Prioritization for Scaling Ecosystems: Interview with Itai Bengal

By 
Elizabeth Garcia

Itai Bengal holds a multidimensional role as the Director of Product BD and Tech Partnerships at Yotpo, a leading eCommerce marketing platform offering advanced solutions for customer reviews, SMS marketing, visual marketing and loyalty and referrals programs. He shares his framework for how he prioritizes integrations and decides between building solutions in-house vs. integrating with other tools. 

You seem to be heavily involved in the product side of partnerships. What framework do you use to prioritize integrations and decide between building in house vs. integrating with another tool?

My function actually started as part of our partners org, which is more commercially driven, and only recently moved under the product department. As we really examined the impact that tech partnerships had on our organization, we found that not only that some of them greatly benefit our win rates and retention rates, but also that the partnerships that drive the most commercial value are those that are based on a meaningful and unique product synergy. That is why we now look at these 4 areas whenever we qualify or evaluate new partners and integrations: 

1. Customer Overlap  

We use tools like Crossbeam, ZoomInfo, and in-house built tools to evaluate the overlap between the partners' client base and our own clients and prospects, in order to make sure we're investing our resources where they have the most impact. Yotpo has tens of thousands of clients, so we always try to think in scale.

2. Product Synergy  

In order to understand which integration use cases and technologies are going to drive the most value to our customers, we have tools in place to capture feature requests and feedback from our client-facing teams, run periodic surveys and interviews with our customers, and even analyze client calls using Gong.  

3. Product & Strategy Roadmap

Since Yotpo serves so many different client segments and products, every few months our strategy team shares a few major themes for the company to focus on, which we try to complement through integrations and tech partnerships. 

For the largest, most strategic integration opportunities, which are typically ongoing projects, we host a quarterly integration steering committee that consists of executives across our product, product marketing, and go to market teams, in which we prioritize our efforts and update on progress. 

4. Co-marketing & Co-selling Opportunity

We look at the potential impact on brand and marketing through metrics such as potential reach or overlap with our ‘ideal prospect’ list, as well as if there are a few known brands that are specifically interested in the integration and willing to participate in co-marketing activities. 

We also consider the co-selling potential based on the partner’s appetite to engage in co-marketing and co-sales activities, as well as how unique and meaningful the integration will be. The more exciting the integration will be for clients and client-facing teams, the higher the chances the partner’s team will make direct referrals and engage in co-selling. 

These four areas are roughly considered equal in their importance, so we consider all of them to determine which opportunities to follow, including which integrations to develop in-house and which partner-led developments to support and release.

Have you experienced having to build a feature in house that is competitive with a partner? If so, how do you balance that relationship with the fact that you want customers to adopt your feature? 

Yotpo's mission is to build the world's leading eCommerce marketing platform, which consists of different products that are category leaders on their own account. Each of our products need to be deeply integrated to other technologies our clients use, but are also deeply integrated with one another, helping our clients create a competitive advantage and better efficiency.

Even though there are no other eCommerce marketing platforms out there with Yotpo’s unique approach, realistically, each of our products have their individual competitors. But the bottom line is we put our customer first, and we support and build integrations that create value for brands, even if it means integrating with a competitor. 

That said, we strive to make each Yotpo product the best option for the merchant. Over time, they may or may not want to expand to additional Yotpo products and take advantage of the many benefits a consolidated platform has, but for them to grow with us we need to constantly prove our worth.

Building off the previous question, how do you align your product and partner roadmap? What are the processes and who are the stakeholders that go into that? 

As I mentioned, in the past Product BD & Tech Partnerships were part of the partners org, so we had to create processes to make sure the two teams are talking to each other and complementing each other. If Product BD was investing in a new opportunity that required dev resources and Product was not behind it, it would be a waste of time and energy. 

So, we started a monthly "BD & Product" roundtable for both teams to share what they are working on and build closer working relationships. We also initiated a quarterly 'integration steering committee' with the executive team to make sure we’re aligned behind large potential, long investment projects. 

A few months ago, our exec team decided to split Product BD (building and supporting integrations) from the commercial partnerships org and make it part of our product department. So, we are now revisiting some of the product & BD forums and processes, and replacing them with new ones that are aimed to ensure we continue to be in close touch with the commercial teams and our clients.

How do you balance partners that may want you to be part of integrations and product teams that want to build features. How do you get alignment? 

We view integrations as a core part of our product and platform vision -  it is no longer a separate team organizationally so goals are aligned. That doesn't mean it's easy to get resources behind every integration project. As always there are a lot more great opportunities than there are resources, so we are constantly working together across the whole org to prioritize the efforts that will “move the needle” for the organization and our customers. 

That being said, with several expansion efforts in motion we decided to start hiring a dedicated dev team for integrations, as well as, double the size of our integration solution engineering and product BD team.

How do you measure and track the business value of integrated technology partnerships? 

Several years ago, Yotpo invested a great deal of effort into building an 'app market' infrastructure that allows partners to build integrations that can be discovered, enabled and disabled from within Yotpo (using OAuth and dedicated APIs). 

With this infrastructure, we have visibility into customer adoption of integrations even when they are developed by partners, which we can then measure against business metrics such as retention, customer growth and won deals.

What advice would you give to an organization that may have a couple dozen integrations and is looking to scale their technology partner program? 

First, I would say to invest in the infrastructure and methodologies that will allow us to measure the adoption and impact of their partner program and integrations. Over time there will be a lot of competing opportunities, and without hard numbers to prove the value, it will be very hard to keep investing in the tech partnerships area. 

Then, build integrations with the one or two partners that are most impactful in each technology type that is most synergetic with your own product. If done right, these integrations could serve as the example that those tech companies’ competitors will then try to copy, by coming to you to build the same integration (for which you'll need to make sure you have the relevant APIs and team to support these partners). 

As new partner requests to integrate become more than you can handle, use your data and customer feedback to prioritize the qualification criteria that will help you ensure your team is investing resources in supporting and developing with the right partners.

If you're looking for more help prioritizing integrations, Pandium created a Google Sheet template you can access here.


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