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Building a Channel Partner Recruitment Plan

You can’t have a great channel program without recruiting great partners. But all too often, recruitment is done haphazardly. You should have an organized, proactive, and consistent plan in place. With the right recruitment strategies, you can effectively communicate with potential partners that align with your brand and channel goals, improving overall enrollment rate. With time, prospects may come to you rather than vice versa.

Here’s where to start:

Define your perfect channel partner before you start recruiting

Channel partners represent your company, so be selective when choosing who should act as your stand-in. To guide your selection process and better connect with prospects, create an ideal partner profile (IPP). Examine your most successful (and least successful) partners, as well as your target audiences’ buying behaviors. Use these learnings to create criteria for: 

• Preferred geographic reach

• Industry verticals involvement

• Ideal customer base

• Company size 

• Point of contact

• Technology utilization

• Marketing and outreach practices 

Additionally, ask yourself some important logistics questions about your own business:

• Are there any industries or markets you want to break into?

• What social channels are your ideal partners on?

• Who will be managing your social media recruitment program?

A well-formed IPP leads to partner recruitment strategies that are focused rather than ineffectively broad. What’s more, it prevents you from wasting time nurturing relationships with prospects that will ultimately underdeliver. 

Craft Clear and Comprehensive Recruitment Messaging

When recruiting partners, plan to answer the following:

• What do you offer that makes you stand out from competitors?

• What is your commission structure?

• What is the expected onboarding process and how long does it take?

• What software do you have in place to efficiently support partner sales?

• What other perks do you offer partners?

• Do you offer MDF? If yes, to whom and for what?

If any of the above make you pause and ponder, it’s back to the drawing board!

Messaging in hand, it’s time to craft a designated web page for recruiting new partners. Highlight what makes your program unique, the many offered perks, and any well-respected partners that currently participate. Research your competitors’ messaging and check out well-received partner pages from Microsoft and Pantheon for inspiration.

As a bonus, why not create a partner recruitment video to help make your messaging stick? For inspiration, check out Cloudflare’s page.

Strategically get the word out and track results 

Partners are way more likely to be interested in hopping on board (and may even come to you themselves) if they already know about your company. Get your name out as much as possible: on social media, at industry events, through networking etc. When your company has good news, share it. Don’t be shy about letting people know you’re seeking to recruit channel partners. 

Leveraging email to recruit channel partners:

For any B2B, a well-cultivated email list is like digital gold. Put it to good use when recruiting partners with the following tactics:

Have a response plan ready so you can spring into action: There are many ways you can acquire a new contact—a hosted webinar, conference booth, eBook distribution, etc. All of these different sources have one thing in common: it’s best to send the follow-up email while you’re still fresh in the reader’s mind.

Personalize your recruitment email for priority partners: Not all partners will have equal earning potential. Therefore, it’d be a mistake to communicate with potential “prized” partners with the same tactics as you would everyone else. When crafting the email, mention how your two companies can specifically benefit one another. Would the integrated services create a particularly competitive package? Would the prospective partner be offered regional exclusivity? These are all things to highlight. 

Do your homework to contact the right individual: As is true with all B2B email outreach, it’s beneficial to connect with a person properly positioned to advocate for your offering or make decisions. If you have the “wrong” person’s email, you can always ask for an introduction.

Consider the following social media pro tips when recruiting partners:

Grabbing the attention of potential channel partners can be difficult. Chances are, they’re being pulled in multiple directions—by current partners and other vendors also trying to recruit them. One of the most powerful ways you can use social media to promote your channel partner program and recruit the right partners is by sharing product updates, company announcements, new content offers, and more to pique the interest of your followers.

Cater your content: Make sure you cater your content to the social channel you’re posting to. For example, although hashtags are relevant and useful on Instagram and Twitter, they aren’t widely used and don’t serve a major purpose on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Be image savvy: Make sure the types and dimensions of images you use on the various social channels follow the best practices of each channel.

Embrace the GIF: One quick way to explain and deliver complex topics that might seem new or difficult for potential partners is through animated GIFs. Although animated GIFs are often used as a quirky way to share how you’re feeling or respond to a trending topic, you can also use them to deliver quick “how to” experiences about your product or service for your followers.

Elevate thought leaders’ presences: People, not companies, are the ones who scroll through social media posts and interact. In turn, they’re more likely to connect with fellow individuals rather than corporations. Encourage your leadership team to cultivate social feeds and interact with potential partners, human-to-human. Remind them that the goal of such conversations is not to immediately recruit or sell, but rather to build general awareness and further shape the brand identity.

Report social performance and analyze: Do your social media partners prefer posts about industry news or how-to guides? If you can’t answer this (and similar questions), it’s time to dive deeper. Group your social media posts into different initiatives (to recruit partners, promote products, etc.) and map each classification to the preferred KPIs (page visits, likes/comments, etc.). Track, compare, and test different types of posts to determine the right way to connect with prospective customers and recruit new partners.

To further improve your channel partner recruitment practices, reflect on the following:

• Where do potential partners seek information and business connections? Partners won’t always be receptive to your self-promotion, so identify the forum in which your IPP may be most open-minded. 

Conduct research using your current partners and “wish-list” partners as examples. Dive into their social media behavior, identify preferred content themes, and document which events they mention attending. Let’s say you notice a trend in which prospects use certain social channels to talk about their personal lives and don’t follow industry leaders’ accounts. This should be a clear indicator that trying to reach them on this channel would yield lesser results.

• Remember, conversing is better than shouting. Your prospects’ inboxes probably overflow with unsolicited messages we kindly call “junk.” Download our eBook! We design websites! Schedule a demo! Blasting un-personalized, automated messages like these are no better than shouting through a bullhorn at the prospect. 

When recruiting channel partners, think of the long-game. Say hello, praise their latest work, and start a conversation. “Ms. Rose, I just got done listening to your latest podcast. I loved your points about shortening sales cycles and was curious if you would recommend any related readings.” Building rapport takes time, but may bear sweeter fruit than aggressive email blasts. 

• What partner recruitment practices yielded results in the past? Chances are, you track your marketing campaign performance and A/B test site messaging. So why should you not do the same for channel partner recruitment efforts? When a new prospect comes along, take note of your past interactions with them, digital or otherwise. Document which channel partner recruitment approaches generated the most responses, as well as how many of those responses further developed. 

Note of competitors’ partner recruitment tactics

We’ve mentioned researching competitors’ strategies throughout this article, and for good reason. Firstly, their own recruitment tactics can inspire your own. More importantly, these tactics are being used on your target audience and may pull prospects in their direction rather than yours. If they reveal an upgraded portal design, invest in new promotion tactics, or enhance their partner offering, their efforts will have a direct impact on your success. So be aware of the industry landscape as a whole and, insights in hand, consistently reevaluate your recruitment tactics to remain best-in-class.

Don’t forget to “show” rather than merely “tell”

Promote co-marketing materials and existing partners’ achievements across your social media and while at networking events. This demonstrates your commitment to program participants and their resulting wins. It also feeds into companies’ competitive nature and their fear of missing out. 

For additional guidance and ideas, read The Quick Guide to Co-Marketing with Your Channel Partners.

You have prospects’ attention, now deliver the right message

Chances are that your recruited prospects will consider other partner programs in addition to yours. Make sure that your offering wins out by illuminating the following:

• Why your offering is the best in the market. Partners don’t want to hitch their wagon to mediocre products; not only will it be harder to promote, but their reputation with their customer base is on the line.

• A thorough plan on what they should anticipate from you and the program. Show a schedule that details onboarding and other milestones. This conveys your preparedness and transparency, as well as sets clear expectations about what you expect from program participants. 

• The sophisticated capabilities of your PRM platform, as well as its usability. The best PRM tool should impress recruited channel partners without coming across as intimidating. Present it as a solution to eliminate communication and process delays. Show them features like prospect pages, co-branding software, and MDF submission to demonstrate how your PRM will boost their effectiveness and profitability. 

• Other ways in which you will support and empower them. Would you help finance their marketing efforts? Perhaps you hold SPIFFs to motivate sales or promote your partners’ successes on your own social media channel. 

New channel partner recruits’ main priority is how easy it will be to sell your products and generate profits. Focus your conversation on how you have established solutions in place to remove roadblocks and maximize their time investment. 

Learn to say no

Be selective. When potential partners come onto your radar screen, analyze how they fit against your IPP. You may have to do some digging or ask some questions to figure out just how well they fit. Only accept partners into your program that are a match.  

Treat partners right for strong retention and word-of-mouth

The word on the street has a direct impact on the perception of potential partners. Focus on being positive, open, and prepared during the channel recruitment and onboarding process.

Take a good look at your partner program and make sure it’s worth a partner’s time and effort. If you require partners to undergo extensive training or your product’s sales cycle is longer than usual, ensure that you appropriately compensate partners. 

Additionally, use technology to minimize friction or confusion. Real-time deal registration will lessen channel conflict. Targeted content and behavior-trigger notifications work hand-in-hand to guide recruited partners to the right materials. 

Professional experience and the right PRM software can lessen partner complaints, but never assume they’re gone entirely. Regularly ask for feedback on how you improve the partner program and related materials. Such insights can strengthen partner relationships, as well as make them feel heard and respected. 

Remember, word travels as colleagues grab drinks, people change jobs, and workers network. Use word-of-mouth to your advantage by prioritizing your partners’ experiences. Otherwise, professional chatter may work against you to hurt your overall reputation. 

To learn how to start the relationship off on the right foot, read Seven Steps to Successfully Onboarding Partners 

Key Takeaways on How to Recruit Channel Partners:

• Don’t cast a wide net when recruiting partners; focus on candidates that fit well-defined criteria

• Be purposeful with how you initiate contact

• Don’t forget to “show” rather than just “tell”

• When you have prospects on the hook, speak to what they care about most

• It’s okay to say “no”

• Your existing partners can be your greatest channel recruitment asset, so treat them right

Daniel Graff-Radford