How to create and make money on SaaS (Part 3 / sales through an affiliate channel, which may not be needed)


Where to go and how are others?

I’ll start on the forefront - whether or not to sell SaaS through partners is a difficult question. On the one hand, SaaS is diverse in itself - from systemic to applied, solving business problems, and the pool of potential partners for their sales is very wide - from cloud providers to business consultants (business lines, subject area). On the other hand, there is the illusory nature of the independent life of a service on the Internet, in which there is no place for intermediaries.
The complexity of the partnership issue is fueled by the policies of leading vendors, which are usually oriented. Lately, leaders have taken different positions with partners - Microsoft is building its cloud services - O365,, moving to direct sales, and Google, on the contrary, is “courting” Russian integrators.

In general, the decision to work through an affiliate channel depends on many factors - the niche of the solution, its cost, the mass of potential partners in the market, the strategies of competitors, and the will of the company's management. To reduce uncertainty and make the right decisions on the issue, I propose to analyze the theory, find out the opinion of experts and look at the practices.

Theory and Hypotheses

It is believed that it is more convenient to place a SaaS service in your cloud and start actively promoting it offline and on the Internet. Consequence - the service will begin to sell itself and everyone is happy. An affiliate channel on the web is not needed - we sell on the Internet.

Practice - expert opinions

Mikhail Tokovinin , CEO amoCRM : it does not work!
“It is very unlikely to fly, let’s say so. Affiliate programs work well if they create additional value or offer a more comprehensive product. These are either consultant-implementers, or integration of services with each other. Such banal resellers, even with very precise positioning, give poor results (how many have already been, all one). ”

Mikhail Kozlov , market expert * aaS: it works!
“In principle, my opinion is known. If the average customer check is less than several tens of thousands of dollars per year, then the direct sales model will not allow you to scale the business to serious volumes (tens and hundreds of millions). Those. without partners and channels - nowhere. Selling b2b HaaS in terms of delivering value to a customer is almost no different from selling traditional corporate IT. But it is very different from the sale of voice subscription services (therefore, I do not believe in the sale of clouds through opsos). Those. For the most part, this is not boxmoving, but presale, selling solutions, integration, software, consulting.

Askar Rakhimberdiev , CEO MoySklad : this is not yet clear!
“The traditional SaaS partnership model is not working well. Why do users choose clouds in general? Three reasons: online, simplicity, cost reduction. Online allows the developer to independently sell their product globally, without reference to the region - the value of local partners is reduced. Cloud services are simpler - this means that the need for training and implementation (this is usually done by partners) is reduced. Cloud services are cheaper - it means that if you share the revenue between the partner and the developer, it might not be enough for two. ” 

Does this mean that partnership in SaaS will never work? No, but some new model will be successful.

Alexey Aylarov SEO Zingaya : it works with a scratch!
“Significant problems of the SaaS affiliate program are related, in my opinion, to the fact that the products are quite cheap, and therefore it’s difficult to give a lot of money to the channel. Because of this, the channel is not too interesting, especially since when reselling SaaS you need to strain. Of the more or less successful affiliate programs, I can only recall Salesforce, but there’s not even SaaS, but the whole platform with a bunch of customers, so it looks and works differently there. "

The opinions of experts are confirmed by the fact that we must carefully weigh the pros and cons when choosing an affiliate strategy and building an affiliate channel.

Discussion Affiliate one startup

Practice Quickme - The Reasons We Work With Partners

In our practice, we decided to build an affiliate channel and this is why:

- Quickme is so far a more infrastructure solution (Business Mail and File Storage) or BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) and “closes” the communication needs of users. On the market, there are enough companies that are providers of such services - that is, the number of potential partners is enough to find like-minded people among them who believe in the product. In particular, we observed a clear increase in the number of cloud providers.
- It is possible to bet on classic hosting providers. Interestingly, the leading free email services in Russia occupy far from the lion's share of the mail market for domains(statistics before starting Business mail from As a result, you can go to the second third tier of such companies and discuss a partnership with them.
- Quickme startup and we have small budgets for promotion, which is corny not enough to quickly create a recognizable local brand and attract partners cheaper.
- We have developed contacts with system integrators from the TOP-10, with which you can enter the market of large companies and government agencies.
- We see the development of technology platforms for cloud providers who are “able” to integrate and sell SaaS, for example from Parallels. Jelastic, ISP and we see in them a way to "reach out" to leading providers.
- The product is simple and you do not need to attract the resources of the partner’s sales department for its sales.

For ourselves, we understood that partners are an additional value for us and have received:
- Client base of partners
- Providing the best SLA and infrastructure.
- Trust in partners from the side of large business.
- Potentially large / expensive project tasks / money.

And we see the disadvantages of working with partners:
- Resource efforts to create an affiliate network are significant, but they are predictable (20% of partners work in the absence of their incentives).
- The results are unpredictable - very few independent company management tools.
- In the context of a startup, few people want to deal with an unknown brand and a new product - trust in it is simply not formed.
- The cost of SaaS services is small and not always ARPU from the client will suit the partner. In our case, this is 100 rubles per mailbox or 250 rubles for all services.

That is, with Quickme, working through an affiliate channel turned out to be profitable - obviously there are more pluses than minuses.

Partnership programs

Affiliate programs are a key direction in building work with an affiliate channel that determines financial conditions of work, competency requirements, levels of participation and ways to support partners.

Theory and Hypotheses

SaaS Partner can be: reseller, consulting (specialist in the subject area of ​​the solution), integrators (in the context of adapting the service to customer requirements). When working with potential partners, I use in my practice - the BCG Matrixprojecting it onto partners. A very curious tool when evaluating potential partners, which helps to understand the effectiveness of working with them. After superficial work with the tool, I will never go with a startup to Softline (a “cash cow”) - I don’t want to be the 5000th solution in their product line and it’s hard to talk with people with a halo. The universality of BCG is that it clearly shows that the partner company must want something - to develop a business, use technology, be interested in developing new directions. An example with whom I like - is an obvious “difficult child” and Business Post will perfectly complement the partner's service pool.


We are developing several vectors of relationships with partners. Quickme resellers are classic, hosting providers, cloud providers, system integrators, virtual integrators, the marketplace of SaaS services (similar to the App Store for SaaS). Incomplete list of partners We give 50 percent of the cost for a license. There was a practice when they paid and 90 - invested in the channel that “shot”. Technology partners- Parallels, ISP, talking with Jelastic Bitrix 24 Market Place and Zingaya. This category, or allows you to integrate with resellers, or complements / implements / improves the functionality of the application. In fact, we are successfully moving through the technology partnership to the first category of partners. Infrastructure partners can also be included in the category of second ones - this is the case when someone's SLA is better than yours. From the point of view of observing the canons of SaaS, we are in favor of creating installations on the partner side (SaaS practice is one multi-tenant version of the product) - as a result, support rises in price, but we get much more. Partners "from the subject area" (consultants, consulting specialists) - no (due to the lack of a subject area of ​​business automation), partners represented by public organizations for SMEs (OPORA) - no - we do not believe it.

Economics of working with partners (anything for money)

Theory and Hypotheses

The economics of work is the money of the company and I could not ignore this important issue. The key points that you should pay when forming a pricing policy in working with partners are the price of the license and the discount

1. Cost. The larger the SaaS check, the more comfortable it is to discuss the conditions of work with a partner, provided that the ARPU from your solution is approximately the same with the same indicator from the current customer base. Example - with a check of 100 rubles per license, I can talk with the telco or the host-provider and it will be comfortable for all parties. A strong minus of SaaS - a low average check excludes partner management tools - compensation for marketing activities or additional motivation for sellers.
2. Discount. An important question is what kind of discount is “not a pity” for a partner and why pay it. You pay a partner a
discount for indirect marketing.
-client base of the partner.
loyalty to you.


We give 50% of the cost of a Quickme license to a partner and consider this percentage to be entirely justified. Of the pitfalls, there are free versions in the line and you should not risk it with Freemium - this is not to be sold through partners, unless it is open source or a platform like Salesforce, on which you can earn a partner. The experience of abandoning such a pricing scheme was described in a previous article by colleagues from Copiny. Although, in our case, we run the risk - we are ready to give mailboxes and pricing to file storage to the partners ’side - the first one may lead UPSELL to a collaborative solution, the second one will increase loyalty to partners.

What to do?

We see the great experience of the respected 1C company, which managed to build an affiliate network of 10,000 companies (both operating in the SaaS segment), we see the excellent practice of Salesforce affiliate solutions and my personal opinion - nothing prevents the developers of SaaS services from going along the path of building an affiliate channel and who doubts, write and help. An incomplete pool of our partners is here and we are pleased that the partnership is paying off.

In March 2014, we launched our first Quickme Sfera 2014 affiliate program and are confident in its success!

Alexey Kalachnikov - cloud business mail for providers.

Author's blog

Materials of the series "How to create and make money on SaaS"

Also popular now: