You need an ecosystem of partnerships to help your B2B SaaS business grow. These ecosystem partners will help you market and sell your product, integrate it with other applications, and extend its functionality. Channel partners offer white-glove treatment to your customers, while some partners will help you develop apps and integrations. When building your own partner network and programs, you'll need to decide which kind is right for you.
Below are some examples of types of B2B partnerships to consider for your B2B SaaS business.
1. Lead generation partners
The first type of partnership I recommend looking into, and the one I’m most excited about, is a lead generation partnership. This is a partner that will help drive traffic to your site, possibly set discovery calls/demos for you, and sometimes even sign up for sales goals. In my last role, I worked on the paid media team at a performance agency. One of our top clients was a huge international bathroom brand, and we ran all of their paid ads for a few product lines. Our most significant amount of leads used to come from Google Ads, but we had several third-party partners that we used to diversify our channels and not solely depend on Google.
While it was B2C, almost everything we did applies perfectly here. Here are a few things we did that you should do for your B2B SaaS business (I’ve been following this list for all of my clients since).
Use SEMRush as a partner research tool
I make it a habit of going into SEMRush at least twice a month to look for potential partners. I use my top 10 keywords and, one by one, look to see who is ranking for them. I look at the results and ask myself:
- Is this a software review site like Capterra that I should consider (or in my B2C example, something like consumer affairs)?
- Is it an individual content creator/industry expert that posts about my software category?
- Is it an industry publication or association that I should be a part of?
If they fall into one of these categories, they should likely be considered as potential partners that I could reach out to for backlinks, traffic, leads, or even sales. I think this is an underutilized tool. I work with a few marketing leaders with PR backgrounds, and this seems to come to them naturally, but most other marketers don’t use it enough.
2. Indirect sales partners
The second type of partnership I recommend looking into is an indirect sales partner for your B2B SaaS business. Some of these you could potentially find through the SEMRush research I mentioned earlier. It adds another layer of marketing that can cut overall costs and advertising overhead. Resellers and affiliates offer existing networks and customer bases that can help you reach new customers and increase your revenue. And it's important to consider the kind of relationship you want to build with your partners. Using partners can also increase your brand awareness and improve your reputation, but you need to be wary of conflicts and incentives.
When hiring indirect sales partners, be sure to have a clear idea of how you want your partners to be compensated. Make sure that you share details of your compensation structure, including any referrals and bonuses. Provide sales scripts, sales meeting agendas, and objection-handling cheat sheets. Communicate regularly with your partners, and make sure to update them on any important information. Otherwise, they might not be aware of issues that arise within the company, service, or product and won't know how to handle or communicate them.
To scale your B2B SaaS business, you should also consider finding a way to work with resellers. Many SaaS companies have a single B2B partner program that targets marketing agencies, affiliate marketers, and resellers. Such programs offer the merchant's product and handle all the commissions and attribution. Most resellers are paid on a commission basis. Others are compensated through referral programs, which reward existing users for referring products and services.
To find resellers, you must understand your product's benefits. Talk to internal and external stakeholders to determine the pain points of your prospects and how your product can solve these pain points. Then, use visuals to explain what your product does for them. If you are not able to clearly and effectively describe the pains you are solving and how your solution solves them (see "Using the Pain, Claim, Gain framework in B2B SaaS messaging" for more on this), you won't be able to acquire a network of excited resellers who can also communicate them.
Selling B2B SaaS is not easy. Sales & marketing teams must spend considerable time educating buyers and engaging them in the product's benefits. They also must prepare customized product demos, respond to buyer concerns, and negotiate contracts and pricing with multiple decision-makers. Then, if they like what they see, they may sign up as a reseller.
Another way to find resellers for your B2B solution is by recruiting evangelists. These are people who love a product and try to convince other people to try it out as well. Smart B2B SaaS companies use evangelists as a way to reward them for sharing their knowledge and referring quality prospects. As a reward, you can offer your evangelists credit on their bills to encourage further referrals.
4. Channel partners
Finding and maintaining channel partners is similar to recruiting new customers. First, you have to identify the ideal partner. You can identify the ideal partner based on the volume of deals you close each month or year. Identifying the ideal partner also requires defining the role of your partners and their desired level of engagement.
If your product is not working properly, you will have a hard time attracting and keeping the right resellers. Your partners need to have full-time engineers and support staff to support their new customers. You must also make sure they have a good track record of delivering excellent customer support and product documentation. Remember those channel partners are only good at selling something that works. If your product doesn't meet these requirements, it will be useless to seek these partners.
Choosing the right channel partners can help you expand your sales territory. Working with partners in different countries can help you reach influential buyers and expand your sales territory. Working with channel partners will also help you mitigate risk, scale across geographical regions, and generate revenue quickly.
When identifying the best channel partners, it is crucial to understand their needs. Identify ways in which you can help them and the specific structure of your partnership. Investing twice as much time in marketing and content for partners will pay off in the end. However, channel sales is a difficult business to manage, so it is essential to choose the right partner to increase your sales.
5. Software partners
As a B2B SaaS business, you should have a strategy for finding software partners. Those are partners that will work with your business every step of the way to make sure your business thrives. Finding a good software partner is also a great way to upsell existing customers and provide them with additional value. They can also be white-label partners. Maybe it’s a great add-on to your existing software and with your industry expertise, and their product, you could together build something that allows you to address every pain point your users have while providing your partner with new revenue from every user that gets to use those add-ons.
Integrating B2B partner programs into your SaaS marketing plan
In order to scale a SaaS business, you need to cultivate a team and an ecosystem of partnerships to help you grow. Create a partner program that aligns with your company goals. While building a partner program, remember that every company is different, and no one method is necessarily right or wrong. Make sure to make this a part of your monthly tasks, and even add it to our OKRs or quarterly goals.
Partnerships, if done right, really transform your business. They free you up to focus on building the best product possible. They free up your marketing and sales teams to talk to your customers and build better relationships with them. They help you focus your time on building a brand and making yourself look 10x bigger. Make partnership research/hiring a recurring goal, find ways to track it and measure it (ex: new revenue attributed to partners), and communicate its importance with your team.
Looking for more resources on B2B SaaS company partnership programs? Check out our blogs on "Partnerships & channel marketing –do I need a B2B SaaS partner strategy?" and "3 reasons to use channel partners for SaaS GTM."