June 15, 2021

What Makes for a Good Referral Partner Program In 2021?

A referral is the fastest way into someone else's network. But how do you build a good referral partner program in 2021? Here's the answer!


Setting up a referral partner program can be a valuable way to expand your reach outside of your typical business networks, but what makes for a good referral program?

Don’t get this confused with your typical customer referrals, a good partnership program focuses on developing solid relationships with other businesses which then go on to refer you to their networks on a one-to-one basis.

This can be a much more powerful tool since businesses already have an established audience and continuous marketing efforts in place.

Also, they will have already gained the trust of the audience...

But why would another business want to promote and refer their customers to you? 

This is one of the challenges you will face when developing your referral partner program, so we've got you covered with 5 key steps to secure effective referral partners.

What is a Referral Partnership?

Illustration - What is a referral partnership - Kiflo

A referral partnership is where a business agrees to promote and refer customers to another in exchange for some kind of benefit.

These perks can range from reciprocated referrals to some kind of monetary reward but the idea is that this type of partnership is mutually beneficial. 

"Designing a well thought out plan will ensure your partner stays engaged and interested in the program."

Making sure the partnership is advantageous to both parties is a key piece in running a successful referral partner program. Without some kind of encouragement or reward, your partner really doesn’t have any reason to promote your business to their own customers. 

(Especially if your business is in a similar industry as theirs!)

So what does it take to keep your partner interested in the arrangement? Designing a well-thought-out plan will ensure your partner stays engaged and interested in the program. 

A thorough plan will include obvious value for both parties and include a way to track and realize the benefits that it can bring. Here are 5 steps for designing and implementing your referral partner program in a way that resonates with your ideal partner.

5 Steps for a Successful Referral Partner Program

A lot of planning goes into designing and implementing any successful partner program, and referral partnerships are no different.

But the upfront work can be well worth it when the program is put into action and begins growing marketing and sales efforts on its own. 

So what are the key factors of a referral partner program?

Step #1: Find Your Ideal Referral Partners

The most important part of any partnership is finding the right person. 

Anyone can refer a customer to you, but if that customer isn’t interested or wouldn’t have a use for your product, then it’s a waste of resources. 

ideal partner persona example kiflo
An example of a document highlighting an ideal partner persona

That’s why it’s important to base your partnerships on the prospective customers your partner will attract.

Think about what those customers are looking for and if they would fall into your ideal customer category. Would they be interested in a product or service like yours?

Once you’ve identified potential partners with your ideal customers, it’s time to evaluate the partner. Do they sell similar items or would your product seem out of place?

"It’s important to base your partnerships on the prospective customers your partner will attract while mitigating channel conflict (when a lead is valuable for either end)."

Are your products of the same standard/quality?

Do they target a similar audience with the potential for conflicts?

Asking yourself these questions will allow you to pick out partners that are an ideal match for your product(s) and business vision. Doing this work upfront will also ensure you that resources are spent in the right place and not wasted on the wrong types of audiences.

Step #2: Develop a Go-To Market Strategy for Your Program

kiflo business plan for referral partners
Assigning a business plan to partners allows them to stay on track with your objectives

Plan out how you can integrate with your partner's offerings. If you sell similar products, are there any particular holes that your product or service can fill for their audience?

What kind of benefits can you offer to their customers that they can’t?

Use this opportunity to see how you might be able to cooperate with your partner to offer a complete solution that adds additional value to their products and services.

This is perhaps the best way to work with a referral partner as it integrates your offering directly into the sales process of your partner, making it easier for them to pitch you as a solution.

Step #3: Set the Right Expectations for Referral Partners

Take the time to schedule a few meetings with your potential partners and have a discussion on what can be offered and what can be reciprocated.

In some cases, a partnership may just be a simple agreement to promote or refer customers to one other.

However, the most successful plans will have unique ways to implement and market each other's services within the offerings themselves as part of the sales process.

"The most successful plans will have unique ways to implement and market each other's services within the offerings themselves as part of the sales process."

In some cases, partners may not want referrals in exchange.

A cash incentive may be enough for some, but you should consider your options prior to launching a "definitive" perk list.

The idea is to be able to scale the program just as you would with your existing sales and marketing process, effectively putting a reinforcing layer on top.

It's important to understand that both the partner and you should get significant value from the partnership for it to be successful. It should always be both ways, not one or the other.

Step #4: Educate New & Existing Partners

Once your partner is engaged in the partnership, it’s time to bring them up to speed. Since you are asking your partner to refer and essentially sell your services, it’s important that they understand the basics of what you are offering as well as the latest product updates.

Illustration - Educate new and existing partners - Kiflo

For companies that have referral partner programs embedded as part of their entire business strategy, it may be worth notifying partners weeks in advance before a new feature is released so they can get prepared once it becomes available for the end-users.

You wouldn’t want to send a salesman out "in the wild" without any information on the product or service they have to sell.

Develop material or a quick video course to get them up to speed on the basics of what you offer, and keep them up to date with a partner portal like Kiflo. 

Step #5: Track the Results of Your Program & Provide Value

leads and deals tracking from referral partner program in kiflo
Software like Kiflo allows you to keep track of partner leads and deals easily

When setting up your referral partner program, remember to set tangible marketing and sales goals, and do so in a way that makes sense for your partner. 

If a partner can "see" the benefits of your program, it essentially sells itself. 

Focus on rewards and benefits that can be tracked and measured. Whether this is a referral counter, clickthrough tracking, or a commission tracker, displaying this type of information can provide partners with the motivation they need to stay engaged.

Develop an Effective Referral Partner Program

scale your referral partner program kiflo page

Designing and implementing your referral program is a lot of work, but once it’s working you "only" have to worry about managing it and ensuring your partners stay happy. 

That’s why using a platform like Kiflo can really take your program to the next level. 

Kiflo is a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform that allows users to manage partners efficiently, track rewards, and establish an easy-to-use onboarding process. 

Save time and energy with a free demo of Kiflo in the link below.

See how Kiflo PRM helps SaaS SMBs to scale, manage and grow partner revenue.

Get a free demo

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a referral partner program?

Affiliates are a subset of partners and are categorized by performance-based compensation that can come in the form of commissions from sales or other actions performed by the traffic from their channel.

How do I create a partner referral program?

Creating a partner referral program is an intricate process and entails a lot of upfront work. The most important factors are finding good partners, selling them on the benefits you can provide, and ensuring referrals are customers who find value in your products and services.

How do referral partnerships work?

Referral partnerships work by providing a partner some sort of compensation in order to promote and refer your business to their own customers and clients.

Do referral programs apply to customers only?

No, in fact some of the most successful referral programs are between businesses or organizations. They are a bit more involved but they lead to long-term ROI.

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