Buyer’s guide to software partnership programmes

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Besides software discounts, many partnerships now offer marketing opportunities that can also benefit small firms. This guide compiles some of the basic facts about some of the most popular software partnership programmes on the market.

Many software developers such as Sage, QuickBooks and Xero offer software partnership programmes that aim to help practitioners deliver better service to their business clients. The offerings can be quite similar and sometimes finding the right partnership programme can be difficult.

Whether being a certified partner is more beneficial for bigger or smaller firms is still open to debate. Some traditional partner programmes provide the most benefits to the largest partners; such programmes are typically focused on sales of licenses or subscriptions.

“This works against the interests of the smaller accountancy and bookkeeping practices that serve a smaller client base but still provide excellent quality of service," explained Clear Books sales director Phil Sayers.

“We believe that what's most important to clients is the expectation that their accountant or bookkeeper understands the software they're using and can provide the best possible service, so the Clear Books partner programme focuses on the product knowledge of the partner, not their ability to sell software licenses.”

FreeAgent also highlighted some of the advantages for smaller partners: “They tell us is that they really appreciate how we can support them with resources such as training and marketing,” a spokesperson explained. “Over the last four years, we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve helped numerous start-up firms to thrive. “

According to Damon Anderson, Xero’s director of partner for UK & EMEA, the key is the not the size of the firm but its level of digitalisation: “Xero benefits firms of all sizes and niches, as long as a firm is ready to make the most of digital tools”.

However, as Christopher Sharp, senior partner manager at Exact explains, companies with sales and marketing departments and consultants with an existing base of customers are ideally placed to sell the software.

“Typically they will have more than five employees,” said Sharp. “Our customers are in manufacturing, wholesale and professional services, and a typical customer has between five and 50 employees.”

Here are some basic facts about some of the most popular software partnership programmes on the market.

Clear Books Certified Partners

Training and accreditation: The program offers a training session at the Clear Books office, followed by an online test. Upon completion of the test, a certificate qualifies you as a Clear Books Certified Partner.

Benefits: The programme includes promotion on the Clear Books accountant directory and website, an early sight of new products and marketing opportunities such as coverage on the Clear Books blog as well as guest blog opportunities.

Price: Between £199 (online training) and £499 (onsite training).

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Exact Reseller Programme

Training and accreditation: Free e-learning sessions followed by exams that the partner needs to pass to achieve the certification.

Benefits: Some of the key benefits include a dedicated partner account manager, marketing support and access to Exact’s partner portal and partner app. “Most of our partners see increased customer retention and acquisition as a result of their membership,” said Christopher Sharp, Exact’s senior partner manager.

Cost: Free.

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FreeAgent Partner

Training and accreditation: FreeAgent has a partnership programme for accountants with three levels – FreeAgent Friendly, FreeAgent Partner and FreeAgent Premium Partner. The training takes place online or onsite (in the case of Premium Partners).

Benefits: The FreeAgent Friendly programme provides accountants “practice and client training, marketing assistance, formal accreditation and exposure to our rapidly-growing base of micro-businesses” as explained by Ed Molyneux, founder and CEO at FreeAgent on the firms’ blog.

FreeAgent partners also get more personalised marketing support and FreeAgent Premium Partners also receive a premium directory listing and an invite to FreeAgent’s annual accounting forum.

Cost: Free.

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IRIS KashFlow Partner Programme

Training and accreditation: Access to KashFlow training courses for practice employees and customers.

Benefits: Listing in the KashFlow Partner Directory, possibility to brand both KashFlow and their practice portal using their unique practice logo and colours, use of Client Manager to set up and customise cloud-based KashFlow bookkeeping accounts for their clients as well as access to tools such as KashFlow Certification and marketing assets to help the partners’ visibility to new clients.

Cost: Free.

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QuickBooks ProAdvisor Programme

Training and accreditation: In class training on site, classroom and virtual training. In order to become a QuickBooks certified ProAdvisor, it is necessary to pass a certification exam. There is also an advanced certification for those practices that wish to learn about more advanced transactions and features.

Benefits: Inclusion in the Find-a-ProAdvisor online directory, unlimited chat support, access to software, discounts, apps, and training as well as ProAdvisor certification badges.

Price: Free.

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Sage Accountant Partners

Training and accreditation: The applicant can choose from a three-day training course that can be studied in one of Sage’s training centres around the UK classroom or self-study training of the Sage Self-Study Certification courses, plus an additional advanced user course. The training is followed by a multiple choice test.

After passing the exam, the applicant needs to attend at least four online training sessions for Sage 50 Payroll, Sage advice services and Sage Cover services. Finally, there is a one-day training course to learn about marketing and attracting new clients.

Benefits: Priority support for Sage software and services, marketing materials, discounts, full working copies of Sage software to use in your business and give demonstrations to clients, and dedicated Accountant Partner area on the website.

Price: Unspecified – the classroom training courses are subject to an additional cost.

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Xero Partner Program

Training and accreditation: To become a certified partner, you’ll have to undergo four hours of free online training that have to be maintained every year with an additional two hours of training.

Benefits: “The Xero partner programme includes all the software and resources for firms to make the digital switchover from desktop/server software to having their practices online,” said Damon Anderson, Xero’s director of partner for UK & EMEA. “We provide Xero HQ, our client management platform, and our Xero subscription to Xero partners to manage their own business finances. On top of that, all Xero partners are assigned a dedicated account manager, unlimited access to Xero education, expert 24/7 support and advice from our customer experience team, as well as conversion and technical accounting support from our practice consultants.”

Partnered firms are included in the directory and have the possibility of attending Xero events such as Xerocon.

Cost: Free. 

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