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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 26

How to Bring Partners to Market with a Customer-First Approach

Show Synopsis

Start your week off strong with a new episode of the Partner Channel Podcast!  Host Tori Barlow is joined by Chris Murray, VP of Partner Ecosystems at Lead Forensics. Together they touch on the topic of formulating a go-to-market strategy for your partner program,
with particular attention paid to customer retention.

Highlights:

  • How to take a different approach when taking partners to market
  • What insights can be provided by your CS team
  • How to benchmark success on partner-sourced opportunities

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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 Chris Murray, VP of Partner Ecosystem at Lead Forensics. Welcome, Chris. I’m excited to talk to you today.

Chris Murray: Thanks, Tori. Great to be here. Been a big fan of the podcast for a very long time.

Tori Barlow: Thanks. A little bit about you. You recently stepped up as global partner lead. You previously managed the US side of lead forensics channel. So that is a big leap for you. And a little bit about Lead Forensics. We were just chatting about how we could use Lead Forensics, but you guys identify the unknown businesses hitting your website and are able to share contact information from traffic data along with the full visitor journey on the website. So great tech there. Yeah, we’re excited to chat today.

Chris Murray: Awesome. Looking forward to it.

Tori Barlow: And before we get in, I just mentioned a few things about your career progression. Do you have a lot to be proud of in your partnership background, even outside of lead forensics, but what have you been up to lately? Tell us what you’re doing.

Chris Murray: Thanks, Tori. Yeah, obviously the job change has been a really interesting six, seven weeks or so. It’s been a huge whirlwind of change, working a lot closer with other departments internally. So marketing, product, customer, success, finance, working with everybody, basically. So yeah, it’s been a real big learning experience for me. But alongside that, we’ve also been looking at our partners and our ecosystem, both on the tech side and the solutions or agency side. Looking at how we can do better, basically, what can we do to grow? What can we do to give back to our partners on the tech side? Are there any additional integrations that we can do with other tech platforms that have got a similar ICP? On the agency side, we’re a little bit more established. Is there anything we can do better? Is there anything that we’re doing that we should stop doing? Is there anything we should start doing? So yeah, huge learning experience at the moment, both on a personal level, but also for our ecosystem as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it seems like you guys have untapped potential with the tech you guys provide. I can see that being huge for any agency, any marketing team. It’s phenomenal. And today we’re flipping the tables and talking about going to market with partners a little bit differently. You have a really interesting approach and with your role at lead, forensics have been working on a new plan for partners. That’s kicker customer first approach. So what does that mean? And can you tell us what you’re doing with that?

Chris Murray: Yeah, yeah, of course. Absolutely. So as an organization, we’ve always been looking at what we can do for our clients. How do we bring them more value? And that might be new features, it might be new integrations. The customer success guys have always been looking at how they can provide additional training for our clients marketing new content, supporting everything. We’ve never really looked at our partners en masse, though, and how our partners can support our clients. Giving them a better experience using the forensics, allowing them to drive more value. But alongside that, in doing this, we’re strengthening or widening that protective moat we have around our clients. And with the with the customer success guys. One of their key goals is around product usage and data activation. There’s been times historically where they’re working with a client who potentially doesn’t have the resource to actually in the data. Or that just sort of scratching the surface with the platform and maybe only using 10% of its capabilities. What we looked at when we were looking back is those clients that had a partner working alongside them. What was their usage like? Were they using the platform or were they getting better results from the software? And we’ve been looking at that saying, okay, maybe we should start to attach partners to clients a little bit more to support those clients with their use of Lead Forensics.

Chris Murray: Obviously, the benefit to the agency from this perspective is that they get the opportunity to win that new logo. And we’ve been meeting with the CS leadership team trying to understand and identify if there’s any common trends or key pain points that our clients are seeing. Or maybe, maybe we have clients that are looking to launch particular marketing campaigns. Can we support them somehow on that? An example might be a client that’s looking to launch an ABM campaign targeting the businesses that we’ve identified on the website, or a client that doesn’t have the resource to call those businesses and actually use the software from a sales perspective or implementing a new CRM. From there, we took that and said, “What partners do we have that we could potentially align to those sort of key areas?” And that’s been really interesting so far.

Tori Barlow: You mentioned something that I haven’t really heard a lot of, and it’s working closely with the CST team. I hear partnerships or affiliated with marketing sales. But rarely do I hear the dotted line to see us. And this is a quite new idea. So what are the steps you’ve taken from that?

Chris Murray: Yeah, it’s been interesting. It really has. We’re both managing the same clients at the end of the day. We’ve got a partner who may also be a client of Lead Forensics, and we’re both speaking to them about the same software, but from different perspectives. So thinking up with the CS team was like an obvious step for us. And once we once we identified those trends around potential pain points, we took that to our partners and said, “well, what partners could potentially help here?” And step one in that process was, who are our partners? What do they do? Where do they focus? Where do they specialize? And mapping that out. So we looked at all our partners by sort of industry, marketing specialization, geography as well sometimes. And we’ve started to build a partner matchmaking tool, I think we’re calling it?

Tori Barlow: That’s a funny name for it.

Chris Murray: We can’t think of a better name, so we’re calling it Partner Matchmaking Tool. I’m open to suggestions for sure. But if one of our customer success managers is working with a particular client and they’re like, Hey, we’ve got a problem in this area. Internally, they can jump into this tool and say, “okay, you need to go and speak to ABC Marketing” or whoever it may be. Additionally, we’ve got the partner directory. It’s just going to allow us to connect. The right partner to the client in a seamless process as possible. Which is going to benefit everybody at the end of the day. Interestingly, in doing this whole partner mapping process, we identified some quite big gaps of we have no partner that focuses on this in this area or focuses on this particular industry. So we’ve now actually taken that to market, if you like, where we’re finding the right partner going to market, reaching out to them and saying, hey, we have a potential challenge here. Could you potentially help us with this? And the interesting the interesting piece about this, the feedback has been really positive. Like we’ve had one or two people say that it was a breath of fresh air from us reaching out with that perspective. Yeah, there’s. 10,000 martech companies on Scott Brinker latest work earlier this year. Every single one of those is prospecting agencies trying to grab some of their marketing budget for their clients. So to have that different perspective and a different strategy has worked quite nicely for us.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. And I’m curious if lots of partner programs are focused around generating bringing in partners, generating new revenue? How do you identify that there is a gap for for this?

Chris Murray: So for us, it was looking at where our clients sit. So looking at the industries that we have, mapping out all our clients and then doing the partner map alongside that and just lining them up and saying, okay, we’ve got. X hundred clients that are in this particular vertical or this particular industry. Do we have any partners that are relevant? No, we don’t. Okay, let’s try and do some digging online and find out who could potentially be relevant. So lots of mapping to Venn diagrams, if you like, playing them sort of side by side, trying to identify the overlap or the gaps. Trying to get ahead of ourselves by doing all this research and then spotting the areas where we may have an issue in six months time. 

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that’s fair. And then with the new logo idea of partnerships focusing on that, it’s even hard to get buy in for a partner program in general, I think. Going to your execs, getting buy in from starting a program from scratch, maybe introducing a new partner type, whatever it may be, how do you even go about getting buy in for something like this where it’s customer focused?

Chris Murray: It’s an interesting one.  We already had our Partner Channel and we’ve been around for nine and a half years as a Partner Channel now and we’ve been driving revenue. We’ve still got those KPIs around partner sourced revenue, partner influence revenue. So from our perspective, it was a case of, okay, we want to try this new project over here. But we can’t take our eyes off the ball on driving revenue on this side. So it’s been a couple of late nights trying to do it alongside the day job, if you like. And the commitment from the from the leadership team here is like as long as you continue to perform on this side, looking at new revenue, we’re open to experimenting and testing this new structure. Alongside that, we have the data. We have the data from clients and partners that was historic around performance uplifts. More and more of our success stories that we were producing as an organization were from partners. So the organization is seeing that partners working with clients is driving value and driving results. So it was a fairly easy conversation if I’m sort of being honest and stepping into the new role. With fresh ideas and fresh perspectives. I can sort of step in and say, “Hey, I want to try this. Let’s give it a go and see what we generate.”

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it’s obviously a very important metric to think about is retention and what that means, how you bring in your tools. I think what you guys are doing is the actual definition of a partnership. It’s not just to bring in new logo, but how do you also create that bridge around other parts of the go to market business? And it’s a brilliant way to think about it. So now it comes down to how do you track this? So what are you doing for looking at metrics here?

Chris Murray: It’s still fairly early days, if I’m completely honest with you. We have seen an uplift in data activation. We know that we’ve got reports internally where we can see usage of the platform. So the leading indicators are there’s more usage, there’s more data being used. Partners are getting involved that jumping into the platform more frequently than clients perhaps were previously. Time will tell when it comes to retention. We’re going to have more happier clients because they’re going to get more value from the platform. So retention should just be a lagging indicator and that should just follow suit. But yeah, right now, a little bit of an unknown. But we have seen like a 20 to 25% uplift in sort of overall usage where we have got a partner attached to a client so far.

Tori Barlow: Oh, that’s really interesting. Yeah, I think we’ve learned to that product adoption early on is key. Any sort of adoption kind of is a good leading indicator of retention. So that’s a great way to kind of frame it. Chris, you’re up to so much at Lead Forensics, but also just in the partner industry, you’re a wealth of knowledge. Thank you for joining us here, Chris, VP of Partner Ecosystem at Lead Forensics. 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.