This article is a part of a compelling series that gives 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 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 interviewed Krishanth Thangarajah, Freshworks’ Head of Global Technology partnerships. Freshworks provides a suite of software solutions that helps businesses improve and manage their customer experience, sales, marketing, IT, and HR management in a simple and effective way. Today, Freshworks is valued at $3.5 billion and services over 40,000 businesses.
Krishanth drives Freshworks' technology partner program to improve solutions for their customers, reduce churn, and drive lead generation. He leads the company’s efforts in designing a top-notch tech partner program and go-to market strategy. In less than 5 years, they have grown a program with over 1000+ apps and 400+ partners. Read the following interview to discover how Freshworks built such a successful tech partner program and take advantage of the game-changing advice from Krishanth himself.
- 1. The Challenge: Why Freshworks’ Decided to Start and Grow Their Tech Partner Program
- 1.1. Product Enhancement
- 1.2. Lead Generation
- 1.3. Churn Reduction
- 2. Getting Started: How Freshworks Structures Their Tech Partner Selection Process
- 3. Double Checking: Freshworks’ Review Process to Ensure Quality Partnerships
- 3.1. Code Review
- 3.2. QA
- 3.3. Content Check
- 4. The Launch: How Freshworks Effectively Manages the Integration Period
- 5. Notifying the Market: How Freshworks Runs their GTM Strategy
- 5.1. Customer Adoption
- 5.2. Lead Exchange
- 5.3. Channel Selling
- 5.4. Co-marketing
- 6. Key Takeaways: Krishanth’s Advice to Run a Successful Tech Partner Program
- 6.1. Advice #1: Research
- 6.2. Advice #2: Alignment
- 6.3. Advice #3: Assumptions
- 6.4. Advice #4: Empathy
- 7. Make it Happen for You: How to Grow a Tech partner Program like Freshworks
- 8. Ready to Scale Your Partnership Revenue?
Table of contents
As an organization, Freshworks wanted to stay ahead of the competition, grow their customer base, and retain customers for life. Their tech partner program allows them to accomplish these goals in 3 ways:
In terms of strategy, Freshworks focuses on making their solution the very best it can be in order to grow. In this way, they can come from a place of selling value and solutions to their customers rather than just a point product. Their tech partner program allows them to enhance their products faster and create a strong solution for the customers' business processes.
Their tech partner program also opens up many opportunities for them to exchange leads with their partners as well as enter into co-marketing and co-selling campaigns. These types of partners tend to generate more quality leads for Freshworks because they share the same customer types and are already involved.
Not only does Freshworks’ enhanced product make customers more likely to stay, but Freshworks’ integrations also make their customers use their solution more often. The more that customers depend on their solution, the more likely they are to stay.
“We now know, and have data to prove, that the more integrations a customer uses, the less likely they are to churn.”
Since Freshworks’ end goal is customer satisfaction, this is also where they begin the partner selection process. They study customers’ needs and requests through support tickets to decide what kind of solutions would be the most helpful for their customers.
Along the same lines, Freshworks chooses not to monetize their partnerships because they want to work with the very best partners. If a partner would be a good fit, they do not want to give the partner any reason to hesitate from integrating. This is why Freshworks’ tech partner program remains free of cost.
Freshworks works with two kinds of technology partners: System Integrators (SI) who build integrations or solutions for their customers and other Product companies that want to integrate with Freshworks products. Both follow specific criteria for the selection process.
For SI partners, they check the following areas:
The quality of work
Their commitment to timelines
Their customer satisfaction rating
The cost of integration
For SaaS partners, they check:
Product ask and gaps
Even after this selection process, Freshworks studies the partner to ensure they engage deeply with perfect complementary solutions. They also use account mapping to ensure that they have a good amount of common customers that will benefit from the integration.
Once an initial selection process is complete, the partners go through another review process so that Freshworks can be sure that the quality and culture of the partner match with that of Freshworks. Here is the review process they perform:
They check and ensure that the code of the partner is good quality and has the stability and capacity for integration.
They then go through a quality assurance process where they ensure that the listed integration indeed works as the developer’s instructions said they would.
Lastly, someone from Freshworks’ marketing team looks into the brand image, website, and content of the partner to make sure they have a good reputation.
A partner’s willingness and motivation play a huge role in their review process:
“We work closely with partners who are quick to reach out, quick to support our customers, and are ready to invest time in new, custom integrations if needed.”
One of the most challenging aspects of Freshworks’ tech partnerships is the time and energy it takes to integrate solutions. During the integration phase, a significant support level is required. Partners have a wide range of questions about integration from customizations and documentation to API and coding.
To save valuable time, Freshworks came up with a brilliant solution. They created a developer community so partners can rely on the crowd to help each other rather than contacting Freshworks with each question. On a daily basis, numerous developers are asking and responding to questions on their forums.
Growing a community from zero to 1,100+ people in 3 months was no easy task. It took technique to develop their community. In order to increase engagement, they regularly highlight and put partners in value who are active in the community.
“The ‘feel good’ aspect of our community is its life blood. People are good, and our community is full of individuals who are happy and eager to help each other.”
After the integration phase ends, the go-to-market (GTM) phase begins. In this phase, Freshworks and their partners explore various options to get the most out of their partnerships. Not all strategies fit all partners, so before selecting strategies, Freshworks considers both their own interests as well as the interests of their partners.
The following is a list of potential strategies they put in place:
Freshworks often focuses on customer adoption. They announce the new integration to existing customers that would benefit from it. To do this, Freshworks collects success stories and promotes the apps to specific users. This helps Freshworks reduce churn and helps their partners get more users to adopt their solution.
Sometimes, Freshworks exchanges leads with their partners and sets up an account mapping strategy to do so. They use account mapping tools to see their overlapping leads, opportunities, and customers. Then, they identify the best-fit person to sell their new joint solution.
They also explore the option of using their tech partners as channel partners. In this way, partners sell Freshworks to their existing customers. When Freshworks sets up a channel selling strategy, they educate their partners on how to sell both solutions, and they provide their partners with sales materials that bundle the two solutions.
Freshworks has a dedicated tech partner marketing team that works on generating leads with partners from a list of common audiences. The team forms storytelling about how the two solutions have united to create something better for the customer. This is a great opportunity for Freshworks to highlight their platform to new audiences. They also invite partners’ customers to their events, and they take part in partners’ events.
For these GTM strategies, Freshworks is ready to invest time and resources in order to get a strong ROI from the integration:
“Some partners are open to mutual referral fees, offering SPIFFs etc which also works well. However, we do not encourage this at Freshworks at this time. Rather, we ask our partners to park referral fees as MDFs that we can use for co-marketing events.”
“Do your research before reaching out to partners; partners may not be able to guide you.”
Check their existing integrations.
Check their existing product features.
Look at support/community forums if someone is talking about something similar to what you are going to build.
Look at what you can do for your partners. Sometimes a perfect 50/50 may not work out so you may need to provide added benefits or resources from your side.
“Make sure partners’ goals align with yours.”
Verify you are talking with the right people in the organization. Ask them openly.
Try to find partners with a specific team that is incentivized to work with partners and have similar goals. These are the best ecosystems to work with.
Don't promise things you can't deliver, like exclusivity.
“Do not assume what worked with one ecosystem will work everywhere.”
For example, just because two companies provide a similar service, does not mean that what worked for one will also work for the other.
“Empathy is one of the most important character traits one needs to have successful partnership conversations.”
If you want to grow a tech partner program like Freshworks, 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
Coordinate training, onboarding, and certification processes
Collaborate with partners on a shared pipeline
Get full visibility over partner activity
Measure partner performance
Track commission and payouts
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Freshworks?
Freshworks Inc. is an American cloud-based customer engagement company. History. The company was founded as Freshdesk in October 2010 by Girish Mathrubootham and Shan Krishnasamy.
What types of partners does Freshworks have?
Freshworks works with several partner types: Solution Partners, Technology Partners and Affiliate Partners.
What are Solution Partners?
Solution Partners create more value for your customers. Solution Partners could be consultants, integrators, MSP, etc.