How Webflow Empowers Partners & Customers
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 Ethan Lewis, Webflow's Director of Global Partnerships. Webflow is a no-code tool for visual web creation geared toward designers and marketers. The user-friendly platform's drag-and-drop interface enables users to rapidly and simply construct a website.
Webflow is used globally to create mission-critical websites, blogs, eCommerce sites, landing pages, responsive web experiences, and more. In addition to being a web design tool, it is also a hosting platform and a content management system.
As the Director of Global Partnerships, Ethan helped relaunch the Enterprise Program, and in turn, relaunch the Experts Partner Program. Since then, the company has been able to create a global community of partnerships focused on empowerment, education, and growth.
Read the following interview to discover more about how Webflow’s partner programs are structured and how they have found ways to make sure both their partners and customers stay aligned, engaged, and empowered.
Take advantage of the advice coming from Ethan himself.
Webflow’s Partner Program Structure
Partnership programs are widely used by many businesses to enhance expansion, user retention, and revenue growth. They have evolved into one of the greatest methods for scaling B2B SaaS businesses for long-term growth.
However, sometimes we forget that the partner program structure will ultimately determine its success or downfall.
It's important that the way your program is structured benefits not just your business but also those of your partners.
To use Ethan Lewis' words:
“We need to make sure that we're showing value, that they can build their business on Webflow and be successful.”
Webflow has four distinct arms in its partnership program, which are as follows:
Tech Integration Partners
Technology partners are software providers that SaaS businesses can integrate with to increase productivity with minimum effort and money spent.
Webflow's Tech Partners give you access to a variety of functions that let you improve website designs. This includes embedded customer engagement tools, analytics, and tools for integrating apps.
And if you're curious about who their tech partners are, the company ecosystem includes well-known companies like HubSpot, Google, and Salesforce.
Affiliate partners are another entity that is a part of Webflow's ecosystem. As more people gravitate towards brands recommended by someone they know, having this program allows businesses to increase credibility and reach.
Partners in Webflow's Affiliate Partner Program produce content for the ecosystem or contribute to developing best practices for digital marketing.
Blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and online courses are just a few creative ways to promote affiliate links and draw traffic to them.
Making appealing, highly interactive websites without the help of pricey designers and hosts is a common hassle for many businesses.
By developing templates, Webflow has discovered a way to help its numerous customers and help them kick their brands into high gear. Simplifying creation for many different types of businesses and individuals while saving time, money, and resources.
Webflow has template partners to accelerate the creation process and welcome all forms of creativity and styles to get customers going. Partners in the template partner program include designers and developers that produce templates that clients can buy from Webflow's marketplace and reuse repeatedly.
As a Webflow template partner, you'll have access to a talented designer community, receive lucrative payments for your template sales, and gain more exposure for your business.
Not to mention that you can have fun and meet the Webflow team!
Did you know that Webflow refers to its partners as experts rather than partners? As a partner, if this does not boost your confidence, we do not know what will.
The service provider partners, or expert partners, are the ones who offer one-on-one services to Webflow clients. An intriguing discovery is that there are two different arms to an expert partnership. The kind of partners needed to support those two distinct categories varies greatly.
- Professional Expert Partner: Professional partners are freelancers, smaller digital agencies, and agencies with an industry-specific focus who provide services for self-service SMBs and mid-market customers. Well-known brands like pageX, Shadow Creative Studios, and Racket are among their professional expert partners.
- Enterprise Expert Partner: The Enterprise Partner Program primarily focuses on larger agencies and services providers. They are system integrators and digital agencies that provide services for customers on Webflow's Enterprise platform. A few well-known names in the enterprise partner program are FFW, Proctor + Stevenson, and Netguru.
"We didn't want to create two separate programs that would seem like one is better than the other where you have to start at Professional before you move to Enterprise. The programs are built to support our end customers and be able to allow those customers to find the partners that work best for them. That's why we decided to separate those programs into professionals for self-service partners and enterprise for our larger client base.”
The Importance of Customer Empowerment
One feature of Webflow's unique and distinct approach to customer service is the freedom they provide their clients to choose the partners they want to work with, and as a result, the customer experience is made simpler and more seamless.
Webflow accomplishes this approach by providing what is known as a "white glove" experience for enterprise partners and customers. It is where Webflow becomes more actively involved in helping clients select the best partners.
This hands-on process is activated when clients start interacting with the sales team, progressing through the sales funnel, and becoming more specific about which partner they want to collaborate with.
Being knowledgeable about projects, clients' business, and the area in which they specialize, helps the Webflow team find the best partner for their customers and do the honor of making one-on-one introductions.
“We try to be upfront with our customers about the different types of partners we work with. We showcase the right partners for them and can match them as best and as quickly as we can.”
How Webflow Recruits Their Expert Partners
With the advantage of a large pipeline and funnel to draw from, Webflow recruits partners with the highest drive and talent.
To do this, they get in touch with a number of their users who are classified as service providers and further broken down into freelancers, agencies, and consultants. These service provider partners are potential future partners who could offer expert services to other customers.
Partners are selected for the program in accordance with particular criteria, such as:
Portfolio Reviews and Certifications
To better understand their qualities and the caliber of work they can produce, every one of Webflow's partners has their portfolios and certifications reviewed.
Outbound marketing is a traditional type of marketing in which a business directly contacts leads or potential customers to cultivate genuinely engaged partnerships and a broader audience.
“We do a lot of outbound, especially for our enterprise partners. We want to make sure that we are selecting the best partners to work with who can support different types of customers.“
When conducting outbound marketing or receiving a potential lead for a new partner, there are a few characteristics Webflow looks for:
- Number of Employees
Webflow wants to ensure that the partners they find through outbound marketing have enough employees in their company. So that, if they are involved in projects with Webflow, they will have enough personnel to devote to it.
“Sometimes it takes 10, 15, or 20 people in an agency to deliver a project for customers. As a result, key questions like ‘do they have enough employees to support this level of work?’ and ‘do they have a big enough team to devote resources to the project?’ must be asked."
- Sales Teams
Webflow frequently finds that smaller partner agencies lack a sales team, possibly even a marketing team, and engage in little demand generation.
"It's terrific if they can produce high-quality work and benefit the ecosystem, but to be effective in the Enterprise space, agencies really need a dedicated sales team.”
Finding partners with at least one or two sales representatives, or even someone managing relationships on their end, is ideally an indicator that they are willing to invest in a joint market motion.
“They're going to be able to really extend our capabilities and be able to really help us take that to the next level.”
Here are the questions Webflow asks themselves about partners’ sales teams:
- Are they going to be able to conduct themselves in the sales process effectively?
- Are they going to be able to help meet deadlines?
- Are they going to be able to help drive the next step of the sales process?
How Partner Empowerment Equals Partner Engagement
“One thing that is great about Webflow is that we are so community-based in this no-code space. These spaces are pretty new, so most folks are very eager to learn and share their knowledge.”
In an industry of no-code sharing, Webflow takes pride in working with individuals eager to pass on knowledge to build and grow a community and ecosystem.
To achieve this cohesiveness, they employ two different approaches:
Training Self-service Partners
Webflow looks at self-service partners as a large community with a one-to-many partnership. They run regular webinars and sessions that can expand to a large group than having to do many one-on-one sessions.
- Tech Partners: Webflow brings in a tech partner once a month to showcase technology that has integrated with their platform. Partners get to learn expertise and knowledge they might not have had otherwise.
- Expert-to-Expert: Webflow runs a series called “Ask Another Expert,” where they ask expert partners to train other experts. In these sessions, partner experts pitch a new idea, a new method of development that they figured out, or a previously launched project, and then share the knowledge they learned.
- Office Hour Sessions: Every other week, Webflow hosts sessions during office hours where they invite solution engineers to offer support. Partners can hop in for five to ten minutes and ask questions. This gives the partner a broader context and allows them to give more technical enablement to customers than before.
- Quarterly Updates: Webflow has quarterly partner updates, where they bring as many employees and partners across the organization as they can.
“Luckily, our internal teams love partners. So, we get folks from marketing, product team, and our executive team to come in and update and share what's going on at Webflow. We can update them on the product roadmap or new sales motions, really thinking about partners as an extension of our internal teams.”
Content from quarterly updates and sessions can be used in one-on-one meetings with enterprise partners in a much more focused update session.
Webflow's team will talk about the enterprise features they're launching and invite members of the sales team who will assist with one-on-one technical enablement and co-selling.
Additionally, the benefit of working with an enterprise partner is that you can offer them the opportunity to present to your sales staff and vice versa.
Other benefits include:
- A chance for an AE (Account Executive) to recommend a partnership when they overhear certain trigger words from their prospect.
- A chance for Webflow's team to bounce ideas off the enterprise partners.
Enterprise partners are deeply ingrained in the implementation of the work. They have access to data that Webflow's AEs do not. As a result, they can talk about how to differentiate from the competition and justify why clients could choose WebFlow for a specific project rather than a platform from a competitor.
“We want our partners to echo what we are talking about externally. So, we are moving in lockstep with them, and they are able to amp up our messaging and what we're saying to the market to keep the motion going."
The Webflow University
Webflow University is a great resource that offers free training on web design and Webflow’s developments, especially if you're new to the site or are simply interested in learning what it's all about.
The Webflow education team is of the highest caliber and does a fantastic job laying the groundwork for sharing concepts that can encourage individuals to convert to a no-code style of creation.
“Our Webflow University team is amazing and they do this great job of helping brand new users with core competencies and learning the Webflow way to visually design a site. It's just great to see our partners and our service provider experts take this content and then expand on it.”
Webflow University consists of videos that showcase products inspired by different training or live sessions where the product is in creation as they discuss it. These courses further promote expansion within the Webflow partner community.
Getting Everyone in the Same Boat: Team Alignment at Webflow
Cross-pollination is key to Webflow.
All teams are in the same boat with a wealth of ideas, which creates a fantastic foundation. They share common goals and are driving towards the same desired outcomes.
But what’s their secret? Given that partnerships and marketing might often clash, how do they manage to achieve cross-pollination, day in and day out?
"I've worked for partner organizations in the past where marketing and partnerships were at odds with each other. Everybody wants to be the source of the lead. They want to be the source of revenue.”
To answer this question, Ethan explains that Webflow has discovered ways to turn the tides and get partners and marketing to collaborate for the mutual benefit of all parties involved.
Brand Ambassadors and Thought-Leaders
“If we don’t market to new partners, then we don't have the ability to use our partner network to grow our sales efforts. So, to bridge this gap, we are reliant on making our partners brand ambassadors and thought-leaders for our product.”
Partners have access to newly launched features to try out. When the time comes for the product to launch, they will be able to write or provide a review of the feature(s) they have now tested and become familiar with. This is where marketing comes into play.
The benefit of this strategy for partners is that they can acquire membership points, establish themselves as experts in their respective fields, and can deliver on complex projects that customers need.
However, according to Ethan, it is impossible to provide each partner with an equal share of marketing opportunities on the website.
To overcome this challenge, Webflow tasks individuals in the team with the responsibility of managing partner concepts.
The purpose of doing this is to ensure that the messaging is amplified through partners producing brand material, sharing it with the content team, and actively monitoring whether or not those posts are sponsored or reshared on social media.
To accomplish this, they host quarterly updates where they talk about the messaging for each quarter.
“We want to make sure that the partnership is strong. We can show the community and our customers that we are in lockstep with our partners, and we see them as an extension of our team, both on the sales and marketing sides.“
Key Takeaways: Ethan’s Advice For Creating an Empowering Partner Program
“Just start working with partners, start going after partners, start talking to customers about who they partner with, …I think just getting a program out there is number one. I can't stress that enough. If there's somebody at your organization that can spend 10% 20% of their timeline on partnerships, that's potentially enough to create a self-service program.”
“Start with the customer.”
“Everything needs to be within the lens of: is this the right thing for our customers? Thinking about how we designed our Professional and Enterprise Program, it would have been easy just to link them all together in one and say, ‘Here you go, find the right partner.’ But at the end of the day, our customer segments are so different that we needed to do right by our customers and make this completely separate to make sure that we are really driving the right results.”
“Don’t worry about building revenue; worry about building a solid foundation.”
“When we started doing some of our outbound, we started doing some other ways of recruiting partners and gaining partners. And because we were so focused on revenue, we kind of took our foot off the gas on some of the foundational things that make a partner program successful: the enablement, training, and support that build a strong foundation and go-to-market motion. We needed to go back to the drawing board about six months in and say like, ‘Hey, this isn't necessarily working. We can't just expect these partners to start contributing in month one, month two. We need the foundation.’ And once we have that foundation, of course, we can go and drive revenue because that's our end goal is to drive revenue and support our sales team. But we need that strong foundation and strong ecosystem to be able to build on that.”
“Look for partners who want to invest like you do.”
“When I look at partners or potential partners that I want to work with, I try to look for ones that are not focused on commission. If they’re just like, ‘Hey, we want a 10% cut or we want a 20% cut,’ that is not an interesting partnership for me. I'm fine paying that commission, but I would rather like to see a partner say, ‘Let's use this commission to go do a marketing event. Let's go use this commission to win that next deal.’”
Make it Happen for You: How to Empower Your Partner Program like Webflow
If you want to grow an empowered partner ecosystem like Webflow, it is essential that you have the proper tools to structure, automate, and scale your program.
A Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform allows you to:
- Organize your program 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