How to Set Up Partner Program Tiers [video guide]

How to Set Up Partner Program Tiers [video guide]

Not all partners are alike. This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to a partner program might not be the best way to go. Partners that could be constructive to your company probably have varying activities, skill sets, and motivations. So if your partners are different, your partner program should be too.

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What are Partner Program Tiers & Why do You Need Them?


**Our friends at Kiflo were gracious enough to help us put together this mini course on using Tiers in your partner program. Enjoy!

What are Partner Program Tiers & Why do You Need Them?


Not all partners are alike. This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to a partner program might not be the best way to go. Partners that could be constructive to your company probably have varying activities, skill sets, and motivations. So if your partners are different, your partner program should be too.


This is where partner program tiers can help you achieve your goals. Partner tiers are program levels that are established with different benefits, requirements, and rewards. They help you meet the needs of your various partners and fully tap into their motivation.


For example, if you make a single partner program tier that demands heavy upfront training, you might miss partners who would simply like to refer a new lead to you. On the other hand, if you make a partner program that requires little and rewards little, you might miss out on the opportunity to invest in partners that are willing to put a lot of time in selling your product.


Since it’s not possible to scale your partner program while personalizing to the needs of each partner, standardizing partner tiers is essential. Ultimately, they allow you to motivate and invest in high-performing partners, all while mobilizing as many partners as possible. This is why 52% of all partner programs use partner tiers.


How to Set Up Your Partner Program Tiers


Partner program tiers can be split up in different ways. First, we’ll show you the best proven basic structure you can use to set up your partner tiers. Then, we’ll share some ways in which partner tiers can vary.


Setting up your partner tier levels:


The first level partner program tier is for anyone who is interested in referring your product or service. They are not particularly well-placed, well-fit or well-networked with your potential customers to sell your product, nor do they have any added personal incentives to sell your service or product.


Thus, they are often partners who require a minimum level of support and rewards. They simply want to pass the word along. Partners that fall into this category could be existing customers or influencers in your industry for example.


The second level, on the other hand, is for partners that you are particularly interested in because they could add extra value to your company. They are more strategic partners who share your customer base or are well connected with your buyer personas.


These are partners you probably want to invest more in, provide more support, and offer bigger rewards to, to better motivate them. They are partners that are well-placed to recommend your product, but are not able to close the deal. They could be agencies, consultant companies or other tech companies that offer a non-competitive solution to yours for example.


Finally, the third level is for partners that have added personal incentives to sell your product or service. They are willing to invest more time selling your product because they can sell other products or services next to yours, creating a synergy. 


They are partners you often have to train, fully enable, and thus provide a significant reward. Ultimately, they are able to take your customers all the way through the sales cycle to close the deal. Partners that fall into this category could be VARs, MSPs or integrators for example.


Partner Program Tiers Benefits, Requirements & Rewards


As mentioned earlier, each partner tier has different benefits, requirements and rewards. When developing the components of each tier, there are 4  main questions you should ask yourself:


  1. What are the requirements to qualify for the tier?
  2. How much training is required for each tier?
  3. How many marketing and sales resources are necessary?
  4. What rewards or commissions are offered?


To simplify this step, below is a template example you can adjust to develop your tiers. In blue, you will find some component examples you might use in your partner program tiers. The other columns represent how they could relate to each tier level.




Potential Challenges of Having Partner Tiers


One thing to bear in mind when creating tiers is that it does complicate partner management. Since your partners have different requirements, goals, resources, training, and commission after the tiers are in place, it’s important that each partner receives the information and rewards that fit their case.


For this reason, it’s essential to have a method to properly track which tier each partner is in, as well as automate the onboarding process so you do not have to manually put together what is necessary for each partner. To do this, you can put a PRM in place. Not only will a PRM help you manage partner tiers, but it will also simplify every aspect of your partner management and help you better support your partners. From partner attribution to partner KPIs, the insights provided from a PRM will help you make more strategic decisions.

How to Manage Partner Program Tiers in a PRM


  1. Add the requirements, objectives, resources, training, and commission for each tier
  2. Register your partner and associate them to their tier
  3. Give your partners a portal, which automatically includes exactly what is necessary for their tier
  4. Track leads coming from Tier 1 partners through their personal referral link
  5. Track leads coming from Tier 2 partners from leads they have submitted on their partner portal
  6. Track deals closed from Tier 3 partners from deals they have registered on their partner portal



Partner Tier Examples


Below, we’ve provided some examples to show how companies have aligned their partner tiers to the basic structure described above or how they have altered it. This will give you the opportunity to see how you may want to adjust your partner tiers.


Zendesk's Partner Program Tiers

https://www.zendesk.com/partner/


Zendesk partner tiers align with the basic structure. The first tier has minimal requirements and rewards simply for companies who would like to refer leads. Then, as seen below, each tier gradually increases in partner investment and rewards.


As you can see, Zendesk listed “Lead Distribution” in their list of benefits. This allows them to share their leads with partners that have the biggest probability of closing the deal, based on  location or if they already have a relationship with the lead, for example. This is where a PRM comes to use because you can easily send leads to your partners which they can manage in their Partner Portal.



Pipedrive's Partner Program Tiers

https://www.pipedrive.com/en/partner


Pipedrive also aligns with the basic partner tier structure. They even specify that their first tier is for anyone wanting to recommend Pipedrive, and the higher levels are only for consultants, integrators or VARs.


Aircall's Partner Program Tiers

https://aircall.io/partners/


Aircall’s partner program slightly varies from the basic structure. To split up their tiers, Aircall focuses on what the partner will be doing rather than the type or sales potential of the partner. They have separated their tiers by 3 responsibilities held by their partners. The first tier acquires leads, the second tier closes the deal, and the third tier closes deals and offers after sales support.


This tier structure is closely tied to the capacity of their partners. By placing training or certification levels in your PRM, your partners can complete training on their own and automatically advance to greater tier levels.




Hubspot's Partner Program Tiers

https://www.hubspot.com/partners/partner-tiers


Hubspot’s partner program also differs from the basic structure. They have 5 tiers instead of 3, but they have also decided to split up their tiers according to how much a partner sells. As seen below, their tiers hinge on how much MRR a partner can generate.


A PRM can help you manage this structure through automation. Whenever a partner reaches a certain amount of revenue, they will be automatically assigned with the proper tier level.


Kiflo PRM


Regardless how you split up your tiers, a PRM is essential to managing and tracking your tier groups. Kiflo PRM is specifically made to help tech startups and SMBs structure their program and simplify partner management through onboarding, tier management, and partner attribution, all at an affordable price. Click here to get your first month free.

Here's what it looks like: 


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