Every successful B2B business has something in common: they leverage a reseller partner program to expand a product and boost their user base. It’s one of the easiest ways to capture new channels of revenue and network beyond your original scope. That’s why it’s a popular method among large brands like Microsoft and Cisco.
Beneficial partner programs involve time, effort, and strategic planning. To advertise your product effectively, you’ll need to first understand what a reseller partnership program is and how to get started.
What is a Reseller Partner Program?
Reseller partner programs are strategic vendor plans that companies use to build relationships, increase sales, and grow their network. Resellers work to motivate and engage end-users and create value for your brand.
How to Build a Reseller Partner Program in 8 Steps
Once you have a general understanding of what a reseller partner program is, it’s time to start building your program. These are the steps to take to build a successful reseller partner program:
1. Develop a Strategy
The first step in developing a strategy is to consider your business goals, vision, and executive support. Creating a program is a huge investment of effort, time, and resources. That’s why any reseller partner program must be aligned with your company strategy from the beginning. Your company’s overall strategy will define target markets and consumers. You may want to revisit this and make sure it was not optimized around only having an in-house sales team, as your reseller partner program will extend that sales force to include third-party sellers and possibly new markets.
2. Define a Value Proposition
The value proposition will determine whether people are willing to learn more about your brand. It’s about letting customers know exactly what they will get out of your product/service and the types of pain points it will solve for them.
As part of this process you’ll want to:
- Precisely define your customer profiles
- Define the most important components of your offering that relieve pain points and create customer success moments
- Incorporate social proof such as real feedback from existing customers that support your product’s value
Once you have established value, compare it with the competition and what the market desires.
3. Set Clear Goals
Sit down with the reseller and collaborate on a clearly written, one-page plan that lays out:
- Specific strategies and tactics
- Snapshot of the target market
- Who will do what
- A realistic view of the target ROI
- Resources expected from both parties
At this time, it’s also good to hash out communication and how you’ll track what’s being done. A task management tool will do the trick for most projects.
4. Decide Which Reseller Channels to Use
As you prepare to launch your reseller channel sales program, you’ll want to look at the many types of channel partner types that are relevant for your business and potential reseller partners these include:
- Value-Added Resellers: Value-Added Resellers bundle your product with other products or services, such as accessories or training. For example, new HP computers come with Microsoft Office pre-installed, with a trial period after which the software stops working unless paid for.
- Direct Resellers: These channel partners purchase a product from you, often at a discount or volume discount, and then resell them to end users at full price or with a profit markup. For example, the Apple Store resells Bose headphones.
- Managed Service Provider (MSP): This is a company that remotely manages a customer’s end-user systems and/or the IT infrastructure. They typically do this on a proactive basis using a subscription model.
- Independent Retailers: An independent retailer is not tied to a larger franchise. A company can create a powerful partner network to reach boutique or industry-specific retailers such as independent software vendors (ISVs).
- Affiliates: Affiliates work on a commission, promoting your product and getting paid a percentage of sales on customers they refer. Affiliate marketing is especially popular with eCommerce websites. For example, Amazon.com’s Affiliates program provides bloggers and influencers a percentage-based commission for promoting their products.
- Distributors: Distributors help get products from the manufacturer to the end user. They are typically paid by the manufacturer to take care of the logistics end of product delivery. While physical product companies may utilize distribution centers, from the company’s point of view, they are in place for fast distribution.
- Wholesalers: Wholesalers purchase bulk quantities at a discount from the manufacturer and frequently warehouse these products alongside others. They then resell products to retailers for sale to the public. Wholesalers often share a common logistical element with distributors, but once a product is in a wholesaler’s warehouse it is not the property of the manufacturer, unlike with distributors.
- Dealers: Dealers sell products directly to end users, but specialize in a very limited scope of products, often by one primary brand.
- Agents: Agents work as intermediaries between your company and an end user or retailer, facilitating purchases and getting the products to the end user. They are paid by either the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or receive a significant discount to make money when selling to either an end user or retailer.
- Trade Groups and Associations: This is an excellent partner group for products that can be industry-based. For example, an association of accountants might be the target of an accounting software provider like Quickbooks.
5. Define Motivation Drivers
For each method chosen, determine what the motivational factors are for potential partners. These can include:
- Money: Will the partner be able to make more money for reasonable effort?
- Customer Satisfaction: Will the partnership improve a partner’s relationship with clients, resulting in happier customers?
- Market Expansion: Will the partnership allow customers to expand into new markets?
- Business Development and Referrals: Will the partnership help the partner identify potential new business leads?
- Distinction: Will the partnership help them stand out because they offer something their competitor does not?
6. Build Out Program Elements
For each method, determine the elements needed to launch the different elements of your reseller partner program and create a roadmap to building them. Take a look at Relevize, the leading channel partner management software. Many of the systems for managing channels are built into the software, so you can focus on results, not system architecture. You’ll still need to focus on the different elements you’ll need. For example, you’ll want to establish your own affiliate banners, decide on partner program perks, and build lists of potential partners.
This is the step where you’ll pull in representatives from each team in your organization.
7. Create Documentation
Now’s the time to pull everything together and prepare to sell the partner program to potential partners! You’ll need:
- Operational Plan - resources, systems, organizational chart, etc.
- Legal agreements
- Internal training documents about the program and how it will work for all employees and how the program will help in pre-sales
- Account manager and partner expectations documentation
- Internal Wiki or handbook, including Partner Program FAQ
- The ideal path for how to identify and recruit partners
- Partner selection (and removal) guidelines
- Financial controls around partners (ex. how will affiliates be paid, what discounts are allowed and how are they tracked, etc.)
- Partner-facing Marketing and Materials including onboarding webinar recordings, partner certificate, partner portal/website, case studies, etc.
8. Test the System
We’ve all had those unfortunate bad first-impression moments that didn’t go so well. Luckily for a new reseller program launch, you can roll it out as a “Referral Partner Beta” where participants understand that they are testing new systems and can provide feedback to help you optimize the program before rolling it out to the masses.
Building a Team
A successful reseller partner program requires both internal and external people to manage and monitor efforts, along with a team of partners to work alongside.
External vs Internal Teams
The cliche “Teamwork makes the dream work” is especially true when dealing with a partner program, since the program’s business model is two teams coming together — your internal team of marketers, account managers, etc.) and the partner’s team (buyers, marketers, IT people, webmasters, etc.)
The ultimate internal partner team will require savvy channel marketers and a channel account manager. The manager’s role is slightly more complex and requires accommodating both the goals of the brand, as well as the business needs of channel partners. Specific duties will include:
- Serving as a liaison between both parties
- Negotiating the terms of partner contracts
- Setting price markups and delivery schedules
- Training to ensure customer satisfaction and partner profits
- Resolving channel conflicts
When looking for an ideal external channel partner, meanwhile, you should be asking the right questions, like:
- Do they have the resources for a partnership?
- Will it help them reach their goals?
- Do you have similar values?
- Do they have the right technology?
- Is it a good culture fit?
When looking for the right partner, it’s important to do your research. Recruit wisely and look for quality over quantity. It’s a very human-to-human experience and should never be approached with a salesy pitch or patronizing tone.
You must show that you desire to help grow their business as much as yours. Ask the right questions during recruitment, and ensure all expectations and agreements are put on the table. In this case, transparency is key to building strong reseller relationships. Concisely share what you have to offer and set ground rules right away.
Depending on the type of partners you’ve chosen to work with (See: Step 4 above), you’ll want to come up with specific recruitment strategies for each.
Onboarding and Building Relationships
Partner relationship management (PRM) is the term for the nurturing process and provision of aid to partners that support a company’s sales. It’s a crucial variable for success and an important factor for onboarding, training, and sales.
The best practices of PRM involve finding solutions that will create maximum efficiency within the partnership. This includes tools and processes used, and how your brand works with data. Some common onboarding strategies include:
- Partner Knowledge: Just like the “Know Your Customer (KYC)” process, it’s important to have a deep understanding of your partners as well. Knowing the key motivations and workflows of your partners can improve the customer journey and highlight where the focus needs to be.
- Partner Portal: Access to a cloud-based self-service portal gives the power back to partners. Eager partners frequently get excited and begin messaging an account manager with dozens of questions. The Partner Portal is the solution. It streamlines training and helps to set boundaries for contact and engagement.
- Deal Registration: Partner sales often hinge on deal registration within a reseller’s program. This recognizes the efforts your resellers put into marketing and offers resources in return. A good deal registration program reduces competition while growing your lead pipeline. It also helps to avoid potential channel conflict between partners. All transactions are registered and partnerships can be directly nurtured to effectively manage relationships.
- Training: Offer resellers regular and high-quality training as a continuous resource. Properly trained salespeople are more motivated and enthusiastic. Creating webinars and FAQ sheets about your product, with regular updates is important. While you want to ensure end users are getting the best technical support they need, you should also provide your partners with enough technical training to answer basic questions.
- Certificates: After training, certifying partners is a key component of a good PRM strategy. It not only ensures that partnerships and training are renewed and that performance remains in tip-top shape, but many companies provide incentives like higher commissions or bonuses to partners who become certified resellers.
Setting up Automation
As remote work becomes more common, digital programs put all of your resellers on the same page, while spending their time optimally.
Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) is a technology solution that helps empower brands to scale their programs across multiple channels. It also works to drive local sales by managing brand assets and marketing resources with reseller partners. This is why TCMA is also referred to as distributed marketing management (DMM).
Everyone benefits from the implementation of a TCMA program. It helps to bridge the gap between corporate marketing efforts and the unique needs of your partners. The best solutions provide a place where partners can complete essential marketing tasks like:
- Customizing templates
- Accessing logos and media
- Ordering promotional items
- Managing co-op funds
Choosing the right type of automation sets up a framework for program measurement and analytics.
Summing it Up
Getting started with a reseller program is not difficult but running a successful one takes work. Do the research on the front end and you’ll be more likely to align with the right partner. Once you’ve found your people, work to nurture those relationships with PRM strategies.
It’s also important to incorporate the right tools and technology to automate processes and speed up sales. If you give your partners access to the right resources from the start, you’ll be that much closer to success.