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20 Common Types of Channel Partners and How to Find Them

Welcome to growth, multiplied. Partnerships are transforming how we do business today, creating a new business environment built on cooperation, communication, and collaboration. In this comprehensive guide to the different types of channel partners, we explore each partners' unique roles for accelerating your company's growth.

Throughout this guide, we'll be highlighting industry-specific examples of how these partnerships work. We'll also dive into strategies on how to find the best partners for your business and how to unlock their full potential.

We all grow faster, together. Are you ready to learn how partnerships can revolutionize your business growth, innovation, scalability, and customer experience? Let's dive in!

👉 Use this channel partners list to learn more about each type of strategic partner:

  1. Resellers
  2. Technology partners
  3. Referral partners
  4. Affiliates
  5. Distributors
  6. Wholesalers
  7. Value-added resellers (VARs)
  8. Value-added distributors (VADs)
  9. Value-added referral partners (VARPs)
  10. Independent software vendors (ISVs)
  11. System integrators
  12. Managed service providers (MSPs)
  13. Implementation specialists
  14. Vertical solution specialists
  15. Dealers
  16. Consultants and advisors
  17. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
  18. Original design manufacturers (ODMs)
  19. Sustainability partners
  20. Strategic alliances

What are channel partners?

Many people are familiar with resellers, distributors, and even affiliate partners like social media influencers. However, that's only the beginning of strategic channel partnerships. A channel partner can be any business or individual that collaborates with another or supports their customers in a way that the company itself might not be able to.

Channel partners not only sell products, but also play a crucial role in:

  • Providing additional services to end-customers
  • Managing supply chains and inventory
  • Manufacturing entirely new products from specs
  • Facilitating an easier implementation process for customers
  • Building complementary products
  • Offering in-depth advice and guidance to growing companies

Channel partners can rapidly improve your customer experiences, help you grow into new markets, and elevate your company's position and capabilities in the market by introducing fresh perspectives, strategies, and expertise. Tasks related to managing these partners are often orchestrated in a partner relationship management (PRM) platform.

The many types of channel partners

Strategic channel partnerships play a vital role in accelerating your growth. However, the landscape of channel partners can be complex, as there are various types of partnerships with overlapping characteristics and terminology that may vary depending on your industry. And, for forward-thinking companies, partners can (and oftentimes do) play multiple roles and support the businesses needs externally in more than one area.

It's not simple, but we're here to help. In this post, we break it down into the key types of channel partners that can support your growth.

Also, while this post offers helpful tips for finding these partners, we have a comprehensive resource for businesses seeking in-depth guidance.

🔎 Discover more: From first search to final handshake, learn how to find channel partners that are a perfect match for your company in our comprehensive guide.

Finding partners is only the first step. We also have a comprehensive eBook on how to start and scale your partnerships, which covers everything from onboarding to reporting. You'll get the insights, tools, and resources you need to maximize growth at any stage of your partner ecosystem.

These types of partnerships are redefining today's business landscape, introducing a more collaborative approach to commerce. By joining forces with strategic partners, you can tap into the diverse expertise, resources, and networks each partner offers. That's how today's businesses and their partner ecosystems can achieve growth, multiplied.

Are you ready to get started? Let's jump in.

1. Resellers

As one of the most common types of channel partners, resellers function as an external branch of your sales team and play a critical role in selling your products or services. Resellers typically purchase products or services from manufacturers or distributors and sell them to end customers. Resellers act as intermediaries, leveraging their established customer base and distribution networks to expand your market coverage.

You've already bought many products from resellers. For example, in the fashion industry, Nordstrom sources products directly from fashion designers and brands and sells them to customers in its physical stores and online. By collaborating with different fashion houses and designers, Nordstrom offers a wider selection that can meet different consumer preferences. They also provide an immersive shopping experience, combining high-quality products with exceptional customer service.

Like retail, resellers in other industries offer a wide range of products and solutions directly to businesses and consumers. For some businesses, such as tech companies, resellers also function as service partners to provide value-added services such as product expertise, configuration support, and post-sales assistance, ensuring a seamless experience for customers.

Some key benefits of working with resellers include:

  • More customers: Resellers often have their own loyal customer base, allowing your company to tap into new markets and reach a wider audience
  • Tap into existing distribution channels: Resellers possess established distribution channels, enabling more efficient delivery of your products or services
  • Industry expertise: Resellers are very knowledgeable about their respective industries, providing valuable insights and customer feedback that can help your business grow

How to find reseller partners

To find these types of channel partners, research your industry and identify resellers who are already active in your market and have experience selling similar products or services. Ask your existing partners, industry associations, professional networks, or customers about reputable resellers they've worked with.

Expand your search by attending trade shows and industry events to connect with potential resellers. You can also research partners on online platforms and marketplaces specific to your industry to discover resellers who may be a good fit for your business. You can even analyze the partnerships your competitors have established with resellers and consider approaching those resellers with your own pitch.

🔎 Discover more: Read our full guide on how to find resellers that are a perfect fit for your business!

How to maximize your growth with resellers

Resellers often work with many different manufacturers or distributors. To maximize growth with resellers, make sure your company stays top-of-mind for them. Do this by making your products or services easy to sell by:

  • Providing comprehensive on-demand training programs to educate resellers about your offerings, target market, and sales strategies
  • Building competitive pricing, discounts, or incentives to encourage resellers to prioritize your products or services
  • Offering ongoing support to ensure they have the necessary resources and knowledge to effectively sell your products
  • Providing them with great marketing materials, sales collateral, and other resources to support sales, and even offering co-marketing opportunities for joint promotional campaigns
  • Regularly engaging and communicating with resellers to address concerns and provide updates on new products or features
  • Providing them with great marketing materials, sales collateral, and other resources to support sales, and even offering co-marketing opportunities to drive joint promotional campaigns

For example, with Impartner, you can roll out fully automated Google Ads campaigns at scale for your partners; bringing small and big partners into the digital search purchase journey. Learn how it helped leading manufacturer, Stanley Black & Decker, in the following case study.

⭐️ Partner win! Stanley Black & Decker drives 163% increase in reseller leads

Stanley Black & Decker needed a way to reach customers in the local markets where they were already searching for their products. They leveraged Impartner's partner marketing automation tools to deploy localized Google Ads campaigns with their resellers. This led to a 163% increase in reseller leads, and a 49% decrease in cost per lead!

Read the full case study here.

2. Technology partners

Some of the most common strategic partners, especially in the B2B space, are technology partners. This is a broad category, but they typically offer complementary technology solutions that can be integrated with your businesses' products or services. With technology providers, you can enhance your offerings and deliver better solutions to customers.

For instance, Impartner partners with other technology companies to improve the extensibility and usage of our platform. We partner with all major CRMs, including Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics 365, so our customers get a unified view of their partner interactions, deal registration, lead management, and performance metrics. By combining the capabilities of PRM and CRM, businesses can streamline their partner management processes to drive greater revenue growth and better data visibility.

Some key benefits of technology partnerships include:

  • Seamless integration: Users can find solutions that seamlessly integrate with their existing tech stack
  • Better customer experience: Customers get to enjoy a more robust experience from each product and better reporting between the two products
  • Added value: Partnering with some technology providers allows you to offer enhanced features, services, support, or other capabilities to customers
  • Larger market reach: Collaborating with technology partners can open doors to new customer segments or industries

How to find technology partners

To find these types of channel partners, identify other technology providers that offer solutions or services that complement or enhance your existing products or services. Get active on technology-focused communities, forums, or conferences where technology providers actively participate.

Also evaluate technology trends, emerging technologies, and other areas of innovation to identify new technology partners.

How to maximize your growth with technology partners

Once you've built relationships with tech partners, engage them through the full partner lifecycle by:

  • Establishing clear communication channels and collaboration processes to ensure seamless integration and ongoing support
  • Coordinating joint marketing activities, such as co-branded campaigns, webinars, or content collaborations, to drive new leads
  • Leveraging the expertise of technology partners to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends, insights, and innovations for your own business
  • Exploring opportunities for joint product development, innovation, or research and development projects to drive a greater competitive advantage
  • Collaborating on customer success stories, case studies, or testimonials that highlight the benefits of your integrated solutions

By partnering with technology providers, you can leverage their specialized expertise to enhance your own offerings, address your customer needs better, and drive incredible growth.

3. Referral partners

As we all know, word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the most powerful ways to find new customers. Today, word-of-mouth marketing has gone from IRL to online as one of the most valuable growth tactics for B2B and B2C marketing, with the phrases "link in bio" and "click below" driving significant revenue. Referral partners accelerate the recommendation process and can play a crucial role in expanding your reach.

Put simply, referral partners are individuals or businesses that refer potential customers to your company. They typically earn a commission or other incentive for each referral. They're very similar to affiliate partners (and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably!) as we'll discuss later.

Referral partners can significantly impact your sales and brand reputation due to their:

  • Amplified reach: Referral partners have established networks of contacts, customers, or clients who may be interested in your products or services. Partnering with them allows you to tap into their network and gain access to a wider audience.
  • Trust and credibility: Referral partners can vouch for your business and lend credibility to your offerings. Their recommendations carry weight and instill trust in potential customers, making them more likely to consider your products or services.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Referral partnerships can be a much more cost-effective way to generate leads. Instead of investing in extensive marketing campaigns, you can leverage the existing relationships with referral partners to drive sales.

These types of channel partnerships create a win-win situation for both parties. Your business benefits from the sales generated by the referrals, and referral partners earn commissions, incentives, or other rewards for their efforts.

How to find referral partners

Referral partners can play a crucial role in generating new leads and expanding your reach through their direct recommendations. To find referral partners, identify customers who already love your product and are excited to talk about it!

You can also look for individuals or businesses within your industry that target similar customer segments. These could include industry influencers, satisfied customers, or professional service providers (like attorneys or accountants). You may already follow them on LinkedIn, subscribe to their newsletter, or attend their industry trade shows.

Build strong relationships with these potential referral partners by reaching out and establishing a rapport. Seek to understand their business needs first, and then explore how a partnership could be mutually beneficial. Clearly outline the terms of the referral partnership, including commission structures, incentives, and expectations for both parties.

How to maximize your growth with referral partners

Trust and communication are the hallmarks of an effective referral relationship.

Maintain regular communication with these partners to foster your strong relationship and keep partners engaged with your business. Acknowledge and appreciate their efforts through public recognition posts, thank-you notes, or special events.

Offer attractive incentives or rewards to motivate referral partners and encourage ongoing recommendations. You should also provide on-demand training and resources about your products or services so they can make more effective recommendations.

Finally, set up ongoing reporting to measure the effectiveness of referrals for your business. You can truly maximize your business growth through these word-of-mouth referrals with Impartner.

With Impartner's referral program tools you can:

  • Create personalized referral links, with the ability to control link destinations and personalize them for partners
  • Tap into better tracking as these generated links can be used with your landing pages or complex referral URLs, enabling deep linking into specific sites
  • Track progress, with information from the referral URL extracted into Impartner's end-to-end partner relationship management platform

Referral leads and incentives are generated automatically with Impartner, giving you and your partners visibility into the progress of each deal. Impartner's cutting-edge B2B influencer marketing technology unlocks infinite go-to-market selling strategies for reseller networks across all industries.

Ready to tap into the power of referral partnerships? Learn more by clicking below!

4. Affiliates

Referral, affiliate, and influencer partners are similar, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. How you interact with and compensate these types of partners may vary depending on your business and industry, too.

Similar to referral partners, though, affiliate partners promote your products or services on their websites, blogs, or social media platforms. They earn a commission for each sale or lead generated through their efforts.

A few key aspects of affiliate partnerships include:

  • Online promotion: Almost fully online, affiliate partners leverage their online presence to promote your products or services
  • Performance-based compensation: Affiliates earn a commission based on the sales or leads they generate
  • Expanded brand reach: Affiliates can extend your brand's visibility by sharing it with their own already-built followers and audiences

For example, eCommerce affiliate programs allow businesses to partner with social media influencers or content creators who promote their products through blogs, YouTube channels, TikTok videos, or email newsletters. Affiliates provide reviews, tutorials, or recommendations, driving traffic and sales to the business.

How to find affiliate partners

Affiliate partnerships are particularly effective for businesses that want to increase their online presence. That means the search for them often starts online, too.

Identify influential bloggers, newsletter creators, social media influencers, content creators, or website owners in your industry who have a substantial following and audience engagement. You know your industry better than most, and you'll know if your customers are on LinkedIn, TikTok, or Twitch.

Once you've built a list, you can also research popular affiliate networks and platforms where businesses and publishers converge to form affiliate partnerships. Many are already looking for partners!

🔎 Discover more: Easily onboard new affiliate and influencer partners with our handy free templates: Affiliate Agreement Template and Influencer Contract Template

How to maximize your growth with affiliates

There's a lot of noise out there. You must create an attractive affiliate program that offers competitive commissions, incentives, and resources to motivate your affiliate partners.

You can also create special promotions, exclusive discounts, or early access to new products or services to incentivize affiliate partners and their audiences. Then, make it easy for them to benefit from these new leads with automated link generation and commission processes.

From the start, establish clear communication channels with affiliate partners to address questions, provide updates, and offer ongoing support. Provide affiliate partners with marketing materials, promotional content, and content creation strategies that align with your brand's goals in order to support their success.

Finally, regularly evaluate the performance of your affiliate partners and identify opportunities to optimize campaigns, improve conversion rates, and expand your reach.

5. Distributors

Distributors generally act as intermediaries between manufacturers and their resellers. They purchase products in bulk from manufacturers and distribute them to resellers or retailers in smaller quantities.

Distributors can play a crucial role in your supply chain, providing several benefits:

  • Logistical efficiency: Distributors can handle inventory management, warehousing, and shipping on your behalf
  • Broader market reach: Distributors usually have an extensive network of resellers or retailers, enabling you to reach a wider customer base
  • Market intelligence: These channel partners possess valuable market insights and knowledge about large-scale customer preferences and trends

For example, in the automotive industry, distributors ensure that automotive parts and components are efficiently distributed to resellers and repair shops across different regions. They streamline the supply chain for these auto companies, reducing lead times for customers and ensuring products are readily available to meet demand.

How to find distributors

To find these types of channel partners, research industry-specific directories and databases for your target market or geographic region. Consider partnering with established distributors who already have a strong presence and extensive distribution channels in your target market.

Like always, leverage your professional networks and industry associations to get recommendations for reputable distributors in your industry. Attend trade shows and industry conferences where distributors gather to network and establish connections with them. And, reach out to distributors who already work with complementary products or services that align with your offerings.

🔎 Discover more: Finding great distributors can be one of the best ways to rapidly increase your market reach. Learn all of our tips for finding distributors here

How to maximize your growth with distributors

Develop strong relationships with distributors by offering competitive pricing, attractive margins, and volume-based discounts. Since their power is in their scale, regularly communicate with distributors to gather market insights, monitor inventory levels, and address any operational or logistical challenges.

You should also provide distributors with comprehensive product training, technical support, and marketing materials to make it easier for them to sell and promote your products. Finally, consider collaborating with distributors on joint marketing initiatives to increase your brand visibility within their offerings.

6. Wholesalers

Like distributors, wholesalers play a pivotal role in your supply chain, typically buying, storing, and bulk selling products from manufacturers to retailers. With a specific focus on selling goods to businesses rather than end consumers, wholesalers ensure that retailers have access to the products and quantities of products they need to meet consumer demands.

Wholesalers are important in many industries, offering these benefits:

  • Economies of scale: Wholesalers typically purchase products in large volumes, allowing them to leverage economies of scale, thereby potentially offering more competitive pricing to retailers.
  • Supply chain stability: Wholesalers help stabilize the supply chain by matching the production output of manufacturers with the retail demand, holding inventory and ensuring that products are available for retailers when needed.
  • Market access: Wholesalers, particularly those specializing in specific industries or product categories, can offer manufacturers access to a wide network of retailers to sell your product.

For instance, in the fashion industry, wholesalers might buy bulk quantities of clothing items from manufacturers and then sell these to various retailers, including department stores, specialty boutiques, and online stores, facilitating widespread availability of these products across diverse marketplaces.

How to find wholesalers

Start with thorough market research. Use industry directories and online B2B marketplaces that list wholesalers in your niche or those who deal with your product type. Investigating trade associations related to your industry can also help you find reputable wholesalers.

Don’t shy away from using your business networks for referrals to wholesalers with a proven track record. Participate in trade fairs and exhibitions to meet wholesalers who are looking for the products you manufacture, and don’t forget to explore online forums and platforms where businesses might share their experiences and recommendations.

🔎 Dig deeper: The best channel partner conferences and events are some of the best places to find wholesale partners and build connections. Find our top 10 partner conferences here!

How to maximize your growth with wholesalers

Provide wholesalers with favorable payment terms, and consider offering discounts for prompt payments or bulk purchases.

Always arm your wholesalers with ample product information, promotional materials, and training to boost their confidence and capability in selling your products. Keep up with frequent and transparent communication to resolve any potential issues related to inventory, delivery, or product quality.

If possible, engage in co-marketing activities to support your wholesaler’s sales efforts through promotional activities, joint campaigns, or even dedicated technology or customer support during high-demand periods. By aiding wholesalers in selling your products successfully, you boost your own bottom line, too.

7. Value-added resellers (VARs)

Value-added resellers (VARs) go beyond traditional reselling activities by offering additional value to your customers through customization, integration, and support services. VARs tailor their solutions to meet customer needs, often by combining different products into comprehensive bundles.

You'll harness the following benefits of value-added resellers:

  • Customization and integration: VARs provide tailored solutions by integrating different products and services to address a customer's specific needs
  • Value-added services: VARs often offer additional services such as installation, training, ongoing support, and maintenance that can help you better serve your customers
  • Solution bundling: Value-added resellers can bundle complementary products together to deliver a complete solution that addresses customer pain points at a more affordable price point

In the software industry, VARs can offer customized software packages, integrating different applications, and then provide ongoing technical support to their customers.

Learn how tech leader, Illumio, used Impartner to level up their partner management efforts for their VARs and other types of channel partners in the following video.

⭐️ Partner win! Illumio creates a one-stop shop for all partner types

"There's just so many things at your fingertips that other platforms didn't offer."

From partner training to deal registration, Illumio created an automated workflow for managing their entire partner journey, end-to-end. This allowed them to better manage the full lifecycle for their value-added resellers and other partners.

How to find value-added resellers

To start, look for those who already specialize in serving your industry. Ask for referrals from existing partners, customers, or industry experts.

Then, explore industry forums, online communities, and social media groups to connect with VARs who might be interested in partnering with you. You can also attend industry conferences or events focused on technology or solution providers, as these are prime opportunities to meet VARs.

Once you've identified potential partners, set up a meeting to discuss their areas of expertise, their breadth of services, customer base, and alignment with your business goals.

How to maximize your growth with VARs

Want to make the most of your partnerships with value-added resellers? Equip them for success by:

  • Providing them with in-depth product training, documentation, and ongoing technical support to ensure they can effectively deliver and support your solutions
  • Collaborating on solution development and customization projects to address new customer needs they find
  • Establishing clear communication channels and processes to streamline collaboration, address challenges promptly, and foster a stronger partnership
  • Developing joint marketing initiatives with them to showcase your integrated solutions to customers

8. Value-added distributors (VADs)

Like value-added resellers, value-added distributors (VADs) simply take distribution activities a step further by providing value-added services to your customers. These services may include technical expertise, product customization, system integration, customer training, and ongoing support.

As partners within your ecosystem, value-added distributors can offer:

  • Advanced technical expertise: These partners possess an in-depth knowledge of the products they distribute, offering technical guidance and support to resellers and end customers 
  • Comprehensive solutions: By delivering end-to-end solutions that combine multiple products and services, they can better meet specific customer needs
  • Ongoing training and support: Focus on your core offerings while your VADs provide training programs and ongoing support to your customers

In the tech world, VADs play a crucial role in supporting complex deployments and ensuring customer success. In the cybersecurity sector, for example, VADs can develop full-scale security solutions that incorporate multiple software products, along with training and support services to help organizations safeguard their data and networks long-term.

Go beyond just lead management. Learn how Snyk, a leading cybersecurity company, leveraged Impartner to manage their value-added distributors as well as other types of partners in the following video.

⭐️ Partner win! Snyk automates their entire partner journey with Impartner

"We chose Impartner over other solutions because they're visionary and they're market leaders. We needed a solution that was future proof."

Snyk manages their hundreds of active partners in a single integrated solution that works seamlessly with Salesforce and their LMS. From partner training to deal registration to MDF management, Snyk has now automated every stage of their partner journey.

How to find value-added distributors

To find value-added distributors, leverage your existing vendor and manufacturer relationships to ask about VADs in their network. Research industry-specific channels and partner directories that list VADs who are already working in your target market or industry niche.

You can also attend technology trade shows and exhibitions where VADs often showcase their capabilities and services. Finally, reach out to industry associations for recommendations.

Since they'll provide long-term support for your customers, it's important to partner with established VADs who have a strong track record, industry reputation, and expertise in your market segment.

How to maximize your growth with VADs

Like VARs, value-added distributors will set the tone for your customers' long-term success and experience with your product or services. From the start, collaborate closely with VADs to understand their technical capabilities, market reach, and target customer segments. Then, provide comprehensive training and certification programs to ensure VADs have the necessary expertise to support and promote your products effectively.

Partnerships are a two-way street, though.

Don't forget to leverage the technical expertise of your VADs to enhance your own product integration capabilities, system configuration process, and overall solution implementation. You can also work with VADs to develop new solutions for your customers. Regularly engage in joint partner business planning to align strategies, set performance goals, and drive growth together.

9. Value-added referral partners

Like typical referral partners, value-added referral partners (VARPs) refer clients to your business. Unlike traditional referral partners, VARPs bring an additional layer of value to the customer experience, often providing strategic insights, supplemental services, and/or additional expertise that complements the product or service they initially referred to the customer.

These are a new type of channel partner, but they're quickly differentiating themselves in the marketplace for a few reasons:

  • VARPs often possess a deep knowledge and understanding of their specific industries or sectors, enabling them to identify and refer high-quality clients to your door
  • Since VARPs have established relationships with the clients they refer, your business can benefit from the inherent trust that’s already been built
  • Your products or services can be introduced to new markets, industries, or customer segments through your VARP network
  • Your customers receive incredible end-to-end service from someone they already know and trust

For example, consider a fintech VARP that refers their readers or clients to an investing platform, but also helps them set up the software and provides ongoing consulting services to optimize the client’s use of the platform and investment guidance, ensuring that they extract the most value from their purchase. The platform wins with new clients, the partner gets ongoing business, and the customer has an easy journey from start to finish.

How to find value-added referral partners

Identifying and partnering with VARPs involves taking a thoughtful and nuanced approach, given their unique customer relationships. Start by identifying partners that already service your target market and offer complementary, non-competing services.

Use industry networks, attend relevant conferences, and leverage online platforms to identify potential VARP. Don't forget to use LinkedIn or other professional networks to find businesses or consultants.

Then, remember that their reputation is built on trust. Come into the relationship with transparency and full information, so they can make sure you're the right fit to refer their customers to.

🔎 Discover more: Ready to build a B2B referral program that drives true ROI? Learn more in our full guide!

How to maximize your growth with VARPs

To fully leverage a relationship with value-added referral partners, start by offering clear guidelines on your referral processes, fees, and customer handover procedures. Acknowledge and incentivize VARPs through a structured reward program, ensuring they are motivated to continue referring clients your way. You can use our free referral partner agreement as a starting point!

Ensure VARPs understand your product or service, offering in-depth training or resources that enable them to accurately communicate your offering. Then, keep the lines of communication open, establishing a routine for check-ins and updates.

Building and maintaining robust relationships with VARPs means not only expanding your customer base but also ensuring that referred clients receive additional value, enhancing their overall experience and satisfaction with your offering.

10. Independent software vendors (ISVs)

Independent software vendors (ISVs) are a type of channel partner that develop innovative and specialized software solutions that cater to specific market needs or industry challenges. These solutions can expand and augment your offerings, enriching your customer experience and providing additional value. With ISVs, your offerings can be bundled or integrated with specialized software, opening up new market segments or industries.

For instance, an ISV might develop a specialized project management software that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft 365, enhancing its capability by adding bespoke features tailored for the healthcare industry that aren't inherently supported by Microsoft's existing suite.

Through this integration, Microsoft 365 users can access advanced project management capabilities within a familiar environment, thereby reducing the learning curve and streamlining implementation across their teams. The complementary software not only resolves specific challenges faced by project managers but also enriches the overall user experience by providing additional functionalities right within the existing Microsoft software ecosystem.

How to find ISVs

Finding the right ISVs takes work. You need to find partners that understand your product and its value, while also meeting your quality standards.

Begin with industry-specific forums, digital marketplaces, and software review sites to identify ISVs. Then attend industry events, webinars, and online platforms where ISVs are likely to showcase their solutions. This provides a firsthand look at their capabilities and approach.

Leverage your existing network for recommendations, ensuring that the ISVs you approach come with a degree of trust and validity from trusted associates. When identifying ISVs, prioritize those with a robust customer base, positive reviews, and a proven track record of developing solutions that align with your offerings.

🔎 Dig deeper: Ready to onboard a new ISV? Make it easier by starting with our ISV agreement template!

How to maximize your growth with ISVs

These technical partners require robust support from your team. Create the space for mutual growth by:

  • Building a thorough understanding of each other's products, services, and market strategies to find the best areas for collaboration
  • Working closely with ISVs to integrate or bundle your offerings, ensuring seamless compatibility and integration
  • Engaging in cooperative marketing and sales campaigns, sharing resources and strategies to amplify reach and impact in the market
  • Providing ISVs with the necessary support and training to understand your offerings thoroughly, ensuring that integrated or bundled solutions are effectively developed and marketed

With a focused and collaborative approach, partnerships with ISVs can unlock new potential, drive mutual growth, and help you grow into new markets.

11. System integrators

These types of strategic partners integrate different hardware and software components into a cohesive solution. They are experts in combining multiple technologies to deliver comprehensive solutions to your customers.

For example, in the healthcare industry, system integrators play a vital role in implementing electronic medical record (EMR) systems for practices. They integrate complex software applications, medical devices, and networking infrastructure to create a unified and efficient healthcare information system so these practices can better serve their patients.

The major benefits of partnering with system integrators include:

  • Integration expertise: They possess the skills and knowledge your customers need to seamlessly integrate different hardware, software, and other technologies
  • Project management: System integrators manage the entire integration process on your behalf, ensuring smoother (and faster) execution
  • Turnkey solutions: These partners can deliver turnkey solutions that address a customer's specific requirements that encompass multiple technologies

How to find system integrator partners

Since these partners are experts at what they do, they often operate in specific niche industries. To find them, research industry-specific trade publications, directories, and online platforms. Attend technology conferences, special events, and exhibitions focused on system integration, where you can network with potential partners and learn about their capabilities.

Also leverage referrals from your existing network, including vendors, customers, and other channel partners, who may have worked with system integrators in the past.

And, since these will be complex rollouts, look for system integrators who have a proven track record, any relevant certifications, and a portfolio of successful projects in your industry.

How to maximize your growth with system integrators

By forging strong partnerships with system integrators, you can leverage their expertise and capabilities to deliver the solutions your customers truly need. It's truly a win-win-win for all involved.

To build a great partnership with system integrators, you should:

  • Take the time to understand their core competencies, team size, technical expertise, and project delivery capabilities from the start
  • Collaborate closely with them to identify and target new market opportunities where your products or services can add value for customers
  • Provide them with comprehensive training and support to ensure they have a deep understanding of your offerings and how they fit into their solutions
  • Encourage joint marketing activities by releasing a market development funds (MDF) program, or developing thought leadership content together

12. Managed service providers (MSPs)

Managed service providers (MSPs) offer outsourced IT services and manage clients' technology infrastructure, applications, and systems. They let you do more of what you're good at, while providing ongoing support, maintenance, and monitoring for your customers.

As partners, MSPs can provide:

  • Infrastructure management: MSPs can handle the management and maintenance of clients' IT infrastructure, including servers, networks, and cloud services
  • Proactive support: MSPs provide 24/7 monitoring, security updates, and troubleshooting to ensure smoother operations
  • Scalable solutions: These types of channel partners offer flexible solutions that can adapt to your company's and customers' changing needs

For example, MSPs in the financial sector can offer managed security services, monitoring client networks for potential cyber threats and providing real-time protection against attacks. They ensure data security and compliance with financial industry regulations.

Mambu, a leading SaaS cloud banking platform, had a complex ecosystem of global partners to support. They turned to Impartner for their partner management needs. Learn more in the following video.

⭐️ Partner win! Mambu manages a global network of partners, effortlessly

"It's our partners' one-stop shop. It's everything that they need at their fingertips. The tool is just so robust, and it really helps set the standard."

As a global finance company, Mambu's network of MSPs and other service partners needed on-demand training and assets to better support their customers. With Impartner, Mambu can automatically onboard new partners, track partner engagement, register deals, and more.

How to find managed service providers

To find these types of B2B partners, look for MSPs that specialize in your industry or specific technology area. You can find them by attending industry conferences, trade shows, and networking events. Also leverage online directories and platforms that list MSPs, such as technology-specific marketplaces or MSP associations.

Finally, seek recommendations from your existing network, including vendors, customers, and industry associations, who may have experience working with these types of channel partners.

How to maximize your growth with MSPs

By partnering with MSPs, you can leverage their technical expertise, infrastructure, and ongoing support to enhance the value of your own products or services to improve your customer experience and drive growth.

To best support these types of partners:

  • Understand the range of managed services they offer, and identify areas where their expertise best aligns with your business needs
  • Establish service level agreements (SLAs) to define expectations, responsibilities, and performance metrics
  • Collaborate closely from the start to ensure a clear understanding of your product or service requirements and the level of support your customers will need
  • Discuss areas for potential technology improvements, security enhancements, and cost-saving opportunities
  • Provide MSPs with ongoing, on-demand, and comprehensive training to ensure they have a deep understanding of your products or services

13. Implementation specialists

Implementation specialists are channel partners who facilitate the seamless integration of new, often complex, technologies into your customers' existing tech stacks. They focus on ensuring that the deployment of new solutions is rapid and minimally disruptive to ongoing business operations.

For a customer relationship management (CRM) system, for instance, an implementation specialist would play a crucial role in navigating the complexities of integrating the new CRM software with the customer's existing sales, marketing, and data management tools. They may help map out data flows, establish new processes, and ensure that all technologies work harmoniously before handing it off to the customer to manage.

Implementation specialists are a game-changer when it comes to customer experience, especially if you sell complicated technology or software. By ensuring a smooth transition, they help maintain and often enhance customer satisfaction during periods of change. They ensure that your products are implemented quickly and efficiently, minimizing downtime and disruption. Many also specialize in particular technologies or industries, so they can navigate through the common pitfalls and challenges.

How to find implementation specialists

Given that they often work within specific technology ecosystems or industries, identifying the right implementation specialists can require a targeted search. Begin with:

  • Certification lists: Many technology providers list certified partners who are recognized for their expertise in implementing and supporting their solutions.
  • Industry events: Attend industry-specific events, workshops, and webinars where these specialists may present their case studies or offer workshops.
  • Vendor recommendations: Check with your technology vendors for recommendations, as they often have partnerships with specialists.

From there, explore online platforms, forums, and social media groups related to your technology or industry, looking for implementation specialists who are sharing their insights or advice.

How to maximize your growth with implementation partners

Building a successful channel partnership with implementation specialists involves leveraging their unique skills and expertise in a way that benefits both parties. Here’s how:

  • Understand and align your business goals with their implementation strategies to create win-win scenarios for both parties.
  • Engage in a continuous exchange of knowledge and insights. Understand the challenges they face in the field, share that with your product teams, and adapt your solutions accordingly.
  • Provide them with necessary training, resources, and support to ensure they fully understand your technologies and can implement them successfully. For your top partners, provide them with a go-to support specialist who's always ready to help them troubleshoot issues.

Implementation specialists not only serve as an extension of your brand but also enhance your product by ensuring your customers realize its value quickly and easily. This, in turn, aids in customer retention and advocacy, driving further business growth.

14. Vertical solution specialists

Vertical solution specialists craft bespoke, industry-specific technology solutions that cater directly to the distinctive and unique needs of your potential customers. They leverage their deep understanding of industry nuances and technical expertise to construct end-to-end processes that optimize operational efficiency.

Imagine, for instance, in the agriculture sector: a vertical solution specialist might curate a tailored tech stack that integrates drone mapping, IoT-enabled devices, and farm management software together on behalf of a client. They'll ensure that all these technologies communicate seamlessly and provide a consolidated view of operations, thereby enabling the agricultural company to make more strategic, data-driven decisions.

By crafting end-to-end solutions that harmonize many complex technologies, vertical solution specialists help enhance operational coherence and efficiency for your customers.

How to find vertical solution specialist partners

Finding qualified and expert vertical solution specialists includes:

  • Participating in trade shows, webinars, and conferences specific to your vertical to network with specialists who frequent these events
  • Joining industry-focused online forums and groups where specialists might share insights and discuss the latest technology trends
  • Exploring case studies or requesting references from a potential partner's existing clients
  • Subscribing to industry-specific publications, though leaders, and platforms where these specialists may share their insights

Whenever you bring on a new partner, make sure they have proven experience and success stories within your vertical and possess the technical expertise to integrate multiple technologies seamlessly.

How to maximize your growth with vertical solution specialists

Creating a mutually beneficial partnership involves recognizing and valuing their niche expertise while providing them with adequate support.

Gain an in-depth understanding of their capabilities, past projects, and unique value propositions within the chosen vertical. From there, offer continuous support and training to ensure they comprehend the full range of capabilities and benefits your technology brings to their solutions.

Remember that a partnership is a two-way street. Collaborate in developing new solutions that bring together your technologies with their specialized knowledge to create unique offerings. You can also engage in collaborative marketing, such as whitepapers, webinars, or case studies, that showcase your joint solution.

15. Dealers

Dealers are an important type of channel partner, especially in the manufacturing and automotive industries. They help get products from manufacturers to customers. With their established presence in local markets, they help your products penetrate various regions more efficiently. They can also handle inventory, reducing the burden of storage, management, and distribution.

Take, for instance, auto dealers, which you've likely used to buy your own car. A dealer purchases vehicles from automakers and then sells them directly to customers. The dealer navigates the complexities of local markets on their behalf and manages their local inventory.

Just as importantly, they provide consumers with a personalized shopping experience, where customers can physically explore, test drive, compare, and ultimately purchase the right vehicle for them.

How to find dealers

Attend industry-specific trade shows and exhibitions where dealers showcase the products they represent. You can also explore dealer directories and databases that list dealers operating in your industry and target geography.

Engage with industry associations that might provide insights and contacts within a specific dealer community or region. When getting started, ensure that these new potential dealers have a solid financial foundation, an established customer base, and the logistical capabilities to manage your inventory and distribution effectively.

How to maximize your growth with dealers

Creating and nurturing a profitable relationship with dealers involves understanding their local market dynamics, offering them abundant support, and ensuring your products are highlighted in their marketing efforts. To do this, you'll need to implement incentive programs to motivate dealers to prioritize your products and achieve your joint sales targets.

Since they'll be the face of your brand, also ensure that dealers have thorough knowledge and training about your products to accurately represent them to consumers. Offer co-branded marketing materials that they can easily use in their markets.

Finally, maintain open channels of communication to discuss inventory needs, marketing strategies, and feedback from end-users. By ensuring that dealers are well-supported and aligned with your business objectives, they can effectively bring your products directly to consumers, ensuring that the journey from the manufacturing floor to the customer is seamless and efficient.

16. Consultants and advisors

Consultants and advisors offer strategic advice and market analyses on specific industries or market segments. Put simply, these strategic partners help you navigate and make sense of complex and always-changing business markets.

For example, a retail consultant might advise businesses on new market trends, consumer behaviors, and more effective merchandising strategies. They can offer guidance on optimizing store layouts, product assortments, and pricing strategies to drive sales and enhance a customer's experience.

Aside from the brains, these consultants also have extensive networks of industry contacts that can help you generate even more new business opportunities.

How to find consultants and advisors

To find these types of channel partners, be active in IRL or online discussions and forums related to your industry, where consultants and advisors are likely to participate. You'll often see them on panels, tradeshow floors, and webinars sharing their knowledge.

Also, research industry-specific consulting firms or consultants who specialize in your target market or industry niche. Finally, ask for referrals from your existing network, including customers, partners, and industry associations, who may have worked with consultants in the past.

How to maximize your growth with consultants and advisors

Since consultants and advisors may not interact directly with your customers, it's important to clearly define your objectives, challenges, and areas where you need strategic guidance from the start. You'll also want to set up some reporting and tracking metrics to measure how their input is fueling your growth.

Then, seek their help when developing market entry strategies, product positioning, and pricing strategies. When possible, have them do market research and analysis to gather valuable insights on your customer's needs, preferences, and in-the-moment market dynamics.

Also, collaborate with consultants and advisors on thought leadership content, joint webinars, or industry events to position your business as a trusted industry expert.

While their impact may not always be immediately obvious, consultants and advisors provide industry-specific knowledge, strategic guidance, and networks that can dramatically drive long-term growth, improve decision-making, and expand your market presence.

17. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are companies that manufacture products or components that are used as parts in another company's final product. OEM partners offer the following benefits:

  • Manufacturing expertise: OEMs possess specialized manufacturing knowledge and capabilities in specific product areas that your company may not possess
  • Component sourcing: Source higher-quality components from OEMs to incorporate into your final products
  • Brand association: Partnering with reputable OEMs can enhance your brand's reputation and inspire customer confidence

For example, car manufacturers often rely on OEMs for components such as engines, transmissions, or electronics, to ensure the quality and reliability of their vehicles.

How to find original equipment manufacturers

OEMs will usually be specific to your industry. To find the right partners for your business, attend industry trade shows, exhibitions, webinars, and conferences where OEMs showcase their products and capabilities.

You can also identify OEMs through supply chain analysis and by evaluating your existing suppliers and their manufacturing capabilities.

How to maximize your growth with OEMs

Get the engineers involved. You'll need to develop a clear understanding of your product requirements and the specific components or parts that can be sourced from OEMs. Then, evaluate the manufacturing capabilities, quality control processes, and production capacity of potential OEM partners.

From there, establish a mutually beneficial partnership agreement that outlines product specifications, manufacturing timelines, and quality assurance standards.

Continue to collaborate closely with these partners to ensure effective feedback and continuous improvement throughout the manufacturing process. You can do so with automated, segmented partner newsletters and portals.

Finally, regularly review and assess the performance of your OEM partners to ensure product quality, timely delivery, and cost-effectiveness.

18. Original design manufacturers (ODMs)

Original design manufacturers, or ODMs, develop products that are configured to meet the design requirements of their clients. They specialize in conceptualizing, designing, and manufacturing products, seamlessly turning a concept into a fully realized product without the brand needing to navigate the complexities of production.

An ODM often takes charge of the entire manufacturing trajectory, from sourcing materials and components, navigating the production phase, and ensuring that the final products are constructed correctly. The finished products will bear the branding of the original company and are often indistinguishable in the market from products made by the company itself.

Key benefits of incorporating ODMs into your production strategy include reducing production time, reducing costs, and mitigating risks.

How to find original design manufacturers

To find ODMs, look for them at industry events, like trade shows or conferences. Search online platforms, forums, and directories that list ODMs specializing in your product category. Also leverage referrals from industry peers, associations, or your existing business network.

Ensure that the ODMs you consider have a verifiable track record, robust manufacturing capabilities, and have adhered to quality and compliance standards for your market and product type.

How to maximize your growth with ODMs

Again, call in the engineers. Building a successful partnership with ODMs entails a meticulous approach to ensure their work aligns with your brand’s quality, ethical, and design standards:

  • Provide exhaustive and detailed product specifications to minimize discrepancies between your concept and the final product
  • Ensure regular and rigorous quality checks are part of the production process to maintain adherence to your brand’s standards
  • Establish a collaborative approach to work closely on product development, ensuring timely feedback and modifications on your end when required
  • Maintain transparent communication about demand forecasts, delivery schedules, and inventory management to ensure smoother operations
  • Ensure that the ODM adheres to legal and ethical manufacturing practices and your ESG standards

A partnership with ODMs enables you to keep your focus on design, branding, and market positioning, while the ODM ensures that your products are brought to life.

19. Sustainability partners

Increasingly, sustainability partners play a vital role in uplifting companies' eco-friendly initiatives and commitment to social responsibility. These partners bring to the table a wealth of resources, expertise, and collaborative projects that amplify your sustainability efforts, ensuring they are impactful, feasible, and resonate well with your stakeholders.

Not any one type of partner, these types of channel partners can provide assistance in a number of different ways, such as:

  • Supplying eco-friendly products
  • Promoting sustainable supply chains
  • Pioneering joint sustainability projects
  • Incorporating green technologies into your workflows
  • Advising on insights, research, and best practices pertaining to sustainability
  • Implementing circular economy models

These partnerships not only expand your capabilities and impact in terms of sustainable practices, but also underscore your shared commitment to a more sustainable and responsible business landscape. Together, sustainability challenges become a shared journey, amplifying impact, sharing knowledge, and co-creating a business future that is ecologically balanced and responsible.

🔎 Dig deeper: Can partnerships help build a more sustainable future? We think so. Read insights from our SVP on the future of sustainable partnerships.

How to find sustainability partners

Finding these types of channel partners starts by being where they are. Attend events, conferences, and workshops dedicated to sustainability to identify potential partners. Join networks and organizations that are dedicated to sustainability--you'll likely find many potential partners committed to eco-friendly practices.

Your potential partner should demonstrate a robust track record in sustainable practices, a strong innovative and collaborative approach, and a commitment to ongoing sustainability efforts.

How to maximize your growth with sustainability partners

Once a partnership is established, develop clear, shared goals that convey the sustainability aspirations of all involved partners. Undertake projects that showcase tangible efforts and measurable impact.

To motivate others, make sure to share success stories. Share the wins and milestones achieved through your partnership, reinforcing the tangible impacts of your sustainability efforts to your stakeholders and inspiring others in your space.

Regularly review and refine your approaches, ensuring the partnership remains dynamic, effective, and aligned with evolving sustainability goals and contexts.

20. Strategic alliance partners

Strategic alliance partners share similar goals, target markets, or customer segments as your company. They may partner with you on any of the activities listed above, but, above all else, they're a true partner, collaborating on joint marketing initiatives, co-branded projects, or co-selling opportunities that mutually benefit both of your companies.

These types of strategic partnerships offer a variety of lasting benefits, including:

  • Shared resources: Businesses can pool their resources and expertise to achieve their goals and even develop long-term partner business plans
  • Market expansion: Strategic alliances enable businesses to access new markets or customer segments through shared networks
  • Coordinated marketing efforts: Joint marketing initiatives amplify brand visibility and generate new business opportunities

For example, in the travel industry, airlines often form strategic alliances to offer seamless connections and shared loyalty programs, providing customers with a wider range of travel options and benefits.

How to find strategic alliance partners

To find a partner, you must be a partner. Tap into your existing ecosystem of partners, and see if any are ready to build a larger and longer-lasting partnership. This will likely be your first stop, as you'll already know their core capabilities and how engaged they are in the process of partnering.

To find new strategic partners, attend industry-specific events, conferences, and networking opportunities to connect with potential strategic alliance partners. Or engage with industry associations, chambers of commerce, or local business networks that facilitate strategic alliances and partnerships.

🔎 Discover more: Easily set up and onboard any type of partner, with our free partnership agreement template. Download it now!

How to maximize your growth with strategic alliances

With strategic alliance partners, you can leverage their resources, expertise, and customer base to expand your market reach, and drive growth through collaborative efforts.

The path will differ for every strategic alliance, but here's some best practices to get started:

  • Align your goals, visions, target customers, and market strategies to ensure a strong foundation for collaboration
  • Identify areas where joint efforts can create true value and drive mutual growth, such as joint marketing campaigns, co-development projects, or shared distribution channels
  • Establish open and transparent communication channels to foster ongoing collaboration, exchange ideas, and address challenges or opportunities
  • Share resources, expertise, and knowledge to enhance the capabilities and competitive advantage of both businesses
  • Collaborate on strategic initiatives, market research, or product/service enhancements to better serve your shared customer segments

Always regularly evaluate the progress and effectiveness of your strategic alliance and adjust as necessary to ensure your strategic partnership remains mutually beneficial.

Harness growth, multiplied

Ready to grow your channel partner ecosystem? We can help.

Each day millions of partners in nearly every industry across the globe access Impartner. Why? Because the partner experience matters and leading channel organizations agree.

Impartner is the fastest-growing, most award-winning channel management solution provider on the market. Our partner relationship management (PRM) and partner marketing automation (TCMA) solutions help companies accelerate revenue and profitability through their indirect sales channels at every partner lifecycle touchpoint.

From partner training and certifications to communications, business planning, and performance compliance, Impartner handles it all and more with best practices and automation built-in.

Need to accelerate your partnerships? We're ready when you are.

About the Author

Trevor Burnett is the Head of Product Marketing at Impartner. Burnett has over 15 years of experience in the partnerships space. Over the years, he has built both technical and business acumen as he's done everything from building partner portals himself to strategizing how to solve partnership problems through technology with hundreds of companies. He's also the host of Impartner's popular MasterClass series, in which he talks about the latest trends and tech in ecosystems.

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