A steady flow of active, engaged partners is key to any partnership program's success. To maintain a continual flow of new partners, partner managers should seek out new prospects that closely match their ideal partner profile (IPP). Outbound partner recruitment (sometimes also called active recruitment) involves reaching out to prospective partners directly to find ideal match joint ventures. Because this recruitment method involves actively seeking potential partners (versus inbound recruitment where prospects are not vetted ahead of applying to a program), partners who are recruited through this method tend to be a better fit.
To help shed light on the process of seeking out ideal prospects for your partner program, Adam Faber, Customer Success Manager at PartnerStack shares his best-in-class tips.
Faber shares a stat to illustrate the importance of a strong outbound partner recruitment strategy: up to 70% of new net revenue in a mature partner program comes from partners sourced from outbound methods. It’s not only mature partner programs that need a strong outbound recruitment strategy, though. It’s also important to develop a strong outbound recruitment strategy when launching a new partner program before inbound strategies can yield results. To get you started, Faber suggests three strategies that are quick to implement and deliver results.
Related: Inbound vs outbound partner recruitment and best practices for each.
Outbound recruitment tactic 1: Recruit partners with PartnerStack’s discovery tool
The easiest way to recruit high-quality B2B partners within the PartnerStack portal is by using the discovery tool. Vendors can send up to 20 new recruitment emails per week to top, premium or high-potential partners.
- Search: Narrow down your search based on the criteria that matter most to you, including location, industry, and customer base
- Qualify: Find all the info you need to determine fit on their company profile and flag those that you have reviewed for later with custom tags.
- Recruit: The discovery tool includes any information that specific partner requests for outreach (plus best practices) to get you started on your outbound partner outreach.
Note: If you don’t have access to the discovery tool within your portal, reach out to your CSM to discuss enabling this feature.
Expert tip: Take the time to qualify partners to increase your conversion rates
Inclusion in the PartnerStack discovery tool means that the partner has been already identified as a top performer or as having high potential. “We're hunting whales with the partner discovery tool. People who are in the partner discovery tool have hit a certain amount of volume,” Faber shares. So don’t just copy and paste the same script and expect it to yield results! “You need to understand what [the partner] wants and reach out to them with that. It's just a matter of getting good conversion rates on your outbound emails,” Faber advises.
Outbound recruitment tactic 2: Find affiliate partner opportunities by searching key terms
For the next tactic, begin by talking to your marketing department and starting a conversation about what terms customers are inputting in search engines to find your company. You’ll probably already be familiar with your company’s key terms, but you can also use a keyword scraper or keyword research tool to help with this if needed. Search those key terms in Google and analyze the results for affiliate opportunities (hint: any listicle formats are a good bet). While doing this, keep track of any competitors that the search results yield because they’ll be useful for the next tactic. It’s good practice to track these affiliate results in a spreadsheet that can be as simple as listing the site name, content URL and contact information.
Identify: Start with your top keyword terms. Using an incognito web browser, search those terms.
Qualify: Track the results for affiliate link opportunities that are a good fit for your SaaS product.
Recruit: Do your outreach, telling them why your partner program is a good fit in addition to (or even in preference of, if you’re feeling zesty) their current partnerships.
See more: Looking back at the best affiliate marketing content of 2022.
Expert tip: Leverage internal resources and AI tools
As a partner manager, you can take on this Google hunt yourself but there are also others within your company you can outsource it to, like your BDPs or sales department, Faber advises. “They already know your value prop so it’s really easy for them,” he says. If internal resources don’t allow it, have no fear. With just some quality control checks from you, Faber suggests that an intern or a virtual assistant can be taught this motion in as little as half an hour. Alternatively, leverage AI tools to make easy work of this task. Faber recommends Respona for crawling Google results, Channel Crawler for YouTube videos and Octopus for LinkedIn outreach.
Outbound recruitment tactic 3: Backlink search to discover potential partner opportunities
Since you’re now already a Google magician from tactic one, keep that momentum going with this backlink-searching tactic for outbound partner recruitment (first shared in this guide from Postaga). Backlink searching allows you to scan competitors’ domains and see the inbound links leading to them, Faber explains. He recommends Moz for their free 30-day trial (which will give you enough time to complete your audit and determine a value case for the paid version). Export those results and search for common endings associated with affiliate content, then it’s time to send those recruitment messages.
Identify: Using the previously saved list of competitors (plus any other competitors and adjacent B2B SaaS companies that are relevant to your product), scan the inbound links driving to those sites.
Qualify: You can now identify any affiliate content, filtering out any non-reputable sites. For a complete walkthrough, you can refer to Postaga’s guide on how to do this, including their list of affiliate-related URLs.
Recruit: It’s time to hit up the contacts and share why your program would be a great addition to their current affiliate marketing.
You might also like: Expert tips on how to scale a partner program with stability.
Expert tip: Hunt down adjacent products
Faber suggests searching for adjacent technology rather than direct competitors when using this backlink search tactic. Poaching isn’t the goal here, he says. “I am not trying to find someone who provides the exact same service to try to steal them away from that partner program. For starters, that'll be a lot of hard work because they've already decided that [SaaS] tool is a good tool. What I want to do is find people who are adjacent to me”. In doing so, you can offer your product as an additional service to that overlapping audience. “You can see how that's a much stronger sell than simply saying like, ‘Hey, you should switch who you're giving your affiliate link to — I give 2% more’.”
With each tactic, a creative and adaptable mindset is key to success. “Partner recruitment is being an entrepreneur within your own company,” Faber shares. “But you do have to adopt the mindset [that] I'm going to experiment. I'm going to rebuild what I'm doing, and I'm going to try again.”