B2B sales has gotten even more challenging in 2024.   Google is cracking down on bulk cold emails with a complaint rate of 0.3% (that means 3 complaints out of 1,000 emails). And more buyers are opting for a rep-free buying experience, turning to review sites and industry experts for information.   So how can you reach today’s buyers? The answer lies in channel partnerships.   A channel partnership is when your business partners with third parties like industry experts to reach a wider audience and expand your sales network without stretching your budget. This strategy not only gets your product in front of more potential buyers but also earn the trust of larger clients that you alone would not be able to reach through trusted third parties. It’s no wonder that half of B2B companies are investing more in partnerships this year.   Setting up a partner program ensures that you maximize the potential of your indirect sales channels, but which one is the best for you? In this article, we will explore the five main types of partner programs and discuss which is the right one for you. Let’s get to it!  

You may also want to read: 4 B2B Sales Trends to Follow to Power Up Your Sales Game in 2023-2024


Affiliate Partnership

With an affiliate program, third-party publishers and influencers — known as affiliates — promote your products or services by placing a trackable link to your website on their channels. When someone clicks the link and makes a purchase, they receive a commission or payment.   Best for: Brands that are experimenting with indirect sales and are looking for a low-investment partner program.   Why you should launch an affiliate program:

  • The easiest type to set up without heavy upfront investment. All you need is a trackable link and a way to reward your partners for conversions.

  • Expanded reach. Affiliates promote your product to a wide audience, thereby increasing exposure and traffic to your website.

  • Performance-based compensation. No upfront fees, only pay based on the deals or leads they generate.

  Cons of launching an affiliate program:
  • Lower lead quality. Affiliates may promote very broadly to boost volumes but this could mean sending a lot of unqualified traffic that is less likely to convert.

  • Limited control. Affiliates have their own marketing strategies and methods, which may not align perfectly with your brand guidelines. It's important to establish clear guidelines and monitor affiliates to maintain brand consistency.


Referral Partnership

A referral partner program involves three parties: You as the product owner, your partner as the referrer, and your prospect as the referee. Your partner introduces your product to someone who they know needs your product, and they refer that person to you. When a deal with the referee closes, your partner — the referrer — receives a commission.   Best for: Brands that value higher quality over larger volume of leads and have existing advocates sending leads.   Why you should launch a referral program

  • Enhanced reach. Referral partners have an established network of contacts or clients who may have an interest in your products or services. Partnering with them will not only let you access a wider audience but also the right audience.

  • Higher lead quality. Referral partners have already gained the trust of the prospect, and they also qualify leads on your behalf. The probability of conversion is much higher.

  • Low cost. All you need is a partner with a wide network and a way to pay your partner for conversions.

  Cons of launching a referral program
  • Limited reach. Referrals will often be within the partners’ close network, providing a smaller pool of potential new customers than other channels.

  • More internal investment. You would need to compile more comprehensive marketing materials like white papers, product demos, etc. to help your referral partners explain your products or services more convincingly.


Reseller Partnership

A traditional form of sales partnerships, a reseller program allows your partners to sell your products or services directly on your behalf in exchange for commissions.   Best for: Brands that want to outsource their sales team and are willing to invest time and resources into training partners as certified resellers.   Why you should adopt a reseller partnership for your partnership strategy:

  • Industry knowledge. Reseller partners provide valuable insights to your potential clients that can add value to your products.

  • Established distribution channels. Reseller partners are effectively your external sales team. They have existing distribution channels that are tried and true. They offload your customer acquisition cost through their own marketing and sales efforts.

  • Greater reach. Resellers already have their own customer base, allowing you to tap into a wider audience.

  Cons of launching a reseller partnership:
  • Massive internal investment. You would need to provide comprehensive training programs to educate your resellers, regularly engage and communicate with them to address issues and provide support, and provide more incentives to persuade them to prioritize selling your products or services.

  • Less control of customer experience. Resellers represent your brand, so inconsistencies may arise in how your products are sold or supported.


Strategic Partnership

A strategic partnership is a formal agreement between two independent parties to move in concert and share expertise and resources. This kind of partnership is made with a mutual main business objective and is usually long-term in nature.   Best for: Brands looking to enter new industries, gain scale in emerging tech, or fill in gaps in their portfolio.   Why you should enter into a strategic partnership:

  • Increased resources and capabilities. You can gain access to supplementary resources that can complement your offering and take your business to new heights.

  • Access to new markets. Strategic alliances with another business can help you reach a larger customer base that you might not have been able to reach alone.

  • Greater credibility. Associating with a well-known brand and having them vouch for you helps validate your solutions.

  • Economies of scale. With more manpower, skillset, and knowledge; you can achieve your objectives more effectively and efficiently and a lot quicker.

  Cons of entering into a strategic partnership:
  • Legal complexities. Legal support is needed to establish formal binding agreements and unforeseen risks and obligations must be carefully defined.

  • Dependency risks. If your partner under-delivers, faces financial trouble, or contends with other issues; your business will be damaged as well. And it is often difficult to disentangle from the alliance.


Technology Partnership/Integration

A technology partnership involves formal alliances between a leading technology company and other software/hardware vendors in their ecosystem. Through these partnerships, products and services are integrated to create combined technology solutions. Plus, partners also collaborate on marketing, sales, and customer support activities.   Best for: Tech brands that want to solve problems and add features in their offerings without investing heavily in technology.   Why you should have a technology partner program:

  • Expanded capabilities. You can expand your tech offerings and address new use cases by integrating with complementary partners. This can strengthen your overall solution portfolio.

  • Expanded customer segments. Partners give access to each other's customer bases, helping reach new industries and verticals. This facilitates market and revenue expansion.

  • Greater customer satisfaction. Integrated solutions provide a unified interface, avoiding complexity and context switching between your and your partner’s products. This improves customers’ product experience and as a result enhances customer retention.

  Cons of starting a technology partner program:
  • Coordination challenges. Like a strategic alliance, technology partnerships are usually long-term. Syncing multiple R&D pipelines and releases takes careful management on your and your partner’s part.

  • Dependency risks. Just like a strategic alliance, if your partner under-delivers, faces financial trouble, or contends with other issues; your product will also be affected.


Get started with referral partnerships with Expando

In summary, choosing the right type of partner program will depend on your specific goals. While they each have their pros and cons, setting up the right partnerships is crucial for B2B brands to effectively reach today's buyer while maximizing sales opportunities.   Expando is well-positioned to help you build a consistent pipeline of referrals with a combination of our vetted network of referral partners and our referral software.   Get matched with relevant referral partners and scale your partner-led growth strategy using the best referral partnership service in APAC. Contact us to grow your business today.


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