30 of the Best SaaS Partner Programs (and Why They Are So Good)

Posted on September 12, 2018

By Stephen Ceplenski

Tags: , , , ,

These 30 top SaaS providers run the best partner programs in the business—here’s how you can do the same.

 

With so many new SaaS providers hitting the market every month, running some form of partner program feels like table stakes.

After all, partnering up with other companies that share customer bases can be a huge asset in amplifying your sales and marketing. Partnering allows you to leverage a well-known brand with a broad network to grow your own customer base more quickly than would be possible on your own.

Surprisingly, though, many SaaS providers shy away from building their own partner programs, as they may not provide as direct a path to revenue. As AppDirect co-CEO Daniel Saks points out, “80% of on-premise software vendors operate a channel program to enable other companies to sell their products, while only 20% of SaaS vendors operate similar programs.” The vast majority of SaaS providers, then, can benefit from building out their own partner program.

If you’re struggling to design a partner program that works for your SaaS company, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Helping over 10,000 vendors create successful partner programs has given us unique insight into what works (and doesn’t work) when creating a partner program—and we want to share what we’ve learned with you.

To help illustrate how you can design a successful partner program of your own, we’ve put together a list of 30 of the best SaaS partner programs out there. Each of these companies operates a comprehensive partner program, providing benefits to their partners ranging from the free use of software to referral commissions—even helping them celebrate their wins on social media. Study them, learn from them, and apply their best practices in your own partner programs.

 

3 Types of SaaS Partner Programs

Every software company is different, and likewise, every partner program is different. When it comes to building out your partner program, there isn’t a right or wrong answer – what works for one company might not work for your own.

Some companies, like Slack, choose to focus on only one type of partnership. Others, like Shopify, offer a much wider range of opportunities for partners. In fact, the majority of the 30 SaaS partner programs reviewed below provide benefits across multiple different areas.

Partnerships generally fall into one of three areas:

 

1. Referral Partners

Referral partners will generate and pass leads to your SaaS company in return for commission payments. Usually, these commissions are a percentage of revenue from the customer, most frequently for the first few months of the customer’s contract, but they can extend up to one year or longer.

Shopify is a great example of a referral program, offering partners a generous 20% commission on any referred customer’s subscription fees for as long as they remain a customer.

 

2. Strategic / Technical Partners

Technical partnerships involve working together towards a common goal or sharing information and integrating technology for the benefit of both partners.

Take Slack, for example. Through strategic partnerships with enterprise companies like ServiceNow and Google, Slack is able to expand their offering to include more enterprise customers and connect their tool with the products and services their customers are already using.

 

3. Sales / Support Partners

These partners might recommend your product and company to their customers when it makes sense. They will also provide co-marketing resources, shared training and development resources, and certifications.

Marketo focuses their partner program around providing strong sales and marketing support. They provide partners with access to a partner community, an ongoing series of monthly training webinars, joint sales and marketing materials, and even subcontracting work to their highest-tier partners.

 

What the Best SaaS Partner Programs Have in Common

Looking over the list of the best SaaS partner programs, a few common themes jump out:

    • All 30 companies offer co-marketing support for their partners.
    • 25 out of 30 companies offer a partner portal to help manage their partner relationships.
    • All but three programs are free to join. Only the largest enterprise programs (Salesforce, HubSpot, and PayPal) have partner fees.
    • Two-thirds of partner programs pay partners for referrals, although frequently this is only offered to higher-tier partners. Partner programs that don’t offer compensation for referrals are usually smaller companies, with Marketo being the surprising exception.
    • Likewise, two-thirds of SaaS companies list their partners publicly, although once again this benefit is frequently only offered to higher-tier partners.
    • All but a handful of SaaS partner programs provide some form of sales training, although only half provide hands-on sales support.

Overall, each of the 30 partner programs offered a mix of services for partners, while utilizing the strengths and weaknesses of both parties involved.

So without further ado, here are 30 of the best partner programs offered by SaaS companies in no particular order:

 

30 of the Best SaaS Partner Programs

 

1. Podia’s Refer-a-Creator Program

Podia makes it easy for content creators to build their online business. Their friendly platform offers independent creators everything they need to start hosting and selling online courses, memberships, and digital downloads, without the headache of setting up things like billing and hosting themselves.
Since Podia sells directly to independent creators and small businesses, their Refer-a-Creator Program focuses on referrals. The program is easy for existing customers to join, and they offer a 30% referral commission for the lifetime of referred customers. Their team also works hard to help customers promote their referral links, providing ideas for blog posts and newsletters, instructions for adding referral links to partners’ sites, and even joint webinars with partners which are promoted to their own mailing list.

Key Takeaway: Make it easy for partners to join your program, and they’ll be more likely to refer customers in return.

 

2. HubSpot’s Sales and Marketing Growth Stack

HubSpot, being a very broad product, has split their partner program into three parts:

  • Marketing Agency Partners: HubSpot provides assistance for agencies offering inbound marketing services to their clients.
  • Sales Partners: HubSpot provides assistance for CRM service providers and sales consultants who want to sell HubSpot services and earn commissions.
  • Integration Partners: HubSpot’s Connect Program helps companies integrate their own technology with HubSpot’s software.

HubSpot offers a strong referral commission of 20% monthly for a customer’s first year as well as a dedicated partner manager, a partner toolkit to manage referral leads, online training, and a public listing in HubSpot’s partner directory. The one downside is that HubSpot’s partner program costs $50 per month to join.

Key Takeaway: Splitting your partner program by purpose makes it easier for both you and your partners to manage.

 

3. Shopify’s Ecommerce Expert Program

Shopify’s partner program is one of the most thorough offerings when compared to most SaaS companies. Whether you’re a freelancer or an agency, they offer a wide variety of perks, including discounts on products and services from leading software companies. Shopify’s Partner Academy includes courses, study guides, and exams to help both developers and consultants make the most of the platform.

Shopify partners have access to a dedicated partner dashboard to manage referrals, view commission payments, find resources, and submit Shopify Plus leads. Shopify Experts are listed in a public directory on their site. Shopify also offers generous referral commissions, paying out 20% of the referred customer’s monthly subscription fees for the life of their subscription. App and theme developers also earn between 50-80% of one-time sales or subscription fees from sales of their products.

Key Takeaway: Comprehensive documentation on your product takes effort, but helps your partners integrate easily with your product.

 

4. MailChimp’s Email Automation Platform

MailChimp’s partner program is surprisingly limited given the scope of the product. They provide partners with priority email and live chat support, educational resources, and a dedicated newsletter, along with a partner listing in their Experts Directory. However, the referral commissions are quite low—MailChimp only pays $30 one time for each referral.

Key Takeaway: Offering a public directory of partners can help customers find the help they’re looking for.

 

5. Atlassian’s Solutions Partner Program

Atlassian makes collaboration tools for teams of all sizes, including the popular issue management tool Jira and knowledge base tool Confluence. Atlassian offers a tiered Solution Partner Program—all tiers include partner portal access, access to certification and training programs, a listing on Atlassian’s partner directory, and free access to Atlassian products for internal use. Higher tiers also include referral bonuses, product discounts, and a dedicated channel manager. Partners can graduate to higher tiers by meeting sales goals and completing Atlassian’s training programs.

Key Takeaway: Creating tiers based on performance means that you can reward partners based on their contributions to your business.

 

6. PayPal’s End-to-End Payment Solution

PayPal provides end-to-end payment management for online businesses of all sizes.

PayPal’s partner program provides partners with co-marketing opportunities, live support for customers, reporting, revenue share for referrals, an online partner directory, and more. Partners can get started by contacting a PayPal Partner Expert here.

Key Takeaway: Comprehensive partner programs can often be confusing for potential partners. Making it easy to contact a partner expert can help ease their mind.

 

7. Marketo’s Premier Partner Program

Like HubSpot, Marketo is one of the big players in marketing automation, and they have a comprehensive partner program to match the varied needs of their customers.

Through their Premier Partner program, they provide expert training as well as co-marketing and co-sales material, access to partner-only webinars, and participation in Partner Days. Higher-tier partners also receive free sandbox access, joint collateral, a dedicated Partner Success Manager, and more. Partners are also entitled to access the Marketing Nation, Marketo’s community of marketing professionals, where partners can share best practices and meet other partners.

Key Takeaway: Building a community of like-minded partners and customers fosters relationships and inspires new ideas.

 

8. Slack’s Communication Platform Partner Program

Slack provides a well-run integrations program for partners, working with over 1,000 SaaS products to help users be more efficient and productive in their communications. Their partner list includes some big names, like Salesforce and Google, so partners can be sure the program is well run.

Slack’s partner program isn’t open to just anyone – to join the program, potential partners must submit a complete application and be accepted into the partner program. The benefits for integration partners are huge, with access to 9 million weekly active users and a listing in the public Slack apps directory to help users find the functionality they’re looking for. To help support app developers, Slack provides partners with detailed documentation on their API and platform.

Key Takeaway: Partner applications help ensure customers can rely on your partners, especially for mission-critical products.

 

9. Acquia’s Open Source Content Management System

Acquia is one of the leading web content management tools, allowing users to build, deploy, manage, and massively scale content experiences. Acquia is the platform behind some of the biggest sites on the web, with customers ranging from Princess Cruises to the Australian Government.

By joining Acquia’s partner program, partners can gain access to a public directory of over 1,000 Acquia partners, referral commissions, access to a partner portal and sales enablement tools, co-marketing materials, and a dedicated partner manager for higher tiers. They also include testimonials and case studies from existing partners on their site, to boost trust and engagement with potential partners.

Key Takeaway: Case studies and testimonials from existing partners can help encourage potential partners who might be on the fence to join your partner program.

 

10. Pantheon’s Hosting and DevOps Tools

Pantheon allows marketers and developers to build, host, and manage high-performance websites without the hassle of hiring full-time operational staff to manage the site. Marketers can publish new campaigns and fresh content without IT support, and agencies can speed up their developer productivity and centrally manage client sites.

Pantheon partners also receive free hosting for development sites along with their own agency website, access to a developer dashboard and site management tools, access to additional monitoring tools like New Relic, priority support, assisted migrations, custom training workshops, and more. Higher-tier partners can receive up to 10% commissions for referrals, joint business planning, and access to special strategic partner events.

Pantheon provides a directory of trusted agencies, and if you’re looking to hire an agency, they’ll also help you find the perfect match for your needs. They’ll even give your clients a shout-out on social media when you go live with a client site.

Key Takeaway: Value-added services for partners, like assisted migrations, are easy ways to create value without increasing development costs.

 

11. Xero’s Partner Program for Accounting Practices

Xero provides simple online accounting software for small businesses with popular features that include invoicing, inventory management, payroll, and more. Given how central accounting is to a company’s workflow, Xero integrates with over 700 other business applications, ranging from time-tracking to ecommerce and point-of-sale management.

Xero has one of the most user-friendly partner programs out there. The more points you earn, the higher your partner status level and the more benefits you receive. Points are earned through referrals, being added on a client’s account as an advisor, or using Xero in your own accounting practice.

Basic partners receive a free subscription to Xero for their own practice, a dedicated account manager and 24/7 priority support, access to co-marketing resources, and online training opportunities. Higher-tier partners also receive up to a 30% discount on subscriptions that can be passed onto the client, a listing in the Xero advisor directory, assistance with client migrations and implementation, and marketing funding. Partners can also become “Xero Champions” by hitting certain criteria, unlocking a special champion designation in the partner directory, lead sharing, and content co-development opportunities.

Key Takeaway: Make it easy for partners to understand the criteria for reaching certain program tiers, as well as the benefits they’ll receive at each level.

 

12. Leanplum’s Mobile Marketing Platform

Leanplum makes it easy for SaaS companies to increase user engagement through in-app messages, automated emails, and text messages, helping to increase lifetime value and create lasting customer relationships. They provide a full suite of mobile marketing tools, including push notifications, automated email marketing, and in-app messages.

Leanplum’s partner program includes access to dedicated marketing, sales, and technical support for the product. Leanplum also provides a public directory of Leanplum partners, and they frequently team up with partners to co-produce content or host events.

Key Takeaway: Co-marketing efforts like joint webinars with partners help drive results for both you and your partners.

 

13. Seventh Sense’s Email Send Time Optimization Tools

Seventh Sense helps agencies increase their email open rate and engagement for their clients by optimizing email send time and frequency. Seventh Sense integrates with HubSpot and Marketo to find the best days and times to send email campaigns, making sure to send them when they’ve got the best chance of being read. Additionally, they can also help time phone call scheduling within HubSpot.

Seventh Sense partners enjoy access to training and sales resources, including an Agency Playbook full of proven processes and strategies to help increase sales. Partners are also listed in a public directory of Seventh Sense partners. Finally, Seventh Sense is part of HubSpot’s Apps for Agency Services Program, offering their software for free to Platinum and Diamond HubSpot agencies.

Key Takeaway: Partner community programs like HubSpot’s Apps for Agency Services provide a low-risk way to expand your offerings while increasing the reach of your own product.

 

14. Pipedrive’s Sales-Focused CRM Tool

Pipedrive is a sales CRM built for ease-of-use. Where Pipedrive excels is in its integrations with the ability to connect directly with over 100 other software tools.

Pipedrive’s partner program is free to join and offers a generous referral commission of 33% for the first year. In addition to the basic Affiliate program, Pipedrive also offers an Expert program for partners that want to make Pipedrive a core offering in their business. Expert partners must pass a certification test and hit quarterly retention goals, but in return, they are rewarded with a public directory listing on Pipedrive’s site, 20% referral commissions for life, and a free Pipedrive demo account.

Key Takeaway: Separating your affiliate and reseller programs makes it easy for partners to join the best program for them.

 

15. Amplitude’s Product Analytics Platform

Amplitude is a product analytics company, helping SaaS providers understand user behavior, reduce churn, and ship the right features quickly.

To join Amplitude’s partner program, potential partners must pass the Amplitude Certification tests and meet certain business collaboration requirements. In exchange, partners are provided with dedicated sales support for pitches and early customer conversations, opportunities to join in on marketing events, training and certification, and a listing in Amplitude’s public partner directory. The one downside is that Amplitude does not offer commissions on referrals.

Key Takeaway: Certification requirements help ensure you only work with best-in-class partners.

 

16. Databox’s KPI Reporting Software

Databox lets you track your company’s performance in one place. By connecting all your data sources, including Google Analytics, HubSpot, Salesforce, AdWords, and more, companies can choose from a library of pre-made dashboard templates or build their own, tracking performance and discovering insights in minutes.

Agencies can partner with Databox to collect and report on metrics for up to 10 clients for free. Additionally, Databox provides partners with co-marketing resources, lead sharing, online training, and more. Agencies can also contribute report templates to the Databox directory and receive lead data when others utilize those templates. A public directory of Databox partners is available as well as a public template gallery.

Key Takeaway: Offering a free program tier for partners can open the door for additional revenue opportunities in the future.

 

17. Sprout Social’s Social Media Management Solution

If you’ve done anything in the social media management space, you’ve probably come across Sprout Social at some point. They’re one of the leading social media management tools, providing publishing, reporting, and management across all the major social platforms.

Sprout Social partners with agencies of all sizes, providing marketing, sales, and support services including co-marketing resources, sales support, partner certifications, and listings in their Agency Directory. Their pricing is also customized based on the size of the partner agency, making them an affordable option for smaller agencies – something unique in the industry. Sprout offers a generous 20% lifetime commission for referrals.

Key Takeaway: Scaling your pricing based on partner agency size can help make your product an affordable option for smaller agencies.

 

18. Unbounce’s Landing Page Builder

Unbounce makes it easy for all users to build, launch, and optimize custom landing pages using their drag-and-drop page builder. If you’re an agency, Unbounce makes it easy to help your clients grow leads and sales without the cost and effort of working with a full development team.

Unbounce’s partner program offers partnership opportunities for agencies and also integration partnerships for app developers. Unbounce maintains a list of Unbounce app integration partners but not agency partners. They do, however, offer an Agency Success team for agency partners.

Key Takeaway: Integrating your product with adjacent tools lets you better meet the varied needs of your customers.

 

19. Zendesk’s Customer Service and Engagement Platform

Zendesk helps companies turn interactions into lasting relationships through their integrated platform of customer support, knowledge base, and live chat tools.

Zendesk’s partner program ticks a lot of boxes, offering benefits across three different tiers: Referral Partner, Solution Provider, and Business Service Provider. Technology partners can build apps to integrate with Zendesk as well. All partners receive access to online sales training, commissions for referrals, a dedicated partner manager, and more. Higher tiers are eligible for instructor-led product training, marketing funds, and joint business planning. Zendesk also maintains a public directory of Zendesk client services & partners.

Key Takeaway: Clear documentation on your partner programs can help partners understand how they will benefit, especially when you offer multiple different programs.

 

20. Uberflip’s Content Experience Platform

Uberflip lets SaaS companies build compelling content for their audiences. By combining the clients’ content into one dynamic Content Hub, SaaS companies can get better results from the content they already have, increasing lead generation and engagement. The platform also lets companies use AI-powered content recommendations to recommend personalized content for their audience.

Uberflip’s partner program, while small, is powerful. They provide a public directory of certified partners and a free sandbox account for all partner tiers as well as 10% revenue share on referrals. Higher-tier partners receive more benefits, including custom pricing for partners, co-branded marketing and sales materials, a dedicated channel manager, priority support, and even free tickets to their annual Conex conference.

Key Takeaway: Offering a free sandbox account to partners can help partners both to grow their own business, and to better learn and understand your product.

 

21. Wistia’s Video Hosting Service

When it comes to video hosting, Wistia is the best tool on the market. Wistia helps agencies run video marketing campaigns for their clients and provides video analytics to help agencies prove the ROI of their services. Customers and agencies can track who’s watching which videos and for how long—invaluable data for a sales team.

Like most SaaS companies here, Wistia’s partner program is tiered and free to join. All partners have access to sales training, comparative data and case studies, and an internal agency community and directory. Higher tiers require partners to bring in increasing monthly revenue from referrals but unlock benefits, including public directory listings, dedicated sales coaches, the ability to guest post on Wistia’s blog, and an invitation to speak at partner events. While there’s no cost to join the program, Wistia doesn’t offer commissions on referrals.

Key Takeaway: Focus your partner program page on benefits, not features, to best sell the program to potential partners.

 

22. Vidyard’s Online Video Marketing Platform

Vidyard helps turn video viewers into customers with advanced video tools for sales, marketing, and customer support teams. Partner agencies can deliver personalized video strategy and marketing services to their clients as well as help them measure their campaign success through Vidyard’s integrated reporting system.

Each Vidyard partner is paired with a dedicated Partner Success Manager, a Channel Program Manager to assist with co-marketing activities, free versions of their video sales tools, and specialized training in personalized video creation, video marketing automation, and sales enablement. Vidyard provides a directory of Vidyard experts sorted by specialty.

Key Takeaway: Enterprise level partnerships require more hands-on support from your partnership team.

 

23. Klaviyo’s Data-Driven Email Marketing Tool

When it comes to data-driven ecommerce email marketing, Klaviyo is one of the best tools on the market. They fill the gaps left by the big ecommerce providers, providing data-driven email marketing and Facebook Ads management tools that are both easy for clients to use and easy for agency partners to support.

Klaviyo’s partner program is strong, offering commissions on all referrals, a dedicated partner newsletter, and access to a Slack community filled with other marketing agencies. Higher tiers also benefit from co-marketing materials and activities and a listing in Klaviyo’s partner directory.

Key Takeaway: Peer-to-peer communities in tools like Slack give partners the opportunity to ask questions and share opinions with other like-minded partners.

 

24. WP Engine’s Managed WordPress Hosting Service

WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider. Since they specialize only in WordPress, they provide a more-focused solution to their customers. They’re best known for their fast performance and strong security.

WP Engine partners are eligible for access to a dedicated partner portal, advanced developer tools, co-branded landing pages, a listing in their partner directory, and free staging accounts. Higher-tier partners also receive dedicated sales support, lead sharing, co-marketing resources, and custom training. WP Engine provides separate public directories of consultants and agencies, making it easy for businesses both large and small to find the right partner.

Key Takeaway: A partner portal gives your partners and customers with self-help tools, marketing content, and training where and when they need it.

 

25. Zuora’s Subscription Management Platform

Zuora makes it easy for SaaS companies to launch and manage subscription payments on a massive scale.

Zuora partners of all tiers receive a listing in Zuora’s public partner directory as well as invitations to events. Higher-tier partners also receive premier support and training, co-marketing and co-sales materials, lead referrals from Zuora, a dedicated account manager, and more.

Key Takeaway: Higher-tier benefits like sales training can be offered to lower-tier partners for an additional fee.

 

26. Ruler Analytics’ Marketing Attribution Platform

Ruler Analytics helps marketing agencies collect the data they need to show ROI on their campaigns. Agencies can monitor not just call performance, but all channel, campaign, and keyword data in one location.

Ruler Analytics partners enjoy special monthly incentives to help introduce new clients to the platform as well as ongoing revenue share. They provide strong training and custom marketing materials to help partner agencies market their services as well as a white label version of Ruler with support for custom subdomains that agencies can utilize for their client reporting. In a unique twist, Ruler also offers additional revenue share for recruiting other partners, something many other SaaS platforms could stand to take advantage of.

Key Takeaway: Offering revenue share for recruiting additional partners is an easy way for your partner program to stand out.

 

27. Auth0’s Universal Authentication Platform

Auth0 makes it easy for SaaS providers to authenticate their users across web and mobile applications. Auth0 Technology Partners can utilize the Auth0 platform in their own B2B SaaS tools, and Solution Partners can consult, refer, and help customers build new apps or integrate the Auth0 platform into their existing apps.

Auth0’s partner program doesn’t provide a public directory of partners, but they do provide a lead form to inquire about partners that can help with specific issues. They also provide generous resale and referral commissions as well as strong pre- and post-sale support to ensure the success of their partners.

Key Takeaway: Offering generous referral commissions are important, especially when first starting your partner program.

 

28. Copper’s Productivity-Focused CRM Tool

Copper embeds your CRM right into Gmail, making it easy for agencies to update opportunities and manage their pipeline.

Becoming a Copper partner unlocks exclusive discounts and partner rewards as well as early access to new products and features. Copper also offers a Reseller Program with additional benefits for high-volume partners. Partners earn a one-time commission of a one-month licensing cost, once that customer has maintained their account for three months.

Key Takeaway: Your partners are often also your best users – be sure to tap them for their feedback when developing new product features.

 

29. Optimizely’s Conversion Rate Optimization Software

Optimizely’s A/B testing software allows SaaS companies to take the guesswork out of product development and marketing, making it easy to run and manage A/B tests to optimize conversions and product experience.

Partnering with Optimizely includes comprehensive developer support and enablement, a custom sandbox for experimentation, and access to Optimizely’s partner community and certifications through Optimizely Academy. Co-marketing resources are provided for partners along with a dedicated partner manager and joint sales collateral to help with sales enablement. All partners are listed in a public directory of Optimizely partners, and Optimizely will pay a 10-20% commission on the first year of customer revenue.

Key Takeaway: Offering a certification program can help increase your partners increase trust with their own customers.

 

30. SnapApp’s Interactive Content Solution

SnapApp is a popular tool for creating interactive and engaging content, including quizzes, calculators, surveys, and more, to help clients capture more leads. SnapApp also integrates closely with leading marketing automation providers and CRM solutions, allowing clients to collect an even deeper picture of the leads and prospects they collect using the tool.

SnapApp partners can utilize the tool for their own marketing at a discounted rate along with a sandbox for testing tool features and creating demos for clients and prospects.

While they don’t provide revenue share for new clients, SnapApp does provide education on interactive marketing best practices, comprehensive onboarding and platform training for partners, sales support, and co-marketing opportunities.

Key Takeaway: Arming your partners with educational content centered around your product and best practices helps them sell your product to their customers.

There you have it—30 of the best partner programs in SaaS. If you’re applying these lessons when building your own partner program (and we hope you do!), we’d love to hear from you.

Stephen Ceplenski

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