How Zapier Designed and Scaled Their Partner Program
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, 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 Cody Jones, Zapier’s Head of Global Partnerships & Channels. Zapier is a solution that lets businesses connect their apps and automate workflows without writing code. Today, Zapier is valued at $5 billion.
As the Head of Partnerships, Cody’s role is critical to Zapier’s success as the tool is made up of thousands of app integrations. Partners are the lifeblood of their business. Cody’s teams are responsible for designing and growing Zapier’s partner programs to increase overall customer acquisition. In less than 5 years, they have grown the program from 800 to over 4,000 app partners. Read the following interview to discover how Zapier built such a successful tech partner program and take advantage of the advice coming from Cody Jones himself.
How Zapier Creates a Scalable Partner Ecosystem
Integrating tech partners requires a significant amount of support. The entire process can be time-consuming for engineering teams and stressful for partners, especially if they feel they are going into the process blind. For Zapier, this was a heavy load to bear as they were receiving countless requests from new integration partners each week.
Instead of responding individually to each request, Zapier documented the answers to the most-asked questions. In this way, anytime the same question came up in the future, they could simply direct the partner to the correct instructions. Partners can now find questions on their own without having to contact Zapier at all. Not only does this save time for Zapier, but it also provides a better experience for their partners because they can find answers instantly, without having to wait for a response.
According to Cody, documentation is crucial to scaling their partner program. It does require investment, but slowly and steadily growing their documentation base over time has allowed them to scale to 100,000+ developers and maintain a relatively small team.
“The genesis of our developer platform is documentation. It is the key to the scalability of our partner ecosystem.”
How Zapier Acquires and Retains Tech Partners
Partners touch a whopping 40% of Zapier’s signups, bringing in a significant amount of revenue each month. Thus, the key to Zapier’s growth depends on gaining new partners and retaining them. To do this, Zapier has to ensure a top-notch partner experience.
When it comes to acquiring new partners, Zapier found that there are many different stakeholders involved in the decision-making process including:
- Marketing teams that care about marketing exposure.
- Product teams that care about the user experience.
- Engineering teams that care about technical quality.
- Leadership teams that make sure that a Zapier integration fits best in their overall strategy.
To effectively acquire new partners, Zapier first asks questions to the stakeholders to find out what they truly want behind the integration. Once Zapier understands their true motivations, they can effectively show them the benefits of becoming a partner, and how integration can help them attain their goals.
Getting an integration live can be quite challenging for partners. Thus, Zapier first focuses on creating a clear, smooth integration process. They provide their partners with a list of things they need to do with the exact steps to complete them. They also share the list of things Zapier will review, followed by a list of things the partner needs to fix.
To then retain partners, Zapier offers outstanding partner support. Something unique about Zapier is that the entire company does support, all 500 employees. This allows each member to get to know partners’ needs, and it also ensures support is delivered fast to swiftly enable their partners. Getting questions answered “super quickly” is one of Zapier’s top priorities.
To provide an excellent partner experience, Zapier also offers various benefits depending on the partner motivators and tiers. They often engage in co-marketing and go-to-market strategies with their partners. Their partners often want to announce their new partnership and want Zapier to announce it with their large customer base, as well. Lead generation is an important motivator for SaaS partners so Zapier often relies on their strong editorial engine and SEO to write about their partners, or make them dedicated landing pages to give them exposure.
“We take care of our partners, and we always give them more than we get. For us, partners are just as important as customers.”
How Zapier Maintains High-Quality Integrations
Since Zapier’s product is their partners, it’s essential that their integrations are perfect. If not, it directly reflects on the product and the user experience. To make sure integrations are well maintained, it became clear to Zapier that they needed to create a formal program to incentivize and reward partners for maintaining good integrations. Thus, the Zapier tiers were born.To create the tier program, they needed to clearly understand what their partners cared about and what they wanted to receive. So, they first spent time digging into and prioritizing the motivations of the different personas. This was primarily achieved through a ‘would you rather’ stack ranking questionnaire that they sent to their partners of Zapier benefits.
Second, they spent time thinking about the qualities and attributes they wanted their partners to reach for. Ultimately, the measure of a good partner came down to two metrics: quarterly growth and integration health. Finally, they built the program tiers’ perks, levels, and attainment according to the identified partner motivators and Zapier’s aspirations for their partners in terms of growth and health.
For instance, Zapier found that partners really cared about getting a landing page because then they get a credible backlink to their website. Therefore, if the partner maintained a healthy integration, they would achieve a higher tier and receive this benefit. Zapier also wanted to make a level playing field for their partners, meaning they made their tiers so that any partner could reach higher tiers if they worked hard, no matter the size of the company.
“Our tiers are based on individual goals so you can see partners that you probably haven’t even heard of who are in gold and platinum tiers because of their work. The fact that people are excited and motivated means we’re doing it right.”
Key Takeaways: Cody’s Advice to Run a Successful Tech Partner Program
“If you are going to scale, start documenting early. I can’t tell you how much mileage we have gotten out of our teams by having good documentation.”
“Know your audience and speak their language.”
“At Zapier, we don’t hire pushy revenue-based people. We hire people that speak product and engineering because those are the people we work with.”
“Give more value to your partners than you get.”
“It is really important to give more than what you ask for. At Zapier, we won’t ask our partners to do things that we won’t do for them. If they promote to their mailing list, then we promote on ours. We want everyone to feel love from Zapier.”
Make it Happen for You: How to Grow a Tech Partner Program like Zapier
If you want to grow a partner program like Zapier, 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 qualified 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.