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 Ashleigh Gray, Vidyard’s VP of Strategic Partnerships. Vidyard is a leading B2B video platform that enables businesses to leverage the power of videos for virtual marketing and selling. Their solutions help sales and marketing teams connect and engage with customers, increase leads, and boost revenue. Currently, the company has over 12 million users spread across 160,000 companies. The vast customer base of Vidyard includes several industry giants, such as LinkedIn, Marketo, Microsoft, and Cognizant, among others.
As the VP of Strategic Partnerships, Ashleigh plays a crucial role in defining the nature and structure of the partner program at Vidyard, which consists of over 300 partnerships. Currently, she is focusing strongly on refining the partnership strategy. She spearheads a team that strategizes valued integrations to optimize and drive more value for clients.
Read the following interview to discover how Vidyard improved their strategy to build such a successful partner program. Take advantage of the advice coming from Ashleigh Gray herself:
- 1. How Vidyard Designed Their Partner Program: Creating a Layered Model
- 2. How Vidyard Chooses Partners: Top 5 Components for a Successful Partnership
- 2.1. Commercial Compatibility
- 2.2. Cultural Compatibility
- 2.3. Strategic Compatibility
- 2.4. Technical Compatibility
- 2.5. Operational Compatibility
- 3. How Vidyard Measures the Success of Partnerships: The VST Methodology
- 4. How Vidyard Increases Partner Engagement: The Importance of Non-binding Contracts
- 5. How Vidyard Improves Their Partner Strategy: The 80/20 Rule
- 6. Key Takeaways: Ashleigh’s Advice to Improve Partner Program Strategy
- 6.1. “Not every partnership needs to be treated equally.”
- 6.2. “Be proactive rather than reactive.”
- 6.3. “Leverage the power of tools and frameworks.”
- 6.4. “Ensure that there are guiding principles.”
- 6.5. “Ensure that there is an executive sponsor and follow the 5x5 relationships rule.”
- 7. Make it Happen for You: How to Grow a Partner Program Like Vidyard
- 8. Ready to Scale Your Partnership Revenue?
Table of contents
Vidyard, like many other organizations, started the partner program to drive more revenue and generate more leads. Naturally, back then, their focus was primarily on increasing volume by adding partners. However, after running a massive partner program for several years, Vidyard did something that companies rarely dare to do– they decided to take a step back, reexamine their objectives, and reinvent the program.
It marked a shift in their partner program strategy– from volume to value and from transactional relationships to strategic partnerships. That said, it does not mean that the new program did away with transactional partners or deemphasized the importance of volume altogether. For Vidyard, the revamping of the partner program was about creating a layered model which prioritizes strategic partnerships and yet includes transactional and other kinds, as well.
According to Ashleigh, two things are critical here. Firstly, you must realize that there are different types of partner relationships, and you need to treat each differently. Once you have understood where each partner fits, you must create a partner system that makes room for all.
"We cannot treat all partners the same way. We must look at those partnerships that drive the most value for us, them, and the market. It is about looking at the whole portfolio and figuring out through several variables where the partner fits and what is going to work for them.”
The way Vidyard restructured their partner program testifies to the power of strategizing. When you stop merely adding partners and begin optimizing the value, it leads to a robust model beneficial for everyone involved– you, your partners, your clients, and the market you are targeting. Another key advantage of such a model is that it enables you to funnel your efforts and energy to areas that demand focused attention.
The first step to forming and fostering strategic partner relationships is to choose the right partners. As a leading player in the video marketing segment, Vidyard receives dozens of requests from potential partners every day. The company evaluates whether a partner is a right fit by assessing five key components, which, in turn, determine the success of the partnership.
One of the top components Vidyard considers when choosing partners is the business value proposition – i.e., what is the potential revenue they can generate together with partners. While assessing the revenue potential, the company also pays close attention to the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and the markets their partners are targeting. It helps keep the partnership more focused and aligned, leading to better revenue generation.
Cultural fit is another critical component in the partner selection strategy of Vidyard. More often than not, partners work as an extension of the internal team, so choosing people who are a strong fit in terms of values and business culture is integral to the joint success of the partnership. It also ensures better alignment and collaboration and helps build lasting partner relationships.
Strategic alignment is as critical as cultural alignment when choosing partners for the program. The chances of forming effective partner relationships increase when there is a strong alignment of vision, goals, and objectives. Vidyard focuses on ensuring that the goals and objectives of their partners are synergized with theirs.
As a company that offers technology-led marketing and sale solutions, the technical fit is a non-negotiable for Vidyard. The company looks for partners who provide solutions or services that are compatible with, or enhance, their product offerings. Only a partner with the right technical capability and expertise can make successful pitches, generate leads, and drive outcomes.
For Vidyard, operational alignment is as important as cultural and technical compatibility. They ask themselves: once onboarded, will the partner put in the same workforce and efforts? Are they committed to the partnership? Is there an alignment of business plans and processes? This ensures they will be able to work together.
Vidyard does not stop at choosing partners based on critical success factors. They go one step further and assess the success of partnerships using a fail-proof methodology, namely VST (Vision-Skills-Trust). VST methodology was created by Alliance Best Practice Ltd. True to the name, it involves three things:
Vision: Developing a vision or strategy so that both the company and partners know what they are trying to achieve through the relationship.
Skills: Developing skills that facilitate the successful execution of the vision or strategy.
Trust: Developing trust in the relationship, which leads to quick and efficient growth.
Vidyard uses the VST methodology to create scoring that helps determine whether a partnership is transactional, enhanced, collaborative, or highly strategic. According to Ashleigh, such frameworks enable companies to validate the strategic nature of their partner relations, measure the current state and success level of partnerships, and above all, plan business activities for the next quarter.
“We work every quarter with our partners to measure the strategic nature of our partnership, to figure out what we have to do next, and identify what we're missing. From there, we do quarterly business reviews to ensure that we are moving the needle. It helps us make action plans and achieve more.”
Vidyard has come up with an ingenious strategy to keep the members of their program committed to the original goals–a non-binding contract. When starting the engagement, both parties sign an agreement of understanding. While not a legally binding document, it does act as a guiding document that expresses the values, standards, and expectations vis-à-vis the partnership.
The document states the intention of the partnership unambiguously. Having such a guiding document is helpful in strategic partnerships as it encourages people to stay committed to the program, says Ashleigh.
“We can go back to this document when things get off track because, in any relationship, things go off track. It keeps both of us in the game and committed to each other and what we signed up for.”
Volume is a tricky thing in partner programs. You cannot do without it, but you cannot let yourself get carried away by it either. While partner programs need to ramp up their Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), it is easy to get sidetracked by it. Often, companies keep adding partners to the program without deriving any real value.
Here is where Vidyard becomes different. They use the 80/20 rule to improve their partner strategy and remain focused on value. The company identifies partnerships with the potential to drive the most value and steer efforts to optimize the outputs of such high-potential and high-performing groups.
It does not mean that there is no place for transactional partners or volume. In their program, there is indeed a place for both. The key, however, is to get the results by focusing on the most strategic 20%. This principle also comes in handy when allocating partner managers, helping them spend more time on relationships that will pay more in the end.
“When you allocate managers for partners, the focus should be on the highest value ones. Just because a client or partner is huge does not mean it will be driving the most value for you. You need to examine where each partnership stands and focus on the most strategic 20% that is going to drive the bulk of the value.”
When creating a partner program strategy, you must understand where each partner fits. Some partnerships could be purely transactional. They might want to refer clients and receive referral fees, while others are more strategic. You need to look at them individually and figure out what motivates them.
When dealing with dozens and dozens of partnerships, it is natural that you are always in a reactive mode. However, going from reactive to proactive is the real game-changer for your partner program. Make sure that your partner managers are laser-focused on the most strategic relationships–the ones that are going to drive the most value.
It is crucial to measure the success of your program using tools, frameworks, and best practices pulled out of high-tech alliances. Besides helping you and your partners stay on course, such frameworks and tools help steer the partnership in the right direction and justify the actions you take with each partner.
A partnership requires a set of guiding principles to remain on track. The priorities of your partners change, and the initial commitment might dwindle, all of which affect the success and effectiveness of the partner program. It is in your best interests to have a guiding document to keep the commitment strong at all times.
Partnerships tend to do the best when there are multiple touchpoints across organizations. It is critical that both partner managers have a named executive sponsor on each side. This should all be laid out in the guiding principle document as well as how often the executives are to meet.
Similarly, the goal for Ashleigh’s team is to know 5 people each in 5 departments of their partners’ organizations such as sales, product & marketing to name a few. This can be difficult within smaller organizations, but the idea here is that the more people you know and the more stakeholders involved, the better you connect across organizations.
If you want to grow a partner program like Vidyard, 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
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