Marketing Integrations and Tech Partnerships: Everything You Need to Know
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.
As more SaaS companies build integrations and integration marketplaces, they must be marketed. A decade ago, very few companies other than Salesforce had an integration marketplace so many marketers are coming to this task fresh.
Marketers for integrations may belong to the partnerships or marketing team, but will have to work with both to be successful. Here is everything you need to consider when you take on marketing an integration marketplace. And if you want to dive deeper into the subject, download our definitive guide on co-marketing with tech partners.
With this proliferation of software, users are often stuck moving from app to app. To solve this pain point, many SaaS companies, like Hubspot, Slack, Shopify, and Box, are offering their users dozens or even thousands of out-of-the-box integrations.
Integration marketplaces are also known as app centers, integration centers, app directories, or app exchanges. Whatever their name, they display every app integration a company offers in a tile format. Users can click on tiles to learn about and install the integrations. For example, here is marketing platform Klaviyo’s marketplace page:
How to Market to the Three Different Audiences for Integration Marketplaces
A marketer for an integration marketplace has the challenge of reaching three different audiences: partnership teams, developers, and end users of the in-app marketplace. An organization needs all three audiences in order for their marketplace to be successful.
Partners: Marketing to Business Development, Sales, and Partnership Teams
Ultimately the most successful in-app marketplaces are those where tech partners are eager to build into your product, or at least happy to have an integration to your product. This requires getting other companies’ partnership teams convinced of your marketplace’s value.
In addition, once your partnership is going, you want to ensure your partner's sales team is excited to promote the relationship.
Marketing to business development teams should involve a mix of general marketing and product marketing. Key ways you can market to partners:
A web page specifically aimed at partnership teams
A sales deck and one sheet about your tech partner program with the ROI partners can expect to see
Blog articles making the business case for being part of your in-app marketplace
Social posts with materials highlighting your successful tech partnerships
Events, webinars, and conferences for your current and potential partners
Compelling sales collateral for your partners' sales teams to use
These campaigns should focus on the business value of joining your in-app marketplace. This can be done by highlighting:
The unique problem your product solves
How your product is particularly sticky, and integral to your users’ workflows
The number and type of users you have
How your users are using other software in their tech stacks
Why integrating with your product makes life easier for users
Any case studies or data on driving ROI for your tech partners through new leads, increasing conversions, reducing customer churn, or upsells
Why your users generally prefer integrated software
The perks of your partnership program, including any co-marketing and co-selling resources, and any favorable terms
Examples of Effectively Marketing an In-App Marketplace to Partners
Shopify’s partnership web page is a good example of marketing to partnership teams. They make the business case for becoming a tech partner, explaining a partner will gain access to their user base of 1,000,000 merchants, 87 percent of who are already using integrations.
In addition, they emphasize that a tech partner can expect to generate leads, and benefit from Shopify’s 24/7 partner support.
Shopify also features a case study of a successful tech partner so potential partners can fully imagine the emotional and financial benefits of becoming a partner. By detailing a clear ROI on becoming a Shopify partner, they are helping business development teams justify the cost of building an integration to Shopify.
Many companies market their program benefits to attract partnership teams. Box’s partnership page emphasizes the specific benefits of their partnership program, explaining that they are “committed to helping partners make successful integrations by providing go-to-market support, including sales assets, blog posts and public relations support.”
Salesforce provides three different webinars along with slides for potential tech partners, explaining the program and what partners can gain from joining. And Hubspot offers their app partners an exclusive newsletter, product discounts, and invite to their Spring Platform Partner Day as well as discounts on becoming a sponsor of their INBOUND conference.
Both Slack and Hubspot attract partners through thought leadership and original research on the value of integrated tech ecosystems. Slack authored a blog article based on their State of Work survey making the case for why knowledge workers want more integrations so they can access all their best-in-breed apps in one place.
These type of think pieces provide business development teams with data they need to justify building more integrations, and establishes the companies authoring them as ecosystem leaders.
Developers: Marketing to Developers and Engineers
Tech partnerships sit at the intersection of partnerships, product, and engineering. In order to scale an in-app marketplace, getting third party developers on board is key. Excited developers result in more integrations built and maintained, and a better user experience for your customers.
Key ways you can to market to developers:
A web page for developers with clear documentation on your API and how to use it
Offering developer forums where questions can be asked and answered
Developer-specific blog or content
Hosting events for developers
Being active in online and in-person developer communities
These initiatives should extol benefits developers care about. This can be done by highlighting:
How clear and easy your API is to work with, including having the configuration options users will need
How well-supported and robust your API is
The cool stuff that can be created working with your API
Your tech team knows what it is doing and is available for troubleshooting
Examples of Effectively Marketing an In-App Marketplace to Developers
In addition, they offer easy to find and use API documentation, highlighting the cool things developers can do with their API, and sharing open source projects for inspiration.
Like BigCommerce, ServiceNow offers developer-specific forums, documentation, events, and an active community. It also provides learning modules and training materials to help developers better build on their platform.
Clio, a legal CRM, markets to developers by holding an annual contest for building the best integration to their product. The finalists get to pitch judges at a live event, and the winner receives 100k.
Salesforce’s Accelerate Build program encourages and supports companies to build their apps into Salesforce, and they promote it on their webpage, on social, and through events.
End User Marketing: Marketing to the User
Marketing the in-app marketplace to prospects and customers is essential to driving adoption and showing ROI. These campaigns should highlight individual integrations and the in-app marketplace itself.
Key ways you can market to end users:
Email campaigns that are segmented to user profiles and share integrations of interest
Social posts highlighting your new or popular integrations
Social polls asking about favorite integrations or most desired integrations
Ads targeted to users who are already using the other product
Ads targeted to your current customers broken down by user profile, and highlighting integrations they are most likely to use
Search ads for people looking for integrations to the tech partners’ products
Provide logo, elevator pitch for the product, and integration description, as well as any other materials, to all tech partners for their website, sales, and marketing campaigns
Webinars explaining one or a few important integrations and how they work
Recorded demo of integrations and how they work
Clear documentation on how to use the integrations, with a FAQ for the in-app marketplace
If direct mail works for your product, include postcard or other materials about key integrations
Blog content on the value of using the in-app marketplace or particular key integrations
Events targeted at particular user profiles that include information on integrations of interest
Promote integrations inside your application, either in the marketplace or where they might be used in a user's workflow
This content should communicate to users why they should care about integrations. Specifically highlight:
Why integrations save the user time
Why integrations empower the user to be more efficient and successful at achieving their goals
How specific integrations work
Examples of Effectively Marketing an In-App Marketplace to End Users
Many companies write blog posts on the integrations in their marketplace, explaining why they will make a user’s workflow easier, and then promote them on social media.
Aircall, a modern phone system, regularly profiles app partners and the value of integrations on their blog. They then promote it on their social accounts.
Slack, similarly, regularly writes blogs on new integrations and promotes them to their users on their social accounts, emphasizing how the integrations will simplify users’ workflow, and empower them to complete more tasks.
Another tactic is to host a webinar for users promoting a particular integration or set of integrations, explaining why it helps the user. Salesforce, for example, did this for their Tableau integration.
Emailing users with integrations that might interest them is also effective. Slack, for example, sends emails suggesting integrations and making the pitch for why they simplify users’ workflow, and providing simple CTAs where the user can install the apps.
Digital ads explaining why users would benefit from a particular integration can also be effective. For example, Guru created an ad for their Slack integration.
And Slack created an ad for their integration with G-suite.
Co-Marketing: Ensuring You Get the Most out of Your Tech Partners
One of the advantages of marketing an in-app marketplace is co-marketing with your tech partners. While general co-marketing rules apply, there are some things to consider specific to tech partners.
Allocating Your Resources to the Best Partners
Instead of just engaging in ad hoc co-marketing with tech partners, create a program (even if it is only internal) that ensures you allocate your resources most effectively.
Not all tech partners will make good co-marketing partners. For every tech partner, evaluate:
The size of their overlapping audience (you can use a tool like Crossbeam)
Their co-marketing resources
Alignment between your brand and theirs
The importance of the integration to your customers and prospects
The size of a tech partner’s existing audience is important, but make sure that their brand doesn’t clash with your own, and that your teams can produce effective materials together. By using the four variables above, create a total score on how valuable a partner will be for co-marketing.
Develop a system for allocating your co-marketing resources across tech partners. Delineate each party’s minimum co-marketing obligations at the start of the relationship so everyone is on the same page and accountable for deliverables. Box, for example, lays out the co-marketing obligations for their different tiers of tech partners here.
For larger partners, you should offer to do the bulk of the co-marketing work, whether it is creating a blog article where the partner can provide a quote or a webinar the other team can simply join to answer questions.
Every tech partner should receive a one sheet on your product and in-app marketplace, and most should receive a blurb about their specific integration.
Consider creating separate co-marketing tiers based on the fit of the partner. For example, different tiers might have the following co-marketing obligations:
Top tier: joint press release, social posts, joint webinar explaining the integration, joint piece of collateral like an ebook, blog article on integration, well-designed tile page for the integration, event attendance promoting integration, and each team providing sales enablement materials
Middle tier: social posts, blog article on integration, well-designed tile page for the integration, and each team providing sales enablement materials
Bottom tier: well-designed tile page for the integration, each team providing sales enablement materials
Running the Co-marketing Campaigns
Once you set up the scope of the co-marketing relationship with a tech partner, create a list of the right people at the company for co-marketing endeavors. These people might be on the partnerships or marketing team (or both), which is why coordination is particularly important.
Ensure that there are open lines of communication amongst teams, whether it is via a PRM, group email, or a shared Slack channel. Set up regular check-ins to improve accountability and communication on which co-marketing initiatives are working. For higher tier partners, these might be weekly, while for lower tiers you might meet bi-annually.
Establish tracking metrics to see how many leads and upsells are coming from each of your co-marketing endeavors, and from your tech partners’ pages and campaigns. This will enable you to show ROI, and re-allocate resources to different initiatives and tech partners when it’s time to renegotiate terms.
Effectively marketing to partners, developers, and end users is required to fully leverage your investment in your tech partners. By creating and executing a marketing strategy that appeals to these three groups, you will attract more users and partners, and ensure that your marketplace continues to grow and drive revenue. If you want to learn more and get handy templates on ideal partner profiles and co-marketing plan templates, download our definitive guide on co-marketing with tech partners.