There are 7 steps to a profitable channel partner strategy:
Design your partner channel strategy plan
Construct a partner roadmap
Identify your ideal partner
Create sales and marketing collateral
Train and prepare new partners
Provide adequate support to partners
Ensure both parties are happy
Find how you can apply these in the sections below.
A channel partner strategy plan can be an extremely valuable asset to companies of all sizes, especially in the software industry.
Although big companies like Zoom, Slack, and HubSpot have employed these kinds of plans with considerable amounts of success, smaller companies can do just the same.
If you are considering a channel partnership strategy, there are 3 primary models to choose from: 1) affiliate, 2) referral, and 3) resellers. The program you choose will be dependent on what you feel fits best with your company and products.
After identifying which partnership model suits your needs the best, it’s time to design and implement the program.
Designing your channel partner strategy plan can be a complex ordeal since you will need to find a balance between offering an enticing reward while still turning a profit.
Building an attractive plan can go a long way in securing high-quality partnerships that can provide returns for years to come. The work doesn’t stop at securing a partnership either.
To get the most out of your channel partners you will want to make sure they have the resources and support they need to bring in customers. Providing your partners with the proper tools can help take their marketing and sales to the next level. Treat the partnership as a growth opportunity and continue to nurture it as it continues to grow and flourish.
- 1. Step 1: Design Your Partner Channel Strategy Plan
- 1.1. Program Type #1: Affiliate Partners
- 1.2. Program Type #2: Referral Partners
- 1.3. Program Type #3: Reseller Partners
- 2. Step 2: Construct a Partner Roadmap
- 3. Step 3: Identify Your Ideal Partner
- 4. Step 4: Create Sales & Marketing Collateral
- 5. Step 5: Train & Prepare your New Partners
- 6. Step 6: Provide Support for Your Partners
- 7. Step 7: Ensure You and Your Channel Partners Are Happy
- 8. Embrace The Idea of Long-Term Partnerships
Table of contents
The first step in implementing your partner channel strategy plan is figuring out which model suits your needs the best. There are 3 primary methods to choose from:
Affiliate partnerships leverage your partner’s audience and influence to direct new customers through your sales channels. Commission is only paid out once a product is purchased so this is a very efficient way to pay for high converting traffic.
Affiliate Partners act as independent marketers that are primarily concerned about securing traffic that will convert and earn them a commission.
These types of partnerships can be pretty hands-off as it’s entirely up to the affiliate to generate buzz around your offerings. Affiliate programs are pretty popular which means commissions can get pretty competitive, but the upside is that you only pay when there is a sale rather than based on the traffic generated.
Referral partnerships are similar to affiliates, however they tend to supply higher quality leads. While affiliates act as a marketing front to generate high-converting traffic, referrals leverage existing audiences to provide targeted traffic.
Referral Partners understand what their audience is looking for and can put your product in front of the right people.
Because the relationship is oftentimes more personal, referrals can help establish a better connection with your new customers as opposed to affiliate marketers.
Reseller Partners act as an extension of your own sales team.
These types of partners allow you to scale up your sales team without having to invest more cash into hiring and expanding office space.
Reseller partnerships are an excellent option when expanding into new marketplaces and countries. Finding the right reseller partners can secure a good knowledge base of laws and regulations as well as a go-to translator to help with marketing.
Once you’ve chosen the partnership you want to pursue, it’s time to lay out the details and partnership rewards. Designing a well-balanced partnership program can take a little time as you will want to make sure you are providing enough value to attract high-quality partners.
Providing a special deal your partner can promote helps them sell your product. Even if it’s only a small discount, a “special deal” can help your partners sell your product with less effort.
While plenty of companies offer a referral or affiliate link without any requirements or training, this is not an optimal setup for any channel partnership.
Giving out a partnership to anyone can lead to less reputable sources representing you and your company. This can cause a number of issues including poor company representation, and low-quality traffic/customers.
Constructing a Partner Onboarding and lifecycle roadmap will ensure your channel partner strategy plan is effective and maintains high standards.
Your partner roadmap should include several things:
Introduction to the company and its standards
Training and development
Additional resources and support
Continued support and feedback
Some partnerships will include different levels of compensation based on performance and quality. In this case, you can build certain thresholds into the roadmap to reward successful and high-quality partners.
This can be increased commission, bonus checks, and additional deals or discounts. Providing a means of progress can do a lot to nurture and encourage the partnership and ensure you are at the forefront of your partner’s mind.
Not every partner will be a good match for your company.
Just because someone boasts a large following doesn’t mean that they can provide you with the quality traffic or leads you are looking for. That’s why you should identify your ideal partner by asking yourself several different questions.
Who is their audience? Since they will be pitching to their audience, their audience will become your future customers. Look at the type of people your potential partner attracts and compare them to your ideal customer. Will they find value in your offering?
How do they represent themselves? No matter the type of partnership you pursue, your partner will end up representing you and your brand. Do they conduct themselves in a manner that complements your company?
Are they a good fit? Company image is extremely important and you will want to make sure that your company values align otherwise you will be sending mixed messages.
A big part of choosing the right partner is looking at the audience they attract. You need to ask yourself if these are the types of customers you want to deal with on a regular basis. Will they add consistent value to your brand or will it just be a one-off sale?
Providing a good set of resources can really set your partnership program apart. This can be a wide range of things such as additional product info, samples, free trials, informational videos/trailers, and more. Putting together these types of resources can really help your partners out and boost their conversions significantly. You are the one who knows your product the best, so passing on that knowledge and detail is key.
If you are running your own marketing campaigns it can be beneficial to share some of those resources with your partners as well.
Infographics, product images, and GIFs are great forms of media your partners can use to add to their own social media, blog posts, and more. This will ensure the media they are using is high quality, accurate, and up to date.
When dealing with new employees, training and development is just a way of life. You want to get them up to speed as quickly as possible so they can be efficient and effective. The same goes for your partners. Providing training and education material can go a long way in helping your partners understand your products.
While your channel partners probably won’t want to become product experts, helping them understand the basics can give them a leg-up in persuading their audience to take a look at your products. It also helps to clear up any misunderstandings or so that you don’t have a partner spreading any misinformation or making false claims.
A good partnership requires effort from both sides. While you can hand out a bunch of informational material and wish your partners the best, that won’t give you results.
Even though your partners aren’t directly employed by your company, they are still representing you and your customers see them as an extension of the brand.
That’s why it’s important to ensure you have high-quality partners, and why it’s important to provide continued support even after the initial introduction. Maintaining a good relationship will go a long way in keeping your partners interested.
It’s also a great way to push new information and deals their way when you release new products or offerings. Keep them connected and feeling like a valued part of the team and you will have a long-lasting partnership that will benefit both parties.
It’s important to check up on your partnerships regularly to ensure that both parties are content in the deal. For a long-term partnership to last both parties should be benefiting.
That means that you should be making money or at least adding additional value to your brand, and your partners should earn commissions or get value back in various forms.
Over time you may need to reevaluate certain partnerships. This might mean enticing a high-performing partner with a better commission deal or letting a partner go because their behavior or representation is reflecting poorly on your company.
No matter the reason, it’s important to stay up to date with your partners and ensure the right message is being conveyed.
Implementing a successful channel partner program requires quite a bit of work and planning, but if done correctly, you can reap the benefits for years to come.
Partnerships offer a high impact option to marketing that can enhance your company's growth and sales considerably. Finding the right partners will put your product in front of engaged audiences that are much more inclined to buy.
A successful partnership requires continued work and support so don’t just hand out a referral link and let them go. Nurturing the relationship can help get the most out of the deal and leave both parties much better off.
Designing a channel partner strategy plan is one thing, but managing the partnership is a whole other issue. Kiflo provides an all-in-one tool that can help you monitor and manage your partnerships while keeping the entire partner management cycle simple.
Whether you plan on offering a referral program, signing up affiliates, or expanding your sales force with resellers, Kiflo provides you with a platform that can handle and organize it all.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a channel partner strategy?
A channel partner strategy is a high-impact solution to marketing and sales that utilizes third-party partners to market your product and company. These partners are then rewarded based on the traffic and sales provided by their referral, affiliate, and reseller programs.
What makes a good channel partner?
A good channel partner will have a well-established audience that trusts their recommendations. They will cultivate a respectable and positive image of your company and provide engaged customers that are more likely to purchase from you and stay for the long-term.
How do I create a channel partner program?
Creating a channel partner program requires some careful planning and preparation, but tools like Kiflo PRM can make the process considerably easier. Plan out the program in detail and use Kiflo to help implement and manage it with ease.
What are some of the pitfalls to avoid with channel partners?
Channel partners can offer some great benefits, but there are several pitfalls to avoid as well: 1) Avoid partners with a poor reputation » Partners represent you and your company, so partnering with someone who is consistently negative or poorly mannered will reflect poorly on your business; 2) Don’t base the value of a partner on their audience size » While a large reach can be a good thing, don’t base a partner’s value off the size of their audience alone. You will want to evaluate the audience and make sure that they fit the image of your ideal customer. Finding the right audience is just as important as finding the right partner, and; 3) Don’t expect things to work right off the bat » Partnerships take time to work out and cultivate. You probably won’t get everything right at the start, so document the issues and fix them as you go.