Just like that, 2022 is at an end.
It's been a long and joyous (if not bumpy) journey, and we can't say "see you next year" without expressing gratitude to our wonderful community.
The partners we work with, invest in, and rely on for business growth have never been more important in achieving our goals.
Together, we've ended up on roads full of opportunities, challenges, and successes—and as you might expect, we've learned a lot along the way.
And this is only the beginning.
With those 2023 goals already on the horizon, we want to take a moment to reflect back on the best advice we've received from the Greatest Minds in Partnerships in 2022. We hope this advice helps guide you toward success in the New Year!
- 1. How to Build and Scale the Best Partner Programs
- 1.1. “Leverage the power of tools and frameworks.”
- 1.2. “Take a human-to-human approach.”
- 1.3. “Start with depth and then grow to breadth.”
- 1.4. “Give yourself enough time to figure out the focus of your partner program.”
- 1.5. “Give your partner program time to mature.”
- 1.6. “Find the right experts for your team; if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.”
- 2. Building Impactful Partnerships
- 2.1. "Put the customer at the center."
- 2.2. “Be patient.”
- 2.3. “Invest in partnerships.”
- 2.4. “Partnerships are more than just revenue drivers.”
- 2.5. “You need some form of measurement.”
- 2.6. “When you have really good internal relationships, you can then build really good external relationships.”
- 3. Empowering Partners
- 3.1. “Be in lockstep with your partners.”
- 3.2. “Be mentor-worthy. Be partner-worthy.”
- 3.3. “Always remember—a partner program is about partners and their success.”
- 3.4. “Choose your partners wisely.”
- 3.5. "Education is the most important piece of the puzzle."
- 3.6. “Don't be afraid to talk to folks outside of your own company.”
- 4. Conclusion
Table of contents
Partner programs have evolved into a significant opportunity for companies of all sizes to build a brand, expand their customer base, and rapidly scale their revenue.
To build a successful one, you must first structure a partner program that can accommodate and grow all aspects of your business at all stages.
Here is some of the best advice for scaling and building the best partner programs in 2022.
Ashleigh Gray, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Vidyard, shares of finding the methodologies for making data-driven decisions:
“It is crucial to measure the success of your program using tools, frameworks, and best practices pulled out of high-tech alliances. Besides helping you and your partners stay on course, such frameworks and tools help steer the partnership in the right direction and justify the actions you take with each partner.”
Kristýna Cardova, Partnerships Director at CloudTalk, shares the importance of fostering human connection between partners, especially at the beginning of a program:
“Of course, data is critical in partner programs. However, when you are starting a new partnership, there are no numbers, data, or results to rely on in the beginning. So, how do you evaluate the partner potential when there is no data yet? Here is where the human-to-human approach becomes central. It is crucial to get close to people and understand them, their business, and their motivation to work with you. This is where the numbers will come from.”
George Kyriakis, Sr. Director of Business Development & Partnerships at FreshBooks, explains of building a strong foundation in your program:
“Often, while building partner programs, people tend to go right into the scaling phase before making existing partnerships successful. The problem with this approach is that you will not have any substantial ROI to show success and get the investment required. Reverse this approach—go deep with a few key partnerships and make them successful before scaling.”
Chris Samila, former VP of Partnerships at Crossbeam, warns about the dangers of being in a rush with your program:
“Don’t have over-aggressive expectations of how quickly your partner teams can start generating revenue. Building the right go-to-market strategy takes time and you will need time to figure out the program—i.e., whether you should focus on resellers, tech partnerships, channel partnerships, affiliates, and the like. Sometimes, you won’t even know which one is right for your business until perhaps a quarter or two of effort.
It is vital to ensure the executive team at your company understands the overall value of moving towards an ecosystem go-to-market approach so the partnership team can build the right program and structure to drive ongoing success, not just a handful of immediate sales opportunities.”
Ben Wright, former Director of Partnerships and Business Development at Help Scout, advises on focusing on the long game in your partner program:
“Some businesses expect to be making $50k right from the get-go of their program. However, partner programs take time to mature and thrive. For your partnership strategy to be successful, give your program at least a year before setting expectations too high.”
Agnese Kalnina, former Business Development & Partnerships Team Lead at Lokalise, shares the importance of finding killer partnership folks for your team:
“Finding the right team members can help you execute your strategies more quickly, make better decisions, solve more complex problems, and do more to enhance creativity.
Building the right team also increases productivity and morale; well-functioning teams can outperform individuals and even other types of working groups. These folks should be experts in their field and have the experience that directly relates to your goals.”
Working with channel partners is more than just crunching numbers and signing commission checks. It's important to understand how the right partnerships can help you increase your reach and spur significant growth, and how you can help them do the same.
That is why understanding the importance of viewing these partnerships as relationships that need to be fostered is key.
The best way to build and expand innovative and impactful partnerships is to concentrate on creating partnerships that not only prioritize your own growth but also that of your partners.
Here is some of the best advice we received in 2022 for building impactful partnerships.
Jennifer Richey, Senior Director of Ecosystem at Vena Solutions, explains that the key to an impactful partnership is focusing on the thing that brought you together in the first place: your customers.
“Everyone is there for the customer, even your partners. Your partners are your teammates. So, the question is, where can we bring more value? Not only to customers but to each other as teammates and to our partners, where can we bring more value? That's really important.”
Lauryn Spence, Senior Manager of Agency Partnerships at BigCommerce, explains the importance of patience in building strong partnerships:
“A partnership is a marathon that needs to be carefully executed, not a sprint.
Remember that partners are more than just a deal. Partnerships are living systems that gradually increase in potential. The relationship gives the parties involved an option for the future, opening up new doors and unexpected opportunities in addition to motivations for starting a relationship. This takes time, so always be patient.”
Jo Wright, VP of Sales & Partner Success at Reveal, advises that you truly invest in your partners if you wish for them to succeed:
“Often, people make the mistake of not investing enough in partnerships. They tend to think that partnerships just happen and that there is much less work behind it. Remember, it takes an incredible amount of work and effort to build partner relationships and drive value. If you do not invest in it, you are never going to see results.”
Sara Nigro, Global Customer Marketing Manager at Directive, gives insight into the importance of being transparent and authentic in partnerships; basically, do unto your partners what you wish they would for you:
"Let's be our own client case study. Make sure we can actually use the platform we're recommending, get certified, become experts, and be able to provide a consultant's perspective.”
Rasheité Calhoun, Channels & Alliance Program Manager at Paylocity, emphasizes the significance metrics in building strong, lasting partnerships (and partner teams):
“It's so hard to measure the performance of partnerships, but you still do need some form of measurement. You can't just say it's difficult to measure and then freestyle it later.
Find and measure the data that makes sense for you to measure your success.
Remember that you must measure your success in two ways. First, what does your daily success look like? Is it going out in the field? What are the daily tasks that I must complete in order to win? Then how do I scale that up?
The second is how do I measure that on a larger scale? Maybe it's more than just leads. Maybe it's something different than revenue.
Figure it out and then stick to it. Don't make constant changes because things don't look good. Once you've established your goals and measurements, stick to them and give yourself the space and grace to figure out why it's working or not. Then after a while, if you need to, you pivot.”
“When you have really good internal relationships, you can then build really good external relationships.”
Adam Pasch, Head of Partnerships at Improvado, shares that strong external relationships with partners can only happen if there are strong internal relationships:
“Understanding what the internal team needs, what their struggles are, and what their strengths allow you to do the same externally for your partners.
Greatness is not achieved by a single person; instead, teams of people must work together. Success is achieved by maximizing collaboration with internal teams, external teams, and customers.
Ultimately, partnership teams are the connectors. It does not matter how strong a person's network is. What matters is how deep the connection between the company and the partner company has become. And that includes a deep understanding and desire to help the internal team and the external partner, while also prioritizing the customer.”
Lastly, in order to build strong, scalable, and impactful partner programs, you must find ways to empower your partners with unique offerings. By doing so, you can strengthen both the partnership and the program while also fostering a more committed and engaged relationship.
Here is some of the best advice we received for empowering partners in 2022.
Ethan Lewis, Director of Global Partnerships at Webflow, explains how Webflow's innovative partner program empowers partners and customers toward success via training and community-building initiatives:
“We want to make sure that the partnership is strong. We can show the community and our customers that we are in lockstep with our partners, and we see them as an extension of our team, both on the sales and marketing sides.“
Jared Fuller, Founder of PartnerHacker, shares that a key way to empower partners, as well as your program and your individual goals, is to participate in the larger community. He explains that the key to being welcomed into these communities, to being partner-worthy, is the same as being mentor-worthy...you gotta do the work.
“I think that the other part of mentorship and partnership is that people want advice, but the gains happen in the work. So, if you have someone that you're approaching as a mentor, you even get a conversation, and they're like, ‘Hey, I'm not sure I have the capacity. I can do one call,’ then you take religious notes on that call with that mentor. Don’t ask if they’ll be your mentor yet. Did they tell you to do one thing? Three things. Five things. Go do them for a month and then send them your results and say, ‘Since our last call, here's everything that I did. Do you mind if I grab another slot with you?’ They’ll think, ‘Wow, this person listened to me. They're serious. I had an impact.’ Then they'll take that next call. At that point, you can make your ask. You can say, ‘Okay, now I want to get serious. I proved to you that I'm taking this seriously.’ That's the difference.”
Dan O'Leary, Director of Partnerships at Box, warns not to get too bogged down in the program:
“Often, companies make the mistake of focusing too much on the program—they think it is all about the program. However, a partner program is always about partners and their success. You should build programs that make your partners wildly successful, make them indispensable to your customers, and align your incentives with their incentives.”
János Vrancsik, the Director of Partnerships at Bitrise, explains the importance of choosing the right partners for your program. After all, partners cannot be empowered if they aren't in the right place:
“When you start building partnerships, you might want to work with the biggest names in your industry. While partnering with market giants is a great opportunity, you must keep one thing in mind: the bigger an organization is, the harder it gets to navigate it. It may feel counterintuitive to go for smaller partners, but many times, they have the willingness and the velocity to go over and beyond. Contrary to what people think, small organizations often prove to be more fruitful than industry giants in terms of revenue.”
Madison Perry, former Head Of Demand Generation & Partner Marketing at Chili Piper, states that an empowered partnership is an educated one:
"You get the most value when you educate the entire team or at least key stakeholders. So we always like to kick things off with a Lunch & Learn. We buy our partners either a DoorDash gift card, or we'll send them wine, whatever it is. And we'll sit down with a solutions consultant on our team, as well as someone from the AE side who can assist with questions they'll usually get during a demo. We bring in key stakeholders from their team as well.
We really want to walk through and understand not only Chili Piper, but their business model, too. I think that's what's missing in a lot of these kickoff meetings. Vendors tend to lean towards what's gonna benefit them and what's going to bring them the most value. Actually, I think you should look at it the opposite way. How can we benefit our partners in the best way possible? How can we educate each other?"
Charlene Strain, Partner Marketing Manager of Ecosystem at Pendo.io, encourages you to explore the thought leadership and strategies of the partnership community to keep your partners empowered.
And as we can see from the incredible knowledge shared just this year alone in this series, we wholeheartedly agree:
“The partnerships world is small—in a good way. There are a lot of different types of people to meet. Don't be afraid to talk to folks outside of your own company. Actually, I think it's very important for improving your operations. I know partnerships folks who do nothing but talk to people outside of their own company and that's incredible. And they are very successful in what they do.”
To sum it up, as you move into 2023, remember to take risks, test, learn, and adjust, and always remember that the best partnerships are built on trust.
The success of your partner program depends on building a solid and long-lasting community of partners. Find partners who will complement your brand and the program, and then determine what works best for you and your partners before moving forward.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Where can I find channel partnership best practices?
Kiflo's Greatest Minds in Partnership interview series shares insight, strategies, and best practices from industry experts.
What are the benefits of a channel partnership?
The benefits of channel partnerships are that they can help you reach new customers without having to spend more on advertising and/or marketing.
What do you need to get started with a channel partnership?
You must identify the type of company you'd like to partner with, and how they will help you reach set goals. You must also understand and address the challenges that your channel partner faces and how your partnership will bring them value.
What is the most common mistake made in channel partnerships?
Failure to establish a clear vision of success and how to measure it. Many businesses invest time, money, and resources into developing channel partnerships without a clear goal or a plan for measuring success.
What is the importance of channel partnerships?
The best channel partnerships can assist you in scaling growth while promoting your products and leveraging customer relationships, allowing you to significantly increase your customer base.