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The Allbound Podcast #15: Growing a Referral Partner Program with Joe Durfey at Grow
February 13, 2017

Growing a Referral Partner Program with Joe Durfey at Grow


Joe Durfey, Director Strategic Partnerships at Grow, joins me to discuss how to create and maintain successful referral partner relationships, the importance of content in the partner channel, and more on this episode of The Allbound Podcast.

Share with us a little bit about what that partner makeup looks like. Do you lean towards onboarding one kind of partner over another? Do you have any initiatives for targeting a certain kind of partner?

We have referral partners, technology integration partners, and value-added referral partners. We’re young in building this out. One of the things that is important to us in this stage, and I think as we advance this will change, but right now we want to be able to control the sales process all the way through the onboarding, and the implementation, and the support. We love to have our partners ride shotgun with us through that process, and that’s really the best way that we’ve found at our stage to train our partners. So we’re not doing a lot of true reseller partnerships right now. More of what we are focused on are value-added referral partners or partners that provide a complimentary service. For example, a company that goes in and helps prep data or helps organize data and get it in a good place, so that they can then plug it into a tool like Grow, those are great partners for us. Consultancy organizations, business coaches, people that are really focused on the metrics, and the KPIs, and helping companies to become more data-driven, those are great partners for us. So that’s one channel that’s a priority right now.

The other big channel that’s priority is technology integrations, and we do that two different ways. Sometimes we find companies, SaaS companies, that have great products, but have a product gap in terms of the way that their product allows their users to interact with their data from a reporting standpoint and from a visualization standpoint. So we go in and help fill that gap, whether if it’s through a somewhat embedded or OEM model, or by simply having a link to Grow and sending customers to set up their own accounts with Grow, where they can go and connect to that data source and then build the reports that they want. Both of those paths are good for us. Then we also do a lot of co-marketing partnerships with companies that we’ve built integrations with. That’s been our focus and is our focus right now. I suspect over time that will remain the focus, but we’ll probably add some new ones in there, some more layers to what we’re doing right now.

What are some of the tactics you’ve employed to help train partners so they can be successful in sharing Grow’s value proposition with prospects?

It’s a challenge that we talk about all the time. I think that the two most effective things that we found are, one, co-selling together with our partners. One of the struggles that we’ve seen some partners have is feeling like they have to be experts on the platform to just tee up a conversation for us to get involved and help them close the deal. We let partners know, “Hey, we’re here for you, and nobody knows Grow better than we know Grow, and nobody can sell it better than we can sell it.” We give them a few talking points that we’ve found have been successful at teeing up conversations. We really like to have our partners learn and train as we go through the process with real clients. So, content is important and having things like the internal-facing battle cards for sales reps and CS reps, and public-facing battle cards for their customers and different content that they can use, is all really important. What I’ve seen is we’re all so busy with our primary job and our primary responsibility that even when we share these things with partners, some of them get in and really use it, others say “Hey, I just don’t have a lot of time to train and use all this content. I’d really just like to bring you guys in and let you guys do what you do best.” So the best thing that we found is the co-selling and just having our partners learn as we sell with them and as we onboard and implement with them.

Then the second thing is we treat partners a lot like we do customers. Every one of our customers gets a dedicated CS rep. Every one of our partners gets a dedicated CS rep. Our CS reps are experts on the platform, they’re data analysts, and they’re also very nice, friendly, and helpful. So every one of our partners gets one of these analysts that whenever there’s a question on, “Hey, can the product do this, or can it do that?” they have a direct line to that rep. A lot of what we’ve found to be successful in terms of the way we do our customer success, we’ve taken that and done the same thing with our partners. Those are the two things that have been the biggest help to me in terms of getting our partners trained and knowledgeable on our platform.

Imagine it’s your first day on the job of building this partner program, what would you would have liked to tell yourself?

I thought coming in that I would need to be selective. I would go back and say that I need to be more selective and do even more work on partner profiling and partner personas to target the right partners. I mentioned earlier that we’re casting a pretty wide net right now, and we’re doing that knowing that we’re going to probably onboard partners that don’t produce initially. But because we’re building it, and we want to make sure that we don’t miss out on a partner persona that we didn’t think about or we thought might be good, that’s just sort of something that we’ve looked at and a risk that we’re willing to take. But we’re six months in now, and I’m starting to see the types of partners that I think are going to be really good long-term partners for us are fewer and far between than I originally thought. I would tell myself to be selective and put in the time to identify the right kinds of partners before you going too crazy bringing on whoever wants to partner with us.

Every company has bottlenecks and resource constraints. One of the things that I didn’t really think too much about was how important content is to the partner and channel relationships. A little plug here for the CO:LLABORATE conference that Allbound puts on that I went to earlier this year, and one of the things that I heard there that just really resonated after a few months in the job was content isn’t the key, it’s the kingdom. I can’t remember who said it or what presentation it was, but that is something that I’ve just found to be so true with our partners. We have partners that are more than willing to help promote Grow, and what we do, and how it works well with their products, but they have the same bottlenecks and resource constraints that I do. So if I’m waiting for them to create a webinar outline, or write a blog post, or come up with some content or some messaging for targeted e-mails, it just doesn’t happen, because they’re so focused on their own businesses.

So, I think one of the things for anybody that’s new coming into a partner channel is to think about that it really is more than being a channel manager, it’s an organization-wide commitment. I’ve got to work with my product team, and my dev team, and my marketing team to really give our partners the tools and the resources that they need to be successful. That’s something that I don’t think I fully grasped coming into this role.

To learn more about creating a successful referral partner program, tune in to episode 15 of The Allbound Podcast. Additionally, take advantage of our free partnership agreement template.

About Our Podcast

Want to hear more? Subscribe on iTunes. Also available through Google Play. The Allbound Podcast explores the evolving fundamentals of partner-based selling in the SaaS and subscription economy. Featuring some of the industry’s brightest minds in channel sales and marketing, episodes of The Allbound Podcast delve into how and why indirect sales and marketing has long been, and continues to be, a proven medium for accelerating growth and success. And how traditional “channel” models are being transformed into efficient, connected ecosystems to supercharge sales and drive customer success while keeping costs low. Subscribe on iTunes