What is the typical revenue strategy of an averaged-priced SaaS company? Let’s say you have a $100/month/user B2B product and an average sales cycle of 14 days (with low dependency on an actual salesperson), your efforts to generate initial sales would be similar to this:
- Create landing pages
- Press release
- Launch PPC
- Media buys and sponsorships
- Content marketing throughout
Then, you’d raise more money just to spend more on paid channels, hire more salespeople, and continue grinding it out competing on traditional channels to lower CAC and grow 100% year-over-year.
Yes, it’s tried and true. “If it ain’t broke…”
But what if your same SaaS company had started partnerships very early on — almost day 1 — before sinking money into PPC?
Well, regardless of your partnership programs initial success, I guarantee you will create this from your initial efforts in partner outreach and onboarding:
- A firm analysis and understanding of your true ideal customer persona — through the eyes of an established channel partner who has a customer base and/or audience of your target customers — you will better-understand your ICP than if you simply paid for their attention with ads.
- Faster time to Product-Market Fit — if you start your partnership program sooner, you will have numerous conversations with those who are successful selling to your potential customers. These conversations will enlighten you with an understanding of their wants/needs much faster than through research and customer interviews because they have done it. This knowledge will allow you to adjust, or possibly make a necessary pivot, much sooner than if you had not started partnerships.
HubSpot is a great example of how powerful partnerships can be. They now have one of the more successful SaaS partner programs in existence — making up 33% of their total revenue! And we’re not counting the SaaS revenue models which are comprised of 100% partnership-channel revenue.
But, I am a true fanboy of this case study by Katrina Razavi where she grew revenue by 1,983% through partnerships — which she created with account-based cold outreach (mind you).
So, 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 SaaS partner program.
First, answer these questions before you start your Partner Program:
- Do you currently sponsor media, podcasts or events?
- Do most of your current customers know someone else using your product?
- Are there influencers (podcasters, consultants, YouTubers) who talk to your ICP about technologies such as yours?
- Are your competitors currently selling a partnership program?
- Are you looking to expand into new countries which your sales team are not native too?
If the answer to more than one of the above questions is “Yes”, then you’re in the right place and should consider starting a partnership program.
Keep it simple — here are the three tiers of partner development:
1ST — FIND AND CONVERT AFFILIATES.
Affiliates are simple link-sharing relationships with partners who talk to your ICP. The goal of your program initially is to get those links in place and the relationship introductory content published on their domain.
2ND — ENABLE THOSE PARTNERS TO BECOME AMBASSADORS.
Ambassadors will pitch you to their audience continuously and offline (in person or on calls — not just mention you in a blog post). This sort of ambassador-creation requires more than just the referral fee offer — they have to really enjoy being involved and love your product. So, it’s your job to find those who are or will be, power users and show them why they should get involved.
3RD — TRAIN YOUR PARTNERS TO BECOME RESELLERS.
Resellers are those who know your product well enough to actually close a customer for you — possibly even run customer support after the sale. They may manage the account on behalf of your new customer (white/private label or through appbind.com), or, work directly with your sales support to complete the sale. In either case, resellers alleviate bandwidth and show higher retention. With parnterstack.com you can even create fee structures which pay these resellers flat monthly fees in return for this high support.
But before we begin, please understand the ‘why’ behind Partner Programs:
Now the exciting part…
THE ROADMAP TO YOUR SUCCESSFUL PARTNER PROGRAM LAUNCH
Now we’re ready to start the strategy discussion…
*If you are still up against nay-sayers — remind them your partner program will be unique because it combines true ABM strategy with the latest partnership infrastructure and team cohesiveness necessary to ensure success.
Here is your roadmap to a partner program:
Now that you have a basic understanding of how the structure of your program will look, let’s get into the specifics of every stage listed above.
PHASE 1: RESEARCH, STRATEGY & DOCUMENTATION
The first order of business is to gather and document as much information as possible. You will work with your team, through a series of strategy sessions, to gather the information on these key points:
+ Determining business case
+ Defining ICP’s and addressable market
+ Complete the partner benefit grid
+ Mapping full partner journey and statuses
+ Finalize program needs and goals
There are some things that are absolutely necessary before work can begin. The singing of a bilateral NDA, access to Google Analytics, and at least one call to discuss stack design and program goals.
The following is what you need to have accomplished before you can proceed to the next step:
1. Finalized partner journey map
2. Ideal partner profile
3. Task list of program needs in PM software
4. Adding goals to Google Analytics
5. Partner benefit grid
PHASE 2:INTEGRATION, TASKING, FUNNEL & CONTRACTS
The goal of the strategy documentation is to get everybody on the same page. Once that is accomplished, you will start building out your stack and the funnel for your framework. Here’s what you will be focused on:
+ Develop requirements document for PRM
+ CRM integration
+ Tasking integration assistance to internal team member
+ Create partner page
+ Partner program rules & contracts
- Sign off on software
- Account access to new PRM software
- Access to project management software
1. Partner contracts
2. Partner landing page
3. CRM integration
4. Task list for PM
PHASE 3: ALIGNMENT, CONTENT, AND DATA
Now that you have a strategy, goals, a funnel and a stack in place, it’s time to loop in sales/marketing personnel for the alignment conversations. While this is happening, day-to-day efforts will be around data and campaign assets.
+ ICP contact data enrichment
+ Ensure alignment of partner goals
+ Training internal leads
+ Videos for partner conversions
+ Campaign assets (creatives, emails, messages)
+ Automation (connecting forms and sequences)
- Sign off on ICP enrichment
- Call with internal stakeholders
- Style guide for assets
- Access to the marketing automation tool
1. Complete the dataset of ICPs
2. Outreach and Onboarding emails
3. Form connections
4. Ads (if necessary)
PHASE 4:TASKING, OUTREACH & ONBOARDING
Now comes my favorite part — partner outreach and message optimization. Because you are still in the testing phase, all outreach will be in the form of direct invites to our ICPs from internal team members.
+ Determine best team member account for outreach
+ Partner outreach
+ Test messages
+ Test channels
+ Add onboarding touch points
+ Revenue Flywheel
- Completed stack
- Mkt/Sales team members’ LinkedIn account
- Email automation tool + access
1. Outreach process map
2. Update the partner journey with new touch points
3. Visual of the revenue flywheel
4. Final outreach email copy doc
PHASE 5: PARTNER ENABLEMENT & CULTURE
As partners are starting to be onboarded and sending referrals, you will continue developing the enablement content like helpful video content and a newsletter. Then, you will help work this new channel into your organization by doing a culture presentation for leadership to understand how to nurture this new channel.
+ Establish a metrics-based culture
+ Finalize program KPIs and growth expectations
+ Creation of more partner enablement assets
+ Partner culture presentation
+ Creation of the first Partner Newsletter
- More time from the content team to get content created
- Call between leadership and staff to discuss culture
- Decisions on newsletter software and ownership
1. Final list and assignees for program KPIs
2. Partner newsletter email titles/descriptions
3. More video and outreach assets
PHASE 6: RAMPING AND PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
At this phase, the program is set up, the funnel is optimized, partners are submitting initial referrals and you’re ready to start ramping up partner onboarding. This is the time to start bringing on a program manager to take the partner communications.
+ Increase outreach to potential partners
+ Even more partner enablement content
+ Hire or designate the new Partner Program Manager
- More video content
- Access to a job board to place an ad for the ‘Partner Manager’
1. List of enablement content needed
2. Partner Manager job description
3. More ICP data enriched
4. Increase outreach by adding one more sender
Finally — Remember what I told you about the non-revenue advantages of starting your partner program right now:
Your partner program is much more than a revenue channel. It’s a means to the discovery of data you will need for every other channel driving growth. Your partner program is also your first step to confirming product-market fit. And finally, your partner program provides you with that credibility from a source with a reputation your ICP trusts to blaze through sales cyclesand alleviate bandwidth you do not have in the early days.
Here’s to your partner program success!