Proactive Referral Partners Critical To Generating Demand, Initiating Conversations

Acknowledging that B2B buyers are placing a higher emphasis on comments from colleagues and peers, user reviews and third-party/analyst reports, marketers are taking steps to make sure that these go-to sources are more proactively making recommendations about their products and services.


Planning For Referral Revenue

Partner companies — such as MSPs, systems integrators, VARS, resellers and ISVs — are clearly embracing referral-marketing as an important revenue stream. Of the partner respondents to a survey by The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm, 73% said they are actively incorporating referrals as a part of their business.

“That’s extraordinary to us because the presumption going into this research was that partners treat referrals or the opportunity to make a referral as opportunistic—not something that was systemic,” said Larry Walsh, CEO and Chief Analyst of the 2112 Group. “What we find is that it is not only systemic, but it is incorporated into their business and their profit models.”

The income that partners are generating from referrals “is not an inconsequential volume of revenue that they’re banking against. They are actually budgeting against it,” Walsh continued.

In addition to the revenue that referrals can generate, many partners see making recommendations as critical to building lasting relationships with their customers.

“One of the things that we as an industry have done very well is to teach the partners to be more in tune with their customers’ business — what their needs are and what the challenges are,” Walsh said. “We teach them to think about complete systems, not just products.

“What the referral research is showing us is that partners are thinking about satisfying the customer,” he continued. “They don’t stop just because they may not have a product or service that meets the customer’s needs. They know referrals are a means for satisfying the customer, and in keeping the customers whole.”

Partners also look at referral programs as an opportunity to gain exposure and experience with a vendor, the survey found, as they consider becoming a true engagement partner.

Surprisingly, vendors appear to be less enthusiastic about their reference programs. “The majority of the vendors believe that their referral programs are ineffective,” said Walsh. “And 25% say they are completely ineffective.”

Vendors Are Missing Referral Opportunity

Walsh believes that the aforementioned 25% who say referral programs are ineffective are mistaken. “One of the things we are stating in this report is that vendors need to think of referral programs as a strategic part of their channel programs and they need to structure them with formality in order to maximize the return,” he said. “Part of what we’re finding is that the ill perceptions of the value of referral programs to a vendor are based on that informality in that program.”

With more structure and management of their referral programs, “they will get a better return from it,” Walsh added.

Written by Terry Moffatt

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