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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 5

How to Create SOPs When Building a Partner Program
from Scratch

Show Synopsis

The Partner Channel Podcast continues to push forward! This week, we sat down with Brandon Lytle, the Head of Partnerships at Field Nation, to discuss his experience in starting a partner program from scratch over the course of his career.

Highlights:

  • Setting the SOP standard for your partners
  • The importance of internal alignment
  • Why you need to understand the value of your partner program

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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 here at Allbound. Excited to be here with Brandon Lytle, head of partnerships at Fieldnation, as well as an executive member of both partnership leaders and the Cloud Software Association. Brandon, welcome. We’re very excited to have you.

Brandon Lytle: I’m excited to be here. Thank you, Tori.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. We think this is another hot topic on our agenda for the theme we’ve been talking about, which is building a partner program from scratch. One of the pieces to that among many is standard operating procedures, SOPs, or, to put it bluntly, processes. But before we dove into that, because I know you have a wealth of knowledge there. Brandon would love to hear about your background and your experience with building partner programs.

Brandon Lytle: Yeah. Again, thanks for. Thanks for having me. Yeah, my background has been kind of varied. How I got into partnerships is, is a little interesting. I actually came from came from the recruiting space and landed my first partnership role at a local startup here in Minneapolis called Leap Pages. And it kind of ran partnerships for them. Partnerships that lead pages was more of a referral model where we partnered with thought leaders and set up co marketing activities with them. And then also we acquired an organization called Drip where then I kind of led their technology and integration partnerships. We had a published API and I worked with organizations to kind of build integrations into into Drips API. And then from there I moved into an organization called Zapier where I was leading their strategic alliances. So working with organizations like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, those types of organizations kind of building Zapier into into their platforms. Zapier obviously had a well-established partner ecosystem from from that side of things. So I was just trying to add value as much as I could. And then from there, I moved into an organization called Site Improve. Local Organization here in Minneapolis, but based out of Copenhagen. And that’s where we started to really kind of start to develop and build our partnership strategy from scratch, kind of realigning who we’re partnering with, why we were partnering with them and and kind of lead kind of leading the team and figuring out what our partner strategy was going to be from there. And then I recently took a position with an organization called Fieldnation, which is a platform that enables companies that are looking to connect with 1099 field technicians. The best way to put it for someone who’s not familiar with it is we’re the Uber for field service work. Partnerships has never been something that field nation has really concentrated on. So that’s kind of where I’m at now and and really starting to develop and establish our partner ecosystem and what that looks like, who we’re partnering with, why we’re partnering with them and then starting to build and scale from there.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. So I’m sure you’re drinking from a firehose right now with how short amount of time you’ve been there, but very appropriate for discussion today. And among other things, you’re thinking about or types of partners. You’ve mentioned to me in the past that building processes and sops is at the forefront before you can put any other building blocks in place. So just so our audience is on the same page with SOPs, what is your definition of processes from a partnership perspective?

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, I think the interesting thing is, you need to understand why organizations want to partner with you from first and foremost, what is the value that you’re providing to a partner ecosystem? And it’s going to vary depending on depending on the organization, depending on the solution itself and also depending on the stage of the organization. Like your SOPs at an earlier stage startup are going to be different than from a well matured organization that is that is just starting to get into the partnership space. So really kind of identifying where the organization is in that journey and then taking it from there and identifying who your ideal partner partners are, how you want to partner with them, whether it’s a referral program, whether it’s a technology partner program, whether it’s a service partner or an agency partner program, and then start to kind of suss out what the value is with those with those specific partners and start to layer on the processes from that side of things. And then you can start to kind of establish the baseline of who you want to partner with and why.

Tori Barlow: Okay. Yeah, and you mentioned something really interesting is learning about where your organization is for this type of program. You know, who do you go to for that? Is it forming relationships with executives at a company? And let’s just take the startup route, for example. Who do you kind of understand that from?

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, I think that’s key. I think all partnership people within the whole space and it’s a small group of us, it’s growing, which is great partnerships is becoming a profession that’s. That’s well, expanding and growing within organizations. But I think something that we’re always talking about as partnership professionals is you need internal alignment across the board. You need executive alignment. You need the CEO to really understand what partnerships can do and how it can impact the organization and how it can help scale. Everyone needs to be on board that it takes time. It’s typically a three to a five year journey to really establish a scalable partner ecosystem that can really drive and scale revenue. But then from from the sea level down, you need to you need to align with the heads of sales, the heads of marketing, the heads of SES, which I think is extremely important. And then make sure that you’re aligned with their strategies, their goals and how partners can just layer into that and how it can really enhance what they’re trying to do. So for example, marketing might be we’re looking to generate X amount of leads within this specific segment. Well, we have partners that that concentrate within that segment, that if we develop some co-marketing initiatives, we can actually help you hit your goals that way. So it kind of is across the board. Partnerships is a very collaborative department. I’ve told people internally as I as I continue to sell why partnerships is important with Field Nation, a siloed partnership organization is going to fail. So if you if you’re not working collaboratively and selling, selling everyone on it, partnerships is definitely going to fail within that organization.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it kind of reminds me of the book by Dale Carnegie. I think it’s How to make friends and influence people where, you know, Hey, what are you trying to achieve with your MQLs and your meetings books like you were saying about marketing? Well, we can help with that with partnerships and kind of going back and forth with that. Out of curiosity, where does partnerships roll up under that field nation?

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, so I report to the VP of Biz Dev–Business Development, and he reports directly to the CEO, which works great because as it sits right now in the VP of Biz Dev, he’s very focused on our enterprise level and building out that which partnerships can help align with and build. So that’s how it sits within within Fieldnation. I’ve also reported directly to CROs, CCOs, COOs, and as well as CEOs across all my different partnership experience. So I think either way that it aligns, just making sure that that everyone is on board is the most important and then everything will kind of fall into place. In terms of the reporting structure.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Definitely helpful when you’re building something. And then what are our for our audience listening when they’re trying to build processes, SOPs, what are some key areas that they should really hone in on to prioritize for building a process document=

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, I would say don’t make it too complex. What you what you really want to do is don’t overcomplicate partnering in what your partner program is going to look like. And to be honest, I’ve been subject to this. I’ve tried to overcomplicate what a partner program might look like in the past. Just keep it simple, keep it straightforward. And then from there, you can start to identify how you need to work with the specific partners as as we kind of mentioned in the beginning of the conversation, if you’re going to be developing a referral program with your with your organization, make sure that the referral program is aligned with how leads are going to be sent in and filtered in, and make sure that you have processes in place to follow up with those leads in the correct way. Whether it’s an SDR team or a BTR team, whether it’s your marketing team that’s following up with those leads, whether it’s just strictly your sales team. They need to understand how those leads came in from a specific partner and then how to handle those in a specific way. And if you can co-sell with that partner and in a particular way, that’s a that’s a good way to do it.

Brandon Lytle: And then also from a technology and integration standpoint, those are going to need a little bit different of alignment. From a standard processing, right? You’re going to have to align with product and look at what an integration program might look like and how you’re going to measure the success of those integration partners. Are you going to be looking at is it going to be an acquisition strategy? Is it going to be a churn strategy? Is it going to be a scale strategy? There’s all these different aspects that you need to take in place. So trying to set the baseline of of how you want to measure your program, we’ll kind of help develop the processes that you need to put in place, as well as all the different how it impacts all the different departments in their goals and what they’re trying to do, because it can kind of go all over. Again, there’s no one size that fits all for all different organizations. All organizations are in a different spot. So, you won’t be right. You’re not going to be right the first time as well. Right. So you need a lot of it is trial and error.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. And I think everyone listening will hopefully agree with this that partnerships are not transactional. It’s really a relationship. And, you know, agreements can vary based on partner, you know, depending on what that relationship looks like, no matter what the partner type is. I’m curious for SOPs, you talked about creating different ones for different partner types. Do you recommend creating a different SOP  for a different partner depending on their needs? Or do you try to keep it consistent just based on partner type?

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, I think starting out starting out, you might you might take a stab at trying to do it. Individual partner, specific, right. Because at that point, when you’re first building out the partnership program and trying to figure out who you’re going to partner with and why you’re going to partner with them, the partners that you bring on board initially might not be the partners that you partner with six months from now, or a year from now. So you may have to develop a little bit more of a customized process and procedures to work with that partner in order for you to develop your ideal partner profile, because that that may change and evolve. So something that we’re doing at Field Nation is kind of figuring it out on when to bring a partner in, how to bring a partner in, what’s the true benefit for the partner. And that may look different six months from here, six months from now or a year from now. And you need to be able to pivot and you need to be able to evolve. So I think for Field Nation, that’s that’s what we’re doing as we’re building that from scratch.

Tori Barlow: Okay. And I can imagine I’m I don’t manage partners, but I am on the marketing team here and we do have SOPs and SLAs for sales and marketing and have worked to get buy in from sales. Is that the same concept when you’re creating partner SOPs, you know, getting by in in the beginning, like what you and I talked about is definitely necessary. But as you’re trying to create these SOPs, is it necessary to get their buy in as well so everyone signs off?

Brandon Lytle: Yeah. Being involved within teams, weekly meetings and understanding what they’re trying to do. You never want to project on how something is going to work on different organization or a different group within within the company. To your point, you want to get them to lean in. You want to get them to buy in, feel like they have some sort of ownership of what you’re trying to build. Because what that does is it gets everyone kind of rooting for the partnership program and seeing it how it can impact their org in their goals. So yeah, getting lean-in, getting the buy in, getting the organizations to lean in to what you’re doing and have their $0.02 is so important.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, well, you’re doing so much with so little time right now at Fieldnation and creating processes for recruiting partners. What’s on the roadmap next for you and the partner team.

Brandon Lytle: Yeah, to grow it. So I’m still. When I was at Site Improve and I had a fairly large team that I was working with that were some of the best partnership people that that I’ve worked with. So I really want to really want to grow the department here at Field Nation. I want to start to hire my first one or two partnership team members in the next six months to a year. That would be ideal. And then really kind of start to identify the scalable opportunities with both our service partners as well as our technology partners and really kind of figure out who’s going to be our strategic alliances moving forward because we still have yet to to develop those. But strategic alliances need everyone’s buy in within the organization because those take commitment and investment from from all different departments. So getting getting alignment on who our strategic alliances are is going to be great. And that’s just on the buyer side. We also have a provider side, all the 100,000 technicians that we have on the platform. There’s a whole partnership ecosystem that can be developed there. And that’s that’s kind of the next evolution of how do we develop a partner ecosystem that helps and supports those technicians on the platform.

Tori Barlow: Wow. You guys have so much going on. So many great things ahead of you, it sounds like. So we wish you the best. And thank you to our guest, Brandon, head of partnerships at Fieldnation. 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. Thanks, Brandon.

Brandon Lytle: Thanks, Tori. I appreciate it.