Customer advocates, resellers and partners can help you grow, but developing and retaining these growth channels can be complicated and time-consuming. PartnerStack's very own co-founder, Luke Swanek, and sales engineer; Sean Harris, spoke to MaRS Discover District to help shed light on these complex but powerful channels.
A partner channel is a way to attribute, reward, and scale your relationships — in a meaningful and ROI positive manner. MaRS sat down with Luke and Sean to discuss how a company can approach building their own partner channels and the obstacles along the way.
Partner channels are scalable solutions to grow your business and build community in an automated way. Working with partners provides opportunities to work with people outside of your organization and increase your reach without increasing headcount. Your only job when working with partner channels is to make them successful.
PartnerStack allows any company to start and manage their very own partner channel. From set-up to scaling, PartnerStack enables businesses to identify key partners, develop relationships, attribute sales, and reward their partners — all automatically and from one dashboard. PartnerStack even takes it a step further. After a company joins PartnerStack and sets up their own program, they can also enter our marketplace. PartnerStack's marketplace multiplies the effects of any given partner program by introducing companies to new advocates and resellers they can work with. Moreover, PartnerStack also enables businesses to work with larger organizations such as associations, complementary businesses, and more.
As you develop a partner program, it’s important to understand what type of partners you’re working with and what motivates them. By getting to know which partners best complement your business, you’ll be able to provide the right assets to make them successful. For example, customer ambassador programs work best with companies with strong communities of brand evangelists. These communities are made up of users who love your product and regularly speak about them with their friends. Although these advocates may not all be professional consultants or resellers, they have a strong connection with customers like themselves. Give them the assets they need to talk about your product in the way you'd like. Give them images and clear messaging they can share with their friends on social media. And give them the opportunity to speak with your product team and feel included in your product.
Working with resellers presents a different challenge. Give them the right tools to measure, share, and set up their campaigns. Ask them to tap into specific areas of their network, i.e., bloggers, publishers, etc. and give them stats to stay up-to-date on their performance.
Partners come in all shapes and forms, much like the businesses they work with. You understand your business, but do your respective partners? Partners differ regarding reach, influence, motivations, and compensation — so it's extremely important to understand which type complements your program and goals.
Some examples of partners include:
Luke and Sean’s best advice was to start close to home with your existing network.
Customers are your biggest net promoters. Take a survey, go through your customer insights, and invite your top net promoters to join your program. Figure out who is already promoting you and where your current customers have the most reach. Odds are, your best customers know other great people like themselves.
Once you decided on what type of partner to go after, establish a goal. Whether you’re looking for growth, decreasing CAC, or ensuring an ROI positive channel; consider what your program is going to measure on. How will your program help to combat long sales cycles, the price of product, swag, and discounts? Does your reward structure reflect how hard it is to sell your product or how experienced your partners are?
After you’ve decided on what partners and compensation structure to enlist, it’s time to think through your launch strategy. Where most companies try to ‘build in-house’ tests, you can blow past them with the right software. The misconceptions about partner programs are they’re easy — incorrect. Partner programs are robust and require development time, complexity, and scalability. Often in-house solutions can offer a quick test, but aren’t built to scale nor are they scoped out to be a full-time project. Not to mention, successful or not, they quickly become expensive and developer heavy.
Choosing a solution like PartnerStack, lets companies by-pass the messiness of building something from scratch and instead takes them into hypergrowth. PartnerStack's platform is dynamic. It’s feature set and program scales with your company and partner count, instead of your developer resources. After all — partner programs aren’t development channels; they’re marketing channels.
Marketing is challenging sales in the modern business organization. Launching a partner channel that requires little to no developers enables marketers to do more with less. Marketers can create assets, invite users, promote the program, and focus on partner success. Whether they start with customers or not, PartnerStack's platform lets them focus on the things that matter most — instead of bug fixes and development backlogs.
“Partner marketing programs are built on success. PartnerStack's program starts with making five people successful, replicating your process and growing your community sustainably.” — Luke Swanek
The most prominent misconception about partner programs is their similarity to referral programs. Yes, partner programs drive referred signups and sales, but this is also where they differ. Instead of asking for in-app referrals or friend invites, partner channels focus on ongoing referral relationships. The average partner drives heaps of leads, whereas the average in-app referral program is situational and drives a handful.
Referral programs focus on in-app rewards and transactional relationships. Here, users interact with the application for an extremely limited time and are incentivized to send referrals as they come rather than as a serious channel. Partner programs are formalized. Instead of asking for a few friends to invite, partner programs push their team to increase their reach and drive ongoing leads.
More importantly, partner programs extend beyond an in-app referral widget; they live directly between the company and its respective partner.
Scaling a program can be challenging, so Luke and Sean have broken it down into a few easy steps to focus on:
The worst part about ‘buying’ a solution or ‘building’ one is failing to meet expectations. Everyone expects instant success, but we all know it’s not always possible. Maintaining expectations is a key component of any partner program, here are a few tips for keeping your program afloat.
Your program is only as successful as you’re willing to make it. If you don’t provide any time for your program, you will not be able to see the same type of return as someone who believes and creates the opportunity for theirs.
It takes time to grow a partner program, PartnerStack helps companies shorten the time it takes to get going. Whether you’re a small company trying something new or a big company scaling your existing ecosystem, partner programs can help.
Partner programs are everywhere. You can name them what you want. Make your community your own and scale your company in a big way. But one thing is for sure — a partner program depends on partner success.
Build your program for your partners, give them the tools they need to succeed and watch your community foster.
If you have any questions or are curious about growing your own community, shoot us a message - we're always ready to help.
Build a custom partner portal for your program, set rewards, and invite your partners
Rely on automated campaigns, experiment with challenges, and automate the best parts
Generate deep insights on how to optimize, segment, and scale your program