Partnerships are driving more leads and sales than ever before, and this is only projected to grow. Yet very few organizations have built a partner tech stack that can capture and follow up on all these opportunities.
RevOps has grown in importance as SaaS products have continued to proliferate and organizations have recognized the importance of good data, efficient workflows, and ensuring cross-department collaboration.
PartnerOps (or ChannelOps) is newer than sales and marketing ops, but it is important to driving growth in the age of the ecosystem. Building the right partner tech stack can dramatically increase the revenue flowing from your partners, even if your partnership team is small.
The growing role of partnerships in driving revenue
Businesses are continuing to streamline their purchasing. They have shifted their buying process even further online, only talking to vendors after they have already conducted significant research. As a result, more products are being discovered and sold through online marketplaces, like the Salesforce AppExchange and the AWS Marketplace.
In addition, businesses are continuing to rely on agencies, consultancies, and distributors to refer, sell, and implement products.
An ecosystem of related products and channel partners exist around every B2B product. If you look at the 10 largest SaaS companies and the five leading cloud providers, for example, 14 out of the 15 have hundreds or thousands of technology and channel partners.
Forrester estimates that 75% of world sales flows through indirect channels. As a B2B company, it is imperative to understand your particular ecosystem and take advantage of these opportunities.
Building your partner tech stack
Your partners have great leads to offer, but if you’re not organized, many of these opportunities will not be passed on or worked. Other accounts might be chased by both partners and sales, which results in conflicting messages and commissions.
Generating partner-driven leads often involves a number of internal teams, such as partnerships, sales, marketing, and product, in addition to partner organizations. The key goal of PartnerOps is to make sure that everyone is getting the right information at the right time.
With the right partner tech stack, you can ensure that your organization is:
- Identifying and signing the ideal partners
- Moving data securely between a company and its partners
- Ensuring partnerships, sales, product, engineering, and customer success teams have the information they need when they need it
- Driving partner engagement and collaboration
- Processing and remitting payments
- Creating efficient workflows for internal teams and partners
- Displaying high quality analytics, reporting, and forecasting to internal teams and partners
Partner tech is a relatively new field. In a survey of 100+ partnership leaders, we found that 27 percent of smaller companies and 47 percent of larger companies were using partner tech.
This lack of adoption can provide a serious competitive advantage for organizations who leverage this burgeoning technology. An optimal partner tech stack can improve and scale a partner program by providing higher quality data, better partner engagement, and improved workflow efficiencies. These advantages will drive leads and close deals.
Knowing your ideal partner profiles and journey
In order to build a good partner tech stack, it is important to define your ideal partners and their partner journey. There are a number of different partner types: affiliate, referral, reseller, technology, and solution partners.
Not all organizations will leverage each partner type. In order to build the right tech stack, you have to identify your ideal partner profiles.
Identifying your ideal partner profiles requires understanding how your customer is buying products like yours, and then nailing down exactly where and how partners fit in.
This process is iterative, and partner tech can help to refine your partner profiles, whether they are agencies, tech partners, or consultants. Once you understand your ideal partner profile, you need to map out the partner journey and which department inside your organization is handling which part of the process.
The goal of PartnerOps is to look at the process across departments and across organizations to make sure the tech is facilitating these relationships and the timely movement of data.
The most common problem with a partner tech stack is failing to overcome data silos both internally and externally, and a good Partner Operations manager will be able to fix this.
Components of setting up your partner tech stack
Like with other revenue driving tech stacks, a partner tech stack has keystone software as well as best-in-breed solutions that integrate with the main software.
Once you understand your partner types and who is involved in facilitating your partnerships, it is time to consider the different types of tech available to enhance partnerships and set them up in an optimal stack.
When organizations start pursuing partnerships, they usually deploy general tech – a CRM, email, marketing and sales tools, Slack, and spreadsheets – to manage and track partnerships. But this quickly becomes too time-consuming and results in lost and subpar data quality.
There are six core areas where partner tech can improve outcomes. Mature partner programs will have integrated tech from each bucket, but younger organizations or certain product categories may only need tech from a few buckets.
This list covers all the available categories of partner tech currently on the market. Assess each one to see if it would facilitate your partner program goals and then map out how you will integrate the different software together.
Keystone Partner Software: the PRM and the CRM
For sales teams, and even for revenue at large, the CRM is usually where users spend most of their time and it is usually the system of record. Other sales, marketing, and customer success tools integrate to the CRM so the data is accurate and visible in the main workspace.
To drive the most revenue, both the CRM and PRM play integral parts in the partner tech stack.
PRMs have white labeled partner portals, product and marketing asset management, deal registration, payment processing, and reporting and analytics on partners and the outcomes they are driving.
For partnership teams, a PRM makes it possible to manage partner relationships at scale. This is likely where partnership leaders will spend most of their time managing their program.
PRMs come with a white labeled partner portal where partners can log in and collaborate and engage. For most companies, it can be a challenge to get their partners to log in to their portal. Agencies, manufacturers, and SaaS companies might have dozens of partners each, and logging into dozens of portals regularly is not a workflow that drives adoption.
Choosing a PRM with a good UX and gamification can help adoption, but this should be coupled with CRM integrations. CRM-to-CRM integration is the gold standard, as it enables partners to sign up in the partner portal once and then work from their CRMs. Once installed, relevant data can pass from one CRM through the PRM to the other partner’s CRM.
CRM integration also makes it possible for partner teams and sales teams to have complete visibility into where leads came from, who is registered on them, and who is working deals.
It can also enable co-selling and active collaboration on deals across both organizations and teams without requiring sales teams to log into the PRM, or partner teams to work in the CRM.
Not all PRM vendors facilitate CRM-to-CRM integration, especially for CRMs other than Salesforce and Dynamics. In those cases, it is important to look at both a PRM’s customer base and their API.
If most of your partners are already using a particular PRM, then it will be much easier to collaborate with them through that interface as partner teams will already regularly be logged in. And PRMs with robust APIs make it easier to build CRM integrations that are not offered out of the box.
- Examples of PRMs: Allbound, Impartner, PartnerStack, Salesforce PRM, Webfinity, ZiftONE
- Factors to consider: Feature set, CRM integration, accessible and robust API, customer base overlapping with your current and potential partners
Best-in-Breed Partner Software
An ideal partner tech stack centers on a PRM and CRM, but should be complemented with best-in-breed software that integrates into these keystone systems. There are five different functions that partner tech can help to optimize.
Identifying and signing more of the right partners is key to driving more revenue. There are three different types of products designed to enhance partner acquisition.
Partner-to-partner marketplaces are platforms where partners can discover and engage potential partners. Many PRMs, partner account mapping, and affiliate software have marketplaces in their products, but there are also freestanding marketplaces.
- Examples of partner-to-partner marketplaces: MeasureMatch, PartnerStack
- Factors to consider: Number of partners in the marketplace, how engaged and active partners are in the marketplace, alignment between your ideal partner and the partners in the marketplace
Scouting marketplaces is one way to find and sign new partners, but another way is to use traditional sales prospecting tools, like LinkedIn and SalesLoft. Very recently, to-partner marketing software has cropped up in order to specifically hone in on and target ideal partners.
This tech is designed to identify, find, and sign ideal partners through data and competitive intelligence, and should be compared against traditional sales tools.
- Examples of to-partner marketing software: Partner Insight, PartnerOptimizer
- Factors to consider: CRM integration, data intelligence, and feature set compared to existing sales tools
Identifying and signing ideal partners requires data on both companies’ customers and prospects. The more overlap in your target customers, the more likely a partner will make a good fit.
Partner account mapping software enables partners to easily and securely compare their customers and prospects. This occurs through CRM integration as partners can elect which data from their CRM they would like to share with their potential partners.
These tools require your potential partners to create an account. It is free for a partner to make an account, however, it is often a challenge to get partners to do so. As a result, it is important to consider the existing customer base of a partner account mapping tool before signing up.
In addition, you should consider which CRM integrations the app offers. The tool should integrate to your and your partners’ CRMs. Most partner account mapping tools integrate with Salesforce and Hubspot, but not with other CRMs, like Dynamics. If you or your partner use these other CRMs, a custom integration will have to be built.
- Examples of partner account mapping software: Crossbeam, PartnerTap, Sharework
- Factors to consider: Current customer base, CRM integrations, robustness of API, additional insights and analytics beyond partner account mapping
Co-marketing is an important part of all types of partnerships. It enables an organization to increase the capacity of their marketing team, and generate more leads through collaborative efforts.
These endeavors might involve the partnership and marketing teams in your and your partners’ organization.
There are three types of products that help organizations to co-market with partners: partner account mapping software, affiliate marketing software, and through-channel marketing automation.
Partner account mapping software enables partners to create a list of shared prospects or customers and run targeted marketing campaigns at that list. As mentioned above, it is key that this software integrates with your and your partners’ CRM.
Ideally these tools would also integrate into marketing automation systems and PRMs so lists could be uploaded, accounts targeted, and co-marketing campaigns tracked. However, few account mapping tools offer this out-of-the-box. Instead, look at their API and consider how easy it will be to integrate the tool with your other marketing and PRM software.
- Examples of partner account mapping software: Crossbeam, PartnerTap, Sharework
- Factors to consider: Current customer base, CRM, PRM and marketing automation integrations, robustness of API
For many companies with smaller price points, affiliate marketing can be a profitable way to drive new leads and customers.
Affiliate software is a platform for managing affiliate partnerships, and it includes partner engagement, management, tracking, and payment processing. Many also allow partners to find each other in a marketplace.
Affiliate marketing software is essentially a PRM for affiliate marketing so if this is the only type of partnership your organization has, you can use this as a PRM and integrate it with your CRM and other marketing automation. If it is only one type of partnership you offer, consider a PRM that has this functionality, like PartnerStack, or integrate affiliate marketing software with your CRM.
- Examples of affiliate marketing software: Everflow, Impact, ShareASale
- Factors to consider: Number and type of partners in the marketplace, engagement of potential partners in the marketplace, feature set, CRM integration
PRMs offer a place for partners to collaborate on marketing assets, share marketing campaigns, and track results from co-marketing efforts. But for companies who want to take their co-marketing campaigns to a more sophisticated level, they should consider through-channel marketing automation software.
This software enables partners to optimize co-marketing campaigns and activities. A company can segment their partners, share marketing assets, create and launch omni-channel campaigns, and track outcomes of those activities by a number of different variables.
This type of software is especially useful for companies looking to launch omni-channel campaigns and leverage local marketing. Depending on how your internal teams are organized, this software should be integrated with your CRM, PRM, or marketing automation software.
- Examples of through-channel marketing automation: BrandMuscle, Distribion, SproutLoud
- Factors to consider: Feature-set compared to your PRM, CRM and PRM integrations, robustness of API
PRMs enable co-selling through deal registration, CRM integrations, and the sharing of sales enablement materials. For organizations who emphasize co-selling, there are two types of software that can improve on the PRM’s capabilities: partner account mapping software and partner incentive management.
Partner account mapping software enables partners to securely create lists of shared prospects that they co-sell to together.
It also enables companies to identify when their partners have customers that they would like to sell to, and vice versa. Organizations can ask partners for warm introductions, and through CRM integration, sales teams can identify and work these leads.
This software can also help avoid channel conflict as the visibility into accounts across partners can reveal when accounts are already being worked by sales or partner teams.
- Examples of partner account mapping software: Crossbeam, PartnerTap, Sharework
- Factors to consider: Current customer base, CRM integrations, robustness of API, insights and reporting beyond account mapping
Motivating and engaging partner teams can drive more results and close more deals. Partner incentive management software is designed to help motivate partners to sell more of a company’s products. This is done through SPIFFs, rebates, goal setting, leaderboards, rewards, and reporting and analytics. It may also have partner engagement and training.
Like with other partner software, look to the current customer base and integrations to ensure that partners will utilize the platform.
- Examples of partner incentive management software: ChannelAssist, KickPost
- Factors to consider: Feature-set, current customer base, CRM and PRM integrations, robustness of API
If you have complex products or services, it is critical to train your partners on your offerings. PRMs provide this functionality, but partner learning management systems are designed to engage and train partners in a more sophisticated way.
Partner LMSes offers a white labeled design, gamification, multimedia options to train and certify partners, and tracking and analytics.
- Examples of partner LMSes: Crowd Wisdom, NetExam
- Factors to consider: Feature-set, PRM integrations, robustness of API
Building and monetizing product integrations
As evidenced by the growth of the Salesforce AppExchange, the Shopify App Store, and the AWS Marketplace, technology partnerships can be a significant source of leads and new customers for B2B companies. But they can be more challenging as they require building and supporting integrations.
There are two types of software for facilitating technology partnerships: white labeled app marketplaces and integration-marketplace-as-a-service’s.
App marketplaces provide a white labeled marketplace for you to showcase your tech partners and sell their apps. They have a partner portal where partners can submit marketing information and see analytics on their app.
Marketplaces can be used to capture and pass leads to partners, as well as process payments and take a revenue share from deals closed in the marketplace. Depending on how your internal team is organized and whether you are processing payments, you may want integrations to your CRM or accounting software.
- Examples of app marketplaces: AppDirect, OpenChannel.io, Tackle.io
- Factors to consider: Feature set, ability to capture leads, integrations, robustness of API
With a white labeled app marketplace, you still have to build, host, and support the integrations between your product and your tech partners. Integration-marketplace-as-a-service provides a white labeled in-app marketplace but it also provides integration connectors to other systems.
These end-to-end marketplaces allow partner teams to capture more leads and pass them on to partners, as well as enabling customer support to maintain and support the integrations. As more integrations can be built and maintained, more partners and leads can be generated in the marketplace.
Integrations to other systems will depend on how your team is structured, but you may want integrations to CRM, customer support or developer tools.
- Examples of integration marketplace as a service: Pandium
- Factors to consider: Feature-set, ability to capture leads, integrations, robustness of API
Tying it all together
Partner tech exists to enable every type of partnership : affiliate, reseller, referral, solution, and technology partnerships – to work better and more efficiently. Organizations who understand their ecosystem and adopt PartnerOps are in a prime place to utilize technology to drive better outcomes.
Partnership leaders often say that most partnerships fail. That is in no small part because ad hoc partner tech stacks lack quality data and fail to incentivize partner engagement.
Deploying the best partner tech on the market in a unified tech stack can result in an efficient, data-driven partner program, and this provides a significant competitive advantage in this rapidly expanding sales channel.