Ask the Partnership Experts: Step 1: Get Your Organization Ready for Partnerships

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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

  • Develop a partnerships vision and strategy based on input from different departments and an empathetic understanding of their needs and resources.
    1. Get buy-in from:
      1. Whoever leads partnerships.
      2. Whichever VPs/C-suite leader who has partnerships in their organization.
      3. The CEO.
  • Develop working relationships with the Head of CS, Head of Sales, Head of Product, and Head of Marketing and understand their goals/resources and align on the role of partnerships in their organizations.
  • Understand your toolbox for what value your organization can bring to your partners. Ask your partners this as well. Some examples include (but are not limited to):
    1. Being really good at sending referrals from your CS/sales team – Chris Lavoie at Gorgias appears to have mastered this.
    2. Have an outstanding partner marketing motion that is highly collaborative with your broader marketing team. Lindsay Kolinsky at Okendo demonstrates how impactful this can be by creating tons of meaningful content in close coordination with the broader Okendo marketing team.
    3. Build outstanding integrations or integration infrastructure. Klaviyo’s Track API is an awesome example of this.
      1. “Being able to send and retrieve data efficiently is pertinent in a world that requires multiple tools to successfully do business. Fast and nimble APIs are a MUST for any strong platform building technology partnerships  today.” Andrew Smith, Senior Strategic Solution Architect at Klaviyo

 

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Stewart Wesley, COO at Partnerpage

“Partner programs touch every part of an organization and can only succeed if there is consensus that partnerships are core to the company's broader strategy. The best place to start is with your CEO and executive team. If your CEO believes in partnerships then your life will be a lot easier but there are paths forward if this is not the case. If you can, convince your CEO that partners are the best way to address customer churn, unblock sales conversations, strengthen your product, and, of course, drive net new business. 

If the executive team is unconvinced (this is, unfortunately, not uncommon), use guerilla tactics to win over each department that will benefit from a partner program – make sure you build relationships with not just the department heads but also individual contributors. Often, it makes sense to start with the Customer Success team – they are hugely important in sending referrals to partners and are some of the best people to work with in the industry. Fueling a robust referral pipeline with CSMs can only be done with an empathetic understanding of their goals and KPIs, their “give first” mentality, and anticipating questions like, “What specific value does this partner provide my customers?”.

If these tactics fail, double down on empathy and try to use partnerships to solve the problems of your department heads. If that still doesn't work, it might be time to start looking for your next partnerships gig. Partner programs are among the fastest growing revenue channels in our space, and organizations that fail to recognize this will fall behind. The good news for you is that there are thousands of open jobs in partnerships, and I am happy to personally help you find one.”

 

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Ian Mahanes, Technology Partnerships at Klaviyo

"It is crucial to understand the initial focus of your partnerships organization in order to 'get your company ready for partnerships'. Partnerships folks come from various backgrounds: product, sales, CS, marketing, etc. As Stewart points out, you tend to see certain partnerships organizations with specific strengths. In order, achieve your long term vision, it is critical to identify and hire for what strengths are needed to execute your near term strategy. 

One of Stewart's points and what I believe to be the most important function of partnerships is establishing relationships across Sales, Customer Service, Product, and Marketing departments. You will not succeed without the buy-in of each department. This is something that my team continuously works towards by constantly looking for ways to provide value to each department. 

I just did a whiteboard session with my new colleague Jordan Bourchier-Lee (former LoyaltyLion Partner Manager) to better understand where/how we can add value across each department. As a first step, we mapped out each department's key metrics, how we can influence them, and then listed the activities we can do to successfully achieve their goals. This made it clear how we can affect each department on a daily basis and, ultimately, gain their buy-in."

 



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Joe Ribaudo, Director of Channel Marketing at Constant Contact

"In my experience, internal alignment to enter the world of partnerships is going to make or break everything that happens next—whether you’re looking to deploy strategic partners, VARs, or affiliates.

If we think in terms of a strategic technical partnership—sales, marketing, and product leadership need to be first to the table to align on what the strategy will be. To me, these are the teams that will be doing the heaviest lifting. Here’s where you should define the role of “partner manager”—the primary point of contact for your counterparts at the partnering organization.

This group should clarify the “why”... is this a revenue play for the business? Is this a co-marketing play? An acquisition play? Is the partner building an integration into your company’s software that will add value to your users—or is your organization building it? What staffing is needed, and in what areas? Understand what the ideal outcome is, and where both parties can add value to your customers. When both parties are satisfied, get your legal team to the table to finalize the terms.

Once you have a signed agreement, product marketing should define the positioning and value proposition for the partnership—work with your counterparts at the partnering organization to get this right. This helps you not only promote the partnership externally, but it helps you explain it to your broader organization—and get teams like sales and customer support trained up.

When your partnership nears launch, teams like Channel Enablement, CLM, Product, PR (and/or IR), Web, and Brand/Content/Social should be activated to coordinate the promotion into your base, and into the partner’s base if applicable. This coordination is critical to making a “moment” out of this launch. Define where, how, and when you’re going to talk about the partnership. Make sure your—and your partners’—sales teams are equipped to sell, and that your support teams are ready to support.

Partnerships take a lot of planning and nurturing from a lot of teams. So maintaining that internal buy-in is going to also land on your shoulders as a channel leader—people change, roles change,  and priorities change.

Our business model at Constant Contact is primarily direct—so I’ve found it important to keep our partner organization as visible as possible. I regularly present at internal “all-hands” meetings, conduct “lunch and learns,” and have even organized partner panels/workshops to give the broader organization exposure to who our partners are, and why they’re critical to our business. The results from these efforts have always paid dividends for us in the channel—more folks are informed, bought-in, and excited to create value for our users through these partnerships. "

 

 

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Jamie Arias, SAAS Integrations at Digioh

"It's always better to plan, but sometimes the partnership team is just a one-person show, and your CEO asks you to find contacts for a couple of companies we have mutual clients with, and five months later, you are in a new role. If this sounds like you, no worries. You take a breath and start at the beginning by defining the goals of your partnership program, and don't be afraid to ask other partners for help."

 

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Jack Wrigley, VP of Partnerships at Webbula

"Creating a strategic partner program requires a clear strategy. Including management and key departments like sales and marketing will enhance your partner program and set it up for long-term success. High-level consideration should be given to: 

• Why it's essential to the company

• Expectations both near term and long term for the company 

• How sales and marketing will collaborate as the partner program develops

 

Why It's Essential To The Company:

Partnerships are the new growth engine. Growth can no longer come from paid clicks alone. Therefore, a company that embraces a strategic partner program will augment their paid click performance. The sheer value partners and a quality partner ecosystem deliver to the business, including brand equity, industry prominence, and most importantly, trust, are all factors that will contribute and drive value for the company far beyond a paid click. 

 

Expectations both near term and long term are for the company:

Creating and growing partnerships and partner ecosystems take time. In essence, partnerships are business relationships built on trust. Trust comes from doing the right thing and adding value to the partnership over time. As with any quality relationship, initially, things seem to move slowly, but the upside is once trust has been established, driving incremental growth and revenue will naturally occur over the long term.   

How sales and marketing will collaborate as the partner program develops:

Marketing should align with partner objectives, support each partner and drive incremental value to each partner through blogs, webinars, social posts, and sometimes advertising. Sales should engage within the partner ecosystem and treat leads generated by partners as warm, valuable, and more likely to close. Depending on your nurturing strategy, great care and thought should be taken to ensure your nurturing process identifies leads from partners and presents a thoughtful customer journey that always recognizes where the lead originated. Doing so will reinforce the relationship between your two companies and the trust that has been built.  "

 

 

 

 



 

 

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