There’s a lot of talk in the industry about channel strategy for subscription-based SaaS and cloud business models. Some argue that they must include a partner sales strategy to truly scale efficiently. Others aren’t so sure. One thing everyone does agree on: the traditional channel models and old-school, complex frameworks and systems they rely on are too clumsy and expensive for selling SaaS. In a recent TechCrunch interview with Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter about successful SaaS models, a few things really stood out to us:
One of the first requirements Deeter mentions is a sound strategy around the cloud. If you’re a channel manager, that should sound familiar. After all, you’ve got a bunch of channel sales teams and reps spread out over a wide geographic region - maybe globally. The cloud is (or should be) your #1 tool for executing and collaborating quickly and efficiently, sharing content, and keeping your partners current.
Let’s face it - email is like quicksand to the channel. The noisy CCs and BCCs and lengthy back and forth with links, files, proposals and other attachments are a huge hindrance to production. Some businesses are giving email the heave-ho thanks to collaboration and messaging apps like Slack and Skype. Is the same possible in the channel? YES...as long as it’s integrated into your partners’ everyday systems and processes. A solid SaaS channel strategy means that both communications and content are up to date and relevant, hosted in a secure location where they’re easy to find, archivable, and easily digestible and shareable with everyone involved.
Regardless of your current state, growth is the ultimate goal. And according to Deter, “the defining feature of successful SaaS companies is not the model they adopt, but whether they are able to achieve ‘efficient growth.’” That being said, having a channel strategy in place is crucial to your ability to accelerate sales, become a more agile and customer-centric business, and lower costs. And while the need to drive net-new revenue is obvious, many subscription-based businesses tend to focus so heavily on obtaining “new logos” that they put customer success secondary when, in fact, it’s the latter - reducing churn and keeping existing customers - that ultimately drives your growth. No matter how great you are at one, you’re on a clear path to failure without the other.
The good news is, with the right tools, knowledge and partners, this shouldn’t be a problem. Whether they’re for helping you streamline communication and collaboration between you and your partners, helping you sort and track the progress of campaigns and leads, or providing guidance and support to your customers, a SaaS channel strategy will make sure you can maintain an efficient growth pattern for the long-term.
This part is so important, that we’ll say it again - in the SaaS economy, growing a successful partner program isn’t just about finding new leads. It’s about working together to maintaining customer relationships, drive adoption, prevent churn, and upsell or grow wallet share the shared client base.
Deeter also makes this very clear by stating that “as companies mature, their ability to draw more from the existing customer base and rely less on new customers is critical.”
Considering these three stalwart issues, it’s time to go back to the original question. Is it possible for subscription-based SaaS and cloud business models to build successful channel partner programs? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” So much so, that we would argue that if you’re a SaaS without a channel partner strategy, you’re missing out on potential revenue, your customer acquisition costs are higher than they could be, and you’re probably not reaching the full potential for efficient growth.