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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 13

Framework for identifying your Ideal Partner Profile (IPP)

Show Synopsis

Take a seat with host Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound, as she chats with Nik Sanghavi of Caspio. Together they talk all things identifying your IPP, and what steps to take after you do.

Highlights:

  • How to approach identifying your IPP
  • The role of the IPP in the GTM strategy
  • How to discern what does the partner ecosystem operating within that space look like?

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The Script

Tori Barlow: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Nik Sanghavi, VP Alliances and Business Development at Casio. Welcome, Nick. We’re very excited to have you.

Nik Sanghavi: Thanks for having me on. So your resources, your podcasts and the resources at Allbound, they’ve been a great resource for me and learning all about partnerships and alliances and I’m honored to be able to return the favor today.

Tori Barlow: You have so many great background stories and speaking a little bit about Caspio. You guys are a leading Low-code platform rated among the top by both analysts and users. You guys have been one of the pioneers in the Low-code no code space since 2000 and kicker: You officially launched your partner program less than a year ago and have some really interesting learnings to share with us. So we’re excited.

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely.

Tori Barlow: Today’s conversation, Nick is all about creating the ideal partner profile or IPP, as some whippersnappers call it. And I think this is a really important piece to the puzzle when you’re going to market with partners or even preparing to go to market with partners. You have a really interesting structure at Caspio, so I’d like to dive into that a little bit more. Can you explain how your partner program is set up?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely. So at Caspio you are partners as well as a broader ecosystem of developers and the community are a top priority for us. And so I report directly into our founder and CEO Frank Zamani, and he’s personally very passionate as well about our partners and ecosystem. And within my team we take care of all the various types of partners, either strategic partners, technology partners or consulting partners, whom we call the solution partners, as well as affiliates. In terms of structure, we broadly split into two kind of subthemes within my team. One is a partner recruitment function, which is more of a BDR type function to attract new partners that fit our IPP or ideal partner profile. And once they sign up, they are then managed by a partner enablement team on an ongoing basis.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, we’ll dive into that a little bit later because it is a really interesting structure you guys have with the BDR function, so stay tuned for that. The thing I think about when I do think about partner profiles, you know, I’m in marketing, I think of a buyer persona or ICP. What is an ideal partner profile from a partner perspective and why is it so important for folks to think about this?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a great question. So in my opinion, it’s the ideal partner profile is an important element of the go to market plan idea. And anyone that’s in a partnership function, even at the leading it or part of the function should really be thinking of that from the very beginning. One is it helps you channel your efforts in the right direction, making sure that you are attracting and paying attention to the right types of partners. But also equally important is communicating that to the rest of your leadership, your peers, your other stakeholders to make sure that they are all also on the same page, inviting their inputs into it as well, so that there are no surprises down the line. For example, you know, especially in companies that might have professional services organizations as well, which could have maybe a kind of conflict with external consulting partners. It’s very important to get a buy in from all of these types of stakeholders to ensure that the partners that we bring in and nurture are going to be the right fit for the company as a whole.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think that’s really important. I’m hearing an ongoing theme with getting buy in from stakeholders, and I think that makes a lot of sense. Like even starting from your overall business goal, you’re not going to go recruit partners or create an IP for every type of partner because it might not suit your needs and that would be ineffective. So really, really aligning with other departments and execs I think is a key piece here. So I’m curious, when you go about to the drawing board, sometimes it could seem a little overwhelming to create your ideal partner profile from scratch. So how did your team create your IPP?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question. And we also of course, a lot of discussions went into it, whiteboarding and it has evolved, right? So it’s important to be flexible about the IPP because it’s going to evolve as your partner program evolves, as your product evolves, etc.. But to address that question, so I was actually listening to an earlier episode that you had with HubSpot partner marketing manager, Katy Lambert, and I would echo what she said about understanding your current partner footprint and then trying to recruit more of the same or similar types of partners that have already been successful in your ecosystem. So for example, when I started here at Caspio about a year back or so, we actually didn’t have an official partner program, right? So I launched it along with the rest of my team, but we started profiling. There were some unofficial partners that are still working in kind of an unofficial capacity within the Casper ecosystem. So we started profiling them with this. We of course, signed them up on the partner program. They were thrilled to be a part of this partner program, and they gave us a lot of inputs into how we should structure it. We also got an idea of work from them, of what that type of profile looks like. Try to list down some of the important points from that. And so that analysis combined with an analysis of what we would look for in our desired partners that helped us in building out our IP.

Nik Sanghavi: And so I think there are three important elements that go into either being an ICP from a marketing point of view or an IPP from a partnerships point of view is what the partners must have. That is the basics of the non-negotiables. So one example for that of that for us is, we want partners who are interested in jointly growing the business with us and not just expecting a one way flow of leads from us. So that’s kind of the basics. Then, what are the ‘nice to haves’ that would make them an awesome partner? So in that we have is an example, we have something that we call industry expertise or vertical expertise or they’re bringing in a geographical focus. So that’s something that’s nice to have that makes them an ideal partner. And then there are some no nos that would make us reject them as a partner. And so, like I said, we take a look at their overall they putting effort into sales, into go to market and growing the business jointly. Other areas would be even if we were to sign someone up as a partner, but then later realize that they’re not doing as great a job on executing their projects or maybe they’re passing on the leads we send them to our competitors or something like that. Then that would basically be a no no and lead to us rejecting them from the program.

Tori Barlow: I like those three things. I think those are great takeaways. The must haves, the nice to haves and the no nos. What do you do, Nick? When, I agree with Katy as well, when you have a footprint to kind of go after, how do you build off of that? We do that internally as well from a marketing ICP perspective, will analyze our customer first party data and build off from there and it changes. It’s not the same every year, you know, as the industry evolves, what do you do in a situation where you don’t have any partner footprint data to go off of and you’re trying to create this from scratch?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. And in fact, to be frank, we ourselves also didn’t have much of a footprint. We just had a handful of unofficial partners going on. So we kind of surveyed the. Overall industry landscape. We looked at the broader low-code no code space and try to understand what other consulting firms that are operating in this space, what do they look like? What are their players in the space? What are their partner ecosystems looking like, etc.? Who’s more successful? And then try to develop attributes from there. So that kind of went into informing us the other ways to also always look for in this is what I’ve done in my previous companies as well, is to look at adjacencies, as we call them, which is that what would be typical company as a customer of ours? What would they also need alongside Caspio to be completely successful? So for example, it could be a web hosting solution like a WordPress or WP engine or a Wix or a Weebly, those types of quick web hosting type solutions are typically also kind of oftentimes purchased alongside Casper. So those adjacencies are also worth looking at and then trying to understand what does the partner ecosystem operating within that space look like?

Tori Barlow: Let’s talk about honing in on verticals and geographies. You mentioned this a little bit in your previous comment, but what’s the importance of even thinking about something like this?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so for us, the vertical or the industry and the geography, these are two important considerations. When we we’re building out our partner program and there are two complementary strengths that partners can bring in to really help Casper in closing the seal and expanding our footprint, etc.. So I’ll expand a bit on both of them. So in talking about, for example, the geography for us, right? So we’ve signed up partners in countries like Thailand, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand, etc., where we don’t have our own sales presence. So these partners help us go to market in those countries with a deep understanding of the culture, the language. And also, more importantly, being in country, they can bring in a deeper level of trust and coverage for our prospects and customers there. And in some countries, for example, not knowing the local language is an important barrier to do business, or some countries will insist to have a vendor that’s present in their own country. So in all of such scenarios, these partners have helped us in expanding our footprint in those countries, some of them that are not English speaking. They’ve even helped us launch training videos, resources, materials in local languages. And in effect, they’ve kind of become our resellers in those countries.

Nik Sanghavi: So that’s of vital importance from a geography perspective. The vertical or industry is also equally important, I would say, because the knowledge and experience that you gain working in an industry vertical and the connections that come with working in that vertical for years on end in a consulting capacity, those can be very valuable. And many of these industries, for example, our focus industries, tend to be health care, education, government, nonprofits, etc. Many of these have their own entire different jargon the specialized business processes, oftentimes compliance certifications, security requirements as well. And it’s not just possible for a product company, especially a startup, that to just be an expert in all of these areas by ourselves. And that’s where partners come in. They oftentimes bring up new feature enhancement requests, etc., to us as well from a vertical or industry point of view. And then of course, they can also build add ons and enhancements on top of capture which they can then bundle. For example, in a simple example could be a CRM, a health care based, focused CRM that’s built out on top of Caspio and then repackaged and sold as a bundle to their customer.

Tori Barlow: So I think this could be a whole nother conversation. It goes into that piece that we were talking about earlier with not having just that one-way transaction or a transactional relationship. Like there’s so much more depth to this partnership experience you’re creating of really honing in on who their customers are, how you can bundle together, and then how you position Castillo within that bundle or matrix. I think that is so pivotal in the world of partnerships we’re in now where it is getting to know your partners. And it’s hard, like a lot of people have a lot of partners, but how do you really hone in on the ones that are a little more complex but also have the best ends with their customers and you guys mesh well together and how do you set them up for success? I am personally curious to take it back a couple of steps and talk about your BTR team on the partner program. I’ve talked to a lot of leaders like yourself in the space and I think everyone by now has a different viewpoint on how to structure their team. There’s no right or wrong way. Why did you guys choose this way for a BTR team?

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. And I know that this is not a common feature across family partnerships, but in terms of, you know, what we realize is that gasp will be receive a lot of inbound leads, sales leads basically. But in the partnerships team, we don’t receive as many qualified partner leads inbound. And so it was very clear, in fact, right from the interview process itself that we would have to build an outbound PR team to attract and sign up ideal partners. That would would be our IP. And so based on my previous experiences, I was already experienced on setting up outbound teams. Those are teams that are more driven to drive sales leads. But here we used all of those same learnings and I was lucky that my previous director from my prior company also joined me here at Caspio. Together we built out the outbound machine here to attract partner leads, using many of those same tools, me same learnings and principles that we had earlier used to attract sales. And we’ve been able to get it down to a finely honed model where if you have X number of BDRs, you conduct Y number of meetings every week or every month. And that results in signing ups so many partners every month. And then that model flows down further in terms of this. It takes that long to onboard them, certify them, treating them, and then it results in this, you know, certain amount of partner generated or partner influence. So that’s how we rolled out.

Tori Barlow: So the BDR team is comped based on partner signups volume.

Nik Sanghavi: Yeah, that is one of their goal metrics. The overall metric for the team is the partner sourced partner influence revenue that we’re generating.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, really interesting way to structure and curious over time. Let’s check back in with you how that scales because I think that’s a really effective base foundation that you’ve you’ve come up with. Thank you to our guest, Nic, VP of Alliances and Biz Dev at Caspio. And thank you to you, the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.