It takes work to create a partner programme. But it takes just as much work to scale one!
Contrary to what you might think, growing your partner programme isn’t just about finding more strategic partners. Instead, it’s about putting the infrastructure in place that will allow you to manage hundreds (if not thousands!) of partners simultaneously, instead of just five or 10.
Here are our top 10 tips for doing just that.
1. Attract the right partners
Since we’re talking about growing rather than starting a partner programme, let’s assume you already have a handful of engaged partners who are yielding good results for your business. Take a look at your most successful and engaged partners and have a think about what unites them.
The chances are they have certain traits or characteristics in common. Use this information to find strategic partners that have a decent chance of being engaged and successful partners for you. It’ll make growing your partner programme a whole lot easier!
2. Nail your onboarding
When you only have a few partners to take care of, you can spend time onboarding them each individually and setting them up for success. Now that you’re hoping to work with many more, the onboarding process will be just as important but you’ll need to automate it to save time.
Look for patterns in your current onboarding process that can help influence the automated processes you put into place. For instance, consider what questions you regularly get asked and when, before integrating this information into your onboarding sequence.
You’ll need to strike the right balance between being informative and not overwhelming your partners with information. If possible, tie your onboarding funnel to actions rather than dates, so that partners can self-pace their journey and so that the sequence is just as useful for a partner who joined yesterday as it is for a partner who joined six months ago.
3. Create a centralised information hub
There’s nothing worse than getting asked the same questions all the time. To prevent that from happening, it’s important to anticipate your partners’ questions and make all the information they need readily available before they have to ask for it.
Create a central place where you can store information on everything to do with your partner programme and make it easy for your partners to navigate it. Depending on how you’ve set your programme up, this could be as simple as a Notion document, or as advanced as a partner portal that offers one place for information, assets, messaging, commission and more.
Either way, the important thing is that your partners know where to look for information, and that they’re confident they’ll find an answer to their question there.
4. Create templates
No matter how carefully you collate and share information, there’ll always be a few partners who’d rather drop you an email than check whether you’ve already answered their questions! To save valuable time typing out the same answer repeatedly, create template answers to common questions that you can copy and paste across.
Make sure to share these templates with your colleagues too. Not only will it save them time but it’ll also help to create consistency across your organisation. This will be crucial as your partnerships team grows.
Just a quick word of warning though: it’s still important to maintain a personal feel with your partners to keep them invested in you and your partnerships programme. So, ideally, you should tweak the templates a little (even if it just means switching each partner’s name in!) and watch out for questions that require a bespoke answer.
5. Create clear systems for communication
When you only have a few partners, it’s relatively easy to check in with them personally on a regular basis and keep track of your conversations. But once you scale your programme, that will become harder and harder. It’ll suddenly become easy to lose track of who you’ve replied to and where you can refer back to a specific conversation, especially if you’re working as part of a larger team.
Firstly, we’d recommend reducing the number of channels you use to communicate. Instead of communicating with partners using emails, phone calls, text messages and WhatsApp, try to keep all your conversations in one easy-to-manage place as much as possible.
Setting up a partner portal is a great way to centralise and log all your communication. Or it may be worth investing in CRM (customer relationship management) software like Zendesk to hold all your partners’ communications in one place while keeping them personal.
6. Create assets and share them widely
There’s no point in growing your partner programme if your partners aren’t going to help your business reach its goals! For that reason, it’s really important to give your partners what they need to be successful.
Consider what kind of assets your partners might benefit from and create a folder where they can easily download and use what they need. It’s also important to keep an open dialogue with your partners – encourage them to let you know if there’s anything you can do to make their job easier. After all, anything you do to help them should help your business too!
7. Learn from your most successful partners
On the topic of helping your partners to perform well, you already have a great resource at your disposal – your current partners! Make sure to measure how your existing partners are performing and make a note of your best performers. What do they have in common?
Once you’re aware of what your most successful partners are doing differently, spread the word to your new and underperforming partners. That way, you can help them to understand how to perform better, which will be beneficial to you both! You could even host training sessions as part of your onboarding process, to set your partners up for success from the outset.
8. Grow your partnerships team
One thing that’s really important is not losing the personal touch that you’ve probably built up in the initial stages of setting up your partner programme.
Although you might think that growing your partnerships team would make things less personal (small businesses tend to be synonymous with more personal service) that’s not quite true. If you have the budget and resources to expand your team, doing so will give you more capacity to respond to queries in-person and to build individual relationships with your partners. Better still, you could designate each partner a dedicated in-house partnership manager.
That way, you keep your personal touch despite growing your business and despite working with many more partners than before.
9. Make your partner programme worth their while
For you to successfully grow your partner programme, you’ll need engaged partners who really want to work with you. When your partner programme is small, you might be able to get away with persuading partners to work with you thanks to building up a good relationship with them. But this just isn’t sustainable when you have a large number of partners to engage!
Instead, you’ll need to make sure your partner programme is truly attractive, to make it worth your partners’ while. Let’s say you’re scaling your affiliate programme. You’ll need to offer great commission rates, fair attribution models, great products to promote, assets that will enable your partners to successfully promote you… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (read our guide to creating an affiliate programme for your business for more tips).
Remember, happy and engaged partners are the most likely to help your business grow. So, that’s what you need to aim for!
10. Don’t lose your spark
When you come to scale your partner programme, we’d always recommend asking your loyal existing partners why they enjoy working with you. What is it about your partner programme that makes them keep coming back?
The chances are a few key ingredients will crop up again and again – it could be personal touches, team spirit, incentives, the commission… but whatever it is, these are the elements of your partner programme that make you special and that you must keep at all costs.
Growing your partner programme will mean making changes to it and adapting the way that you work. But preserving your spark is essential to both keeping your current partners engaged and helping you to sell your programme to new ones.
At the end of the day, growing a partner programme isn’t rocket science. Yes, it takes careful planning and consideration. But the most important thing is to recognise what makes your current partner programme successful, and then find ways to deliver that same experience to your partners on a larger scale.
If you’re ready to scale up your partner programme and you need to find partners to join it, what are you waiting for? Just sign up with Breezy and you’ll be able to quickly and easily find tons of partner prospects to reach out to – saving you time that you could better spend on managing and maintaining those partnerships.