referral partners, marketers, channel programs, revenue growth, vars, resellers, agents

“Wait, marketing is expected to increase revenue by that much?! And with zero increase in budget?!”

We’re all being challenged to do more with less, but there comes a point where you just can’t optimize existing channels enough to satisfy the growth objectives of executives. My guess is at budget planning time this is the realization that many of you in marketing are facing.

Take solace that you aren’t alone. Of course, many of you will take the “safe” route and try to eke out a few percentage points better results over this year and hope that it is enough to show your worth. Cause let’s face it, that growth objective is downright crazy!

For the rest of you that tie your worth to the growth hack, the hustle and being a demand gen expert – read on.

First, take a deep breath, I’m here with a message of hope.


Wait, I’m not talking about signing up more resellers (which takes a year to get them certified and active). No, I’m talking about a different type of partner that is low touch and highly productive at generating leads that convert to purchase.

Referral Partners.

Stay with me, there are companies out there that you already have relationships with that will never be a reseller. If you aren’t leveraging them to drive referrals to your business, you’re missing a golden opportunity.

How golden? A recent benchmark analysis of referral partner programs showed an average conversion of referral lead to purchase of 31%. How’s that compare to your inbound lead conversion rate?

How referral partners can fit into your current partner model

Think about all of the different partners and influencers you already have in your go-to-market ecosystem. Chances are you have one or more of the following that could potentially provide referrals to your business:

  • Integrated Software Vendors (ISVs) – Whether integrated or not, there are complementary software solutions where their sales team can identify fit for your product/service within their customer base. They are seen as trusted advisors to recommend you in.
  • Systems Integrators (SIs) – Chances are they are in more companies than those that have your product. They can be a great source to identify companies with a need for what you offer.
  • Consultants – highly influential and have no desire to be a reseller, these companies can be the eyes and ears on the market to identify a need/fit.
  • Services Providers – Just like SIs, these folks are in other companies, you just need to enable them to know what to look for and how to make the connection.
  • Alliance partners – Sometimes key strategic partners are resellers, but many times there is a co-selling/referral arrangement taking place that is simply a “gentleman’s agreement”. When you put formality around it as a program, you can significantly increase the output from this partnership.
  • Resellers – I know, they are keeping their leads for themselves, but don’t rule out talking to your partner marketing team about the reseller program to see if there are ways that a referral program can make it better. Many companies use a referral program as a qualification step before becoming a reseller to better ensure an investment that will pay off. It is also used as an exit point for resellers who are no longer effective at the selling part of the gig.

And that’s just looking at the partners you already have relationships with. You can also look at building out referral partners from a strategic to a local/SMB level. Consider all of the individuals that have influence over your target buyer. If you’re selling to small business, how about their bank or their accountant? If you sell into franchises, how about making a deal with the franchisor to recommend your product to all of their establishments?

Once you’ve figured out who can be a referral partner, you can use your marketing savvy to build a referral program that allows referral partners to easily understand your buyer and value prop, make introductions of your target buyer to your business and reap the reward once a referral makes a purchase. And if you need help, here is a great resource with tons of worksheets and steps to help you build a referral partner program.

Marketers, we’ve spent the last 5 years looking to optimize inbound in order to drive growth. Now it’s time to look to partners. You can make that growth objective – with referral partners.

Read more: How To Bring New Marketers On Board-The Training Blueprint