Nearbound 101: Identifying the best partner targets

How to build your target partner list

It's all things partnerships all month long! 

Last week we went over the different types of B2B partners, and this week we're going to focus on how the heck to build your target partner list. 

This is the first step in planting your orchard 🍎

Identifying the best partner targets

What makes a good partner target? 

An organization that shares the same -

  • ICP (Ideal Customer Profile),

  • Buyer persona,

  • AND is likely to naturally** discuss solutions for your category with that buyer 

For example...Brex also sells to my ICP and buyer (early stage startup founders), but they sell banking and credit cards. I rarely talk to my clients about their banking and credit card needs as a GTM consultant.

On the other hand, I do talk to my clients all the time about their - 

  • GTM software stack 

  • GTM hiring needs (and comp benchmarking, comp plan design) 

  • Brand 

  • PR strategy 

And so on. You get the point. 

So better partners for me are HubSpot, Apollo, a GTM recruiting firm, a brand agency (like Odi 😀), etc. 

And it's not that I shouldn't or couldn't build rapport with Brex, but it's less likely I'll be able to 'give' to them in the same way. And vis versa, I doubt Brex is talking to founders about GTM consultants very often. 

So focus on organizations or functional areas where the people are most likely discussing your product or service category as your first priority for formal partnerships. These are your Tier 1 partnerships.

And then build relationships with the others where it makes sense to round out your overall ecosystem of informal partners. 

How to build your target list

Here is the framework I use - 

  1. Identify your main 'food groups' or the type of org(s) that fit the definition above (e.g. CPA firms, fractional CFOs, insurance brokers, GTM consultants etc). I call them food groups because it helps you build a balanced diet aka pipeline 😂

  2. Identify 2-3 specific companies within each of those food groups that also align with your - 

    • Geographic focus or physical footprint (a bank who focuses on the Northeast if you focus on the Midwest isn't going to be super helpful)

    • Your industry focus (e.g. fintech, healthcare tech), if appropriate, 

    • Your values 

For #2, here are some additional tips (using CPA firms as an example) - 

  • Google 'Top CPAs for [industry]' + maybe 'in the Midwest' 

  • Look at industry events you attend or would like to attend, and notice who is sponsoring them. If a CPA firm is sponsoring one of the events, or maybe 2 or 3, they likely have a defined budget and strategy for that ICP. 

  • Look at their website...does their messaging confirm they are focused on the same buyer? Do they have a dedicated landing page on the site for 'Venture Backed Tech' or 'Healthcare' etc. Do they have anyone with a partnerships or business development (BD) title? CPAs in particular don't all have specific 'BD' people, it's often the partner's responsibility to do BD. So if they DO have a BD person, that's another good sign that they are likely open to partnerships, co-marketing, referral relationships, etc. Spend the time to understand these type of trends or norms for your 'food groups'. 

  • Ask your clients! What CPA firm do they use? Do they like them? Often you'll start to notice a trend within your existing client base which is another confirmation of aligned focus. And maybe even an easier warm intro. 

And why did I suggest 2-3 for each food group in #2?

Because the best partnerships are reciprocal and you won't be able to properly or consistently 'give' to 5+ different CPA firms.

Conversely, I rarely like to give people 1 single recommendation. I like to give 2-3 options and let them pick. So if you stick to 2-3 for each, you should be better able to provide reciprocal referrals and value while also giving your clients and network choices. 

So at the end of this exercise, you should have maybe 5-6 food groups with 2-3 company names under each one! That's your target list

Questions? Shoot them over! See ya next week! 

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With love and gratitude, 

Jess Schultz

Founder & CEO

Amplify Group