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 interviewed Ben Wright, Help Scout’s Director of Partnerships and Business Development. Established in 2011, Help Scout is a remote-first global company that offers cloud-based helpdesk solutions. Their customer service platform allows growing organizations to connect with customers and manage conversations in one place, thus facilitating collaboration and automation. The company currently serves over 12,000+ customers spread across 140 countries. Some of their noteworthy clients include Buffer, GrubHub, Trello, and OkCupid.
Ben has recently joined Help Scout to bring his 5+ years of expertise in Partnerships. In addition to redesigning and relaunching the already existing affiliate program, Ben is in charge of designing and implementing their Technology Partnership Program. From developing strategies and measuring KPIs to identifying, managing, and engaging partners, Ben spearheads a diverse range of partnership operations at Help Scout.
Read the following interview to discover how Help Scout plans to sustain the growth of their thriving partner programs. Take advantage of the advice coming from Ben Wright himself:
- 1. What is Help Scout’s Strategy for Building and Growing Their Partner Programs?
- 1.1. Refining and Relaunching the Existing Affiliate Partner Program
- 1.2. Building a Program for Technology and Integration Partners
- 1.3. Start a Channel for Referral Partners
- 2. What are the Criteria Help Scout Follows for Selecting Partners?
- 2.1. Business Evaluation
- 2.2. Product Evaluation
- 3. How Does Help Scout Intend to Manage the Program and Engage Partners?
- 3.1. Announcement of the Partnership
- 3.2. Equipping the Sales Team
- 3.3. Encouraging Cross-Collaboration
- 3.4. Getting Partners Involved in Deals
- 3.5. Having Dedicated Managers for Each Partner Type
- 4. What are the Key KPIs and Metrics Help Scout Measures?
- 4.1. Learning
- 4.2. Quick Mutual Wins
- 4.3. Leads Generated
- 4.4. Revenue
- 4.5. General Activeness
- 5. Key Takeaways: Ben’s Advice to Build and Expand a Partner Program
- 5.1. “You must have a robust strategy.”
- 5.2. “It is crucial that you get executive buy-in for partnerships.”
- 5.3. “Give your partner program time to mature.”
- 6. Make it Happen for You: How to Grow a Partner Program Like Help Scout
- 7. Ready to Scale Your Partnership Revenue?
Table of contents
As a customer support tool provider for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), Help Scout has always driven growth through outbound sales. Having been in the business for over 10 years, they are currently at a phase where they want to increase leads and revenue through ways other than outbound sales. And, what better way to do it than through partnerships!
Help Scout is in the process of designing a three-pillar strategy for increasing growth and revenue:
Help Scout has already launched a program for affiliate partners. Though it had over 750 affiliates, only a few of them were generating revenue. The company currently aims to redesign the existing affiliate partner program to increase its effectiveness and revenue-generating capacity. The work is in progress, and they intend to relaunch the program shortly.
As a provider of cloud-based help desk solutions, Help Scout has already built over 50 app integrations. Currently, they are in the process of designing a program for tech partners to make the most of existing integrations, which includes optimizing the go-to-market strategy and making an official structure for the program.
Since Help Scout focuses on enabling growing businesses, they plan on building referral partnerships that help them target the startup ecosystem. Establishing and bolstering referral partnerships, Ben says, will help them target early-stage startups and other players in the ecosystem.
According to Ben, the company is designing their partner strategy by factoring in the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), target region, and the specific verticals where Help Scout solutions are in high demand.
“Our ICP is early-stage SMBs, and our target market is North America and the EMEA region. We have a general strategy for our ICP and target region, and we focus on a few specific verticals, such as education, construction, real estate, and logistics within these SMBs. The strategy also involves having dedicated managers and teams to handle each vertical and the ecosystems within those channels.”
To figure out and define who a good partner is for Help Scout, the company uses two criteria—business evaluation and product evaluation:
First, Help Scout evaluates whether a tech partner is a good match in terms of leads and revenue generation. They assess customer compatibility using account mapping tools—i.e., whether the company has mutual customers with a potential partner or whether they sell to the same type of customers. It helps them predict the numbers and delve deep into the ICP.
“If a partner has X number of customers that follow our ICP, it equates to potential X amount of revenue. Likewise, we also evaluate whether we sell it into the same type of customers. We sell into SMBs, and if we partner with companies that sell into enterprises, our customers are unlikely to purchase that technology.”
The second criterion Help Scout focuses on while choosing technology partners is product evaluation from an integration perspective. They first ensure that there is adequate demand from customers for a Help Scout integration. At this stage, the company brings in their product team to dig deep into the technical side of the integration and ensure that it meets all quality standards.
“We choose partners secondarily from an integration perspective. Have any of your customers requested that integration? Or, do you have an interest from your customers in building a Help Scout integration? If yes, then that is a great sign to me. If not, the question is, why do you want to build an integration out with us? What is the integration going to look like?”
As Ben rightly notes, enablement and activation are the most critical parts of partnerships. Help Scout does the following activities to manage, enable, and engage their partners once the partnership is officially signed:
Announcement of partnerships is a crucial activity, especially from a co-marketing perspective. Once a partner is on board, Help Scout announces it to let the market and customers know about the integration. They add the partner into their app store and do social media posts around the integration, explaining how it benefits customers.
Secondly, Help Scout equips the sales team as they are the ones going out and generating leads. The company enables them with all the information they need—what is Help Scout, how to sell the product/integration, how to position the company, etc.
It is crucial to celebrate the wins, and it is often not enough to give partners a $50 gift card if they send a lead. While monetary rewards are integral to partner programs, partners feel respected when the relationship is mutually beneficial—when they get a lead in exchange for one. Here is where cross-collaboration becomes crucial, says Ben. Help Scout encourages partners to work hand in hand with them so the partnership is truly a win-win.
Often, hiccups happen when partners work on deals—they may come to an impasse, not be able to close a deal quickly enough, or the buyer may drop off. Help Scout has implemented a system where people facing difficulties in the deal can request partner influence, check if any partners are working with that client, and get help to reignite the deal.
As a company having affiliate, referral, and tech partnerships, Help Scout finds it crucial to have fruitful engagements with each partner type. Each type is a unique growth driver, and each channel has a different value. Hence, they plan on having dedicated team owners for affiliate, referral, and tech partners. Managers who can understand and manage different partner types, speak the language that resonates with partners, and understand their requirements are essential to creating a meaningful partner experience.
To measure the success and effectiveness of their partner program, Help Scout tracks a few relevant metrics and indices. These include:
Help Scout has a few prerequisites outside the business metrics to check whether a partner is engaged in the program. Completion of training modules is the most important one among them—it helps partners equip themselves with the required information regarding Help Scout and the product/solution they are trying to sell. If a partner has not completed the training, it is probably an indication of a lack of interest.
Seeing results early on in the relationship is an equally crucial indicator—i.e., whether a partner is able to introduce Help Scout to customers quickly once they are on board. Quick mutual wins are one of the best ways to assess whether a partner is as good as you think, says Ben.
“In my opinion, partnerships only work when you have that quick mutual win. Otherwise, it is just hypothetical. Having that mutual win early on is something that we try to enforce—go and learn about Help Scout and then let us figure out how I can get you a lead, and you can get me a lead.”
Apart from the indicators mentioned above, Help Scout pays attention to some of the standard KPIs, including leads generated. The number of leads partners send in is a clear sign of whether they have an appetite to work with Help Scout again or not.
Revenue, obviously, is another crucial KPI for Help Scout. It is not enough to generate leads; how many of these leads actually convert into business indicates whether someone is a good partner from a financial perspective.
Sometimes partners take time to be beneficial from a financial point of view. They may not be able to bring in a lot of deals at the beginning, but in these cases, Help Scout still takes into account whether they are actively engaging with customers.
“Is there account mapping? Is there a regular introduction to customers? Is a partner meeting with us and working closely with our sales team even if they do not close deals? The way a partner collaborates with us shows if they are a good fit for the company and have the appetite to work for us.”
Have you got a robust sales strategy? Have you figured out who your ICP is? Have you figured out who you want to sell into? If you have not figured out these things, you may not be ready for a partner program. Remember, you are trying to teach a different organization how to sell your product. You cannot expect them to succeed in it if you are not sure about how to do that yourself.
When choosing partners, check whether their executive team understands the partnership clearly. For instance, what do they think this partnership will bring to the business? If they consider it just as a lead generation source, it means they do not understand it. They do not understand the bi-directional dynamics of partnerships.
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.
If you want to grow a partner program like Help Scout, 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
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
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Help Scout?
Help Scout is a cloud-based helpdesk solution that allows organizations to connect with customers and manage support conversations.
Does Help Scout have a partner program?
Yes, Help Scout currently has an affiliate partner program.
What kinds of partners does Help Scout have?
Help Scout currently has over 750 affiliate partners and will soon be implementing a technology partnership program.
What are the benefits of Help Scout's affiliate partner program?
Help Scout affiliate partners earn $200 on each paying customer they refer.
Does Help Scout offer integrations with other apps?
Yes, Help Scout offers hundreds of integrations with useful applications, such as HubSpot and Jira.