A Founder's Guide to Partnerships w/ Zapier, Typeform, Webflow, and PartnerPage
In this Speaker Series panel, partnership leaders from Webflow, Zapier, PartnerPage, and Typeform discuss finding and retaining the right partners for your business.
Partnerships, whether technical integrations, agency resellers, or large developer platforms, are a crucial component of every enterprise software go-to-market strategy. It’s well established that their long-term value to your product and business can be profound, but only if you run solid processes around acquiring, activating, and retaining great partners.
- Mario Tarabbia, Founder & CEO of PartnerPage
- Ethan Lewis, Director of Global Partnerships at Webflow
- Emily Breuninger, Sr. Manager of Channel Partnerships at Zapier
- Carolina Macià, Senior Partner Manager at Typeform
Mario Tarabbia: We’ll jump right in. And we’ll start with a quick round of introductions with everybody here. First off, I’m Mario and I’ll be the moderator. I’m the founder and CEO of PartnerPage. So next, we’ll go to Ethan, maybe you can tell us a little bit about where you’ve ran partnerships in the past, where you’re doing it now, and just quickly introduce yourself.
Ethan Lewis: Ethan Lewis, Director of Global Partnerships over at Webflow. Webflow is a no-code design tool for websites. Partnerships for us, includes agency partners, tech partners, and the future development partners or integration partners. So really excited to be able to talk about partner strategy for us at Webflow.
Previous to Webflow, I ran partnerships specifically for digital agencies like Contentful. So, I was the first boots on the ground in North America for Contentful and helped build out the North American Partner Program strategy there for about four years.
Mario: Cool. Thanks, Ethan. Awesome to hear about your background and partnerships. I’m just going to work my way down my video feed here. Emily, could you quickly tell us a little bit about your background and partnerships?
Emily Breuninger: I’m Emily. I head up Channel Partnerships at Zapier. Partnerships at Zapier are platform partners, of course, as in integrated partners, agency partners, which is the role that I have, running that program, and then developer partners. I’ve been at Zapier for about three-and-a-half years.
Historically was running our platform launch program. So bringing our platform partners from about 700 to about 3,600, which is where we’re at today. And then about a year ago, took over our agency program. So I’ve been working to build out a full-fledged program for that, and scale it out over the next few years. Before that, I was actually in sales. I worked for a company called TUNE and then a tiny software startup called Brevity.
Mario: Awesome. Thanks for that. That’s a staggering number from 700 to 3,600. I can’t even fathom that. Appreciate it. So Carolina, you’re up next. Could you tell everyone a little bit about your background and partnerships, and where you’re at, what you did before and quickly introduce yourself, please?
Carolina Macià: I’m Carolina and I have been around three years and a half at Typeform. I didn’t do tech before Typeform, I actually worked in the art industry for a bit. I did some sales at Typeform, and then I build out the agency partner program at Typeform.
Mario: Awesome. So we have some great brands with great partner programs here between Webflow, Zapier, Typeform and experience that goes across the board with Contentful and other platforms that folks have experienced and worked at. So thank you all for introducing yourselves.
With that, I think the introduction period is over and we can jump into the meat, which is the fun part of the panel. As Ted mentioned before, we have some questions that we planned. And what we tried to do was frame our questions around a traditional marketing funnel of acquiring, activating and retaining, but with a dotted line to partnerships.
So that conversation is around the acquiring partners, activating partners, retaining partners, and really, how you can do business with them and be successful. What we’re really focusing on is the go-to-market strategy of partnerships and all the tactics and strategy that these three folks have learned over the years that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.
Hopefully, we can drain some of that knowledge into everyone who’s watching this and/or will watch this in the future. So we’ll just jump right in here. And we have a framing question to start with, which is really what came first, the tech partner or the agency?
Which is actually a joke on the chicken or the egg. And I think one of the stories we talked about in preparation for this, Carolina, you had an interesting one around what you experienced at Typeform. Could you maybe kick us off with the story around how partner programs began over there?
Carolina: Yeah, sure. So I think that at Typeform, because of the nature of the tool, it made sense for tech partners to come first, just because everybody wanted to push their data somewhere else or embed Typeform somewhere else. And then with that, it was easier to then build out the agency partner program because Typeform needed to work very well with other tools like HubSpot and WordPress and all this stuff. So, in our case, it was first tech partners, and then agency partners.
Mario: Awesome. So tech came before the agency over there. Another side of that story was Ethan’s experience. Could you maybe tell us what you experienced, Ethan?
Ethan: Yeah, absolutely. So this predates me, my time at Webflow, but definitely, for us, historically, agency partners came before tech integrations or platform partners. Really being the central point for websites, digital experiences, we had lots of customers that were using Webflow to launch their sites. But we really saw it very quickly that customers needed help, needed support from outside third-party sources to be able to implement that. So, that’s where our agency partner program started, and really, where we saw a lot of traction initially.
Once we had that solid base of customers, and we saw a lot of varying use cases, across those customers, we started to build out our integration strategy, our roadmap on what third parties we wanted to partner with on that side of the house. So really it’s letting our agencies and customers drive that story once we had a solid foundation there.
Mario: Really interesting that both of you had opposite process here. And I think it just goes to the concept of prioritization in resources. You have limited resources and time, where do you pick to focus first. In the form of Typeform, it was, “Hey, we have demand to integrate with other products.” At Webflow it was, “Hey, people need help.” So really just having to be on what’s happening in your world, as a founder, or as someone who’s building out partner strategy can maybe give you some insights into where you begin.
I imagine most folks building partner go-to-markets are doing it because one area, either the reseller agency side, or the technology side is actually burning and like, “We have to do this.” So we’ll jump into our first set of questions here. And we’ll start with Emily, since you’re there next up on the roundabout. So the first thing we want to do is think through how we’re talking about getting partners, the acquisition side of this.
One of the things I’d love to hear is, do you build an ideal partner profile? And we hear a lot about ideal customer profiles, and then there’s this question of like, “Well, what even is an IPP, an ideal partner profile? Do we use those? Is it really just an ideal that doesn’t actually get exercised?” So just love to kick the conversation off with your experience around, how do you identify which partners to begin with and define them?
Emily: For sure. I’ll answer this actually, from the platform perspective, our technology partners. Let’s see, this was back in 2019, and we built an internal lead scoring tool for our platform partners, that takes into account just a bunch of different components, what tool is it? What’s their clear bed scores? How many users have requested it, et cetera? And ranks them.
So for us, yes, we certainly have an ideal partner profile, we pretty much use what we call the partner index. We use it pretty religiously to prioritize our work. And I mentioned that number of 3,700 platform partners today, we get about 100 or so a month. So understanding which partner we should really be spending our time with, is critical when we start talking about scale.
Mario: And it’s probably cheating a little bit, maybe getting ahead here, but I think it’s a good time to ask you this question. You get 100 coming in a month, do you have any hunch about where those 100 come from? You’re obviously at scale. So what do you think?
Emily: I would love to know if you have thoughts. COVID happened, and we went from maybe a couple of dozen a month to 100 plus. And these are, I would say, 90% of them, this is their first integration. So something flipped, where I think the startups started to see Zapier as a solution for their integration problem. And this, really, was just all of a sudden skyrocketed. So we’re not totally sure if there might be a white paper out there for startups. I have no idea, but very, very interesting question for sure.
Mario: I’m sure it’s a question we’ll all be answering around partner programs for the next 10 years, as we think through where to acquire partners, and how to do it repeatedly. So since you talked a little bit about the technology side right there, maybe Carolina, I can throw it over to you to answer a similar question around the agency side and service providers.
How do you define an ideal partner profile, if you do at all? And then, what are maybe some of the positive signals when you’re engaging with a net-new partner that you look for?
Carolina: For sure. So in our case, we actually started with a pilot. I was doing sales before the partner program and we started getting a lot of inbound leads that were just agencies interested in visualizing a partnership with Typeform. So the idea started off, “Okay, what if we have a partner program? What would this look like?” And we decided to start a pilot of six months, just to work together with, I think it was between 15 and 20 partners, keeping it very small.
And we started identifying some similar traits of that and then, once we opened it up, we realized that we were getting more and more of the similar traits. So in our case, the ones that were the most successful ones were the ones that created either websites for their customers, or the ones who were HubSpot partners or had other kinds of partnerships like active campaign. Just because for them, they already understood what a partnership will look like, and they knew what they were getting into.
Mario: Interesting point that they had other partnerships that they were building their business around.
Carolina: Again, I think that in our case, it’s also because of the nature of our tool. Because our tool, it’s super powerful when it’s connected to something else. And it’s not a standalone tool. So, when you start with HubSpot, you don’t need to be partners with anything else for a while, and then you start adding on other tools around it.
Mario: And that just goes to reinforce and reiterate how important it is to know the frameworks for partnerships, but also to apply them to your specific environment. So, if you’re doing this out there, it’s 50% what worked for everyone else, and 50% what’s going to work for you.
Carolina: There’s copy, paste, for sure.
Mario: As much as we wish there was, I mean, a lot of marketing funnels look like they could just be thrown in there, but you have to really dive in there. Maybe Ethan, this is a good chance to ask you some questions around, just thinking about acquisition of partners, when you have a first meeting with a partner, someone who’s interested in working with you, either on the agency side of what you’re doing at Webflow, or previously, some of the tech partners you worked with.
When you’re going into that call, what type of research might you do ahead of time, especially if you want to make sure you knock it out of the park? And what do you bring to that first meeting, just to represent the what you’re doing? What are your thoughts on that?
Ethan: Absolutely. I think this also goes back to my days as a direct sales rep. But really trying to understand what is going to bring value to the other person that you’re having this partnership conversation with? By that I mean, what are they trying to get out of a partnership, whether it’s a tech partnership, an integration partnership, or are they looking to partner and be able to sell services around your platform?
For tech partners, similar to Typeform as Carolina mentioned earlier, are they trying to expand their ecosystem to be able to reach more customers, be able to drive more value to their existing customer base? How can we maybe come with a prescriptive frame of mind to make recommendations to that? I think that’s super important. It helps you stay on topic with your first partnership conversation, and really understanding where the other person is coming from, so that you can speak the same language and identify what type of value you can drive together.
The resources that you bring to the first partner meeting, I think it varies so much across different size organizations. Traditionally, partnership teams are very lean and mean, so you might not have a ton of resources that you can bring on day one. Prior to myself joining Webflow, partnerships was being run by one of our founders, so he was not able to really bring a huge team with him every time. Go-to-market enterprise motion was pretty small at that time.
As an early stage company, being able to run it and incorporate that lean process is definitely beneficial if you have one or two folks that are focusing on partnerships, being able to span a bunch of different specialties or a bunch of different focus areas, from technical side and understanding of the platform to actually understanding the business objectives and how you can drive that value together as a partner organization, I think it’s really, really valuable to have that cross specialization.
Mario: That’s really true what you were saying about the under resourced but big opportunity that is partner go-to-market and generally throw someone at it, you’re like, “Hey, you can do a lot. Activate and build the funnel and start building things.” So, makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing that. And just digging into our acquisition questions here about getting partners and how to get them from zero to one with you. The next one we have here, is building off of what we asked Emily before so maybe we’ll ask this one from Carolina.
It’s about inbound or outbound partner interest and how to divide your time and focus, and obviously, if you have a torrent of leads of partners coming in then yes, deal with those. But when you think about the recruiting aspect of partnerships, going out and getting more, growing your top of funnel for this program, maybe Carolina you could tell us a little bit about what you’ve done around that front that worked for you? What you did maybe that doesn’t work, if you have any particular tactics there? Or just, what were some channels for you specifically that were either successful around this, or maybe not?
Carolina: Yeah, for sure. So in our case, it was mainly inbound. But I mean, Typeform, again, because of the nature of the product, it has a huge fatality effect. We have a ton of visitors and our website, we have a huge free user base of even free customers and non-paying customers. So for us, at least in the beginning, we didn’t need to really do outbound, then we can do it something a bit more targeted when it comes to getting bigger agencies, the more traditional agencies. But inbound worked pretty well for us.
Also, I think, that the risk of outbound, if it’s not very well targeted, and very strategic is that you have to sell the product first, and then the program, which is something very difficult to try to get somebody to just promote or talk about your product before they are sold into. And nowadays, they don’t want just a salesperson selling the product, they want to convince themselves of the product. So, that process needs to happen first before they become a partner.
Mario: So even before they’re applying, there’s this discovery and evaluation thing that has to happen. And content marketing does a great job of positioning products out there. So, that makes a lot of sense.
Actually, I think Emily, this would be an interesting one to ask you too. Have you ever written a blog post with the effort to get more partners into the Zapier program? Have you done some content around that or any other tactics that you’ve seen where it’s like, you got a lot of inbound but you know you need to do this other thing too to reach more? Anything around reach that you can share that you’ve experienced over there?
Emily: Yeah, I mean, a lot for sure. Zapier is very content-focused. I think it’s one of our key pillars of marketing. Our product is very interesting in that it is our partners, there’s very little that is just Zapier. So for us, I think, Carolina, you mentioned this concept of selling the product before you sell the program. For us, that’s entirely true. I would say we really don’t focus that heavily on the perks of the program itself and more just the perks of the product.
Our best partners are also our users, so that’s our content strategy too. And I’d say also our outbound strategy, if I’m thinking on this partner index that I referenced earlier number, let’s call it 31, that isn’t on the platform yet. I’m looking to see in our backend, who’s the user so I can reach out to them, find that internal advocate first.
Mario: Sweet. If there’s one thing Zapier has shown that they’re really good at, it’s content. So I think that speaks volumes. So Ethan, maybe I can throw this one in your direction here. It’s about scaling this acquisition function.
This could be tactical, this could be, how do you just deal with the quantity of things that you’re seeing? Or maybe more pinpoint, how do you do this specific thing better? But maybe you could just share a little bit around, when you start thinking about systematizing the first step of the process, what have you learned or what’s worked for you around that for scaling up partner?
Ethan: Absolutely. It’s a great point. Right now, I think in 2020, Webflow had about 1,000 partner applications come through, specifically for our agency partner program, and that’s great. I created lead scoring and a way to evaluate and prioritize those partner applications that are coming in. But what I’ve been pushing and helping build on my team, is really, we don’t want to be left holding the bag when that inbound potential dries up, or the business needs change. So we’re thinking two, three years down the road, where’s our enterprise team going to be?
What type of partners will we need to have in two, three years to start supporting those folks? Especially as some of those partnerships, relationships, with larger integration partners, larger systems integrators, essentially, the lights of the world can take years to develop. We’re needing to start thinking about that and start scaling what that acquisition strategy looks like now, and be able to create an ad hoc program to support that. To that extent, I think doing activities like account mapping with those types of prospective partners makes a lot of sense.
Understanding, if we have targets of XYZ company, what systems integrators do they work with, typically? What other technologies are in their stack? What integrations do we need to create for their use cases in the future? So that’s my feeling around organic, outbound, or organic acquisition. Is really going through the customer channel and figuring out who exactly we need to be working with to better support our customers in the longterm.
Mario: And if you have the luxury to just ask a customer, “Hey, do you work with this or this type of service provider?” And they say, “Yeah.” Maybe you can get an introduction through them. For folks thinking about where to begin this process. So we’re rounding out the end of our acquisition section. Now we’re going to kick off activation.
What comes next after we get a partner to basically say, “We’re interested in working with you.” Is getting them to essentially complete some milestones, whatever those milestones may be for your organization. So I guess the first question, maybe we’ll go back through my screen here and jump back into Emily, you’re up next for this.
What are some activities with new partners or brand new folks who are joining that you generally see has a big impact on their success down the road? Something that you’re like, “This is a good place to start? Let’s start here.”
Emily: I guess I’ll answer this on the platform side again. When we launched these partners that are new in our ecosystem, we have a five-step checklist to really ensure success. And for us, success means users that have authenticated that app and have set up a, we call it Zap, it’s an automated workflow, and turned it on and have success using it. So it’s run.
And there’s, like I said, five things we’re looking for. We’re looking for help docs on our site that explain to the user how to set up the integration, how to use it, help docs on their side that say the same thing. We also are looking for some co-marketing campaign. We have pretty automated, pretty standard, templatized campaign on our end and we ask for something on the partner side as well.
Getting users to understand, “This isn’t a Zapier integration, really. It’s an integration between Webflow and Typeform, right?” And we’re just powering that. Almost getting users to understand that it’s not really Zapier, it’s whatever tool they want to use Zapier with. And we found substantially higher rates of success with partners that will embed those app templates within their product, where users are looking for that experience.
So if you’re talking about a CRM, and you want to upload a CSV into your mailing tool, adding those Zap templates in the import section of the product is really going to drive success for us.
Mario: And I think something for everyone who’s listening is there’s two sides of the coin for everything. We have help docs, they have help docs, we’re doing co-marketing, they’re doing co-marketing. And this is the reciprocity that, generally, is the language of partnerships. And this content is so good. I’m taking notes here too. I’m listening, I’m like, “This is great.”
But just to your point about the help docs thing. I mean, it can’t be understated. If you don’t have a lot of partner material today, you don’t have the ability to run co-marketing, maybe you don’t have an embed widget, that’s okay, everyone can probably come up with a help doc if not open up Google Drive and put something together for customer success. So these are just some smaller asks that might be a little bit easier. And that makes sense on the tech partnership side why that would be so important to start the partnership off with.
Now, I’m interested to know a little bit from Carolina on, it’s the same question, what are some activities that you might start with an agency partner that you’ve worked with that you’re like, “If we do this in the beginning, or these couple things, we’re going to see down the road that this partner is going to be way more successful.” What do you think? Do you have anything like that that you’re doing systematically over there?
Carolina: Yeah, for sure. So we have an onboarding process for agency partners. And in our case, we do know that the ones that complete the onboarding are more successful than the ones who don’t, but also, because we’re working with value added resellers. So yeah, they are helping us bring customers into Typeform, but then we’re also recommending them to our customer base. So for us, it’s super important that they go through the certification process that we have set up. And then what they care about the most is to be in our directory, which is powered by PartnerPage.
And of course, the certification process is always a process where everything stalls a bit, just because it takes a little bit of time. So what we realized is that it has to be very reward-based. So we realized, what are the things that our partners care about the most, and there were things that we care about the most and combine them.
So for example, we figured out that a key functionality that partners needed in the product was to have access to their customers account from their own accounts, so they don’t have to log in and out and share passwords and anything like that. So we went back to our product team, and we got them to develop that functionality. And then we only give it to them after they finish their certification.
Then once that’s over, then we hand over the agency access functionality. And then the next step is like, “Okay, now bring us the first customer, and then we will promote you in the directory.” So this give and take has been the best way that we’ve managed to make progress together in the end, because we’re bringing partners into the directory and then offering them to their customers. They’re bringing us customers, and then we’re managing to complete the onboarding.
Mario: That was an awesome answer. As someone who geeks out on partner programs, just getting that firsthand from you is really exciting. I’ll say, just for all the attendees, again, both sides of the coin, we’re going to give them leads, but they’re going to have to deliver leads to us, or actually, you said it the other way around, they’ll bring customers to us, but we’ll send people their way, because they sell services around your product. And probably, we could spend an entire hour talking about acronyms and terms in the partner space because there is no dictionary for this.
But the value added reseller, the VAR, which is an old school channel term, which we still use today, really saying that these folks do offer services and value around Typeform. And the other thing I loved, and I wish I had a visual for this, but it’s this idea of an upward thing that’s flat, and then an upward thing that’s flat, and this is time on the X axis, you have these partners that do something because you motivated them, it sounds like, “Hey, we’ll give you access to this agency special functionality if you complete our training.” So they make progress, and then you give them that thing.
Then you hold another carrot, and you say, “Hey, we’ll put you in our directory if you do this thing.” And that really comes down to what activation is all about. It’s figuring out how to motivate folks and make it easier for them as they go through those milestones. So continuing through the questions there, Ethan, I think we’re going to throw a couple hard ones your way, so get ready. And actually, I think this next one, it’s a really good one for everyone to just hear a little bit about, and it’s about announcing partnerships. When and why would you do that?
Obviously, if you’re signing up 3,600 partners like Zapier, you might think, “Oh, we can’t announce that many partners. How could you possibly do that?” But then I bet you if you ask Emily, she’ll say “No, no, no. We can announce 3,600 partners because we do great co-marketing.” So Ethan, I’d love to get your take on what do you think, and what have you experienced around announcing different types of partners and when to do it? And what’s worked for you, just in terms of getting value out of that, if at all?
Ethan: Absolutely. I think it’s a great question. It’s so subjective and difficult to have an exact answer because it varies so much. I think number one, starting with the customer and understanding what’s the customer going to get out of this partnership announcement? Is it a huge pain point solved, that integration is coming into fix? Is it something that we’re going to see 50% of our customers go out and implement on day one? Those are the obvious ones that are huge value drivers that we want to shout from the rooftops as much as possible.
On the flip side, as we’re talking to maybe even smaller partners in our ecosystem, we have some agencies that are 10, 15 employees, but they’re doing such really interesting, creative, innovative work on our platform, that the value that our customers can get out of seeing this work, seeing another level of sophisticated developments on Webflow is just immeasurable. So I don’t think there is a right answer here.
I think I always start with the customer and understand, what is our customer base going to get out of this? What’s there to get out of us putting out this into market? Understanding what is the partner going to do to help promote this partnership announcement as well? If we have a partner that’s going to go out and add, “We can do a webinar or do a press release about it.” That’s really showing dedication on their end. That they’re invested, that they are going to be a great partner in the future. So it’s something that where we can flip it around, and also take that and do that on our end as well.
Mario: That reciprocity side, just doing a little bit on both sides. I guess I’d love to ask you, Emily, if you have any thoughts on the same thing? Maybe for either the tech or the expert side that you’re dealing with today, just about how you announced partnerships, and when and why you might do that?
Emily: Yeah, for sure. I’ll answer on the platform side. I wish I had better answers on the agency side, but we’re really still just building and growing the program. So a lot of these I’m taking notes on my side for future tips. Ethan, you really hit the nail on the head. It all comes back to the user.
For us, we have a backend tool that will measure and track user requests that come in through learning pages or through our support team. And if a partner that’s building an integration and launching an integration has user requests, that’s a really good signal to us like, “Okay, well, we need to.”At the very least, let them know that we have that integration.
So we have a checkbox that will check on the backend, and that’ll shoot out an automated email. For bigger partners that are higher on the index, higher requests, bigger names, we’ll do pretty custom co-marketing campaigns that just, I’d say, again, align with the users use cases and what they’re looking for. It really depends. We’re launching a partner later next month that is now just a team of one on the launches side, that’s pretty much their full-time job, just launching this one partner and building out that co-marketing campaign. So, it really depends. User comes first always.
Mario: And you have both done a great job of taking something very subjective, and at least finding a starting point, which is what’s going to benefit the people that we’re trying to help the most. Which are the customers that rely on us for our products and the value we provide. So, thank you both for that. Just looking at some of our questions around activation, flying through the list here. I like this question. It’s a tricky one. It’s almost a trick question. It’s about time to activation. And what it really is, is it’s a question around metrics.
And it’s a question around, when we think of our well-understood MQLs that turned into SQLs, and the time it takes to go from one point to the other in our funnel, where we can slice and dice data and build an entire science around it, what are some of the thoughts that you have? And these are really high-level because I don’t know, maybe you all have incredible partner dashboards with every single thing mapped out. My hunch is that you might want one and that you’re working towards it, or maybe you don’t have it. But maybe, with Carolina, this is a good question I can just run off you.
How do you think about the certain metrics that you want to track around a new partner and getting them? Time to activation being one that maybe you think about, how long does it take to get them to actually do something? And how have you maybe, once you’ve thought about that metric, done something different in your strategy as a result of it? Hopefully, that’s a good metric to start with. If there’s any other ones that you think are more important than time to activation, we can certainly talk about those too.
Carolina: So, time to activation is definitely something that we take into consideration. There are many different factors. On our side, we realized that the LMS (learning management system) tool that we had for the certification was actually slowing down that activation process, so we took some action to change that and improve it. But then, it depends also on the profile. So we are working with a lot of agencies that are solopreneurs. And it’s very hard for them to just juggle everything that they have to juggle. Definitely on their side, maybe they’re already bringing customers but they don’t finish the onboarding officially or it takes them a little bit longer.
And then we have other agencies that are bigger, they have a team and then maybe it’s easier for them to just have one person dedicated to complete the certification and make sure that the whole onboarding process goes really smoothly. I think that it’s more being a bit empathic also with your partners that are trying to juggle a lot of things at once. And then at the same time, trying to see what you can do to improve it, right?
I think at the beginning, we even had two different timeframes that people had to fill out. And then of course, a lot of people dropped off at the second one, so then we made that shorter. So, finding different points and different things that you can definitely improve in your workflow to make it as smooth as possible for your partners to onboard and activate and just be up and running. But then also, understanding that they’ll all have different realities and situations.
Mario: I love the use of the word, being empathetic with partners and putting yourself in their shoes. You could almost come up with a set of values for your partner strategy independently of the company’s corporate values. Well, maybe they’d be the same, but really saying, “Hey, when we work together, we’re going to flex our empathy here, and really try to understand.” If you’re a solopreneur, a couple people in their garage with their dog building websites and just carving out value, or are you a consulting firm, a bigger one that has hundreds of employees, or even thousands if you talk about some of the big ones that Ethan was mentioning before.
I like that approach. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for sharing that too. And continuing down our list of activation questions here, this is an interesting one, and I think we’ll answer both questions. I’ll ask you, Ethan, both in the same shot, which is, what do you do when you’re working with a new partner, and their interest just feels like it’s waning? Or maybe they’re not interested in promoting after you’ve said, “Hey, let’s work together.”
Obviously, we have these best case scenarios where partners are blowing it out of the water, which begs the question, what do we do when they’re not? And the second part of that question might be, what are some ways to keep partners excited? It might be the solution to that, what do you do when they’re not excited question. And you can answer this for either side of your experiences, whatever is calling you. What do think?
Ethan: Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually going to go back to the Contentful times. I think it’s very common in partnerships. And it’s very easy for relationships to go cold, or to just mean, not alive, in terms of what you’re trying to get out of the partnership. Specifically for us in Contentful, we were disrupting a pretty big market space and competing with the likes of Adobe, and trying to go after some large systems integrators and digital agencies that were billing hundreds of millions of dollars in services with our competitors.
And so really trying to convince them, and it’s an uphill battle, that you can also start building a business on Webflow, you can maybe reach that same revenue level, but it can be another weapon in your arsenal, and another alternative for the right customers. And I think it’s very difficult to understand what the point of, when do we need to walk away? When do we continue driving? When do we actually, really, try to keep making this partnership work? It’s a very fine line, I think, on that side. And I always say, it’s easier to get that first deal than it is to get the second and third more often than not.
Usually, that first deal, there’s momentum behind it, typically, there’s already a customer that’s pushing a partner to engage and be activated on that side. But figuring out what’s the repeatable emotion, how do we actually do this at scale? With other customers, this might be a new floor, I think that’s the more challenging piece of this and where you can really stall it, and relationships go cold on that. So number one, where I try and navigate, you might be anchored within the wrong person within an organization, if it’s a large company.
You might just be talking to the wrong person that just doesn’t have the same goals of the partnership as you, or maybe you’re just misaligned on the value of the partnership early on in the conversation. So, having that reset moment with the partner, figuring out, “How do we actually navigate from here? How do we realign on what we want to get out and what our joint go-to-market motion is going to be?” I think that’s a hugely important one.
And then if you’re struggling to really find the customers to apply that partnership with, it could be a just a sink on services. What’s the unique value proposition that we’re offering to customers with this partnership? Either a solution’s partnership or integration partner, and be able to really market and tell that story a lot better than maybe what has been led to that stall or that point where you’re at, at the moment.
Mario: Great. Ton of nuggets of information there, and that are really actionable. So appreciate that. That’s a great way to think about navigating these situations. Which actually, on that point that you said about the first deal, and the deals that come after, is a great segue into thinking about what it means to have retention for partners. And retention for partners can be, “Hey, they continue to be our partner, but that’s not enough, right? We need them to do the thing.” What’s the thing that we want to do together? It’s grow and help customers.
So we’ll call retention this idea of continually doing the thing, whether it’s an integration partner that maybe does a series of activities, or it’s a reseller/agency that continues to deliver value and services around the product. So we’ll segue into retention there.
How do you get partners to continually do this particular thing that you’re measuring them on, maybe bringing new customers or maybe advertising and promoting the partnership? And I think actually, this is a great first question here. And maybe, Emily, I can ask you this one. This is a pretty open-ended one, so you can answer it in a lot of ways. How do you help partners find new customers? What do you think?
Emily: Great question, Mario. Thank you for asking. I am so excited to be able to talk about our agency program now. So, about six months or so ago, we purchased and implemented PartnerPage. And the goal of that was really to drive organic user requests that are looking to hire agencies to set up and support their Zapier accounts. We had a theory that there was a lot of organic requests for this. Zapier is an easy product, but it gets complex very quickly.
And we have a pretty big support team that gets a lot of requests daily, a lot of tickets daily. So, we had a hypothesis that there’s a lot of user-demand, we had no idea. And I think I remember saying, “I hope we get 5, 10 user requests a week.” We’re getting around 20 to 30 user requests a day. And that’s, like I said, early stages in the program, not a lot of marketing, not a lot of anyone talking about it, it’s just organically users looking on our site.
So those user requests are direct leads for our agencies and our experts. And oftentimes, they’re smaller, at least to start in terms of revenue for these agencies. But every once in a while, it’ll be a really big name, or really big contract and makes meaningful impact to their business. So that’s, I think, our primary incentivization method right now, at least.
Mario: Appreciate you telling that story there and happy that PartnerPage could play a role in that. And I think there’s a really interesting distinction here around, if you think about what Ethan was saying with Webflow, and we think about the solopreneurs Carolina was saying, there’s almost a wave happening where folks are learning to build their businesses around tools like Zapier and Webflow, and all these other tools like Typeform.
And you can almost envision these folks coming to you for helping your ecosystem. And I’ve seen it in your directory, I’ve seen it in these websites these folks have. You go to their website, and it’s like, “Hey, we are the Zapier this, or maybe we’re the Webflow that.” And we’ve seen it played out with other tools in the SaaS space, where they just built out a lot of opportunity for service providers who had expertise to come in there.
That number is staggering, by the way, that you thought five a week would be successful, and it was 30 a day of requests for help.
Emily: We weren’t really ready to be honest, but here we are.
Mario: What did you do internally when you discovered that? I mean, did you party? Did you sound the alarm? I mean, both at the same time, I imagine. What was the general feeling?
Emily: For sure, it was both at the same time. And it happened at the right time, I’ll say. We implemented the new directory, October last year. And that was right around planning for 2021. So it was a great time to go to our exec team and say, “Look at what we built. Now we need these resources to really go out and scale it.” Fast forward to today, the program that I’m building is one of the three company objectives that we have for the year. And we’re going full-in with building the tools that our agencies need to be successful with our users.
Mario: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. And I think with that great question and answer about how to help partners find customers, maybe we’ll jump into the next question, which is around the level of involvement in helping partners close new business. Maybe Carolina, you can tell us, you said you did some sales for a while, then you got into partnerships. I bet you’ve closed some deals over there or you’ve done it in the past.
What is the right level of involvement for someone running a partner program to do, or to be involved along with their partners in closing new business?
Carolina: It really depends. It depends a lot on, well, I guess, the relationship that you have with a partner, how close it is. Or if it’s that the relationship is just starting, and then they practically ask for it, then if you do have bandwidth and you see that there’s potential, then you maybe go for it. And I guess it also depends on the customer, right? We do co-selling with our partners when it comes to enterprise plans. That’s as a standard, but with smaller deals, it depends.
I remember when we were just starting with the directory, because we wanted to really understand the leads that were coming from there, I did handholding with a few of our partners at the beginning. Just to understand what the process would look like, or maybe sales enablement material that we needed to build out for that specific stage. But I would say, it depends.
Mario: I’d say there’s an interesting topic that you just brought up, which could probably be a whole hour, which is co-selling, so that you can learn, really put yourself on the call, and get in the weeds and learn a little bit. It depends is actually the perfect answer for this. And I think this paints the picture for folks who are scratching their head saying, “How do I systematize this?” You mentioned something too which I think is a trend, so I’ll ask you a little bit about that.
You do co-selling on every enterprise deal. I’m guessing there’s a segment here where you have your enterprise, large logo, or a company that’s targeted that you want to get. So the motion of co-selling there, because probably… Well, I’ll ask this question, why would you co-sell on the enterprise deals? What’s the big driver for that? And how should folks thinking about doing the same thing basically say, “This is why we’re going to co-sell our enterprise deals or not?” You have some thoughts on that?
Carolina: Yeah. I guess the simple answer is that for enterprise deals, there are more stakeholders involved. And then, on our side, we also need more stakeholders involved. So it’s not just about “Hey, this is Typeform this is what it does. But then you also need to go through the security, and the procurement process, and negotiation of the contract.” And all of that cannot be done just with the agency. We need a person inside Typeform that is in the loop when that whole negotiation is happening. That’s one of the main reasons.
Mario: And I think that’s super important for everyone to think about. Because if you’re closing big enterprise deals as a founder or an early sales employee at a company and you’re thinking about partnerships, you know how to talk to InfoSec, you know where you sit on the SOC 2 Type 2 spectrum, and how your company does its encryption. Can you really enable an agency to repeat that for your product? And let alone they probably have 11 other ones they work with. Can they even manage to have that conversation?
Carolina: I think they don’t want to either.
Mario: Do they even want to, nonetheless? And that actually is another benefit, I’ll just throw this out there, which is you can offer co-selling to the top partners. So you can say, “Hey, if you really do a great job with us, we’ll be there for you on the bigger deals you keep bringing in.” Again I’m not sure on the partner benefits spectrum where that will rank compared to some of the other ones, but certainly something to leverage for folks who are looking for carrots to dangle and use to motivate partners.
Ethan: I’m going to add a quick point to the co-selling motion as well. Especially because we’re building this motion as well at Webflow. And I like to remind not just our partner team, but our sales team. Our partner’s job day in, day out isn’t to sell Webflow. They’re not perfect in our sales process, they don’t know our security procurement process inside and out. And not just that, but when we’re talking about a project that involves Webflow, we’re a piece of that puzzle, we’re not the entire state.
And so, being able to be this micro-service of a sales organization within that overall structure and service that the partners providing, I think is super important. That fits well into the tech side of co-selling motion as well. Your job is to sell the products and their jobs is to sell services around it or sell their integration on top of it and really extend that offering.
Mario: Thanks for sharing that too by the way. The way you framed it up as a micro-service, almost, is a great way to think it through as anyone who’s trying to figure out how to framework this in their mind. And that’s really interesting about how you’ve been building that out over there at Webflow, just because it’s the beginning of this motion. And I think even your enterprise approach at Webflow, is I don’t know, because I don’t work there, but it’s relatively new for the organization. And I’m guessing that means it’s relatively new for the partner strategy, too.
Since I’ve got you here, maybe I’ll ask you this next question too. Tiers. Perfect tiers, rare metals, bronze, silver, gold, maybe not, maybe some other cool word. But what are the benefits, in your opinion, of tiering your partners based on performance?
Ethan: And this is something, again, we’re still young in our partner journey at Webflow that we’re currently building out as well. And thinking about how we approach this. In my past experience coming from Contentful, which is a very heavy enterprise-focused organization, we had a group of select petite amount of partners, we had our small book of business and partners that we worked with day in, day out.
Coming to Webflow, it’s not to the extent of Zapier where we have thousands of partners, but we do have hundreds of partners, and for me, thinking about, “Where is my time best going to be spent?” That’s how I think about this tiering of partners. There’s a common step that we look at in partnerships. 80% of your revenues comes from about 20% of your partners, or that breaks down in that sense. And so, figuring out, how can you best activate that 20%? How can you best recognize that 20% of your partners, and really create incentive structure create Partner Program structure to enable them to be successful on that side as well?
Mario: Great point about the 80%, 20% rule, which actually, and I want to ask this question to every panelist here, so get ready. We’re talking about tiers. Everyone talks about tiers, at some point when they’re building out their program, and I there’s a stage when you do it, and there’s a right way to do it maybe, or a wrong way. It’s nothing subjective here. Maybe Emily, you could tell us, what are your experiences thinking about this, with respect to partner programs that you’ve worked in?
Emily: Yeah, for sure. So we have tiers on both the platform and the agency side. Our platform tiers have been around since, I want to say, late 2017, maybe 2018. And it’s an interesting question, do they really drive results in partners, or are they more nice-to-have? And we’ve found that for our middle tiers, we use that rare gold. So our silver and gold tiers, we do really see the right behavior of being incentivized by the tiers that most of the benefits are co-marketing benefits.
But then we have this unspoken tier, that’s more of our ecosystem partners, you think like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, that have dedicated strategic alliance partner managers. And that’s really where we see the right behavior of being driven. And it’s more behind the scenes, relationship alliance type work, rather than what you see on our directory.
For our agency side of things, we really have noticed a big uptick and success after implementing our tiers about six months ago. Really has started to drive the right behavior for us and helped us to reward partners that are willing to work with us. And I think that the key is unlocking benefits for partners that are willing to work for us. Not necessarily on the biggest name, but so excited to partner with us, and that’s where we’ve seen success on the agency side.
Mario: Awesome. Great thoughts on driving behavior. That’s what we’re trying to figure out and supporting behavior with our own efforts too, and making it easier for folks. Some folks are highly motivated they’ll bleed the colors of your partner program the second they join. And other folks have bigger fish to fry and they’ll come back when they can. So Carolina, I’d love to get your take on this too because I think tiers are just an interesting thing to dive into since we’re talking about the retention side of this.
What have you experienced around tiering partners? And the good, the bad, the ugly, if there’s any bad? Have you got any thoughts on that?
Carolina: We haven’t seen anything really bad coming from tiers. And not only does it help drive behavior, but it also helps set expectations, right? Before we had the tiers, we often had just requests from partners of, “Hey I’m doing this with this partner program, can we do this with us as well?” We had the tiers unofficially, so we had them, but they weren’t published yet.
It was good to have them published, and then just say, “Well, these are the tiers that we have now in the program, so when you reach this goal, then we will happily do that with you.” Instead of having to say, “It’s not the right time.” But there was nothing written about when was the right time. So I think to set expectations is really helpful.
Mario: Totally, not to be underrepresented in the conversation around motivation is the target. Where are we aiming and why? And what’s the expectation around getting there in a certain window of time and certain volume of business? Awesome answers from everyone here on that.
I want to at least ask one question from our last section of questions, which is really just about where do you find great partner managers? And since you all are great partner managers, maybe you can talk a little bit about either A) where you would go to find a great partner manager, or B) where you came from? So people know how to find you. But maybe, Ethan, how do you think about this when it comes to finding great partner managers?
Ethan: Absolutely. I think we’ve had about six open headcounts for partner managers since I joined Webflow, so it’s definitely top of mind all day, every day for the most part. I think it really depends on what type of partner role you’re looking to fill, or what type of partner motion you’re looking to build out.
My background was as a direct sales rep prior to joining Contentful. And jumping into partnerships on that side, I think that’s really beneficial especially as you start getting into the co-selling motion, as soon as you start getting into being able to really assist on deals, if you have an internal sales team as well. So having a background in that sales capacity, or folks that have done both roles in the past, I think makes a lot of sense.
On the other side, I think more and more folks that are in technical partnerships, integration partnerships, someone needs to be a jack of all trades. And so, folks that have had product experience in the past, folks that have done more technical selling in the past, I think you need to be able to have that level of conversation with your counterpart. You might not have a sales engineer on every single call, so being able to speak to both sides of business value, technical value, I think is super beneficial. So, on that side, we typically look for folks from a partner-focused organization.
Mario: Awesome. That’s a lot of headcount. Anyone listening here looking to work in partnerships at Webflow? Carolina or Emily, do either of you feel strongly about answering the where to get partner managers come from question? Carolina, you got any thoughts on that? Where would you go today if you’re looking for your next partner manager?
Carolina: I would say the network. There are a few networks, but just your network is always a good place to start. And then I think partnerships more and more have bigger networks just because we need to all work together and with each other.
Mario: That makes a lot of sense. And I guess nowadays with LinkedIn, the feed there starts to get more… Mine gets more and more partnership content focused every time I log in. So, good for them for figuring out the algorithm. It sounds like training folks internally is an option if you find a salesperson who’s got the right energy or wants to do this thing as a next step in their career. Also, hiring externally from within your network. So there’s both sides of that there as well. So I’ll flip it over now to the Q&A.
We’ve got some great questions here from a couple folks. What are the key KPIs to measure for technology partnerships? And then the second one says, how do you track and measure influenced revenue? But since you’ve got so many platform partners over there, Emily, maybe we can just pick your brain a little bit on KPIs you measure on tech partnerships or your platform partners, maybe top three that you’re really looking at every day?
Emily: For sure. I think I mentioned one, which is just the active users that they have using the integration. The other that we’re tracking is how much monthly recurring revenue is really tracked to the users that are on the integration. And then the third is how many errors or bug requests or feature requests we have for the integration, we call it a health score. So, really looking at how healthy is the integration overall?
How do we track and measure influenced revenue? We spent four years building an internal multi-touch attribution tracking solution. This is built by our data team of about 30 or so working to really make sure that we’re accurately attributing revenue. So, not an easy solution. There certainly is easy solutions out there, but ours is a little bit more complex.
Mario: The journey never ends when it comes to attribution, as every marketer knows.
Mario: Where does the money go? So I think some great points, though, around how you are measuring the technology partner side. And I guess we’ll just jump into another question here in the interest of time.
Ethan: Can I follow up with that one real quick as well, Mario?
Mario: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Ethan: Just specifically, because we are actively reevaluating our KPIs for our partner programs. Specifically on our technology and marketplace partnerships, we went from a direct charging for each integration, charging for each templates purchased in our marketplace, and measuring our KPIs around that, to thinking about more, “Somebody that is using a partner, or somebody that is using a template, or a QuickStart package from our marketplace, what does that do to their activation rate?”
Does it make them more sticky as a customer? Does it help them get more deep in the platform faster?” And what we found is, at least double the activation rate for folks that are using this types of partnerships, those type of starters. And so really, focusing more on how do we actually do more of that and get really, really deep with those activation driving activities.
Mario: That right there is a great time for me to just repeat the name of this webinar, which is Partner or Perish. I didn’t even say it at the beginning, but if you’re really thinking about the data, a lot of our businesses are data-driven, or at least we try to be as much as we can. And as we start to look at these numbers, there’s anecdotal evidence that’s popping up all over the place that says, “Hey, someone who has this many integration partners connected, or had a service provider help them, or both, sticks with the platform longer, spends more money, gets excited, and does referral, whatever the metrics are that you want from your customers.
We’re not going to say that if you don’t partner, you’re going to perish, but I mean, just keep in mind, Partner or Perish, it’s name of the webinar.
So one last question, just so we can wrap it all up. And this has been wonderful. I’m seriously scribbling notes down as I listen to you because it’s been such a great conversation. I think it’s great to just ask this one: how many Zap templates does a partner need to start with when they become a partner? Not sure if you have a quick answer to that one or not, but since it’s targeting you, can we get you answer it while you’re on the air?
Emily: Sure, yeah. We typically ask for 10. That varies if it’s a very specific tool and very specific use cases. But typically, in our automated emails and on our launch team, we’ll ask for 10.
Mario: Cool. Nice round number and we can wrap it up that. Thank you, Ethan, Emily, and Carolina for sharing your expertise, experience and wisdom on partner, strategy and tactics.