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4 Partner Pros Enabling Their Partner Programs for Success in 2024

As we kick off a new year, let’s celebrate the thought leadership of these partnership professionals.

In the world of partnerships and B2B SaaS, we’re often so involved in the moment that we don’t take the time to step away to look at the big picture, fully appreciating how far we’ve all come in a year.

We’ve talked about problems and solutions through the year and have given and received plenty of advice on everything from starting a partnership program, finding the right end clients and partners, to reducing customer churn and even how to pitch your CMO on your brilliant idea. We spoke with industry thought leaders throughout the year, so what better way to kick off 2024 than to hear, in their own words, about their successes and plans?

Read on for the thoughts and advice from the partnership leaders who are doing the good work in the space.

Thomas Yuan, Head of Partnerships at SaneBox

Here’s what Yuan had to say about SaneBox’s approach to partnerships and how they used a people-first approach combined with PartnerStack’s PRM to drive more than $500,000 in partner-sourced revenue.

Thomas Yuan and the Sanebox logo

Prior to 2023, we weren’t strangers to affiliate partnerships. But our programs had never succeeded in the way we wanted them to — or the way that we knew that they could. We were trying to replicate what our competitors were doing, but we quickly learned that we weren’t our competitors — and if we were going to succeed, we needed to figure out what strategy worked for us and our customers.

We also realized that we weren’t giving our partners what they needed to succeed. We were putting a lot of the responsibility on them to market and sell the product when there was plenty we could be doing on the backend to set them up for success.

Related: How new tech will impact affiliate marketing.

We joined PartnerStack in 2022, and made the decision to reinvest in — and completely overhaul—our affiliate program.

Realizing what wasn’t working about our affiliate program made us completely reevaluate our goals — and our main goal was to take a human-centric ‘partnership with purpose’ approach — and putting our partners first became the foundation for many of our affiliate strategies for 2023.

We implemented a few key strategies, including:

  • Overhauling our onboarding process
  • Making content more turnkey for affiliates
  • Changing our commission structure
  • Listening to our partners
  • Testing and optimizing everything involved with the affiliate program.

PartnerStack was a hugely helpful resource as we were building out our affiliate program. We took advantage of everything PartnerStack had to offer. We were active in their Slack group, set up meetings with peers to learn and share strategies, and leaned on our contacts at PartnerStack — specifically Ola, who is our customer success manager, and Nick, who heads up partner development — to get plugged in and learn how to best leverage the platform. We attended webinars, enrolled in programs, and attended their STACK’D Connect conference — twice!

Basically, we really invested in PartnerStack as a way to learn and grow our affiliate program — and that investment paid off in a serious way. It informed a lot of our strategies and exposed us to new opportunities — and is a big part of why our 2023 affiliate partner strategy was so successful.

Today, we work with over 1000 affiliate partners — and those partners drive more than half of a million dollars of revenue for the company each year. We’ve also been extremely happy with our conversion stats. On average, 10 per cent of people who sign up for a free trial convert into paid customers, and we’ve seen that number as high as 60 per cent in certain channels.

Our affiliates have also seen amazing results from the program. After shifting to a recurring revenue model and really investing in making our affiliate program as turnkey as possible for our partners, our affiliates now make, on average, $2,300 per month in commissions.

This year was a huge learning year for us. We’re heading into 2024 with some invaluable lessons that will continue to inform our strategy , including:

  • Run your race: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution or strategy for building a successful affiliate program. While you can certainly learn from other’s successes (and failures), you ultimately have to figure out what works for you, your affiliates, and your target customers — and then build a unique strategy around that.
  • Put people first: We set our affiliates up for success — which not only increased conversions but also laid the foundation for long-term partnerships that are a win for us and our partners.
  • Being more intentional: With partners, it’s all about fit; partners that are the right fit are going to be more successful than partners that just barely fall into your target partner category.
  • You get what you put in: Like any relationship, the results you get are directly tied to the energy and effort you put in — so, if you’re trying to grow your affiliate program, definitely put the energy and effort into PartnerStack.

Sakshi Sharda, Marketing Analyst at Outgrow

Sharda shares how Outgrow learned more about their partners through surveys and partner profiles in order to provide the exact right resources to help them succeed.

Sakshi Sharda and the Outgrow logo

Running an affiliate program comes with its own set of challenges. One of our main goals was to help our partners understand the value of their efforts and maximize their earnings. That's why we developed a convenient calculator that shows affiliates their potential earnings. We hoped to empower our partners and make the process more transparent by providing this tool.

A challenge we faced was keeping our partners engaged and active. We noticed that if partners didn't see immediate results they weren't encouraged to continue, they would become dormant after just one trial sign-up or paid customer.

See more: Revenue-focused goals following partner activation.

To address this, we took a proactive approach. We launched a survey to better understand our partners' needs and how we could assist them. This valuable feedback allowed us to create three distinct partner personas, which helped us personalize our support and communication strategies. These three personas were:

  • Social media promoters: Recently joined partners who need help with the first step.
  • Website affiliates: Looking to improve their personal economy; participating in challenges to make it easier to earn.
  • Marketplace affiliates from referrals: Long-term partners who loved Outgrow’s product for its features that give it a competitive advantage when it comes to engaging customers and generating leads.

Through the survey we discovered that social media was the most common way partners joined our program, followed by the website, and customer referrals.

We developed materials like promotional reels for Facebook or Instagram to make things easier for our social media promoters. Our onboarding emails provide them with logos, awards, webinars, training videos, eBooks, and video/text reviews, which are easy to access via a form. This streamlined approach helped simplify the first steps for beginners and provided the necessary resources to excel in promoting our product.

We saw some amazing results: From 2020 to 2021, there was a 15 per cent increase in trial user sign-ups; from 2021 to 2022, the increase jumped to an impressive 55 per cent.

We attribute this success to the inclusive and enjoyable experience we created by incorporating quizzes and incentivized challenges. Partners were not only able to learn about our marketing assets but also earn extra income while working towards their financial goals.

Our program experienced a remarkable 21 per cent increase in total revenue generated from 2020 to 2021, followed by another 35 per cent growth the following year.

With innovative solutions, we were able to transform our programme for consistent growth. We look forward to continuing this journey with our partners.

You might also like: How to successfully set up referral programs (by business maturity level).

Julia Wilkerson, Chief Alliance Officer at Textline

Read about how Wilkerson led the move to PartnerStack’s PRM to scale Textline’s bootstrap partner program by providing tools to ensure consistent payouts and performance data for partners and the automation to enable her to spend less time on administrative tasks and more on enabling growth.

Julia Wilkerson and the Textline logo

At the beginning of 2023, we had a functioning partner program with a very basic affiliate tool used for link creation and tracking, as well as a manual process for passing warm leads. We believed the program had a great deal of potential, but we needed more sophisticated software to scale.

Plus, managing the program was becoming very time consuming — particularly around processing payments. Our partners also had very little insight into leads they sent over and commission tracking. It simply wasn’t scalable from an administrative standpoint. And for our partners, it probably wasn’t very motivating because they lacked performance insights and dealt with payment inconsistencies due to the payout tools we were using in combination with our old PRM.

We needed to find a new PRM tool that would automate as much of the administrative work as possible. We wanted to empower our partners and provide them with a set of tools that would make it easier to grow with Textline. Plus we needed everything to be scalable, especially onboarding partners because once we had a new PRM up and running, we wanted to shift our focus to growth. So the new PRM tool had to have a robust network of successful partners and a willingness to work with us on partner recruitment.

We needed:

  • Automated payments
  • Customizable lead submission forms
  • Custom affiliate links
  • Metrics and insights for our partners and affiliates
  • Automated email campaigns/engagement tools
  • Analytics for our team
  • Easy sign up flow
  • Group segmentation for different partners

PartnerStack was the clear front runner in our assessment of PRM tools that would help us achieve our goals. We worked with them this year and the results have been very positive.

  • We’ve been able to save time by eliminating certain administrative tasks and instead can focus that energy on strategy and growth.
  • Commission payouts are easier and more reliable for our partners.
  • We used to field a number of questions about lead status and conversion tracking and that’s no longer something we need to dedicate time towards.
  • The program is very scalable and prospective partners are generally pleased to hear that we have a PartnerStack program as it’s a trusted solution and it instills confidence in our program.

Here’s what we learned from our experience this year: Don’t be afraid to invest in a strong PRM solution early on.

I wish we had invested more in our partner program years ago. It almost got too big as a scrappy program that it made the move over to a legitimate PRM a bit challenging. Not to mention the missed growth opportunity by delaying the move.

Of course, you should prove out your program and ensure that people actually want to recommend your product, but once you do that, I suggest taking the leap.

Anitha Sridhar, Digital Marketing and Partnerships at Freshworks

Learn how FreshworksSridhar unlocked new opportunities through a tiered approach to their partner program that provides a strengthened, personalized experience for the partners in their ecosystem.

Anitha Sridhar and the Freshworks logo

Embarking on an exciting new chapter, we've recently relaunched our affiliate program, introducing strategic shifts that redefine our approach to partnership. At the core of this transformation is a tiered commission model, precisely tailoring rewards to performance tiers. This ensures our affiliates receive recognition that aligns with their contributions. As they progress through tiers, unlocking higher commission rates, we've established a clear pathway for sustained success. Additionally, we've introduced performance bonuses, solidifying our belief that the success of our affiliates is undeniably intertwined with our own.

Committed to unrivaled support, we recognize the uniqueness of each affiliate's journey. Our refined approach tailors support to diverse needs, offering personalized strategies and enhanced collaboration. Together, we're cultivating an ecosystem where success is as unique as our partners driving it.

The combined impact of these strategic initiatives has led to deeper and stronger relationships with our affiliates and overall growth and sustainability of our affiliate program. Affiliates are not only thriving individually but contributing collectively to the program's resilience and success.

In 2024, I look forward to growing even further with our current partners and welcome new partners to our wonderful affiliate community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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WORD OF THE WEEK

Joint venture

noun
[joynt ven·chr]

A joint venture is a business collaboration between two parties on a project. Both parties will benefit from bringing their shared resources and knowledge, and neither party will take on the sole burden of the risk.

WORD OF THE WEEK

Buyer persona

noun
[bahy-er per-soh-nuh]

These depictions of target customers help to define your company's ideal target customers.

WORD OF THE WEEK

SaaS partner programs

noun
[sas pahrt-ner proh-grams]

SaaS (software-as-a-service) partner programs are a systematic way that software companies form mutually beneficial relationships with agencies, influencers, and other companies to drive business results.

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