Good relationships are powerful — and building strong, long-lasting relationships is the core of an effective marketing strategy. For marketers of SaaS companies especially, some of the most successful relationships they can build are with other companies in their industries. This effort is often called a "partner program," and it has the potential to add immense and mutual value to your company and the partner company of your choice.
What is a Partner Program?
Depending on your goals and your type of business, a partner program can take on different forms. These forms include:
- Value-Added Resellers: The most common type of partner program, Value-Added Reselling is when another company actively sells your product or service on your behalf or a commission or revenue credit.
- Referral Channels: Referral partners pass leads to your company for a commission or revenue credit. Unlike Value-Added Resellers, these partners let your sales team close the deals.
- Activity-Based Partners: Also known as Co-Marketing partners, these are companies who work with yours on marketing activities like guest blogging, content creation and webinars. Although these partners may not receive a revenue credit, this is still a high-value partner program that can lead to a fuller funnel of prospects.
Why Should SaaS Companies Build a Partner Program?
Make no mistake — a partner program is more than just another avenue for making money. If you have good rapport with others in your industry, you can position your company as a thought leader. With more friends and more credibility in the industry, you'll discover more opportunities for creating content, participating in events and raising awareness for your brand.
SaaS companies in the expansion stage can use these opportunities to discover out-of-the-box avenues for growth. Startups looking to expand their reach, acquire successful, long-term customers and scale their businesses rapidly can achieve this growth more easily by partnering with companies who have similar goals and complementary offerings.
The beauty of SaaS partnerships in particular is that you can easily create partnerships by evangelizing a customer of your product. At New Breed, for example, we co-sell HubSpot, use HubSpot in our own day-to-day operations, know how to service it and can advocate for it as an effective marketing automation solution.
Partner with Complementary Companies for Amplified Growth
The most important thing to remember when considering a company for a potential partnership is to be selective. For a partnership program to be successful, it should only align with companies that can provide mutual benefit and refer customers to one other equally. Look for companies that align with your brand values and offer a product that doesn't compete with yours.
Ideally, your softwares should complement each other, not compete with each other. Look for a company who shares a highly similar customer base, but whose differentiation is enough to avoid any tension. At New Breed, for example, we have an easier time selling the HubSpot platform because we have services that complement it. In general, a partnership will be more successful if your partners are already evangelists of your brand and product.
Additionally, partner with a company that's in a similar stage of growth. If you're a startup company with five employees, it's easy to be overly ambitious and bite off more than you can chew — but the reality is that partnering with an enterprise-level company isn't going to be a good fit for you. The same is true for companies with multiple partners already; make sure that you've monetized the partnerships that you have before you partner with anyone else.
If you're considering building a partnership program for the first time — or are struggling to juggle the few partnerships you already have — it may be wise to appoint one person to manage partnerships, rather than piling that work on top of your internal marketing team. With one employee serving as the primary point of contact for all partnerships, you can eliminate confusion and avoid dropping the ball on any opportunities.
No matter the type of partnership you take on with another company, make sure you have a way to measure their attribution. If you're starting small, that may mean using tracking URLs with customer UTM parameters to see how many visitors they're driving to your website or landing pages. However, as your customer ecosystem grows, you might want to invest in a software to manage this attribution.
PartnerStack is a great solution for managing referrals and partner marketing efforts. As your company scales and you take on multiple partnerships, PartnerStack's software can help you keep track of all your different partners and the marketing assets associated with them.
A Final Note of Advice
If you're new to partner programs, don't be hesitant to begin because you're unsure of how to track its effectiveness. No matter how sophisticated your marketing automation or partnership solution is, there's still no way to measure attribution from word of mouth. By starting with smaller programs like co-marketing relationships, you can test the waters and make sure it's right for you.
Bottom line: Relationships are powerful. Whether you're looking to build a complex, revenue-driving partnership program or not, you should always be working to build rapport with others in your industry.