Ep. 134 – How B2B Companies Can Leverage Partnerships for Growth w/ Joran Hofman

How B2B Companies Can Leverage Partnerships for Growth

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Creating partnerships and leveraging someone else’s network of followers is one way for B2B companies to scale strategically. Interestingly enough, this remains a largely untapped opportunity that B2B marketers should be looking into. How can they do it the right way? How can you create mutually beneficial partnerships?

That’s why we’re talking to partnership expert Joran Hofman (FounderReditus) about how B2B companies can help to build trust through partnerships. During our conversation, Joran discussed the pitfalls to avoid, what is needed for an effective partnership outreach, and why B2B companies should use influencers. Joran leaves us with some actionable tips and tells us which key metrics to pay attention to.

Play Video about B2B Marketers on a Mission EP 134 Joran Hofman Youtube thumbnail

Topics discussed in episode

  • Joran explains why affiliate marketing is an untapped opportunity for B2B SaaS [2:56]
  • Some pitfalls to avoid [5:00]
    • Doing it too early without the foundation in place
    • Treating it like a ’set and forget’ channel
  • How much time it takes to set up an affiliate marketing program and generate results [6:52]
  • How to prepare for partnership outreach [10:02]
    • Identify the ICP and who has access to that
    • Define the platform(s) you want to be promoted on
    • Have a clear offering
    • Make it easy for your affiliates to promote you
  • Joran shares how to create the offer for the affiliate partners [12:45]
  • Joran’s actionable tips: [18:08]
    • Check if the competition is running an affiliate program
    • Check out the content that is already ranking on the keywords that you want
    • Find influencers on keywords and ICP
  • Metrics for affiliate marketing [21:38]
    • No. of partnerships closed, clicks, conversion rate, referrals, MRR

Companies and links mentioned

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Joran Hofman

Christian Klepp  00:03

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for changemakers where we question the conventional, debunk marketing myths, provide actionable tips, think differently, disrupt the industries, and take your marketing to a new level, from improving your campaigns to making you a better marketer. These are the inspirational stories that will help us change the way we think and approach B2B marketing, one conversation at a time. This podcast is brought to you by EINBLICK Consulting, helping you to stand out in the market and drive revenue to your B2B business. And now your host, Christian Klepp.

Alright, everyone, welcome to this episode of B2B Marketers on a Mission. This is a show where we help you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry and take your marketing to new heights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I’m joined by someone on a mission to help B2B SaaS companies to grow their MRR via affiliate marketing. So coming to us from Utrecht, the Netherlands, Joran Hoffman, Goedemiddag en welkom bij de show. I hope I said that correctly.

Joran Hofman  00:45

You did. You did. I like the Dutch there. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Christian Klepp  01:20

Great to have you on the show, Joran and shout out to Eric Melchor from Innovators Can Laugh for the connection. And of course for the community. No.

Joran Hofman  01:29

Yeah, yeah, it’s a nice community to be part of like, if you run your own podcast, you run into a lot of things you never experienced before. So it’s nice to have other people who do it and can help you with things you don’t know yet.

Christian Klepp  01:43

Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, it’s also always about continuous improvement, at least from my perspective, right? You always… you want to grow and you want to scale up, but you also want to become better at what you do. And you know, for us, it’s not just running our own businesses, but it’s also becoming better at podcasting. Right,

Joran Hofman  02:02

Exactly. And I mean, it’s nice that you learn from others who are something further than yourself, right? Or tried all these tools or tried all these new things, or have processes already created. So like, for me, it’s something I do next to my business. So I want to make it as low cost time effective as possible, basically.

Christian Klepp  02:19

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Me too. Me too. All right, well, let’s dive into this conversation, because I think this is going to be an interesting one. And so you’re quite the expert when it comes to helping B2B SaaS companies, as I said, to grow that MRR via affiliate marketing. But for this conversation, let’s narrow it down to a topic that I think is part of your professional mission. And that’s how B2B companies can leverage partnerships for growth. So why don’t we start this discussion off with this question, why do you believe that this is such an untapped opportunity for B2B SaaS companies?

Joran Hofman  02:56

Yeah, I think a lot of SaaS companies don’t leverage it yet. And I think like, if you go to the basics, right, with partner marketing, you’re basically getting access to somebody else’s network. So if that person or company is going to recommend you, it basically adds a level of trust. So when you look at the numbers, like you can clearly see that partner sourced opportunities have a shorter time to close, have a higher win rate, there’s a lot more trust to it, because you actually come recommended, right? So if you think about your software, your company, people will do a lot of things before they actually reach out to you, they will read content reviews, get opinions from other people, talking to the vendor, or before talking to you as a vendor. So if you can actually have people already recommending you and really create those partnerships from the beginning, then you’re gonna have almost like an army of salespeople, right? So not sure why it’s untapped yet. Like, I think affiliate marketing or partnerships does sometimes have a bit of a dirty mindset to it. When you think of B2C you think of the fraud you think of like, I guess the one off, the coupon sites, things like that. But if you look at it purely from, for example, B2B SaaS perspective, you only pay when you receive a paid client. So there’s a lot less fraud going into that cycle, and you can kick out if it is pretty quickly if they do any far less thing. So I think that’s, that’s my answer.

Christian Klepp  04:32

Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m glad you brought that up, because it’s such a great segue into the next question. And we can look at it from the angle regarding what mistakes companies make when they do partnership outreach. And I think you can, can you please talk to us about that? And also, why do you think so the first part is mistakes. And the second part is Why do you think there’s hesitation to do partnerships?

Joran Hofman  05:00

Yeah, yeah, I think the common mistakes we see, for example is that companies try to do it too early. So like, if you, for example, haven’t done something yourself and like the real basics is in, you haven’t sold yourself first, then how can you expect somebody else to do it for you? So this is the most common thing like I see with, with a freemium model, people can set up an affiliate program quickly, and they think, Okay, we’re gonna set up an affiliate program, and people will start recommending us. But that’s not how it works. Like you need to basically have the foundation in place first, before people are willing to recommend you, right? I think the other thing is not a set and forget channel. So like, it’s the same in life, right, the better relationship you build, the more which will come out of it. So make sure you actually onboard your affiliates or your partners, provide them materials, keep engaging them. And in the end, you have to think of it in a way that you need to help them to basically earn money. So I think that’s why a lot of companies don’t leverage it yet. Because it does take time, like it’s another revenue channel, but you can kind of almost compare it to SEO, it takes a lot of time to set up. But once it’s working, it will compound. But during that first initial work, that’s probably holding a lot of companies back basically.

Christian Klepp  06:25

Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up about the time factor. And I wanted to go back to that Joran. And I know you said that it does depend, it’s like, you know, you maybe you can say you handle it on a case by case basis. But just from your experience, how long would it take to set up, let’s say, an affiliate marketing program, to do the implementation and for companies to actually like, see some kind of results?

Joran Hofman  06:52

Yeah, it indeed depends. But I will make it more more specific, like the bigger user base, for example you have, the quicker it will get. So for example, again, if you don’t have any paid users at the moment, then like it will take a long time to actually get paid user from it. But if you’re a company and you have, say 1000 paid users, 10,000 paid users, you actually have a user base, meaning these people use your company, use your product, they already know the value you’re bringing in, they most likely there’s going to be people in there who are willing to recommend you. So if you set up a program like that, you actually invite your own network to it, then you can get quick results. And quick results always depends on the sales cycle, of course. So I can’t tell you how fast you will get money in because basically, you’re adding one more layer towards your cycle, right? So we have to recruit the people who are going to recommend you. They actually have to start recommending you. And then your normal sales cycle kicks in. Of course, as I mentioned, like they might close quicker, but it’s not going to be a magic bullet that they’re gonna close. 50% quicker. So…

Christian Klepp  08:03

Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. But umm sorry, just to dig a little bit further, if we were to try to quantify it, right. Are we talking about? Are we talking about 12 months? Are we talking about 24 months? I mean, something in that timeframe. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take three, three months, it might take longer.

Joran Hofman  08:23

For example, we did a case study where they expandi, like they use a different affiliate before us, they got themselves listed in our marketplace, I think they did 25,000 In the first six months, basically. So they have a really clear I think they have a 7 day or 14 day free trial. So when they already have people who are willing to recommend them people like sign up quickly. And you know that time to close is going to be let’s say, 14 or 21 days. So it can go pretty quick. Like it all depends on the tool. To the more I guess, the better the foundation, the quicker it will become. And we have some tools where it takes a lot longer, right. But I think we already had tools where they got their first paid referral in the first month, for example, as well, because they leverage their own network of people who are willing to recommend them from the beginning.

Christian Klepp  09:16

Right, right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, I’m gonna move us on to the next question. And I’m going to try to summarize this as best as I can. But what is the importance and we know that it’s important, but talk to us about why it’s crucial to I’m going to just say do your homework first, and have a game plan before conducting this partnership outreach, because I’m sure you’ve seen this with your own clients. I’ve seen it from my own experience where some companies go and start doing this outreach and they haven’t actually thought it through what the approach should be, what the expected results should be. How to handle objections. etc. So can you talk to us a bit about that?

Joran Hofman  10:02

Yeah. When you’re going to do outreach, I think the first thing you want to get right is your ideal customer profile. So again, get back to the basics. So if you know exactly who you’re targeting, then it’s also easier to identify who has access to your ideal customer profile. So do your research indeed, like it’s going to be important because the better you do your research right, the easier it is to find high quality affiliates. So I think that’s the next thing like go for quality instead of quantity, like, you don’t want to have hundreds of affiliates recommending you, if only 10% is going to be active. So go find I guess… or go define your ICP, and then maybe even define on which platform do you want to be promoted? So is, for example, website traffic, the best for you social media, stack channels, any kind of promotion, I guess you can have right? And then find people or companies who have access to that. And then you can even dig deeper, like, in a way you want to be promoted. So for example, if there’s going to be an influencer, who has access to your ICP, who is, for example, active on LinkedIn, anywhere has educational content, which you love, then why not try to see if he wants to join your partnership. So doing this research would enable you to identify the right partnerships as well and basically, find the best one. So I guess like when you are going to reach out to them, as you mentioned, like you might the good negotiation, or you find bottlenecks, like make sure you have a clear offering. So if you’re going to reach out, like what is it in it for them? So why should they start recommending you? And then if they start recommending you, or if they’re willing to do so, then do they know exactly, I guess how to start recommending you? And what is working, for example, already? So did you run any paid ads? Do you have landing pages? Do you have materials? Do you have thing for them, ready to start promoting you. So the easier you make it for them to start promoting you. The quicker they make money, the more likely they are going to promote you even more.

Christian Klepp  12:16

Absolutely. Absolutely. You touched on something which was a great segue into the next question about offer. Right? So I call this next question, the Lego approach. And why? because you have to break it down into its parts, right? So walk us through from your professional experience, what components are required in order for you to have that effective partnership approach? You talked about offer. So talk to us about what should be in that offer in that approach?

Joran Hofman  12:45

Yeah, yeah. And the offer, I guess it can be multiple things, it depends on, I guess, who you’re trying to target and who you’re trying to get in. So if you narrow down, or if you split the indirect marketing channels into I guess, like referrals, affiliates and partnerships, where referrals often are in our benefits, the dropbox example, I invite you to Dropbox, we both getting gigabytes free. And you have affiliates who are often clearly money orientated so you need to basically have that show exactly what they can earn, right? If you’re in software, it’s often like an X percentage for an X amount of months. So let’s say 20%, for for 12 months. And then with partnerships, if you go a bit higher, for example, with agencies, consultants, then it’s not always about the money. So they, for example, one have like co-marketing opportunities or want to do lead sharing or want to do other things. So depending on what kind of people / companies you’re reaching out to, there will be different benefits against them. So that’s why I guess the research is going to be important as well, like who are you actually trying to reach out? What is in it for them? Or what do they want to get out of it and then adjust the offer accordingly.

Christian Klepp  14:03

So in other words, handle it on a case by case basis, right? Because I mean, I think it’s to your point, like different companies are probably at different stages of their cycle. It also depends on the industry and the target audience or the group that they’re targeting. Because they have different motivations as you said, so all of these things have to be taken into consideration, right?

Joran Hofman  14:23

Yeah, yeah. But at least you can group them right. So for example, you could find affiliates in bulk, you could find like potential partners in bulk, but they won’t all do it for the same reasons, basically. And like if you go even one step deeper, like you would, for example, have affiliates like the typical bloggers or typical publishers, but then they might not just work on on a cost per action model. So they deliver you pay client and get a kickback fee. They might even want to get an upfront payment to place your blog, place your link, things like that. So what that often means is they want to have high bread. So they won’t have an upfront fee, plus the commission, for every paid client they deliver. So the bigger I guess, companies or people you’re going to target, like the more need customer, it will become.

Christian Klepp  15:14

You brought this up a call a couple of minutes ago, Joran, about B2B influencers. So here’s my question. Should companies be using them? Yes or No? And why?

Joran Hofman  15:25

I would say why not? No. Okay. If they have access to your ideal customer profile, right, so don’t use it, because everybody else uses them, like us, the people who actually have access to your ideal customer profile. So if there’s no influencers, in your space, who don’t have access to your ideal customer profile, but everybody says B2B influencers are good to use, it doesn’t make much sense, because in the end, you set up these partnerships to actually get paying clients because that in the end, what you’re trying to get out of it. So I mean, my answer will be use them, but only if they have access to your ideal customer profile. And yeah, they’re the influencer where people take their recommendation, and it’s going to be high value for your company.

Christian Klepp  16:15

Yeah, I suppose it also goes back to what you were saying earlier. It also depends on what your objectives are. And your goals are right, because sometimes it might not make sense at that particular stage to use an influencer? I mean, like the cost the side because we know that sometimes, depending on what type of influencer you’re using, it can be also a significant investment for the company, right?

Joran Hofman  16:37

Yeah. Yeah. And indeed, like, I think, I’m really focused on generating paid clients like that’s what we do, right. But if you go indeed, like towards companies who are a bit further and they want to, for example, generate awareness, or maybe generate trust or things like that, then you don’t always care about attribution of what do you get out of this partnership? But in the end, like, I think, nowadays, it’s all about attribution, right. So you will need to figure out, can you generate paid clients from the partnerships you’re creating.

Christian Klepp  17:13

Absolutely, absolutely. Because at some point, and we’re going to talk about metrics in a second, but at some point, you have to prove to somebody higher up that what you’re rolling out there and implementing is actually working. Yeah, it’s generating results. And if you can’t do that, it’s going to be very difficult to get your budget approved for the next fiscal year.

Joran Hofman  17:34

Exactly.

Christian Klepp  17:35

Okay. So we get to the part in the show where we’re talking about actionable tips, because this is very much what this show was about. So Let’s appreciate Joran, and you brought up earlier on the conversation, there is a time factor in that for the type of work that you do. You can’t do all of this stuff in a date, obviously. But if somebody were listening to the show, and you know, listening to this conversation that you and I are having, what are like three to five things that you would say they can do right now to build and leverage those partnerships for growth.

Joran Hofman  18:08

Yeah, quick wins are often like check if a competitor is running an affiliate program. So basically go for it to your competitor websites right now, scroll down to the footer, is there a partner program or affiliate program in the footer somewhere? If there is, it also means that they’re going to have affiliate links linking towards their site. So if you use any tools like SEMrush, or href, which are SEO tools, you can basically see older backlinks go into your competitor domain. So if we then would type in your competitor domain, in SEMrush, look at the backlinks. And then you can see like all the affiliate links going towards your competitor. So if you want to get affiliates in, those are often like really nice ones to begin with. Because they know the industry you’re in, they probably have content that you’re related to it. And they know the concept of affiliate marketing, so you don’t have to educate them on neither of those two things. That’s one.

The other one I would say is check out content, which is already ranking on keywords you want to be ranking for. So if you have been running paid ads, you probably already did the paid ads on certain keywords. Do them organically and find out who’s ranking on those keywords besides as your competitors and our older review sites. And then reach out to those because often the best 10 CRM tools that list is not created on the actual 10 best tools. It’s often like who pays the most or who has an affiliate link provided towards that blog. So do those searches and you find maybe already like content where you can get yourself ranked in. And if you have something to offer right, a good compelling offer, you might not even have to pay to get listed in it, but you give them commission in return.

And I think the third step I would say is like find influencers and same like find them on keywords, find them on who has access to your ideal customer profile in bulk, and then see if you can arrange some kind of partnership with them. And it could be anything right? Like we have an affiliate for ourselves who had… you only did one YouTube video, and is consistently generating referrals for us, even though I thought YouTube is not going to be interesting for us. Somehow. He nailed it, he doesn’t get a lot of views on it. But people watch that video actually sign up. So find people, again, can be on any platform, who are already creating content and see if you can work with them.

Christian Klepp  20:42

Yeah, no fantastic advice. And again, to your to your earlier point, it’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality. Right? So to get people sign up. Great. Let me just quickly recap that for the benefit of the audience. So first of all, is going to competitor websites to check their affiliate links. And the second one is check out the content, especially the keywords in which keywords are ranking. And the third one is find influencers, you know, with keywords that are being used, and also the ones that have access to your ideal customer profile.

Joran Hofman  21:16

Yep.

Christian Klepp  21:17

Okay, fantastic. Fantastic. And now, we get to the question about metrics. And I know, we can go down this very, very deep, deep, deep rabbit hole here, but let’s just keep it at the top level, right, some top level metrics that B2B marketers should be paying attention to when it comes to leveraging partnerships for growth.

Joran Hofman  21:38

Yeah, yeah, I think in that sense, it’s pretty simple, you can just look at the needs like the entire funnel, so you probably start with number of partnerships you closed, then the number of clicks, the referrals, basically, all came out of that. So you can track the conversion rate between those if you want to, then basically paid referrals, so how many move to paid and then the monthly recurring revenue or money generated basically from it. So in the end, you’re creating these partnerships to make money, right. So that’s going to be the end goal. But before you get there, everything else needs to happen before so I would look at that, and then the conversion rates in between, how does it add up against what you’re currently doing with your own marketing efforts? And is it better or worse?

Christian Klepp  22:26

Okay. Okay. So we’re looking at like, just from a top level perspective, maybe about five, five, like key metrics?

Joran Hofman  22:32

Yeah. Yeah, I would say so. Five, yeah.

Christian Klepp  22:34

Okay.

Joran Hofman  22:36

Yeah. As you can imagine, you can make it really complicated. But in the end,…

Christian Klepp  22:42

You just, you just open up your dashboard, and you’re already like, your eyes are gonna like, pop out of your head. And like, Well, where do I start?

Joran Hofman  22:52

Yeah.

Christian Klepp  22:53

Okay, so this one is the soap box question. So please get up there. And tell me what is the status quo, on the specific topic of leveraging partnerships, right. So what is the status quo on this topic that you passionately disagree with? And why?

Joran Hofman  23:15

I might have come back… I guess to the first point we said that it might, is a bit shady, or it doesn’t generate results, or I guess kept people distrust I guess in general. I definitely disagree with that. If you find the right people who are willing to recommend you, then it can be a really growth lever for your for your company. And it can actually compound over time. So when people say like, it doesn’t work, there’s a lot of fraud going on. Partners are not doing what they should be doing. Or they’re not generating anything like, of course, that happens. But that happens with any campaign you’re running, right? Like, at one point, it just stops. But if you treat it well, only if you actually treat it as like setting up good relationships with people who have access to your ICP, then it is going to work for your business.

Christian Klepp  24:09

Absolutely, absolutely. And to your point, you know, be concerned about if this is fraudulent, I mean, that basically permeates across different disciplines. That’s not just… I don’t think that that’s unique just to affiliate marketing alone. But I think it’s to your earlier point that there if you have those systems and processes in place to prove that what you’re doing is indeed a legitimate operation, then there’s probably no reason to doubt the you know, the outreach.

Joran Hofman  24:36

Yeah.

Christian Klepp  24:38

Okay, fantastic. Okay, Joran, here comes the bonus question. So this may or may not have something to do with your area of expertise. But here it goes. Okay. So imagine that you were selected to promote the Netherlands abroad, right in a global partnership campaign. Okay. What would you promote about your country? And why?

Joran Hofman  25:02

I think people to be honest, I think, with Dutch people you kinda see is what you get. Or at least were, as far as I always say, like, pretty straightforward, right? But in a, I think always in a good way, like, if you know how to deal with it, you can clearly see if we’d like things or not. And we will say if we don’t like it as well, and we’ll say what we don’t like about it as well. So you definitely get some unsolicited feedback sometimes where, yeah, that’s how I guess a deal with the Dutch people. But that’s yeah. It might not be a unique selling point for everybody. People take like, yeah, I don’t want that. I want just happy people always. But in, in our sense, like, we will tell what we think about things and that’s, that’s what I like, also working with Dutch people, like, you can get some really good direct feedback, which is gonna help you further basically.

Christian Klepp  25:56

Absolutely, absolutely. For a minute there. I thought you were gonna say like, you know, I would promote the people because, you know, you guys just have the best DJs in the world. Like, Armin van Buuren. (laugh)

Joran Hofman  26:09

Yeah, but I don’t think I can say that, because Armin just didn’t show up for a Super Bowl. Right? He just canceled like, a couple days in advance. So I didn’t know where the audience is. So,…

Christian Klepp  26:20

Yeah, well, fantastic. Joran, this was such a great conversation. Thanks, again, for coming on, for sharing your expertise and experience with the audience. Quick introduction to yourself, and how people out there can get in touch with you.

Joran Hofman  26:35

Yeah, so quick intro. Founder of Reditus, affiliate management platform. I think we covered enough regarding affiliate management, basically, in the Netherlands in Utrecht. And I think that’s it like, if people want to know more, or when to get in contact with me, just contact me on LinkedIn. There’s only one Joran Hofman. That’s, that’s not a lie. If you search for that, you will find me. Just make sure you mention that you’re coming from this podcast, because I do get quite a few requests. And I don’t see a note or anything like that I won’t probably accept it.

Christian Klepp  27:09

It was 300+ connection requests, if I remember correctly, no?

Joran Hofman  27:13

Yeah, yeah. And I think when you have founder next to your name, then you’ve been targeted by all these automations. So it’s not like being arrogant, but it’s… there’s a lot of I guess, people were trying to sell you right. That’s what we were even discussed before the recording started. So if I don’t see like a clear benefit for myself, and there’s no message then I will like just leave it there.

Christian Klepp  27:35

Sure. Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. Joran, once again, thanks for your time. Take care. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Joran Hofman  27:43

Cheers. Thanks for having me, Chris. Yeah.

Christian Klepp  27:44

All right. Thanks. Bye for now.

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