How to grow your SaaS business with partnerships

Some of the most successful SaaS businesses in the world are built on partnerships (think marketing agencies and HubSpot and accountants and Xero), that’s before we get into platforms like Salesforce’s AppExchange.

Good (and we emphasise the word good) partnerships can bring a significant amount of new revenue to your business.

This article explores who your SaaS business could partner with, the types of partnerships to consider, how to engage with partners and how to adapt your marketing strategy to partners.

Who can you partner with? 

A partner is any business or person that will sell or market your software for you. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Service providers for example a marketing agency for marketing software, accountants for financial software
  • Complementary software – partnering with a company that will sell software to the same market as you and already have a customer database. As long as there’s no competition there can be benefits for both parties – a recruitment agency may need front and back office software so a SaaS selling front office software can partner with a back office provider
  • Platforms – for example Salesforce’s AppExchange. Here you can either build software for a platform, or more likely build an integration so your software can bolt into another product
  • Strategic – if you need to sell your product to another territory or market size a strategic partner with knowledge, customers and relevant experience can help

Types of partnership

Once you’ve identified the types of partners that will suit your business you need to choose the types of partnership that work for you. We’ve said ‘types’ as there may be more than one type of partnership that works for you:

  • Affiliate/referral – partners tell others about you and earn a commission. Typically, this is recurring for at least the first year, with many SaaS businesses offering this in perpetuity
  • Reseller/channel partner – value added resellers would typically use your product to empower what they are doing. A website designer may use eCommerce website software, consultant’s business planning software and so on. Here there would typically be a revenue share, but the partner would get more support than a standard affiliate
  • Platform (not your own) – as discussed earlier creating an integration or software for a platform gets you instant exposure on a larger platform. There are some SaaS products that only work on top of another platform
  • Platform (your own) – you may decide you want to create your own platform and let other software companies create products or integrations for that
  • White label – may not be its own category as it could fall into some of the above but white label is where you provide the technology and your partner can brand it as its own

How to engage with partners

Now you’ve identified the partners that are a good fit for you and decided what type or types of partnerships work best for you. At this point many software companies will leave it at that, but this is only just the start. A partnership is a relationship, your partner may have many other partnerships to promote so you need to make it as easy as possible for your partner to promote your product. This can include:

  • Providing training for partners – product training, sales training and even training on how to grow or make their business more effective
  • Creating marketing collateral for partners, these could be white papers, blogs, landing pages, videos, emails and more. Even better, create ‘campaigns in a box’ so your partner can just load it and send it
  • Give them tools – these can help with selling. For example, a template or interactive calculator
  • Provide leads to your partners – depending on what type of partnership you have this may be easier to do (for example if your software needs customisation and you don’t have a presence in the US you can hand these leads to your US partners). The more leads you provide to partners the more engaged they will be!
  • Co-fund your partners marketing campaigns – partners may need to apply for this or reach a certain ‘status’
  • Create a portal for partners to login, track leads and opportunities and get exclusive content or new training
  • Consider different tiers of partners – bronze, silver, gold and have different incentives for reaching different tiers. For companies like Salesforce the higher the tier the more prestige the partner has – if you need a Salesforce consultant would you rather work with a gold or silver partner? For others it may be the higher tier you are the more commission you get, or more leads get passed your way
  • Where applicable have a dedicated account manager to look after your partners
  • Consider offering your software for free to partners, or at a big discount

Adapting your marketing to cater for partners

If you’re going to continue to sell direct it’s more a case of adding tactics to your marketing mix. When marketing to partners considering the following:

  • Marketing to get partners – what marketing are you going to do to get partners? One off campaigns? Upsell to current users of the software? What else?
  • More brand building – if you have more partners you need to focus on raising awareness and being better known in your industry – consider more advertising, PR, social media and content
  • Create content just for partners. Both content that they can use in their marketing and content that engages with them (for example how to get more sales – answer: partner with us). Consider exclusive partner only content too
  • Run joint promotions and campaigns
  • Share their content on social media
  • Partner events – you can arrange trade shows for your software and partners to promote themselves

Ready to start selling more through partners?

Xander Marketing has got a decade of experience of working with SaaS businesses to help them flourish, grow and achieve their objectives. This includes marketing and supporting partner programmes.

For help with marketing to partners or any other marketing for your SaaS business talk to us and book your free consultation.

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