Now, that doesn’t equate exactly the same because there might be a really good YouTube following or Instagram following that might curate that reach of that affiliate partner. And maybe the website domain doesn’t necessarily focus on the keywords that you want to rank for, but there are some articles that they have within their publication that are very relevant. So it doesn’t equate exactly, but it is a very good starting point for recognizing potential. And there are other influencer campaigns that I’ve run, and you’re simply looking for the engagement level of those creators with their audience. And that could be a very good deciding factor as well, because if somebody has 5,000 followers, that might not look good on paper. But if their engagement rate is 30 % 100%, that is a really good indicator that those folks that are listening to that creator could be very engaged and interested in trying out a tool like yours that they’re promoting. Exactly.

[00:17:28.360] – Joran

It’s not all about the numbers. Because I guess the higher the deal sizes of your SaaS, sometimes the lower numbers you actually need to get a decent amount of clients in.

[00:17:37.940] – Commercial Break

This podcast episode is sponsored by Reditus. Reditus helps B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. In short, it means you’re asking other people, affiliates, to promote your SaaS. You would only pay the affiliates a kickback fee when they deliver you paid clients, making it a very cost-effective and scalable way to grow your MRR. See more at getreditus.com

[00:18:01.970] – Joran

If you would be able to set up an affiliate program completely from scratch or assuming that the SaaS company has fit the criteria to set one up, what would be your process? How would you approach setting up an affiliate program?

[00:18:14.870] – Dustin

My process starts with a SWOT analysis. My first step with every program that I come across, with every brand that I come across, whether they have an affiliate program established or not, is to do an evaluation of their conversion rate optimization of their site. I will dig in and look at the SEO value that their page has existing, the end users workflow of how are we getting to the sale? I’m evaluating every one of those steps because I want to make sure that your product is actually converting for the end user that is going to be coming to your website from the affiliate partner because we don’t want to burn that traffic or else those affiliates will promote somebody else that has a higher converting website. That evaluation takes a few hours to audit and create a game plan, and then I hand wrap this and give it to the clients for them to go do internal work. They need to be fixing a few of their things while I’m in the kitchen baking up this new cake of an affiliate program. I absolutely love your product in terms of getting started with affiliate quickly, and you can dip your toes in it on a free basis.

[00:19:42.300] – Dustin

 You coming in with the product at a very low price point gives the brands out there an opportunity to try affiliate marketing on their own before really jumping into it and seeing what it has. But in all reality, brands give up way too quickly with affiliate marketing, because if I start today, if I build you the perfect program, it’s going to take me a month to build all the assets and then integrate this properly so that the clicks, the sales, and everything is tracking properly for our affiliates before we start getting them in. Then I’m recruiting the affiliates, and I’m scraping the contact information to get a hold of them. I’m coming up with messages to get a hold of them. It’s all a long process. And by month three, we’re finally seeing sales trick at Lynn. And by month six, now we’re really making progress. So I see a lot of companies getting up way too quickly in month one and month two and not investing enough time and effort and energy into the program before it even gets started. I always preach, be patient, and follow and trust your guidance of your expert that is doing this, and just believe in the process, and you’re going to see results and a return on investment by about month 4 or five.

[00:21:03.480] – Joran

I like that you do the SWOT analysis at the beginning where you really dive into the current situation, current numbers. Is it converting? As you mentioned, you don’t want to burn traffic. That’s really important. You can ask somebody else to refer you drive traffic towards the site. If it’s not converting, then it doesn’t make any sense. And regarding the other thing you said, setting up the free program, month 3 for sales makes complete sense as well. If you’re listening, think about your sales cycle, like how long your sales cycle? And think about it as somebody has to create content, put the content live, drive traffic towards your site, and then your normal sales cycle comes into play. Somebody visiting your site, signing up, they’re actually going through your 14-day, 30-day free trial. How can you expect the first sale to happen in the first month if you still have those things in place? Keep that in mind, like your current numbers before even setting expectations towards your affiliate program.

[00:21:57.310] – Dustin

This is something that it doesn’t matter how many I explain this to clients, inevitably by month two, I’m always going to hear, It’s not working. Why isn’t it working? Why aren’t we getting sales? It doesn’t matter how many times I tell the brands, This is a process, and you can’t just turn it on like a faucet. It doesn’t work like that. Hopefully, they get it. The best clients that I’ve ever had understand this, have been through it before, and have seen a launch of an affiliate program go to fruition and how incredible it can be two years down the line, because what you’re doing today is starting small. You launch a program today, and your goal is to get 10 new affiliates in the program for your first month. That’s it. That’s all you want. You want to start small and then start growing it out. If you keep getting 10 good affiliates every single month, by the time you get to year two, now you You have 250 affiliates that are in your program all driving traffic to you. The only thing you have to do at that point is manage all of those relationship of the good partners and try to increase.

[00:23:14.510] – Dustin

The job of the affiliate manager is never done. You can always do more recruiting, but if you’ve got 250 ClickActive, SalesActive affiliate partners in your program, you’re doing something really good. Just having small goals, especially early on, and listening to your affiliate partners that are actually worthy of your time is super important. So don’t try to rush these things and expect miracles to happen immediately because it’s just not going to be there. But if you give it the time, nurture it two years time, it’s going to be 20% of your revenue. It’s going to be if you give it the love that it deserves.

[00:24:00.280] – Joran

Yeah, and as you mentioned, there’s no hacks, no magic tricks. I guess the only magic trick or hack I can give, as in the bigger your current client base, the bigger your current network, the more established the foundation is, the easier it is to set up a program. We did have one client where they generated over 30K in the first three months, total sold via affiliates, but that is because they already had so many clients recommending them. The only thing they needed to do is to actually start measuring it and giving them affiliate links. But that’s a bit of an outlier, where they might have been a bit late implementing an affiliate program where normally people start a bit too early.

[00:24:39.120] – Dustin

Very true. That’s a really good sign that an affiliate program will work. If you have super fans that are promoting your product, that’s a really good sign. Let’s get them in the program. Let’s get them motivated to continue to be super fans and to promote that even further on their existing channels.

[00:24:58.180] – Joran

You might even call it affiliate marketing fit. If you have people who are willing to recommend you, then you already have at least some fit, a way that it’s going to drive traffic, right?

[00:25:07.760] – Dustin

I wanted to take a note here is customers may not be the best affiliates. They might not know how to be an affiliate, but their message to the audience could be very valuable at the same time. That material could be great for your own internal marketing, more so than your affiliate marketing campaign. Be on the lookout for the folks that have first-hand recognition of your product. They can make incredible affiliates in different kinds of ways that you might be missing out on right now.

[00:25:42.610] – Joran

Makes sense. Any other best practices you can share to set up an affiliate program?

[00:25:47.770] – Dustin

I would say getting started with your partner personas is one of the first steps that I like to take. Take your ICP, whatever your ideal client is, and you think about where does this client hang out on the internet? Then you create that partner persona like, Hey, here’s a website that would be a really good fit. This is a content blog that is specialized in our vertical. This is a perfect partner to hang out with. How do we get a hold of them? First of all, what’s their motivation? Think about what is going to motivate them to create the content from your product over somebody else’s. Then who are the people that company that you need to get a hold of. Are they affiliate managers? Is this a CEO? If it’s a smaller business, go after the owners rather than looking for a generic email address. Going after initial people rather than generic emails is going to get you a higher response rate on the emails and the DMs that you’re going and reaching out to these partners. So what is their motivation? Who are you going after? And then what would be a good fit for a collaboration between the two of you?

[00:27:03.820] – Dustin

Are there any incentives that you can provide them immediately to get on their good side? And so think through what’s going to motivate them more than anything. And then after you make those partner personas, I like to create three of them and then list each one in the order of importance. If that is blog content number one, so be it. If that’s an influencer in a very specific niche, so be it. Prioritize, then start building a list of websites and influencer profiles that you can reach out to and scrape the contact information and start writing the catered message for those that are going to get responses to you in the future.

[00:27:49.530] – Joran

I think it’s a really good strategy because if you have the different personas based on the importance, you can also figure out who is able to drive that quickest traffic towards ourselves. Where an influencer, it’s a bit easier, right? They only have to write posts or they have to create a video where if you’re going after bigger publishers who have to write content, it might take a bit longer. Is that something you would rate in the importance level as well?

[00:28:11.320] – Dustin

I would say so. If you’re looking for a media at once, I would say investing in upfront sponsorships with micro influencers would be a very good way to test this market and see if the audiences of those influencers is a good fit. So even a small investor If you find a microinfluencer with 10,000 followers and you give them a couple of hundred dollars for just one video to throw out to your audience, maybe one hit comes from it. Maybe you get a sale, maybe you get 10 sales accidentally. You really don’t know until you really test it out there. But influencer marketing is going to move so much faster than affiliate marketing and traditional publications that are going to take time to rank. Unless they’re actually an affiliate that works on paid ad campaigns and can optimize paid ad campaigns and send traffic in a paid ad format where they’re investing a little bit to make a lot of it in the future, then they’re going to be some time. They’re going to take a little bit longer than an influencer that can get a result pretty quickly if you give them the right message.

[00:29:23.830] – Joran

Makes sense. I think you dive into also a common challenge or a common obstacle, paid ads. Some affiliates run paid ads where not all brands allow it. I think this is one of the most common challenges brands face. Are there any other challenges while setting up an affiliate program which people might run into?

[00:29:43.270] – Dustin

Response rate is always everybody’s biggest challenge. If you’re not very in tuned with the failure rates of affiliate marketing outreach campaigns from an affiliate manager standpoint, if I get a 10% response rate from the emails that I’m reaching out to, that’s a success. If I’m getting a 20% response rate, which I do for many of my clients after a couple of months of testing the emails that I’m sending out, then we’re really cooking with gas. A lot of folks will not understand why they’re not getting a good response rate, but 10% should be the benchmark that you’re going after. I would also include create three different lists. My first list that I create is 25 hit list that I will never stop trying to recruit. These are difference makers that can be monsters in our program, and I’m going to continue through the year to try to get them convinced into coming and promoting our brand. Never going to stop until they give me a hard no, or they join and we get to business. That second list is another couple of hundreds. It would be really good to have partners. We’re going to give this almost the same love, but just tone it down a little bit.

[00:31:03.600] – Dustin

If they come in, great. If they don’t, we’ll come back to them in a couple of months. Then you have a third list that is a wide net approach where you just put them into a drip campaign and hope for the best. Hope that they come and join your program and you can get started and they can get on your radar once they become sales active. But for the most part, your attention and time span should be spent on those first two lists so that you really focus focus on bringing in a big player, especially early on, to promote your product and get some sales coming through the channel itself.

[00:31:38.900] – Joran

Yeah, it makes sense. Coming back to what you said before, creating your partner with Sona, and then from there, rate them on importance. Create those three lists where you can really hammer down on the ones who are going to potentially drive the biggest value for yourself. Absolutely. Nice. We’re going to dive into the famous four final questions. When we talk about affiliate marketing, if we zoom out a little bit again, what advice would you give somebody who’s just starting out and growing their SaaS to 10K monthly recurring revenue?

[00:32:07.720] – Dustin

My first bit of advice is to recognize who the players are in this industry and what a referral from them would mean to your company. Whatever that looks like in terms of the reach that they have from their existing audience, it’s always going to be very difficult to tell, but you You can’t get on their radar unless you start asking the right questions. I’m going to reach out to big players in the space and see if there’s a fit in any of their content to get us on board with, get them on board with our product. If I find that fit, I’m going to stop at nothing until I get a hard no. People give up on this way too quickly. That’s always my first step. Find the right affiliate partners that are going to be difference makers and build a list of those and start doing the outreach today when you’re just starting out this affiliate program because you’re never going to give up on them.

[00:33:09.920] – Joran

That already means that you’re not going to give up in the next phase because what advice would you give when somebody’s passed 10K Monday, we can review, and they’re now growing towards 10 million ARR.

[00:33:20.700] – Dustin

That next level in this affiliate marketplace is the highest potential you’re going to have are those long-ranking SEO articles. Being that your brand has got some leverage now and has grown to a certain recognizable factor, now you can get those bigger players that you might not have been able to get a hold of in the early phases of your company. So leveraging the fact that other affiliates are having success with your program is a really good step here. And making some case studies that can go along with your outreach campaigns, like when you When you get somebody, when you get a bite, that you can share that success story with some of your other partners. Really good fit for getting them to that next level. But the real secret in all of this is what’s ranking on Google today? And are there any affiliates in that for search for the keywords that you want to rank for? And can we get on those pages that already exist there? Because those are going to be huge difference makers in your affiliate program if you can get onto those sites, what is it going to take to get on those sites?

[00:34:36.030] – Dustin

Because they know the value of their publications, of their listicles, and getting on those lists themselves, it might be a very hard task, but absolutely worth it if you have the tenacity and the wherewithal to talk your way onto those lists.

[00:34:52.600] – Joran

Exactly. I think what you mentioned here, you want to go with our bigger potential publishers who rank well, have existing content, but what you need for that is that brand recognition, as you mentioned, and then the case study. That’s why it is really important to have that foundation really good in order before reaching out to them because you have them something to offer to them as well. If we go outside of purely affiliate marketing, you’re a SaaS founder yourself as well, would you have any more general advice towards other SaaS founders who are now on their journey?

[00:35:24.860] – Dustin

That’s a good question. This is my first journey as a SaaS founder, I’m absolutely loving the challenge, and my marketing background has become very helpful in this process. But I think the biggest mistake that I’ve made, if you will, is not recognizing the lowest hanging fruit first. If you can get free advertising to your product, do it as much as you possibly can. One of the things that I found to be the best is leveraging my own My internal network and LinkedIn network and my podcast and getting my voice out there in so many different ways and including our AppyStash in many of those conversations in a natural component has been essentially helpful for us, but we didn’t have a budget to go spend on marketing. So I had to find free ways to get out there and get our name out there. I think I probably would have gone into finding some angel investment early on if that was a possibility, if that might help a lot with getting some more traction and working the marketing angle in a different way. Something to look into if this is your first time around before investing your own money internally.

[00:36:46.530] – Joran

Yeah, that’s the fun bootstrapping challenge which we go through as well. I guess just to sponsor that a little bit, if you are looking for affiliates, of course, use Reddit as an affiliate management platform, but check out FHash because they can help you to recruit affiliates and get them into your program. Final question, what is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?

[00:37:06.500] – Dustin

I wish I would have known the surgence of AI was coming so fast and furious. Preparing for the introduction of AI five years ago would have been the route I was going. Just learning everything I could beforehand and then sticking with that genre would have been extraordinarily today. But as it is today, I’m learning at a much slower pace because I’m trying to keep up with clients and my own marketing efforts and AI comes in and automates some of those processes. But if I would have been at the forefront of that, I would have loved to be a super knowledge savvy person in this economy right now because it is just going to get better and better by the day.

[00:37:56.640] – Joran

Yeah, it’s almost knowing the baseball score before the match happens right I don’t know you’re a baseball fan. I guess, final question, if you want to get in contact with you, Dustin, how can they do?

[00:38:05.980] – Dustin

Easiest way is dustin@athystash. Com. It’s super simple. I’m very active on LinkedIn. Please go check out some of the content. I go live every Tuesday and Thursday on Affiliate Nerd Out, and I have live interaction with the audience there. If you have any questions about affiliate marketing, I’m happy to answer them live or just hit me up via email.

[00:38:33.530] – Joran

Sounds good. We’re going to link towards your LinkedIn. We’re going to link towards the Affiliate Nerd Out. I’ve been there on as well. It’s going live on Tuesday and Thursday on LinkedIn, so I’ll make sure to link to that. Other than that, we’re going to add a poll to this podcast, so make sure you rate it. Give us a comment, give us a thumbs up so we know what you thought of this. I guess this is the end. Thank you very much for coming on, Dustin.

[00:38:56.240] – Dustin

You got it. Thanks for having me, man. Good to see you. Cheers.

[00:38:59.320] – Show Outro

Thank you for watching this show of the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast. You made it till the end, so I think we can assume you like this content. If you did, give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel. If you like this content, feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor the show, if you have a specific guest in mind, if you have a specific topic you want us to cover, reach out to me on LinkedIn. More than happy to take a look at it. If you want to know more about Reddit, feel free to reach out as well. But for now, have a great day and good luck growing your B2B SaaS.

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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