How to Bring Perspective Back to Partnerships
This article is a part of a compelling series that will give you practical tips on how to grow a successful partner program. By leveraging the advice of the greatest minds in partnerships, you will learn how to effectively create, structure, and build a partner program that scales revenue. If you are a startup or SMB in the B2B tech industry, this series is for you.
For this article, we had the pleasure of speaking with Sara Nigro, Directives' Global Customer Marketing Manager.
Directive is a global performance marketing agency that drives customer generation for software and tech businesses through the use of organic search, paid advertising, performance creative, and other marketing solutions.
The company was founded in 2014 and has grown to become one of the world's largest SaaS and tech marketing firms, focused on mid-market and enterprise brands.
Sara, who first implemented Directive's partner program, describes how what began as a simple referral engine evolved into tactics for creating joint-value propositions by integrating their business with like-minded partners.
The secret to accomplishing this was serving as consultants who provide more than just account management, but also practical methods to help customers and business partners in various ways to better accelerate growth.
Never having to turn down a prospect or partner—or, to use the adage, never say never—was the driving force behind this, with a blend of authenticity, well-defined goals, and bringing perspective back to partnerships.
Read the following interview to discover and take advantage of the advice coming from Sara herself.
What Does Perspective Mean in Partnerships?
“Partnerships are more than just revenue drivers.”
Perspective in partnerships = authenticity.
In other words, trust was and is meant to be at the heart of all partnerships.
However, due to the intense need and pressure for revenue growth, partnerships today are vulnerable to losing their authenticity. Most partner professionals overlook that, without authenticity, a partnership cannot grow or, worse, risk never reaching its full potential.
But how does one achieve this authenticity?
According to Sara, authenticity is achieved through partnership and marketing, maintaining awareness, and building a community ecosystem that unites companies that can play in the same space and have a stronger voice together.
Directive shows their authenticity by using themselves as a case study for their own work.
By testing and applying tech stacks to their own processes, Directive ensures that when referring partners, they can do so with authenticity rather than just out of a desire to generate more revenue or add more partners.
"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.”
In a nutshell, it generates the actual ecology of reason.
But unfortunately, many companies solely focused on sales lack this point of view.
“Sales are very necessary. It's part of the growth funnel, but marketing and partnership that's still such a huge component of keeping things authentic, keeping awareness at play, in play, and creating an ecosystem of community that joins two companies together—and sometimes even three or four—that can all play in the same space, that have a voice that's better together. And I think that's the partnership perspective that I try to lead with, that I think a lot of companies lose sight of very quickly when it just becomes generation for revenue.”
How to Bring Perspective to Partnerships?
In light of Directive's willingness to share first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn't, the key question is how Sara and the Directive team secure a victory in bringing perspective to partnerships.
It all starts with three things: collaboration, incentives, and meeting partners in the middle.
“Collaboration opened up a whole new perspective of how we can be more dynamic as partners.”
What is a partnership if not the means of putting your heads together and finding the golden road to growth?
For Directive, the path begins with collaboration, including but not limited to co-branding collaboration, co-marketing collaboration, and so on.
Collaboration with partners enables Directive's team to test against the entire addressable market of their company and partner's company.
It could be as simple as beginning with co-branded content and gradually introducing it into the system by incentivizing consumers to interact with it.
With this method, Directive has seen an increase in the number of leads for introductory calls or discoveries, with an impressive number of companies that were never in their pipeline finally appearing, all thanks to co-branded content or marketing.
Shifting the Idea of Commission-Based Incentives
One thing to keep in mind is that it's not always about the money; it's about the relationships you build. Directive has discovered a winning strategy to accomplish this, for not only partners but their internal team, too.
That is through incentivizing the little things.
“We incentivize the little things that make people feel special. For example, Hey, we had a call that was really great. Here's a small gift card to show you how much I value your time, thank you.”
Think of it this way: it is a partnership, a real beneficial relationship that will help you expand your revenue and network your overall business.
That means you should do more than just give partners a 10 to 15% commission that goes into their pockets when deals are closed, but instead should also take into account how to build real, human connections with the people behind the partnerships.
Directive places a high value on their team's ability to provide a memorable and personal experience for each partner; it's as simple as thanking partners for their time, effort, brainstorming sessions, and so much more, and vice versa for the executives and internal team.
Meeting Each Other in the Middle
“We want to make sure that we have a solution for them at every phase of their growth strategy. The last thing I want to do is bring on a partner and not be able to make ourselves more dynamic together.”
The first call is typically where a partnership starts, where you learn how you can develop as partners. You can find out if the prospect has the goals, ICP, and marketing ideas through this call or meeting.
Meeting in the middle is pivotal to the partnership, and it’s in these first meetings that you get a sense if the partner is ready to do so.
This helps in removing potential barriers that might prevent you from wasting time investing in a partnership that you can't make dynamic and expand in countless ways.
And it's okay if your partners don't quite fit the profile you're looking for. Because your honesty about why they aren't a good fit emphasizes authenticity and ultimately saves the relationship in the long run.
How to Know When Partners Lack Perspective?
In the majority of cases, 80% of partnerships become inactive.
However, people continue to enter into partnership agreements because the benefits can provide your company with numerous advantages, and who can blame them?
The benefits are fantastic, but if you want to succeed as a business, you must figure out how to ensure that your partnership is part of the successful 20%.
With that said, it's important to keep in mind that not all potential partners will value partnerships in the same way that you do.
There are some red flags to look out for that will let you know when a potential partner is only concerned with generating quick revenue growth and not putting in the time and effort required to create successful partnerships.
No Designated Point of Contact for Partnerships
“It truly is the biggest red flag for me when I speak with a company that has a shared ICP as us but wants me to work with their C-suite (executive-level managers within a company). That's not going to be a good partnership opportunity for us.”
The first red flag, according to Sara, is speaking with companies and discovering that the point of contact for partnerships is the CEO.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with being invested in your own company as a CEO. But if you know you will be extremely busy with other aspects of your company, the best thing you can do is to designate someone solely for partnership management and marketing.
Because at the end of the day, that is really the essence of a partnership: how can we, as partners, improve on each other's strengths? And that is impossible to achieve if your focus as the CEO or business owner is constantly diverted and engagement will be a thing that happens only once in a while.
Simply put, a company that wants to partner with another company should invest in a partner point of contact. It can help many businesses save time and money.
Not Understanding the Purpose of the Partnership
“It amazes me when these companies raise their hands and say, "Yes, we want to be partners." But, do you know what that means? Are you willing to put in the time?”
Second, you must first understand what a partnership is and what the potential partner company does, particularly if you are an executive leader of a company.
Companies frequently enter into partnerships with great enthusiasm but little understanding of what they are getting into or even what the potential partnership entails.
According to Sara, this forces their team to spend discovery calls validating and coaching on what partnerships are about rather than concentrating on finding the right partner who is knowledgeable about the commitment they are making.
You must understand what it is and be willing to invest the time.
Gaining New Perspective: Chili Piper’s Partner Advisory Board
Sara and her team are committed to not only finding partners with perspective but also doing everything in their power to maintain and grow their own.
With all of this enthusiasm, Sara has been appointed to Chili Piper's partner advisory board, opening up new and exciting opportunities.
"I remember feeling quite honored when I was invited to join. I adore the group and honestly believe our collaboration with them is mutually beneficial."
Her role includes looking at what Chili Piper's team is up to, the go-to marketing strategy they may be working on, what products are out, and, most importantly, how this might impact Directive's clients and team.
Sara characterizes the partnership as "extremely dynamic," with the extra benefit of allowing her to "peak behind the curtains," as she puts it, or observe things from a perspective that is not available to everyone.
Sara's motivation for accepting the position was to seize the chance it presented to help not only her team but also Chili Piper's. Because it should be the main goal of a partner program to allow all teams to scale up, or "Upskill," as Sara puts it.
The benefit of being on the advisory board for her team is that she is able to educate them and their clients about what is going on in the partnership space.
It also allows her to roll out certification that she believes her team may need to better speak to a product or tool and for them to be able to offer creative ideas that are drawn to marketers.
Key Takeaways: Sara’s Advice to Build a Partner Program with Perspective
“Invest in partnerships.”
Partnerships are something that every company, no matter how big, should invest in. Invest in a partner point of contact, and narrow down your ICP to get rid of all the obstacles that can stand in the way of prospecting and client growth.
“Don’t say yes to everyone.”
Learn to say no instead of always trying to say yes, especially to partnerships that do not appear to be strategic. As Sara explains:
“I wish I had known that not every company sees the value in partnerships, and that's okay. It's about finding companies that share the same vision and share very similar goals as you. That's where you can have the best success.“
“Find someone marketing-driven to handle partnerships.”
This is something that all companies, regardless of size, need to be aware of. Even if your organization is just getting started, it's crucial to appoint someone who has been designated and expressly devoted to managing partnerships.
“You don't need a lot of money to get into partnerships; all you need is someone with a creative marketing drive who can uncover new methods to collaborate with other businesses.”
Anyone with a background in or interest in marketing is eligible.
Why marketing? Because they will be more motivated to work on the co-branding and public awareness campaigns. Additionally, one who can think of original and inventive ways for the company and its partners to collaborate.
Make it Happen for You: How to Grow Your Partner Program like Directive
If you want to grow a partner program like Directive, it is essential that you have the proper tools to structure, automate, and scale your program.
A Partner Relation Management (PRM) platform allows you to:
- Organize your program with tiers
- Coordinate training, onboarding, and certification processes
- Trace leads
- Build a knowledge base to provide instant answers
- Collaborate with partners on a shared pipeline
- Get full visibility over partner activity
- Measure partner performance
- Track commission and payouts