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Partner Program: A Guide to Build the Perfect Program in 7 Easy Steps [2024 + Examples]

By Leah Clark Last updated: 17 minute read Marketing Guides

Brands can drive much more traction by working with quality partners. A good partner program will expose your brand to a wider audience of qualified buyers, while elevating you and your partners’ businesses. 

Strategic partnerships generate about 28% business growth, while paid ads gain around 18%. And by 2025, almost a third of global sales will come from partnership ecosystems. 

But partner programs are challenging to build, and you need the perfect value proposition and partners to succeed. Between 60 and 65% of strategic partnerships fail because of a lack of trust or communication and unrealistic goals.

However, if you take the right approach to develop a partner program, you can achieve outstanding results!

Which is why we’ve done the research to find the best and easiest 7 steps to create a great partner program to multiply your bottom line.

Plus, you’ll learn what you need for a partner program that really works, and which KPIs to track!

Ready to learn about partner programs and boost your revenue?

Let’s go!

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    Partner Program: What Makes it Successful?

    Partner marketing (or Partnership marketing) is when a brand or business forms a strategic marketing partnership with another entity (brand, business, or individual) that benefits both parties.

    Examples include methods like affiliate marketing or referral marketing, and marketing campaigns or collaborations, like influencer marketing, co-branding, or sponsorships.

    In the simplest terms, a brand partners with another entity that promotes that brand. In exchange, the brand provides some kind of incentive, which is usually a commission on any sales generated by the partner’s promotion.

    Your partner program is how you manage your partners/affiliates. This includes everything from the commission structure you will use to the recruitment of partners and the ongoing management of those partners.

    Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

    Well, it’s actually a lot more complicated than it sounds. There are many, many moving parts that need to be taken into account, from the bigger picture strategy to the nitty gritty elements like tracking codes and monitoring for fraudulent activity.

    So, what makes for a truly successful partner program?

    Let’s take a look at three of the essential components of a great partner program:

    1.The Right Partners

    Who you choose to work with majorly impacts your partner program. Picking the wrong partners will result in poor results and wasted time and resources. However, the bright side is you’ll be able to learn from this mistake and improve your next attempt.

    Be meticulous with how you choose potential partners and do extensive research on them. Understand which customers they target, what value they offer, what they share with your brand, their values, and how you can help each other. There’s no need to rush agreements. Be realistic and analytical when evaluating partnership proposals, or selecting potential recruits for your program. 

    2.A Strategic Start

    Partner programs are no doubt profitable ventures but don’t let greed get in the way and pour loads of resources into a new program without having a good overall strategy in place.

    Taking a strategic approach to every aspect of your program, from the partners you choose to the incentives you offer, and the channels your publishers/partners will use, allows you to tailor your program to best meet your needs. 

    Take some time to form a partner marketing strategy that identifies exactly what your goals are, how best to reach them and how you will measure your progress along the way. Knowing specifically what you want to achieve will inform the format of your partner program, as well as the value of the commission you can offer.

    There is probably no need to invent the wheel for a straightforward affiliate program but you certainly need a customized strategy to guide you structure and manage that program.

    3.Using Data to Your Advantage

    From the outset, you need to measure your partner programs performance against the right KPIs for your goals. Choose the right metrics, and choose the right methods or tools to measure them.

    Access to accurate data is the key to making strategic decisions. When you know what your data says, and why, it gives you a clear picture of what is working well and what needs attention.

    Don’t waste resources fixing what ain’t broke. Use the data and allocate your resources to where they will make a real difference.  

    Summary: Partner Program: What Makes it Successful?

    1. Choosing the right partners
    2. Having a good strategy in place
    3. Using data to make strategic decsions

    Source: Nordic APIs

    Partner Program KPIs to Track

    Track these KPIs to evaluate your partner program:

    1. Number of active partners: Which % of partners are currently active?
    2. Number of inactive partners: Track which of your partners are inactive and how many become inactive over time.
    3. Activation rate: How many partners become active, right after sign-up vs. those that don’t contribute to your program?
    4. Conversion rates from partners: What are the conversion rates for your partners independently and overall?
    5. Partner signup rates: How many new partner signups do you get monthly?
    6. Types of partners: What partners have been most interested in working with your brand? 
    7. New partner sources: What are the sources from your partners?
    8. Total revenue earned from partners: How much have you profited from your partners every month? How does this compare to your desired ROI?
    9. Total commission paid to partners: How much have you paid partners every month? How does this compare to your revenue?
    10. Leads generated: Although they didn’t buy your product, is your partner generating quality leads? Where are the sources of these leads, and what prevents them from converting?

    All these KPIs reveal the details of how your partner program is performing. You can understand what brands are interested in your brand, what are your pain points and whether your pricing structure works.

    Here’s a few statistics on what businesses with partner programs have to say:

    partner program stats
    Source: CrossBeam

    7 Easy Steps to Build Your Perfect Partner Program

    1.Define Your Brand’s Value Proposition

    Before you find the perfect partners for your brand, there’s a lot to do. Starting with defining your value proposition. Determine what sets you a part of the competition and why buyers need your brand.

    Potential partners want to know this information to decide if working with your brand will benefit them. If you copy your competitor’s identity and approach, quality partners won’t find any unique value in your brand. 

    Your value proposition directly tells your audience why you matter. Developing a value proposition will take research and time. Align your value proposition with your brand identity and missions. For example, if your brand’s value proposition is recycling all your resources and product materials, does this match your brand identity and values?

    When you have an idea of your value proposition evaluate this against the market, your competitors, and target buyers. 

    Does your value proposition give you an edge against your competition?

    Does it connect with your buyers and what they want to achieve through your product?

    With a solid value proposition, you can lay out the rest of your program partner strategy and know how to pitch to potential partners.

    value for partner program stats
    Source: FullSerge

    2.Do Extensive Competitor Research

    Competitor research it’s a component of your value proposition. You’ll need this to win over partners too. Not all businesses you reach out to may want loads of research and statistics to prove your worth. But those with impactful customers will. Evaluate and track EVERY aspect of your competitors, from how they market themselves to their social media followings and credibility.

    No business is perfect. With all this research, you’re bound to find a crack in your competitor’s approach. Your product and brand must make target buyers reconsider the businesses they’re currently supporting.

    Let’s look at a simple example of this. I found and stayed loyal to a fantastic nail technician. For months my undying support strengthened the brand-to-customer relationship until my friend shared another nail technician’s work on Instagram. This one had a much more established social following. Her profile was scattered with pictures and testimonials of happy clients and jaw-dropping nail designs I’d only seen on Pinterest.

    And guess what?

    Yep, I do my nails there now.

    It’s a silly example, but it proves how a minor difference in social proof, product quality, and online reputation influenced me to opt for the competitor.

    You need to be the competitor in this story and find a way to redirect your competitor’s buyers to you by offering something they don’t.

    3.Understand Your Target Audience and Sales Funnel

    Partners with quality dedicated buyers will want information on your existing customer base. They need this information to determine whether you’re what they want in a partner.

    What would be the point of a business selling your products if it’s not relevant to what they sell? 

    Understanding your target audience also helps you determine what you want in a partner for a customer-centric strategy. Your partner must have customers that fulfill your ideal buyer personas to drive traction to your products. 

    Target audience for partner program
    Source: AGS

    Not all the features of your target audience and your partner’s customers will be the same. You must identify which factors change and whether this affects your approach. For example, if you’re an e-commerce store wanting to partner with a brand in France, consider the buyers in that geographical location.

    What is relevant to them, and what market challenges do they face?

    What trends exist in that location, and how will this give me an edge or disadvantage in pitching to partners?

    Detail all your competitor and target audience research into actionable insights. Start with writing down your research and create visuals like buyer personas, competitor and market trends, etc.

    4.Determine Your Pricing Structure

    It’s time to consider how you make a profit from your partner’s sales. The best place to start is on a commission basis. Your partner taking between 15% and 25% is ideal. How much your partner takes depends on your products, your traction, and how likely your product is to succeed. Ensure your pricing structure is simple. You don’t want to scare off quality partners through a complicated process.

    Some businesses use non-monetary payments like lead sharing or backlinks. Many partners may consider this if you have valuable data and your backlinks are likely to drive targeted web traffic. This approach relies on your resources and authority. 

    5.Pin Down the Terms and Conditions

    Don’t forget to define the T&Cs of your partner program. Work with a lawyer on this for clear terms, avoiding or solving potential conflict. There shouldn’t be anything for you and your partner to argue over. All the details of your agreement must be clear and direct.

    Your partner program’s terms and conditions must consider factors like:

    • Your compensation and pricing structure.
    • When will you approve and issue payments?
    • How will you track customers to your partner?
    • What is the time limit from customers engaging with your partner to buying your product?
    • How long is this agreement valid?
    • The cancellation terms of your agreement.

    The more direct and intuitive you can make this information for partners, the better!

    For example, Influitive details all the information about their partner program in an easily digestible way:

    Influitive program
    Source: Influitive

    6.Decide on the Type of Partners You Want to Partner With

    Which brands or professionals do you consider to be your most ideal partners? Do you want to work with a major retailer, a thriving Ecommerce store, or a professional that markets themselves as a brand?

    There are loads of partners to consider. A few of these partners include entities like:

    • Agencies: These include marketing and design agencies that can sell third-party products related to their target audience. Eg. web hosting services and SEO tools.
    • Consultants: A consultant is an expert in a specific field. Businesses may hire them over agencies. Consultants help brands make the best choices for profit and growth.
    • Ecommerce stores: Online stores that sell products complementary to yours. It’s best to define how your products will complement the store’s current offerings. Avoid stores that offer products like yours because we’d consider this competition.
    • Retail stores: Instead of an online store, do you want to sell your products through brick-mortar businesses? The T&Cs will be a little more complicated for these types of partners.

    7.Choose Your Software and Secure Brand Partners

    Software makes managing and tracking your partner program easy. Not every venture may achieve your desired results, and tracking your program will tell you. Choose partner program software that works for your goals and budget. But there are some standard features you’ll need.

    Your partner program tool must offer features like:

    • Payment integration
    • Detailed tracking and analytics
    • An intuitive dashboard to view and manage your partner program and performance
    • A dashboard to track partner leads

    After choosing the best partner program software, reach out to possible partners. There are three ways you can do this:

    1. Go out and find partners.
    2. Attract partners to come to you.
    3. 1 & 2!

    The third choice is the best until you have an established number and a list of partners. At that point, you’ll be in the position of other brands wanting to partner with you, where strategy #2 comes in.

    Until then, actively network to secure brand partnerships and use a dedicated landing page or contact form for interested partners.

    Finding and Recruiting Partners

    You can use just about any social media network to reach out to partners. Depending on your ideal partner, it may be easy to contact the brand or individual. Some businesses have contact forums for dedicated interested partners. Others you may need to cold email/call. Many are small enough to reach out to stakeholders on social media. If you need contact information, use LinkedIn or find valid email addresses with a tool like

    The bigger the business, the harder it will be to get directly to the relevant department or person. But some enterprises have online forums for interested partners. So how easy it is to connect with partners 100% depends on who you’re targeting.

    Have a look at how Unbounce uses a dedicated landing page for it’s partner program:

    Unbounce example
    Source: Unbounce

    Attracting Partners

    Bring partners to your business through a dedicated contact form or landing page for interested partners. You can promote the link to this page on your social networks or using a website popup. Many businesses also create ads to attract brand partners or use content strategy to appeal to targeted brands.

    Summary: 7 Easy Steps to Build Your Perfect Partner Program

    1. Define Your Brand’s Value Proposition
    2. Do Extensive Competitor Research
    3. Understand Your Target Audience and Sales Funnel
    4. Determine Your Pricing Structure
    5. Pin Down the Terms and Conditions
    6. Decide on the Type of Partners You Want to Partner
    7. With Choose Your Software and Secure Brand Partners

    4 Examples of Hugely Successful Partner Programs 

    1.Xerox Global Partner Program

    Xerox is a convenient and easy-to-use accounting software for individuals and small businesses. They provide a handy set of tools like custom invoices, automated payments, inventory management, and payroll. But Xerox decided to take an extra step and turn their clients into brand advocates through a generous partnership program. Prospects could join the program through Xerox’s website, and earn points to move up the program’s ranks.

    Xerox_partner program
    Source: Xerox

    Partners in the basic tier would receive:

    • A dedicated account manager
    • 24/7 support
    • A free Xerox subscription
    • Digital training
    • Co-marketing resources

    Partners in the higher tiers would receive:

    • Discounts for up to 30% for Xerox products and subscriptions
    • Marketing development funds (MDF)
    • Hands-on support for integration and implementation
    • A listing in Xerox’s business directory

    2.Podia’s Refer-a-Creator Program

    Podia is an online course creator platform offering a simple solution for online teachers and small businesses. You can build and customize all kinds of courses with Podia, and this tool makes it possible to track and measure your course analytics. Podia chose to amplify its reach and developed a partner program that’s all about referral marketing. Podia’s refer-a-creator partner program encourages its users to refer traffic to earn credit on their accounts and exclusive rewards.

    Podia_partner program
    Source: Podia

    The perks and rewards Podia offers for its partner program include:

    • $30 credited to your account for every referral
    • Quick and easy registration to Podia and once you join this platform, you’re automatically eligible for the partner program
    • Exclusive merch based on how many creators you refer. Starting at one referral, you get Podia branded stickers, and at 25 referrals, a hoodie!

    3.Uberflip Service Partners

    Uberflip is a content experience platform for B2B businesses and marketers. This platform provides its users with all the tools they need to strategize, create, plan and promote conversion-driven content. B2B marketers and brands can produce content for every stage of their buying journeys. Uberflip built a partner program to help them expand their user base and guide B2B marketers to scale their account-based marketing (ABM) strategies.

    Source: Uberflip

    When users become an Uberflip service partner they can enjoy perks like:

    • Strategic materials and resources to help you leverage ABM
    • Priority support
    • A dedicated account manager
    • Co-branded marketing
    • Custom pricing
    • Referral incentives

    4.Shopify’s Partner Program

    Shopify is a huge e-commerce platform for solo entrepreneurs and small to mid-level brands. If you know about e-commerce marketing, there’s no way you don’t know about Shopify! Businesses can leverage an opportunity to scale and join Shopify’s community through their partner program. Unlike tiered partner programs, Shopify’s program focuses on affiliate and referral marketing.

    Source: Shopify

    The Shopify partner program offers its members:

    • Access to the Shopify App Store and Shopify’s Experts Marketplace for increased visibility
    • 24/7 support
    • Access to a partner community
    • Recurring commission for subscription referrals
    • Once-off commission for Shopify app referrals
    • Exclusive promotions to earn more revenue

    Summary: 4 Hugely Successful Partner Program Examples

    • Xerox Global Partner Program
    • Podia Refer a Creator Program
    • Uberflip Service Partners
    • Shopify Partner Program

    Final Thoughts on Creating a Great Partner Program

    To reach a wider but targeted audience, build a partner program. These programs work to benefit both partners and can optimize your traction and sales by using another brand’s resources and customer base.

    To create a successful partner program you need the right programs, a strategic start, and a competitive edge. Avoid losing track of your partner program’s performance and track KPIs like the number of active partners, partner signup rates, and how you secure new partners.

    Creating a profitable partner program starts with defining your brand’s value proposition, doing extensive customer research, and understanding your target audience. Following this guide for partner programs that drive traction, you can maximize your reach and sales!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a partner program?

    A partner program is an agreement between your brand and another business or individual. Your partners promote your products to their network of contacts, target audience or followers and in exchange you pay them a commission for each sale they generate for you. Examples include affiliate and programs, as well as collaborations with influencers or other individuals. Read the full guide to learn more about personalized partner programs for your brand!

    What do you need for a successful partner program?

    The building blocks for a successful partner program include finding the right partners, using a strategic approach and developing a competitive edge using data to make strategic decisions. To build a thriving partner program start with understanding your target audience and defining your value proposition. Read the full guide to learn how to build a profitable partner program.

    What KPIs must I track for a partner program?

    Vital KPIs to track for your partner program include partner signup right, overall revenue generated, overall commission paid to partners and new partner sources. Tracking these KPIs make it easy to stay ahead of your partner program and achieve your desired goals. Read the full guide to learn more about partner program KPIs and how build a successful partner program of your own.


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