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In this topsy-turvy economy, with so many businesses seeking new paths to revenue, investing in partnerships can be a very good bet. Partnerships are providing a safe, performance-based business model and the ability to incentivize buying with deals and loyalty perks. But how, exactly, do you take your partnership from point A to point B? Do you just onboard more partners? Increase payouts? Improve tracking?

Enhancing your partnership program in a meaningful way is a big undertaking, so it’s important to focus first on the activities and tactics that will really move the needle. And there’s some recent data to point you in the right direction. 

What research revealed about how to do your partnerships right

Forrester Consulting’s recent study:  Smooth the partnership journey by learning from high-maturity companies incorporates a survey of 454 global professionals in partnerships, marketing, business development, and sales who lead performance-based, nonreseller partnership strategies and programs. Forrester asked this group to evaluate the tactical ways their high-maturity companies run partnership programs. Among all the different activities undertaken at each phase of the partnership relationship, some were more likely than others to correlate with high maturity, i.e., the companies getting the most value from their partnership investments. 

Turns out, high maturity most strongly correlates with successful execution during three specific phases of the partnership life cycle: optimization, protecting and monitoring, and discovery and recruitment, in that order.

Top 3 recommendations to boost your partnerships to new levels

So what kinds of things are top programs doing that you can emulate to give yours a lift? Here are some recommendations from the study.

1. Focus first on partnership optimization

High-maturity companies use some key optimization tactics that can elevate low-maturity companies to average maturity. Start by maintaining partner KPI scorecards to gain a clear view of partnership performance. Additionally, segment and analyze your partners’ audiences in detail. Learn where synergy exists and where your partnership budget is wasted. Average-maturity companies should not spend too much time on changing your commission structure for a given partner to see the impact on traffic or sales (e.g., testing elasticity). Benchmark your performance against your competitors and against your industry to optimize where you are underperforming.

2. Protect and monitor your partnerships

Protecting and monitoring has the second highest correlation with high maturity. It is important to get it right by mirroring tactics used by high-maturity companies. Some key tactics can improve your maturity during this phase. Low-maturity companies need to ensure regulatory compliance of partner creative. Compliance is critical to ensure success and meet regulatory requirements. While all industries must meet regulatory requirements, it is particularly critical in financial services. Move from average to high maturity by paying particular attention to fraud. High-maturity companies are clawing back overpayments and preventing fraudulent payouts to protect their business. 

3. Refine your discovery and recruitment

Improving your company’s maturity level during discovery and recruitment requires a clear understanding of your partnership needs. Mirror high-maturity companies from this study to improve your tactics at this phase. Low-maturity companies are finding look-alike partners based on where they have already seen success. This is a good place to start. But in order to move up to average maturity:

  • Look at your channel data and begin identifying and qualifying partners that reach your customers across their trusted channels. 
  • Once you have taken this step, you can move toward higher maturity in this phase. Begin by defining clear status and criteria you require for partner acceptance. 
  • Then automate and scale your application and agreement process to streamline workflows. 
  • Additionally, target by partner segment and personalize outreach. To ensure the broadest success, select partners that meet your needs across as many of your business criteria as possible.

For more tips and tactics for elevating your partnership program maturity, download the full report now. Or reach out to an Impact growth technologist to jumpstart performance with partnership automation at grow@impact.com

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