The questions I get asked most about partnering with digital agencies, answered:

The questions I get asked most about partnering with digital agencies, answered:

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Partnerships is difficult primarily because you cannot control people - especially people who work in other companies. But, people have needs and will do what's in the best interest of themselves and/or their business. The FAQ answers below will help your team make sense of agency partnerships. The rule of thumb remains; "The people are your partners." - so don't treat partnerships like a B2B operation.

Q: What are the most attractive partner incentives in order?

A: Based on our research in this report - Agencies appreciate and stay in programs based on these incentives:

  1. Referrals and warm intro's from tech partners.
  2. Support and training from their team.
  3. Co-marketing and co-selling
  4. Commissions

But, the product HAS to be demanded, or used, by their ICP.

Q: Do commissions matter?

A: Commissions start to matter ONLY if the ACV (average customer value) is around $10K or higher. You find these ACVs in products like HubSpot, Salesforce, Shopify, Contentful, Pendo, Optimizely, SalesLoft, etc...

And even then, they are never a large part of an agencies total revenue (majority of agencies never see commissions going above 5% of overall revenue).

Q: Can a poor product still win partnerships over a superior product?

A: HubSpot was actually a terrible product for a long time during the rapid expansion of their program.  

But, although it has been done in the last decade, today it is very very rare because:

  1. Products are getting so good and so robust that it is nearly impossible for an agency to sell their clients an inferior product.
  2. The adoption of new technology is becoming much easier/faster with self-onboarding, support, and even implementation services offered by the product so that any head of sales or marketing or product can get them set up without an agency.  

In the past, most software almost always required support to implement. But not today.

The caveat to this is:

But today, terrible products will not maintain an expert solutions partner ecosystem for long.  

Q: Do agencies or tech companies “Need” a partner manager to succeed in creating a partner program?

A: Short answer is no.

I have worked with CEO's who have successfully activated and enabled enough agencies to support their program growth for years. Take for example. They are 4 years old, have hundreds of agency partners, and no "Partner Manager" at the time this was recorded. They succeed in partnerships because it's in their DNA.

Every piece of content, product decision, sales conversation... has a partner involved. So their content managers, marketers and product leaders work hand in hand with partners to get what they need done for their KPIs.

Q: When do we "need" a PRM?

A: Short answer is - you need a PRM if/when you have a commission-centric partner program (an "affiliate" or "referral" program).
The traditional Partner Relationships Manager is built for you to manage commissions, tiers, payouts. The more advanced PRMs are allowing for triggered emails, asset management, branded portals for lead registration and some partner communication...

But, more and more SaaS are replacing commission promises with non-compensatory incentives like pass-through discounts, increased support, training, co-marketing, co-selling...

If you are building a partner program based off of non-compensatory incentives, check out

Q: What minimum criteria does a partner need to possess to be ready for partner operations?

A: For tech companies - they have to have a solid product that is demanded by a lot of companies. For agencies - they have to have a growing client base with at least 6 month avg retention on retainers. This means their clients trust them.

Most will tell you that the partner needs to be able to "Sell" or have a strong "Sales Operation." My adjustment to this is to say: The partner needs to be able to close (i.e. the agency doesn't need a sales team if they have so much clout and thought leadership and solid PR.), or have a very strong product that sells itself (Databox for example does not have a sales team at the time I created this and has grown like gangbusters for years).

From there, I will say team alignment is critical. The team has to want to work with partners and have partners involved in as much as possible - from product to marketing, in order to succeed.

Q: How can I ensure ROI from co-marketing with partners?

A: The co-selling answer below will add to this, but map accounts prior to the campaign. Also, you can track leads from webinar and goals in GA based on seeing a partner-sourced content on your site.

Q: How can agencies and SaaS effectively co-sell together?

A: The underlying issues are:

  1. There isn't a SaaS out there helping to educate agencies on co-selling through marketing, blogs, or training. So they are not being helped.
  2. Most agencies don't have a trained sales leader who learned to co-sell at a previous tech company or other agency.
  3. And according to a poll we ran recently, only 4% of agencies effectively co-sell with a tool like Reveal or Partnered.

So the "How" begins with education - nurture your partners into understand why it will bring them new business.

And then, use a motion these agencies do understand, co-marketing, to set the stage for the need to account map to achieve attribution on the partnership. As in, if you spend time/money on co-marketing, and don't know that the overlapping accounts are increasing, it's tough to tell if that co-marketing is paying off.

> Set up co-marketing campaigns with your partner.
>> Account map to have a source of attribution.
>>> Then suggest warm intro's.
>>>> Strategize more focused campaigns to ABM those in the peripheral.

More great resources for tech companies

Agency persona review and setting expectations SOPs with Clodagh / Alex

Agency persona review and setting expectations SOPs with Clodagh / Alex

View Resource
Building and Launching Sustainable Co-Sell Programs Through Agency Channels

Building and Launching Sustainable Co-Sell Programs Through Agency Channels

View Resource
The questions I get asked most about partnering with digital agencies, answered:

The questions I get asked most about partnering with digital agencies, answered:

View Resource