View AMA
Question

How does your marketing team usually work with your partner team to promote partners to customers?

Answer
I think partner managers are worthless without great teammates from marketing, sales and product. The marketing team specifically helps you deliver on co-marketing campaigns, create case studies, launch ebooks, events, webinars, tc. In Hygraph, there’s a dedicated partner marketing person who owns any partner-related marketing activity, but we also work with product marketing because integration announcements fall more into their expertise. I think an important, but often overlooked part of “marketing” your tech partnerships is writing good documentation, so your tech writers will help you greatly too. So most of the time, the partner manager brings the idea, the opportunity to do something with a valued partner, and then the marketing team will help you make that happen. Most of the time the marketing team will have a backlog with tons of competing priorities, and it’s your job as a partner manager to help them evaluate the opportunity and assign a priority to it. Most probably you’ll also need design resources (sometimes it’s a different department, sometimes it sits with marketing). In that case, the best approach is to ask for some templates, something that you can work from when you need something quickly that’s relatively easy, but when you need some custom for a bigger campaign, you need to let them know well in advance.
Question

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

Answer
Tech partnerships / integrations are wonderful because it can help you enter new markets and make your product better / stickier, but too often, they just get built, but never adopted and they become a waste of time and resources. I think it’s just understanding the use case on a very deep level. Some integrations are a no-brainer, while some are nothing more than a nice-to-have. So the technical synergy is the baseline, and then once you have a pool of tech partners and use cases that you’d like to support, then comes the business aspect. How many customers do you have in common, how much revenue you can drive, what reach can they drive for you, what regions they’re strong on, etc. If the use case foundation is not there, building an integration is exercise in futility.
Question

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

Answer
The product should be the primary channel driving adoption. You can write the best newsletter, create the best promo video, spend a ton on ads, etc. If your integrations marketplace doesn’t feel like a core part of your product, it’ll be hard to drive adoption.
Question

What activities would you suggest for internal partner training to help the different teams and stakeholders in my organization learn about the partners we have in our ecosystem?

Answer
I think you need spend time on both face-to-face education as well as creating on-demand content (videos, one-pagers, etc.) to help your sales team understand the benefits our partners bring to the table. Be it a tech partner or an agency, you’ll need to create these resources and invest continuously in internal education. This is mostly important for more sales-driven organizations (as opposed to marketing-driven ones) though
Question

Do you track revenue coming from tech partners? How?

Answer
I think this is a hard topic, and there’s always gonna be a lead / opp that falls through the cracks in terms of attributing it to the proper partner, but there are some guidelines that can help. - partner-driven revenue: net new opportunities that a partner introduced to us () - partner-assisted revenue: when there was an opportunity already, but we co-sell with our tech partner and the integration use case helps us to close the deal - partner-influenced revenue: kind of a vanity metrics, but I also like to keep an eye on the MRR that is “touched” by integration partners (=paid by customers who are using at least one integration) Actual implementation varies greatly, but you should have fields in your CRM in the opportunity / deal level, so when you’re reporting pipeline and revenue numbers, you’ll be able to see: - at first, you only want to see if it was driven / assisted by a partner - then you’ll need to tailor it so you’ll also know which partners drive the most value
Question

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

Answer
It’s a bit of an overlap with other questions, but in a nutshell: - your marketplace (or any other format where you list your integrations) should feel like a core part of your product, not an afterthought that is just put there - work together with marketing to launch and then continously promote an integration - educate your sales team so when they’re in conversations with prospects, they’ll be able to answer integration related questions effectively
Question

I'm a founder of a one-year-old SaaS startup. When should I start looking for partnership opportunities?

Answer
Shortly, it depends. 🤷 Some startups adopt a partner strategy early on, but I think most of the time, you need to figure out your direct sales first, before thinking about your partner strategy. Here’s why I think that. When you’re very early in your journey / you’re a small startup, it’s inevitably harder to get the attention of bigger partners. You’ll only be able to partner with similarly small partners. Unless there’s a significant / important reason to do so, or unbelievable synergy between you two, I think it’s wiser to wait with going after partners when you’re at a later stage. It’s hard to put a headcount or revenue number on it, so I’d put it more like: once you have a revenue engine that stable (meaning you put more money / resources into it, it scales in a relatively predictable way) then you can start thinking about your partner strategy.
Question

What co-partner marketing activities are generating the best results in your opinion?

Answer
I like to rely on something that gated because your performance will rely on generated leads / pipeline / revenue, so in terms of co-marketing it's usually # of captured leads. In 2020, when the first wave of covid hit, we've had a full event strategy for the year ahead, and we needed to quickly come up with something for the loss of leads. I think plenty of us made the same exact decision, and we've seen webinar popping up every minute. For us it was successful, but I also found that the results deteriorated over time. At the time, we came up with topics like 'how to utilize these two software and their integration to reach your goals' but after a while, no one wanted to listen to those. So after that, we changed the topics a bit, and focused on thought leadership type of content and honest, open discussions rather than product pitches and features. Long winded answer there, but shortly, I think a webinar is usually a safe bet, but need to experiment with other formats and channels.
Question

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

Answer
Titles vary from company to company, but: CEO, CRO, CMO, CPO (this latter one only if tech partnerships are a focus area) Betting on partnerships is not a quick win, not something that can be done in a quarter. Thus, executive alignment needs to be there. After establishing a partnership team, it won’t magically start generating revenue, and I think it’s important to understand for every C-level executive, that there are other aspects / benefits a partnership can drive. Of course, after some more time, if partnerships is not a revenue-driving function, then something needs to be fixed. But it’s more on the scale of a year, than a quarter. (disclaimer: I’m in the fortunate position where the Hygraph C-level understands this more than anyone else I’ve worked with before. If you’re a partnership person who wants to work at a company that *gets* partnerships, feel free to reach out to me.)
Question

Can a potential partnership backfire at my company? If yes, could you share some examples?

Answer
Oh it absolutely can, and I always encourage everyone to choose partners carefully. Even if they’re trying their best to be a good partner (and they don’t proactively try to harm you in any way), things can backfire sometimes. In case of technology partnerships, the case I’ve faced a few times before was related to security breaches / data leaks. When one partner product gets breached, and hackers can get access to API keys used to authenticate the integration, you’ll also face some difficult conversations with your customers. Of course you’ll review the code, test the integration, etc. but in general, the best you can do is to prepare for these cases so you’ll be able to execute and mitigate the risks quickly I think.