How to Build a B2B Referral Program? Best Practices and Types

Brad McEvoy
Co-founder and CTO of Kademi

28/5/2024 Loyalty Incentives Marketing How-to Channel management

Referrals play a crucial role in almost every type of business, not only in the B2C sector but also in B2B. Decision-makers in businesses turn to people they trust when making purchasing decisions. So, when someone recommends a product or service to a B2B decision-maker, they listen.

That’s where B2B referral programs come into play.

Whether you’re a startup or an established enterprise, a well-executed referral program can be a game-changer. But what exactly is a B2B referral program, and how can you build one with a high success rate?

In this comprehensive post, we will explore the world of B2B referrals, enabling you to create a successful referral partner program.

What is a B2B Referral Program?

A B2B referral program is a strategic initiative where a business collaborates with another to refer clients to each other.

Unlike B2C referrals, which typically involve individual customers recommending a product or service to their peers, B2B referrals are centered around companies helping each other grow by sharing high-quality leads and opportunities.

In a B2B referral partner program, businesses also establish formal relationships with partners who are incentivized to refer potential clients. These partners can range from other companies in the industry to complementary service providers with a similar target audience.

According to studies, 82% of B2B sales leaders believe that referrals generate the best leads. The goal is to create a win-win situation where both parties benefit from mutual referrals, driving growth and increasing market reach.

You may wonder, ‘But that’s exactly what happens in B2C referrals!’ Well, yes. However, there are a few distinct differences between B2C and B2B referrals, including:

  • The relationship depth: B2B referrals involve longer sales cycles and deeper relationships than B2C referrals.

  • Value of referrals: The value of a single business referral is typically much higher than that of a B2C referral due to the larger transaction sizes and longer-term contracts.

  • Complexity: B2B referral programs are generally more complex, requiring formal agreements, tracking mechanisms, and sometimes co-marketing efforts.

So, now that you understand the dynamics of B2B referrals, let’s explore how to create a solid referral program. But first, what are the different types of referrals in the B2B sector? 

Types of Referral

Referral programs are the backbone of B2B growth strategies. You can drive business success by leveraging the power of networks and partnerships. However, not all referrals are created equal.

Understanding the different types of referrals can help you tailor your approach to maximize benefits and align with your business goals.

Here’s a deep dive into the various types of B2B partner programs and how they can drive business growth.

Revenue Share Partnership

A Revenue Share Partnership involves two businesses agreeing to share the revenue generated from referred clients.

This model is particularly effective because it aligns the interests of both parties toward mutual financial success. It is a common type of business referral in industries where ongoing service provision or recurring billing models are prevalent.

For example, a SaaS company might partner with a digital marketing agency. Every time the agency refers a new client to the SaaS company, it receives a percentage of the subscription revenue generated from that client.

The model provides a strong financial incentive for partners to actively refer high-quality leads as their income grows with the success of the referrals.

Co-Marketing Partnership

A co-marketing partnership involves two companies working together on joint marketing initiatives. This can range from co-branded content to shared advertising campaigns.

Such a partnership not only increases brand visibility but also leverages each partner's trust and credibility, making it easier to attract and convert leads.

Strategic Alliance Partnership

A Strategic Alliance is a formal agreement between businesses to pursue mutual goals while remaining independent.

Ideally, such an alliance is used to explore a deeper level of collaboration and strategic planning, which can lead to innovative solutions and market expansions. 

Technology Integration Partnership

Technology Integration Partnerships involve collaborating to integrate complementary technologies, creating a seamless solution for customers. This is particularly common in the tech industry, where interoperability is crucial.

For example, a CRM software provider might partner with an email marketing platform to offer an integrated solution that allows users to manage contacts and run email campaigns from a single interface.

Through such a partnership, both companies can enhance the functionality of their products, providing additional value to customers and making the solutions more attractive.

Channel Partner Program

Channel Partner Programs involve agreements with third parties, like resellers or distributors, to market and sell products.

B2B executives often anticipate that indirect sales and marketing programs, including channel partnerships, will drive more revenue. This is mainly because these partners extend the company’s reach into new markets or customer segments.

Referral Network Partnership

Referral Network Partnerships involve creating a network of businesses or people who refer clients to each other.

By leveraging existing relationships and trust, such a partnership leads to higher-quality leads and better conversion rates.

While these types of referral programs may differ in structure and operations, they all aim to achieve a similar goal — gaining more clients or leads for the parties involved.

However, as earlier noted, implementing these types of referrals requires a well-thought-out strategy. To help you make the most of it, let’s highlight the key steps involved in building a successful B2B referral partner program. 

How to Create a B2B Referral Program

Creating a successful B2B referral partner program involves a strategic approach tailored to your business needs and goals. Follow these steps to build a program that fosters strong partnerships and drives quality referrals.

Assessing Your Business Needs

Before launching a referral program, it is essential to assess your business's specific needs. Understand the market fit of your products, the characteristics of your customer base, and the support processes in place.

Are you looking to increase lead generation, improve conversion rates, or enter new markets? Understanding your goals will help shape the structure and focus of your referral program.

Some key questions to consider are:

  • What are your current business challenges?

  • Which products or services will benefit most from referrals?

  • What are your target growth metrics?

Assessing your business needs ensures that your referral program is aligned with your broader strategic goals and provides a clear direction for the next steps.

Identify B2B Referral Partners

The success of your referral program hinges on selecting the right partners. These could be your existing customers, industry influencers, suppliers, or complementary businesses.

To correctly identify partners, here are some crucial steps to consider:

  • Market Research: Conduct thorough research to identify potential partners in your industry.

  • Networking: Attend industry events, webinars, and conferences to build relationships with potential partners.

  • Existing Relationships: Leverage your existing network to identify businesses that already trust and value your brand.

Choose B2B Referral Incentives

Choosing the right referral incentives is crucial based on your needs and the partners you select. You may opt for monetary or non-monetary options as long as they motivate your partners to refer high-quality leads and foster long-term collaboration.

Ensure the incentives are attractive enough to motivate referrals and sustain your business. Moreover, they should align with your business objectives and partners’ interests.

Automate Training and Tracking

Automating training for your partners is an excellent way to scale your referral program. Automation helps maintain consistency and allows you to focus on strategic activities rather than administrative tasks.

You can use online training modules to educate your partners about your products, services, and referral processes. Moreover, it is important that you implement good CRM software to track referrals, monitor progress, and manage communications with partners.

By automating training and monitoring, you can reduce manual workload, minimize errors, and provide real-time data to manage your referral program effectively.

Make Data-Driven Program Optimizations

Implementing a B2B referral partner program is just one step—it is equally important to monitor its performance. Furthermore, by tracking its performance, you can adjust it accordingly to ensure optimal performance.

Use data to optimize your referral program continuously. Track key performance indicators (KPIs), gather feedback, and adjust your strategies accordingly. This will help you maintain a referral program that consistently drives high-quality leads and contributes to your business growth.

Data-driven optimizations ensure that your referral program remains effective and adapts to changing business environments and partner needs.

By following these steps, you can create a B2B referral program that attracts new clients and strengthens your relationships with current customers and partners.

Referral Program Best Practices

Creating a referral program is more than just an avenue for growth; it’s a strategic move that can significantly enhance your B2B relationships and market presence.

To ensure the success of your referral program, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Know your customers: Dive deep into customer data to tailor your program to their preferences and behaviors. This personal touch can make your program more effective and engaging.

Offer compelling incentives: Ensure that the rewards align with your customer’s values and are substantial enough to motivate action.

Simplify the referral process: Make the referral process as easy as possible. From sharing 

options to tracking referrals, the simpler it is, the more likely your customers will participate.

Engage quickly and effectively: Quick engagement can lead to a better conversion rate and shows both the referrer and the referee that you value their participation.

Make use of data: Data is your ally in optimizing your referral program. Track performance, gather feedback, and use these insights to refine your approach continuously. Reliable sales incentive software lets you track all these crucial metrics to streamline referral performance. 


Building a successful B2B referral partner program can be a game-changer for your business. By choosing the right types of referrals, and following the right strategies and best practices when implementing them, you will be headed on the right path to boosting your business.

Furthermore, the power of the right technology cannot be overstated. It streamlines sharing processes, automates reward distribution, and provides invaluable data for program optimization. With the right tools, you can ensure that your referral program is easy to use, efficient, and effective.

Ready to take your B2B referral program to the next level?

Discover how Kademi’s suite of tools, including the innovative sales incentive software, can revolutionize your approach. Empower your partners, automate your processes, and track your success with Kademi.

Start your journey today and watch your business thrive!


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