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How to select the right partners for your program

Choosing the right partners for your program is key to its success and can really boost your results. This guide provides tips and factors to think about, making sure you align strategically and work well with your selected partners.
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You make or break your partner program at step one: partner selection.

After all, selecting the right partners for your partner program is crucial. If you partner with the wrong people, you’re opening yourself up to a world of heartache. Wasted time, effort, and resources – all of which could have been spent on a partner that returned your energy. 

Partnerships have a huge parallel with real-world relationships. 

Your partner program invitation is a proposal. It’s saying, “let’s tie ourselves together for an indefinite amount of time.” And you don’t walk down the aisle with just anyone (unless you’re in Vegas.)

Don’t approach your partnerships like you’re in Sin City. Think long and hard about the traits you want your partner(s) to have. Let’s explore how you narrow down what’s important when selecting a partner for your program.

Identifying your partner program goals

If you’re approaching partnerships with the aim of long-term, mutual value, then who you try to achieve that with makes all the difference. 

Firstly, you need to identify your company goals for your partner program. Not doing so is a “going food shopping without a list” mentality – and we all know how that ends. Loads of junk food and nothing to make meals with. 

You need a plan. This looks different for every business and is an important stage as it’ll form the foundations of your partner selection strategy. It also needs to align with your company’s executive goals. 

Are you looking to make quick revenue? If so, affiliate marketing can be a speedy revenue generator. 

Do you want to build out a channel? This could be a highly valuable way of proving the worth of partnerships to your wider business, but is more complex than referral links. 

Or are you taking a more strategic approach to partnerships? For example, there could be a feature set that would work well with your platform, but that your engineering team doesn’t have time to build.

There’s much to consider, particularly as partnerships can expand your audience reach and brand awareness. 

But if you partner with like-minded companies, it’ll double your exposure for half the effort. Multiply this thinking, and you can see why partnerships can easily generate a multitude of opportunities, arguably making it more valuable than a traditional vendor-customer relationship.

You need a plan. This looks different for every business and is an important stage as it’ll form the foundations of your partner selection strategy. It also needs to align with your company’s executive goals. 

How to attract your ideal partners

Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can start making it happen. 

You need to translate what you’re trying to achieve into who can help you achieve it. Approach this in the same way you would map out your ideal customer profile, but instead make it about partners. This will help you to focus on what traits a business needs to be a valuable partner.

So, how do you turn daydreams into reality?

The best tip is simple: be realistic. Everyone wants to partner with the big boys: the likes of Deloitte and PWC. But you need to be realistic about those companies that are the right fit for you. You’re also likely to see more value from smaller, targeted businesses with the time, energy, and motivation to invest as much into the partnership as you are. 


Here are some tips about how to identify businesses that are open to partnering:

1. Explore their website

Do they have partners listed already? This is a good indication of both the types of businesses they like to partner with, as well as the scale of their partner programs. It can also be a good source of inspiration for anyone you could work with.


2. Competitor marketplaces

If your competitors have a marketplace where you can view the partners they currently have, then this can also be a good place to identify those who are open to partnering.


3. Outreach

Sometimes, you can tell by a company’s vibe that you want to partner with them. You’ve got no mutual friends to intro you, but who cares? Fire across a well-thought-out email and see if you can convince them!


Let’s go back to the marriage analogy for a second. Outreach is the proposal – you can’t just blurt out the question. You have to set things up nicely: the right place, the right time, the right words. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy anything expensive and shiny – a plain-text email will often do it.

So, if that’s the only effort you have to expel, you can ensure that email is the best it can be. Nothing half-hearted. It’s critical that you show the value you have to offer when reaching out to partners. No one will want to partner with you if they’re unsure what you’re bringing to the table, so make sure you’re laying on a feast. 

Your message should talk about the value the partner will get in terms of partnering with you rather than what you expect from them.

Make sure you’re addressing the right person as well. Sometimes, there’s someone directly in charge of partnerships, and in others, it’s bunched in with marketing or another department, so it might take some digging for you to figure out who you need to talk to. 

Also, consider that email might not be the best way to contact a potential partner. Perhaps LinkedIn would be a better fit. And remember, if you’re really struggling, tap into your existing network and ask for an introduction. 

Finally, if you want to reach someone but find it difficult, consider tapping into your network for an intro. Building partnerships doesn’t just have to be with new businesses, there’s potential everywhere. 

Closing the deal

The final hurdle when it comes to partner selection is closing the deal. Make sure you follow a similar approach to your sales team and stick to best practices.

Prepare yourself by taking the time to understand their business, and reiterate how the partnership will help them. Why not tell them a story about another successful partnership you’ve had? This will inspire confidence and provide a tangible example of what you hope to achieve together. 

Your new partner needs to leave feeling clear on what they can expect, understand how they can access any support they may need, as well as empowered to start registering deals. 

Also, remember that it’s not too late to change your mind. You’ve not tied the knot yet, so if they’re giving you some red flags and you’re not convinced they’re the right fit, back out now. It’s easier to cut ties now than later down the line.

Once you’ve selected your partners and got them on board, you can switch focus to making sure you’re providing an unforgettable partner experience. Ready to make that happen? Check out our guide on partner experience here! 

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