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Partner programs: How to find one that fits

Partner programs: How to find one that fits Blaine Mathieu

As an online marketer in today's business climate, it might seem like everywhere you turn there's another opportunity to participate in an online marketing partner program offered by one company or another. While long customary in the world of IT, online marketing partner programs are now getting up to speed and becoming popular. 

On the surface, these programs all seem like a great way to effortlessly expand your product offerings, by selling or implementing another company's marketing technology or services without having to make any significant investments internally. 

However, it is important to dig a bit deeper before committing to just any program, as not all are created equally. That being the case, here are some tips for what to look for when considering participation in an online marketing partner program:

Comprehensive product offerings
Does the company that you are considering partnering with offer full access to its product suite? Or only select product lines? The difference could be critical to your customers.

In addition to a full range of product offerings, good programs offer comprehensive technical and product training and support to partners and their customers. Training is a particularly important factor to look for, both in terms of learning the product as well as training any business development or sales team members, if applicable. A good partner wants to ensure you understand its offerings and organization inside and out, and won't leave you (or your customers) stranded in a time of need.

A collaborative, supportive program
Before partnering with any company, be sure to ask yourself, "What can this program offer me?" Yes, be selfish -- look for programs that offer not only technical support but personal support as well. These are partners that are truly invested in helping you grow your business, not just their own bottom lines. A good partner program should offer a depth of resource tools and information, such as one-on-one account management, so you have a personal relationship with someone running the program, ongoing educational programs, and ongoing events providing the opportunity to network with other partners to share experiences and best practices.

Some partner programs offer business development support, which can be enormously beneficial to smaller companies that might not have the time or resources to devote to this critical business function. Regular business planning meetings and joint sales calls are some of the offerings to look for.

Marketing support is another appealing offering for partners. Things to seek out include assistance with the development of marketing materials, advertisements on the partner organization's website, or even actual money for business development. These benefits can make a big difference to more resource-constrained companies.

Finally, it should also go without saying that before partnering with any organization, you should make absolutely sure that it is a financially stable company with the resources to contribute to your success.

Robust technology integrations
Selling is not the only way to become involved in partner programs. Integration partnerships can also be a great way to complement your company's technology offering and provide a more comprehensive solution set to customers. Integration partners tend to be companies with software offerings that have either embedded the vendor's solution into their offering or complement it with an integration that transfers data between solutions via APIs.

For example, a cost-per-lead advertiser allows marketers to promote its content on sites across the internet that cater to the target demographic. However, to be executed effectively, cost-per-lead advertising requires both media expertise and sophisticated technical solutions. The ability to immediately follow up on a lead with an email is critical to the success of an effective cost-per-lead advertising campaign; however, many businesses in this category simply don't have that technology built into their software. In this case, a partnership with an email marketing company would make sense, as it enables dynamic email generation and allows for advanced triggered (or "drip") email campaigns to help convert a subscriber to a paying customer. This type of partnership allows the cost-per-lead advertiser to fully optimize its campaigns for greater ROI.

Look for partner programs that offer APIs that easily integrate their systems with yours, including customer relationship management (CRM), web analytics, content management, and ecommerce websites -- in order to support the execution of advanced marketing campaigns.

New revenue streams
In the end, you are running a business, and you need to be mindful of your bottom line, meaning a partner program can and should represent new revenue streams. For starters, be sure to look for a partner program that offers competitive margins on any sales of its products. These new revenues can also come from discounted internal licenses for the partner's products, to marketing development funds, referral bonuses, and other partner-exclusive deals.

The bottom line is that desirable partner programs start with companies that view their partners as extensions of their own business. By keeping the above factors in mind as you sift through offers, you will be able to identify a program that makes the most sense for your business -- and reap the benefits of partnership for years to come.

Blaine Mathieu is chief marketing officer at Lyris.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Blaine Mathieu is responsible for Lyris’ brand and product strategy, including driving all of the marketing and sales activities for  the company’s Lyris HQ hosted integrated marketing suite and its award-winning ListManager email marketing...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Kevin Conway

2010, October 26

ANother article that's just fileld with useless generalities, never even providing a specific example of WHERE to begin? Where to go? Maybe some resources for finding partnerships, would be nice???