A partnership is a relationship between two or more companies who come together to provide even more value to their customers. There are different types of partnerships — strategic, channel, or technical — and they can have a significant impact on the business. Each such relationship plays a specific part in the company’s strategy and must be entered into after giving it a lot of thought.
In this episode of Taking the Lead, our host Christina Brady welcomes Jessie Shipman, the CEO and founder of Fluincy. Jessie and Christina get into the importance of partnerships and how a partnership strategy can improve business. They discuss strategic, channel, and technical partnerships, partnerships as a go-to-market strategy, and how a partnership team can achieve success.
“Tech partnerships have emerged from the explosion of SaaS. Companies like Salesforce have so many products that live under the Salesforce banner and can solve almost every problem. But they also have the App Exchange, where they house thousands of their partners who solve niche or nuance problems in conjunction with their solution. So it’s like the idea of a single pane of glass — or even the Oracles of the world or the SAPs who have all these different products that live under their main umbrella. Obviously, large enterprises still use a lot of those products, but smaller or mid-market companies can’t afford Oracle, they can’t afford SAP, and they can’t afford the system integrator to implement them because they’re so complicated.
So they’re going out, and they’re finding a SaaS product. They find a little SaaS product that either has a freemium model or a very small per-user fee, and they sign up for it, and they start working on it because it solves a particular problem. And then, they decide, ‘Okay, I need to accomplish this other thing, but this product doesn’t do it.’ The first place they go to is the marketplace of that favored product. And you can click through the mark and be like, ‘Okay, this integrates and solves this problem.’ Or actually, the first thing they’re doing is going and talking to their peers.”
Partnership As a Go-to-Market Strategy
“If we think about marketing and sales as traditional go-to-market, partnerships aren’t its own vertical; it’s actually the funnel that surrounds all of it. It’s not partner sales and partner marketing; it’s like partnerships as a strategy from the CEO all the way down. […]
So, the ecosystem idea does have to be all-encompassing. Ecosystem-qualified leads can flow in and around both sales and marketing. It’s not, ‘Let’s stand up partnerships and have it be this whole other GTM.’ That’s not it. This is the thing that’s going to sort of bridge the gap that has been in this whole competition between SQLs and MQLs and has existed since attribution became a thing. That causes all of this internal animosity and competition that is like, ‘Are we even on the same team anymore?’ Partnerships eliminate that.”
The Path to a Successful Partnership
“It starts with the CEO. It has to be one of those things where the CEO is brought in on ecosystems, and everything flows out of that. So, instead of having revenue KPIs, you have KPIs on how many referrals your team is giving. You have KPIs on giving instead of getting, which is a tough one for a lot of sales executives — and also for CEOs — to swallow because it is a long game. But it is the future; so, starting it right now and letting it be a little painful is super important. I’ve seen it work grassroots, but it’s hard, especially if there is a tendency, particularly in SaaS, to only want to invest in places that have an obvious immediate ROI. Like, I put in $1 here, and in a quarter, I’m going to get $2 back, or I’m going to get $5 or $10 or $15 back; I’m going to spend money there. [… ]
If there’s a legitimate partnership that’s been created where you add value to them, they add value to you, and you choose to give first, you are going to have an incredible flywheel effect. You’re going to push on the flywheel, and you’re going to keep pushing on the flywheel. What’s going to happen is all of the people at that other company are going to become your champions with all of their customers because you keep flowing leads to them.”