Host: Jen Spencer

The payoff that comes from overseeing both the sales and marketing teams at SmartBug Media is that I get to experience this double high, both when the lead comes in and then when the deal closes.

Watching a new qualified lead come in is a beautiful thing, because it's a validation of our marketing efforts and our market fit.

After all, you can have the best product or service in the world. But if it doesn't solve a real person's problem, good luck selling to anyone.

So, with my marketing brain on high alert, the first thing I look for in a lead is its source — what did we do that paved that yellow brick road for this individual to flow directly to us.

Was it the webinar we co-produced last week with another organization? The conference we exhibited at? Or any number of educational, provocative blog posts that we wrote and have been shared on LinkedIn and Twitter.

On the latest episode of SmartBug on Tap, I talked about partner leads and why those are my favorite type of lead. That’s what I want to talk with you about here, too.

Why Do I Care So Much About Lead Source?

Tracking, reporting on, and analyzing lead source helps me calculate how much our company had to spend to obtain that lead.

Just like you're probably diversifying your stock portfolio, I strive to ensure we have a complementary blend of marketing activities hard at work to keep our customer acquisition costs exactly where they need to be.

When we're spending, say $60,000, to exhibit at a conference, that marketing activity needs to be balanced by one at a much lower expense — content marketing or social sharing, for example.

And here’s another lower expense way to acquire customers — channel partners.

That’s right, partners.

In fact, coming from someone who's been in lockstep with the content marketing movement since its modern day infancy, and someone who also loves the thrill of a trade show floor, I've got to say, partner leads are probably my favorite.

So, why is that?

Well, For One, Partner Leads Are Less Expensive

You know the feeling when you buy a medium size smoothie but the person who's making it makes a little bit too much and you end up with a large?

You paid for most of it but you get to enjoy quite a bit extra for free.

That’s sort of how it is with partner leads.

Whether you've built a referral based program, a sell with co-branded program, or straight out reseller program, your customer acquisition cost for indirect partner leads is far less than any of your direct lead source efforts.

If you've built your program effectively, it should be a very small fraction of your customer acquisition cost.

Just think — the cost that goes into producing inbound lead generation and sales enablement content is static, regardless of whether you're sharing that content with your 30 direct sales reps or partner organization’s 300 indirect sales reps.

So, getting leads from channel partners is like getting a large smoothie when you paid for a medium.

Second, Partner Leads Close Faster

The other thing I love about partners is that partner leads close faster.

The KPI that subtly latches on to customer acquisition cost is average sales cycle.

Your average sales cycle can dramatically increase your customer acquisition cost without you even realizing it.

Not only do you need to account for the marketing dollars spent to acquire the lead, but there are sales dollars spent to continue to nurture a lead that becomes an opportunity throughout the entire sales cycle.

So, deals that close in, say 30 days, are decidedly less expensive to your bottom line than deals that take 120 days.

We could get into a mathematical maze of potential dollars lost when sales reps spend time nurturing lagging deals that could be spent nurturing deals that are newer.

But let's just not go there.

Instead, let's focus on the fact that, when you build a partner program that harmonizes with your direct sales team, when you add value to your partner's own offerings, and when you have a partnership built on trust and transparency, partners will bring you into deals, positioning you as a trusted advisor at the stage of the sales cycle that's right for the customer.

And that's why partner leads close faster.

Take Time to Lay the Right Groundwork

If you take the time to lay the groundwork for your partner program appropriately, partner leads will be the most qualified, most close-ready deals that you're ever going to get.

It doesn't happen overnight — partners aren't magically found and enabled.

And it takes time to build trust and transparency so that partners want to bring you in on their most precious opportunities.

But building a partner program that acts as a natural extension of your direct sales and marketing operations is the perfect place to start.

Tweet me or SmartBug about your journey at @jenspencer or @smartbugmedia.

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Jen Spencer

About the author

Jen Spencer leads SmartBug's sales, marketing, and brand strategy. Over her career, Jen has built several demand generation and sales enablement programs from the ground up and has experience working within tech startups, publicly traded companies, mid-market organizations, and the not-for-profit space. Jen subscribes to the notion that “we’re all in this together,” and great communication leads to great partnership. She loves animals, technology, the arts, and really good Scotch. Read more articles by Jen Spencer.

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