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Question

What are the first things you would recommend a partner manager do when building out a new program from zero to one?

Answer
I've built out the initial version of Hopin's service and technology partner program, so this question hits close to home: 1. Align with internal stakeholders Partnerships is a team sport. Your top priority has to be to align your partner program with your company OKRs. Otherwise you're out of a job before you even got started. If possible, work closely with the CEO to understand how your partner program fits into their vision for the company. On top of that connect with GTM, product, and engineering leaders as well as relevant individual contributors. Your internal coalition of support is the foundation for any successful partner program. 2. Meet with existing partners Chances are your org already has some loosely defined existing partnerships or preferred vendors. Given the relationship, these partners will always want / deserve special treatment. If you ignore them, they could be your worst nightmare. But if you treat them well, they'll be your most engaged collaborators and trusted advisors as you scale your program. 3. Start small, and give less than necessary. For both a tech and service partner program, it's key to start small. Max. 3-10 in your first cohort. Treat this initial cohort as your inner circle, and listen carefully to their needs from the programs. If I could do it all again, I'd be stingy with the benefits early partners receive. It's always easier to give more benefits later, than take away perks. Mistakes will be made and you'll inevitably step on some toes. That's why program size is important. It's easier to clean up after a few partners than change the rules on 100.
Question

What's the most effective way to scale partner adoption beyond the first few partner engagements that happen?

Answer
From my experience, there are two types of partner activation activities: Ad-hoc: Flash in the pan type activations. Email blasts, launches, SPIFFS etc. They can be a great spark to start the fire, but by itself they're meaningless. Embedded processes: customers receive recommendations for different partners as they use the product. These require more investment and long-term commitment to a partner, but yield the best results over time. One example here is our live streaming product StreamYard. We work with massive social media companies, and many of them have featured us in posts or emails. Yet the best lever for sustained partner-led growth are the onboarding flows for new creators when sign up to live stream on a platform. Embedding yourself in workflows of the partner tool works because customers self-select (e.g. by trying to live stream) and are therefore receptive to your pitch.
Question

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

Answer
Most people assume that a tiered partner approach works best: hold a carrot on a stick (e.g. the next tier of your partner program) and make the partner work for it. Assuming you done your diligence and the partner is relevant and capable to serve your customers, try to invert this approach: Ask not what your partner can do for you. Ask what you can do for your partner. Give first. Prove to them that your program is not all hype, but you can provide value to their business. Send them leads or make relevant intros. It'll be much easier for your champion in the partner org to unlock resources for your partnership if they have the numbers to back up this investment.
Question

What's the absolutely best way to coordinate those early co-selling conversations between AEs and the prospect?

Answer
In the beginning, my biggest mistake was to preach co-selling to all Hopin AEs equally. The truth is not everybody cares... yet! Identify a handful of high-performing AEs who "get" partnerships. They often have prior experience co-selling and know the value of it. Chances are they were former partner manager, or want to switch into partnerships at some point. These AEs won't need a lot of hand-holding. Intro them to the partner AE and be a facilitator, not a manager. Let them do what they do best: close and expand deals.
Question

What marketing do you do in order to reach partners that are not in your program, so that you can get more partners?

Answer
From my experience, your best marketing is to close lighthouse partners. During the onset of our partner programs, we only focused on a handful of very high profile partners. Once we converted the market leader into a partner, all of their competitors came knocking on our door. We also deployed this approach when we built out the different verticals of our app store: 1. Identify a target vertical based on customer requests (e.g. donations during events) 2. Integrate with the market leader (e.g. Hopin + GoFundMe) 3. Competitors track GoFundMe, see the announcement, and then become inbound leads for our partner program.
Question

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

Answer
Easy: are there joint customers? If yes, who and how many? Over the past 3 years, I've found this to be the single biggest determiner for the success of a partnership. "Build it and they will come" can work, but it's a gamble. You want assurance that when you build the integration, somebody will use it. Similar for service partners and agencies: if they have happy joint customers, it means they a) know how to provide services for your product b) likely have a lot more customers who fit your ICP. Tools like Crossbeam and Reveal allow you to measure customer overlap before you commit to an integration. Joint customers are table stakes.
Question

What team leaders should be stakeholders in your partner program's strategy in order for the program to be successful?

Answer
This depends on the type of program you're building: services, technology, affiliate, or alliance partners. From my experience, it pays for partner managers to be highly connected within their company. When in doubt, schedule a coffee meeting. If it was relevant, make it a recurring bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly synch. Because partnership teams are so small, people often forget they exist. It's your job to toot your team's horn, celebrate every win internally and externally, and keep up to date with any major development that could impact partners.
Question

Do you recommend cold outbound for partner recruiting? Why/why not? What has worked for you if yes?

Answer
100%! I wrote a whole essay on why "Your first partner won't be an inbound lead": https://www.linkedin.com/posts/franz-josef-schrepf_partnerships-alliances-partnerprograms-activity-6988843687266897920-isJ0 TL;DR: To build a successful program, you need lighthouse partners. The market leader in an industry your customers care about and use. The tool all other competitors are trying to catch up with. If you partner with a lighthouse, it signals to both customers and partners that this is the place to be. The problem? Market leaders don't land in your inbound queue. The good news? Outbound doesn't have to be cold. If you're active in the partnerships community, you'll likely be able to score a warm intro. And if not, well-researched cold emails and persistence are key. What's the worst that can happen? You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.