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Question

When you're focusing on growing partner marketing sourced pipeline, what are some issues you've seen that have resulted in failed campaigns/strategies?

Answer
There are a couple of common scenarios I’ve encountered. Firstly - lack of clarity on roles & responsibilities on campaign execution between your team and the partner team. Who’s driving the event, and who’s supporting? What’s expected in terms of promotion on both sides? Who’s running the content and sourcing internal and customer speakers? When you don’t have this mapped out clearly at the start of the campaign, you’re going to end up with work being duplicated, or just not being done at all. And the impact can be severe - poor registration rates, show rates, or worst case scenario, the campaign being scrapped completely. Typically at Intercom, we’ll centralize all our planning for co-marketing campaigns in a central shared doc, and use the DACI method to define roles across both teams. That way, everyone’s clear up front. The second scenario also comes back to alignment, and it’s a scenario where the joint value hook just isn’t there. It could be that the integration is super lightweight, or the buyer personas don’t overlap, or that there just isn’t a ton of shared social proof to tell a “better together” story well. I have to give a shout out to our partner marketer, Mark Iafrate, here, who’s created a helpful framework for us to get aligned up front with partners on joint value messaging before we plan any shared GTM campaigns. We’ve created joint messaging guides with our prioritized partners which cover the who, where, what, why, when, and how of the integration works and how the shared value proposition might resonate with our target audience. This makes planning any joint GTM campaigns much more straightforward, as we know what we’re anchoring to.
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
The short version: enable early, and often! The longer version: we’ve moved through several iterations of partner enablement at Intercom over the past 3.5 years or so. We’re mostly focused on our sales team (and our support team to a lesser extent) we have a number of different touchpoints we look to enable at: - During new hire onboarding: this is typically a higher level, foundational look at our ecosystem - who we partner with, why they’re important, and how to work with them - Live classroom training: this is usually planned as part of bigger enablement campaigns or initiatives, for example if we’re launching a new product which has a lot of exposure to our ecosystem, or if we’re launching a new sales playbook. Again this tends to be more high level and would cover a partner category - e.g. our analytics partners, or our phone partners - or a new process - e.g. how to use account mapping data in our CRM - Partner-specific enablement: these are usually shorter live sessions - we call them “Facts & Snacks” - where we’ll invite a partner to present an overview of their product, their integration, and their value proposition - as well as take Q&A from the sales team. This works well both for new partners, and as refresher training if we’ve got an updated partner integration - Always-on enablement: We have partner content housed in our LMS, which is used by both our Sales and Support teams. We’ll have more detailed content and playbooks for the partners we’re actively co-selling with, and shorter snippets for our other partners. Our processes and workflows are also documented here so sales and support teams know how to work with our team and how to engage effectively with partners For other stakeholder teams, we’ve done a more high level ‘partner roadshow’ in the past, aimed at providing an intro to our team and our ecosystem, as well as identifying potential opportunities for collaboration.
Question

What are some KPI's you would recommend for us to track to understand how well our partner adoption is performing?

Answer
I’m going to be very unhelpful here and answer this question with a question 🙂 The answer to this is going to depend on what you mean by ‘performing’ - what does mean for your business? And does this differ based on partner type? For example - you might want to set up and track one set of KPIs to measure how the adoption of implementation partner services impacts on your customers’ time-to-value, and their eventual renewal and expansion rates. From this, you can start to form a view on which partner services are most impactful, and where you need to build partner capacity to maximize that impact. You could also take this same approach with technology partners and measure these metrics based on a specific integration, or combination of integrations. Or, you might want to track revenue impact more explicitly - ie tracking revenue growth that is directly related to or correlated with adoption of a specific integration. As with all KPIs - the best first step is to take a step back, and understand the 'why' behind the KPI, before setting it!
Question

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

Answer
Not-so-serious answer: As many as possible! Serious answer: Partner strategies can’t exist in a vacuum. Our success is directly dependent on the alignment of other teams - but the inverse is also true. If you’re building a partner strategy, you’ve got to be super clear on how your ecosystem is going to map to your broader business strategy, and that you’re aligned with broader business priorities. Then, it becomes a question of understanding who’s responsible for each of the success pillars you’re mapping to, and recruiting champions within the leadership of each of those teams. This might look like: Pillar 1 - Awareness - How do partners drive increased brand reach and tap into new markets? Your stakeholder here is probably going to be in your marketing / demand gen team - find them and align with them. Pillar 2 - Sourced revenue / logos - How will partners source net new revenue for your business? How well are they doing this today and how does that compare to your other sales channels? This will typically map to sales / growth leadership - another key champion. Pillar 3 - Activation & maturity - How do partners help unlock value within your product or extend the value out? How does this move the needle for your business today? Finding a champion here can be trickier - your stakeholders could be in your customer success org, or your product org if you’re mostly PLG - but they’re a vital party to have bought in. Pillar 4 - Retention & Renewal - How do partners help retain business? There might be macro trends to point to here (e.g. having X integrations connected to your product will boost retention by Y%), or more specific examples - you’ll have product, CX and probably sales leaders championing this and responsible for this number. And remember - partner strategies are inherently unique and proprietary - because your ecosystem is unique and proprietary! - so think through what your version of the above might look like before you start stakeholder mapping.
Question

How do you know if your partner enablement strategy is successful?

Answer
Some leading indicators here might be: are you seeing more requests for partner intros? An uptick in engagement with partner content in your LMS? An uptick in mentions of key partners in your call recording software? Ultimately though, improved partner enablement is going to show up downstream, in metrics like partner influenced revenue (new and existing business), partner-assisted retention, and improved activation & maturity rates through higher integration install rates.
Question

What are the most effective examples of co-marketing you've done or have seen recently? (What channels, resource types, etc.?)

Answer
The funniest, most attention-grabbing co-marketing campaign I’ve seen this year has to be Vidyard doing a Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation video knockoff to celebrate them joining the Salesloft ecosystem a couple of months back. I hope it got a ton of impressions on LinkedIn for them, it was hilarious and informative at the same time, and it's stuck with me since! Closer to home, I love the annual Customer Service Trends report our marketing team produces at Intercom. We’re into our third or fourth year of producing it now, and we partner with a couple of key tech partners, as well as a community partner, to produce an incredibly well rounded range of insights and benchmarks. It’s a full integrated campaign for us, with the report at the centre of it, plus email and webinar activities as well. Webinars have consistently performed well for us since we started to run a partner webinar program in 2020. I mentioned Mark earlier in this AMA and this feels like a good time to mention his killer guide at https://partnermarketingguide.com - which has a ton more insights on how we've scaled co-marketing at Intercom.
Question

Any recommendations for online certified training on Channels and Partnerships that are really good?

Answer
I’ve recently started to work my way through my first Partnernomics course, and I’m really enjoying it, particularly the industry insights. Multiple certifications ahead! Firneo looks great for early career professionals especially. And honestly, I’m a huge fan of community resources like Crossbeam Insider and the Partnership Leaders community - both have a ton of peer-generated content and insights.
Question

What sort of revenue goals or other goals should I be setting for my service / certified partners program? What does the exec team need to see to know the program is going well and growing?

Answer
This is a tough one to answer without more specifics - but I’ll hazard a guess you already know what your exec team cares about this year. It’s probably along the lines of efficiency, effectiveness, profitable growth, defensibility - some or all of the above. So, the closer you can attach to those focus areas in terms of the KPIs you create and manage to, and the targets you set for yourself, the better. And if you’re early stage, it’s super critical to be able to show the progress QoQ and to show that you have a healthy, diverse partner pipeline. If you don’t have a dedicated revops resource, make friends with someone in your revops team ASAP. Buy them coffee and a donut and ask them to show you the ropes on reporting!
Question

What metrics are top of mind for executives and leadership teams when deciding to increase spend on partner budget?

Answer
To expand a little bit on my earlier question - they’re going to care most about demonstrable impact your team is having, that’s clearly aligned with wider business priorities. So be prepared to dig in and show up as a strong driver of new business growth and/or existing business expansion and retention. But, in addition to that, being able to show comparative impact versus other channels on things like win rate and deal size, as well as team metrics like productivity, is really crucial.