Ask the Partnership Experts: Step 2: Identify partners worth building an integration with (or identify existing high-value integrations)

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There's a renaissance going on, and it's called Partnerships. The value partnerships bring to long-term growth and sales can be measured in increased brand awareness and ultimately in increased sales for virtually any company of any size in any industry. 

But we're not talking about quick acquisition scheming with little to no customer retention. This is the good kind of awareness and growth. Warm introductions from people who trust you, your brand, and your product, and that you trust just as much. 

That is why we at Webbula are excited to bring our latest blog series focused on Partnerships, providing a platform for many voices, from PartnerPage, Ometria, Constant Contact, and more, to provide insight into the value partnerships bring to the business.

In the months to come, look for more voices and more thought around the power of partnerships and why businesses should embrace them as our friends and partners cover the topics from the recent article written by the COO of Partnerpage, Stewart Wesley, "How to build a technology partnership". We can't wait to see the value this series will bring to you and your peers.

We welcome any technology partnership expert to fill out the form at the end of the blog post to provide their expertise on how to build a successful technology partnership.

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 Step 1: get your organization ready for partnerships. Read it.

 

 

Step 2. Identify partners worth building an integration with (or identify existing high-value integrations).

This should be based on your customer overlap and integration use case potential. Stronger customer overlap is great but low customer overlap can also show a bigger net new business opportunity. Alternatively, identify partners who have already built a valuable integration.

  • This is a great time to use Crossbeam (or another accounting mapping tool) to understand what companies you have compelling customer or prospect overlap with.
  • The total value of an integration can be roughly calculated as follows: Value of integration per customer* total number of customers/prospects who adopt the integration = total value of the integration
  • "Confirm culture fit and investment energy from both sides early. Is this partner going to invest in your sucess and vice versa? Will they block and tackle inside their organization for you? Sometimes the integration use case is sound but the other company is too busy with other priorities. Understanding that the partner team is onboard, but also getting broader buy-in from around the partner's business can be vital" -Chris Samilla, VP of Partnerships at Crossbeam

 

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Sydney Braithwaite, VP of PartnerPage.io

A crucial part of building a new integration is taking the time to understand and validate core use cases. The best way to do this is to interview multiple mutual customers as well as senior Customer Success Managers on both sides of the partnership (if possible, this should be the same CSMs that shared customer requests for this integration, as they will have the most context from customer conversations). This may sound obvious, but as a former Partner Manager and CSM, I’ve personally dealt with a surprising number of integrations that missed the mark in terms of key functionality, data hygiene best practices, and/or clear documentation. 

By skipping this step of use case discovery and/or validation with customers and CSMs, you may run the risk of setting up an integration that doesn’t get used. More importantly, you run the risk of setting up an integration that actively causes headaches for both customers and your customer-facing teams due to frustrations with difficult integration setups, confusing use case documentation, having to report missing core functionality, etc. 

The beauty of this method of discovery and/or validation of use cases with customers and CSMs is that once you've invested the time for one integration, it can likely be repurposed with partners in the same category of technology.

Plus, this process will get your client-facing teams more familiar with partners and integrations, which should have a positive impact on lead sharing!

 

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Ian Mahanes, Technology Partnerships at Klaviyo

I agree with both Stewart and Chris’ comments on this subject.

Before I dive into Crossbeam and how essential it has become in the partnerships realm let me take a step back here assuming you haven’t yet identified which companies to reach out to around a potential partnership/integration. The best place to start is with the customer. 

As a Partnerships lead you likely do not spend much time on calls with customers. So the best place to start is by consulting those who do. Creating open channels and feedback loops with your sales, customer success, and onboarding specialist teams around what platforms they hear come up the most in customers' conversations is essential to start building a list of integration prospects. 

Some measures we’ve put in place at Klaviyo to help assist here are:

  • Setting up office hours with customer-facing teams to ask questions around platforms they hear come up.

  • Creating an open forum Slack channel inviting all customer-facing team members around integrations.

  • Having field’s in Salesforce to capture insights on customers and prospects tech stacks. 

  • Filtering Gong recorded calls for words like ‘integration’.

 

While certain integration prospects might be obvious it is always important to start to collect both qualitative and quantitative feedback to help you build a tight business case.

Now let's add some more to the quantitative side of the business case and put some strong numbers behind ‘why we should build this integration’ Crossbeam is my favorite place to start. If you are not already using Crossbeam or Reveal and are actively scoping the market for integration partners… go get one of these tools. My colleague Carlos Barrero calls it, “a CRM escrow between partners’. These tools allow you to map your mutual customers, opportunities, and prospects across your partners. Here’s a makeshift diagram below with some made up numbers.

 

 

Your Company

Partner

 

Customers

Opportunities

Prospects

Customer

100

25

200

Opportunities

25

50

35

Prospects

200

35

300

Taking Stewart's equation and using Crossbeam to get us some results. Once connected on Crossbeam you can start to see general counts for each one of these populations. This will show you the ‘total number of customers/prospects who POTENTIALLY CAN adopt the integration’. Easy.

Next step is to get a MNDA in place and start to open up the actual accounts for each square. Assuming an MNDA is signed and data is now sharing I’d look at the customers to customers population. Using your company's Salesforce data you can build a report and pull in fields like MRR on your mutual customers. I’d filter that list for your top 10ish customers. With that list I’d begin by contacting your CSMs tied to those customers to see if you can connect with the customer directly around a potential integration with your prospective partner. During those conversations you can gauge the integration's value by understanding the customers interest in having your platforms connected along with potential use cases… BOOM, Now you have an understanding of the ‘Value of integration per customer’.

Another perspective on gauging value is in most cases integrations help create product stickiness and reduce customer churn. Many companies measure this and if yours doesn't yet you can also find general statistics online. Using Crossbeam you can pull the total MRR of your mutual customers and multiply it by that percentage to give you a better insight into the quantitative impact on the integration.

Looking at an integration from a purely customer/product perspective you are doing great and I believe will naturally lead to a great partnership. However, to Chris' point, if you are looking to gain other aspects from the integration/partnership you must ensure both parties are on the same page. Understanding the interests, initiatives and priorities of each other's organizations and partnerships teams is as Chris said 'vital'. Expectation setting is the most important part of any partnership. So make sure your expectations are clear starting with the first call.

 



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Joe Ribaudo, Director of Channel Marketing at Constant Contact

This presents you with an opportunity to get feedback from your users—whether it’s a formal survey to collect primary data or a call/conversation data aggregation tool like Gong. You’re looking to understand your users’ demand when it comes to what tools they’d like to see integrated with your product. Additionally, don’t be afraid to look at what integrations your direct competitors offer—in either case, this gives you a list of potential integrations to start from. 

Crossbeam can be an effective tool once you’ve entered into initial discussions with the prospective partnering organization—it’ll provide both parties with a true sense of user overlap.

What Chris stated above, I think, is critical: a strong cultural match and investment energy are good early indicators that the partnership will be reciprocal. Honestly, that’s a hard match to make sometimes. A certain degree of transparency from both parties helps to set expectations on timing, level of effort, and willingness to co-market the end result. Suggesting a joint NDA early on may help to facilitate the sharing of information between both parties.

 

 

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Jamie Arias, SAAS Integrations at Digioh

I've found that involving the whole team in researching potential partners not only strengthens the team but also brings different perspectives to the mix. The way a developer sees an integration partner is different than how I, a partner manager, or our marketing team see a potential partnership. It helps to organize the potential partner list and for everyone to have some technical understanding of what it will take to build the integration, so if there are potential roadblocks or longer timelines involved, you have other options to go with during those times. Because there are many moving parts and lots of people involved in creating technology partnerships, I feel it's always helpful to have a plan A-C, just in case.

 

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Samantha Samuels, Head of Partnerships Friendbuy

When we're determining which integrations to prioritize, the first data point we look at is the level of mutual customer overlap we have with a partner.  That gives us an idea of both how many of our current customers would benefit from an integration, and if we have similar ideal customer profiles. We then set clear goals for customer adoption of an integration, and identify the revenue potential of "unlocking" additional opportunities with that partner's customer base. Then we're able to more easily prioritize integrations as we choose ones that will provide the most valuable for our customers and we believe will drive the most revenue growth.

 

jackwrigley

Jack Wrigley, VP of Partnerships at Webbula

Identifying the value of an integration is directly correlated to the effort each company makes to promote the integration to their respective customer bases. I can’t stress this enough. Integrations that look great on paper will fall way short of its goals if both companies don't work together to create marketing plans that effectively announce the integration and its benefits and then educate customers on how to use it. In other words, it's the collaborative effort that determines the overall success of an integration. 

Generally, I look to prioritize integrations in a few ways. 

  1. Does the integration make sense? Seems like a no-brainer question but when you first look at creating integrations you need to ask yourself, “Is there real value in doing so? Will customers naturally understand why the integration exists?” I have been involved in many discussions around the idea that you should just do integrations for the sake of doing so. While that may seem trendy it can become wildly unsuccessful as you lose focus and ultimately the integration doesn’t deliver real results. 
  2. Initially, unless there is a very compelling reason to do so, avoid integrations with large, publicly traded companies. Why? Too much “red tape.” While I fully understand and appreciate the processes publicly traded companies need to follow which include making sure effort is directly related to producing quarterly revenue, most of the time the bureaucracy of these companies becomes like quicksand, and moving forward in any meaningful way is slow. So slow it can impede real progress for scrappy, faster-moving companies.
  3. Less is more. While everyone wants to have a full showcase of integrations, in most cases the 20/80 rule is in play. Meaning, 20% of the integrations will generate 80% of the revenue. And typically, the 20% are the integrations where both companies are actively promoting and educating on the value of the integration.

Integrations are very powerful and a meaningful way to drive customer and revenue growth. However, they do take time, take an incredible amount of patience and strategy and most of all, take constant nurturing to ensure they take hold and flourish.

 

 

 



 

 

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