You can never overestimate the value of referrals, especially from partner organizations. Getting other businesses to recommend you to their customers is a powerful endorsement. It can lead to increased awareness, expansion in to new markets, and easier sales for your business.

Partner programs are proven go-to market strategies that can help increase profitability, without having to hire more sales team reps within your company.

But how can you get more businesses to send customers your way?

Here are the essential partnership incentives and ideas that will increase the referrals you’ll get from a partner program.

1. Keep your partner incentive program simple

The easier it is for your partners to send you business, the better. Set up your program so it’s easy to understand and give partners a convenient, simple way to track their progress.

By making their role, responsibilities, and rewards crystal clear, you set them up to want to send referrals your way.

A good way to clarify any details about your partner program is to have a referral FAQ that addresses anything your current and potential partners should know.



2. Offer attractive partnership incentives

Referral marketing can be a game-changer for businesses – if you offer the right incentive. Reward incentives have to be motivating enough for partners to send customers your way.

Partnership incentives are usually cash-based, such as sales discounts, rebates, gift cards, or commission.

We also recommend checking out any partner programs offered by your competitors. This provides a good gauge to make sure you’re offering the most engaging partnership in the industry.

3. Consider offering rewards apart from cash

Monetary rewards are powerful. But the most successful channel partner incentive programs offer more than just cash. Here are a few partnership incentives that can further motivate referrals:

  • Feature them in newsletters
  • Send some of your customers their way (it’s best when you have a mutually beneficial partnership)
  • Ask your company’s CEO to thank them
  • Host exclusive events for partners with the best performance

The more ways you can make your partners feel appreciated, the more you’ll realize continued success.



4. Schedule special days for bonus rewards

Does it seem like your partners need some fresh inspiration? Create buzz and excitement around your partner program by setting days when they can get extra incentives, earn more compensation, or gain entries into special raffles.

5. Offer a grand prize for partners with the most referrals

One of the best partnership incentive ideas is to set a bigger reward for partners with the most referrals. The reward could be cash, a special trip, tickets to a local event, a free year of your service, a new laptop, etc. You can also offer these quarterly or annually to motivate your partners to win the grand prize.

6. Add elements of gamification to your program

Turning your channel partner program into a game can make it more engaging for the businesses that work with you.

Gamification takes advantage of good, old-fashioned competition. Elements like award badges, special prizes, and tiered incentive structures can motivate partners to refer more customers.

The easiest way to manage all these elements is to use software, which automatically tracks all the referrals, rewards, and overall performance of your partner program.

7. Offer ways they can level up their partnership incentives

You probably have partners who bring in a few referrals a year. But if you can increase your incentives, you’ll better motivate existing partner behavior to refer more and increase market share for your business.

How increasing partnership incentives works: The more referrals someone brings, the greater the reward. For example, you might increase the commission percentage for partners who send X number of referrals. Or you can set a number of referrals after which partners can unlock higher commission rates or bonus incentives.

This sort of strategy works well especially for existing partners, who may need more motivation to continue referring others.

microsoft partner incentives


8. Don’t keep changing the program terms

If you’re changing the rules of your partner program every year, your partners may just end up confused and no longer interested.

If you’re going to build traction and loyalty over time, then your partners need to know how your referral program works and trust in the process.

Keep your partner program simple and streamlined, and as much as possible, stick to the system.

9. Stay in touch with your partners

Last but not least, let your partners know you care by staying connected. You can do this through a Facebook group, Slack channel, or other medium. Send a newsletter with any partner shout-outs and program milestones or updates, or even host regular webinars where partners can easily learn more about your program.

By staying at the top of your partner’s minds, you’re much more likely to get their referrals.

Automate your process with partner program software

A partner program is a long-term marketing strategy. You’re looking for the most valuable businesses to work with and continuously refining your strategy.

For the best results, consider using partner program software to take care of all the routine tasks. Dedicated software uses automation to run most of the day-to-day steps, such as keeping track of all your referrals, rewards, and exactly which partner is bringing you the most customers and channel sales.

Our team at Referral Rock has helped thousands of companies start their referral  and partner programs. By signing up with us, you can work with a dedicated customer service manager to help you throughout the creation of your partner program.


Wrapping things up

No matter what your industry, you can benefit from a strong partner program that brings in new business and improves your bottom line. With a partner program, you can use the relationships your partners have already formed to find new clients for your company.

To make the most of these relationships, create incentives that work. Use the ideas above to make your partner program initiative more compelling – so your partners are more engaged, you get more clients, and everybody wins.


About the contributor

shanna mallon straight north

Shanna Mallon is a contributing writer for Straight North, a leading Internet marketing agency in Chicago providing SEO, web development and other online marketing services. She’s been a freelance writer since 2007.