Ultimate Partnership Program. Many B2B SaaS companies have discovered the potential of partnership programs. In the early stages of business, accelerating growth is paramount. While content marketing can be a great way of generating new leads for your pipeline, building a powerful partnership program can help accelerate this growth even further and future-proof your young company. If you’re a small SaaS company who is just starting out, then now is the right time to get your partnership program up and running. If you’re interested in starting a partnership program, then you’re in the right place!
What is a B2B SaaS Partner Program?
Put simply, a partner program is a way to reward people (or other businesses) for delivering new value or business opportunities to your company. SaaS partnership programs typically fall into these categories:
- Referral Programs – Customers are given a reward for referring someone to your business. Typically, both parties (the referee and the new customer) get some sort of reward.
- Technical or Strategic partners – This is when companies work together to share information and integrate their technology in a way that benefits both sides of the partnership. For example, the collaboration app Slack has strategic partnerships with Google and Service now, allowing them to expand their offering to customers. At CommBox, we have an API partnership with WhatsApp, allowing us to deliver unified customer experiences through our omnichannel platform.
- Affiliate Programs – Typically designed for influences, this involves using unique links to track how much unique business one person can generate for the company. The influencer will place an affiliate link on their website or content, and new customers can buy products through this link. These influencers are usually rewarded with a commission.
- Resellers – This is when an agency, consultant, or another third party will resell your product. Typically, the margin the reseller gets from reselling your product isn’t worth it alone, and instead, they will use your product to help sell a wider range of products in their own business.
- Support Partners – This is when a third party will recommend your product to their customers when it makes sense to do so. For example, if you offer training courses that might benefit employees or customers.
Why Are B2B SaaS Partner Programs so Successful?
While referral programs are generally successful across all SaaS companies, when it comes to B2B SaaS, they have the potential to be particularly disruptive. Why? It comes down to the very nature of B2B SaaS and how these conditions allow partner programs to flourish. SaaS products usually require a significant investment from the companies that buy them. If you’re a start-up, then convincing companies to make this investment can be a challenging process. After all, you probably haven’t proven the value of your product yet. You also likely don’t have a long list of companies willing to vouch for your product. Partner programs allow companies to test the success of your product while also getting additional rewards.
Another reason is that all software has a learning curve and teething problems. By entering into partner programs, you can experience the benefits of free exchange of information. Your partners can help you improve your product, through their own powerful solutions, or honest feedback. The companies you partner with want your product to be great because it becomes directly tied to the success of their business. If they are selling your products to their customers, then they will want to ensure that your product is fit for purpose. When you have the potential to impact their reputation, companies get serious about their feedback and this is a great thing!
Tip 1: Add Value
The single most important thing your partner program must do is add value. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people confuse the concept of value. Your partner program must be mutually beneficial. The more your partners can extract value from your product or add value to their business or their lives, the more partners you will attract.
You need to ask yourself how much value your product gives to your partners and be aggressively honest. Just providing a new feature doesn’t add value if your partner or their customers don’t need or want this feature. Put simply, new doesn’t always mean better.
If you’re having trouble determining what is valuable and what is not, then consider this. Throughout your whole academic life from the time you start school as a child, to when you graduate university, you are typically not trained to add value. Why? Because you are taught to write for people who are paid to care about you. When you enter the “real world”, suddenly you are held to a standard you never were before. The people or businesses you interact with are not paid to care about you, they want you to add value.
5 Stages to Follow for Your B2B SaaS Program
1. Setup and Strategy for Startups
This stage can be considered the Concept stage. This is where you hash out the bare bones of your partner program and how it will work. Here are some objectives you need to work on in this stage:
The Partner Journey
How do you want your partner journey to start and end? How will your partners approach you? When is it time for the relationship to end?
The Ideal Partner Profile
As a startup, it can be tempting to accept any business that comes your way, but this isn’t always the best approach. Remember that as a young company, partners have the potential to rapidly accelerate your growth, but they also have the potential to stop you in your tracks if you make the wrong choices. Any company you partner with will impact your reputation or future projection in some way, so think carefully about who you partner with.
The best way to handle this is to create an ideal partner profile. Think about which types of business will best show off your brand and product. Do you want to partner with businesses that have a good culture fit with your company? Maybe the potential partner has a great voice and style and you want to achieve something similar in the future. By partnering with this company, you can start to associate yourself with this culture and strengthen your own.
Use Google Analytics
If you add your goals to Google Analytics, then you can continually track the progress of your goals with your partners.
Use Project Management Software
Setting up your partner program is a project, so you should be using project management software to track your goals and milestones.
What benefits will your partners get based on their input? It’s important to hash out the details of this early on to avoid confusion later down the line. It’s a good idea to have different tiers of benefits because not all partners will work with you in the same way. It can breed resentment if you reward all partners equally, regardless of effort or raw contribution.
We get it, doing documentation can be tedious, but again, it’s important to hash out the details early on. Here’s what you should focus on:
- The contract signing process – What does the contract look like?
- Integrations – How will integrations work?
- The Partner Page – Having a partner page on your website can help potential partners see what a partnership with your company looks like. You can include details here about existing partnerships.
You need to make sure that your company can align well with your partner companies. Firstly, this means that your business doesn’t have siloed teams and that everyone has tools to communicate with each other effectively. This doesn’t tend to be an issue for startups, because most teams are small, and everyone is usually working in the same modestly sized room. However, it’s important to set the structure for collaboration and seamless communication early on. Investing in an omnichannel platform is a great way to do this.
You need to decide how the process of alignment will work with your partners. For example, if your partner has a question, then who do they go to? Most SaaS companies typically give this responsibility to the sales team. There will then need to be a process in place so that the sales team understand what actions they can take and what information they can draw from to answer questions. Creating a knowledge base is a great way to get things started.
This is the part where you announce your partner program to the world and start to attract new partners. You can create content and run marketing campaigns. You must communicate what value a partnership with your company will provide to your ideal partner. It’s a good idea to be exclusive rather than inclusive here. You want your first partners to be companies that are a good match with your company, so tailor your marketing to appeal specifically to these companies.
Next, you need to figure out onboarding. There will usually be some trial and error involved in the onboarding process. You’ll quickly learn what’s missing from the process and how you need to amend it.
4. Cultivate Excitement
Remember, your job isn’t done once you secure a partnership. You shouldn’t be over-focused on just attracting more and more partners. Remember, partnerships are mutually beneficial and meant to last for a long time. To ensure the survival of your partnerships, you need to cultivate excitement for your brand, product, and the partnership itself. Start showing off your KPIs and discovering how your brand is adding value to your partners. Send out communications packed with key details about the success of your partnerships.
5. Ramp Up Your Partnerships
Now you have the partner journey decided from start to finish, it’s time to start ramping up. By this point, your startup has done enough back-end work that future partnerships will be straightforward and easy. To attract more partners, you need to focus more heavily on marketing. Consider diversifying your strategy by creating lots of different types of content for your partner program. Videos, articles, webinars, emails, newsletters, are all great options.
Tip 2: New Markets
Partnership programs can be a great way for you to enter new markets without having to hire new employees or buy more office space. Your partners might be experts in a different market, and if you have some value to add, then you can create growth for both you and your partner.