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The 80/20 rule — a.k.a. Pareto’s Principle — is alive and well in partnerships. Historically, 20% of your partners have likely driven 80% of your leads, and 80% of your partners have driven 20% of your leads. But is that set in stone? Is there a way to get more balance? And can we get more from the other 80% to grow our programs and businesses? The answer is yes, with the right strategy. The first step is to determine which partners are your 80, and which are your 20. 

Note that determining your particular 80/20 is going to vary from program to program depending on a wealth of variables, from the vertical your business sits to the nature of the product or service you have to offer to how competitive the market is — and everything in between. Below are some metrics to take into account when deciding in which group your partners sits. 

Who are the 20%?

The traffic these partners generate tends to be high quality and as a result may drive many conversions and higher revenue for the business. Time-to-conversion is likely above-average, and they probably don’t rely heavily on your other marketing channels, resulting in more cost-effective conversions. In addition, the incremental and lifetime value of their audiences is probably higher than others. 

Partners who meet these criteria are a good fit for your business, and you’re likely to have a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship. 

What about the 80%?

With this group, the ratio of the number of clicks to the number of conversions may leave room for improvement. These partners don’t individually drive much revenue, and their time-to-conversion may be longer than expected. They may rely more heavily on your other marketing channels to convert a lead, resulting in a more expensive conversion. What’s more, the return or cancellation rate of your product offering from their traffic may be higher than average. 

Because they create less incremental value, these partners are often pigeonholed into a category where they are not given the attention and support that could help them drive more beneficial traffic for your business. 

With this group, you have three options: 

  1. Maintain the status quo and accept a low-touch, low(er)-reward relationship (living with suboptimal ROI from your overall program) 
  2. Remove them from your program and focus on discovery and onboarding of new partners (costly) 
  3. Put goals and incentives in place to increase their performance and value (getting more from your existing investment)

Using partnership automation and data-informed partner management, this third option can be deployed at scale. Here’s how.

Set goals and give feedback

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. In order to get the best out of both partner categories, you need to put metrics in place, set achievable goals, and reward based on value. 

  • Set up SMART (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-bound) KPIs to add value and transparency to your relationship. This will have a direct impact on the revenue generated by your partnership channel and the business as a whole. 
  • Use a tiered model to motivate and reward a partner simultaneously. You might increase the commission percentage or offer a flat bonus once a particular number of transactions has been reached, for example.
  • Offer data-driven feedback to the partner both when they are doing well and when they are not. Transparency in this regard allows the partner to adapt his or her approach, yielding better results for both of you. Allow the partner to feel empowered to make decisions based on the data that you both see. 
  • Use data to make the most of each partner’s strengths. Is the partner better at the top of the funnel creating interest or at the bottom of funnel closing conversions? Then collaborate on how you can both adapt tactics to make the most of those skills.

The win-win result from data and transparency

Rather than settling for or churning through low-producing partners, using data and transparency to help the 80% move into the high-performing category gives you the chance to change the balance of your partnership program. It also reduces concentration risk by diversifying where your leads are coming from and lowering your dependency on a small group of high performers. 

By moving even just a few partners into a higher-performing category, you can disrupt the 80/20 rule and make partnerships one of the most efficient, highest-performing channels in your toolbox. 

Let an Impact growth technologist help you shift your 80/20 so all your partners are performing for you — reach out to grow@impact.com

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