Whether you’re launching a new program or scaling up an existing one, measuring the right key performance indicators (KPIs) can mean the difference between consistent growth and internal chaos.
If you don’t know what to measure and optimize, you won’t know what to improve if growth stalls out, and you’ll struggle to explain to the different stakeholders in your company how partnerships contribute value.
While revenue is the ultimate goal of every partner program, there are different objectives you need to fulfill to really maximize the revenue you get from partnerships, and different metrics to track each objective.
In this guide to partner program KPIs, we cover:
Obviously, the ultimate goal of a partner program is to drive more revenue for your business. But for that to happen, your program has to succeed at fulfilling four main objectives:
The amount of focus you give each objective will depend on how mature your partner program is. If you're just getting your program off the ground, recruiting new partners is going to take priority. Once you've figured out how to effectively recruit partners, you'll want to start focusing more on partner activation and engagement. Mature partner programs that have mastered those objectives are free to focus on optimizing revenue efficiency, so they can bring in more money without proportionally increasing costs.
Next, we’ll look at these four objectives in detail, and the KPIs that indicate success in each.
The first step in any partner program’s success is actually getting partners into the program. You’ll want to carefully watch the number of monthly new partnerships to know if your program appeals to partners, and if your promotional efforts are reaching them. Narrowing down your ideal partner persona, promoting more attractive offers, and recruiting partners through a partner network or marketplace (like the PartnerStack Marketplace) can all accelerate the number of new partners you bring in every month.
A partner join source indicates the channel from which a partner applies to your program, whether from your owned channels (e.g. your website, email, paid ads, internal team outreach), referrals from existing partners, or through a partner network.
Tracking your partner join sources allows you to tailor your promotional and onboarding strategy based on each channel, doubling down on successful tactics for your best performing channels and running more experiments with channels that need an extra push.
It’s easy to fall into using one partner recruitment strategy across all these channels; however, partners on different channels are looking for different signals and information.
For example, partners who join your program through your website might have some familiarity with your product already, but require information on how to interact with your partner program — where to get their links, how to submit deals, getting paid, etc. Partners joining directly from a network, meanwhile, might not be familiar with your product at all. These partners would be better served by resources that speak to what your product is and who it’s for. However, since you recruited them directly through the platform they already use, they require no education about how to interact with it.
Treating each partner join source uniquely helps not only with recruitment, but it also supports increasing partner activation and engagement.
Recruiting plenty of new partners isn’t enough to make a program a success — you have to get them active in your program to start seeing revenue. Your program’s activation rate is the percentage of partners that sign up for your program that show actual activity after signing up.
Many programs will define partners as “active” as soon as they’ve made a single successful referral or sale, but it’s worth figuring out what determines whether a partner is truly active in your program.
When Looka rebuilt their partner engagement strategy, they discovered that even partners who successfully made their first sale were still quick to drop out of the program. It turned out a single sale wasn’t enough to prove the value of the program to partners; however, there was a huge jump in activity once partners successfully made their second sale. With that information, Looka rebuilt their program into three tiers:
Partners are only considered truly active once they’d made those 2 sales, at which point Looka switches the focus of its partner onboarding to keeping those partners engaged.
Decreasing the average time to first sale goes hand in hand with activation. The faster you can help partners make their first sale, the more likely they are to stick around and drive long-term revenue. This metric is great for illustrating the scalability of a program to the executive leadership team.
Optimizing your partner onboarding is crucial to improving partner activation and retention. The exact metrics you use to measure this will depend on what your partner onboarding looks like, but some of the most common KPIs to track include:
Do you need certain resources earlier on in the process? Do they ramp up quicker when offered certain incentives? Does more frequent communication impact engagement? Look for drop-off points in your current onboarding and experiment with how you deliver communications to partners to continue growing partner activation.
Want more tips on creating effective onboarding for partners? Check out our guide, What great onboarding looks like (with examples!) →
Building on the traction a program has made with improving partner activation rates should be done through improving engagement and retention. As a partner manager your main KPI to focus on when aiming to improve partner engagement is monthly sales volume attributed to partners. This allows you to set a goal that can be easily communicated to your leadership team when illustrating the progress towards improving partner engagement.
The exact conversions you measure are going to differ depending on the kind of program you’re running, but you want to start at the earliest possible stage of the customer journey. If you’re running an affiliate program designed to generate leads, you’ll want to track every step of the conversion funnel, from when they clicked your partner’s link up to when they purchase. If you’re running a reseller program where your channel partners sell your software directly, you’ll have to start later in the customer journey, at the point when your reseller sends you the closed deal.
Track how partner-attributed prospects and customers convert across the entire customer lifecycle to identify areas of improvement, and how your sales and marketing teams in particular can support.
For example, if trial signups attributed to affiliate partners are increasing but sales remain low, consider developing better marketing materials for these partners to help them hone in on your target audience, co-creating content with those partners, or changing how you approach nurturing leads from partners versus other channels.
Leaders in your company will want to know: how long will it take for your partner program to pay for itself? Comparing the costs that go into your program against the revenue partners bring in will let you know once your partner program reaches positive ROI and prove your program can scale.
While it’s not uncommon for partner programs to take over a year to reach positive ROI, it is possible to get there faster — for example, we frequently see companies using PartnerStack show positive ROI within 5 months.
As your program matures, you really want to pay attention to partner-sourced revenue as a proportion of all revenue inside the business. Showing how your program is bringing in a growing share of total revenue will help secure the executive support you need to continue investing in growing the channel.
You can break partner-sourced revenue down into two other KPIs: new revenue and total revenue.
While new revenue tells you how much partner-sourced customers can drive in the immediate term, total revenue gives you a better idea of how much value those customers generate over their lifetime.
Tracking the average value for the deals your partners drive helps you understand the differences between the customers your partners reach versus those that come from direct channels you own. You can help partners increase their average deal size by giving them resources that help them market to higher-value customers, or working with them to market additional services to their prospects.
How much do customers acquired through your partners cost? How does that compare to your other channels? And how does that compare to how much revenue those customers bring in? While you want to reduce customer acquisition costs when possible, you don’t want to do it at the expense of growth in other KPIs.
Being able to set benchmarks and track the right KPIs requires actually having access to the data. When looking at partner platforms, consider:
For example, PartnerStack has detailed built-in reporting dashboards (powered by Looker) that make it easy to see the performance of all of your partner programs together, or filter things down to small segments of partners. PartnerStack can also send data directly to your CRM, export it to a CSV file, or make data accessible through the PartnerStack API so you can build any kind of reports you want. Other partner management platforms have their own kinds of reporting capabilities, too.
A program will never be perfect in its first iteration, so it’s crucial to keep improving as you learn more about your partners — but you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Regardless of the tools you choose, make sure you invest the time to set the right goals, establish a solid reporting process, and continuously optimize your program.