A Partnership Leader Growing HubSpot’s Ecosystem Community
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.
Vince Menzione is an award-winning business leader who has embraced disruptive technology and built successful partnerships to transform organizations. On his podcast, Ultimate Partnerships, he unlocks success formulas, business strategies, and best practices of top technology leaders to help you thrive and survive in the rapid age of cloud transformation.
In this podcast episode he speaks with Kelly Sarabyn, the Platform Ecosystem Advocate for HubSpot and a strong GTM voice in the Partnership Community.
An Ecosystem Community Leader Joins Ultimate Guide to Partnering
Kelly Sarabyn is the Platform Ecosystem Advocate for HubSpot and a strong GTM voice in the Partnership Community. Communities are becoming an increasingly important aspect of GTM strategy.
You will learn why HubSpot created and is investing in this unique role focused on partner impact under Scott Brinker, an iconic ecosystem leader, how she applies her superpower to generate successful outcomes, the importance of Marketplace to Partner GTM strategies, and why this Partnership Ecosystem movement is so essential to the future of B2B. Kelly is a Partnership Leader uniquely growing HubSpot’s Ecosystem Community.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed welcoming Kelly Sarabyn.
In Kelly’s words
Kelly Sarabyn is the Platform Ecosystem Advocate at HubSpot, where she is focused on growing the ecosystem through partner engagement.
Previously, she led marketing at Pandium, an embedded integration marketplace, and was a partner at Woden, a branding agency. Kelly Sarabyn has been a strong and substantive voice in the Partner and Ecosystem Movement.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode
Kelly’s role, mission, and superpower (1:51)
The importance of Marketplaces to B2B (9:18)
How partnerships have changed in the last two and a half years (14:09)
“Partnership” is not an appendage, its an asset (18:54)
The biggest struggle – Product vs. GTM concerns (23:15)
What partnership ecosystems and communities have in common, and why building community around your partnership ecosystem can give you and your organization both a strategic advantage and a new lever to growth.
Welcome to The Ultimate Guide to partnering. And this podcast Vince Menzione. A proven sales and partner executive brings together leaders to discuss transformational trends and deconstruct successful strategies to help technology leaders like you achieve your greatest results through successful partnering. And now your host Vince Menzione.
Vince Menzione 00:40
Welcome to or welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to partnering. I’m Vince Menzione, your host and my mission is to help leaders like you unlock the leadership principles and learnings of the best in the business to get partnerships right.
Optimized for success and deliver your greatest results. For this next episode of ultimate guide to partner, I welcome the platform ecosystem advocate for HubSpot and a strong go to market voice in this partnership community. Kelly Sarah Ben, and I hope you enjoy this episode. As much as I enjoyed welcoming Kelly Sarah Ben Kelly, welcome to the podcast.
Kelly Sarabyn 01:21
Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Vince Menzione 01:24
I am so excited to welcome you to ultimate guide to partnering you are the platform ecosystem advocate for HubSpot, an iconic Mark comm brand, and a strong go to market voice in this partnership community. We’re all excited about
Kelly Sarabyn 01:40
me too. Happy to be here on this podcast that puts out so much good partner content into the community. For
Vince Menzione 01:45
our listeners. Can you explain your role and your mission at HubSpot?
Kelly Sarabyn 01:51
Absolutely. It’s a super interesting role. But it’s not a very common role. I think you only really see it at the larger ecosystems. But I think moving forward, we’re gonna see this role more and more, the scope of the role is basically a two partner marketing function. So really trying to grow the ecosystem by content events, really marketing to our partners and our prospective partners, right?
So then we can not only attract more partners to our ecosystem, but also increase the investment of our current partners. So companies do this really well for their customers, right. But as the partner becomes more important in driving revenue, and not just sourcing revenue, but the whole breadth of partner impact that we can have, I think companies are going to start looking at partners more as customers and thinking about how can we attract more of these partners?
How can we increase their investment in our ecosystem, and a lot of the playbooks that we have from marketing in terms of creating that ideal partner profile, but then also doing awareness getting out in the community all those motions can be applied to the partner journey. And my role, which is a new function at HubSpot is to sort of get those motions going here.
Vince Menzione 03:09
I love what you have to say here. First of all, the importance of partners customer, right, how do we attract and enhance revenue and recognizing the importance of this ecosystem? Where does your function sit within the organization.
Kelly Sarabyn 03:22
So I report to Scott Brinker, which is the head of platform ecosystem, which for HubSpot is all of our technology partners. So we have about 1200 technology partners, but also our asset partners, we recently have started to invest in our CMS partner program, and our CMS at large really to make it more of a robust tool and then have people who can sell templates modules on that marketplace.
So all of that kind of goes into the platform ecosystem. And then we have a different team, which is all of our 7000 solution partners. And my role, structurally is on this side of the house. But a lot of what I’m doing is really applicable to the broader partner ecosystem. So I anticipate working closely with the solution partner team to do things that are beneficial not only to potential tech partners, but to our potential solution partners.
Vince Menzione 04:21
So what I really wanted to get clear here for our listeners, is when you think about ecosystem at HubSpot, what does that include?
Kelly Sarabyn 04:28
Yeah, it’s a great question because I think in the traditional channel when people would say ecosystem, they would think technology partners ISVs. But if you go in more sass company world of sass companies that were maybe born in the last five years and have a more quote ecosystem approach, as Jay McBain says the decade of the ecosystem. They’re not just referring to tech partnerships anymore, right?
They’re referring to all partnerships, and how a company can leverage the entire ecosystem across all those different touch points, all the As different partner types, and I look at the scope of the role as broader because I don’t think that there are hard lines between those partner types but also within the partner community. And we’re investing more and becoming a platform. And so we’re having more and more solution partners who are really experts in the HubSpot product, build apps and extensions in this way they can put them on our marketplace and they are then both app partners and solution partners.
Vince Menzione 05:29
I love the work that HubSpot has done and Scott Brinker is he’s iconic in this space. Right HubSpot has been a model in the mark comm community and how you’ve grown the brand, and the valuation over the years, right?
Kelly Sarabyn 05:42
Yeah, I think he’s done an excellent job of really understanding and communicating the broader market. And certainly, he has a great brand presence himself that I think has really helped the ecosystem brand of HubSpot.
Vince Menzione 05:57
So you have had an amazing career, Kelly, what would you say is your superpower?
Kelly Sarabyn 06:02
I think what I would say is my biggest strength is that I can think strategically but also tactically execute on things. So my last role, I was the head of marketing at an early stage company. And when you are running a small team at an early stage startup, you really need to be able to execute, and you just don’t have the time or the resources to wait for other people to execute on everything.
But at the same time to do that, well, you need to think strategically. So a lot of times you have people who are great at thinking strategically seeing the bigger picture, and they may find positions where they’re just running large teams, and that works really well. And then other people are great at executing but they don’t really think about or see the business priorities at the most strategic level and then connect it back to their work. So I would say my asset is that I’m good at doing both.
Vince Menzione 06:56
And how do you see this superpower? A year or 18 months from now? What set of outcomes? Are you looking to achieve through this superpower?
Kelly Sarabyn 07:06
Well, at HubSpot specifically, I think it’s very valuable because it’s a new function at HubSpot. So I think it requires thinking strategically about how this role could have the biggest impact for our ecosystem and for our company, and then setting about figuring out how to get the resources and internal alignment to do it. And I think more broadly, this is actually a skill that’s extremely value for partnerships, people in general, the vast majority of organizations, it is constantly required for the partnership leader to be advocating for more presence, more internal alignment and thinking about how their role can best meet other people’s KPIs and the strategic KPIs of the company, but then really having to be gritty and work tactically to get it done.
Because in most organizations, not all but most partnerships start out and they’re kind of understaffed under resource. And they really have to make the case to penetrate throughout the whole organization. So I think the skill comes in handy there. And where I’d like to see myself in 12 to 18 months is having this function be more established, have it be more impactful and really exist across the entire partner journey in a coherent way at HubSpot.
Vince Menzione 08:24
So last year, before you joined HubSpot, you were at Panda comm. And you published a guide, a definitive guide to building an in app marketplace and marketplaces are just so important right now. So you can’t tell us more about that work.
Kelly Sarabyn 08:40
Yeah, I think that book is super valuable for people who are building out tech partnership programs, and also really thinking about how you scale out of tech Partnership Program marketplaces. If you look at the top 100 market, SAS companies 14% of them are transactional. And then if you look at earlier stage companies, it really plummets dramatically down where you don’t see that many that are transactional at this stage.
But nevertheless, most organizations do get a public marketplace first, and then they’ll build one that’s an app because of the in app marketplace is more technically complicated. So it requires more engineering resources. But ultimately, that’s what’s the best serves the customer, right? They want to be logged in. They want to be able to see which integrations do I already have installed?
surface to me integrations that are relevant to me, once you start to have hundreds or 1000s of integrations, the marketplace becomes something you really need to think about in terms of the user experience filters, search partner tears, what’s certified, what’s not certified. The book really covers the bigger picture, which is how do you pick the best partners to feature in your marketplace? How do you think about standards of quality? We always have this choice with partners.
Do we want to err on the side of having more partners or do we want to be more rigorous and vet for quality And vouch individual partners. And this is a platform question in general, right? If you look at tools like Fiverr, that’s a platform, you always run the danger. If you have too many sort of low quality services being offered, the user gets frustrated and turns away.
But if you go to the other extreme, you’re taking on a lot of time and resources. And you’re also reducing the quantity of options. So this is something platforms always have to pick a position and try to mitigate the trade offs. So this book walks through every component of framing those decisions. How do you think about this? How do you get the right partners?
And then how do you go to market around that off of the marketplace, it’s interesting, where in app marketplaces are, I think they’re going to be evolving and becoming much more sophisticated in the next three to five years. In terms of things like in app analytics that you really only see, at the probably top five largest marketplaces, the cloud marketplaces do a great job. Salesforce has a bunch of analytics in their app. But the vast majority of companies don’t yet,
Vince Menzione 11:03
as you might know, I work with ISPs quite a bit in the Microsoft, Google and Amazon world and marketplaces are really becoming are just coming into the forefront in those organizations. And many of those ISPs are still struggling in the journey, because they have had traditional channel markets, right? They’ve had other ways to go to market. What would you say to them about the importance of marketplace,
Kelly Sarabyn 11:28
I would say the way that is our buying is shifting to a more digital journey that businesses are moving away from interacting with the vendor AE, and really shifting towards self serve as much as they can. Now in enterprise deals, you’re still going to have the AE being involved. But even there, a lot of the sort of purchase decision and resources occur before and marketplaces can also make it so that you can really make the purchase point easier itself.
So for example, a lot of people go on to cloud marketplaces, and they buy a bunch of stuff on one bill that makes it easier for them. And I think that is where the market is moving. So if you don’t get in on that, you’re gonna just cut off a whole swath of your potential market, because that’s where companies are buying, right? You have to think about where your prospects are and how they want to buy and marketplaces are just becoming more and more important in the b2b world. So you really have to do the research to invest in which of the marketplaces are your targets on how are they buying? And how do you insert yourself there effectively.
Vince Menzione 12:35
I am so on board with what you have to say here. And I’ve been stressing this with these organizations. I appreciate your comments on this. It is flipping Andreessen Horowitz, which made a significant investment in tackle IO recently, has said they won’t replace that they will become the channel that marketplaces will become the channel. Do you agree? I agree
Kelly Sarabyn 12:55
that they’ll be they’re becoming a key and necessary and required channel for investment. And it is another channel right? Like you have to do in these larger marketplaces, you just can’t list you have to treat it like a channel, you need to figure out how to optimize your listing? Do you need to put in paid ads when available to get the listing up?
How do you get the listing to the top? And also how do you work with the humans on the other side of the platform to ensure you’re getting the most out of being on the marketplace? So I do think just going to become more and more important. And we see that if you look at the data year over year, and I think tackle the fact that tackle exist is really not only exist, but it’s done extremely well shows the importance of the channel once you have third party tools being built on top of these marketplaces to make them easier to work.
That really tells you how important it is as a channel. Yeah,
Vince Menzione 13:53
I’m in violent agreement with you here. I get to see what all of the hyperscalers are doing behind the scenes here to drive this. And I think it’s so important, like I said, we’re bringing along I always think about Crossing the Chasm, right, the early adopters, the laggards. I believe that the pandemic in one respect, and just everything we’ve seen in terms of acceleration in the last two and a half years, has moved so much across the chasm, right?
It’s accelerated so many things, which brings me to partnerships we’ve been living in this amazing time. And we talk about our dear friend Jay McBain he’s been on the podcast five times I call him a five timer now. He’s I have a rope for him. In fact, I’ve got to give him his five timer rope. But he’s sparked a revolution with his call that this is the decade of the ecosystem and so many people have been have jumped on it as well. Our good friends at partnership leaders, you and I are both members of the partner hacker community.
We’re both going to be presenting it at Jared and Isaac’s amazing event here pretty soon, but they’ve really ignited and sparked this idea. Just put gas on is probably the right term. How would you assess where we are now? And what do you believe is required to get to this fluid approach, we talk about partner going across the functional lines of an organization. Some organizations like HubSpot like Microsoft, they get it right from the instant they understand how to build it into the organization. Why do you see organizations still struggling here?
Kelly Sarabyn 15:26
I think organizations absolutely are still struggling. And I think the ones that aren’t are the exception, not the rule. And I think there’s a couple different things going on, right, we have the traditional channel that was very laser focused on the point of sale and resellers. And so I think that motion became very robust, and you even have technology that was built around it. But in the era of the ecosystems, that’s only really one part of the equation, it’s still a very important part of the equation.
But you have all these other ways that partners can impact the journey. And that’s from technology partners who are causing increased retention, upsells, increased product usage, to partners that are influencing the deal, but they are not sourcing it. And so I think part of the problem is that changing and shifting business model, which is a response to the changing buyer journey that we were just talking about, which is that buyers don’t want to just have cocktails, and a steak dinner with the enterprise AE and then hit up the golf course and then sign their million dollar deal, the way buyers want to buy now has become much more digital, it’s become much more community oriented.
People look to their peers, they look to industry associations, like partnership leaders and partner hacker. And they ask, what tools are you guys using? What do you recommend, and then, especially in the more enterprise sector, you do get to the vendor, but already so much as a decision has happened by the time that you get there. And for example, integrations is another thing, sometimes their deal breakers, and you will never even have a conversation with a vendor if they don’t have a particular integration.
So I think that shifting business model, larger organizations are struggling with how do we change we have our whole organizations are built around this more channel point of sale focus for partners, how do we work in all these other points where partners are having real business impact. And the other big struggle, I think, which pls that we’re both speaking at is, is so reference to right, they’re having each day of this conference, about different functions like marketing, sales, product, customer success.
And the truth of the matter is partnerships in this ecosystem conversation has not penetrated these other disciplines very well. It’s the exception that where the company really has partnerships lens applied throughout the entire org. And so partnership leaders are in this position of having to constantly advocate for themselves internally, and try to get these other departments on board, which is tough.
And I think partner hacker is saying, hey, let’s start to make this effort to get other business functions talking about us, let’s get CMOS, who are not partner marketers, and don’t work for a partner tech company, but just the CMO community, thinking about second party data, thinking about partners as an outsourced marketing team. But we’re not there yet. I’m a marketer.
I’m in those conversations, and I’m in the partnerships, conversations and partnerships. People are incredibly bullish on the importance of partnerships. But I’m not hearing that in the marketing community. And I’m not seeing widespread adoption. So I think that really is the biggest struggle is how do we get these other business communities talking about partnerships and understanding that they can leverage them to drive their own KPIs,
Vince Menzione 18:54
you bring up a good point with the CMO, not knowing not having lived in a partner function or a partner integrated organization. And then the CRO, and a lot of these SAS organizations, they get CROs that had been successful in other organizations. And again, just going back two years, right, dialing for dollars, applying the principles of selling the steak dinners and the golf outings and the relationship building exercises of the past and they come over to a new organization, they apply the same principles, right, and they don’t take partnership seriously.
It’s an appendage. It was the channel organization was this other thing over here, right?
Kelly Sarabyn 19:35
Absolutely. And I think a lot of times that persona is saying they want partnerships to essentially be another SDR team for them, right? Sources deal give us the deal, just like my STRS and that’s what I care about. And that’s how I view you, which is not very strategic, and it’s missing all those other points of partner influence and partner attachment.
And so the under Funded partner person has to figure out how do I start to prove out this impact on a small level, then make the case to get more headcount, get more partner operations, get more budget, and then you start to expand. It’s a hard job. It’s not easy.
Vince Menzione 20:17
It is a hard job. I’m happy to announce that partner tap has become a founding sponsor of ultimate guide to partnering. I’ve been friends with the founders of partner tap for many years. And partner tap is the only partner ecosystem platform designed for the enterprise.
Their technology makes it easy to align channel teams with automated account mapping, letting you control what data you share, while building a partner revenue engine. I’m so excited to have them on board. Be on the lookout for events, content and more. And I’m so excited to continue working together. And our exciting year ahead.
And what you said earlier to reminded me of the conversation about the five seats at the table, the decision is not being made the old way. Nobody’s picking up the phone anymore. Nobody’s looking at your digital ads. I’m just same way I purchased my jeep, I went to my five friends and I asked them what who would you buy? From? What options did you get? I made the decision before I went into that dealership. And people were making those same technology buying decisions.
Kelly Sarabyn 21:28
100% of organizations, especially marketing, I think, is really struggling with this because it’s in marketing, they refer to it often as dark social, and meaning it’s dark, because they can’t track it. Right. So at least now.
But I assume because of privacy concerns, a lot of these conversations will stay off the radar, and people struggle with things they can’t track. So even though I think there’s an increased awareness, that is indeed, how those decisions are made.
And that’s why you see more SAS companies buying communities buying media publications, because they’re recognizing that people are in those professional communities. They’re asking each other, they’re DMing each other, they’re DMing each other on LinkedIn. Right? And they’re aware, but they’re struggling, because when you can’t report it up or out to the board, it becomes a problem.
Vince Menzione 22:19
Yes, attribution is the biggest issue. And this is where the technology tech stack, or ecosystem tech stack is taking shape, and will drive I think, a lot of this attribution that we hope to see. So you were leading an online event in about another week. Can you tell us more about that? And I think it ties into this conversation, doesn’t it? Kelly?
Kelly Sarabyn 22:41
It definitely does. It’s really about how you scale Technology Partnerships. And we have the heads of technology partnership for MailChimp, chargebee Optimizely, tre. And it’s really going to be delving into their experience trying to scale these functions. And everyone on the panel spoke at catalyst, which is partnership Leaders Conference in August and wanted to follow up on some of those conversations and dig a little bit deeper into them.
And I think some of the things we’ll be talking about is this cross functional alignment, which protect partnerships. And maybe for all partnerships, the biggest struggle is how do you because tech partnerships really needs to stay aligned with a product roadmap, and they need to make sure that API’s and products are staying aligned with the entire ecosystem that they’re in. And so they need to do that. But they also need to balance product concerns with go to market concerns and ramp up all those go to market motions that you can have with tech partners.
So we’re gonna really be diving into both sides of that from vote, what do you need from product? How do you need to think about this? upfront? I think if companies don’t think about their product as a part of an ecosystem in the beginning, you really accrue a bunch of technical debt that is really hard to get out of just for an example, if you try to almost all modern SAS companies are working off of rest API’s.
So if you choose a different style of API, you’re putting this huge burden on yourself, because there’s not going to be as many developers who are familiar with with that model. So you’re asking them to learn something new. So they’re only going to do it if they consider it to be very strategic, which is going to shrink your ecosystem. And I think another common mistake people make there is not thinking about the data models in their industry when they’re starting to build out their product.
And when you do that, you are going to screw yourself because you’re not going to be able to be as interoperable as you should be, because there’s a lack of alignment. So really paying attention to that in the beginning is going to make your ecosystem journey much smoother, because you’re not going to get into a certain point where you’ve gone direct on your market and then you realize you need to be interoperable to go to the next level.
But all Your data models aren’t matching with the data models of the products you need to integrate with. It’s a huge problem.
Vince Menzione 25:05
Such an important topic on data and data models and common data models that we’re seeing from some of the big tech giants. Microsoft has a common data model, they call it data verse. And they apply that as well, because they they’re building out for health care, they’re trying to, they’re trying to get all of their ISVs all of their technology partners to align to that common model. So they can go to the customer as one unified solution.
Kelly Sarabyn 25:29
And that’s what the customer wants, right? The customer, you see all these studies on integration being what, like in marketing technology, it’s the most important consideration when you’re replacing a marketing technology system is how well does this integrate with other systems and fit across a lot of industries.
And it’s because the customer doesn’t want to spend a million dollars a year paying a system integrator to customize everything endlessly. They want to have more out of the box interoperability. And they want a solution to their problems.
They don’t care about the individual vendor in any way. They just want it to be a solution. And nowadays, that has to be a set of solutions, right? So if you can go to market together, and you’re already offering a comprehensive solution with your partners to the customer, then you’re going to be able to close a lot more deals.
Vince Menzione 26:21
Such another important reason why partnerships are so important, right? Coming to the customer with the whole solution
Kelly Sarabyn 26:26
just simplifies everything for them.
Vince Menzione 26:29
Yeah. Just makes so much sense. Why didn’t we think of that? So this event, super important. I can’t wait to join, we’re going to provide links in the show notes, Kelly, but can you tell us the time and date of the event?
Kelly Sarabyn 26:45
That is on October 27? At 3pm. Eastern?
Vince Menzione 26:50
October 27 3pm. Eastern can’t wait. So Kelly, you’ve had a fascinating career. And what struck me and I don’t know if it struck me as an outlier type of thing. But you went to Yale Law School. And I don’t know if I know anybody else in the partnerships world that went to Yale Law School. So I think that might be part of your superpower, I want to hear more about how that led your journey. But was there a spark that set you on this journey to where you are today?
Kelly Sarabyn 27:19
So how I got from lotta to this, I guess a longer story. But I think a lot of what I was saying before, when I was in the law, I was doing free speech law, I was writing a lot of our academic articles to support free speech. And I think that definitely working for a nonprofit organization, thinking about those things strategically, and also working on how to advocate for those things in real life. But for me, I’m just a very curious person.
So I love to learn new things. So if I can learn new industries, or learn new fields, that’s a huge plus for me and I. And I think I ended up here by happenstance, I actually stayed home with my children for five years after being in the lawn when I was looking to get back actually just stumbled across an ad for a branding agency, which was really focused on the storytelling model of how do you tell stories effectively for businesses so that they can connect with their audiences. And I just thought that sounded really cool and interesting. And so I started working there. And we worked with a lot of b2b tech companies.
And I really fell in love with the startup energy. I think tech field in general is just so exciting, like the potential and the ability for people to come up with really cool new ideas, and really just put themselves out there, right, like, just create a whole company from scratch to go raise money to get new customers. It’s just a very bold thing to do. So I really fell in love with the energy of startups. And I think moving forward, I the way I came into partnerships was I started leading marketing for a company called Pandian, which is an embedded iPass and embedded integration marketplace.
So I was actually creating a bunch of content for partnerships, people. And again, for the similar reasons to why I fell in love with startups, I really fell in love with the partnerships community, because I think it’s really sitting at this position where it’s taking off. It’s it has a very innovative mindset, because that business model is really changing. So everyone in this space is really open to new ideas. And it just sits at the intersection of so many different functions that I feel like the learning process is never over.
There’s always more to learn. That’s definitely what opened my eyes to the energy of startups. I think the partnership world has that same energy in it right now. It’s really in this great period of innovation. And for me, that was a huge spark. I just think it’s super exciting and It gives you the opportunity to constantly learn new things.
Vince Menzione 30:02
So you said something about where this tech world is going. And I’m so excited, I’ve spent most of my career here and I’ve been startup turned around Microsoft, and then working with a lot of these amazing partnership organizations. And every organization is becoming a tech organization. And I believe that we sit at this really incredible Nexus here with the work that we both do. And seeing all this and helping transform so much of what we do today.
Kelly Sarabyn 30:30
I agree, I think this is a huge part of the future. And as you say, because all businesses are relying more and more on technology, and digital forms of communication, I think it’s only going to continue. And I think most of us have heard that McKinsey stat that like 75% of executives thinks that ecosystem is key to how business models in general are changing. But I think partnerships is in the unique position of being able to leverage that changing buyer journey, and really have partnerships be the lens across every department of the company in the future.
Vince Menzione 31:11
So you’ve been an amazing guest. But I have one more question. This is my favorite question, actually. And you are hosting a dinner party and you can host this amazing dinner party anywhere you can invite three guests to this dinner party. Whom would you invite? And why?
Kelly Sarabyn 31:28
I think that is a tough question. So narrowed down to three people. But one person I would choose is Charles Taylor. He is a Canadian philosopher. And I was a political philosophy major. And I think his writing is just so clear and inspirational. And I would love to be able to ask him questions in person, so I think he would be great. Another person I’d be interested to have is Melanie Perkins, who’s the CEO of Canva.
As I referenced earlier, I think Canva is just an amazing product for what it is, I think, is really democratized design, and made it so people can move much more quickly. And people who are marketers or small business owners can get out designs that work really well without having to reopen the expense or the time of a designer, but they’ve also done a really good job with partnerships.
They have basically an embeddable component, right. So, for example, HubSpot has Canva embedded in our email builder. But they do that for all really developers. It’s something that they pre built so that other companies can have the Canva tool inside their product. And since they are a freemium product, the customer say a HubSpot customer who’s never heard of Canva sees the Canva button, they can start designing within HubSpot, using the designs in HubSpot, and then they can choose to upgrade right. It’s an amazing product blood growth motion.
And so I would be fascinated to talk to her and get her perspective on on how she’s grown things. The other person I think would be interesting to talk to is Elizabeth Holmes. I ah, that is I don’t admire what she did. In fact, I think bringing something to market that was patient facing that she knew was not allegedly new, although I guess she’s been convicted. So removing a legend.
But she that that was a horrible thing to do. But at the same time, I think that the fact that she was able to convince so many people so effectively, that there was something there that wasn’t really fascinating. And I’ve listened to the podcast, read the book saw the dramatizations and no one really seems to have an answer. It’s really somewhat of a mystery as to how she was able to do this. And so I would love to talk to her in person and see I don’t think she would tell me why given her personality, but I would be curious if talking to her, I would understand whether it’s charisma, or something about the way she interacts. But you say okay, it how so many people were duped?
Vince Menzione 34:17
Yeah, no, it’s that’s actually fascinating that certainly nobody has ever mentioned her before. But Melanie Perkins, I think, is amazing. use Canva, myself, and it is integrated into some other platforms. Some of the other mark mark on platforms as well. She’s 35 years old. So just an amazing entrepreneur and Charles Taylor, I don’t know him, so I’m gonna look him up and we’ll put him in the show notes.
You have been an amazing guest, Kelly, and for our listeners who are looking to achieve their greatest results, any additional words of advice or wisdom.
Kelly Sarabyn 34:51
If you’re in a partnerships role, I would say join the communities as Vince mentioned, there’s partnership leaders, there’s partner hacker, there’s the cloud software, so decision. A lot of times partner people feel relatively alone, even if they are overseeing a small team because what we were talking about earlier and so many organizations are looked as an appendage, and they know they can be doing so much more.
So that can be very frustrating. I would say join a community, the community is amazing. There’s always other partner people who are willing to get on the phone with you. They’re willing to help. And even if it doesn’t lead to like tactical change, you’ll feel less
Vince Menzione 35:29
alone. I love it. Come join us. Yes, come
Kelly Sarabyn 35:33
join us in our communities. We are very supportive, open and friendly bunch.
Vince Menzione 35:38
Kelly, thanks again. So glad to have you here today on Ultimate Guide to partnering.
Kelly Sarabyn 35:43
Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed talking to you. Same here,
Vince Menzione 35:47
same here. So there you have it. Another amazing guest joins Ultimate Guide to partnering. And I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. Odds are if you’re a technology partner, executive and hearing my voice, chances are you too, are looking to accelerate your success through partnerships. I mean, let’s face it. We all have seen partnerships that look good on paper, but never live up to their expected results.
There are a lot of reasons why partnerships fail, and at ultimate partnerships, we help you get it right by applying a proven set of best practices and framework that’s used by leading partners working with Microsoft and other technology giants. If you want to learn more, follow the link in the show notes, or visit our website at Ultimate Guide to partnering.com.
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Ultimate Guide to partnering with your host Vince Menzione online at Ultimate Guide to partnering.com and facebook.com/ultimate Guide to partnering. We’ll catch you next time on The Ultimate Guide to partnering