Creating an affiliate campaign can be a powerful marketing strategy to accelerate the growth of a SaaS business. However, many companies don’t implement it right, which is why they find very little success.
Instead of treating this as just another marketing tactic, you can look at it as an extension of your overall Customer Success strategy.
What does Customer Success have to do with Affiliate Marketing? Think about it this way: your best customers also become your best marketers. When they’re happy with your product, they want to recommend you to everyone they know.
And since brand loyalty is a direct result of Customer Success, it makes the perfect start for your Affiliate Marketing Program. It only takes a bit of work to turn your loyal customers into affiliate marketers. Here’s how to create a Customer Success Affiliate Campaign:
Gathering the Data You Need for Your Affiliate Campaign
The first thing you need to do is to identify your most successful customers. These are the customers who get the most value out of your product, so they’re more inclined to recommend you to their peers or other industry professionals.
Customer Success Managers can easily identify who these customers are by looking at each account’s Health Score – the higher the score, the higher the chances of success. However, looking at the Customer Health Score only gives us an overview of your relationship with that customer.
Here are more metrics you should consider when selecting your most successful customers:
- Upsell & cross-sell history or potential: when a customer switches to a higher plan, that’s a clear indicator that they’re delighted with the value your product provides;
- Lifetime Value (LTV): closely related to the previous KPI, the higher a customer’s lifetime value is (meaning, the longer they’ve been with you, even if they didn’t upgrade), the higher the chances of them becoming advocates for your product;
- Customer Retention Cost (CRC): this metric outlines the total cost of your Customer Success program and compares it to your total amount of customers, which signals you whether your CS efforts are cost-effective with that customer;
- The number of Customer Support tickets: this may seem like an odd one, but think about it this way: a higher number of support tickets signals friction, so these customers are less likely to recommend you, even if the other metrics indicate they could.
Other significant sources of Customer Success data you can use are:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): this is an obvious metric since it measures precisely how likely a customer is to promote you;
- Customer Satisfaction Score: similar to NPS, but instead of asking your customers how likely they are to recommend you, you ask them how satisfied they are with your product;
- Product usage: both NPS and customer satisfaction scores should always be paired with product usage. That’s because neither of them paints the whole picture. Two customers can be equally satisfied with your product, but if one of them gets significantly more use out of it, they’re more likely to stick around for longer (and therefore recommend you to more people).
Last but not least, you should look at your CRM data and identify who the stakeholders and the influencers are in the sales process. These are the people who you’ll want to engage through your affiliate campaign because they are the ones who make the sale/conversion happen.
For best results, you can match your top customers with the channels they’re coming from, like Carsten Schaefer from Trust does:
“Our customer data is crucial for our affiliate campaign. The most important part is the acquisition channel because we need to know where our top customers are coming from. For example, right now, it’s from organic search, so we try our best to provide better content for our affiliate marketers. Basically, the success of your Affiliate Marketing campaigns depends on many factors, but primarily it’s the materials you give to your affiliate partners. In our case, we publish high-quality content that our affiliate partners can use to promote us, and it works really well.”
Providing top-quality content that partners can use is another affiliate effort that’s supported by Customer Success data. For example, we try to create guides and articles on the topics our customers are most interested in.
Make sure you also analyze the quality of your affiliates. For one-off purchases, this might not be important. But since SaaS businesses operate on subscriptions, the quality of the referees is crucial (here’s where analyzing Lifetime Value and Customer Retention Cost help):
“We use customer data to make sure we’re getting an ROI on our affiliate program. On a surface level, affiliate programs seem like a no-brainer because you pay for performance. In other words, you only pay a commission if your affiliate partner drives a sale. However, this isn’t always the case for software companies since they operate on a subscription model rather than a one-off purchase. Not every affiliate partner is worth investing in. For example, if they send low-quality leads that quickly churn, then it may not be profitable. We track customer data such as monthly churn rate and lifetime value (LTV). This information lets us know which partners are sending qualified prospects who are a good fit for our product. It also ensures we structure our affiliate commissions so that we strike the right balance between offering an appealing incentive while making sure our program generates an ROI” – Ian Kerins, Marketing Director of Scraper API.
How You Can Use Customer Success Data In Your Affiliate Campaign
Now that you know which Customer Success metrics to track to identify your top customers who are most likely to promote your product, it’s time to make sense of all the data you gather.
Determine The Common Elements Among Successful Customers
As Carsten mentions, identifying where your most successful customers come from, as well as what makes them successful, will give you a direction for the assets you’ll need to prepare for your affiliate campaign.
In Trust’s case, because most of their successful customers come from organic search, the next thing to do would be to identify the pain points that attract those customers to their website and use them as USPs in their affiliate marketing campaign.
For example, one of the main pain points we’ve heard about during onboarding is customer churn – so we spent months creating an exhaustive guide to churn. Such a guide is now suitable for both internal discussions with customers and many of our marketing efforts, including affiliate campaigns.
Next should be identifying which set of actions makes these customers successful and ensuring that all the new customers who come through referrals follow the same exact steps (and hence achieve the status of a successful customer).
Create Custom Landing Pages
Ideally, you should segment the customers that come to your website through referrals according to their niche or the affiliate who sent them. The more a landing page connects with the user, the more likely it is to convert.
Personalization goes beyond getting content in front of the customer – it’s about leveraging the insights you’ve extracted from your current customer base and creating a highly relevant experience for your leads.
From the previous step, you now know their pain points and can customize landing pages according to that or any other relevant Customer Success data.
Highlight Specific Use Cases
As each customer and industry are unique, so are their pain points and challenges, and, therefore, they’ll use your product in different ways. Identifying the most common use cases will help you create more relevant assets your affiliates can use to promote your product (you can also highlight these use cases in your landing pages).
Promote Your Most Successful Customers
If they agree, you can create case studies together with your most successful customers where you highlight the results they’ve achieved by using your product.
Even better, if you manage to turn these customers into affiliates, they’ll be more engaged in promoting your product because they’ll showcase their own experience with your product. (of course, you can link these case studies in your landing pages too).
The process of gathering data and using it is not scalable if it’s done manually, so this is where Customer Success tools can help.
At this point, your Customer Success strategy and Affiliate Marketing program are closely intertwined. As you would with any new customers, you can set up a specific customer journey (using an email drip campaign) for the customers you get through referrals.
Using data science to enrich your Customer Success efforts is an evolving trend. Marketers know automation is a strength. It’s time for customer-facing teams (support, service, success, account) to integrate automation based on data science to constantly update materials and landing pages, create predictive models of churn, and drive more affiliate leads.
Benefits of Using CS Data in Affiliate Campaigns
Now, I’m aware that gathering and making use of all this data in your affiliate marketing campaign takes a lot of time and effort, so the benefits must be worth it to justify this.
I think they are! Here’s what you gain by using Customer Success data in your affiliate marketing campaigns:
- You ground your affiliate campaign in reality: investing time in thoroughly analyzing your customer base will bring positive results for your Customer Success efforts and affiliate program. You know exactly who your most successful customers are, where they come from, why they came to you, what makes them successful, how and where you can find more customers like them, and what you need to do to attract them;
- You adequately identify customer pain points: again, this is beneficial for both your Customer Success and marketing efforts. For CS managers, this is useful because it helps identify potentially at-risk customers and start the process of converting them into successful customers. For your affiliate program, you get a direction for how to position it, what you should be offering, and what your USP should be.
- You correctly segment customers based on CS data: segmentation allows for personalization, which helps you address specific customer pain points more closely, which, in turn, brings in better results. The problem is that segmentation is one of those methods that seem easy and straightforward but can be challenging to nail down because you need to identify the precise criteria to segment and address your customers. But Customer Success metrics help highlight how you should segment your customer base.
- You use your customers’ success to bring in new ones: many factors influence whether your affiliate program is a hit or miss, and most often, marketers make guesses on what strategies could work and which not. But if you use your customer data, you don’t have to guess anymore – you know precisely what it takes for a customer to become successful so that you can design your affiliate marketing program accordingly.
Kickstart Your Affiliate Campaign – Use Customer Success Data!
Using data to drive decisions is, by no means, a new concept. Still, there are very few SaaS businesses out there who use their Customer Success data specifically when designing their Affiliate Marketing Program, which can give you a significant head start for your future affiliate efforts.
I hope this article has shed some light on why this strategy is relevant and how you can implement it. Are you ready to give it a try?