8 of the Most Innovative SaaS Tools for Partnerships
Nikita Zhitkevich lives in the world of partnerships. He leads partnerships and alliances for PartnerStack, which is a leading PRM and partner marketplace.
Nikita shared his insights on when you need a PRM, identifying your ideal partners, strategies to avoid channel conflict, and how he sees the partnership landscape evolving over the next 5 years.
Can you tell me about PartnerStack and what makes it different from other PRMs?
As a graduate of Y-Combinator, PartnerStack has been rooted in helping some of the world’s fastest growing SaaS companies scale. Companies like Asana, Monday.com, Unbounce, Intercom, and Intuit all use PartnerStack to manage and scale their partner programs, and onboard thousands of partners into our platform.
There are a few unique aspects to PartnerStack, which has led us to becoming the #1 platform on G2.
PartnerStack is the only solution that has both the PRM and a B2B focused marketplace that connects vendors with partners. On average, our marketplace drives a 30%+ lift in revenue for customers.
We are extremely focused on partner experience, which is a big distinction for us. Most PRMs are focused solely on the vendor experience. But if both sides of this equation are not having a good experience, then it becomes a problem.
And with PartnerStack, all of your channels can be managed from a single platform - affiliate, referral, reseller and ambassador. We see a lot of companies, agencies, and resellers choosing our platform to help them consolidate their channels into a single view.
How is your partnership team structured at PartnerStack?
Our team is still relatively young, as we launched it in April. The majority of this year has been building relationships and working with both agencies and resellers.
I lead the team, and we have an incredible Account Manager that works closely with our partners, as well as a partner marketing manager that works on any co-marketing efforts we run with partners.
Our partnership team is currently focused on two core areas:
First, working with agencies and resellers that are currently reselling SaaS vendors, bringing those vendors onto PartnerStack.
Secondly, working with agencies and resellers that are looking to shift their existing customers onto a modern partner management solution.
We often work with sales when one of their SaaS prospects wants to launch PartnerStack right away but doesn’t have the internal bandwidth. In those cases, we connect them with an agency partner who we know can do it right away and do it well.
Technology partnerships are also on our radar. We have recently built a number of integrations. One of our goals in 2021 and going into 2022 will be to further build out our technology partner program and our own integration marketplace.
We also plan to enter the app marketplaces of other SaaS vendors, especially CRMs like SugarCRM or Hubspot. CRMs are good partners for us because, with the exception of Salesforce, no CRM has a PRM as part of their product offering. So our software is complementary rather than competitive. And it benefits our customers to have those systems integrated.
“If you’re planning to scale your partnerships at all, you need the infrastructure in place to do this.”
What advice would you give for organizations trying to think through who their ideal partners are?
Ultimately, everything has to come down to revenue. Whether you’re pursuing referral, reseller, or technology partnerships, you have to tie them back to driving revenue.
Especially since you need the support of other departments in your organization, whether it is collaboration with the sales team or the product team to help build integrations, the benefit to the business needs to be very clear.
For agency and reseller partners, I would advise looking to see if they power similar products to yours. I’d also think about whether the partner will continue to evolve over time in the direction you are going and whether they truly understand your product and space.
Over at the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance, we hosted a Partner Tech Showcase that highlighted 8 of the most interesting SaaS tools for partnership leaders.
Check out the recording here, and read on for a summary. If you're in partnerships, we highly recommend you check out these tools to better understand how they can accelerate your partnerships.
Too many partnership leaders are still onboarding partners with Google Forms, communicating over email, and sharing data in spreadsheets. Partner portals are often not used by partners, and when they are, they do not connect to other teams' (like sales or product)'s data or workflows. Not only is this time consuming, it misses opportunities (like partners who could assist on particular deals but are never reached out to) and fails to capture the true business impact of partnerships.
By utilizing the SaaS below, your workflows can become more efficient, you can discover new opportunities, and you can demonstrate your impact to partners and internal teams.
The first presentation was from WorkSpan, an ecosystem management platform. Amit Sinha, the cofounder, shared how WorkSpan is both a network of partners and platform for collaboration.
WorkSpan enables co-marketing and co-planning, but their demo focused on the co-selling functionality. They showcased how WorkSpan's bidirectional CRM integration between not just your organization's CRM but also to your partner's CRM enables sales people and partnership leaders to fully leverage opportunities.
The demo demonstrated how easy it for sales teams to send referrals to partners, and for partners to accept the referral no matter if they are working in WorkSpan or in their CRM. Sales teams can receive referrals from partner sales teams and partner's partner teams without ever leaving their CRM.
In addition, the integration enables both sales teams and partner teams to have shared visibility into how referrals are progressing and what outcomes have been achieved. WorkSpan reporting shows partner-driven results and outcomes, and enables sales teams to see and understand which opportunities were partner sourced or influenced.
Pronto is an ecosystem management platform that enables collaboration with all types of partners. Scott Shepard, Pronto's head of sales, showed how Pronto enables you to create customizable partner onboarding forms that can be embedded on your website. You can also design the partner onboarding experience to fit the needs of your program and partner type.
Once your partner goes through the onboarding process, you will be notified in your dashboard. In addition, Pronto includes enrichment data on the partner that can help you make informed decisions on whether the partnership will be valuable. At that point, if you approve the partner, they will then get an invitation to join Pronto so you can collaborate together from a shared dashboard.
Pronto is highly configurable so you can share different items and data with different partners, as well as collaborate with multiple partners jointly. There are many core functionalities you can deploy in your Pronto partner portal, but Scott highlighted tasks, account and opportunity management, fiscal planning, solution planning, and co-marketing. With co-marketing, you can share assets, launch campaigns, and manage leads from within Pronto, in addition to sending data bi-directionally to your CRM.
Scott also highlighted Pronto's reporting, which gives you real time insight into how all your partnerships are performing, both at the individual partner level, partner type, and entire ecosystem view.
Tackle.io powers SaaS companies' listings in all the cloud marketplaces, including AWS, Azure, GCP, and Red Hat's. Guhn Chang, a sales engineer, shared the importance of having a transactional listing in these marketplaces if you want to have successful co-selling relationships.
Building a transactional marketplace listing can take 3-4 months of engineering time in addition to regular upkeep. In contrast, Tackle can get your listing live in 3-4 weeks, without needing engineering resources from your team. Tackle integrates into these marketplaces on your behalf.
As part of onboarding to a new marketplace, Tackle's marketplace architects work with you to ensure your marketing content is effective and that you're choosing the right pricing. They also have an LMS with educational materials that you can access on best practices for optimizing your listing and your relationship with cloud providers.
Tackle also enables private offers and surfaces analytics on these offers and their status within the dashboard. They provide guidance to your customers on how to accept the deal - which is a common pain point in the market, leading to delayed deals and lost revenue.
Tackle aggregates and reports the data on your transactions in each marketplace, enabling you to easily view your performance and return on investment. They have additional functionality that enables you to set and control usage based billing to your customers through a GUI.
Pandium is an integration marketplace as a service, designed for you to launch your own in-app marketplace in weeks instead of months or years. CEO Cristina Flaschen showed how the customizable front-end marketplace provides a place for customers to discover and install apps from inside your SaaS product.
In addition to powering the front-end experience, which can be customized without code, Pandium also provides integration infrastructure that enables you to provide your customers with native integrations at scale. These integrations may be built by you, by your partners, or by your third parties, as Pandium is language agnostic and does not require learning a proprietary platform.
Cristina shared that with Pandium-powered integrations, your customers can self-install and configure integrations directly from the marketplace (or if preferred, from other places within your app.) In addition to customers being able to self-serve without learning a new piece of middleware, your non-technical CS team can use the Pandium dashboard to view customers' activities and troubleshoot any issues.
Pandium's reporting enables your team, your partners, and your customers to easily see integration usage and the marketplace analytics that are relevant to them. As a result, you can more easily understand which integrations are being used, and how that connects to business metrics like retention and upsells.
Partnered is a platform for account-based networking. Drew Lincoln shared the dashboard that enables networking, deal navigation, and messaging.
In the networking functionality, there are many ways to add new partners, including inviting directly in the platform or manually sending an invite. You can connect to your CRM to pull in data. They also have a beta integration with Crossbeam that will soon enable you to surface data from Crossbeam to find partners to connect with on Partnered.
Drew shared the Deal Navigation part of the platform, which provides you with a place to co-sell and manage deals. You can see all your current deals that you are working and any overlap with your current partners, which can surface opportunities for collaboration.
On the individual deal view, you can see more granular information on who is speaking to the account from your partners and what and when their latest activity was. Once you discover a partner who is in a position to help on the deal, you can message them directly on the platform to get them involved.
This information can all be pushed back to your CRM so that sales teams can see all the introductions that were made and track influence. There is also a Partner Chrome extension that can be used on LinkedIn to surface connections when you are looking at a prospect.
PartnerStack is a multi-channel tool for managing different types of SaaS partnerships and commissions. Nico DiPlacido, head of PartnerStack's solutions team, showed how you can easily design many different partner programs and experiences from the PartnerStack dashboard.
He highlighted how you can create experiences optimized for affiliate partners and reseller partners, each who have distinct objectives. The co-marketing functionality, for example, enables you to share and manage email campaigns or ad campaigns with your partners depending on how you collaborate with that type of partner.
Nico shared what an experience might look like from your partner's perspective when they are logged into the portal. In addition to being able to collaborate with your partners through shared resources, activities, affiliate links, deal registration, and reporting, PartnerStack manages the commissions and payouts to your partners on your behalf, including the tax and compliance. As a result, you don't have to process dozens or hundreds of different payments every month.
Nico also showed the PartnerStack marketplace, where as a software vendor you can list your partner program. Affiliates and resellers who are already on the platform because of other partner programs they belong to can then discover your program listing and apply to join.
Partner Insight helps you collaborate and share analytics and results with your partners. Roman Kirsanov, CEO and founder, showed the dashboard where you can easily see all your partners by partner type, pipeline, overall status of each stage in the pipeline.
Roman highlighted that by clicking on an individual partner, you can see even more detail, including all their associated deals, dates, stages and an activity feed. You can also see high level metrics on the partner in terms of how much pipeline they have driven. This data is integrated with your CRM.
Your partner can access this same view after you invite them to the platform, which can be done by clicking a button. Once partners have onboarded, you can share these analytics, as well as other resources, from within Partner Insight. An integration with Slack makes it easy for you and your partner to be notified in real time if there is a matter that needs your attention.
Roman also shared the onboarding flow from the perspective of your partners. This experience can be customized by you, but is easy and intuitive to make it as simple as possible for your partners to join.
Crossbeam is a partner ecosystem platform designed for partners to share account data. Julian Jones, a Crossbeam account executive, shared how Crossbeam can be used for partners to securely share data on prospects and customers, and control exactly what data they are sharing and for how long. By doing so, you can surface overlaps in target accounts, shared customers, and opportunities for partner influence.
Julian highlighted how you can connect any data source to Crossbeam, from a CRM to a database or CSV. With Salesforce, for example, you can easily select which fields you would like to bring into Crossbeam. After you create Populations of data on Crossbeam, you can connect with partners on the platform to share only the data you select to.
Once you are sharing data, Crossbeam visualizes different overlaps at a high level so you can understand what populations overlap for you and a particular partnership. A high number of shared customers, for example, might mean a product integration would be beneficial. Or a high number of shared prospects might lead to effective co-marketing or co-selling campaigns with a partner.
Julian also demonstrated that you can create more granular reports on these overlaps to gain an account-level understanding of where you and your partner may be able to help one another. You can easily notify partners when you see an opportunity from within Crossbeam via an email being sent or a Slack notification. In addition, the data and activity in Crossbeam can be synced back to your CRM where it can be utilized and recorded.