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Partner Integration Strategies To Scale and Grow

If you use any major SaaS product – like HubSpot, Zoom, Google Workspace – then you’ve most likely experienced tech partnerships and integrations from the customer side.

Scheduling a Zoom meeting from your Google Calendar? That’s an integration. Sharing data between your CRM and sales software, like HubSpot and Salesforce? Also an integration.

These kinds of integration partnerships that smoothly bring together software solutions from different organizations can provide immense value to the end user. Plus, they have the added benefit of not requiring either organization to invest in building the full product themselves.

In short, partner integrations can help tech and SaaS companies scale and grow their businesses by improving the customer experience, increasing retention and reducing costs. But, it’s not without risks – the wrong fit with an integration partner can do more harm than good.

Here’s what you need to know about integrated partners and how to build those relationships successfully.

Tech Partnership Terms To Know

Before we dive too deep into the best ways to build tech partnerships and leverage integrations, here are common terms you need to know. 

Technology partnership

A broad category of partnerships in which two or more technology companies – usually SaaS – work together. This is different from a reseller or referral partnership, for instance, because of the level of collaboration.

Integration

The process in which the software systems connect and can share data. Tech partners who build a solution by bringing together different software need to integrate their products. That’s why tech partnerships are also commonly referred to as integration partnerships.

Independent software vendor (ISV)

The term independent software vendor is often used interchangeably with tech partners. These are the partners, or businesses, that integrate functions or features of their software solutions with others in order to offer a more valuable product or enter new markets without having to develop a new product alone.

System Integrator (SI)

A system integrator is a type of channel partner that helps bring together software solutions and offers support to ensure that all the systems work together. In essence, they’re experts in managing and optimizing the process to ensure a complete solution.

SIs can help with:    

  • Infrastructure integration
    Application integration
    Consulting

You may also see system integrators classified further by geographic scope and called global system integrators (GSI) or regional system integrators (RSI).

Key Considerations When Choosing Integrated Partners

The first consideration when it comes to tech partners is a fundamental business question: why build this integration? Is there customer demand for the tech stack? What are your big picture goals?

Once the business case is built for the product itself, turn your attention to finding the right fit with the partnership itself. This won’t happen by accident or overnight; building strong tech partnerships takes thoughtful strategy and intention. But it’s well worth the effort.

What to Look For in a Tech Partner

A tech partnership that goes off the rails can cost significant time and resources from both sides, which is why it’s so important to build a strong relationship from the start.

As you think about your ideal partner profile who will fit strategically with your software, consider:

  • Do you share overlapping customers? Do you target the same market?
    How does this partner increase the value of your product? Is there demand for this integration?
    What is their company culture? Is it a fit with yours? What kind of reputation do they have?
    How willing are they to collaborate with you?
    Do they have previous experience with integration partnerships?
    Do they have the internal resources and ability to successfully integrate with you? If not, what kind of support from you will they need?
    Can they share any examples of customers who would be early adopters?

Integrated Partners and Security Considerations

Beyond fit, carefully consider your potential integrated partners’ security policies to protect both your customers and yourself.

Ask questions like:

  • How often do they perform system audits? And what protocols do they follow?
    What security features do they have in place? Identity authentication, firewalls, encryption?
    How do they maintain privacy and protect customer data?
    What is their protocol if there is a data breach? Do they have insurance?
    Depending on the industry, do they have the required certifications? HIPAA, PCI, SOC2, etc.?

Who Will Manage the Integration Long-Term?

It’s also a good idea to discuss the bigger picture plan of who will manage the integration long-term. A successful integration isn’t “one and done”.

There are pros and cons to whichever decision you make about who ultimately manages the project. If you continue to hold the reins, you have more control over the scope of the tech stack and can guide co-marketing efforts.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of integration partners and many projects to manage, it can be beneficial to pass on some of that work. That allows you to free up internal resources and continue growing with more partners, if that is a goal of your partnership program.

Have these conversations upfront and build the long-term plan into your relationship. Clear expectations and a roadmap will help prevent misunderstandings about each party’s roles and responsibilities.

Best Practices For Successful Integration Partnerships

As with all your partnerships, there are several ways you can support your integrated partners to set them up for success over the years to come. 

Onboarding and training

The initial touch points of introducing a new tech partner into your ecosystem is a great opportunity to set the right tone and build a basis for ongoing engagement.

In addition to welcoming the partner and ensuring open channels of communication, make sure to provide relevant training resources housed within your PRM system that partners can easily access at any time.

Support co-marketing efforts

You’re not just working together with a tech partner, you’re also selling together. And that means you can tap into the power of co-marketing.

Collaborating on promotional activities can help you reach a broader audience – or even break into new markets with the help of your partner – without the costs or challenges that would usually occur by doing it alone.

Promote your partnership integration through co-branded materials that explain how the collaborative solution is greater than the sum of its parts. Examples include case studies, joint product demo videos, and even designated web pages. Further elevate awareness of your partnership (and individual brands) through mutually beneficial co-marketing activities, such as paid search ads, hosting webinars, and participating in third-party podcasts. Alternatively, you can jointly host a booth at established industry events or host get-togethers of your own to bring together members of the community.

You can also further support co-marketing efforts with market development funds.

Reward and motivate

Celebrate wins together and motivate your integration partners to continue succeeding.

Those rewards can be built into your compensation by partner tier or as one-off incentives like achievement-based bonuses.

Regardless of what type of reward you decide to offer to motivate your partners, the most important question to ask is: What is it that they want? What motivates your integration partner may be different from what you originally thought. Like with all relationships, communication is the first step to success.

Consider categorizing your integration partners by tier based on the scope of their efforts and responsibilities to make sure the rewards match their involvement with you.

Consider Joining Your Tech Partner’s Program

In addition to inviting your integration partners into your ecosystem, you may also want to join their channel program

Becoming a channel partner yourself brings many of the same benefits you’re familiar with partner programs themselves – like increased revenue growth and expanded brand recognition –  but from another angle.

By participating in a top-notch tech organization’s channel program, you are able to better leverage their products and expertise. This can reduce some of the burdens on your team. You get all the benefits of integrating, while also being able to tap into their sales and marketing resources.

After all, if partner integrations benefit both customer bases, both companies would benefit from selling the integration.

Going To Market With Your Tech Partners

As you build these important tech partnerships and create unique integrations, your ability to scale and grow will also increase. 

This means the types of partner content you create, the way you onboard participants and how you go to market with them will also evolve. 

Learn more about how to do this successfully in our new channel partner go-to-market guide.