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S3E5:. How to Use Community to Scale
Your Partner Program


Show Synopsis

Tune in to this week’s episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, with host Tori Barlow and Bryan Williams, Founder of Hockey Stick Advisory. This episode is all about community: how to build it and also how to leverage it. Listen in and learn for yourself!


  • Why community is so important
  • What 2 things partner managers can do to kick start their community initiatives
  • What happens when you don’t lean into community to enhance your ecosystem

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The Script

Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the podcast for partnerships. In our episodes, we discuss ways to power your programs and gain actionable insights for all company sizes and partner types. We sit down with industry thought leaders to get the best tips and tricks for you, the listeners, to achieve your channel goals.

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 Bryan Williams, founder of Hockey Stick Advisory. Welcome, Brian. Super excited to chat today.

Bryan Williams: Thanks Tori. Thanks for having me and excited to be here.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, you’re calling from Melbourne today and you have a lot going on in your world and a lot on the horizon. And one thing that you and I are both passionate about, but you asked me to kind of speak about them as partnership leaders. And for those of you who are listening that don’t know partnership leaders, they’re a really great online community, not just online. There are events and meetups that they put on, but it’s a community that continues to rally together through everything going on right now, share resources, assets, roles and support to really raise the industry to the capabilities and possibilities that we all know to be true. And I think they really advocate for better together. And yeah, I wanted to give a shout out. And by the way, last year you were at the event Catalyst in Miami and you came away with a duck from all that.

Bryan Williams: That’s right. It’s my twins I’ve stolen out of the bath and made it all out of milk in Australia. So I hear the Allbound ducks doing their thing, keeping kids entertained around the world.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, no, but yeah, I mean, and you’ve been a part of partnership leaders for a while, right?

Bryan Williams: Yeah. So, you know, I discovered them last year and you know, got involved and made a trip over last August over to Miami, and it was a real chance to get, you know, a couple of hundred partnership professionals all together. And in partnerships by design and default are how can you help others win? And when you get everyone together in that environment, it was a fantastic few days. I was able to build and expand my network in the hundreds of key people share my learnings, understand much deeper outside of my current mindset and learnings and continue to grow and and the people I’ve been able to connect with and grow with since I’ve been out to develop, you know, business opportunities, partnership opportunities, help them win, share learnings, gain assets. And so it continues to be a really vibrant community which has got a huge upside and potential ahead. And we we are bringing it down, down under per se, and we’re looking to have Asher and Chris hopefully come down in March with some events down in Australia and expand the region out here. And so I’m doing some work with Des Russell from partner Elevate up in Brisbane to to bring that to life this year. So I’m really excited to continue the momentum forward on that, especially in this economic downturn that we’re all facing, which we’ll talk to a little bit more shortly.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I guess I need to buy my ticket now to come and march to see you guys. So that’s exciting. And you know, speaking of community, that’s what we’re talking about today. You are a master of community within LinkedIn and other platforms out there. And so we’re really going to focus today on how you, the listeners, can use community to scale and really bring together your partner ecosystem. And so you specifically see a lot of these different types of partner programs, ecosystems going on right now. You know, what’s your hot take? Let’s start with this. What’s your hot take on what will happen in 2023 with partners?

Bryan Williams: Yeah. So as we sort of lean into the economic environment that we all do, the accountability, the impact and the focus of partnerships is never going to be greater. But it’s also a time to shine. And so for partner leaders or partner professionals, wherever you are, if you’re able to be proactive and on the forefront with what you’re doing, how it makes an impact to the business and also to your partners and to be able to really showcase that internally and externally. There’s an opportunity to sort of grow through this crisis and come out the other side even stronger to go with it. And so, you know, you can’t sit on your laurels. You can’t be reactive. You can’t expect partners to also have abundance of resources or marketing budget to be able to do activities. And so how can you partner up across the board to be able to do that? 


The “Better Together” narrative has never had a better time to to bring it to life and make it happen.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think there’s a few ways to look at this, too. You’re talking about the economic situation right now, and I think we can totally get scared and kind of think like, Oh crap, who are my partners? What am I going to do? Like, how do I how do I do this efficiently and effectively? Then there’s another way to look at it. And it’s really like leaning into the uncertainty and what’s going on right now and and taking more of that positive approach, which is hard to do. Like that’s not easy to take that on. But who have you seen that’s done that really well or what are you doing personally to kind of like embrace the unknown and the uncertainty right now?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, I think there’s an opportunity is to rally together and to share learnings and what’s working and what’s not and and to be laser focused across the board around what you’re working on and why to go about it. Right. You know, on one side of the coin, if you’re looking at the impact of partnerships and especially connected partnerships, we know that those who are connected are less likely to churn or downgrade or the switching costs become really hard. So in terms of losing customers, that’s one thing. We also know that those who are connected and got more integrations and got more of a deep workflows and they actually get a lot of benefits. What we talk about. And so we’ve got efficiencies, insights, metrics, benchmarks to how they operate, that businesses have a partner up, how do they go to market in a connected way, then they’re more likely to succeed and thrive through this environment to go with it. And so so on both sides, there’s benefits to go with it. And we’ve limited resources that everyone will be facing into. Now, why not go to market together with others to share it and still reach the same customers, which everyone is trying to work towards and stop working in silos? And so there is an opportunity here to double down on partnerships. You know, if you don’t have the resources to go it alone more than ever. And I think there’s going to be a bit of an aha moment for some companies who lean into this and realize the impact of it. And we’re hoping we can change some old school metrics and management who want to go it alone and just build big sales teams in in isolation to go with it. So it’s going to be an interesting year and I look forward to a lot of the case studies and innovation to come out of it.

 Tori Barlow: I think that’s a really great perspective. And for those listeners that are trying to take something like this on, well, also having other responsibilities, whether that’s sales or marketing tech, whatever it is, you know, you don’t have to bite off everything all at once. You can really just start small and start with one partner or talk to product like what are your customers using outside of your solution? That could be another great integration or something to go to market with from a marketing perspective. So it’s not like biting off the whole world, but it’s really getting out there and trying. And another way to do that during this time is getting into the community. And that’s really what you and I are chatting about today. And so, you know, I hear a lot about the community and get community marketing and all of that. And in your opinion, Brian, what does that mean and why is it so important?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, as you build out a partner ecosystem and start to add a lot of partners together, the problem you have is how do you scale, how do you scale that? And also how do you add value to the large amount of partners that you’re looking to bring together? Partnerships are typically 1 to 1, but you’re working with someone else and like doing stuff together, whatever that might look like from its product partnership, go to market marketing, co-marketing, marketing, brand affiliations, integrations, whatever it is, it’s 1 to 1 around it. But that’s exhaustive. It’s it’s time consuming and the impact is limited. However, as you start to grow your your partner ecosystem or if you’ve got an established partner ecosystem today, then if you’re able to connect everyone together and build and unite that community and share learnings. Share resources account map with a lot of the tools that are out there today. And if you’re all trying to reach a similar customers at a similar stage of growth, then how do you empower all of you? So Tori and your organization, you’re going to have your marketing, your sales, your leadership component, But like like for the listeners, like who’s closest to the core of your offering right now, which solves a core problem for your customers or your targeted customers, and how can you partner up together to make that win? And what if you can create micro communities to start off with and start to connect people? And so if you’re doing digital marketing and your partners don’t digital marketing, what’s working and what’s not working around to go about it, and and you’re able to build some groundswell and so you want to treat and make your partners feel like part of your organization, that part of your employees, and that their employees and what they’re trying to achieve more together.

Bryan Williams: And what if you’re able to do that beyond one partner and do it with ten partners, 20 or 50 partners and connect them all together? And so the power of community and they say a community, you should build it wherever your customers hang out. So what about Slack Discord, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, WhatsApp groups, whatever, be able to build and establish that trust the rapport over time and help others win. And you know, like we spoke about the start of a core, like the partnership leaders community to sort of help rise the industry up as well. What if you’re able to create that kind of groundswell with your partners all around you? And ultimately what you’re trying to achieve is you want to become the partner of choice. You know that like, Hey, Allbound, I love those guys are providing opportunities where chatting around what works, what doesn’t work. Give me a bunch of ideas to hit my metrics. They’ve got some ideas I can share with our leadership team around how to Partnerships is making an impact. But how do you build that groundswell? Because if fundamentally, if if you’re able to establish that community and they continue to focus their efforts in the community and be engaged, then they’re spending time with you and not your competitors. So it becomes a competitive mode. 


And they’re also focusing their efforts on on engaging with you for community, which is going to unlock co-marketing and go to market efforts across the board as well. And so you’ve got this willing  bunch of advocates, which is well beyond just a standard partnership.

Tori Barlow: It’s so funny what you’re saying. You’re I think there’s so much there could be some doom and gloom going on right now with everything, but it’s such a feel good thing to go and create some sort of community and really connect with someone, you know, on LinkedIn, wherever it is. And I think it can be intimidating at first, like, how do you even get started? What if people don’t engage with you or want to chat with you here? But at the end of the day, you know, it’s a it’s an amazing feeling and you really just make a friend online, you know, or have that capacity to do so. And I’m also, Brian just so amazed with how the partner community and industry has taken off on LinkedIn specifically and all of this great content that people are sharing. I’ve seen so much vulnerability with folks that are starting their own programs and they’re sharing what they’ve learned and and really just like creating that true world of let’s all share and help one another out here. But, you know, folks are just getting started on this and they haven’t done this before. What are a couple of things, maybe two things partner managers can do to kick start this community initiative?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, I think communities have always been around, but I haven’t been given a label or been had to focus on a business sense to go about it. And you know, we live in an age of information overload across the board and so it’s community and who those who we turn to to trust that we lean into and around it. And I like your point, Tory. I like it. So many are building in public now and showing what’s working and then showing sharing your assets and components. And there’s a bit of a rising tide moment here, which is exciting for everyone in partnerships wherever you’re working to go with it. But in terms of community, if you thought about your top three partners, top five partners and try and understand their objectives and then try and consider who’s two or three people you can connect them with and sort of say, Hey guys, I notice you’re all trying to target this kind of audience. Let’s get together and share what’s working or what’s not working around to go about it. So start off with a group chat. It’s one to start off with, you know, host it and be around it. If you’re coordinating it, you facilitate it, you’re just creating the environment.

 You’re connecting people, like I said, making a friend online and around it. And so from there, small steps have a catch up, a half an hour a month, we get a weekly component and then think, who else can you help to go about it and then get your partner to come in and get involved. Who else can they invite to go with it as well? And so you’ll be able to build some groundswell quickly as long as you continually adding value. But you’ve really got to make sure to start off with, as my second point is that you understand what they’re trying to achieve and you connect like minded people, right? Like if you think about it in the sporting environment, you know, communities, you know of fans, of sporting clubs, of whatever it is or shared interests or that people get together. So who are you connecting together? What’s the shared interest and what are they all trying to achieve together? 

And if you’re able to sort of start in line with that, connect a few people, you’re on your way to sort of get it going.

Tori Barlow: I love those. Those are easy things to do. Listeners, if you take the time to just do that, even today or tomorrow, it’ll kind of snowball into something else. And I guess ending on what will happen if people don’t go into the community, what will they see?

Bryan Williams: I think it’s a bit it’s going to be a bit of a moment for the upcoming chapter where those who continue to go it alone are going to struggle, sort of fall behind because they’re going to be seeking a lot of answers and they don’t necessarily they’re doing it off best intention, potential experience. They may have gut feel and they don’t have a benchmark because that’s what you’re able to do. You’re able to benchmark what’s working and what’s not. And when you’re chatting to other industry folk and fruit of community, sometimes people are looking for answers or also but also there’s a major component which I think is underestimated is validation. You see other people doing some components and you’re like, Hey, I do that too, and I’m actually doing better than them as well. And so you’re able to have an understanding of how you’re going against the market in particular. And so also in terms of the investment or the support from the broader business, if you’re working in isolation and you’re not able to validate and showcase what you’re doing and is it going great, is it going bad, then are you going to get more resources? Our partnership role is going to get dissolved or minimized or cut back to go around it, because in particular of the VC backed companies are looking at resources or inefficient programs or inefficient business units to go with it. And there’s actually an opportunity to flip that and and use community and partner up accordingly to actually showcase and and realize it is a strategic asset that you can really move forward the future of the company.

Tori Barlow:  Bryan, founder of Hockey Stick Advisory. Thank you so much for being here. It’s been a true pleasure.

Bryan Williams: Thanks to our great chat today and look forward to catching up ahead in Catalyst in Denver.

That’s all for this episode! We’d like to thank you for taking the time to listen in. If you like what you heard, we’d love the chance to take the talk to LinkedIn, and continue the conversation. If you want to stay up-to-date with all of our latest episodes, subscribe to our series wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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