How to be Partner-Worthy: A Conversation with Jared Fuller
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 sitting down with Jared Fuller, Founder of the quickly growing media company, PartnerHacker. With the mission statement, “Trust is the new data,” PartnerHacker is becoming the epicenter for all things partner ecosystems. This includes ideas, inspiration, news, and resources from and about the partnership's community.
As a successful entrepreneur and student of B2B markets, community is something Jared knows all about. He serves on multiple advisory boards ranging from Universities to Venture-Backed SaaS startups. Jared also hosts PartnerUp, The Partnerships Podcast. Previously, he held executive GTM and partner positions at PandaDoc and Drift, both now known as B2B SaaS unicorns.
But how does the community serve Jared, PartnerHacker, and the larger partnership ecosystem?
Read the following interview to discover more and take advantage of the advice coming from Jared himself.
Defining Community vs Partnerships
Before jumping into how community influences partnerships and the professionals that manage them, it’s important to get one thing straight: community and partnerships are not the same things.
As Jared explains in detail in his PartnerHacker Manifesto, there are some key differences between ecosystems, partnerships, and communities:
- The B2B ecosystem manifests in the form of partners, communities, and individuals.
- A partner is an account with inherent commercial objectives. It's a company and a collection of people who work towards those objectives.
- A community is comprised of individuals with a shared interest, and it’s multilayered. It can be your employees, your customers, or even the type of work you do or your professional role. It’s where people go to associate with one another.
Pretty straightforward, right?
Not so fast.
While this framework is important to define, to Jared, the community can be a sum of something much bigger.
But what is this bigger thing that communities emanate?
“It's information. Not to say the information isn't a part of partnerships. Of course, it is. But as a community, you're basically saying, ‘Hey, I don't feel I'm getting what I need elsewhere, so I'm going to go associate with people like me.’ So, I would say partners are companies with a shared commercial interest. Communities are individuals with a shared professional interest.”
According to Jared, it’s this information that builds the foundation for not only successful communities, but also the successful relationships that spring from it. And, coming back to PartnerHacker’s mission statement, the key to good information is trust, value, and an eyebrow raise to rival The Rock.
This is what Jared says makes information solid, aka what makes something great content:
“Here's what I'm looking for, which is very simple: it's an eyebrow raise. That's it. I don't care what it is related to partnerships, but it has to make me think or go, ‘Interesting’. It has to engage me and it has to pass the eyebrow raise test.”
How Communities Influence Partnerships
Once you find communities that provide this kind of eyebrow-raising information, it’s important to remember to give back to them. To nurture them. Why? Because as Jared explains, communities are where relationships are made, which in turn, can develop into partnerships:
“Communities are where people get to build relationships. There are lots of starting points for relationships. Let's say I want to partner with HubSpot marketing agencies. How are you going to do it? By cold calling them? That seems pretty counterintuitive. No, you're going to go to the watering holes where these partners exist. And these partners are comprised of what? People. And where do the people live? They live in communities.”
But before partnerships can develop from these spaces, other community members need to see that, basically, you are someone who knows what they’re talking about. Jared continues:
“So, you're going to go to the inbound communities that have those people. And then how do you build trust? Well, you give to that community. You participate in the conversation. You show that you are a valuable resource that people want to partner with. That's where the intersect of these things come together. Community is the new outbound and inbound.”
To be clear, you cannot enter these communities with the sole intention of winning partners, because as Jared explains, people will be able to smell the sales tactics on you from a mile away. This is why it is so important to keep the intention around your participation in these communities focused on bringing value and learning as much as possible.
Where Revenue & Relationship Meet
This is not to say that there isn’t money to be made. We all need to keep the lights on, right?
However, once the relationships forged within communities start to shift to a more commercial interest, that is when a partnership can form. And though there is a lot of back and forth on this topic in the partnership's community, according to Jared, profitably should 100% be at the core during the evolution of these relationships.
The key, however, is to do it tactfully.
Jared shares that he can always tell an immature partner manager, or a “JV Player” as he calls them, from a real pro by how they approach the revenue aspect of a partnership:
“I was talking to the CRO of Movable Inc. and their VP of partnerships told me, ‘I want to get a lot from my partner ecosystem, which means I got to give a lot.’ That's the difference between a Junior Varsity and a pro. A pro understands that I want to make a ton of money. I want to get a lot from my partner ecosystem, which means I better give a lot.”
Be Mentor-Worthy, Be Partner-Worthy
Speaking of giving a lot, Jared explains that another way to view partnerships is through the lens of mentorships.
Let’s break that down. First, Jared explains:
“There are mentors and there are role models. Mentors are people who represent where you want to be in three to five years, and a role model is someone that is where you want to be in ten years.”
Just like partnerships, mentorships are directly linked to communities; more likely than not, people you want as both mentors and partners are participating in the communities you are either a part of or want to be a part of. There are also thousands of other people in the community who would kill to be mentored by/partnered with that person. And again, just like in partnerships, these major players probably aren’t sitting around pining for a new connection.
“Who is out advertising that they want to mentor people? No one. No one does that because it's free.”
So, how do you become mentor-worthy? How do you become someone that mentors want to take under their wing and build a long-lasting relationship with?
Turns out, it’s exactly what you need to do to become partner-worthy. Here’s how:
Whether you’re seeking a mentor to help boost you professionally, or a partner to help you achieve your company objectives, the first step is taking action and proving value.
“You have to go out and be proactive and find those people. Find ways to give value first, help them, and be a connector, a node. Be someone that consumes their stuff as an evangelist. For example, let’s say I'm trying to become the best marketer in the world. I’m going to pick three people that are my favorite marketers out there. Then I'm going to be a super fan. I'm going to comment on their stuff. If they ever need help, I'm going to be there. And then once I've given and given and given, once I’ve proven my value, then I can make an ask and say, ‘Hey, I really want to do a call together,’ and I’ll already have this track record.”
Cut the B.S.
As mentioned before, if you enter a community with only money on your mind, it’s very unlikely that you will find partners, let alone mentors.
“If you don't feel at home (and you should) in the community, if you're not a genuine part it, people's bullshit meter goes off. They think of you as a company, not a person. If you're not valuable to the community, then they're going to be reticent and scared of your motivations. They’ll think, ‘You're just trying to make money off of us.’”
Do the Work
Hands down, the best way to make yourself both partner- and mentor-worthy is to put in the time and effort it takes to show you are serious.
“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.”
Be Someone Your Partners & Mentors Want to See Win
As your relationship with your mentor and/or partner grows, it’s important to keep an eye out for ways to continue to nurture your connection with them. Keep in mind that, like any good relationship, it will change and evolve over time, especially if you start to find your own success.
In talking about his relationships with his mentors, Pete Caputa and David Cancel, Jared explains:
“Be someone that your partners or mentors want to see win. Because if you're the person that people want to see win, all you have to do is give them the updates, right? There's very little that I can do for Pete as I become more successful besides sharing that I’m a customer. I love Databox, I talk about it all the time. I'm an evangelist for it. I think it's a great platform. So, Pete sees that I can actually influence some people now, too. But it wasn't why he was mentoring me in the beginning. Basically, be fans of the people that helped get you to where you are. If you keep the right people in long-term relationships, they’ll want to see you achieve the next thing, especially as you're able to give more and give back.
Let me give you a perfect example:
I worked for David Cancel at Drift. He's probably one of the best CEOs in the world, ever. We sold Drift, and I kind of let him take his time. I got PartnerHacker off the ground, and I was thinking about him. I'm like, I want to get back in DC's inner circle. So, unprovoked and unprompted, I sent him a signed picture of the first Apple 1 computer signed by the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, that says, ‘Think different.’
I just sent it to him. I said, ‘Thanks for the lessons of Drift. I wouldn’t have started my next company had it not been for you. Just wanted to say I love you and thank you.’ That's it.
He posted it on his Instagram story, ‘Look what just came in the mail. This is Dope. This is from Woz. This was Steve Jobs’ partner in crime. They literally built this computer in Woz's garage.’
So, I was able to give him this unique thing that's going to hang in his house. It's going to be there forever. You're not going to get rid of that, right? So, you're not going to get rid of me. I'm continuing to give back to you in so many ways. If you just stay in that mindset with mentors and partners, you find where you can connect the dots.”
Surround Yourself With the Best
Lastly, Jared believes that in both mentorships and partnerships, your inner circle is going to have the biggest impact on your success.
“I think the smartest people realize that you are the sum of the five people you spend the majority of your time with. If you want to have better partners and you want to have better mentors, that's a part of the equation. But you also need to be a person that those people want to partner with or mentor. Trust is consistently showing up. Think about that as it relates to the five people you spend the most time with, and how you show up for them.”
Make it Happen for You: How to Grow Your Partner Ecosystem like PartnerHacker
Show up for your partners in a real way by ensuring they have the proper tools to succeed. Equipping your partners with the right technology will bring value to them and help you both grow!
A Partner Relation Management (PRM) platform allows you to:
- Organize your programs 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