How to realign your partner model and SaaS company with referral partners

Partner and agent models are extremely profitable. Partner types like resellers and referral partners help companies get greater sales coverage in a less expensive and more efficient way than a direct sales model. But for SaaS companies it can be more complicated. Among the disruptive ripples that SaaS made was the scrambling of traditional partner models. This is a result of many reseller partners not being able to handle the more supportive and relationship-based customer model required by SaaS products, technical road blocks, and the constant product updates that a more agile subscription service has. So with all of this change you may be asking . . .  What does the partner model look like for SaaS moving forward?

The following are 4 changes that will impact the SaaS partner go-to-market strategy.

1. The position of ensuring customer success moves from the channel partner to the company

With the on-premise model partners took care of the technical implementation of a product but it was then up to the customers to facilitate their own success beyond that. With SaaS removing those technical barriers and instituting reoccurring revenue model, the emphasis is now on the continued building of a relationship and success of the end-customers. SaaS applications have allowed companies to become extremely agile which doesn’t align as well with the rigid reseller model. These partners aren’t necessarily focused on customers after the original sales and many are having trouble conforming to the new SaaS delivery model. These changes make it harder than ever to be successful as a reseller and for SaaS companies to grow revenue from the partner channel.

Based on these challenges, more SaaS companies are moving customer success in-house.

Suggestion: Although current resellers and distributors may not be as effective as they once were, they are still in a position to increase your revenue generation and provide coverage. Try enabling them to submit targeted leads that are picked up by your sales team. They can then assist in the sales process and still be rewarded for their efforts. This is the referral partner model which allows you to maintain and increase sales coverage while delivering the customer support of a direct sales model.

2. SaaS companies will have a dedicated team to meet customers rising expectation

Another large factor for customer success moving in-house is the rising customer expectation that they expect their contact to fulfill. Resellers are becoming less dedicated and more polyamorous than ever before. They often don’t have the time or resources to provide that type of support that SaaS end-users need.

That means when something goes wonky as it always does in one instance or another a customer will require a quick to instant response time. Depending on the type of product and its role in a business it could impact a company’s success or stall its ability to move forward. This means that the fix needs to be applied as quickly as possible.

Suggestion: When a customer comes from a partner referral as opposed to being sold by a reseller it ensures a quicker response time since they don’t have to wait for the reseller to have enough time to contact the company, understand the solution & institute a fix. Try assigning a dedicated customer success rep to an account to ensure the providing of proper communication and information in a timely manner to help control the situation and fix the issue.

3. Agile product updates require continual training

One of the beauties and challenges for a SaaS company or product is that they can easily institute product updates quickly and seamlessly. This allows companies to provide more customized products and services while continually improving it. However, this also requires the continual training of resellers on the in-depth technology requirements, benefits, drawbacks, how to use it and how it can apply to different customer types.

This means that resellers need to be able to set time aside to continue to understand product updates at an expert level. This is the only way they can try to provide the consultative services that customers expect goes along with SaaS products and services. Unfortunately many reseller don’t have the time to keep training or provide the consultative services that enable customers to benefit the most from using the product or service.

Suggestion: Instead of providing continual in-depth training as you would with the reseller model, the referral partner model allows you to update partners on new benefits, its capabilities, restrictions and uses in a succinct, high level format. Try assigning a sales or success rep to update referral partners regularly so they can correctly relay the benefits to qualified leads but don’t have to have a deeper understanding to sell the product or ensure the success of product updates.

4. More referral partners and less partner monogamy

While we have already said referral partners are an alternative route (and smoother route) for SaaS companies than other traditional partner models, we must take into account that partner monogamy is no longer reliable. As a channel account manager at a large company releasing their own SaaS product said in a confidential interview, “You have to have a way to manage a partner that is there for just one deal and no more. Everything you’ve done before is kind of thrown out the window.” Expanding on this he explains that, “One day they might work on a deal with you and the next they will have moved onto a deal with someone else.”

Suggestion: A referral partner program can help manage and scale partner referrals while allowing SaaS companies to continue to expand coverage areas and generate revenue from the channel. Try implementing one to draw sustainable revenue growth from your partner ecosystem while removing the challenges that SaaS products and services create within the channel.

To understand referral partner program performance benchmarks from companies like yourself, download The State of Business Partner Referral Programs.

referral partners

Why you should break lead assignment rules for a referral program and certain laws for fun

Let’s be honest, you take a little pleasure in breaking the rules, mostly because there are so many rules that ought to be broken, like laws such as:

  • If you have a mustache it is illegal to kiss a women (Nevada)
  • It’s illegal to sing off-key (North Carolina)
  • If you harass Bigfoot you can be arrested or fined (Washington)

Personally, if I see Bigfoot I plan on getting a selfie with him, and I take great pleasure in singing off-key. But one of most important rules I highly suggest you break is your lead assignment rules for you referral program.

Don’t get me wrong, lead assignment rules are important for your sales team. But for every rule there’s always an exception and your referral program is that exception. And while lead assignment rules might not be the most fun to break, I can tell you it’s certainly much more rewarding than breaking any of the laws above.

3 Reasons why rules were meant to be broken . . . for your referral program

There are 3 marvelous benefits to breaking your leads assignment rules for your referral program.

  1. Motivate sales to recruit advocates– When you opt to break lead assignment rules in your referral program you add increased motivations for salespeople to recruit advocates. This is done through advocate ownership, or in other words any referrals a salesperson’s advocate makes aren’t distributed by the lead assignment rules you’re traditionally using but given directly to the salesperson who owns the advocate. The salesperson then gets the credit and benefits of closing the referrals sale, motivating them to increase their recruitment and nurturing of advocates.
  2. Prompt sales to take better care of the referrals – Along with motivating salespeople to recruit advocates, breaking lead assignment rules also prompts sales to take better care of referrals because they get attributed the sale of the referrals. This can include qualifying referrals by contacting the advocate who referred them before contacting the referral so as to learn everything they need about the referral from one of the people who knows them best.
  3. Increase an advocate’s willingness to refer – Half the battle of obtaining new prospects is getting them to trust you brand. But by breaking lead assignment rules your advocate’s willingness to refer is drastically increased because of the understanding that their referral will be interacting with the same salesperson they already trust and not someone new.

These 3 benefits galvanize your advocates and salespeople to accelerate the success of your referral program and increase your amount of successful referrals. Your sales team plays a large role in making your referral program a success. By providing them with the tools to leverage your program you increase your ROI substantially. But don’t take my word for it. Try out this free ROI calculator and discover how including your salespeople as an interracial part of referral program increases you revenue growth.

 

launching a referral program

Originally published the Salesforce blog

Questions? Tweet me @TrishaWinter

How a referral partner program decreases SaaS churn

The partner channel has played a critical role in the software industry, but with the adoption of a SaaS-based business model, a referral partner program has become even more important. Take into consideration the importance of recurring revenue in a business model that requires less upfront cost to the customer relative to the one-time charge, on premise model. It makes reducing churn vital to the survival of SaaS companies. This is especially true when considering the need to generate ‘replacement’ revenue for lost customers. In addition, the immediate impact of a lost customer including the loss of upsell, cross sell, and reference opportunities only deepen the proverbial wound.

So how can channel partners help? Well, one of the most effective ways to reduce churn is to attract the right customers. Partners have the ear of potential customers and a deep understanding of the buyers’ need for your solution. Bringing this type of context to the deal improves the quality of the connection between your customer and your product. By increasing partner referrals, SaaS companies reduce the need to take on customers who aren’t a great fit for their product, decreasing the risk of customer churn.

This is reflected when comparing how referred customer stack up to non-referred customers. According to the Harvard Business Review, referred customers have an 18% decrease in churn and 16% increase in LTV compared to non-referred customers. But how are companies supposed to take advantage of this? Both referral partner program software and deal registration software have been used to facilitate referral partner deals. The question is, how do you choose between deal registration software and referral partner program software?  Let’s look at the facts.

A referral partner program vs. a deal registration program

A referral partner program is a specialized and streamlined form of deal registration. Within deal registration software, deal registration functionality works by allowing a partner to refer or register a prospect they know is in the market for your product. That referral is then pushed to your company’s sales team to take action. For most partner programs, deal registration functionality is buried in larger partner management software. The added engagement capabilities of these platforms can introduce a high level of complexity to both the deal registration workflow and program management. Furthermore, other deal registration solutions often lack the functionality needed to properly manage these valuable leads.

CompTia’s Third Annual State Of The Channel Study: Channel Conflict And Deal Registration Trends, document the challenges of traditional deal registration software, including:

  • 61% of channel partner respondents citing deal registration programs have inadequate communication such as lack of reporting on deal success, status of the deal payout, and overall incentive information.
  • 49% of responding channel partners have technical issues with deal registration software that make the tool difficult to use.

These challenges partners face with traditional deal registration software leads to poor partner experience and disengagement with a company. And because the SaaS industry has a low barrier of entry, no individual product or company can truly dominates the market, which mean partners have a choice in who they partner with. This creates an even greater need for SaaS companies to keep partners engaged.

For many traditional partner programs, referrals are a viable alternative to streamline the deal registration workflow for partners. Since referral partner program software takes a focused approach, its functionality supports continued partner engagement and partner interaction with the referral deal to speed up the sales pipeline. This includes:

  • Partners facilitating an introduction between the referral and business.
  • A personal partner homepage to keep track of the deal’s progress to sale and how close the partner is to receiving their payout.
  • The ability for partners to invite new advocates to the program and keep track of their activity.
  • Automatic email updates to partners on their referred deal status.

Along with better engagement, make it easy for partners to refer or register a deal. After all, time is money, and if the software to refer a deal is hindering the process you’re trying to enable, your partners won’t refer. Basically, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.

Try creating a simple and easy interface for partners to refer, manage, and gain insight into their referral deal all in one place. This way you offer better usability and partner experience to increasing the number of referrals.

But these claims aren’t mere postulation. A leading SaaS company has had amazing result with their referral partner program. In the first 3 years of the program:

  • 8,966 partners have enrolled in the program
  • Partners made 5,208  referrals each year
  • 39% of referred leads end up becoming customers

With partner engagement being such a large revenue generator, you need software to enable their referrals. And while companies looking to influence partner behavior say they need deal registration software, 70% of their deals still go unregistered with that software, (Third Annual State Of The Channel Study: Channel Conflict And Deal Registration Trends). Don’t let your company’s growth reflect that. Use this free ROI calculator to see what your referral partner program ROI could be.

Becoming an established SaaS company: The referral marketing hack

The SaaS industry has seen astronomical growth in the past few years. In fact, recent marketing forecasts from Microsoft and other research agencies have projected that the spend on SaaS offerings will continue to grow at a 19.4% compound annual growth rate, reaching $141 billion in 2019, according to a recent Forbes article. And while that’s great news, the SaaS ecosystem has become extremely crowded with little elbow room to move around or differentiate.

What does this mean? Customer acquisition has not gotten any easier for the SaaS industry even after considering the large amount of interest. And convincing your target buyers that you’re the only one who can solve their problems isn’t a workable strategy anymore. What is needed is a new and authentic customer acquisition and lead generation strategy to break away from the herd. But sometimes, the most persuasive strategies are old concepts modernized for today’s marketing challenges.

Aristotle’s Modes of Persuasion is an old and well known concept concerning the elements that are used to create a persuasive argument. These elements are Ethos (speaker’s credibility), Pathos (emotional influence) and Logos (logical reason). Now, these seem like pretty simple concepts that are commonly used in sales strategies, but it isn’t the inclusion of them that makes an argument about your brand effective, as opposed to how it’s executed. That’s where referral marketing comes.

Referral marketing is a newer concept that turns current customers, partners and employees into advocates that facilitate a warm introduction between you and people in their network who are in the market for your SaaS product. They are the key to making Aristotle’s Modes of Persuasion successful in the SaaS industry’s current state. Their unique position gives Aristotle’s Modes of Persuasion unusual marketing and selling power.

Applying Aristotle’s Modes Of Persuasion To SaaS Customer Acquisition

Ethos (Credibility)

Credibility is a very important part of selling. But credibility takes time and if you’re a startup, it’s not something that is easily obtained. According to Aristotle, there are three characteristics someone must believe you possess in order to appear credible: Good intention, competence and empathy.

But you can’t just tell your target buyers that you are credible and have them believe it. They need proof. Advocates have experienced your product and can give you the credibility you need to keep your selling persuasive by providing a detailed account of:

  • What it was like to work with you (good intention);
  • How your SaaS product works (competence); and
  • How well you empathize with them and are willing to help correct it (empathy).

Through referral marketing, customers and partners give SaaS startups the credibility they need to differentiate.

Pathos (Emotional influence)

It can be very difficult for SaaS companies to have an emotional influence on buyers, especially B2B SaaS companies. The fact is, it’s very hard to have a target buyer connect any positive emotions to a SaaS company directly. But referral marketing has another way. Your customers and partners already have an established positive emotional connection with their peers. When they refer them to you, they expand the trust and positive feelings encompassing that relationship to include you and your product.

That’s one reason why referral marketing is so powerful and can increase a buyer’s likeliness to purchase by 400% when referred by a friend, according to Nielsen.

Logos (Logic)

Logic is something that can be communicated in many forms. So how does referral marketing add anything special to logic? As Aristotle pointed, logos is not just fact, but the appearance of fact. The truth is that fact has become subjective and, therefore, highly tested by your target buyer before they even come close to accepting the so-called fact. Your target buyers know that every company says they are the best and they have logic to back it up, but that doesn’t mean that they trust that a specific SaaS brand is the best fit for them.

Referral marketing adds substance to a SaaS company’s facts and logic by having it validated by someone who has tested it. Your customers and partners have used your product and know if it stands up to what you claim. They are the best source of substantiating what you’re saying and making your target buyer comfortable enough to commit to a purchase.

Referral Marketing Software Differentiates SaaS Companies

These three different modes of persuasion are a large part of the buying process. Referral marketing software creates a direct channel to prospects that infuse these modes into SaaS businesses. That’s why referral marketing has been shown to have a 35% conversion rate from referral to purchase, according to Amplifinity.

SaaS companies are finding referral marketing to be a natural extension of the subscription service mentality by increasing customer engagement and lifetime value compared to non-referred customers by 16%, according to the Harvard Business Review. 

Decide if referral program software is the right for you. Take the quiz, Are referrals a fit?

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Originally published on Demand Gen Report

How referral marketing helps SMB business services claim more sector revenue

What marketing channel are SMBs using to initiate growth?

Of the 390,000 business services companies in the United States, the fifty largest have under 25% of sector revenue. But this isn’t surprising. The SMB business services sector is inhabited by a number of diverse industries including telecommunications, security, fintech and SaaS. These industries have different target buyers, offerings, and benefits, making it difficult to capture a large percentage of business service revenue. However, with total annual sales equaling $815 billion, the overall business services sector contains tremendous growth opportunity no matter what industry you inhabit within the business service umbrella. And with that in mind, the question that many business services professionals are now asking is how to go about initiating that growth.

Read More

Amplifinity announces its commitment to give back at Salesforce Tour

Amplifinity, a leader in referral automation software, will donate $5 to Playworks for every qualified demonstration given during Salesforce events in 2016

Ann Arbor, Mich., March 22, 2016 — Amplifinity, the referral marketing experts, are pleased to announce its continued support as an ISV partner of Salesforce by utilizing its participation in upcoming Salesforce events to raise money for Playworks, a leading national nonprofit leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. Playworks partners with schools, districts, and after-school programs to create a great play environment throughout the school year. Research shows that safe, healthy play helps children develop social and emotional skills, increase physical activity, and deepen academic engagement.

At Salesforce events in 2016, Amplifinity will be demonstrating how organizations can utilize automated referral programs as an always-on channel for revenue growth.

Stop by Amplifinity’s exhibit at one of Salesforce’s events:

  • 3/24/2016 Chicago (Salesforce Tour)
  • 4/07/2016 Boston  (Salesforce Tour)
  • 5/10/2016- 5/12/2016 Atlanta (Salesforce Connections)
  • 10/4/2016-10/07/2016 San Francisco (Dreamforce)
  • 12/15/2016 New York City (Salesforce Tour)

Attendees interested in learning more about Amplifinity’s SaaS platform for referral marketing are encouraged to visit the Amplifinity booth at any of the events to receive a demonstration. Qualified participants will also receive a brick kit and a donation of $5 will be made to Playworks. Amplifinity embraces giving back as one of its core values and recently joined Pledge 1%, a corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business.

“Fast growing companies like Amplifinity can generate both economic and philanthropic benefit to the communities we live in,” said Larry Angeli, CEO of Amplifinity. “Giving back is an important element of our corporate identity and culture and we’re excited about the opportunity to help Playworks transform children’s health.”

Salesforce is among the trademarks of salesforce.com, Inc.

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About Amplifinity

Amplifinity referral marketing software generates revenue growth for sales-driven companies. Amplifinity turns customer, partner and employee advocacy into high-quality leads by integrating referrals into marketing and sales processes. Companies like ADP and DIRECTV trust Amplifinity to enable high-quality acquisition while providing an engaging experience for their advocates.  www.amplifinity.com

 

About Playworks

Playworks is the leading national nonprofit leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. Playworks currently reaches more than 650,000 students in 23 U.S. cities. Playworks creates a place for every kid on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills. www.Playworks.org