SaaS partnerships cheat sheet
Partnerships are all about (knowledge) sharing. But the acronyms and buzzwords we use in our space can be alienating if you don’t know what they mean - or, more commonly, what they mean in the context of partnership management.
To help you navigate the space, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to decoding the jargon of SaaS partnerships.
Activation: A partner is “active” once you have motivated and enabled them to do things that benefit your business: from promoting and selling to simply sharing links and generating leads. The first deal registration, first closed deal, or a specific period of revenue generation can all be considered signals that you’ve completed activation.
Activation Rate: Once you decide where the threshold for activation lies, you can calculate your activation rate. Take the total number of partners in the “activated” category, and divide that by the total number who joined your partner program. This percentage reflects how many partners are reaching key activation milestones. If this is lower than you’d like it to be, it’s a signal that you may need to improve your onboarding process.
Affiliate Partner: An affiliate partner is a type of marketing partner who increases your reach and exposure through their own channels. They usually get a commission on revenue that they help to generate. Individuals, businesses, or even other affiliate programs can fulfill this role.
Affiliate Program: Your affiliate program is the system or agreement you use to reward affiliate partners with commission on traffic or sales they help to generate through tracked links. Publishers, influencers, vendors and marketplaces use affiliate programs to direct leads into sales funnels in exchange for a payout, or a commission on conversions and sales.
Agency Partnership: This is a partnership between two agencies, or an agency and another business, such as a software vendor, or influencer. These partnerships can provide a significant boost to market reach, and generate referrals. An agency partner can also add value to a company’s existing customer base.
Alliance: A strategic partnership, forged with major, long term goals in view. This can involve equity, but not always. It can also take the form of a joint venture, where two companies create a third. Usually, the relationship between alliance partners is consultative and reciprocal, rather than transactional - more “what can I do for you?” and less “what’s in this for me?”
Application Form: Before admitting a business into a partner or referral program, you want to know if their goals, customer profiles and values align with yours. Your application form can ask about projected sales, marketing plans, competitors, and how well the applicant understands your offering.
B2B Partnerships: Businesses that are not direct competitors can form business-to-business (B2B) partnerships. The goal of these collaborations is to generate revenue, accelerate growth for both parties, and add value for shareholders. B2B partnerships can focus on referrals, marketing, reselling, or a combination of all of these.
Certification: Beginning at the onboarding stage, certification is a way of formally recognizing that a partner has achieved certain benchmarks. For example, a tech company may certify partners who meet certain standards of product knowledge, sales and technical capabilities, or customer support. Once they earn that recognition, they can use the partner's logo, receive training and promotional materials and access to leads or other resources.
Channel Partner: Your channel partners are any companies who resell or distribute your product. This includes value-added resellers (VARS), distributors, integrators and managed service providers (MSPs) and independent vendors. Channel partners are so valuable because of the relationships and expertise they have in their own markets. And because they get a cut on the sales they deliver, they’re less costly than direct sales and marketing.
Channel Partner Program: This is the set of rules, procedures, and benefits that a company offers to its channel partners. It often includes things like training, marketing support, and sales incentives. The purpose of a channel partner program is to motivate partners to keep producing value for customers.
Channel Sales: These are the sales that you make through channel partners, rather than directly to end customers. Channel sales can be highly cost-effective, reducing the overall cost of sales and marketing.
Commission: This is how you reward partners who help you to close deals, bring you qualified leads, or drive traffic to your properties. Commission can either be a percentage of a sale, or a set amount. But either way, it should be fair compensation for your partners’ efforts. Ideally, it should also be progressive, so that it rewards high performance.
Co-marketing: This is a way to grow two businesses at once by pooling the marketing resources of each one. In a co-marketing relationship, both companies promote a product, and share the results. By amplifying each other, both partners stand to gain from increased reach, awareness and impact.
Content-marketing Partnership: Marketing co-created or sponsored content together can boost your reach, as well as your partner’s. It can also have a positive impact on SEO, with long term benefits for brand visibility. What makes this kind of partnership challenging is that both partners need to align closely on editorial strategy and the quality of the content.
Customer Success: This is the degree to which customers are satisfied with a product or service. Supporting customers beyond the sale is key to building customer loyalty, and turning them into advocates and ambassadors of your brand.
Deals Management: The process of managing and tracking sales opportunities and deals between a company and its partners. This can include identifying potential deals, tracking the progress through the sales pipeline, and addressing issues to improve the partner experience.
DevOps: A set of practices that combine software development and IT operations to improve the speed and quality of software delivery. The aim is to increase collaboration and communication between developers and operations teams.
Direct Channel: This describes a sale made between the vendor and the end user of a product, without intermediaries or partners. Direct channels give vendors more control, but they don’t offer the same reach as channel sales. That’s why many software companies aim to use both channel types, to capture the benefits of each.
Distributor: In a partner ecosystem, distributors act as a link between vendors and resellers. In addition to handling procurement and payment, distributors can offer product education for resellers, product demonstrations and marketing support.
Ecosystem Partner: Your ecosystem is the network of companies that have a relationship with yours, either on the basis of overlapping prospects, shared geography, or similar ICP. Ecosystem partners help you to promote and distribute your product - and vise versa.
Evangelist: As the name suggests, evangelists promote your product to prospective partners like vendors and resellers. Evangelists engage directly with prospects to educate them about which products and services suit their needs.
Flat Commission: This is a set sum that partners receive for sales. Unlike percentage-based commissions, a flat commission is always the same, regardless of the volume of any particular sale.
Give-First Mentality: Successful partnerships aren’t always transactional. Sometimes, it’s necessary to do things that help your partners, without expecting them to reciprocate. This “give-first” mentality can help to create stronger relationships in the long term.
Go-to-Market (GTM): Your GTM is how you plan to introduce a product to customers. It includes identifying your target market, positioning the product, and developing tactics to sell effectively.
Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): This is a data-driven profile of the person or company you should be selling to. Sales and marketing professionals use demographic, location and behavioral data to refine ICP and target their efforts accordingly.
Ideal Partner Profile (IPP): Similar to ICP, a company’s IPP is a persona that represents the characteristics of businesses you should partner with. A solid IPP, informed by research, helps partner managers to assess the potential of a partnership, and identify high-value prospects.
Inactive Partner: Sometimes, relationships can go stale, even ones that started out strong. For example, a partner may enter your program but never begin engaging or providing value. Others may engage for a time, then drop off and go dormant. If high-value partnerships become inactive, it may be a sign that you need to improve your processes.
Inbound Partner Recruitment: One of the many benefits of setting up an effective partner program is that it will begin to attract prospects to you, without you having to reach out to them first. That’s a great position to be in, but it’s still up to you to carefully vet inbound prospects to determine whether they truly are a good fit.
Incentive Program: The set of rewards or bonuses offered you offer your partners to motivate them to achieve specific goals or targets. These can be financial rewards like bonuses or commission, or other rewards like recognition, training, or exclusive events.
Independent Software Vendor (ISV): A company that develops and sells software products that run on various platforms. They typically have expertise in a particular area of technology, and create solutions that address specific needs of customers. ISVs often have a strong sales and marketing focus, so Partner managers should be prepared to collaborate with them on go-to-market strategies that can help both the ISV and the company achieve their goals.
Indirect Channel: A method of selling goods or services through intermediaries, such as distributors, resellers, or retailers, rather than directly to the end consumer. Partnerships are one type of indirect channel.
Indirect Sales: Whenever end users make a purchase from an intermediary, rather than the vendor itself, this is an indirect sale. Sales made through partners are, by definition, indirect.
Influencers: These are people with the power to affect the buying decisions of others, typically through social media platforms.
Integration Partner: An integration partner is one whose software connects with yours, perhaps via an API. Integrations help to streamline the flow of information and data between different systems, making it easier for businesses to use multiple technologies in a cohesive way.
Joint Value Proposition (JVP): Your JVP communicates what customers stand to gain by using the integrated products you and your partner are offering. A convincing JVP helps customers to understand how this integration enhances the value of each partner’s product, and synthesizes them into a single, unique solution to their problems.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Quantifiable metrics that you can use to measure how well your partner program is performing. Some examples of relevant KPIs include monthly new partnerships, activation rate, and the average frequency and volume of deals.
Leads: Contacts that you have identified as prospective customers or partners, and who may be interested in your products or services.
Lifecycle: the progression of stages that a partnership goes through, from initial engagement to recruitment, onboarding, development, and management. it can also include stages for optimization and exit. The partner lifecycle is a framework that helps partner managers to understand the different stages of a partnership, and to develop strategies and tactics to help advance the partnership through each stage.
Long-tail Partners: Following the Pareto Principle, this is the roughly 80% of partners in your database who only generate 20% of partner-led revenue.
Managed Services Providers (MSP): These are companies that provide IT services to other businesses, typically on a subscription basis. For example, an MSP might provide support services to end users of a SaaS vendor’s tool, on a long term basis, and for a recurring fee.
Marketing Development Funds (MDF): This is a program that a company offers to its channel partners to boost marketing and sales efforts. It’s often framed as an incentive, with access to the fund linked to performance. MDFs can fund co-branded advertising, trade shows and events, as well as training programs for the partner's sales and marketing teams.
Marketing Partner: Your marketing partners promote your products to their own audiences, driving traffic your way in exchange for a cut of profits that result. Marketing partnerships (also known as affiliate partnerships) are usually managed through trackable links.
Monthly New Partnerships: The number of new partnerships you’re able to form each month.
Nearbound: Reveal coined this term to describe the importance of tapping into the power of all the businesses within your ecosystem to boost revenue. As Reveal puts it, the Nearbound concept is about using tech to go beyond inbound and outbound to “share unlimited intelligence with unlimited partners”.
New User Acquisition: Software vendors use this metric to determine how many users have signed up on their platforms. New Trial Starts (NTS) measure the number of users who create accounts.
Onboarding: The process of welcoming new partners and signing them up as official members of the program. At this stage, you want to make sure they have everything they need, and define some tangible goals.
Outbound Partner Recruitment: A strategy for finding prospective partners, and reaching out to them in order to demonstrate the value of your products, either to them or their customers.
Partner Enablement: Before a partner can successfully promote you, they need to really understand what you do, and the value of your offerings for their clients and customers. Enablement includes training, resources, and all the systems that a partner can rely on as they progress through the partnership journey with you. It’s best to think of enablement as an ongoing process, not a box to tick.
Partner Engagement: This includes everything you do to keep your partners excited and motivated to generate leads, drive traffic your way, and help you close deals. This doesn’t end at onboarding: maintaining enthusiasm and activity is a continual task for partner managers.
Partner Experience Platforms: Also known as Partner Engagement Platforms, these are SaaS tools that partnership teams use to drive more revenue with less effort by automating recurring interactions in a hyper-personalized way. Teams can send customized content and messaging in the channels that people love to use, guided by unique ecosystem insights. You can use these tools to ensure everyone in your ecosystem knows and trusts you, feels valued, and drives more business your way as a result. B2B partnership software like Superglue makes it possible to manage partners, automate workflows, gain predictive insights into partner ecosystems, and integrate with other software and data sources.
Partner Join Source: The recruitment channel that a new partner comes through. This could be through your own channels, or referrals from your partner network.
Partner Journey: No two partnerships are exactly the same, but they do follow a similar series of stages, milestones and key events. Together, these make up the partner journey. It begins with recruitment, progresses through onboarding and activation, before maturing into a phase of mutual investment and value generation.
Partner Manager: Partner managers are like the matchmakers of the business world, connecting companies with the perfect partners to help them reach new heights. They're the ones who help make sure that the partnerships are healthy, productive and successful for both parties, just like any good matchmaker would.
Partner Marketing: This involves joining forces with your partners to create and marketing campaigns that reach new customers and drive sales. The purpose is to combine your strengths and resources to achieve mutual business goals.
Partner Marketplace: A platform that connects potential partners, allowing them to find, research, and collaborate with each other. It can be general or specific to a particular industry, and often features detailed profiles, messaging and project management tools.
Partner Newsletter: Ongoing engagement is key to partner management. Newsletters can be a great way to keep partners in the loop and up to date on product updates or partner events. To avoid spamming your partners, get their feedback on a cadence that works for them, and tailor the content you send according to their needs and interests.
Partner Program: A system that connects a business to partners who can help them to enter new markets and verticals, generate more leads, and increase sales revenue.
Partner Recruitment: Also known as partner acquisition, this describes the process of growing a partner program by converting new prospects. A detailed IPP is crucial to effective partner recruitment.
Partner Retention: A measurement of how many partners stay in your program over a period of time.
Partner Relationship Management (PRM): PRM software helps companies manage and their partnerships. It has features like partner portals, communication tools, and performance tracking and reporting, which help companies effectively track their partner relationships. A good PRM system can automate day-to-day processes, so that partner managers can focus on building stronger and more productive partnerships.
Recurring Revenue: The regular and predictable income that a company generates from its partnerships. This can include revenue from sales of products or services, as in the case of a Value-Added-Reseller (VAR) receiving kickbacks from a software vendor for selling subscriptions. Recurring revenue is an important metric for partner management, because it’s a key indicator of the long-term health and stability of a partnership
Referral Partner: These are companies who send qualified leads to their partners, and receive a reward for deals that come to fruition as a result. Usually, referral partners have close relationships with a specific type of customer, which is why they’re able to supply high quality leads. These partnerships are often managed with unique referral links, that can be tracked to measure performance.
Reseller Partner: Resellers buy products from vendors and sell them to their own customers. They typically buy products at a preferential price and add a mark-up, or, as in the case of Value-Added Resellers (VARs), add their own integrations or end user support. White label resellers purchase licenses that allow them to rebrand products they buy from SaaS vendors. Reselling partnerships can boost your reach and supercharge sales, but they do require ongoing management.
Revenue Share Reward: An agreed-upon structure for sharing the revenue that successful deals generate. It’s important to have a mutually beneficial agreement in place to define the revenue share reward that partners can expect.
Rewards: Any incentive you provide to your partner to motivate them and compensate them for good performance. This is usually monetary, but can also take the form of giveaways or leads.
SaaS Partner Programs: Systems that SaaS companies put in place to manage partnerships with other businesses, agencies and influencers to sell their software. These programs can be structured to target specific types of relationships, such as reseller, affiliate, integration or referral partnerships.
Sales Spiff: A bonus given to salespeople to motivate them to sell more, either as individuals or as teams. It's an extra reward for achieving a goal or selling a specific product. It's usually given in addition to their regular pay and can be in the form of cash, gift cards, or other rewards. It's a short-term way to give a boost to sales.
Segments: Segments are categories or groups of partners, based on attributes such as type, location and level of performance. Segmentation is valuable because it enables partner managers to customize and target their outreach appropriately.
Security & Compliance: Because partnerships involve data sharing, it’s vital that both parties have systems in place to store and protect each other’s information.
Strategic Partnerships: Also known as alliances, these are collaborations between two companies with products that complement each other. By combining their resources, they are better able to achieve a shared goal.
Technology Partnership: A collaboration between companies, with the goal of integrating each other’s products to make them more valuable to customers. These partnerships are also called integration partnerships, as they involve sharing data and enhancing it to improve the user experience. Tech partnerships can be an effective way to expand your market reach, and improve your offerings by leveraging new technologies and expertise.
Tiers: Different levels within a partner program, each offering a set of advantages for partners who meet the requirements. Tiers can be a highly effective way to motivate your partners.
Touchpoint: These are all the interactions you have with your partners, through digital or in-person channels. Think of every touchpoint as an opportunity to engage, gather feedback, and build stronger relationships.
Trigger: “If X, then Y” conditions within a partner management workflow. You can configure messages to get sent at predetermined dates, or as a result of another event, like a new transaction, or a specific user action.
Value Added Reseller (VAR): In SaaS partnerships, VARs sell additional services to make a software solution easier to operate for end users. This can include support, implementation or customizations that help end users to make the most of the software they have purchased.
White-glove: This describes a caliber of service that exceeds your partners’ expectations. When you provide white-glove service, you demonstrate that you care about your partners’ success and that the relationship is not merely a transaction.
White-label: In a white-label agreement, a reseller has the right to rebrand or repackage a product before they sell it on as their own.
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