Inbound Marketing + Sales Blog

May 7, 2015

SaaS Growth Strategies: How to Build a Kick-A*s Partner Program

4 min read

Written by: Matthew Buckley  |  Share:

SaaS partner program

While lead generation and pipeline marketing efforts may use techniques such as inbound marketing and content marketing, there are other levers that are equally critical to the successful growth of a SaaS business. Building a powerful partner program is another proven way to accelerate SaaS growth.

Don't believe me? HubSpot has one of the most successful SaaS partner program stories - and it's one we know well. Soon after their partner program launched, HubSpot's partner team had grown to over 100 employees and was generating a substantial amount of its monthly recurring revenue. What's more, the first quarter of the program produced approximately 42% of the company's customers and 22% of revenue

In today's post, we're going to take a deep dive into the key mechanisms, goals, structures, and business questions that you need to consider when developing a partner program. 

Is a channel sales program right for my company? 

Of course, before diving in any further it's important to determine if a channel sales program is a good fit for your company. Here are some of the most important things you should consider when deciding if a channel sales program is right for you: 

  • How much training and support does your product require?
  • Is your sales process straightforward and will you be able to effectively train your partners to sell your solution? 
  • Is your product ready or are you still ironing out the kinks and building out important features? 
  • Do you have a scalable and repeatable sales model internally? 

Getting started with a partner program as a growth strategy for your SaaS business

Once you've decided that a channel sales program is right for your business. Here are a couple challenges you should keep in mind as you work to get it off the ground:

  • Building partnerships with established resellers will take considerable time and effort up front and the pitch to your potential partners must illustrate that you clearly understand their business.
  • You will need enable your partner's sales team to resell your product. Therefore, sales enablement content will be critical to success.
  • It will take time for your channel to start to generate revenue. In fact, it's not uncommon for it to take 12 - 18 months before you start achieving your channel goals. 
  • The product-development feedback cycle from your partners will be slower than from your direct customers, which means it's better to ensure you've reached product/market fit before you commit to a partner network.

Establishing goals and mechanisms

At a high level, the goal of your partner program should be to generate customers through this new channel (at least) as equally effectively as your direct efforts. To achieve this, you'll also need to be ready to track the same key metrics in your partner program as you do in your direct efforts (LTV, CAC, payback period, etc.). 

However, this will take time. Start experimenting with a small number of partners and reasonable customer goals, and then increase your personnel and marketing budget as success is proven. 

The primary mechanism used to create a partner program must be a model that can be easily communicated to your channel partners and empower them to be:

  • Wworking advocates for your product and brand and
  • Rewarded as your company grows, while helping them grow their own.

Not only will this allow you to reach their networks as a trusted source, but also it will lower your cost of acquisition. If the Vale-Added Resellers offer services on top of your platform, it can also act as an outsourced customer success engine.

Download The Definitive Guide to SaaS Marketing to learn actionable ways to  grow your business.

Structuring the program

A great way to structure your partner program is using tier levels to acknowledge how successful a given partner has been in reselling your product. This can also help create a competitive ecosystem that provides achievement levels and rewards, such as additional support from your channel team. HubSpot has built out a highly successful tiered model in their own partner program.

Building a financial model

For the program to be successful, you'll need to have a clear financial model associated with how you choose to compensate your agency partners. This model should be built based on your business's growth goals and align with your direct marketing and sales teams. This way, the partner program is being compared against the same metrics used across the organization. 

Rolling out

Once you have the model and framework in place and have experimented and proven that the channel is viable for your business, it's time to take it to market. Here are a few key assets you should create: 

  • Partner-overview site page (public)
  • Partner sign-up landing page
  • Partner-tier site page: This shows each of your partner's status by tier. It doesn't show exactly how many customers or revenue each partner has generated, but provides high-level insight into everyone's standing. Here's an example from HubSpot. This provides great visibility for your partners, and also incentivizes them to reach the next tier level
HubSpot Agency Directory

With this business framework and your marketing assets ready, your business is now ready to launch its own partner program.

Partner programs aren't right for every SaaS business and certainly require a clear strategy and time to develop. Start small and set clear goals and performance indicators up front. When executed correctly, a successful partner program can be a huge driver of your business growth and the success of your customers. 

In addition to a kick a** partner programs, many strategies exist to drive the growth of your SaaS business. Learn our comprehensive and actionable strategies for SaaS marketing by downloading our guide:


Topics: Demand Generation, Lead Generation

About The Author

Matthew Buckley is a former New Breeder.

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