A couple of years ago, every tech company was touting how many users they had. In the eyes of VCs and the general public — the more millions of users, the more promising a SaaS startup’s trajectory.
But over time, people realized those numbers were severely inflated. While some apps may have had millions of signups, only thousands were actually using it. And that meant only some of those users translated to real revenue.
Guess what? The same can be said for partner programs.
The sheer number of partners in your network doesn’t really matter. To extend your brand’s reach, hit your revenue goals, and keep your customers happy, you need activated partners.
But what exactly is partnership activation, and how do you do it? In this guide, we’ll cover the two main components of partnership activation and outline the key elements needed to activate partners and jumpstart partner-driven GTM success.
Measure partnership success
To gain the internal respect and budget you need to grow your partner program, you need the activation numbers to back it up.
Define your partner activation rate
First, figure out what partnership activation means in your program. It could be a first referral, first closed won deal, or hitting a certain amount of revenue — something demonstrating that a partner will probably stay engaged and profitable.
Then, ask yourself what the best-scoring partners have in common. What sparked their engagement? That’s your partnership activation metric.
From there, you can calculate your activation rate. Take the number of partners who met your activation metric, divide it by the total number of partners who joined your program, and multiply that result by 100.
- Portal logins
- Content downloads
- Email sequence opens and clicks
- LMS courses taken
- Certifications passed
- MDFs used (and resulting leads)
- Leads (converted and non-converted) per partner
Drill down: Know and grow your partner metrics
Activation rate is a good jumping-off point for partner conversations about revenue and performance. But you should also look at hidden metrics, like customer retention, time to close, and co-marketing success. Sinai reminds us:
“Partnership value isn’t just about new deal volume. Look at the size of deals partners reel in. Look at your customer retention — do partner-sourced customers stay longer? Are partner-sourced customers more engaged? Are partners decreasing the length of your sales cycle? Are your co-marketing campaigns impactful? All of these metrics are important.”
Berger brings up another key metric: response time. “The partners that reply to me quickly are the ones I can count on the most and are the ones I tap most often when leads come in.”
The benefits of diving into these KPIs are three-fold. They will:
- Fuel your partner marketing engine with success stories
- Help you recruit more excellent partners
- Give you ideas for enabling new and existing partners
Automate wherever possible
The widely-known Pareto Principle that 20 per cent of your partners give 80 per cent of your return. Spending the bulk of your time on that 20 per cent is crucial.
Here’s the problem: Because you’re spending time on that 20 per cent, you can’t afford to sit down with every single other partner. That’s where automation comes in.
Corcione recommends using a PRM like PartnerStack to design and schedule onboarding email sequences that:
Point partners to all the resources you have available in your portal
Remind them of marketing development funds (MDFs) and offer ideas for strategic co-branding initiatives
Motivate them with better-together success stories from your other partnerships
Share key information about their dedicated partner manager and sales team contacts
That said, don’t go overboard. Sinai warns, “The worst thing you can do is automate everything. You can’t extract value from strategic partners through one or two emails.”
To add some personal flair, Corcione sets an alert when whale partners (large partners that exactly fit Trainual’s ideal partner profile) join the program so he can send them customized videos about how excited he is to meet and work with them.
Embrace creativity in partner activation efforts
Don’t be afraid to tap into your creative side when focusing on partner activation campaigns. To do this:
- Go beyond the usual sponsorships
- Brainstorm creative partnership campaigns
- Host innovative partner events
- Use engaging cross-promotions to wow customers and prospects
- Put your partner front and center
Reignite inactive partners
Not all inactive partners are invaluable — some might just be lost. Sinai tells PartnerStack customers to consider their inactive partner base “a pipeline for reactivation.”
Send these partners reactivation email campaigns through a PRM like PartnerStack. Or, if they’re big enough and have joint revenue potential, meet with them one-on-one to figure out what they need to get to the next level.
Corcione advises, “Partner managers should ask this million-dollar question: ‘What can we do to make this the best partnership you’ve ever been a part of?’ You’ll know how to serve that partner, and the changes you make as a result will likely help other partners hit activation, too.”
For example: At Secureframe, customer requests can be the driving factor behind reactivation. Berger explains, “Sometimes a customer asks for help with something one of our dormant partners would be a great fit for. We use that lead as a way of bringing them back into the fold, asking them to hop on a call to discuss how to go about that sale.”