We Coded an Affiliate Program From Scratch!

Philippe Lehoux
by Philippe Lehoux

At Missive, we were blessed with eight years of organic growth. As a small team of developers with limited ressources, we never invested much in marketing.

One of the few initiatives we did, was quite “cliché” for developer entrepreneurs… we coded an affiliate system from scratch. Two years in, it’s time to assess if it was successful.

Why an affiliate program?

Our customers have always been extremely enthusiastic about Missive, so naturally, developing an affiliate program made sense. This would allow us to delegate our marketing to our customers while they could benefit from their efforts by reducing their monthly invoices. A developer’s dream!

Why build it from scratch?

Missive is a collaborative email client that deals with sensitive customer data, which we take very seriously. It was always out of the question to insert third-party scripts into our app for privacy and security reasons. That meant no easy product metrics, no easy marketing attribution, and most importantly in this case, not being able to create an affiliate program using an off-the-shelf solution.

Building it ourselves also meant we could have more control on the affiliate experience. For instance, every organization owner can automatically open its affiliate dashboard from Missive and see their balance and potential gain.

On rewards

We pay a monthly reward for each seat in a referred organization that upgrades to a paid plan, and do so for up to 5 months. If a seat cancels, let’s say, after two months, the total reward will be limited to only those two months. This way every referral is always profitable.

  • Up to $25 per Starter user referred.
  • Up to $50 per Productive user referred.
  • Up to $75 per Business user referred.

Rewards are either credited directly to customer invoices or paid out in cash, once balances exceed $250. We use PayPal for payouts up to $5,000 and do bank wire transfers for larger sums.

To this date we have paid or credited more than $115,000 to our affiliates. The lion’s share of the payouts was given to just two affiliates, where the biggest one earned more than $60,000 in cash payouts. Our best affiliate was an existing Missive customer who runs a digital advertising business.

On affiliates doing paid advertising

We initially let affiliates do paid advertising with no limitation. Some did so on our brand keyword, “Missive”. I believe the bulk of the $115,000 we paid out was earned this way. We recently changed our mind on this, it is now against our program terms to advertise on search that include our brand “Missive” keyword. The advertising effort of affiliates should be focused on people not already familiar with Missive.

On customers referring other customers

Only around 15% of the total earnings were paid to 55 customers via credits applied to their invoices. Few customers referred others through the program, and thus few received credits on their invoices. Most of our customers, when doing word of mouth, don’t even bother using our affiliate program.

Final takeaways

First, if we want the affiliate program to be a significant part of our new business we need to better market it. The program itself is a product.

Second, we should increase the value of the rewards, especially given we now prevent our affiliates from doing advertising on customers already familiar with Missive.

Starting today, the rewards for referred users subscribing to our latest plans will be increased to:

  • Up to $60 per Starter user referred. + 240% increase
  • Up to $100 per Productive user referred. + 200% increase
  • Up to $145 per Business user referred. + 193% increase

With these new rewards I believe our customer base will have more incentive to share their affiliate link. It will also become more profitable for professional affiliates or influencers.

If you want to try it yourself, just create a Missive account, then from the app open your settings and select the Rewards option!

Philippe Lehoux

CEO at Missive
Follow me on Twitter