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5 ways to generate referrals back to your partners!

Supporting top-tier partners requires reciprocity on referrals. Here's how to create referral operations.

When your solutions partners ask and need referrals back from you in order to continue sending you referrals, here are some ways to keep that reciprocity engine going, in a manageable and scalable way.

Scenario 1: You are managing hundreds of partners and you cannot possibly feed them all.

Scenario 2: You are new or simply do not have customer access to be able to effectively intro partners to users.

In either scenario, your goal is not to try and wedge your way between AE's and Users with a partner intro... You're a partner manager - you don't have direct comm's or relationships with end users. You cannot and should not be the directly-referring party.

Instead, your goal is to become the valuable consistent "conduit" for traffic and then referrals your partners receive from your brand.

On that note, here are 5 ways to generate referrals back to your partners: 

Strategy #1: Consolidate and distribute partner offers, templates and strategies back to your troubled users.

Related to offers; here's the strategy:

  1. Ask CS or sales to provide you a list of troubled / churning user accounts.
  2. Segment that list based on size, vertical, or ____.
  3. Create an Airtable base with a form which asks the solutions partner for any offer they'd like you to present to a segment of those users. *Note: use Airtable because it allows you to create forms which can redirect to your calendar page or help desk, and "views" of data for customers vs internal. You'll need to continue to grow this database so Airtable is the best option.
  4. Send your partners the segment definitions, how many users are in each, and a link to the form offering to bring their offer to those users with their contact info. *Note: the offer must be good... A discount is not going to work here. To be included, the partner should come with specifics: "We'll perform ___ for $___ and ___ will be free of charge."
  5. When you have all the offers, find 5 or so really good ones to lead with.
  6. Send an email to the troubled users with resources, strategy guides, and the 5 best offers in a list, then a link to a view (Airtable grid) where they can find the rest of the offers.
  7. Repeat that every 3-6 months.

Related to the templates and resources from partners strategy: 

HubSpot and Databox do this better than most. Check out their directory of partners who are able to display their custom template on top of Databox which brings them leads: https://databox.com/partner/impact-branding-design-llc

HubSpot has an entire resource center of Partner Contributions to be viewed / downloaded by organic traffic and become leads for the partners: https://www.hubspot.com/resources/partner-contribution/inbound-marketing-strategy

They link directly (do-follow) to a landing page on the partners' website >

How this brings your partners leads: This strategy brings your partners into your funnel, which they should greatly appreciate because not all tech companies go this far to support partners. But the main benefit is actually receiving a lead from your website by way of form / download.

Strategy #2: Have revolving co-marketing collaborations to feature partners.

How this brings your partners leads: As the tech company, you have both a higher Domain Authority and more traffic / subscribers than your solutions partners will. Further, because you are partners, you have overlapping customer profiles. Including partners in your content will put them in front of your customers (which could become their customers).

The stages of co-marketing are:

  1. Light, roundup, multi-expert opinion pieces and comments - used to bring in new partnerships.
  2. Medium, more involved, maybe one partner per piece - used to engage stale partners or continue showing value to partners who have referred business.
  3. Heavy, expensive, involving multiple teams, like an event - used to enable to-tier partners.

Talk to marketing about three types of monthly / quarterly co-marketing: 

  1. Expert opinions - weekly posts involving comments and strategies from experts on the topic.
  2. Expert feature interviews - these are once or twice monthly articles, podcasts, or youtube interviews (or all three) featuring one expert on a topic.
  3. Webinars or ebooks - done once a month or quarter in conjunction with one or two partners.

Use the Live Offers feature inside Partnerhub® to syndicate these offers to new partners.

Here are some of my favorite co-marketing examples:

  1. An article featuring "expert" opinions on a topic. Make sure to include a do-follow backlink and an image of the agency's choice next to their quote. Here's an example from Particl >>> Here's an example from Recart where they feature agencies weekly in this same article type >>
  2. Enable the agency (financially or simply creating the assets and then promoting it) to create a course featuring your solution. Here are a few examples, one from Recart on how they enabled Socialite agency to create a course that features their app >>
  3. Create a directory of use cases for your product, but each use case is developed with an agency partner. Here's an example from TextExpander where they allow partners to publish their snippet templates to this library >>
  4. Expert webinar with an agency founder. Invite a thought leader from an agency to co-host a webinar for your audiences. Co-market that webinar, map accounts prior to its release, then convert that agency to a partnership track. Here's an example webinar landing page.
  5. A column of your blog that is all agency-partner interviews that help your traffic understand a use case or overcome a pain point. Here's an example from Heap where they created "Paving the funnel" and interviewed experts on video >>
  6. Create a library of ebooks or white papers on a topic that's relevant for your users, and allow agencies to submit their papers to it. Here's one from Hubspot as an example >>
  7. Launch a directory using Airtable + Softr or APIdeck.com, then feature agency partners in that directory. Here's our APIdeck directory as an example >>
  8. Launch a micro podcast - only 5-10 episodes, all on a specific topic (i.e. Website compliance or CRO for ecomm,...) and bring in agencies to each episode to chat about how they help their clients with that pain point. Here's an example of one on GDPR >>

Strategy #3: Use a section of your newsletter to bring attention to partners.

How this brings your partners leads: Your newsletter is another audience for your partner to get in front of and use their valuable strategy or offer to convert your subscribers to their services.

We all have a newsletter. Does yours talk about your amazing expert partners? If not, it should.

You can use this section feature as an incentive in your program (partners with 1 or more referrals get their content included in this section).

Newsletter sections like:

  1. Partner of the week
  2. Offer of the week (sourced from partners)
  3. Strategy of the week (from a partners blog)

Strategy #4: Bring partners closer to your Sales and CS teams.

How this brings your partners leads: Partner managers are not in direct communication with users / customers. So how can they make relevant intros of customers to partners? They usually can't. But, the sales and CS teams hear customer complaints that can be solved by partners. These teams should have a list of partners to send to troubled clients.

However, you should not be completely on the hook for bringing your partners referrals. Your partner needs to network with your CS and Sales reps as well.

It's your job to start this engagement.

Here are ways to bring your partners closer to sales:

  1. Round robin top 10 of the month referral partners list for CS and Sales to send to customers.
  2. Reverse lunch and learns where you invite your partner to present to your sales / CS team.
  3. Giving your partners a Partner Memorandum template like this one to fill out, store those in a folder, create sub-folders by overlapping ICP, share with sales and CS so they know who to refer to which troubled customer type.
  4. Show your partners how to backchannel new CS and Sales reps to invite for a virtual coffee.
  5. Add your sales / CS leads to partnerships Slack channel.

Strategy #5: Make referrals a part of onboarding new high-value users.

How this brings your partners leads: This is a pure referral process that is a part of the sales routine for certain user scenarios.

Scenario 1: Larger deals with lots of customization need solutions partners.

Companies like Microsoft, HubSpot and Salesforce do this for every new large deal. They have a special sales support team who are experts in the product implementation (like a sales engineer) who comes in, scopes the build, then finds and refers the right partner to do the customization.

Expert liaisons like Max Cohen at HubSpot do this full time.

Scenario 2: You have a high-ticket onboarding service that currently your CS team fullfills. Why not give that budget and the user lead to a trained solutions partner to onboard the new user? 

This is one of my favorites because (a) your CS team cannot possibly advice the user in the same way an expert marketing, analytics, or development agency can... Your support stops at your product. But your product fits into a bigger agenda that client needs to ensure works with your product added. Too many teams try to do all the onboarding themselves. Bigger deals that require more advanced full-funnel strategy should always involve a partner.

And (b), you cannot scale that level of onboarding. Trying to hire / train new CS reps to support this offering as you grow is not sustainable. You need solutions partners. Why not simply introduce that as a procedure? It'll result in higher retention and larger deals.

Incorrect way [example]: An application has a custom pricing tier. They budget 20 hours of custom onboarding support for that new user, which is baked into the price in the form of a setup fee. CS is there to answer questions about the product, and uses all 20 hours.

Correct way [example]: This same product takes 15 of those 20 custom onboarding hours, trains a handful of solutions partners to do the onboarding. When new deals come in, the CS rep uses 5 of those hours, and the agency partner is paid $1500 (15 hours X avg hourly rate of $100/hr) to have one of their team members take on the other 15 hours of onboarding. No extra charge for the customer. Round-robin-style referrals. And the partner must maintain certifications if they are to continue getting these referrals.

That's that. I hope you found this valuable :) 



Alex Glenn


Founder and CEO of Partnerhub. Proud father. And proud of what our team has built!