James Taylor, Kingpin’s commercial director, gives B2B marketers top tips to boosting your partner recruitment strategy.
1. Competency > Quantity when recruiting
While having a lot of partners can have its benefits for some organisations, it is not the top end goal. Essentially, prioritise doing your research before you even begin the recruitment process. This is the one piece of advice I almost always give to our partners.
Before you even start recruiting, have a good long think about what would make a company a suitable fit for yours. Set out official partner standards for your organisation and aim to engage those partners. Always keep your audience front of mind.
Effectively, a channel partner programme is a sales network, so vendors must be providing a solid value offering from their partnership. By being focused on your audience and the goals you hope to achieve through partnering with resellers, service providers and ISVs, your organisation is far more likely to be making the right connections (which complement your go-to-market strategy).
Trying to recruit as many partners as possible can end up messy and is an unmanageable and unsustainable strategy for most companies. A blanket approach can work for larger companies, however, smaller companies often don’t have the time, workforce or funding to maintain a high number of new partnerships. In my job, I see a lot of small companies focused on recruiting high numbers of companies (and they are often un-willing to reduce), unfortunately, the relationships they do have can suffer as a result.
This does not mean your company will never have lots of partners. Once you have an effective network set-up, you can build your partners up. Focus on a few partners with the highest competency; the rest will follow.
2. Relationships > Transactions
Partner recruitment is all about relationships. The people in the organisation you are trying to recruit have a set of human needs to satisfy, and you need to act accordingly.
Ensure that your partner approach is non-aggressive. Avoid pushy sales pitches or communication which takes a patronising tone. I think it is important to show them you want to help grow their business (in the ways that they want to grow). Ask a lot of questions to find this out.
Businesses often neglect to remember they are dealing with an independent business who will have their own motivations and growth strategies. They also know the needs of their audience- probably a lot better than you think you do. Be respectful and arrange meetings or calls so that your prospective partner get a feel for your company and hear your voice. Show that you care.
At Kingpin, everything we do is relationship based. Relationships form the best opportunities – not transactions.
3. Set out expectations and agreements
Be transparent, right from the start. Spell out what you can offer the partnership and be prepared to answer any questions they have. Be concise, clear and communicate the ground rules.
This clarity should help prevent disagreements and miscommunication throughout the partnership. Also, by having a shared understanding of one another’s brand identities and financial goals, you will be better aligned to do business.
Generally speaking, your partner policies should address payment models, trademark enforcement, creative and/or coupon use, traffic generation methods and approvals, and disclosure. They might also include specific policies for paid search, organic search, and customer service.
4. Have regular check-ups
Partner recruitment goes beyond the initial recruitment process. Remember your partners need throughout and help them feel valued and heard and it is your job to make them feel this way. Reach out and provide the platforms so that they can communicate with you.
Depending on the size of your partner network, distributing a partner newsletter is a great way of keeping partners up to date and informed and can be useful for sharing policy updates.
Communication with partners should be regular and coherent. Develop a welcoming pack and consistent check-in strategy to help ensure that everyone gets the same standard of service- and can know what to expect. This will also generate a positive impression of your company early on and prevent bumps in the road before they are hit. First impressions count.
For a more developed partner recruitment strategy, segment partners according to size, type or audience and amend messaging to fit each partner. Focus on speaking to the right people, at the right time.
5. Educate your partners (and lend a hand where you can)
You are a representative of your company, and your partner recruitment strategy can be responsible for making your company reputation better or worse. Ensure that the messaging and service your partners receive is consistent with what you promised them and something to be proud of.
Be open to receiving feedback, and remember you are justified in giving it too. Empathise with your partners, understand their needs, know them well and aim to serve their best interests. Research is key to making the process as speedy and effective as possible.
Remember to make use of the data and technology you have available to you to provide the best standard of education possible and use this dissemination of knowledge to strengthen your partners and your partnership.