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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 32

How to Forecast and Submit a Budget for Your Partner Program

Show Synopsis

On this week’s episode, host Tori Barlow is joined by Matt Carpentieri, Senior Director of Partnerships at Shipmonk. The two talk about how to forecast for busy seasons, and what elements to analyze that may come into play.

Highlights:

  • What is involved with forecasting and planning for the following year for your partner program
  • What sort of targets to present to excutives
  • What time of year to submit a budget for the following year

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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 Matt Carpentieri, Senior Director of Partnerships at Shipmunk. Welcome, Matt. We’re excited to have you.

Matt Carpentieri: So excited to be here.

Tori Barlow: You are impressive. You’ve built and ran two partnership programs for two different fulfillment companies and you recently won Partner of the Year with a top OMS partner. So love hearing about the Partner awards. There needs to be more of an industry. Congratulations.

Matt Carpentieri: Yeah. Thank you so much. You know, it’s a lot of hard work and working with our partners to make sure that we’re trying to put those solutions in front of our clients and prospects. And it becomes very organic, the success.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think this topic today goes hand in hand with success and what you’ve seen specifically in your career. But you know, I know we’re recording this at the end of Q three, the beginning of Q4 and something top of mind I know for most departments and probably a lot of partner leaders out there is forecasting for the following year or how to forecast for busy seasons. If you have that. And there’s a lot of elements that go into play here, I think when you think about a partner leader, sometimes they’re on their own island, sometimes they’re not brought into the budgeting and forecasting conversations early on. So I think our conversation today will be helpful for those thinking about forecasting. Before we get into that, can you walk us through Shipments partner program so we get a little understanding of what it’s like there?

Matt Carpentieri: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, very similar to other partnership programs, whether they’re in the SaaS space or service space, we’re looking to find other solutions that are very synergetic to what we’re trying to accomplish. Right. So I think a few of the criteria we look when we’re assessing any partner is what’s their ICP? Who are they targeting, What vertical are they in? Are they more focused on B2B or direct consumer? And then also assessing what services we provide and what gaps are within our service and then finding those holes with solutions within our partners. I think that that’s going to be really crucial in the success, because the success then becomes organic, right? It’s not something that we’re forcing. It’s not a redundant service, it’s not something they’re already paying for and then obviously paying for it again with another partner. So we want to make sure that it is something that’s unique to the space that we’re already offering. But again, really within our partner ecosystem, we want to make sure that we’re hitting two criteria. One is that the service that we’re providing to our clients is a well referred one, that they’re a good service that other clients are really happy with, and that ultimately is going to help them reach their growth goals. If this solution is going to help our clients grow, ultimately it’s going to help Shipmonk grow because as their order volume grows, that’s going to help their revenue with Shipmonk development. So we have every direct incentive to help our clients grow. But obviously on the back end, we want to make sure that these solutions create a stickier client. And then also, like any partnership program, we also want to make sure that there is a business development aspect to it. So we’re always focused on making sure that we’re giving as much as we’re getting, and we’re constantly looking at the data and the reporting to make sure that both sides are held accountable.

Tori Barlow: What you said was really important giving. And as much as you’re getting, I think that makes a great foundation for a partnership versus what can partners do for Chipmunk. I think that’s a beautiful way to look at it. Now I want to talk about the the juiciness. When you think about forecasting and planning specifically at Shipmonk, what’s all involved? How do you think about past year, the future year, maybe even a couple months, 18 to 24 months out? What goes into that for you?

Matt Carpentieri: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the first things I think partner program should be looking to do is to be able to capture the data. Right? If we’re not reporting on the success, then we won’t know how to become more successful. We won’t know what campaigns were successful or unsuccessful. And we’re just going to be throwing it on the wall and seeing what sticks. So what we do is we create a dashboard. We have a partnership dashboard in our CRM. It allows us to track how many leads are introduced, size of leads, conversion of leads, and the actual revenue those leads are producing. And that’s important, right? Because if we’re not able to track that information, then we’re not able to see where those leads are coming from, which which campaigns are successful and whatnot. So we’ll actually take that dashboard and even get further granular with it and see where they came from, from which referring partner we’ll see which partner activity campaign gave way to those leads. And through that data we can emphasize which campaigns we want to do following that next quarter. So, for example, I’ll give a quick story. We were working with one of our partners who provided a SaaS platform and we refined them to be super successful and we were looking to do possibly trade shows with them or a dinner event with them and looking through our partnership dashboard and seeing how we were successful with other more dinner events, we found that to be much more successful partnership activity to produce with them, and it wound up being very successful with them with low costs and high output on the back end for the business development side. So to us through our reporting, we were able to kind of create our new partnership activities based on what we were seeing success in the past.

Tori Barlow: You mentioned a lot of leading and lagging indicators. When I think of lagging, it’s the actual revenue from your leads that you talked about. And then a few leading indicators like what are the events that are most useful? What activity or campaign generates leads? Do execs care about the leading indicators, or are they just concerned about the revenue piece of it?

Matt Carpentieri: It’s a good question. So I think that any partnership program is going to be predicated on what their executives or decision makers really want to emphasize. I think certain partnership programs, they really want to emphasize a solution based partner program that’s going to prevent customer churn while others are maybe they’re just starting off and they just want to bring on more clients. For us, I’m very fortunate where our executive team is really emphasizing both areas, so we’re able to kind of emphasize on the solution base, while also emphasizing, like we said before, giving as much as we get. One of my proteges who I first started working with when I first got into partnerships, always emphasize giving as much as you get, and it’s something that I’ve been very fortunate on. So anytime I have a partnership introductory call, one of the first things I always ask, it’s a very transparent question, but it’s what are you incentivized by? Because when you’re working with, say, like an agency, they’re going to give you a totally different answer than when you’re working with, say, like a SAS platform. So just learning what other programs are looking to accomplish versus what you yourself are trying to accomplish. Those are the things that’s going to make it not only successful to your partners, but also successful in the eyes of your executives as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, and you sound like you have a good amount of data, at least for what you’ve built up in the partnership team at Shipmonk. What would be your advice if someone came in tasked to build a partnerships program starting next year? What are the expectations they should set with forecasting and building a pipeline? Closing revenue? How should one look at that?

Matt Carpentieri: Yeah, I think any person that’s in partnerships is going to say it takes time. I think one of the first things any partner person when when they’re starting off building a partner program is to really learn your own solution. You really need to learn where those gaps are. Look at the ecosystem, look at your competitors. We’ve done multiple deep dives into other really successful partner programs within our own industry and not just look at who they’re partnered with, but who are they integrated with, which ongoing cadences is most important versus other solutions that might be maybe a little bit more light on resources. So to us, being able to identify the gaps within our own solution, I think is most crucial for our partner ecosystem.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that’s very fair. And I’m thinking of other departments or stakeholders that might also be involved in the budget planning. When you’re thinking through stuff, there’s a whole net new bookings target that rolls up under new revenue and new logo. Who should partner leaders be collaborating with when they’re forecasting for the following year?

Matt Carpentieri:  I would say obviously the bigger the organization, there’s going to be a lot more parties involved. When I was running the partner program at Ruby Heads, it was not as many employees and we weren’t that large of a company versus at Shipmonk. So being at Shipmonk, I would say we have our CRO involved, we have our operations teams above, we have our development teams involved. We have our our marketing, our VP of marketing involved. And all parties are crucial. I can’t tell you how many times I work with my head of product and my head of development just to see not only where we can roadmap this and where we can prioritize a new partner, but also is it a fit? Is there something I’m also missing? Is there based on the API documents, Is there another service in there that maybe I didn’t identify that would make this new partner prioritize? So it’s not only a matter of bringing in these decision makers ultimately to decide, but also creating the case with with my other team members from all teams within Shipmon is ultimately going to make me a more successful partnership member because we want to make sure that we’re prioritizing those top level partnerships that are going to help our clients grow and also develop more business within our organization.

Tori Barlow: I think it’s key to get buy in from the other go to market departments and everyone is aligned. I think it creates for more cohesive strategy for the following year. And like partnerships is not just its own thing, it’s a department involved within multiple departments. So going together on that budget and forecasting perspective is crucial. You know, when I think about timing, we’re nearing the end of the year. I know some companies like to get budget submitted by August or September the previous year, and some companies wait until the end of the calendar year to see how they actually closed out and then submit. So when should folks start thinking about this and submitting a budget for the following year?

Matt Carpentieri: I think it’s different for every vertical. But what I would say for us, our peak season actually begins in Q3. So our operations team is already being inundated on the receiving side. So we already start looking towards end of the year forecasts in the summer, but that’s going to be different from like on the SAS side where they may already see where they’re trending in terms of their goals for that year and where they should be forecasting for the following year. I would say a baseline forecast and reporting and goals for the following year can be kind of constructed end of Q3. I think it’s always going to be evolving. I think even for 2022, it’s evolving in terms of how we can reappropriate certain resources and funds to make sure we’re putting it in the most successful places. But with that being said, I think having a baseline of what we plan to do, what we’re going to need, what resources, which we’re going to need for the following year, and then obviously at the end of the year, you’re going to have your your hard numbers for what you’ve accomplished and what we can expect for the following year.

Tori Barlow: And then when you present it, you’re obviously getting health checks and poking holes throughout your colleagues on the other good market teams. But if you present it to CEO, CFO, what are certain targets or initiatives that you look to to show them when you’re sitting down to ask for a budget?

Matt Carpentieri: Yeah, absolutely. I would say first and foremost is definitely going to be the side of things. You’re going to be looking at the revenue goals. What leads did we bring on? What percentage of those? Inverted and then obviously rolling from the previous year. How are those other leads growing and how what leads turned? So we want to make sure that we’re hitting those goals. And then we’re also looking at the dev team. Any program is that’s trying to do integrations, direct integrations or third party integrations. We have to look at those dev team resources. We are fortunate enough to have a really abundant amount of resources on our dev team. Any fulfillment company, especially going into peak season, it’s something that needs to be emphasized. We’re very fortunate to have a great dev team, so but again, we have to look at the number of integrations we can do and roadmap those prioritize those based on what’s most important to our current clients and go from there. And then there’s other things that I would say are tertiary, but travel and trade shows those those are things that they’re going to want to see and what you’re forecasting and how often you want to go. And then obviously marketing resources, whether it’s go to market campaigns, collateral, doing video testimonials, so on and so forth. So I think there are certain tools out there that are making it easier, but having those resources and knowing that this is what’s to come based on the success of your previous year, I think is always going to be helpful.

Tori Barlow: Matt, you’re so well versed in getting budget approved for partners, for partner leaders. I know it’s a challenging task. It’s also daunting to sit down and just kind of nail it all out. So thank you for all of this advice for what you’ve shared with us. 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.