Understand what incentivizes each partner personas before you reach out.

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Anyone reading this is looking to expand their partnerships and will have to reach out to prospective partners who do not know you. Therefore, you should remember these principles: 

  1. "The people are your partners." - Something we say here to remind ourselves it's not company A providing the value of the partnership to Company B. It's the people who are referring business on customer calls, putting together co-marketing content, and supporting shared customers on calls. 
  2.  There's no "blanket" approach to recruiting partners. Each person working at that company has a different motivation for working with you. 
  3. And finally, your product, and even your partner program are not going to get you in the door. If these people were interested in your product, they would book a demo. If they wanted to be in your program, they would have applied. You have to bring something else, something immediately relevant and valuable to them in order to start the relationship. 

In this article, we'll focus on tech / SaaS companies reaching out to service providers / digital agencies.

In our experience, here's what we see in terms of offer-to-response rates from tech reaching out to agencies:

What will get you <10% positive response rates: 

  • Just mentioning your program
  • Listing the fact they make a commission
  • Talking about your product

What will get you 10%-35% positive response rates: 

  • Talking about your brand reach to their ICP
  • Mentioning something specific you know about their agency
  • Stroking their ego with compliments about their work

    What will get 35-60% positive response rates:

    • A piece of content you want to include them in, who it's going to get in front of, and why they should care
    • Talking about an ephemeral event like an app feature that will bring traffic to the site and the partner page

      What will get 60%+ positive response rates:

      • Having a specific referral that needs their type of agency service
      • Being able to map accounts AND make warm intros

        Agency persona and how to approach each:

        1. The Enterprise Agency Partnerships Manager

        Example: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nkthomson/

        When this person is the POC:

        • Larger agencies (50+ employees)
        • For speaking engagements
        • If there are MDFs (market development funds)

          What incentivizes them:

          1. Specific ways to deepen relationships with overlapping customers

          2. Referrals

          3. Thought leadership

          4. Speaking engagements

          Make sure not to: Pitch your product, or even pitch your program. And do not come to them without a clear path to referrals from your company.

          2. The New business / Marketing / Growth Manager

          Example: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-moonje/

          When this person is the POC:

          • Larger agencies (50+ employees)
          • For any content marketing or co-marketing opportunities
          • Event collaborations
          • If there are MDFs (market development funds)

            What incentivizes them:

            1. Market development funds

            2. Speaking engagements

            3. Backlinks

            4. Referrals

            Make sure not to: Pitch product (they do not have the interest or position to suggest new products to clientele). Do not talk about commissions. This person is not incentivized by commissions.

            3. VP of Revenue or Sales

            Example: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashleyscorpio/

            When this person is the POC:

            • Agencies 30 - 250+
            • When it’s necessary to co-invest in something
            • Devote resources for a long time
            • If there are MDFs (market development funds)

            What incentivizes them:

            1. Referrals

            2. Discounts

            3. Market development funds

            Make sure not to: Lead with what would cost them money without a clear ROI. Do not speak towards commissions. This will not move the needle for them.

            4: The CEO or Co-Founder

            Example: https://www.linkedin.com/in/connor-jeffers/

            When this person is the POC:

            • Smaller agencies (0-50 employees)
            • For speaking engagements
            • If there are MDFs (market development funds)

            What incentivizes them:

            1. Projects you can bring them in on

            2. How you take them where they need to take their agency

            3. Strategic alignment

            4. Referrals

            5. Spiffs for their team

            6. Market development funds

            7. Migration support (if you’re asking to move their current clients)

            Make sure not to: Try and pitch your program right away. Ask for time without being specific or clear on objectives and needs.


            My final suggestions for outreach success:

            1. Don’t pitch your program or your product in your initial outreach.

            2. Why smaller agencies are a better start for any partner team.

            3. Smaller doesn’t mean SMB, it means niche and or new.

            4. Start with co-marketing, then use account mapping to show attribution.

            Grab a time if you need support:

            Calendar for tech teams >>

            Calendar for agencies >>

            More resources on this topic:

            Partnership Memorandum (template)
            Strategy for cold outreach to partners (document)
            How you can convert Partnerships from Cold Outreach! (video)
            Free Partnerhub account so you can find these partners (partners marketplace)
            Partnerships GTM Bootcamp (course)
            Creating your Partner Acquisition Flywheel (video)All agency-led roundtables in the Collective (workshops)
            How to attract and retain top digital agency solutions partners w/ Blend Commerce (podcast)