Nearbound Daily #600: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Partner Program

Nearbound Daily #600: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Partner Program

Ella Richmond 5 min

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The importance of building in public

When you build in public, a few things happen: 

  • Your progress becomes visible internally and externally.
  • Experienced partner pros can (and will) help you.
  • You'll be able to build a community with partner pros at similar stages.
  • Partner pros who are even more beginner than you will ask for advice.

Building in public is a hack to success.

Why? Because you've got to remember, you're not the only one trying to solve these same problems, and people have likely solved them before.

You don't have to have everything figured out. Just share what you're working on and the lessons you've learned.



Five partner mistakes this senior product manager sees repeatedly 😓

Geoff Seeman is the Senior Product Manager at PartnerStack, and former manager of their Customer Success team. He's worked with many companies over the past years to help launch and migrate their programs.

Recently he compiled five common mistakes he sees Partner Managers make when they launch their partner programs.

Read them and reflect on your own partner program. Are you making any of these mistakes?


Mistake #1: Setting vague partner program goals

Don’t build your program on the foundation of vague goals like "get some sales" or "onboard a few partners". 

“The issue with vague or non-specific goals like these is that they do nothing to let you know if your program is driving meaningful results for the business, or help them prove those results to the rest of the company.”

Instead make sure that your goals are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Consider including goals related to: 

  • Rate of partner acquisition
  • Audience reach of the program
  • Average customer value/deal size (partner attached)
  • Revenue driven by the program
  • Conversion and retention rates for partner-attributed customers
  • Incrementality (how advertising contributes to conversion rates)

Work with leadership to set realistic goals, ensure that your goals are aligned with top-line revenue objectives, and communicate with the right stakeholders.


Mistake #2: Not identifying ideal partners

As good as it sounds to accept every partner request, shooting for a large “number of partners” is useless if you’re not building strong, mutually beneficial relationships. 

As the saying goes, 20% of your partners generate 80% of your revenue.

“That’s why it’s important to identify who your ideal partners are before you launch your program. Your target partner personas will determine everything from how you incentivize and reward partners, the resources you’ll want to provide them with and how you’ll promote your program to partners.” 

To start identifying your IPP (Ideal Partner Profile), make sure you answer the following questions and leverage Nelson Wang’s Partner Recruitment Template

  • How do customers discover and buy your product? Who do they trust?
  • What type of business do your ideal partners run? 
  • What would motivate them to join a partner program?
  • How will you reach and recruit those partners?


Mistake #3: Over-complicating commission models

Seeman believes there must be only two commission options: either your partners earn a flat commission from each purchase they drive or they earn a recurring percentage of the revenue associated with their referrals.

“When you make it easy for partners to imagine what they can earn, you make it easy for them to pick your program over a competitor’s. Plus, a simpler commission structure is easier for you to communicate.”

To learn more about the partner commission model, click here


Mistake #4: Ignoring partner onboarding

The hard work is only just getting started when you recruit a new partner. Your partners don’t know much about your product, your joint value proposition, or how to better collaborate with you. 

“You have to be proactive in how you onboard partners and provide them with resources that help them sell your product.”

Here are some tips you could follow to make your partner onboarding process ridiculously easy: 

  • Use their preferred communication channels, be it email or Slack. 
  • Set clear expectations for response times to ensure they feel supported.
  • Replace long, overwhelming emails (or other pieces of content) with bite-sized pieces of information shared over time. 
  • Create enablement materials for partners based on your shared value proposition. Teach them how to best help buyers and customers.  


Mistake #5: Managing partners across multiple systems 

Not only do Partnership Managers need to prioritize setting up the systems for enabling their internal and partner teams, but they also need to prioritize the tools and operations that will enable them to drive the results they set out to achieve. 

“What will happen if you start using a disconnected tech stack is that you will annoy your partners, tech cost will increase, your team will start loosing confidence in your program, and your Engineering team will end up spending several sprints trying to get information into a single source of truth and keeping things synced across systems requires constant attention.”

Don’t fall into this trap and start leveraging integrated solutions. Use a tool like Reveal (which has an integration with PartnerStack), to set up an infrastructure for both Partner and Sales teams for using and tracking ecosystem data in your CRMs. 


To read more, read Geoff's full article here.



Is your partner onboarding actually that simple?

Every partner pro wants to believe they're not creating friction for their partners and customers.

Here's a test: If you were your partner or customer, would you like the process?

Thanks David Weiss for the meme!
Thanks David Weiss for the meme!



Stuff you don't want to miss!

  • June 12th—Partnerships 101 (What's a Good Partnership)—Join Arun Kumar (Director of Strategic Partnerships at Incentivio) and Scott Pollack (CEO at Firneo) where they will explore the building blocks of successful partnerships in the tech industry. Register here.
  • Nearbound Summit 2023 Recordings—The future of GTM is nearbound. Watch the recordings to hear how B2B leaders across departments unite with Nearbound strategies and tactics. Listen here.


You're all caught up.



See you tomorrow



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Ella Richmond 5 min

Nearbound Daily #600: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Partner Program

Geoff Seeman has worked with many companies over the past years to help launch and migrate their programs. Recently he compiled five common mistakes he sees Partner Managers make when they launch their partner programs.

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