Lessons Learned from Top Technology Partnership Leaders
Gain insights from Square, Yotpo, Talkdesk, Amplitude, and Vonage on building a technology partnership-centric culture, tracking metrics, and monetization strategies.
August 9, 2023
Over at the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance, we hosted a discussion with heads of partnerships for Square, Yotpo, Talkdesk, Amplitude, and Vonage. We wanted to share some of the insights from the discussion, which included how to build an internal culture that values partnerships, metrics partner managers should track, and more.
Our CEO Cristina Flaschen talked with Mike Cohen, Global Head of Product Partnerships at Square, Walla Oriqat, Director- AppConnect at Talkdesk, Itai Bengal, Director of Product BD and Technology Partnerships at Yotpo, Guillaume Calot, Global Vice President - API Partners at Vonage, and Lisa Hopkins, Head of Partnerships at Amplitude.
How do you build an internal culture that values integrated tech partnerships/ecosystems?
All of the panelists agreed this has been a challenge they have experienced in their careers, especially when a company is experiencing fast growth, or has many strategic priorities that all may be competing for limited resources.
The panelists recommended starting by ensuring that it is widely recognized within the organization that the company cannot serve all customer needs without partnerships.
Getting Buy-In From Stakeholders
Lisa shared that she has found some success getting buy-in from stakeholders by always bringing the conversation back to their company's most important asset: customers.
This included making sure that stakeholders understood how integrations can help from a product value proposition and customer need perspective. She mentioned it’s also helpful to demonstrate how partner relationships can evolve to drive additional opportunities and value in the long-term.
Seeing Tech Partnerships as Part of Your Product
Guillaume echoed Lisa’s view and explained that Vonage, being an API based business, delivers not just their product, but their ecosystem and the ability to solve business problems through a combination of technology.
The only way this can happen, he explained, is through partnerships with system integrators, resellers, and other tech vendors. The value of partnerships is embedded in the company culture because it is seen as an extension of their product offerings.
Mike added to this point, sharing that at Square they service millions of small businesses with many different needs that can't all be solved with only their first-party products.
“We can offer a range of first-party products, but we could never offer the full range of features and functionality that our partners can. You’ll never have all the resources or people to build what you need in-house, so you have to partner to give your customer what they want.” - Mike Cohen, Global Head of Product Partnerships, Square
Cultural Mindset Shifting to Accept Cooperative Competition
Guillaume also shared an important cultural mindset shift he believes is essential to successfully building an ecosystem.
“From a cultural standpoint, one of the biggest realizations I've had is that at the core of your organization you need to accept competition. Competition is inherent in everything we do,” he shared. “It’s impossible to have a clean cut between what tech you provide and other partner tech out there. You need to accept the idea that there are overlaps, and that's okay, because at the end of the day the customer wins, and the developers have the choice to choose what's the best choice to solve their business problems.”
A Practical Way to Keep Partnerships Top of Mind
Itai then described a practice they have implemented at Yotpo that has helped get and maintain alignment.
He shared that everyone in the company understands the importance of synergy since they live in the Shopify, Salesforce and Adobe ecosystems. To keep this focus over time, they have created different forums with stakeholders and people across departments that touch partnerships.
“Top-down, we’ve created a quarterly integration steering committee for leadership to see where we stand and what the impact of partnerships is in every quarter. This also includes having 1-on-1’s with different department leads, and having smaller monthly or quarterly forums with individual contributors,” Itai shared. “For example we’ll share what's happening in the ecosystem with the product team, and talk to the CS team about how to work with certain tech partners. Doing this to keep partnerships top of mind has been critical.”
3 Ways to Build Trust in Partnerships Internally and Externally
At Talkdesk, Walla explained that they put a strong emphasis on trust when it comes to partnerships. She shared three ways they try to build trust within their organization and with their partners.
First, is prioritizing clear communication by being straightforward with partners, and setting the expectation that partners are straightforward with them.
The second priority she detailed was enablement. This includes training the sales team to know what's available to them and Talkdesk customers with their current partnerships.
She added that just before the event, she participated in a sales training where they talked about Talkdesk’s own Workforce Management solution, but also highlighted the Workforce Management solution partners in their ecosystem that can be used.
“One way we create an internal culture that values partnerships is through enablement. For example, training the sales team to know what's available to our customers with our current partnerships, and highlighting those solutions.” - Walla Oriqat, Director- AppConnect at Talkdesk
The third and last way Walla shared they have built trust is through compensation. This includes sales teams seeing themselves as an extension of the partner sales team, and compensating them for supporting the ecosystem and selling partner solutions.
Discipline in Partnerships
Guillaume built on Walla’s point to say that building trust must come with discipline, especially when you are working with partners who have solutions that are competitive to yours.
At Vonage, for example, they have their own contact center offering internally that focuses on their market segment, but they also partner with many other contact center vendors.
He explained that having these partnerships brings in deals, but there has to be discipline associated with isolating the knowledge of deals across the different types of partners. This requires very clear rules of engagement so that there is no competition being created where it's not needed.
“Having partnerships with solutions similar to ours requires discipline and very clear rules of engagement so that we are not creating competition where it's not needed.” - Guillaume Calot, Global Vice President - API Partners at Vonage
What do you guys see as some of the biggest challenges around measuring and tracking the value of tech partnerships and what do you think can be done to solve some of those?
Tracking the Value of Partnerships Before Onboarding
Walla at Talkdesk spoke about the challenges they have faced measuring the value of a potential partnership before committing to the onboarding process.
They have recently started using Crossbeam, an account mapping tool that allows two different companies to see their overlapping accounts.
She shared that they use this tool to specifically work with their prospective partners to see what the opportunity is of the partnership, and build a business case before moving forward.
Measuring Partner Influence
Lisa added that her biggest challenge has been dealing internally with the emphasis on referrals and partnerships referring business. From a tech partner perspective, she believes that tech partners can help with influence in a more meaningful way than with referrals.
She described that she has been working on conveying the importance of tracking how their tech partnerships influence deals. Lisa added, however, that in certain circumstances this influence can be very subjective, and she has tried putting together more objective ways to track influence.
This has included creating a scoring mechanism where partners would earn points based on certain actions that could be considered influencing. She gave the example of a partner earning points from making an intro, but added that this wouldn't be enough to say that the deal was influenced by that partner unless there were 2-3 other relevant actions that took place.
Demonstrating the Relationship Between Tech Partnerships, Customer Retention and Revenue
Mike then spoke about his time at Square and Facebook where they have implemented complicated ways to try to quantify the value of partnerships, and states that in general, it’s clear that a lot of good comes from customers' access to tech partners.
While it may be challenging to isolate whether positive customer-centric metrics are because of partners, he suggests creating a trend line between metrics like higher lifetime value or lower churns with growth in tech partners, integration usage, or other metrics that could be attributed to integrations and their adoption. Even if the data might not be perfectly aligned, he explained that seeing a trend line going in the right direction is helpful for stakeholders to see.
Guillaume built on Mike’s point by saying that choosing the right KPIs to demonstrate the impact of partnerships is an art, not a science, especially when stakeholders may want to see KPIs that demonstrate that partnerships work and increase revenue quickly.
At Vonage specifically he shared that they don't do licensing, but have a consumption based business model where they have to wait for consumption to grow in order to visualize how much revenue has been generated.
To measure the impact that technology partnerships have for this business model, they have created a mechanism to track and tag precisely the consumption driven by connectors that live on third-party marketplaces. This allows them at an early-stage to collect information on API keys being created by developers and understand where the usage is coming from.
Partnerships as Part of Business Development or Product?
To further the discussion on the challenges of finding right metrics to measure the value of partnerships, Itai shared the evolution of Yotpo’s partnerships team, where they moved from being part of the Business Development (BD) org to Product.
He explained that under the BD org there was a focus on referral KPIs. The thinking at the time was that referrals and influenced deals were the two big metrics that can be directly attributed to partnerships.
After many ongoing conversations, the organization began to recognize the broader, holistic value that tech partnerships brought to the product, including stickiness and retention.
"We tirelessly worked with ops teams and analysts to try to prove the value, because at the end of the day, the greater value is often in the synergy and the stickiness of the use case that you're solving, and not necessarily from direct revenue generation." - Itai Bengal, Director of Product BD and Technology Partnerships at Yotpo
After creating that understanding within the company, the decision to move tech partnerships under their Product org was finalized. Itai added that tech partnerships are still measured on referrals and influenced deals, but this is now alongside integration adoption, the percentage of Yotpo customers using integrations, and other integration related metrics.
The panelist then continued the conversation to talk about other KPIs they believe are important for partner managers to track, how companies should think about the decision to monetize, and more.
If you're interested in hearing the full discussion, join the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance to gain access to members-only resources and a recording of this event.
You can also register for more upcoming roundtables on interdisciplinary topics relevant to those working in technology partnerships.
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