In the hyper-competitive game of performance marketing, it’s getting harder and harder to find an edge. The typical consumer sees thousands of ad messages daily, and they trust those messages less and less. As a result, performance marketers are keen to find innovative ways to connect, and an increasing number are investing in partnerships. 

Why partnerships? First, partners can engage consumers in a way that bypasses their anti-ad defences and drives willing action. Second and even more compelling, 2019 research from Forrester Consulting shows that companies who are fully invested in the partnership channel grow revenue twice as fast as their peers.

What exactly is the partnership channel?

Relationships with social influencers, charity-based partnerships (BarkBox, for example), content publishers (e.g., Ziff Davis’s’ PC Magazine), traditional affiliates, and strategic B2B partnerships (think Airbnb and Qantas) — these are just a few of the types of players fueling the partnership economy. 

What they provide is a way for an enterprise to engage or acquire a customer and drive action through a third party the consumer trusts. Remarkably, in a growing number of organisations, the partnership channel has quietly surpassed paid search as the biggest revenue generator.

Mature partnership programs drive twice the revenue

The Forrester study surveyed 450+ companies globally to learn how partnerships contribute to business growth and competitive advantage. To characterise the most successful partnership programs, they created a “maturity metric” that correlates program attributes to business outcomes. What they found was striking.

Compared to low-maturity peers, companies with the highest maturity scores:

  • Get more revenue from partnerships—28% of overall company revenue on average
  • Collect an average of $162M more revenue from the partnership channel
  • Report nearly 2x faster revenue growth at the company level
  • Exceed stakeholder expectations on other key business metrics, including stock price and bottom-line profitability

What does a high-performing partnership program look like?

The researchers found that partnership program maturity is anchored to several characteristics. According to the study, the most mature programs:

  • Embrace organisational agility, capitalize on diverse partnership models, and leverage technology to optimize partner management 
  • Invest in people, processes, technology, and partnership breadth (measured in volume and diversity)
  • Leverage multidisciplinary tools, including organisational best practices and automation to optimise program execution and measurement 

Among these high-maturity attributes, technology is a key differentiator, because building a robust and diverse partnership program requires tools to efficiently recruit, vet, measure and pay your performance marketing partners.

Read the full Forrester report, Invest in Partnerships to Drive Growth and Competitive Advantage, to learn more about opening up a new performance marketing channel based on partner networks.