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Start a B2B Partner Program in 5 Steps

B2B partner programs can simplify a complicated sales process. If you have a small or mid-sized business, managing a sales pipeline can be time-intensive and costly. You should balance getting and retaining your customers with offering your service or product. Even large enterprises can struggle with the cost and complexity of managing sales.

In essence, B2B partnerships give you an extra sales department. If you have a program that attracts companies with the talent and resources to sell your product or service, you can relieve your company of some of its sales-related burdens.

The best partner programs have certain qualities. It is vital to establish a setup with the best chance of bringing you positive results without exposing you to additional issues, such as time-consuming program management tasks.

Here is a closer look at B2B partnership programs and how you can establish one to streamline the sales pipeline for your own business.

What is a B2B partner program?

B2B partner programs are also known as channel partnerships because they focus on sales channels. Basically, these arrangements create incentives for businesses (or individuals) who help your company grow.

B2B is when products or services are shared between businesses, instead of customers

In these B2B strategic partnerships, the incentives are almost always monetary. For example, a company will offer a percentage of the profit from a sale or subscription signup to the third-party partner that introduced the customer to the business—kind of like a referral program.

Not only do these partnerships incentivize your partners, but they bring rewards for each action. The more a partner sells, the more they can make. In other words, partners who scale up their sales efforts can earn more rewards.

Advantages of B2B partner programs

B2B partnerships have several benefits. These advantages are especially evident when you compare them to handling all your sales in-house.

  • Exposure to new markets. Your partners may have connections with or access to different industries or locations. They can bring you customers that would otherwise be out of your reach.
  • Increased sales. A well-organized partner program can help you increase sales without having to hire and train new representatives for your sales team.
  • Results with limited investment. Most B2B partners will expect you to provide resources and marketing materials that they can use in their efforts. However, if you pay a percentage or dollar amount based on each sale, you only have to spend when they successfully bring in customers. This limits the amount of your initial investment. The low capital requirement is one reason partner programs are popular small business marketing strategies.
  • Limited risk. Because you do not pay unless there are results, you have minimal risk of losing capital.

Would you benefit from a B2B partner program?

Different businesses can take advantage of B2B partnerships. In specific situations, these arrangements can be very beneficial for both you and your partner.

Here is a look at 5 situations where partnership programs could work exceptionally well for your company.

Who benefits from a B2B Partner Program?

1. You’re a startup company

There are several reasons why startup companies can benefit from these strategic partnerships. First, if you have a startup, you likely have a limited budget, and most people are not aware that you even exist. Established partners can help you build your brand by introducing people in their markets to your business. Also, the best partner programs do not require a large capital investment, since you do not have to pay partners until they bring customers to your business.

Partner programs can also serve as PR for small businesses. With partners who are respected in the industry mentioning your product or service, you will be able to develop a positive image without spending extra money on B2B marketing campaigns.

2. You're a SaaS company

Software as a service (SaaS) businesses can find today's business climate especially challenging. A SaaS partner program can give you the reach you need and connect you with sales pros who know how to promote your business.

One of the biggest challenges for SaaS companies is convincing customers that their software is worthwhile and explaining its benefits to people who might not understand the technical nuances. However, the best SaaS partner programs take advantage of established businesses with the ability to vouch for you and the benefits of your SaaS offering.

The use of a least 1 SaaS solution can be found at 99% of businesses

3. You share your target audience with a business in a different industry

You do not want to have partners who are also competitors. However, it is possible to work with businesses in the same market if you do not offer the same product or service. This would allow them to sell your product or service as a solution for their existing customers.

An example could come from SaaS partner programs. A consulting company specializing in business process redesign could join SaaS partner programs offered by a company providing cybersecurity monitoring or AI-powered data analytics services.

4. You have good incentives

Your business plan must include good incentives. The rewards need to achieve 2 goals. First, they must be lucrative enough to draw good partners who can actually deliver the results you need. Second, they should be within your budget. In other words, the incentives should not cost you too much of your profits.

5. You have leaders who can facilitate relationships

Relationships are essential for B2B partner programs. Your company needs people who can foster working relationships with partners and create connections that make working together easier. The best SaaS partner programs will not be effective if you do not have people who can convince worthwhile third parties to participate.

The 5 steps for starting a B2B partner program.

The best partner programs require a step-by-step approach. Here are the benchmarks you should target when establishing these programs.

Define your goals

The first step in building any program for your business is to decide what constitutes success. For B2B partner programs, the goal will typically be to increase sales or membership signups. You can define your goals with figures so that they are not arbitrary. For example, you could target a specific number of subscriptions or a dollar amount. Depending on your business model, you could also measure the growth percentage of the company.

Reach out to your preferred partners

The next step in developing your program is to find partners you think will help you achieve your goals. You do not want to work with competitors, but companies with the same target audience can make excellent partners. Consider partners who offer a service or product that your services or products could complement.

Contact these partners to see if they are interested.

Offer the right incentives.

You need to match your incentives with your budget needs and partners' preferences. There are several options that you should consider.

  • Commission percentage. One of the most common incentives is a percentage of each sale or a portion of the profits. If your partner earns 20%, they would get $20 for each $100 in sales.
  • Flat commissions. If your products or services have similar prices, you can pay the same amount for every sale or signup. This might be useful for businesses like SaaS companies, which offer subscription services. They can pay the commission upfront rather than recalculating the amount every time there is a renewal. Flat commissions can also work for activities like lead generation, which do not produce specific dollar amounts.
  • Wholesale pricing. Some partners can sell your products directly to their customers at a markup. You offer them wholesale pricing, and they take care of the sales and distribution themselves.

Perks like event tickets, free products, or discounted travel do not usually work for B2B partnerships because the goal is to increase profits. However, you could still use them as relationship-building tools and extra perks for reaching dollar or percentage benchmarks.

Create a clear agreement

Once you have ironed out the details, you can create an agreement that clearly spells out the partner arrangement. In addition to percentages, dollar amounts, and requirements for closing a sale, you will want to outline any rules that partners need to follow. They are representing your brand, so you will want to keep them from using underhanded tactics to sell your product.

Provide the right support

You want to set your partners up for success (because their success is your success, too). You should provide marketing materials and if needed, conduct training for sales staff. You can also have dedicated contacts (separate from regular customer or client services) for partners in case they have questions or concerns.

Impress your partners with your emails

Mailchimp is an essential tool for communicating with partners and helping them communicate with customers. You will want to maintain a consistent brand identity whether you are dealing with clients directly or your partner is communicating with them.

You can create emails about new products, pricing, or promotions and send them to all partners at once using Mailchimp. You can also create sales emails that partners can use to maintain contact or make special offers to their leads. These tools can help with their sales efforts while also ensuring that they present your brand in the way you want.

Check Mailchimp's email marketing tools to learn how they can help you create a successful partner program.

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