It can come in many forms - all related to making frontend and backend product decisions to ensure your partners' profiles/content/use cases are built into the user journey.
An easy few examples we will share in this article relate to when Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies make partner-generated content (use cases, templates, themes, workflows...) available to all users, and often times, as part of user acquisition funnel:
It’s about UI/UX and how your software’s users onboard into and customize your product.
Taking those help desk Workflow Setup Walkthroughs (like this one), or Templates / Themes / Use Cases... that you have buried in your help center (which typically is not indexed and has not impact on CRO or SEO for your product) and:
This will lift all marketing metrics from the site - CRO, SEO, time on site...
But for Partnerships, it increases the bond between your brands, and social proof, and the overall value of your partnership.
Here's the quick way to start the conversations internally:
It’s not simply forming integration partnerships where product and engineering steer the conversation… And it's not having a superior PRM process - although that's necessary.
Increase your conversion rates, product usage and expose your customers to your partner’s capabilities.
It’s a prevalent practice amongst the top SaaS agency partner programs, but we’ll articulate using these examples from progressive SaaS products:
Now, you could also talk about Partnerships-Led Product decisions…
Which is, where partners are involved in product development and future roadmap prioritization. This is a recommended practice for the reason that, while your typical user is thinking about their own immediate needs today, agencies and consultants have the job of helping your users plan for 6 months or a year from now. So, instead of letting daily users steer product, work with their agencies and consultants to steer product for the benefit of staying ahead of user needs.
But for this article, we’ll focus on the former.
Databox: Peter Caputa IV, CEO of Databox who formerly started and scaled HubSpot’s renowned partner program to thousands of agencies is continuing to revolutionize how SaaS companies and agencies align. He shared, “Many people who looked closely at the HubSpot partner program told me that we built what franchisors should have built: a turnkey training and operating system that taught agencies how to market, sell and service their clients, as well as access to an audience through co-marketing, a partner directory and the content management system (CMS) template marketplace.”
Caputa then shared how he’s continuing that mission at Databox and taking Product-led partnerships to the next level. Like HubSpot’s CMS Theme directory, Databox’s dashboard template directory is a perfect example.. It enables their users to quickly launch a dashboard with their own data in it. They simply have to connect their HubSpot, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads or any of their other 70+ integrations and they can instantly see their data in professionally designed dashboards.
What makes it a great example of a product-lead partnership? They let their partners publish branded templates to the directory. Here’s a great example from one of their partners, Nextiny Marketing. https://databox.com/template/weekly-sales-activity-sales-rep-view
The templates are available on the Databox website and in the app for logged-in users too.
Caputa shared more of their strategy with me,
“The dashboard templates give our partners an opportunity to show off their analytics knowledge and also give our other users an easier and more effective way to get setup with our product. Since the templates are public, we also work with our partners to promote them via blog posts and short videos, giving our partners even more exposure to our audience and users.”
As are most product-led partnerships, the Databox template directory is a win-win-win for Databox, their partners and their users. However, since launching the template directory in 2017, they’ve made quite a few advancements to their product-led partnership strategy.
Caputa shared more about their recent moves,
“The template directory was actually a bit too successful as we quickly got inundated with too many templates from partners that were not adequately differentiated. While we will still publish new templates from partners if they can build something unique, we’ve raised the bar significantly.
But, we didn’t want to limit our partners’ ability to innovate and reach our audience. So, we expanded the program so that agencies can create their own library of branded analytics templates that they can make accessible to their clients via the app.”
Further, via tight integrations with no-code integration platforms like Zapier and Integromat, our partners can also build custom integrations. So, now, there’s no limit to how many templates a partner can create and make available to their clients or promote via their own marketing. And since we let them contribute to our articles, they can still promote their own capabilities via our content. For agencies who use our white-label capabilities, they’re actually able to launch their own proprietary analytics service with their own templates and custom integrations.”
In addition to their product-led partnerships strategy explained above that drives search traffic, signups and product usage for Databox, and leads for their partners, they do a few other agency-friendly practices that really make their product-led partnership strategy work:
You can get started as a Databox agency partner with a free account.
Kiite.ai: Joseph, their founder, realized early on that tech partners and consultants made onboarding into his product faster and his product stickier. He started to build his funnel with partners included. Here’s the flow:
Now these next two do not have “partner programs” at the time I wrote this, but they still allow for users to generate templates they display for anyone to onboard through:
Airtable.com templates are a great way to onboard into Airtable so you do not have to start from scratch – easily browse and copy the base from someone who’s had a lot of success with theirs.
Bubble.io takes it a step further and allows partners to publish branded themes for their sites and charge users to download them, or they can make them free. Then, they allow the developer of the template to list how they can help the user customize it (costs/contact info).
In all 4 examples, the product team worked with partnerships with the goal of bettering user experience. The partner team wins by scratching the back of their agency partners, and the organization experiences lift in all the right KPIs:
Circles are our way of describing the relationships found in partnership ecosystems where a consultant and/or agency is partnered with both your tech and a product you sell well with (possibly also natively integrated to). This video will explain the strategy on finding those circles within your ecosystem.View Resource
Partner teams are often left dependent on sales/marketing for data and a lead process. This system is meant to be powered by the partner team to ensure they can scale without needing to rely on sales for data and leads.View Resource
From my interviews and experiences, I’ve learned the main criteria that needs to surround the partner ecosystem for it to be successful, even necessary, earlier on. Those criteria are described in this article on partnerships success/View Resource