Customer-centric Growth by Lincoln Murphy

Use Partner Offers to Quickly Grow Your Business

The other day I received an email with a very specific SaaS marketing question: “we have the opportunity to send an offer to the email list of one of our Integration Partners… do you have any tips for us?”

Well, since having the opportunity to send an offer to a partner’s email list can be an awesome way to grow your business, I developed a very thoughtful response to the original emailer… and now I’m sharing that response with you.

I hope this helps you…

If You’ve Got The List of Customers…

If you’re the company giving other vendors – SaaS, Cloud, or otherwise – the ability to make offers to your list, you want those offers to be congruent and effective. Feel free to send your partners to this blog post or contact me and we’ll work on something together.

If you don’t help your partners make great offers that your customers and users really care about and take up, then you run the risk of “burning” your list and losing trust from your customers.

By sending them terrible offers that are (perceived to be) pointless, worthless and/or incongruent with expectations or needs, it shows that you, as well as your partner, don’t know them at all.

Something to think about, for sure.

Something else to consider is that what I’m talking about in this post isn’t just for creating offers for partners…

Not Just For Partners

Since the original question was specific to leveraging an existing partner relationship, that’s what I’m going to focus on here. But, most of the ideas and methods I mention here – and the mindset you need to have – apply to making offers beyond your partners.

Think about making offers to bought / rented lists, doing joint ventures, co-registration, affiliate deals, etc. If you look at things the right way – have the right mindset – you should be able to adapt what I talk about here to any situation.

Protip: If you don’t have any partners that you can leverage, check out the document I put together called “The Dark Art of Buying Customer Data” on Slideshare (and embedded below). You might even try Email Pre-Targeting to warm the leads if you can.

The Partner Email Opportunity

Having the opportunity to send an offer to a partner’s email list can be an awesome way to grow your business.

And if you do this with several partners, you can significantly expand your customer base.

Do this with several partners on a consistent basis, and you can have a scalable, sustainable way of growing your customer base over the long-term.

But – like most marketing tactics, there’s more to it if you want to do it right.

For instance, you need to first…

Define the Goal for this Campaign

Before you start crafting the offer, you have to know what your goal for the campaign is.

Protip: Thinking of this as a campaign will help frame it properly.

Do you need a bunch of cash fast or are you looking to siphon off the contact info for a bunch of their customers and then work to nurture & convert them over the long-term?

Clearly, cash now vs. building a large user base, nurturing them and then growing customer lifetime value (LTV) are very different goals and should drive how you approach this opportunity.

Okay, so once you know why you’re doing this, you need to…

Get to Know Your Partner’s List

Some things to consider about the list itself, are:

How many people will your partner be mailing to?

You need to know this so you can measure clicks and conversions to determine whether or not you’ll want to use this advertising channel again. If they won’t give you a specific number, ask for a general, ballpark number.

Is there a direct cost associated with sending this offer?

Perhaps you pay them for each click or sign-up (CPA or Cost Per Action) or maybe they charge a flat placement/drop fee. You need to know what the cost of this campaign will be – being sure to also include your time and effort – so you can figure out what your direct ROI is for this campaign (or when planning, what you’ll need to do to break even!).

How is your offer going out to the list?

Are you getting a dedicated drop to the list or are you getting a blurb in a crowded newsletter? You’ll need to adjust everything accordingly.

Who are they mailing to?


Are they only mailing to their current customers or to everyone, including their “tire kickers” and those just on their newsletter mailing list.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, if they’re only emailing their current (paying) customers, you might be okay with lowering the barrier to entry (i.e. introducing your product & your free account, or giving their customers x number of free whatevers). Why? Because they’re higher-quality prospects; they already spend money on an adjacent product.

On the flip side, if your partner sends to everyone and not just current customers, you might need to weed out the low-end, cheap, free-ride-seeking tire-kickers by raising the barrier to entry a bit.

Okay, so we know our goal and we understand to particulars of the list, but…

What Offers Have Worked Before?

Before we sit down to craft our offer, let’s do some recon to figure out what has worked before.

Some things to consider are…

– What kind of offers have worked well for their other partners who have promoted to their list. If they send partner offers frequently, they might know or at least have an idea.

Protip: You can find other providers that have made offers to your partner’s customers and ask them directly what they found worked well. It can’t hurt to ask!

– Look at offers your partner sends out or otherwise makes to their customers…. there’s a good chance (no guarantees, though) that they understand the way their customers think and what resonates so you might want to go that route.

Protip: You could just ask them what kind of offers they find work best, too. Again, it can’t hurt to ask!

You don’t have to go with what has worked before, but if you were thinking about something vastly different from what has worked, this might help you reign in those wild ideas a bit. Or it might allow you to go 180 degrees away from the status quo… if you want to. It’s at least a good baseline.

So now we also know what’s worked before, let’s start thinking about the offer, starting with this question:

Why Would They Use My SaaS App?

Just like in your overall marketing, you need to ask yourself this question: “why would someone decide to use my SaaS app?”

In the context of this offer, you need to ask yourself “why would my partner’s customer  – right then, when they get this email from my partner – decide that my SaaS app is something they should check out?”

What’s going on in their head that will make them see the email from your partner with your offer and want to take action?

The reality is that these aren’t your customers, they aren’t leads, and they haven’t shown interest in your product. They are just potential prospects at this point.

They are your partner’s customer and you need to think deeply about why – in the context of being your partner’s customer – they would be interested in your product offer.

In fact, let’s explore….

The Hard Truth About Partner Emails

I saved this until now because I didn’t want to kill the excitement about this opportunity you have right out of the gate… but it is time to temper expectations a bit.

I hear all the time “they have 50k people on their list… but I only got 5 clicks!”

Right… so, first of all, that’s 50k people interested in THEIR product; not yours.

Second… in most cases, those “failures” happen when you talk about your product, rather than the problem your product solves, why it matters to them, etc.

I mean, when you come along and talk about your product to a bunch of people that aren’t interested in your product… what do you expect?

The hard truth is that it’s very likely your app – at any given time – will only appeal to a subset of your partner’s customers.

Why is that? The most likely scenario is that you have a niche / vertical / limited utility offering and your partner offers a more horizontal / complete product.

Or vice-versa.

And while it’s great to get out in front of their user base, the reality is only a fraction of them would have any interest in what you offer at any one time.

But it’s that “at any one time” that makes this really cool.

And let’s be honest, a fraction of their audience might be a nice boost for you.

So the idea isn’t to try to get all of their customers with your offer, but to get some of them.

And then to do this often with that partner as well as with other partners.

So, let me be clear about this “Hard Truth.”

It doesn’t mean it’s not worth making them an offer, it just means that we should temper expectations and really try to speak to that subset who WILL be interested at the time our offer is presented.

In fact, by doing this we might find our offers are a lot more successful in reaching our target segment of their list.

If they have a list of 100k and we know that only 10% of those are likely interested in our offer (10k), then if we get 1k, we know we got 10% of our target segment.

If we didn’t do that segmentation pre-work and somehow still managed to get 1k customers (unlikely without doing the segmentation pre-work), we might consider it less-than-successful at only a 1% response rate (even though we got 1k new customers!).

Okay, so the big question is…

Why Will They Care About Your Offer?

This is huge and requires a ton of discipline and self-reflection; things we often like to skip to just throw an offer against the wall and hope it sticks.

Don’t do that.

Do these types of things instead.

Protip: This info could be readily available on their forums, GetSatisfaction account, and out on in the wild web, too…. Quora, LinkedIn groups, clever Googling, etc.

You need to “enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind” as Robert Collier said way back in 1937… so spend some time thinking about that.

Now we’re starting to get somewhere and we can start to consider…

Pricing Your Offer

Now, the great thing about offers is they can be completely different than your “retail” pricing… in fact, you could make up a partner-only price plan – made up of completely different ‘value metrics’ that resonate more directly with your partner’s customers – to make their customers feel special by getting something no one else gets.

Now, knowing that your partner charges $24/mo or $149/mo depending upon features, per server… what does the typical customer of your partner look like? 10 servers @ $24/mo or 5 servers @ $149/mo?

There are likely huge differences between low-end and high-end customers of your partner… so who are you targeting?

There are probably more low-end customers… but are they looking for your type offering? Does your service appeal more to the high-end folks?

If someone is paying your partner > $25k year, you might be able to offer a 50% discount on your Pro-Plus and Hi-Volume plans and they’ll jump on that.

But if someone is paying your partner only $900/year… you’ll likely be hard-pressed to sell them even a 75% discount on your Pro-plus plan, right?

Maybe, maybe not…

It all depends on where you “sit” compared to your partner.

Are you the more “important” product? Are they moving to a “larger” or more “complex” product category from your partner’s category to yours? Is your partner’s product “mission critical” but yours is just a nice to have?

Yes, just for this little ol’ email offer, you have to do some deep reflecting on your market position and why you exist in the eyes of your potential customers.

The good news is that once you’ve done this, it’s done. You’ll need to revisit it with every new offer you put out to your partner’s list, but unless something has fundamentally changed in the market, your position vis-a-vis your partner likely won’t change much.

So we know what they’re thinking, we know where your product lives in the potential customer’s mind, we know what they’re paying to use your partner’s app, and we know where we can fit in to the mix pricing-wise, now we need to pull it all together and…

Craft Your Offer

So, what would the ultimate offer look like for one of your partner’s customers? Well, that very much depends on everything you’ve discovered thus far and will be very different for every company going through this exercise.

But, the basic components of the offer include:

The Hook

What’s the thing that will make your offer resonate with that subset of their audience that should – at any given time – be interested in your product.

The Body

Depends on how you’re presenting the offer, but you need to craft the grabber, headline, sub-headline, identify the opportunity/pain/problem/timing, the why you, benefits, proof, etc.

The Offer

It doesn’t have to be a discount on your retail price, but basically this is the price, terms, bonuses, etc.

The Call to Action

What do they need to do to take advantage of this offer? Should they learn more or should they just go to a sign-up form? It depends on lot’s of factors, but remember… you should be talking specifically to a segment that needs less convincing and can be compelled to take action in the offer.

The Landing Page

Make sure your landing page, whatever the offer, is specific to the campaign so your offer resonates with the visitors and is congruent with what you said in the offer. Don’t send people to your main marketing page or to a generic page… you want it to say to them “Hello ABC App’s customer…” but maybe don’t say exactly that. Maybe.

Protip: I said to check out what offers have worked for others sending to your partner’s email list or what offers your partner is sending out themselves. But if you’re looking for more inspiration, I don’t suggest checking out other SaaS providers (most aren’t good at this), but instead look to B2C email lists where this is their core business model, like Scoutmob, UbanDaddy, Thrillist, etc.

There’s definitely a lot more to crafting the perfect offer than I can put in this post, but this should guide you in the right direction.

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