Before partners can start marketing and selling your product, you’ve got to market and sell your program to partners.
Without a plan for how to market a program to partners, partnerships managers and sales leaders at SaaS companies can struggle to recruit the volume of partners required to scale their program into a serious revenue channel.
But by focusing on targeting the right partners, setting fair and easy-to-understand incentives, and reaching partners where they already are, you can ensure your program is constantly recruiting new partners that are ready to start driving leads and sales.
This guide will teach you how to promote your program and recruit the right partners, by:
- Identify your target partner type
- Set appealing, achievable rewards
- Create your partner program landing page
- Learn from your partner applications
- Get your program in front of partners
1. Identify your target partner type
Before you even start thinking about promoting your program to partners, you need to know the type of partners you’ll be looking for. Specifically, are you looking to recruit:
- marketing partners, such as affiliate marketers, influencers and content creators, who can drive traffic to your website and campaigns?
- referral partners that drive qualified leads to your sales team, including consultants and your own customers?
- reseller partners, like agencies and value-added resellers (VARs), who own the entire sales process and send your business closed deals?
These 3 partner types are all totally different, interacting with customers at separate stages of the customer journey and driving different types of metrics. But they all hold potential value, and most SaaS companies that see success with one type of partner will launch more programs for other types.
The partner type you’ll want to target first depends on factors like:
- Do you want to drive a high volume of traffic and leads, or would highly qualified referrals make more sense?
- Is your product something customers can largely set up themselves, or is there significant value in them working with a partner?
- Is your industry one where educational content creators or influencers are prominent?
- Are partners showing demand for a partner program from your company — or from companies like yours?
In PartnerStack’s guide to winning internal buy-in for your partner program, we explored how one of the best ways to determine which partner type to start with is to measure existing demand from partners:
“When Unbounce was exploring launching a partner program of its own, they first analyzed their history of support tickets to identify any requests for a partner program. They found over 300 requests for a partner program coming from a mix of agencies, solo consultants and affiliate marketers, split down the middle between customers and non-customers. That research helped Unbounce identify which partners to focus on first, launching a program that today drives 25% of its new user acquisition.
If you want to take advantage of a partner program but don’t have enough internal data available, it’s worth doing some competitive research. Look into the programs your competitors run and the types of partners they work with. Focus on companies that have established programs, running for at least two years. Compare the incentives they offer and how they’ve scaled and developed their program.”
2. Set appealing, achievable rewards
One of the most common reasons new partner programs fail to gain traction is that the rewards for partners simply aren’t good enough. Offering partner rewards that are appealing and achievable will make it immediately easier to acquire and retain top-performing partners in your program.
There are two models for paying partners: a flat, one-time payment or a recurring percentage of revenue generated.
- Flat rewards pay partners the same amount for every conversion (e.g. a lead, a referral or a closed deal). Flat payments are typically rewarded a minimum of 30 days following the conversion to ensure the converted customer actually stays a paying customer for at least one month.
- Recurring, percentage-based rewards pay partners an ongoing cut of the revenue driven by their referred customers. This means that partners are incentivized to target customers that are likely to stick with your product, because they’ll keep getting paid for it.
Neither of these are inherently better than the other, and we’ve seen companies succeed with both approaches. However, some companies see flat payments as more appealing simply because they only have to pay partners once. This ignores that recurring rewards actually give you more direct control over the profitability of your partner program.
Every referral is different, but flat rewards value them all equally, which can lead to problems if customers churn before they become profitable. Recurring percentage-based rewards ensure that every partner referral is profitable, because they’re paid a controlled percentage of the customer’s lifetime value.
The reward model you choose now isn’t set in stone. Regardless of the whether you choose a flat or recurring reward model, you’ll want to pay close attention to metrics like:
- Cost of partner acquisition
- Cost of customer acquisition through partners
- Churn rate of referred customers
- Lifetime value of referred customers
3. Create your partner program landing page
One of the most important assets that you’ll need to promote your program is your partner program landing page. This page serves as the main platform for partners to discover your program, and should clearly communicate what type of partners you’re looking for and what’s in it for them. Writing your landing page will force you to get clear on who your program is for, how it works, and why partners would want to sign up.
What does a good partner program landing page look like? To find out, we looked to some experts in both landing pages and successful SaaS partner programs: Unbounce.
In their guide to “The 5 Essential Elements of a Winning Landing Page”, Unbounce describes those elements as:
- A clear and unique selling proposition (USP)
- Engaging hero shot
- Compelling benefits
- Inspirational social proof
- Strong call-to-action (CTA)
We see these essential elements represented in Unbounce’s own partner program landing page, which we’ll break down in detail below.
A clear, unique selling proposition — with your hero shot
Your hero shot takes up prime real estate: it’s the first thing that potential partners see before they scroll down (if they scroll down). While bold imagery can help make an impact, what you write here matters even more.
This is the first place you want to highlight your unique selling proposition (USP), which is what makes your partner program unique and valuable. It sets clear expectations for potential partners while setting you apart from other programs.
Your USP can find itself either in the main headline or the supporting one, or even both. As the main headline, make sure it is short, punchy, and straight to the point. When people skim over a page, they’re likely to gravitate and remember shorter bursts of information. Because the primary headline has to remain digestible, adding more detail in the supporting headline can help extend your core messaging.
While your program’s USP should first appear in your hero section, you’ll want to reiterate and expand upon it through the rest of your page to show partners not just how you’ll reward them, but how you’ll help them succeed.
For example, Unbounce highlights how partners who join their program get access to a dedicated partner coach, a custom dashboard to track their progress, and resources and training materials to help them earn even more.
Inspirational social proof
Social proof proves your program can produce success for partners by highlighting someone who already has, like Unbounce does with Patrick from Titan PPC:
Inspire people to join your program by showing them exactly what they can achieve through it with real-life examples. Reinforce trust with logos of partners that you have worked with, and share a quote or testimonial of their positive feedback. If people see that others have succeeded with your program, they’ll be more inclined to give it a try too.
Your page should have one conversion goal — the one thing you want your visitors to do. Your call-to-action is what leads visitors to that goal.
In this case, your visitors are potential partners, and the goal is getting them to sign up for the program. A “call-to-action” — or CTA — usually refers to the copy and design of the actual button users click, but the messaging surrounding the actual button is just as important.
On Unbounce’s partner program landing page, they place every CTA under a headline that frames their program’s value in a different way, building on the message from the rest of the page.
They also have multiple CTAs that lead to the same goal, their partner application form. While you only want to have one conversion goal, using multiple styles of CTA is A-OK: as Unbounce stresses in their essential elements guide, “you can use different CTAs as long as they serve the same goal.”
What partners need to know
Beyond those landing page essentials, there’s specific information you’ll want to include about your program to ensure your program convinces partners (and convinces the right ones).
How the program works for partners: Setting clear expectations for how the program actually works, and what’s expected of partners after they sign up, will make your program more credible and motivate more partners to get started.
For example, Unbounce explains their partners will receive a unique link along with an exclusive discount to offer their audience, and then reiterates that partners receive 20% of the customer’s lifetime revenue. This immediately gets partners thinking about how they could use the link and discount in their strategy and start driving revenue.
Who the right partners are: There are many different types of partners, and being vague about the partners you’re looking for can lead to receiving less qualified applications. Clearly defining who the right partners are will bring in more qualified partners, and show your target partner audience that you understand what they’re looking for.
Unbounce calls out that great partners for their program are marketers or agencies, with a small-to-medium business audience, who love using their product. This effectively excludes partners who don’t fit Unbounce’s target partner personas, while convincing partners that do match this description that Unbounce is ready to help them succeed.
Real-world reward examples: Show partners how much they could be earning by breaking down several scenarios, so they know exactly what to expect. For example, if partners earn recurring revenue based on the number of customers they refer, show real numbers that reflect what they'll make based on different amounts of customers referred.
Frequently asked questions: Wrapping up your page with a frequently asked questions section is a great way to reiterate your program messaging in an even simpler format, and answer any potential questions partners might have before they come to you.
4. Learn from your partner applications
It can be tempting to make your application process as simple as possible, asking only the most basic questions, in order to reduce friction and (hopefully) recruit more partners.
Resist this temptation. Asking the right questions in your partner application form can help you understand both how qualified your partner applicants are, and what they need from you to market and sell your product effectively.
When JungleScout decided to reboot their partner program with a focus on partner engagement, one of the first things they changed were the questions they ask in the application form. They now ask questions like:
- Are you a YouTuber, SaaS seller, course instructor, affiliate marketer, or an agency?
- How familiar are you with our product and features?
- How do you plan to market JungleScout?
- How large is your audience?
- What will make your life easier as our partner?
Joe Cardillo, Affiliate Marketing Manager at Jungle Scout, told us that directly asking partners what would make their life easier has been surprisingly valuable. “Many of the resources I’ve created for our partners have been pulled from answers to that question. There are a ton of great content requests and suggestions, and those answers give me insight into who has the potential to become our next high-performing partner.”
5. Get your program in front of partners
Once your program is fully defined and your landing page is up-and-running, it’s time to make sure it gets in front of as many qualified partners as possible. Here are the most critical things to get right to start driving partner traffic to your program:
Highlight your program landing page on your website. It seems obvious, but many companies hide their partner program pages away from their main website — yet this is exactly where potential partners will be looking to see if you have a program available. Space on your site's main menu might be limited, but you should at least link to your program's landing page in your site's footer navigation, which should be on every page on your site.
Promote your partner program on your blog and social media. Potential partners are likely following you already, and pushing the message through your main communications channels makes it be more likely to be seen and shared within partnerships communities online.
Email your customers and subscribers about your program. If you have an engaged email audience already, there's likely to be highly qualified partners among them. This is true even for your existing customers, who — like we covered in the Unbounce example earlier — are often a great source of potential partners.
Work with a partner recruitment provider. Partner recruitment providers like Grovia allow you to build targeted segments of ideal partners, build outreach lists and establish automated recruitment campaigns, so you can onboard and engage even more partners at scale.
Pull in qualified partners through a partner network. Partner networks promote your program directly to partners who already sell products like yours, inside of the platforms they already use. While marketing affiliate programs are the most well known example, partner networks are becoming an increasingly effective way to reach referral and reseller partners as well, especially for B2B SaaS companies.
For example, programs managed on PartnerStack can be promoted to thousands of partners in the PartnerStack network, who already use the platform to market and sell software products in HR, finance, marketing tech and other top SaaS verticals. That gives you instant access to partners that are already marketing and selling products to your target audiences.
A network shouldn't be your only source of partner acquisition, but it can greatly accelerate the rate at which you recruit partners for your program. Combined with promoting your program through your primary outreach channels, you can ensure your program is always being discovered by new partners.
What comes after partner acquisition? Partner empowerment
Recruiting a new partner is just step one. Even programs that are great at recruiting new partners may not necessarily be so great at helping those partners succeed — something Joe at Jungle Scout discovered when he first took over their program.
“Acquiring partners wasn’t the problem for us — plenty of partners were joining every week organically,” Joe told us in a case study of Jungle Scout’s partner program. “But they barely made any sales. We needed to empower them to do it.”
Along with learning from the partner application process and creating resources to help partners succeed, Joe used PartnerStack to build an automated onboarding process designed to welcome new partners and re-engage those who need more support.
So while recruiting new partners is critical to the success of your partner program, even the high potential partners will need your support in getting started.