Partnerships: Good Ones, Bad Ones, and Everything Inbetween

Explore what makes a successful partnership in this insightful blog post, featuring valuable insights from our CEO's talk with Nikita Zhitkevich, Director of Channel Partnerships at PartnerStack.



Content Contributor, HeySummit

Published on August 17, 2021

Looking to better understand partnerships? Luckily for you, our CEO Rob recently chatted to Nikita Zhitkevich, the Director of Channel Partnerships at PartnerStack. They discussed Partner Marketing (communicating value with and through partners), what makes a good partnership, rewards, incentives and...well, all things partnerships!

🤷 What is PartnerStack?

PartnerStack is a tool for startup vendors looking to manage their partner channels. It automates the tough parts of running a partner program and is designed to cultivate long-term partnerships. From referral, affiliate, and marketing partners all the way up to agency and reseller partnerships, PartnerStack manages them all.  

Whenever an organization launches on PartnerStack they get listed on their marketplace, joining a network of hundreds of thousands of partners who can generate revenue for their business.

Here are some highlights of their conversation:

🕓 Is Partner Marketing Efficient?

Rob: Partner marketing is a longer play in awareness building than ads and SEO. How efficient is partner marketing?

Nikita: Partner marketing is not necessarily the quickest route to market, but it’s incredibly effective. It’s not as quick as spinning up a Google Ads account and tossing up a bunch of keywords, but partner marketing de-risks these channels. The cost of acquisition on ads is skyrocketing because everyone is bidding for different keywords and brand words. For a lot of organizations, affiliate partnerships are a necessity.

An affiliate marketer has an audience that trusts their opinion. Whether they steer their audience towards your direction or create great content about your brand, they drive educated traffic to your product or landing page.

Affiliate marketing in B2B and software particularly tends to create customers that stay longer than those from an organic lead that might have just seen your ad somewhere.

🌞 What Makes a Good Partnership?

Rob: What are the signs of a good partnership program, and what are the thought processes that go into it?

Nikita: I typically start with understanding your audience. If you’re a referral partner, know what kind of audience you have and what kind of audience your partner or potential partner is currently using. Know the audience and work back from there, joining partner programs that are aligned with your core audience.

Another good sign is transparency. Make your intents clear, and be sure that you both know exactly what you’re getting rewarded for.

Effective communication is also crucial. Are your partners properly addressing your questions? Those who put the time and effort into ensuring that their partners are happy see increased dividends over time.

Rob: Aside from a lack of nurturing are there other examples of what not to do when approaching partner marketing?

Nikita: Keep it simple and add complexity as your program matures. Often people try to add a lot of complexity out of the gate which:

  • Delays the launch of your partnership system or program

  • Makes it difficult for partners to understand why they’re joining specific programs

  • Complicates the entire process for both parties

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 How Do You Know If You're With the Right Partner?

Rob: Are there particular things that you see vendors do to help qualify what makes a good partner vs one that isn’t quite a good fit?

Nikita: Again, this varies from vendor to vendor. But what this comes down to is:

Is that partner willing to work with you?

Are they willing to put in the time to learn about how you do business today, what your messaging is, and what type of audience you’re targeting?

At its minimum, a good partnership is made up of two parties looking to work together to ultimately drive benefit to both sides. Sometimes partnerships are very one-sided and that’s where they fail. It’s important to ask if there's an opportunity for your partner to drive value to you, whether that’s a new business or helping to retain customers. Make sure that you ask if there’s also  an opportunity for you to drive value to them as well, or else the partnership could fail.

You need a willingness. You could have the perfect partner on paper but if they don’t have the willingness to work with you and put time and effort into creating content, getting on webinars, and speaking to an audience, then everything else is irrelevant.

🤔 Will Partner Marketing Work for You?

Rob: What are the qualifying questions you ask to see if a company is likely to have success with partner marketing?

Nikita: The core question is: Do they have a product market fit? Do they know who their buyers are, and are they looking to scale?

If you don’t have a product market fit and you don’t know how to sell your product or even talk about your product, you can’t expect other people outside your business to do that for you. While that seems very logical, the number of businesses I see fall into that trap is quite high.

Rob: What are the indicators that you’re on the right track of building a business around being a professional partner?

Nikita: The typical indicators are if the vendors or brands you’re working with are happy with the work you’re doing. Are they coming back to get featured again and again because they see value in it?

And are you seeing success and results from your partnerships? Are people signing up? If they are signing up, are they actually purchasing? Go through the sales funnel piece by piece. Once you really understand the full funnel and know who you’re driving to, where they’re getting stuck, why they’re getting stuck, and how to mitigate against that, you’ll know how effective your partnerships are.

💵 What Rewards and Incentives Should You Offer?

Rob: Do you have a particular approach when it comes to rewards and incentives?

Nikita: It really, really depends on what your product is, its pricing, and how it’s being sold today. My advice will always be different for different sellers, but I will always say: keep it simple.

I’ve seen really good rewards and transactions around a percentage of commission. So, offering a percentage of commission for a fixed timeline, or maybe a lifetime, and pairing that with a fixed dollar amount on a sign up or conversion.


Thank you so much Nikita for sharing some fantastic insider knowledge. If you want to find out more about Partner Marketing for SaaS startups, visit PartnerStack.

Interested in introducing webinars to your partnership? How about sponsorships? Hit the ground running with HeySummit’s 14 day free trial.

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