This presentation will help your team understand agencies, their needs, and how to "get into business" with them as their true partner.
2006-2012: I ran my own digital marketing agency.
2012-2016: Lead marketing teams for three platforms managing their stacks and marketing agency contracts.
2017-2019: Operated as a consultant for tech startups on growth and GTM strategy while also running a marketplace that matched tech companies with Marketing Automation experts.
February 2019: I launch Partnerprograms.io to show agencies how to grow with tech partners.
To enable partners, you first have to know what their interests are.
Definition of a "Partnership" (according to Wikipedia): A partnership is an arrangement where parties, known as business partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.
- The keyword is "Interests."
Agencies are not interested in commissions and are not in the business of selling software.
But let's sidebar that conversation for now...
We use this motto with conviction; "The people are your partners." And it's true. While terms of a contract can tie to companies together, the actions that benefit both parties are executed by people. And those people can be impactful on a number of unanticipated levels.
So, before we even present any strategy, we have to get to know who these people are and what types of partners they can become.
Agencies or Consultants: Experienced individuals or 'agencies' who are trusted to analyze, advise, and help a company with anything difficult choices, campaigns, strategies, product developments or implementations.
These third parties can be helpful and aligned with your brand in one of these core practices:
Agencies may never use your product for their own benefits. Or, they may start as users and become resellers or referral partners. Finally, they may use your solution for their gain, but never have a reason to recommend it because their clients cannot benefit from it and they are not in the business of helping their competition by recommending your solution to other agencies. Backend solutions like Pandadocs, Asana, Harvest... may always struggle enabling agencies as referral partners. In our experience, this is the most difficult aspect of the partnership for most CEO's and partner teams to understand and wrap strategy around. They have power users who have referred, and some consultants who help their clients by integrating their tool in a process, but they struggle to reach the type of referral partnerships scale that tools like HubSpot, Klaviyo, Shopify and Webflow will always have because they are implemented and optimized by the agency, but paid for by the clients.
When your team understands this use, you can start to strategize with empathy around their relationship to your product.
Answers you need to have on the first calls:
Move from transactional to relational:
"Partnerships" are not based on comp. That's called an employee, contractor or affiliate.
- Thank you Cory Snyder for the words here!
We surveyed over 200 agencies and collected 31 answers, and over 1700 data points to learn who/how/why they partner... Read the full report here >>
Most agencies partner with at least one of their tools.
Finally, it's crucial to understand what agency partners Are concerned with:
We learned a lot about the value of smaller agency partners...
Organic demand > PMF >> formalizing
Co-selling Partners: Anyone who can give you the correct decision maker > supply an introduction >> and assist in the close. These are typically consultants or agencies who are great salespeople.
Content Partners: Those who are not great at sales, but are savvy and can publish great content with an influential voice and extend the reach of your brand / program. They may never refer anyone.
Referral and Implementation Partners: Those who are active in your program under it's terms - either approved experts, or receiving benefits for referring.
Reselling: Those who hold the contract - are billed for the software, can resell effectively, and typically those in the agency or consulting roles.
First, get the team to understand the criteria necessary to NEED a partner program.
1. Your ideal prospects (not partners, actual customers) are going through a major adjustment.
2. There is a lot at stake around the decision to implement you or a competitor.
3. Your prospects are involved with an agency or consultant to advise them on this transition.
4. And finally, your product should solve a MATERIAL need.
Do you hate selling? Do you struggle to sell more/faster/larger deals?
Do you like creating inbound through content? does your team generate great content?
Are you a savvy software implementor? do your clients come to you for tech expertise?
To beginning your program:
Create your partner incentive structure
First, determine who, when and how you will funnel referrals to the agencies. i.e. An implementation partner qualification program.
What is your referral commission - and how are you going to track it?
Can you create content / events / promotions which help them in any way?
What level of support are you going to provide each partner type, and is that required, white labeled, direct...?
Step 1 = In a Google Sheet or Airtable, define the data segments you have with total rows (i.e. closed lost opp's = 450).
Step 2 = Then define the partner persona who are also after that segment.
Step 3 = List out co-marketing campaign types, with the reach and target audience.
Step 4 = Approach the partner prospects with the first "ask" of collaboration.
Step 5 = Create the first co-marketing collaboration.
Step 6 = After recording, but before you publish, reach back out to the partner with a request they email it to their lists.
Step 7 = Publish the first collaboration.
Step 8 = Send all content links to the partners/instructors.
Step 9 = Reach back out and mention that you use an account mapping tool (Crossbeam or Sharework.co, both have free accounts). Request a call to strategize co-selling.
Step 10 = IF they agree, proceed with account mapping - looking first at overlap, then creating an agreed upon strategy for outreach.
What's important at this moment is to get the most out of the collaboration by making their connections/followers/fans yours and eventually convert them to channel-sourced revenue. Many partner teams will stop at simply posting the content. We urge our clients to take the next steps and make the most out of every collaboration (so long as it is truly valuable).
Enrichment - Enrich a dataset of Lookalike agencies to the co-author of the content you created. Use Ocean.io to find LAL's based on a URL.
Publish collaboration - You've just published a co-marketing campaign with your partner who speaks to this audience. Now it's time to leverage that to get onto calls.
Promotions - Promote the collaboration on all channels. Give that some time to collect viewers. Then start 1:1 outreach.
Linkedin connections - First, connect with those you have enriched or have received from the co-selling share. Wait a few days, and then share the link to the collaboration asking if they found it valuable.
Email and call requests - Emails can begin at the same time - making sure you are using copy that's all about an intro call to discuss alignment on a new program which supports their sales and lead generation initiatives.
And now the partner team at Smith.ai can use this to convert like agencies to his who would need to see the product in action by an agency like theirs in order to fully-grasp it's value.
So the recommendation to Smith's partner team is the same:
Do: Hyper segmentation: Segment by their vertical (ecomm, b2b, local), current partners, and target client size (SMB, mid market, enterprise).
Do: Offer value right away: This means in your first email have a specific offer of bringing them value that has nothing to do with your product.
Do not: ask to partner: In the first emails, you are not trying to get someone who does not know you to partner. This first sequence is about what you and your content/budget/audience can do for them.
Do not: Sell your product: The biggest mistake is a product pitch in the first emails and calls. IF the agency is interested, they will research your product on their own.
As you create more circles within your ecosystem, your program will begin growing organically.
To better-understand the agencies inside these circles, let's look at some persona's and their experience with partnerships.
Agency Partner Persona:
Size: 10 employees
Clients: Retail, Hospitality
Annual revenue from partnerships: ~$80,000
Services: Netsuite, SuiteCommerce, and Bronto implementations.
Partners: Netsuite, Pendo, FullStory, Bronto, BigCommerce
Position: Alex has recently put his agency on track to become a top Netsuite partner and double-down on mainly providing implementations and support for their businesses. therefore, integrations with Netsuite are all of interest.
Their experience: They believe the investment in Netsuite is worth it because of their ecosystem, but will only look into other tools when necessary Or if they are fully-supported in the process.
Agency Partner Persona:
Size: 200+ employees
Clients: Any Statups, Any SMBs, Enterprise, Consumer Brands, B2B eCommerce, D2C eCommerce, Local Retailers
Annual revenue from partnerships: unknown
Services: PPC / SEM, SEO, Social Media Management, Content Marketing, Graphic Design, Videography, B2B Lead Generation, Email Marketing, CRO
Position: If we're going to leverage a tool, we're going to want to work closely with them to ensure we have the support as a partner and not just a customer. This is imperative because we do a lot of business with each marketing technology. When we look at new partners, we look based on individual clients needs one at a time as they come in. However, we get a ton of inbound and of those, we choose who to consider based on larger strategy/goals of our services.
Why they choose not to partner: Lack of alignment all around, Remaining unbiased / agnostic, Clients needs change too frequently.
Ashley / Hawke Media:
yes: They will inspire faith by adding a quality logo and backlink.
no: but they have over 100 solutions partners.
no: And they do not work on clients operations or backend.
Alex / ONC:
yes: Knows his clients backend inside/out.
yes: Alex is looked to for operational guidance.
yes: He also works on customizing larger sites, ecomm and consumer brands.
Agency Partner Persona:
Size: 10 employees
Clients: Mid-Market software
Annual revenue from partnerships: ~$50,000
Services: CRM implementation
partner Status: Salesforce, Hubspot Diamond, Outreach.io, InsightSquared
Position: Their business is built around Hubspot and Salesforce implementation. And ancillary tools are being referred to, but not implemented, resold or "pushed".
Their experience: Portals are useless. Add-on tools do not know how to co-sell. Add-on tools do not have a trained POC for them to send referrals to.
Agency Partner Persona:
Size: 21-50 employees
Clients: Mid-Market - Enterprise software
Annual revenue from partnerships: ~$100,000+
Services: CRM Implementation / Integration, API Integration Support, Data / Analytics
Tech stack: HubSpot MA/HubSpot CRM, Xero, Asana, Klipfolio, IntegrateHQ, PandaDoc, Dedupely, DiscoverOrg, ZoomInfo
Position: HubSpot Solutions Partner - Platinum Tier
Why they have not "partnered" with most tools: We prefer to remain unbiased / software agnostic,
Dealing with Partner Managers is a headache. The program setup is just too complicated.
Step 1 = Show how you help them earn new business
At this level, these agencies need to know exactly when and how to achieve "implementation partner" status. Have a clear roadmap, tiers and timeline for getting the agency partners into the round robin (or exclusivity over a region/type) implementations system. Make that the focus of initial calls/pitches.
Step 2 = give them something tangible to sell
Agencies won't sell ancillary tools. They may recommend it, but they won’t “sell” it. Show them a complete build using your tool they can sell as a package.
Step 3 = Instill trust in sales support
Nothing looks worse then when the client gets bounced around after being referred to a partner. Make sure the partner has a POC who understands the playbook and is there for sales support..
Step 4: get them into a 'circle'
Circles are better than rows - This is an analogy used in churches to articulate that speaking to the entire congregation who are sitting in rows is less impactful than getting everyone into small groups so they can share with one another what they have found valuable in the church/religion...
This is a perfect analogy because as people who must find and spread the use cases of the product in a partnership sense, we have to go into the ecosystem and get those various partner types together to showcase to the rest what the true value of the partnership is.
And we cannot do that through one-sided newsletters, presentations, lunch and learns, product demos...
Circles are inherently sticky. Here's what they're made of:
A. Your solution.
B. Another saas which adds value.
C. An agency partner who can implement your solution in this context.
Comprehensive service to offer their clients: Your partnership offer is now something tangible for their clients in the form of a relevant service ready to sell.
Now, the target agency partner is selling a new service to their clients which includes your software and your support.
ideal partner agency conversion: In our experience, agencies will take on software in stages and become better partners based on the end goal of the service revenue.
Do you have your head around it now?
Do you have run successful co-marketing campaigns that snowballed into co-selling routines?
Are partners are on course to offer new services on your solution?
And, or, partners are submitting for referral credit regularly?
Are partners eager to submit their product feature needs?
January - Poll your agency users for what they are good at. Use this data + your integrations to create your persona's WITH how you can help them / work with them closer. Join our enablement mastersclass ;) and also build out your use case classes showing agencies how to setup, sell and support new services on your solution.
February - Find those tech partners you sell well with, generate some content with them + an agency in your or their network. Start outreach tests with the data you enriched beginning with LinkedIn, using that content.
March - Using the 'Circles' you've formed, start a co-selling routine in a free Sharework or Crossbeam account. Use the courses + collaborative content as hooks.
Our newsletter includes actionable strategies on how to execute partnerships effectively.