“PartnerStack has been essential in building a scalable process for onboarding, engaging and rewarding partners, with a team that’s supported us immensely as we’ve grown partnerships into a major acquisition channel.”
15,000+ brands like Zola, Campaign Monitor, and Fifty & Fifty use Unbounce to build pages for their marketing campaigns, ecommerce products, microsites and more.
Until 2019, Unbounce didn’t even have a partner program. But today, 25% of Unbounce’s New Trial Starts — its most important KPI for measuring marketing and acquisition — come directly from partner referrals.
Crucially, that hasn’t come at the cost of taking users away from existing acquisition channels like paid search. In fact, it’s helped reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) overall, because partners are bringing in totally new kinds of customers that Unbounce wouldn’t typically market to. We spoke with Anca Bujor, Manager of Channel Partnerships at Unbounce, to understand how the team at Unbounce were scaling their program to success, and how they use PartnerStack’s PRM platform to make it happen.
Driving 25% of trial signups is major for any company — but especially so for Unbounce, who are extremely effective at converting those trial users into paying subscribers.
“Our most important KPI by far is New Trial Starts,” says Anca. “Over half of the people that try out Unbounce as free users end up converting to paid users — an exceptional rate for any SaaS company.”
Once people are able to try the Unbounce builder and see the value in quickly creating and publishing a landing page by themselves, they’re much more likely to commit to the purchase. The main goal for Unbounce is generating awareness of their product with new audiences who aren’t aware of the product or of landing pages in general, and getting them to try the builder for the first time.
That’s why it made perfect sense for Unbounce to launch their partner program as a revenue share referral program. Partners get their own unique referral link to refer new users with, and earn 20% of the lifetime revenue from every referral that converts into a paying customer.
It’s a compelling pitch for partners and for Unbounce itself. It could also be a nightmare to run manually, even at a small scale — and Unbounce wasn’t thinking small.
“A crucial step in launching our program was finding a PRM that supported our subscription-based payment model, and could scale up quickly. PartnerStack has been essential to us building a scalable process for onboarding, engaging and rewarding partners, with a team that’s supported us immensely as we’ve grown partnerships into a major acquisition channel.”
Unbounce was right to be prepared: since launching its program in 2019, they’ve onboarded over 5,000 partners to their program and built partnerships up into one of their most important acquisition channels.
Unbounce’s approach to onboarding partners is inspired by their successful customer onboarding strategy: get partners into the program with a compelling value proposition, and provide educational content that helps them get the most out of it.
“Being able to personalize and automate partner onboarding in PartnerStack has been key for us. Our onboarding consists of both fixed content designed to appeal to any partner audience that assumes no knowledge of Unbounce; and personalized content that’s based on what we learn about their use cases and business during onboarding. PartnerStack makes it easy for us to send the right content to every partner when they need it most.”
Anca accomplishes this in PartnerStack using triggers, which allow her — and any PartnerStack administrator — to automate many different actions, like sending personalized messages to partners or rewarding a commission.
“When our partners successfully refer their first customer, they immediately earn a reward and receive a custom message from us in their inbox celebrating their success. When they hit their next referral milestone, we make their partnership with us feel even more official by sending over their Unbounce Partner badge.
“Triggers in PartnerStack are such a great way to celebrate success and achievements, and we’ve seen it to be a real driver for future performance.”
If you’ve ever used a CRM or marketing automation platform before, you’re probably familiar with the idea behind triggers. When a contact in your database meets a set of criteria (like opening an email or visiting a landing page), something automatically happens: an email is sent, the contact is moved to a different list, a member of your team is notified, etc. If this happens, then that happens.
Triggers in PartnerStack work the same way. Based on what your partners do and how much they refer and sell, you can automatically send them a message, upgrade them to a new group, or reward them a commission.
Using triggers, partner managers like Anca can create entirely unique onboarding and educational experiences for each type of partner, depending on how they identify themselves, how they perform and the content they engage with most.
It’s not just the Unbounce team that gets value out of using the PartnerStack platform. Every Unbounce partner — and any partner using PartnerStack — gets access to their own dedicated partner dashboard, allowing partners to:
“PartnerStack tracks the performance of every partner not just for us, but for the partner themselves,” says Anca. “And if partners have questions or feedback, they can message me directly through the PartnerStack dashboard. That combination of visibility and instant communication helps us meet the unique needs of every partner.”
Beyond performance tracking, resources and support, there’s one other reason partners love joining programs on PartnerStack: they always get paid on time, because PartnerStack pays partners automatically based on their rewards every month.
“From the partner’s perspective, revenue is the incentive for participating in the program. Making payments simple and immediate is crucial to keeping partners engaged. We previously had a delayed payment schedule, and using PartnerStack to make that more immediate made a real difference for our partners.”
It makes a difference for Anca and the Unbounce team, too. “Automating payments is a huge time saver for me, letting me spend more time talking with partners and doing more strategic work. And the detailed invoicing — including refunds — makes our finance team pretty happy!”
Automatic payments are one of the most common reasons companies choose PartnerStack to manage their partner programs. But it’s also one of the reasons partners prefer programs that use PartnerStack.
PartnerStack gives partners a single place to access performance metrics, resources and support for multiple programs — along with a single, simple way to get paid on time, every time.
PartnerStack automatically notifies partners when they have rewards available. Then they simply log in, select Stripe or PayPal, and get paid right away.
It’s even simpler on the company’s side: once a credit card or automated clearing house (ACH) is added as a payment source, rewards are invoiced and distributed to partners automatically every month.
“One of the biggest risks is running partnerships like any other paid channel, seeing it as just a series of inputs and outputs. What really accelerated the growth of the program was when we better communicated internally how meaningful the relationships with the partners are. And those partners really do want to feel like they’re part of a community, and part of our business — part of something bigger than themselves.”
Building closer relationships with partners was also important to winning support for the program internally. “Many companies never get their programs off the ground because they can’t get the buy-in they need internally. And when partnerships are seen as a transactional channel instead of as relationships with real people, it’s hard for internal teams to trust the partners, to understand the value they bring to the business.”
Other teams and executives at Unbounce had understandable concerns about partnerships. Unbounce had built its business on the strength of its branding and the quality of its educational content for marketers and businesses, having posted 1,000+ articles over the past 10 years and published many larger resources, like their annual Conversion Benchmark Report. Would partners treat the brand with the respect and consistency necessary?
Another major concern was cannibalization — partners potentially taking traffic away from existing channels that Unbounce was already paying for. What if Unbounce and its partners ended up competing for the same AdWords terms, which would result in higher customer acquisition costs?
In the end, the solution to resolving these concerns was clearer communication, both with partners and with other teams inside Unbounce.
“We make it really clear for partners what’s expected of them in terms of how they treat the brand, where and how they market the product, and the quality of content they create to promote Unbounce.
If there’s a new feature in Unbounce that partners need to know about, we can immediately notify them through PartnerStack, share new resources and update our partner onboarding to include it. And we keep a close eye on where referrals are coming from to ensure partners are meeting those standards, and not conflicting with other marketing campaigns.”
Being able to educate and measure partners through PartnerStack, and share the results with her team, has been crucial to winning teams over to the power of partnerships.
“I love that now, other teams in the company feel like they own KPIs connected to partnerships. Partnerships isn’t an experiment for us — it’s an integral part of how we acquire customers. PartnerStack has helped make this possible, giving us a single source of truth to measure and optimize program revenue, for both us and every partner we work with.”