Partner Program Strategy
Service partner

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

9 Answers
Avi Hercenberg avatar
Avi Hercenberg
SmartSuite VP of Partnerships
Figuring out the incentives and motives of your target partners is key. A lot will depend on what type of partner program you’re trying to build, but ultimately making sure there’s a win-win outcome and a worthwhile outcome for your partners is step number one. The other important thing when starting a partner program is to do things that don’t scale. Meet with every partner or even set up weekly/monthly calls to learn how it’s going and what they want/need. If you try scaling a partner program before working closely with the first few partners, the program will fail. The key to success is building very close relationships and spending a lot of time with your early partners so you can learn what works and what doesn’t.
Margot Mazur avatar
Margot Mazur
HubSpot Manager, GTM Strategic Partnerships
Do an audit. Take stock of what's going on at your company and understand the basics. How many customers do you have? How do you communicate with those customers? Where are customers struggling? How can partners help them? What matters to your leadership—leads? Sign ups? Trials? MRR? Awareness? Page Visits? What are the top two metrics you should be impacting? Get on sales calls as a fly on the wall and understand what customers' pain points are, where they are in their understanding of the problem you're trying to solve. Which other companies' products do they use? Why do they use them? Really get a good understanding of your customer. From there, get a sense of whether your company has tried various partnerships in the past and how they went. You should be able to now make informed decisions about which programs to start, which partners to target, and how to go about new campaigns. Research other companies' programs and get on calls with other partner managers to understand what worked well for them, where they saw friction. From there you should be able to write up a pretty good strategy. I hope this helps!
Daniel O'Leary avatar
Daniel O'Leary
Box Director of Partnerships
All of the biggest partner programs out there started with a single partner, and every partnership starts with going from zero to one and getting your first win or first customer win. And unless you are the famous Canadian Rapper Drake, you won't be going zero to one hundred overnight. When you are setting up a program in the initial phase or the scouting and discovery phase, you need to be looking for the right partners, looking at a lot of data and companies to determine the right partner fit for your customers and your target market. At this phase, focus on setting up at least 10 introduction meetings with potential partners, and work to qualify them in or out of the program you are building. I also recommend being up front with your new potential partners as to the state of the program and your goal to help them go zero to one and get agreement that the timing is right.
Kelly Sarabyn avatar
Kelly Sarabyn
HubSpot Platform Ecosystem Advocate
Do extensive research on the customer journey to understand which partner types are the most influential on their journey to becoming and staying a customer. From there, design ideal partner profile types and identify which ones will have the most impact on the strategic objectives of your organization. Then, set out to form partnerships with the top 3 partner types and carefully track the results.
Franz-Josef Schrepf (FJS) avatar
Franz-Josef Schrepf (FJS)
Hopin Head of Strategic Partnerships
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.
Jocelyn Toonders avatar
Jocelyn Toonders
Mention Me Head of partnerships
There are 4 pillars that need to be focused on when building a partner program, Culture, Structure, Enablement, Growth The very first things to focus on are culture and structure. Culture: Partnerships are a revenue role and partners need to be in every deal, with every customer. The core expectation must be to seek this out and not view partners as an outlier. It is important to have executive sponsorship and be able to influence the cross-functional leaders from the very start. The second part of culture is understanding what types of partners you need to collaborate with. What is the revenue potential, do they move at the same pace, do their stakeholders align with yours, do they add to your culture and align with your mission and vision. The criteria will change for every program but it is important to know what partners are right for you before you start. Structure: Thinking through the structure of your program will set you up for success. This pillar is really about what you need to motivate and support the partner function This includes laying out the different tiers within your program, feature, and resources available and essential systems such as partner directory or portal. The second part of this is structuring how you will forecast revenue and track and measure the success of each partner.
Josh Greene avatar
Josh Greene
Amazon Senior Manager AWS Marketplace Business
I would recommend starting categorizing the types of partnerships that are relevant to your company and also your prospective customers. Dive deep into who drives awareness, consideration and execution. Starting broad is good, map out what you know or don't know about the end to end ecosystem. Then using these insights to build interest and a coalition of sponsorship within your own company. You will require executive buy in, so plant to invest time and energy in educating and engaging the executive team from an early stage. This will allow you to help manage expectations and deliverables.
Nikunj Sanghvi avatar
Nikunj Sanghvi
Caspio VP of Alliances and Business Development
Understand the true win-win-win in a partnership for all the parties involved: for the vendor, their partner, and their joint customers. Often each party is looking for quick leads or referrals in a one-way direction, and that doesn't always work out. Negotiate internally if needed to ensure that the partners get something more than just a commission on your deals.
Kevin Kriebel avatar
Kevin Kriebel
Drata Vice President of Business Development
Position your company where your customers are. If the majority of your customers are cloud adopters, get yourself in the marketplace for AWS, Azure, & GCP (I recommend for getting listed quickly). Focus on smaller boutique partners who provide a service that complements your technology offering. They will be more agile and will help you get critical feedback early on as to how your product plays with partners and how the structure of your partner program is received. Wait to go after the bigger partners until you have enough revenue/logos to make them notice you.