As casual conversations at chamber of commerce luncheons, town halls, and pickleball meetups uncover new prospects for B2B brands, marketers are recognizing the revenue-boosting potential of engaging a broad mix of referrers.
A year into building a process to help business owners “rake in more coin” by referring potential customers, Electric, an IT services company, has formally announced its Referral Partners program. Featuring referral payouts, co-marketing opportunities, and extended Electric discounts to referred customers, the program is designed to identify prospects, mostly SMBs, that don’t have the budget to maintain an internal IT team.
As consultants work with clients, especially those striving to achieve SOCII compliance, Electric wants “to always be part of those conversations,” said Electric CMO, Andrea Kayal, in a press release. “The Partnership Program is one of the steps we’re taking to offer a mutually beneficial relationship to our partners and customers.”
In the year since Kayal spun up the referral program, it’s clearly proving itself to be a good idea. Referrals account for 5% of the company’s new logos. And the speed with which deals are closing is dramatic. “The funnel for referral partners is so much more efficient than any other channel I’ve overseen in my 20 years of marketing,” Kayal told CMR. “The speed at which something from a referral partner moves from a meeting with that customer to an opportunity to a deal is exceptional.” At Electric, referrals are converting from a meeting to opportunity 60% of the time and then close at a rate of 30%. By the end of the year, Kayal anticipates that referrals will account for as much as 10% of its new customers.
Kayal explained that the Referral Partners program was created when she realized that among the massive ecosystem of companies selling back-office products to small businesses many could be Electric referrers.
Indeed, targeted partners include businesses that have relationships – almost any kind of relationship — with small and midsize companies. As a video promoting the program says to potential partners, “You’re looking for more ways to say ‘yes’ to your clients, but IT just isn’t your bread and butter…Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn those connections into cold-hard cash?”
The success of the program was not without a focused effort. Kayal built the model for the program by first determining its total addressable market. “You must have a good idea of the total addressable market and the number of partners necessary to engage them,” she explained. And while the video may be speaking to a very broad audience of companies, Kayal said she has been recruiting partners with the help of reliable lists of potential companies. Businesses serving the Group Health market are a priority. Fractional cybersecurity experts and SOCII compliance consultants are also being contacted.
Kayal realized early on that the success of the program, especially as the number of referral partners climbed, would be dependent on some automation. Out of the gate, Kayal invested in a partner management platform to streamline critical activities for both her team and the partners. The platform she implemented, PartnerStack, features a learning management component that enables referral partners to learn about Electric’s offerings. The tool gives partners easy access to Electric marketing materials. And most important, PartnerStack enables partners to monitor the status of opportunities they create and get paid quickly when deals close.
“We implemented PartnerStack because of how many partners I thought we were going to need to bring on,” said Kayal, commenting that she hopes to expand the program to include 1,000 partners. “I recognized that we would need a system to manage the programs as it grew. So let’s just start at the beginning.”
Staying engaged with referral partners is critical, she continued. Partner meetings are scheduled to onboard new referrers. A team of three channel business development reps, each focused on a specific industry or market segment, review with partners which Electric offerings are most relevant to the companies they might refer.
Critical to the initiative’s success was making sure that all leads were properly addressed. As the executive sponsor for all partner referred deals, Kayal gets involved to make sure the client has “a great customer experience so that the partner feels taken care of.”
Electric’s internal account executives were encouraged to follow up on referred leads quickly. “I wanted to really know whether or not this was going to be a viable channel; another lane for us to generate revenue,” she said. “So I paid very close attention along with my head of business development, Matt Doong.”
As Electric continues to expand the program, Kayal said she will keep a close eye on the three pillars upon which it’s built: having a clear understanding of the total addressable market, recruiting an appropriate number of the right partners; and supporting the initiative with the right structure and technology.
“I do think that if I can continue to scale this, adding more partners sending in leads, then yes, it could become a very large portion of our revenue.”