Network or SaaS: How to choose the best affiliate program management solution for your brand?

saas impact

Last week we had a look at how affiliate programs, influencers and B2B partnerships can help scale your brand by reaching out to a wider audience resulting in better conversion rates. 

We also gave you a sneak peek at those services being provided by one of the biggest players in the market –

You might be pondering on the question – why go for a tech solution provider for the networking you have been doing over the years with the same partners and getting things right.

Think again, has your business stayed the same? Have you been using the same old fax machine, intercom, dial-up internet? I can certainly keep on adding things to that list and I know your answer to each item will be a “NO”, because you know your brand deserves better in 2021, and beyond.

So why exactly should you be choosing Software as a Service (SaaS) instead of traditional affiliate networks as the solution to managing partnerships at scale? 

First of all, and I know this from personal experience – choosing the right partnership management solution for your brand is a big decision.

You must know the differences between the traditional affiliate network systems and SaaS in order to decide what fits best with your goals for your brand.

Here are the things you need to put into perspective whilst comparing SaaS against Network Solutions:

Discovery and recruitment Networks give you access to the typical coupon and deal sites found in affiliate marketing. However, they lack access to diverse partner types such as content, influencer, and B2B. A lack of partner diversity will eventually hinder your program growth.

SaaS solutions allow you to work with partners in the platform’s marketplace and directly with your own partners, hence giving you unlimited reach. Needless to say, though I must – your privacy remains safe.


saas impact

In contrast, with a network, you are limited to in-network partners only. It requires network approval to work with a new partner, which puts the partner on display for competitors to see. 

Partnership management SaaS gives you superior control, as direct partner relationships provide transparency, allow you to freely communicate with partners and make the best decisions for your program.

A network controls the partnership and acts as a middleman between you and your partners.

Network service teams are incentivized to increase your program volume so they can charge higher fees. This often leads them to pursue partnerships that drive little incremental value for your brand.

Technology flexibility  Affiliate networks often have outdated functionality offerings, which impedes your ability to efficiently manage your program and reward partners.

Because some networks are using technology that is considered legacy in this day and age, people need to step in to do many of the activities that the product can’t.

The network services that brands pay for are often actually just the application of manual processes to make up for neglected product development.

In comparison, SaaS platforms have innovative features such as flexible contracting capabilities, giving you total control to reward partners based on the value they provide.

To put it simply, you will be paying for conversions that have already happened, not the ones that are in the pipeline.

Reporting – Networks give you access to standard reporting with a pinch of customizability, and more than often you will have to rely on a network account manager to pull it for you.

Moreover, when you are not able to access your reporting in real time, it limits your control. 

SaaS solutions provide granular customizable reporting that you can access in real time, allowing you to easily demonstrate the value of the channel internally and view full customer journey insights. You get in-depth reporting suites right out of the box, giving you full transparency into your data, just the way you’d want it.

Platform fees – Networks come with significant upfront costs, including setup, network access, and a number of “services” fees for program customization. Because fees are tied to commissions or revenue, it can become quite expensive as your program grows, which may seem like you are being punished for the success of your program. 

More than often you might end up paying an override fee on either the commission paid to the affiliate or the revenue generated plus a service fee for account management. 

And it goes without saying that the time you end up spending can be pretty overwhelming especially when you weigh it against the effort you’ve put in to get the returns that you did. 

Once again, and I don’t say this lightly, SaaS will be a breath of fresh air for you – since you only pay a license fee for the software that you’ll be running your program on. This license fee scales efficiently while your program grows significantly.

Program cost – When working with traditional networks, you probably won’t have the ability to de-duplicate (simply known as dedupe) against the various channels, and that may lead to low-value conversions as well as a double payout.

Cost isn’t just about platform fees, it’s a combination of fees plus how efficiently you can run the program. When you are unable dedupe against the various channels, or customize your contract commission terms to pay for the exact value you get, it prohibits efficient spending. 

With a SaaS platform, you can dedupe against other paid marketing channels, such as paid search, ensuring that you don’t pay twice for the same conversion. 

Last but the most important point to note…

Services – With traditional networks, you need to use a network account management team, even if they are underperforming. You may also end up using third-party agencies on top of these network teams. 

This is mainly because of a lack of technological innovation at networks, meaning that their service teams are restricted in the strategies they can implement, which limits efficiency and hinders growth.

With SaaS, and definitely with ones that are as sophisticated with their tech as – you get the bespoke service options that you and your brand truly deserve. 

Wouldn’t you want to have the flexibility to choose in-house management, a third-party agency, or platform managed services? I’m sure you just nodded affirmatively.

To summarize, SaaS solutions provide the best option for brands that want full control over their affiliate and partnership programs, mainly because:

  • You get to remove the middlemen
  • You enable yourself to partner directly with anyone you choose 
  • Your brand gets wider coverage through innovative technology 
  • The pricing of your software provider scales as you grow 

We just got to know how a lack of technological innovation and high costs may limit your program’s efficiency, thus hindering the growth of your brand at its full potential.

You can request a demo for’s services here.

Take that step towards innovation today, you can thank me later.

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