Affiliate Marketing

Three Steps to Finding the Perfect Business Partner

There comes a point in every marketer’s career when their inbox starts to blow up with a specific kind of email: “Let’s be partners!”

Deciding whether or not to take somebody on board as a partner should be pretty similar to your interview process when you’re in the market for a new employee. Consider the position you’re likely in when bringing a partner aboard your operation. First off, you hold all the power here because they probably asked you to partner with them, not the other way around. You have more liberty to ask questions — and you should! Do not assume that everybody is as scrupulous or competent as you are.

Here are the three steps that I take in order to evaluate potential partners. And here’s the kicker: they need to pass all three! I have a lot of people looking to cozy up to my agency and very little time to touch base with people, even on important, high-dollar projects. If I catch a whiff of bad communication, incompetence or low ambition, I send a polite “no thanks” email and carry on.

This is my partner interview process. Feel free to copy it if you like!

1. Go Fishing

Always, always, always, do this before accepting any Zoom calls or in-person meetings. If you have a hundred people asking you to partner up, taking a look at their previous work usually clears a majority of them off the board immediately.

Am I saying that everyone you eliminate will be bad at their jobs? No. Some of the people trying to partner with you might have potential but need more time for their personal brand and work process to mature. Some of them just might not be the right fit right now but you should absolutely keep their contact in your back pocket. Some might just be redundant — PR pros make great referral sources, but how many do you really need to partner with? (Tip: Consider your sanity and partner with two, max!)

And then, of course, there are some who will just be bad at their jobs. If they’re making case studies out of campaigns you’d fire your own staff for executing, just say no. Whatever they’re promising, get it somewhere else.

Don’t be afraid to check references. If they’re touting a client on their website, it’s fair game to give that client a call to check how well your potential partner delivered. In all likelihood, the person you’re calling isn’t going to openly rag on their previous marketing agency, but if they offer anything less than effusive praise, let that potential partner go.

2. Ask Them, ‘Why Do You Do What You Do?’

This is a basic and straightforward question, but from my experience, it can reveal a lot about the true value of your potential partner. You can learn more about their business practices, values, how they communicate and their work style, as well as their work ethic — all of which are crucial to indicate whether or not you want to move the partnership discussion forward.

This question is also an excellent litmus test for their sales ability. In reality, you know why they do what they do. Nobody that you’re going to partner with got into the business because their dying father’s last words were, “Son, become an affiliate marketer before it’s too late!” They do it because, at the very least, they think they’re good at it and it makes them money. But if they’re a good salesman, they should be able to hook you in and convince you that they have the conviction of someone fulfilling their father’s dying wish.

Their ability to sell themselves to you translates to how well they can sell your agency to a potential referral. If they’re going to be your partner, they need to provide you with the confidence that they’ll be able to deliver whatever they’re agreeing to deliver.

3. Evaluate Whether You’re a Match

Now, after all the data has been collected, I make my decision on if a person will be a beneficial partner to me or not. Even after calling in references and talking to the potential partner about their ethos, whether or not I opt to partner with them doesn’t only come down to the quality of their work or their ability to sell me. I take a few things into consideration:

• Do I foresee having enough business to pass over to them for me to be able to keep up my end of the bargain? Not coming through on your promises, even if you do legitimately try, isn’t cute or professional and will stain your reputation.

• How much of a benefit are they? If, for instance, my partner is an affiliate marketer, how much need am I going to really have for that person’s services? Is it worth a partnership or should I just give them a call when I do have an opportunity for them? If I don’t have anything I immediately need from them, this partnership could be very one-sided.

• Are they pleasant to deal with? This is a big one. They might be able to milk Swarovski crystals out of Facebook ads, but if the potential partner is a pain to work with, don’t take the deal. Someone else will come along who can do just as good of a job without the headache.

To be a partner of mine is to gain access to a very exclusive club. I don’t take on more than I think I can deal with, and I’m willing to break things off if I no longer feel like I’m not getting what they promised me.

Be just as picky about your partners as I am. Remember, a partnership is not a means for unloading work — they should add to your business, not become part of it. A poorly chosen partner will fail to deliver, but they’ll succeed at sucking up your valuable time.

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