5 Steps to Preparing Your First Partner Marketing Program

November 29, 2018
Company Tips

At PartnerStack, we define partner marketing as a mutually beneficial marketing relationship between a company and its partners. Since this definition is still fairly broad, partners can be defined as brand ambassadors, advocates, affiliates, referrals or resellers. They can include anyone who’d promote and sell your company’s products in return for rewards - from clients and employees to your network, which can be made up of consultants in your space, complementary companies, or agencies that help their clients solve the same problem your company solves. And rewards are typically a percentage of the sale, or a flat fee per sale or number of sales. Today we’re going to look at exactly how to prepare for your first partner program! Drawing up a solid plan is the key, as with any kind of marketing initiative. Now let’s dig in!

1. Who Would Make a Great Partner?

To truly benefit from strategic partner relationships, the best practice we always recommend is first sharing your partner program with your existing digital network. Beginning with the customers and employees you know is often more successful off the bat than reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people - many of whom won’t be a fit with your product. Then it’s easy to see what worked best, and iterate from there!

Building partnerships makes it easier and quicker for companies to grow, which is always the main goal. When you think about it, the connection between partnerships and growth makes a lot of sense. Working with a strong group of your known brand advocates that have access to a segment of your audience you haven’t yet tapped into also extends your circle of reach and can help you enter new geographies where you may not already have a strong presence. You can also gain more credibility by association when your partner has high credibility with their audience. These are all great ammunition to continue preparing your 1st partner marketing program.

2. What Does Your Audience Look Like?

First think about who makes up your intended audience. It’s important to keep these specific recipients in mind while gearing up your marketing messaging. You can also consider having multiple audience segments, which allows for more customized, targeted messaging. What’s great about collaborating is that your partner will have unique insights into their audience, and more specifically, the kind of messaging and delivery channels that are most effective for them.

Once you’ve figured out who your partners should be, make a plan to work closely with them as you build your channel marketing program. Ask your partners what materials they need to talk about your product - do they want comparisons with other products in the space? Pricing sheets? Badges to align their brand with the company's brand? Detailed product information? This way you can provide them with the marketing materials, content and images they need - and future partners can pick and choose what will work best for their network.

3. What Do Your Goals Look Like?

When you prepare your first partnership program, and any thereafter, the goals are going to look vastly different from your company's general marketing goals. Are you looking to generate a certain number or percentage of signups, leads, sales or deals? Do you want a specific number of people to join the program? Are you interested in getting product feedback, engaging or retaining your customers and digital community members? And remember to set a timeline for each of your goals, think about goals for your first month, first quarter and first year as a starting point.

Your goals can become even more differentiated as you expand your initial program from 1 type of program, for example an ambassador or referral program into a reseller program, or expand your partner marketing across multiple product lines. We all know that each company is built differently and has unique goals in mind, so set a clear definition of what success looks like for your program before you start.

4. How Are You Getting the Word Out?

With your audience set, its time to decide how you want to deliver your message. Every partnership is different and unique so there's no standard messaging, but keep in mind your brand and the audience you’re targeting. When you're starting to create stellar messages, don't forget to keep in mind how and where you will get the messaging out! It’s smart to incorporate unique channels that your partner uses successfully already, as well as your own existing channels.

Following your launch, and only after your program has started to hit its goals and generate leads and/or sales, you can also consider taking advantage of PartnerStack's marketplace. There you can connect with partners who are already selling similar but not competing products to communities that are like yours. But this is a step for further down the line so we’ll touch on it another day.

5. What Do Partners Get?

The fun part about setting up your 1st partner marketing program is deciding how to structure your partner rewards! Obviously you want to reward your partners for a job well done, and also encourage them to keep marketing on your behalf! We always recommend a tiered program. The great thing about a tiered program is that it gives you the flexibility to group your partners based on their sales performance or time in the program, and reward differently for those who are doing well vs. your exceptional sellers.

It’s also important to set your partners up for success and provide them with the information they need to best represent your brand. Make sure that marketing collateral, messaging, logos, videos, etc. are available to them to use in their promotions of your product. You can also have education guides and videos for them to really learn about your product if it’s more on the complex side.

While building partner relationships and trust can take time, it’s well worth the effort. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to start growing your firm! Partner marketing is a growing sector of the marketing industry, and it isn’t slowing down any time soon. Taking the leap to prepare and launch a partner marketing program is really the first step to a flourishing new level of growth, so what are you waiting for?

Jamie Rubenovitch

Marketing and Communications at PartnerStack

PartnerStack is all about SaaS partnerships
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