Joel Maloff, the Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances for phone.com, joins me, Nicki Kamau to discuss partner compensation, living channel marketing plans, staying engaged with your partners and more on the 42nd episode of The Allbound Podcast.
How do you collaborate with the highest potential partners to develop business and marketing plans? And how often do you review these plans with your partners?
One of the other, call it enabling technology groups, is a company that specializes in messaging on hold for various industries. The challenge that they have had is that in order to messaging on a hold, and especially for franchises, pizza shops, small locations, they didn't have a phone system that these guys could access and upload their messages. So, what they've done is convert those customers to phone.com. Now, they use that portal that I mentioned earlier, they go in and they upload all of those messages.
Now, to answer your question, this one very large messaging on hold company has come to us several times and said, "Okay. I've got a major franchise company. We need to put together a customized plan to help them." And we do that on a regular basis...with probably a dozen or so partners that have major opportunities. We get together, we put together a plan and then we review that. And even as we implement, we will continue to update and modify. With one of these other very large entities, if you're familiar with APIs, Application Programming Interfaces, we've worked with them to make sure that all of the middle steps that someone may need to take to set up accounts and so forth, go away and are addressed via APIs. So, to answer your question, I guess it's all the time.
Since you first started working on the phone.com partner program, what are the biggest changes that you've seen occur?
I have been with the company for a little more than seven years now, and I came in to create the channel partner program. The CEO was getting requests from customers saying, "We love your service. We'd like to be able to sell it too." Well, we didn't know how to do it, so I was brought in, I created the program.
Initially, we had an approach which I thought would work because most of the customers that were signing up with us at that time were small. You know, two or three people. Sometimes just using the phone service to forward somewhere else, so no phones is associated with it. And so I had the initial idea, which I've used with other channel programs before where we would have a success fee of the first month of revenue, whatever that was, and then a percentage that they would get for the life of that customer. And we did that for a while. And then some of the agents came back to me and they said, "You know, we like the upfront money but this account is going to grow. I'd rather have a larger percentage and do away with the success fee." So five years ago, we did away with that and changed the percentage to a much higher one, and have not changed it since. That seems to be working very, very well and the agents are very happy with it.
We consider partners to be an extension of our family, an extension of our organization. How do you feel about the current state of communication between channel partners and their vendors?
Honestly, for phone.com to succeed, our agents need to be part of our organization. And it's so interesting that you phrased it the way that you did. I have some of our better agents call me and they will talk in terms of the services that we're offering and our functionality. And they're including themselves as part of phone.com, which is wonderful. I mean, yes, they are independent but we think of them the same way. Now, if you're asking me, "Is communications perfect? Could we be doing things better?" Always. Initially, during the first couple of years, I would hold webinars quarterly for new agents. I haven't done that so much recently because there really hasn't been the need. We do, just as a matter of course, when a new agent signs up, immediately schedule an on boarding session with them. We'll go over the portal, here's how to access it. Here's all the information that is available to you on the portal. If you need help with quotes for your customers or clients, if you need us to be on a call with you, we will do as little or as much as you want us to. And so, they maintain that kind of contact. I do want to do more outreach. This webinar that I mentioned on security and HIPAA compliance, will be the the first one that we've done this year and it will be with some new partners. But it's that kind of staying in front of people and trying to see what is useful to them that we need to continue to do and do more of.