Setting Up the Right Processes: An Interview with Chris Formosa of FullStory
Chris Formosa leads technology partnerships at FullStory, a digital experience platform. In the marketing technology space where there are thousands of products, integrations are key to success, and FullStory has a robust integration marketplace.
Chris shared how to set up communications across departments, and establish and track performance metrics to ensure a technology partnership program delivers the most value.
What is your experience in partnerships?
I have worked in sales and partnerships at a number of organizations, from SaaS companies, to government agencies, to consultancies, and I always have had a strong focus on partnerships.
My first role, while in college, was at a government funded organization that provides educational resources to small business owners. My role was to expand our in-person seminars and educational workshops online, via webinar. With that, we needed to get the word out across the British Columbia. To do that, I built a reseller program and partnerships with other local government organizations and Small Business Services Providers so they could promote our online seminars and workshops in their local communities.
Then I worked in sales for two different social media platforms, and a consultancy. Throughout that, I was involved in developing and managing agency and technology partnerships, resellers, and even worked with a couple of partners who fully whitelabelled our platform.
I’ve been in business development for a long time, and I’ve always leveraged partnerships to fill my pipeline.
What is your role at FullStory?
I oversee our technology partnerships. The baseline requirement for becoming a FullStory Technology Partner is that there is some kind of integration in place; passing data between our platforms. We have both one click integrations, and manual integrations which are supported by technical help docs.
We currently have 50-60 integrations, and maintain strong partnerships with about a third of those. With those, we engage in co-marketing and co-selling together.
What is the structure of the partnerships team in your organization?
We have a few Solution Partner Managers who work with our agencies, consultancies, and system integrators. I handle our Technology Partners and report to the VP of Partnerships. Our team roles up to the Head of Sales.
I regularly collaborate with our Product and Marketing teams. It is important to be in lockstep with Marketing for lead generation. We have a Partner Marketing Manager who is on the Marketing team but is solely devoted to partnerships.
On Product, there is an Ecosystems Product Manager. He manages our API infrastructure and integrations roadmap so we meet on a weekly basis to evaluate new integration opportunities and review the status of integrations and new APIs that are in development.
Do you or your partners build more of your integrations?
It is a pretty even split of us building an integration versus our partners building integrations. Especially for bigger players, we have to build the integration but not always. It always depends on a number of factors.
How do you decide which integrations to build?
It is very costly to build an integration and even more costly to maintain the integration. We have to really scrutinize the overall partnership opportunity and customer impact to make sure that it will be worth the investment.
One of our early steps in the partner evaluation and onboarding process is to do account mapping. We look at the market overlap and potential—how many overlapping customers, mutual sales opportunities, and target accounts there are. We review the pipeline dollar figures and estimate whether an integration can have a meaningful influence on close rates.
Additionally, we review to determine if and how many of our customers are requesting this integration. If not, will it drive enough value to have a measurable impact on both of our businesses? Is it valuable enough that it would help us get compelling case studies and customer stories out of it?
We determine this by identifying and reaching out to a few mutual customers to interview them about what the ideal integration between our platforms would look like and what it would mean to their business.
Have you learned any lessons that could be helpful to other partnership teams?
Two things come to mind.
One, the communication between the Product team and Partnerships should be very strong. We have all these requests for integrations and partnerships coming from multiple departments and stakeholders so we need to be in the loop with product and have visibility into their resources, pipeline, and timelines.
Often we are not familiar with the true cost of building a specific integration. It is important that you really nail down the scope and timeline. From there, stay up to date with your Product team so you can communicate accurately and effectively with your partners throughout the process.
Two, an integration’s functionality and its quality really affects outcomes.
We had a particular partner where we didn’t generate as much sales and marketing activity as we anticipated. Looking back, a big reason for that is we didn't build an integration. We just sold it to prospects and customers as ‘here are the benefits of using Fullstory and this other product together.’ I believe we would have generated more interest from customers and prospects if we had built a solid integration.
Additionally, driving revenue from technology partnerships requires getting buy-in from sales and marketing. Having a high-quality integration is necessary to get sales and marketing excited. It gives them something that is tangible to point to, something that is going to meet customers’ business needs. I always ask, will this integration provide differentiated value to our customers? If yes, let’s do it!
How do you ensure you are building a quality integration?
To be successful, an integration needs to be truly valuable to your customers. Early on in your integration, you should think about what the specific use cases are and who it would benefit.
Once you have that laid out, ask your customers what they want. Say, “Here’s what we are thinking, and what do you think? What use cases are we missing? How would this drive value for you? What would this new functionality mean to you and your business?”
You need to drill down on this before you start building an integration. Bring in the product manager. And once it’s built, keep talking to customers to see if it needs changes or enhancements.
What’s your approach for attracting technology partners?
We have a lot of inbound requests, and we also have an outbound strategy for whom we want to go after. For inbounds, it has been easy to showcase the value of partnering with us.
For the outbound where we will be building the integration, we need to consider our engineering capacity before our outreach so we can set expectations because we’re often outbounding the bigger players who usually require that we do the development work. Every organization is going to have limited engineering resources so it is a mutual conversation with product to understand capacity and timelines.
What is the best way to get the attention of larger partners?
The best way to get larger partners’ help is with compelling customer stories. Come up with customer scenarios that demonstrate how it improves the customer experience. Identify early on who your sexiest, biggest mutual customers are, and try to get them on a call with you and your partner to talk about the value they would get out of an integration. Spell it out for them: how will it benefit their customers, drive new business, or increase retention rates.
Identify what your prospective partner’s goals are when it comes to technology partnerships and align to that. Is your prospective partner looking to expand into new audiences or product areas? Do they leverage partnership to help reduce churn and/or increase win rates? If you can genuinely help them achieve their goals with the right approach, you’re golden.
How do you track the success of tech partnerships?
We track a number of elements, though we do not track every element for each partner.
The key pillars we look at to evaluate the partnerships are: alignment (executive relations, known mutual customers, how are they using the integration), co-marketing (days since last co-marketing, number of leads generated by campaigns), co-selling (account executive relationships, customer success relationships, active opportunities, influence; and days since last co-selling activity, referral, close), and enablement (number of developers, number of our reps trained, number of their reps trained).
At a higher level, we track influence revenue and sourced revenue that comes from each of our partnerships.
What technology do you use to track everything?
We use a combination of Salesforce and Impartner.
Impartner is our PRM (Partner Relationship Management) tool to manage our Partner Portal, Integrations Directory, and Partner Directory.
For tech partnerships specifically, we keep quick links to all of our developer documentation and resources in the Partner Portal. Our partners can also manage their integration directory listings in our Partner Portal.
We use Salesforce to track our metrics, partner onboarding stages, integration development stages, relationships, partner sourced and influenced revenue, etc.
Any other advice for building a successful technology partnership program?
Make sure that you have use cases brainstormed early on and that they are truly valuable to your customers. Otherwise it is going to be hard to excite sales people, and hard to get marketers to do campaigns that are interesting. And you're not going to have customers using it. I would also make sure sales people are really well versed in how the integration works and how it greases the wheel, as that will get reps connected and talking.
So much success out of the program is going to be through building integrations that truly create new and differentiated value.
More broadly, my philosophy is that the most open platforms, the most well integrated platforms with the most diverse catalog of integrations are ultimately going to be the most successful companies.
If you look at Android, Apple, and Blackberry, the reason Blackberry failed is that they didn’t develop an open ecosystem quickly enough. Apple and Android were able to motivate third party developers to build on top of them. This positioned them not only as devices for phone and email, but as full-featured productivity devices.
Companies that create those ecosystems will be most successful. Your customers are going to get more out of the investments they've already made in your product by leveraging these connections.