Partner marketing is essentially about building an incentivized word-of-mouth sales force. Your partners are fans of your product or service, and a majority of them are most likely power-users. Who better to share your vision with the world?

Partners are the ever-extending branches of your business. The more you have, the broader your reach. The more passionate they are, the quicker they’ll promote your business.

Check out these techniques for incentivizing them to keep the traffic coming over time.

1. Put Together Promo Tools and Training

Without training and guidelines from you, your partners might not promote you effectively. Worst case scenario: Just one spammer can destroy your reputation.Combat this by providing your partners with an official contract detailing appropriate and inappropriate methods for promotion. Once they’ve signed the contract, equip them to succeed with promotional tools such as ebooks, blog posts, banner ads and free samples. At ONTRAPORT, we have a Partner Center membership site where we place all promotional materials for easy access for our partners.

To give your partners even more guidance, try hosting a webinar or creating a training video on how to effectively promote your product or service.

2. Set up Milestone Bonuses

Milestone bonuses are the backbone of any partner marketing program, as they give your referrers something to strive for. Set up a “first sale bonus” to motivate them to start promoting as soon as possible. From there, build a milestone calendar with rewards that scale with more sales or at set revenue thresholds.

The key to successful milestone bonuses is to ensure the reward fits the work it takes to achieve the associated number of sales. Very few people are willing to work overtime to get you 1,000 referrals if the reward is a pat on the back. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t work for the reward you’re offering, your affiliates most likely won’t either.

3. Give Creative Rewards

Cash rewards go a long way, but so do outside-the-box rewards. Think about what other things your partners would value: What about offering your most influential partner a chance to meet and chat business with you?
Multiple academic studies have found that partners are often more motivated by the potential for a unique experience than cash. Here are a few creative ideas for rewards to motivate your partners:

  • Sporting event tickets
  • A prepaid weekend getaway
  • Two plane tickets
  • Free access to your product or service for one year
  • A new laptop or cell phone

4. Gamify With Badges and Leaderboards

A bit of friendly competition can do wonders. Some partners won’t care about experiences or money; they simply want recognition from you and their fellow partners. To please this segment, “gamify” your program with badges or a leaderboard.

People love being rewarded for their accomplishments with trophies or ribbons and digital badges in the form of graphics have a similar effect. Once earned, your partners can post these badges on their website, blog or social media channels. Badges can represent being the highest earner, such as “Top Referrer,” or they can show off achievements like “ONTRAPORT Certified Consultant.” Partners love recognition from their fellows, not to mention it makes them look like high performers to potential partner programs.A leaderboard displays how your partners stack up against one another. Take Meerkat for example; the live streaming application includes a basic leaderboard which incentivizes power-streamers to use the app even more. People like to see where they fare in the competition with others, and the thought of ranking higher can even push them to work harder.

5. Keep Your Referral Partner Community Engaged

If you haven’t already, create a Facebook group and add your partners to it. That way, you can quickly share new tools and tips and highlight member accomplishments to make your partners feel like they’re part of a community.

You can also send your partners a weekly or monthly email newsletter where you can give milestone shoutouts, share relevant articles from your blog and quickly deliver news.

6. Present the Opportunity to Guest Blog

Once you’ve built and fostered relationships with your partners, new mutually beneficial opportunities will open up, such as publishing a guest article on your blog. This benefits them because it gets their name out, and it benefits you because it adds valuable content to your bank of articles. It’s a win-win. Plus, they’ll likely do a great job because they know your product like the back of their hand and they want you to succeed.

What Doesn’t Work

It doesn’t pay to only reward your top-performing partners. The key is to encourage all of your partners to feel they can achieve any milestone you’ve put in place. Make sure your rewards and milestones are realistic for everyone while also enticing to your top performers.

About Chris Tarello

Chris Tarello is a Feature Writer at ONTRAPORT. With an interest in business and technology, and a background in marketing and creative writing, Chris delivers unique perspectives from the connected generation.