Partnership Leaders Share Advice on Building Out a Tech Partner Program

By 
Elizabeth Garcia

Over at the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance, we hosted a discussion with technology partnership leaders on building out a technology partner program. Our CEO Cristina Flaschen spoke with Jaimie Fucillo (Vice President of Partnerships at Mindbody), Daniel O'Leary (Director of Partnerships at Box), Jake Wallace (Head of Global Technology Partnerships at Trustpilot), and Elliot Smith (Head of Partnerships at 6sense). 

You can join the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance to see the full event recording, but we wanted to share some of the insights, which included measuring the impact of technology partnerships, how leadership teams can help tech partnerships avoid competing for resources with other internal departments, and when is it too early to start a tech partner program. 

What processes and technology should be put in place to demonstrate the business impact of tech partnerships in an organization?  

All the panelists agreed that partner attribution and measuring the impact of a partner program on the business is always the challenge. 

Elliot from 6sense shared that his company is currently looking to measure how engaged their partner community is with their business, and that they are focusing on creating a thriving community that encompasses both their partners and customers. 

They are looking to implement processes and technology this year specifically designed to draw correlations between customer health and partner application or integration usages. 

His team is focusing on quality more than quantity when it comes to choosing partners, using tools like Crossbeam to look at customer overlap as a key part of their onboarding process before signing a new partnership. 

Jake from Trustpilot expressed the importance of making friends with your company’s Ops team. He suggested going through a process of identifying key data points companies want to get better at tracking, and then collaborating with Ops teams to put systems in place to do so. 

“The future of partnership is certainly going to be beyond just a churn reducer or creating more stickier customers - it's opening up another channel. It's going to beyond the co-marketing activities, and become co-selling activities where you are able to leverage relationships that you have built with your tech partners to help your customer-facing teams either retain business or win new business,” Jake explained.

Jaimie from Mindbody suggested companies consider putting processes in place to track leading indicators like what it takes for them to get tech partners into the funnel, to get them to build, to launch integrations successfully, and get customers to adopt.  “It's fairly easy to track if you’ve monetized your community or partnerships, but the harder thing to track is what are those leading indicators that get you to the money,” Jaimie explained.

Dan from Box emphasized the importance of having joint success metrics with partners, instead of just internal metrics. This joint effort requires clarifying the metrics that are being used to gauge success and it ensures both sides can be successful together.

"We try to make it not just be about the technical integration, but really defining what this is going to do for our partner and how we can define our goals partially based on what their goals are. If we have that in alignment, that creates a lot more value for customers because they see us showing up together and wanting to win together, not just building stuff together," Dan commented.

How can leadership successfully ensure that tech partnerships are not competing for resources with other revenue generation teams (marketing, sales, CS or other partner teams)? 

Panelists shared that alignment on incentives can be a pain point that leadership teams should look to address early on when building a partner program in order to avoid internal conflict.

Dan from Box shared how he’s been working closely with his tech partner team, along with the go to market side, to discuss how they can join resources behind partners and bring in mutual SI partners or agency partners. 

Jake, Elliot and Jaimie all described that their companies have specific scrum and engineering teams dedicated to partnerships and integrations. Trustpilot also has a developer team dedicated to enhancing the developer experience for third-party developers to be able to build into them. 

"You need to have dedicated resources for particular things, otherwise the core business will always find the core product to be more important, whether that's to sell it, to market it, to develop it. The core business will always find that to be more important, and so we just found a huge difference in having resources allocated particularly to Partnerships or the development of the API platform," Jaimie Fucillo said.

Creating these dedicated teams became necessary when engineering teams initially tasked with working on the core product were seeing work for partnerships and integrations as their lowest priority. At 6Sense, Elliot shared that growing their ecosystem is a stated and strategic goal, and so having these dedicated resources was necessary to keep that priority in focus. 

Jaimie shared this sentiment and added that Mindbody is very focused on their API platform. She stated that she often has to remind people that it is a product and that partners are customers. The necessity of dedicating resources, like product marketing, engineering, and partner marketing, becomes crucial when a company begins to think this way. 

"They are not some strange kind of animal that isn't a customer. Partners are also customers. If you put them head-to-head against some of our biggest customers they can completely bump the top 10 customers from a revenue perspective," Jaimie explained.

Jake said that his team is starting to try and uncover a new data point to help their teams dedicated to integrations and partnerships. He described this as a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of an integration, taking into account not just the customer experience but also how well that integration is coupled into their own platform (a tip he learned from Chris Lavoie, the Technology Partnerships Team Lead at Gorgias). 

This could potentially give these team’s insights on how their integration is  performing against their partner’s other integrations, and help product teams build features that are actually needed by partners and customers. 

Jamie adds that Mindbody has actually implemented an NPS score for their partner ecosystem, and that they are currently working with their research team on how to do an NPS score of internal customer-facing teams who promote partners. 

Do you think there's a size that is too small or too early for a company to start thinking about partnerships or have their first partner manager hire? 

Panelists agreed that you should have a successful, repeatable process established to onboard customers before you try to incorporate partners. "It could be 10 customers, 50, or 100. Once you have that reputable, predictable onboarding process, that to me is when you've hit a milestone that is worthy of starting your first hire," Elliot said.

Panelists also discussed what they look for when hiring technology partnership managers, how to motivate partners to enhance the development of their integrations, and more. Elliot recommended Crossbeam's free tool for assessing the maturity of your tech partner program as a way to understand where your program is and what should come next. You can find it here.

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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