Building a SaaS Partner Program: Step by Step Guide

saas-partner-program

Have you started a SaaS partner program for your business? If you’re in the SaaS industry, you already know that it’s a much more complex environment than you’ve expected it to be. A dynamic industry where only those who stand out and work smart will get to enjoy the amazing results. 

It’s not enough to have a good product, if no one knows about it and how amazing it is. In this industry, and honestly, in most industries, marketing is everything. This is why we encourage you to make a strong marketing plan. After that step, start thinking of other ways to grow and scale your business and build a SaaS partner program.

What is a SaaS Partner Program and Why Do You Need One?

Before we start digging deep into what a SaaS partner program actually is, we should start with the definition. Just like the name says, any SaaS partner program refers to a partnership between two companies meant to help them grow and evolve.

Most SaaS partner programs offer two main benefits:

  1. Leveraging popular brands
  2. Boosting marketing and sales efforts

Each type of partnership comes with ups and downs as well as specific benefits that can be useful for both companies. One of the most important things everyone should take is that this type of partnership benefits both parties. 

When deciding what type of SaaS partner program to choose, one should think about a few things before enrolling in such a journey. Among them, we will mention:

  • The company size
  • Available resources
  • Business goals
  • How much time you have to invest in a partner program
  • How much you’re willing to invest in the partnership.

This goes to show that each SaaS partner program is tailored to fit both parties. 

The Benefits of SaaS Partner Program

Lucky for the companies involved in this kind of partner program, the benefits are huge. It amplifies sales and marketing efforts, helps your business grow, and of course brings in significant revenue growth. Let’s see what are the main benefits of a SaaS partner program:

  1. Revenue boost – One of the main benefits both parties get from a SaaS partnership is focused on revenue. This is the case for all business partnerships. It’s a win-win situation that fuels other companies to get involved in these types of partnerships. 
  2. Extended Buble – Another great benefit is the extended network your company gets by partnering with another company. It’s a unique opportunity to tap into other markets that otherwise would have been very time-consuming and expensive to reach. Along with this, you’ll get important insights and expert advice from your partner. This is a very valuable information that is very hard to get these days. Make sure to utilize it effectively.
  3. Enhanced product portfolio – When you’re partnering with another SaaS company your portfolio gets a little bigger. Therefore, the opportunities get a little bigger too. You can now offer a wider range of products to your clients. As a result, your services will be offered to a wider audience, thanks to your new partner. 
  4. Different sales channels – Possibly one of the most important benefits offered by a SaaS partner program is a new indirect sales channel. This will significantly grow your revenue and in the SaaS industry, this is crucial for survival.

SaaS Partner Programs Types

There aren’t many SaaS partner program types. Here are the main ones all SaaS companies should know about before signing any deals:

Referral Partners Program

This is one of the most common types of partner programs you’ll see in the industry. The way referrals work is easy to understand and apply, hence the popularity. It goes like this: users of your product/service refer other people to your product/service in exchange for a commission. They can get discounts, credits, percentage of sales, vouchers, and other types of benefits. It’s basically word of mouth in the digital era.

Thanks to referral programs, you can turn your most loyal customers into ambassadors! You can easily tap into their bubbles to reach even more loyal customers. It’s a really great idea when you think about it. You’re spending a little money to get new customers while also keeping your existing ones active. It can lower your acquisition costs significantly over time because you can’t just give free things to your customers forever, it’s not sustainable.

To get started with a referral program you’ll need to invest a little time into the mechanism behind it. Maybe it will be a little complicated at first. However, since we’re talking about the SaaS industry, you know that at one point it will be automated.

Since you’re offering discounts, credits, and small incentives for your own product, it helps you keep the costs relatively low. Keep in mind that you don’t have to offer 50% off or free memberships. A small discount or a point system can go really far with most users, especially if they really like and use the product. Let’s say you have a fintech app. Each user who convinces 5 friends to sign-up for your app gets $10. You can run this program 2 times per year to boost new sign-ups.

Do a little research or survey before setting up a referral program. It will help you to know what type of commission will attract more users. Keep in mind how important it is to offer them the proper discount, so it will encourage them to refer you to their friends. Also, keep the entire process simple and easy to do. For example, think of sign-up links. It’s one of the easiest ways for anyone to refer your product to a friend via email, SMS, or messenger.

Affiliate Programs

This type of partner program is often confused with the referral program we just mentioned. The main difference between a referral and affiliate programs is: you don’t have to be a user to promote the product/service. The commission is often a percentage of the sales that can require a little more time and resources to set up at first.  

Compensation is key in this type of program. You’ll want to have the entire process set up from the beginning, and that can take some time. It can take even longer to see results from it because you’re not just leveraging your current active users. A huge advantage is that you get to see a lot of analytics and insights about your audience.

Because we live in the 21st century, there are already a few key players in this market. You don’t have to hire an expert to set it up for you. For just a few dollars per month, you get to use specialized software that does all the work for both of you. Some of them offer unlimited affiliates, real-time analytics, proxy and fraud detection, or even daily newsletters. All you need to do is lookout for the ones that best suit your needs. 

The best example for affiliate programs is affiliate marketing influencers use all the time. Let’s say you have an influencer in the tech reviews industry that has over 1 million subscribers. You can contact that person and offer them a personalized link. They can give it to their audience and get 5% from each sale. This offers you a huge pool of new customers with a reduced CAC (customer acquisition cost) while also paying the influencer a cut from it for promoting the product/service. Win-win for both of you, even for the new customers who might have not known about your product otherwise. 

Integration Partner Programs

Another great partner program is the integration program. This type of partnership happens when 2 SaaS companies get together to create a more user-friendly and convenient service for the users. The benefits of integration partnerships include tapping into a new audience,  perfecting your product/service or new marketing opportunities. 

How can you build a SaaS integration partner program? Basically, you’ll need to find an ideal partner that shares the same goals as you do. You and your new partner will be sharing technology, infrastructure, and information in order to reach that goal. In order to make this program a success, companies are advised to use a 3rd party software that will help with the entire process.

Keep in mind that with this type of partnership, you’ll be focusing on customer retention more than customer acquisition, because if a user is already using and loving a software product or service and you integrate yours with it, they will most probably love it. Of course, this partnership needs to make sense for both parties, the companies, and the users. It’s no point to integrate your service with useless software because you’ll get nothing out of it.

Examples of SaaS Partner Programs

In order for anyone to fully understand what SaaS partner programs are, it’s better to see some successful real-life examples. The following companies provide us with some of the best examples of SaaS partner programs.

Slack

One of the most popular and widespread among companies is Slack. They also run an integration SaaS partner program with other companies such as Google or Zoom, and it makes sense. Of course, they will not allow any partner to join their program, because their users might not like it. 

saas-partner-program-slack

By allowing a few key partners to be integrated with their software, users can experience a better Slack and of course, use the product for longer and recommend it to others. All teams using Slack can have a better experience once the integration program is set up because it will make their lives easier. At the moment, Slack works with around 1000 software companies, which goes to show just how fruitful these types of partnerships can be.

ZenDesk

With a different approach, Zendesk offers a mix of all types of SaaS partner programs. This strategy allows them to reach a wider audience and partner up with both small companies and big companies. 

zendesk-partner-program

They’re all listed on their website, for full transparency and you get to see all the benefits you can get by partnering with them. They offer affiliate, integration as well as referrals.

Shopify

One of the biggest players on the market who is also a huge fan of SaaS partner programs is the one and only Shopify. Their kind of business is almost based on partnerships, from payments and other integrations, Shopify is winning this game and making lots of money on the way. 

saas-partner-program-shopify

Their partner program is almost 100% going to reward you with new users, a steady monthly income, and access to new features and marketing materials. Keep in mind that their program is one of the largest and well established in the industry, so be prepared for a long onboarding process and some effort.

Building Your SaaS Partner Programs

Now that you’ve seen what SaaS partner programs are, what you get out of them, and some successful examples, let’s dive into how to build your own SaaS partner program because that’s the reason why you’re reading this article.

Building a partner program can boost sales by over 20% on average, which is huge for any business, especially a new one. It’s important to have a product that is already established because no one will want to partner with a product that is still being developed and improved. If you already have a set of clients, with little complaints, you’re good to go. Before that, you should also keep in mind the following:

1. Sync Your Marketing and Sales Activities

A very important aspect any business should do ASAP is syncing their marketing and sales activities. Having data but not doing anything with it is just a waste of energy and missed opportunities. They both need to understand what moves a customer from one step of the funnel to the next and act as a team not as independent teams. 

This is a crucial step because it will allow your partner’s team to properly sell your product. It can take up to 12 or 18 months to see the first results of your partner program, meaning that this strategy is a long-term one.

And because you will be sharing data with your partner, you’d better be well versed with some reporting tools, in order to have your data ready to go and easy to read.

2. Automation

After you’ve taken care of your marketing and sales teams, you should focus on the automation part of it. This means that your SaaS partner program should have all the little details and processes set in stone so that the program can run smoothly without a dedicated team paying attention to it 24/7. As we mentioned before, you can use 3rd party software for this step.

3. Analyze and Utilize the Data

After steps 1 and step 2 are ready to go, you’ll want to analyze the data you’re getting from your new program as well as from your new partners and use it to grow and scale the program. Each type of partnership will provide different analytics about your audience and your program, so you’ll want to set your expectations accordingly. 

They say information is power, so after you’ve gathered all your data, be ready to make some data-driven decisions and adjust your other marketing efforts based on it. 

A SaaS partner program is just another valuable channel almost any company should have because you don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket. As you’ll see from your data, any kind of partner program will give you a boost in sales and awareness, but it’s not your main channel and revenue stream. 

Conclusion

With all this being said, keep in mind that SaaS partner programs are a clever way to market your product. The main take from the entire article should be that you need to find a good partner, a product that will compliment yours, and from that point on it’s a recipe for success. It’s almost like a marriage, once you find your soulmate it all makes sense for both of you because SaaS partner programs are just another love story we all want to follow.

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