Sales and marketing tech each had its time in the sun, while partnership teams were left to fend for themselves using spreadsheets and retrofitting technology that wasn’t made for them.
But now you might be hearing people say “it’s the decade of partnerships,” and partnership pros are rejoicing as the purpose-built tech stack to enable partnership success comes of age and gains popularity. As execs more frequently approve investment in partnership tech, the question has become, where do we start, and how does it all fit together?
Before we dive into the considerations, let’s first take a look at what partnership tech is aiming to solve. Partnerships exist when companies are better working together than apart, and the primary beneficiaries are their shared customers. That said, both companies in a partnership are able to share in the upside value created in a number of ways, from revenue shares to increased lifetime value of their customer base. If I were to slap a mission statement over the entire partnership tech stack, it would be, “make it easy for companies to create, launch, and manage high performing partnerships at scale.”
When you look closer at the motions that exist within partnerships, it becomes clear that you need specific tools for the job. There’s co-marketing, bi-directional lead submission and deal registration, customer and lead list comparisons, revenue share payouts both ways, attribution and channel conflict mitigation, and the list goes on.
At a high level, we chop the partnership tech category into three broad product types: curated marketplace platforms, Partner Relationship Management software (PRM), and Account Mapping software. Of course, there are niche product types within the category, but the vast majority of companies are dipping their toes into partnership tech for the first time, and we feel these 3 products are the essential tools that will enable you to run and scale a partnership program from end-to-end.
Here are the top 3 outcomes each product type will produce:
Partner Relationship Management
- Generate partner sourced leads;
- Automate partner revenue share payouts;
- Increase performance of each partner.
Curated Marketplace Platform (such as Partner Fleet)
- Increase customer adoption of partners & integrations;
- Generate leads for partners;
- Improve partner marketing effectiveness & scalability.
- Identify high-probability sales prospects on both sides;
- Improve targeted co-marketing on both sides;
- Improve partner qualification.
Deciding which of these three products to start with will depend on the outcomes you’re looking to achieve from your partnership program and the cross-functional processes you already have in place.
Go with a PRM if…
… your program is intended to be a nearly passive lead gen channel and you don’t need your customers to know about and adopt your partners. Generally, this works best for agency partners, System Integrators (SIs), affiliate marketing programs, and customer referral programs when there is a meaningful incentive for partners or customers to refer you business.
Go with a Curated Marketplace Platform if…
…it’s important that your customers adopt your partners. If you run a technology or implementation partnership program, this is the no-brainer first tool to invest in. Marketplaces are the front-end of your partnerships, where your customers, prospects, and internal teams go to learn about your partners and take the next step. Through Partner Fleet, leads can be sent straight into your partners’ CRMs, or for integration partners, you can funnel customers directly into your integration enablement flow for a seamless experience.
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Go with Account Mapping if…
…your program will center around targeted co-sell and co-marketing, and you’re ready to work closely with your partners on each campaign and deal. Without a PRM, you’d need to customize your CRM to accept and track partner referrals, administer the revenue shares manually, and find other ways to train & enable partners, but you’d have a powerful tool to identify high-probability accounts so you can get your foot in the door with prospects through a partner.
Here’s the best part
You don’t have to choose just one! The Account Mapping category has free options that pack legitimate value, so if you have budget for one tool, it’s basically a BOGO deal (buy one get one).
The Curated Marketplace category also has free trial options that let you get your feet wet before fully committing to a solution. This would allow you to understand what it would take to implement the marketplace, and wrap your head around the value it will provide. A trial can also act as a great proof point to show your leadership team the value of investing in a turnkey marketplace software. Most companies won’t make a decision on a marketplace overnight even if it’s free due to the branding implications, so a free trial is a great option.
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We’re moving to a world of ecosystems, and the partner tech stack is here to support you in this new world. You can run a great partnership program with a PRM, an Account Mapping solution, and a Curated Marketplace Platform, but even getting one or two of the three will add immense value, and you have options to get started for free.
If you run an integration or implementation partner program, get in touch with us and we’ll work with you on best practices to drive adoption.