Which incentives actually increase the attractiveness of a partner program and how much they can impact program KPIs.

Which incentives actually increase the attractiveness of a partner program and how much they can impact program KPIs.

Outside of your product’s feature / benefits / support / integrations which are attractive to users, your partner programs incentives are what make ‘partnering’ attractive, and therefore is your partner teams ammunition for growing the program. The more ammunition you give them (incentives), the faster the program will gain new partners and convert referred accounts from current partners.

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Referral commissions are only valuable when the agency has referred a decent number of clients. And for most of your programs, that may never become the hook for your program. Agencies need to be incentivized to join now - what's in it for them today. Those immediate incentives are what impact the growth of your partner program in the first 6 months.

This is a thought exercise for leadership to go through with their brand new partnerships team before determining revenue predictions, budgeting and when/what for revenue quotas.

Outside of your product’s feature / benefits / support / integrations which are attractive to users, your partner programs incentives are what make ‘partnering’ attractive, and therefore is your partner teams ammunition for growing the program. The more ammunition you give them (incentives), the faster the program will gain new partners and convert referred accounts from current partners.

What’s really attractive to agencies?

These first few are “table stakes” – they will be decided on before the agency replies to your first message:

“Table Stakes” for what gets checked off before a new partner even considers your program:

If all of the above boxes are checked, then the conversation and program sale can proceed to the value of being a partner.

Free and sponsored co-marketing (see email example below)

Referrals

Free accounts and pass-through discounts

Sales support

Training

Commissions


Now, here’s the thought exercise to help your team align on the true value of the various incentives for agency referral, implementation and reseller partners:

*Note: the column showing increase in program success is purely a rough estimate based on the impact that incentive has on the attractiveness of the program.

Examples oof incentives and weight:

Extended support for partners: Direct phone numbers, account manager, Slack… +5%

e.g. Zapier only provides phone support for their expert partner agencies, not the end user. This ensures the partner is valuable for the end user at all times.

A Marketing Develop Fund (MDF): A monthly budget to promote with and sponsor partners’ content or events. +15%

e.g. Any budget the partner team is free to allocate how they feel is best, and they choose to earmark some for sponsoring partner content.

Owning their partner directory: As opposed to a static directory which product manages, use a subdomain with it’s own CMS built specifically for partnerships (like APIdeck.com) and let partnerships manage it. +10%

e.g. https://directory.partnerprograms.io/

Full-page profiles on your directory: This goes above a directory and is more of a product-driven setup where partner profile have sections showing what they do with your product and their other tool expertise. +5%-10% [Depends if users can onboard starting with a partners’ template]

e.g. https://databox.com/partner/pepperland-marketing

Free accounts: The ability to give away free accounts (with limitations) to partners or their clients. +15%

e.g. https://partnerprograms.io/resources/free-saas-for-our-agency-friends/

Pass-through discounts partners can give those they refer: Their referral link triggering a discount for the user – this gives the partners’ referral a good reason to use their link or code. +5%

e.g. Unbounce does this with success.

Co-marketing content calendar: A spot in the content calendar for partner-sourced content. +15-25%. [Depends on frequency and type]

Here are some more examples of incentives we find in the top partner programs:

*Note: the column showing increase in program success is purely a rough estimate based on the impact that incentive has on the attractiveness of the program.

ABCD
1
Incentives and offers for partners:Description:Increases programs success by:Examples:
2
Extended support for partnersDirect phone numbers, account manager, Slack…5%Zapier only provides phone support for their expert partner agencies, not the end user. This ensures the partner is valuable for the end user at all times.
3
A Marketing Develop Fund (MDF)A monthly budget to promote with and sponsor partners’ content or events.15%Any budget the partner team is free to allocate how they feel is best, and they choose to earmark some for sponsoring partner content.
4
Owning their partner directoryAs opposed to a static directory which product manages, use a subdomain with it’s own CMS built specifically for partnerships (like APIdeck.com) and let partnerships manage it.10%​https://directory.partnerprograms.io/​
5
Robust and indexed profiles that show off the skills or use cases of your partnerThis goes above a directory and is more of a product-driven setup where partner profile have sections showing what they do with your product and their other tool expertise.5%-10%[Depends if users can onboard starting with a partners’ template]​https://databox.com/partner/pepperland-marketing​
6
Free accountsThe ability to give away free accounts (with limitations) to partners or their clients.15%​https://partnerprograms.io/resources/free-saas-for-our-agency-friends/​
7
Pass-through discounts partners can give those they refer.Their referral link triggering a discount for the user - this gives the partners’ referral a good reason to use their link or code.5%Unbounce does this with success.
8
Co-marketing content calendarA spot in the content calendar for partner-sourced content15-25%[Depends on frequency and type]Here’s a great example from Heap: https://heap.io/resources/paving-the-funnel-scott-breitenother

 

Maddy Martin of Smith.ai gave us her list of highest-impact incentives for partner teams: 


“The largest impact revenue/account-volume the highest are: 25% ease of onboarding, 50% portal to check on their accounts (often it's a non-starter), and 25% allowing them to set their margins/mark-up (within reason). Sensitivities vary by agency type; how well staffed they are, how attentive to details they are, how experienced they are in working with products like yours, and - most of all - how impactful your product promises to be on their bottom line and their clients' results (read: happiness & retention). Regardless, be on the lookout for onboarding flubs, portal feature requests, and other business-stalling. 


The largest impact to partner activation (getting the partner to bring in their first client, initiating the first revenue-generating activity) is 20% offering extended free services and 80% featuring them (with MDF, backlinks, co-webinars... with the latter being the most impactful and evergreen with a recording, email list & accompanying blog recap). The huge programs take ages to pay attention to you and take action. If you have a smaller SaaS company or product, showing attention is sometimes the most surprising and positive thing you can do. It's not often your vendor trots you out, but smaller companies can use attention as an almost unfair competitive advantage. 


The largest impact to ongoing revenue has little to do with what you offer. It has more to do with:

  1. How easy you are to work with, 
  2. How little extra work you add for them, 
  3. Your positive impact on clients' successes,
  4. The praise they receive from their clients as a result of what your product/service generated. 


The positive partnership litmus test is: Are you making them look great and helping them generate more revenue from their clients? That's #1 all day long. A few bonus points if you replaced a poor-performing product. And  bonus points if you opened up a net-new revenue stream.”


To get all of the strategies, join The Partner Programs Accelerator >>

Next steps:

  1. Take that data and have a team meeting to align on agency needs and creative ways to fulfill them. Include co-marketing schedule/options, what you do with your stale lost leads in terms of referring them to agencies… anything you can do to build the relationship.
  2. Now, test those assumptions. Create a survey to find out what your agencies care about. Here’s one we did for AudioEye on ADA compliance: https://airtable.com/shrBHOYxAjYFURAmy
  3. Put together your landing page. Great example – the page and incentives section of Justcall’s partner program: https://justcall.io/hubspot-agency-partner-program
  4. Look at the URL – focused on one persona
  5. Check the incentives section – in particular – the co-marketing and highlighting of their partners:


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