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Question

What are some common pitfalls to avoid for tech partnership programs?

Answer
Not deeply understanding your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), your KPI, and the resulting IPP (Ideal Partner Profile). Having these points buttoned up tightly will vastly improve your ability to source and evaluate successful partnerships. Making programs too complex when you are just getting started. You may not need tiered programs or top of the line partner ops tools when you only have a handful of partners. Keep it simple initially and add complexity needed as with program growth. Not viewing integrated customers as joint customers. Instead consider thinking more about the workflows or insights the joint solution is providing those customers. There is some unique value that can be driven ONLY by you and said partner. Find that value and make it as easy as possible for customers to access. Missing opportunities to reconnect with partners (even those who aren’t top performers). There may be a need your program is not meeting and once unblocked that partner may become a power player in your ecosystem. Track customer adoption AND activity where possible. Activity will provide context for improvements and innovation down the line.
Question

What are some ways to increase the adoption of tech partners/integrations with your existing customer base?

Answer
Creating additional moments for customers to become aware of, be inspired by, and easily implement. These can take the form of: - Including announcements of new integration launches and success stories in customer newsletters (I had to get at least one mention of email marketing in here 😀) - Ensuring the integration connections are as simple as possible and easy to find within your application. - Implement in app notifications (with the appropriate context of course) - Sharing content about successful customers using the tech partner/integration <--- this is my favorite option and makes for great sharable social media content as well. - Creating very clear setup documentation and templates/recipes for success - Host workshops, courses, and challenges for customers interested in using the integrations - Provide some sort of training to the sales or customer success teams (for both partners) where possible. The more comfortable these folks are in understanding the solution’s benefits and implementing the tool the more easily they will be able to make recommendations during conversations with customers. That’s a win! - Talk to integrated customers (from power users to folks who installed but have not used the integration). Use your findings as a guide. Regular and power users are going to be the best fit for the integration in its current state — knowing this you can find more existing customers that match their characteristics. Then make adjustments to the integration if necessary to convert those inactive integrated customers to active ones.
Question

Do you track revenue coming from tech partners? How?

Answer
Yes, absolutely! The “how” depends on the type of attribution your team uses and what data points you’re tracking. I typically focus on net new revenue and existing revenue growth associated with integrated customers. The keys are 1) identifying/tagging new customers that partners are sending your way 2) associating revenue to the customers 3) observing partner sourced revenue over time 4) evaluating any longer term revenue trends (i.e. significant LTV increases or decreases). The standard options for tracking are: - lead submission forms - referral tracking links & cookies - coupon codes - the good ol Google Sheets reconciliation once a month (0/10 stars, would not recommend unless absolutely necessary. This method works and is very easy to implement BUT is prone to errors and time consuming). - APIs that can provide transactions and transaction source data Once you have a clear view of the customers that have been sent over you by a particular partner you can then run reports against these segments within your team’s data platform (ie Mode, Looker, Grafana, etc). Be sure to include the revenue associated with each customer. If you don’t have access to these tools an sql query against your database directly might be another option. There are also great tools out there to help streamline this entire process — PartnerStack is a favorite of mine — keep in mind you will likely need engineering resources to integrate these tools into your payments systems.
Question

What are some of the most important activities for a partner manager to do to improve technology partner adoption?

Answer
I cannot stress the importance of having and using IPP (Ideal Customer Profile) before beginning any type of partner recruiting — honestly this should be done before programs are built but I digress. The IPP allows you to clearly define the characteristics of your best fit partners. When both teams find overlap magic can definitely happen. Discovery calls. During these calls listen to the concerns partners raise and (hint at). Encourage your colleagues to be frank, so you have a clear picture of the opportunity or lack thereof. If interest, opportunity, and resources are available, prioritize that partner and frame the benefits you can provide to ease any concerns. Help partners make the business case: Share case studies or data with the partner that illustrate an integration’s ability to help them achieve their KPI. Regularly touch base with the partners you are managing, this keeps your team fresh in their minds and allows you to ensure that the benefits your program offers align with those goals. Clear documentation and readily available technical support. If you don’t have a PM assigned to integrations/technology partners or an engineer is not available to help I often look to CS team’s more technical team members for help. Building out integration guides (in addition to clear documentation). These guides should serve as a roadmap for the full adoption process. They should also be geared towards the non technical people who will be involved with this process (ie Partner Managers). They should provide context on the benefits of adoption, guided code snippets and their uses, mockups, best practices, examples of successful implementations, resources needed, and timelines for GTM. Check in during the build process and proactively offer support. There have been many times an integration has been deprioritized because a roadblock has been hit and no easy access to support was available. Provide partners methods to measure how successful their efforts have been. Offer training for partners, sales teams, and customer success teams. Make sure your sales and customer success teams are also in the loop.
Question

What can I ask from my tech partners to make it easier for us to get our customers to look at and use their software?

Answer
- Demos or Recordings - Paid tier test account (with dummy data if possible) - Partner's competitive features - Description of actions that indicate "successful" customers (you can build support documentation or automated messaging around this to optimize outcomes) - Customer success stories with recognizable and relatable customers (along with features used and how they were implemented) - Office hours/Webinars - Offers (non-OTOs (one time offers) should be tied to continue connectivity or activity)
Question

What is your go-to playbook for activating newly recruited partners?

Answer
I like to break new activation into 3 phases: discovery, onboarding, enablement. During discovery your focus is gathering information needed to evaluate the partnership (and set rough targets), understand the partner’s goal, find overlaps in those goals with your own, and identify the correct point of contact/decision makers for partnerships activity. There may or may not be NDAs that need to be executed. Once initial conversations conclude, and you confirm the partner is a “good-fit”, agreements are typically signed. Now we head into onboarding. This is when you will begin to set communication cadences, educate the partner on your platform/service/tool, and begin to share brand assets and resources. Partners are also typically provided access to portals and or slack channels (where applicable). Setting up an autoresponder can be extremely helpful in streamlining this process, but only use this method to deliver resources and walk the partner through basic onboarding steps. With anything else I would lean on making the communication more personalized — remember you are building a relationship with this partner. A sample sequence can look like this: Welcome message: Introduction to the program, share support contact information, reminder of benefits & expectations (aka goals) Resources: How to access to access the portal, training materials, and partner resources available Activity 1: Reminder to schedule training sessions Activity 2: Booking a kickoff meeting Resources: Samples of best practices (to reach agreed upon goals) and relevant resources Most PRMs will have some functionality to help with this, but you can also always use an ESP like AWeber too. Last, but not least, you will move the partner into the enablement phase. During this phase you will begin your normal outreach cadence. Activities typically include: Bi-weekly to Monthly check in calls (these should be more frequent earlier in the relationship or when a GTM activity is underway). You can also substitute calls for async emails or slack communications. I also recommend including partners on some sort of newsletter to provide feature updates, new opportunities, etc. Announce the partnership (where appropriate) Plan and execute initial partner activity (this varies based on the type of partnership but blog swaps or webinars are a great place to start) Revisiting partner goals and tracking progress against those goals (goals can range from completing training to new customer acquisition or a set number of connections to an integration. Discuss areas for improvement, roadblocks, and any upcoming initiatives (from both your end as well as the partner’s)
Question

How do you choose which technology partners are a good fit for your business?

Answer
The short answer is: align partner selection around your ideal customers, IPP, and KPI. When I am identifying potential partners for outreach I first build a list while considering the following: Reviews of specific tools your customers use outside of your platform The personas/or use cases your company serves most effectively. What tools/platforms are these folks using? What workflows could be streamlined with an integration? As the program grows take a step back and look at the types of tools your successful customers use (ie CRMs, Website Builders, Communications Tools, Hardware, Sales Automation). Find all the major players within these areas. Once I have an initial list together I begin to gather information to evaluate each potential partner’s alignment with my team’s mission, values, and goals. I use a simple scorecard that has each of the IPP characteristics and requirements outlined — each value is weighted based on its importance to the team. Willingness and ability to build are line items on this scorecard by the way. The higher the total score, the more tightly aligned that prospect is to our partnerships program. More highly aligned partners are the relationships that are typically more likely to succeed, so they are prioritized for further exploration. It is valuable to review these evaluation metrics from time to time … things change after all. Also, take a look back at existing partners and determine which partners are helping you meet goals consistently. Find or grow more of these partners.
Question

What's your advice on aligning partners with our sales pitch and how to we enable them to successfully pitch to our customers?

Answer
The most effective way I have used to ensure partners align with your sales pitch is to provide training. The training does not have to be long or live. However the training should be run by someone from your team who can effectively emulate how pitches should be made. Providing enablement materials (ie 1 pagers, decks, email templates, talk tracks, case studies, and key value metrics) that can be used during these conversations is also helpful. Be sure to refresh these resources regularly. Conduct joint pitches with partners if your team has the resources. Provide easily accessible support (another repeating tool in the toolkit) and open lines of communication for feedback. Track failed pitches as well as the reason for the nos. Use these to improve the pitches and/or product.
Question

What milestones or initial goals are good ones to set up for ISV partners after they complete and integration and become an official partner?

Answer
Milestones can vary wildly from program to program. Factors include KPI, the size of the ISV/Tech partner, growth rates, how deeply integrated the solution into the platform or sales cycle, platform complexity, customer type, etc. That said, I have seen quite a few programs with initial partner milestones ranging from 10 - 100 connections. These lower ranges make “unlocking” basic program benefits attainable and are likely to encourage partners to continue moving towards the next milestones. You will also get to see how quickly some partners blow past these milestones… keep an eye on those folks. They may be killer partners for scaling. Only time will tell the long term value of those connections. The next milestones you see are typically gated at 250 - 500 connections, 1K connections, 5K+ connections. Again this varies quite a bit. Beyond that I generally take the following approach to setting goals: If possible, I like to get an average [insert your specific metric here :) ] partners drive in their first month/quarter/year and beyond. Then I use these averages to tailor goals towards partners within these specific buckets. Otherwise, I take a look at my KPI and determine how much revenue/LTV lift/new connections I need to hit that goal within a certain time frame. Next I determine a realistic rate for that KPI based on relevant existing data — this could be industry data, your company’s average conversion rate, or ARPU for example. Then I would calculate the average number of connections per partner I would need to hit that goal.