Developing a Partner Program, pt 2: Why Should Your Partners Join?
This blog is part two of a four part series. To read part one, click here.
A company may want to partner with you for many reasons and, oftentimes, you may think it’s solely based on how big/powerful your company has become in the space you occupy. But, believe it or not, you don’t need to be the biggest goose in the pond if the program is done correctly.
When creating a partner program, it’s important to know what you bring to the table for your prospective partners. Think of your partner program in the same way you would think about sales. You are providing X that helps with Y problem. You need to convey that to them and convince them that X is worth whatever you’re asking them to put into it, whether it be money, dedicated resources, or time.
What’s the benefit of joining my partner program?
AKA, “what is your partner going to get out of it?” You want more revenue, you want more customers, you want to grow. That’s why you’re creating the partner program. Unfortunately, just because you have a program doesn’t mean people will join. It has to benefit them. Think about what they want (hint- it’s not hard). They actually want the same thing you do…for themselves.
If your company is obviously going to become one of the top leaders in your space, it’s safe to say your name or vision for the future market can hold some clout. In these instances, you can often get away with a partner program where you don’t have to really give the partner anything; they get an amazing benefit just being able to say they’re your partner. Their prospects will see that and be impressed, reassured, and even relieved.
This is a time when you need to be honest with yourself. Your company may be amazing. Your product really may be revolutionary. But, if you’re in a niche market or it’s going to take a long while for your company to catch on and go mainstream, this partner program model may not be right for you. Instead, you’ll probably need to provide something of the monetary variety.
Brand Validation, Site Validation, etc.
Brand Recognition is especially important for start-ups. If you are planning to target mainly startup or early lifecycle businesses for your partner program, you will want to focus on how you can help them in this area.
Start-ups generally need a lot of support to break into their market. Fighting established companies for deals is difficult for start-ups because no one knows who they are. It’s basically the “selling jeans out of a van” premise. If you walked by a guy selling jeans out of a van, you’d probably walk faster and keep your head down.
But, if Calvin Klein tries to sell you jeans, you end up buying three pairs. Why? Because you know Calvin Klein. You may have never worn that brand of jeans before, but you know they have a good reputation and are respected in their industry. That guy with the van could have the most amazing jeans on the planet, but there’s no way he can compete. He doesn’t have developed brand recognition, loyalty or trust,
It’s all about trust. And that’s the value you can bring to partners if you’re well-established and recognizable in your space. Remember, what you bring to the table is something the prospective partner does not have, so you can’t be targeting a whale of a partner. A brand like Microsoft isn’t going to care about your validation. They have already checked that box in a major way.
Money makes the world go round, and it certainly makes many partner programs flourish.
If you want to strengthen business relationships between you and your partner, you can offer a monetary incentive directly to the company. This can be in the form of cash or a discount if they use your products/services themselves. Typically, this type of agreement is more focused on the executive level. They’re the ones who will see the bottom line and push the objective down through Marketing and Sales.
If your goal is to increase lead generation and close more deals, you may be able to offer monetary rewards directly to the sales reps from the other company in the form of gift cards. However, in this option, details need to be ironed out with the partner with whom you’re dealing. Commonly these programs will be structured as temporary incentives with the partner’s permission. Additionally, the partner may not want you paying their sales team directly or there may be tax issues (i.e. requiring a 1099).
All caveats aside, this can be a great motivation for the partner sales team to push your product in addition to their own. They’ll feel the value themselves instead of hearing about it from above. (“What’s the partner going to get out of it?”, remember?)
Combining Tactics to Achieve a Goal
Many companies want to achieve both of the goals listed above, so they often use a combination approach. They want the sales team to push the product to bring in deals, but they really want the partner’s executive team to support that agenda. When both sales and execs are in alignment, the sky’s the limit.
When you’ve decided to start a partner program, you need to start with your goals and your target partner’s goals. Your program won’t survive if you’re only focused on your agenda. It is a partnership, after all. Check out Developing a Partner Program, pt 3: How should I structure my program? where we’ll get into the nitty gritty of designing your partner program.
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