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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 33

Demystified: Budgeting and Forecasting for Your Partner Program

Show Synopsis

This week, host Tori Barlow is joined by Blake Williams, founder and CEO of Ampfactor. This episode is all about pitching your partner program like a pro and the best practices for getting your budget approved. Together they talk through all their best tips and tricks for forecasting and figuring out your financials!

Highlights:

  • What  mistakes partner leaders make when creating an annual budget
  • What metrics should be analyzed when forecasting for the following year
  • How to ace getting your budget approved

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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 Blake Williams, Founder and CEO of AMP Factor. Welcome, Blake. Excited for today.

Blake Williams: Hey, Tori. Me too. Me too. Glad to be here. Thank you.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. You’ll get into AMP factor in a little bit, but you guys are an account based marketing agency in the ecosystem world, so super pumped. You talk to a lot of our partner audience on the Reg, so this is a great conversation we’re about to have. Speaking of that, we’re talking today about how to make a business case for partnerships and how to get it approved. You know, when I think about where we are in the partnerships world and landscape, it takes a lot to kind of get a program in motion and get it approved, accepted forecast, whatever that may be. So I think now’s the perfect time to bite that off. So before we get into that, do you mind giving our audience a bit of background about yourself? And then we’d love to hear a little bit more about AMP Factor.

Blake Williams: Yeah, Yeah. So my background, I was in the military for a while in the Army and got out and stayed in Austin for a little bit, kind of hung out. And then I got a few degrees and after that I joined an AI startup and we were doing big data, artificial intelligence consulting. And then I was lucky enough to sell a piece of that business off to a hedge fund and then go work at a venture capital fund. And my job there was to work with the portfolio companies, but also with big brands to help them think about how to launch portfolios of eight figure startups and really acquire those, you know, break through that ideological logjam, get to MVP beta and acquire your Alpha, Delta beta customers. And in doing so, I realized I had a business. So I left. I left the fund and created AMP Factor. And my premise there for AMP Factor was that account based marketing is such a big opportunity and there’s so many things to buy that the last thing that a marketing team wants to be engaged in is the 17 different buying cycles that you need to get into and the integration conversation and then how to mobilize the data. So we went and built that entire ABM stack with some of the applications that everybody already knows on top of a customized salesforce. And so we kind of offer the ABM as a service and allows folks to kind of leapfrog their maturity, get into market within 45 days with robust ABM campaigns and that kind of thing. So that’s what we do. That’s a little bit about my background. I’ve got four girls, so I’m a girl dad, and the house is full, full of them, one in college and seven year old or 3 year old and a one year old. So, yeah.

Tori Barlow: You are you are busy. I think as a marketer it is so challenging to get into those different touchpoints and even map out like, what is that journey? I think that’s a lot of what keeps me up at night and then serving up the right content. Who gets the right content? So very good to know that you’re in the industry and kicking it off with planning. And if you’re a partnership leader, planning for a budget or even a rev lock for the following year. You know, let’s start with a hard question, I guess. What are some mistakes that you’ve seen partner leaders make when thinking through the budget and forecast for the following year?

Blake Williams: It’s might sound counterintuitive, but I think some of the mistakes are just thinking that because you have a good idea and because you can model it out in Excel, that that’s going to do the trick even if the numbers are good. So there’s a lot of warming up that you have to do as a partner leader in terms of the mindset and mindshare and that kind of thing. And that campaign should start somewhere between 6 to 8 months in advance of you actually wanting to secure the budget that you need to reshape your organization. So I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that that folks make, is that they wait too long or they don’t start that campaign early enough to win the hearts and minds around the opportunity in the ecosystem.

Tori Barlow: Are you I guess, just with the folks you talk to in the partner world, are you, recommending that folks get budget approval on a quarterly basis or is this really like how would you kind of recommend that?

Blake Williams: Yeah, I mean, it depends on where you start, The biggest problem, I think, with the way that people buy marketing or even invest in partnerships is that, you know, MDF is leveraged through partnerships. Right? And everybody knows that. Some folks have it, some folks don’t. But the very thing that you submit to qualify for that MDF is often an MQL, right? And MQLs themselves are not bad, but they misaligned behavior if there’s not other KPIs. And so what happens is that partner teams, even marketing teams, partner marketers end up, you know, buying services or tactics that are disassociated from the long term business outcomes that you actually want to occur from the partnership. And that is kind of rewarded like it’s a government opportunity or something like that. Like we look back at what you did in terms of revenue for the last quarter and the year before that, and then we estimate what you should do and then you’re allocated an MDF budget, which is I mean, I think that would probably be the worst way to plan for how to move up into the right and do better than what you’ve done before type of thing.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. And when I think of when I forecast from the marketing side, really the direct side, my partner in crime there is the CRO or in some cases Chief Sales Officer. So you should partner leaders really partner up with internally for a forecast model or budget approval?

Blake Williams: I think it depends on your maturity, but 90% of the time it’s going to be the CMO, a CMO or somebody who’s in charge or influences what happens from a marketing perspective inside your partnership team.

Tori Barlow:  CMO is definitely a good one. Do you feel like it could be good to align with sales folks too, or are you seeing that as like a separate entity?

Blake Williams: No, I really think you need to be honest. In a perfect world, I think that you need to be in a multipronged campaign to all members of the ELT, right? We need to be talking to the CFO, the CFO, the CMO, and absolutely sales, because the way that sales plays will change in the behavior of SDRs and AEs changes once marketing deploys funds into telling that joint solution “Better Together” story surfaces, bigger opportunities, and when those AEs and SDRs start to get involved, the play is different, right? When they’re walking that in and you’ve got a referral. So you need that alignment or at least that buy in that, “Hey, even if you did get the budget from the CMO or CRO, you need the leadership on the sales team to constantly beat that drum, that there’s a different motion that happens inside of partnerships or with partnerships.”

Tori Barlow: Right, that that buy in. I think in setting expectations, setting the right expectations is key there too. So let’s take to two theories for this next question. One is you’ve had a partner program for a couple of years, maybe even a year. What metrics should be looked at or analyzed for forecasting for the following year? And then the second piece of that is what if this is a new partner program and there are no metrics like how do you even begin forecasting for the following year?

Blake Williams: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think that  the first one is easier, right? So if you already have a partnership base, some of the metrics that you want to look at are what percentage of those partnerships are active and actually sourcing revenue for you or sourcing influence for you with sourcing revenue being probably 90% of your business case. Once you identify who those partners are, I would say let’s look at the longevity of those relationships and how consistent have they been quarter after quarter and delivering that so that you understand some sort of confidence interval around what that should look like? And in my mind, if I if I go through and I identify ten key partners that have been consistent or are humming along or have the potential to hum along, then when I build my budget, I’m going to sit down with them and probably do some account mapping to understand what does that total. I just call it total addressable revenue because it’s not total addressable market, it’s the revenue that you can go get by selling into their customer population. And that has a cap, right? And it’s known.

Blake Williams: So I would go and understand what that is and then do that across, say, my top ten partners. Aggregate that information and say, okay, if I’m an investor and, you know, commonly an investor says that your business model is good is if you invest a 1 to 3, so your calc is one and your LTV is three, If you have a 1 to 3 ratio, your business model is good. If it’s higher than 1 to 3, it’s 1 to 4. Then you’re on fire and growing. And 1 to 5 means go to the bank and get more money because you’re on fire and you’re growing. So as long as you can demonstrate and the money that I would ask for would equate to that one, two, three ratio based on what my total addressable revenue opportunity is de-risked, right, based on sales cycle, based on complexity of the deal and even based on known turnover of your buyer persona. So it does take some thought work, but you can back yourself into this is the number I should ask for, and it’s going to from a financial sense, it will make sense to invest in this.

Tori Barlow: That is a really interesting way to look at it. I haven’t heard that one before of using account mapping to help forecast, because if you think about it to your point that like 80/20 rule your top 20% performers for partners, if you do have metrics looking at those account mapping folks and partners and seeing okay what could be the bottom line like the good better best version is kind of what I’m thinking about. You at least know you have this available. And then what if you found or spent your time with the other 80% or maybe 10% of the 80% that aren’t performing as well? Get them up to that level and then you have that additional sweet spot of revenue. That’s a really interesting way to forecast. What what do you feel like could be a good exercise for folks who are just getting started? They’re asked to put together a budget and really have no metrics.

Blake Williams: Yeah, if you’re being asked to put together a budget and you don’t have any any metrics, I would almost have the exact same process.  Even if I’m not a partner yet, I’m going to go make contact with that organization and I’m going to say, “Hey, I’d really love to partner with you. (I call it a give and a get portfolio) I have a I have a portfolio of customers I think we could probably bring to you or some sort of value.” Get them to engage in that account mapping exercise. Again, we’re not going to be become partners, but let’s get into some sort of account mapping behavior. Cross Beams free, reveals Free prototype. There’s free versions of these things that can get you down the road and you can have that conversation. And I would just again, back my way into that. Your KPIs are not going to change, right? And especially for your initial partners that you recruit, I think I would spend time developing the ideal partner profile first. Go have those conversations and then again back your way in. I only see really one path to forecasting, and I’m sorry because it’s as close to the money as you can get, other than making it a wild guess. And I think in my MBA program, one of my professors said probably my financial or strategic finance professor said that forecasts are always lucky or lousy. And this, I think, strikes a balance between what’s actually tangible and what’s out there and then some version of conversion that we think is acceptable with a certain amount of risk.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, No, I like the the hard data forecasting better than just, “oh, well, we can uplift 20%,” or “we can bring in this amount more of partners and expect this.” That’s hard to really forecast off of and then easy to fail in that sense. So having that foundation of who you overlap with and a plan to go to market with those partners I think is a safer bet.

 

Blake Williams: Yeah, it’s like it’s always I think you get in every situation, you get to choose what kind of hard you want, like the process of reaching out to partners and not being able to actually execute partners, but communicate that you partnership, but communicate that you do want to invest with them. Let’s go through this account mapping exercise that’s going to take 90 days, right? Maybe even a little bit more And then times ten, you get to choose your hard. So you can either do the work there or, you know, make your 20% uplift and hope that it comes out right. But you’re going to spend the next nine months being completely stressed out about how you’re going to manufacture this money. Can you actually get people to the table? Can you invest? And you’re beyond the point of being able to invest adequately for that size of opportunities that may be in front of you already.

Tori Barlow: So thinking ahead, getting budget approval throughout, being proactive, as you say, doing this account mapping exercise, figuring out who your top 20% partners, performing partners are, I think is crucial for this exercise. So taking all of that in mind, how do you ace getting your budget approved? How do you get it over the finish line at this point?

Blake Williams: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, you need to kind of collaboratively build that business case and so that it’s not just you bringing the partnership budget to to bear and presenting it. It’s like, oh, we worked with marketing, we worked a little bit with sales. We understand what their targets are and here’s how leveraging a partnership model go to market model offsets, inefficiencies that are already occurring inside the direct go to market model. So if we have a sales team, that’s sales team is 70% to a marketing team that’s 30% relative to each other, there’s going to be some capacity and we’re already seeing layoffs because of capacity. So the thing that partnerships can help me do, obviously, is source those new deals. Right. And then as you backfill or pull in those deals or those opportunities, your sales or your SDRs and your AEs become more utilized.  So you’re from an and standpoint, you’re kind of subsidizing those inefficiencies that would continue to persist or even get worse if you didn’t have a partnership model that was adequately funded.

Tori Barlow: And I think this goes back to who you should collaborate with. Who are your friends with this decision? Like, if I were a partnership leader, I would think ahead or try to be as proactive as possible with the questions the CFO would ask me when they see this Google sheet or whatever I’m presenting, like, what is the ROI here? The payback? What is that? What are the CFO’s goals? What’s the CROs goals? And be prepared with some of those questions because I think it’s inevitable at that point. Like what is the payback here? What are these initiatives?

Blake Williams: Right? So there’s two sides of the story. There’s like, let’s see if we can manufacture the data to tell the story that we wanted to tell. On the other side of that, there’s just things that empirically we see that we have to we have to recognize, right? So if if 87% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral, that’s a number from Sasquatch. If 87% of decision makers start the process with a referral, I would go and throw as much money at the place that I get referrals and I can get referrals all day long inside a partnership teams. So that’s point number one. Point number two, just to make this case of what we empirically see, you experience a 70% higher B2B conversion rate from referred business. So if I’m a CMO and I want to see my pipeline convert significantly faster or better, right? The higher closed one conversion, which helps my sales team, right? They’re motivated, their morale, everybody’s pumped, everybody’s winning, everyone’s making more money. And not only that, but we’re crushing business goals professionally and personally. I’m trying to hit that and support everybody. So 70% of a higher B2B conversion rate, you take that and you combine it with a 34% higher ACV and a 50% faster time to close. I’m doing bigger deals faster, right, that I have to spend less money to get into. And at the end of the day, the NRR around that, the retention, especially if I bring in another integration or another partner, is going to skyrocket. And if we do ABM, forget about it. So on the surface, we just know that there’s so many levels of uplift from referral efficiencies, from direct partner-sourced revenue efficiencies to ABM efficiencies, They all stack up to this wall of irrefutable evidence that if we just put all these things in play and our go to market motion, we’re going to do a hell of a lot better than just taking a taking a deck and slapping a logo on it and kicking it out the door and calling that enablement, that kind of thing.

Tori Barlow: You’re exactly right. I love how granular we’re getting with the metrics. And I think right now, too, with what the economy is like, retention is most important. So throwing that in there and thinking about that is paramount. Thank you to our guest, Blake, founder and CEO of AMP Factor. And thank you to 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.