Allbound Logo - Partner Programs



S3E6:. How to Not Suck
at Partnerships

Show Synopsis

This week, join host Tori Barlow for her conversation with Marco de Paulis, Director of eCommerce over at Ryder. Together, the two talk about how to avoid “sucking” at partnerships and how to give before you get when working to forge new relationships.


  • What “sucking at partnerships” means
  • Where companies and partner leaders can go wrong
  • How to show bottom-line revenue

Subscribe to The Partner Channel Podcast Available on these Platforms

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 Marco de Paulis, Director of eCommerce Partnerships at Ryder. Welcome Marco. Super Pumped to have you today.

Marco de Paulis: Yeah. Thank you Tori. Really excited to dig in and yeah, just appreciate you thinking of me.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. You’re all over LinkedIn these days. I know. We look at your thought leadership throughout the months and what you’ve done with the industry. And you’ve also run partnerships for startups through enterprise, both for agencies and SaaS products for the last six years, building programs and teams from scratch. So it sounds like you’ve seen it all, which is awesome. And today we’re talking about buy in and measurement. And when I think of getting buy in from execs, but also multiple departments within your org, it can be challenging, especially with the market conditions we’re in right now. And how do you measure proving success? So kicking it off with your mantra is to help people not suck at partnerships. And I want you to be brutally honest with me. What does “sucking at partnerships” mean to you?

Marco de Paulis: Yeah. So the reason that’s really driven all of my content, frankly, and, you know, partnerships is kind of young in the way that we do it now, right? Versus like the old school channel way of doing alliances. And I just saw over the past few years, especially in some of the earlier years, just such a focus on, hey, let’s partner, what business can you drive for me? And like I just need to get some leads and drive some revenue right now. And there’s there was no and it still happens, unfortunately. And I again, want to help people not do this and think about it differently is like, look, before you can get anything out of a partnership, you have to you have to bring something of value. You have to make some deposits before you can take any withdrawals. And so, you know, regardless of what leadership is expecting in terms of revenue or leads or whatever, it’s just not going to work if you approach it that way, period, regardless of what your goals are, regardless of what your KPIs are. So why don’t you take a different approach? And instead of just going out of partnership or going to a partner person and expecting something right away lead by trying to add some sort of value, thinking about that other person being empathetic and just doing what partnership people should do, which is leading with that value. And then the byproduct of that is actually getting something out of it that is going to help you in your role and your day to day.

Tori Barlow: I think that’s so important. It’s often forgotten too with especially putting a contract on it as well. I think it definitely is more of a relationship versus, Hey, what can you do for me? I also think framing it in a way of like, you’re not going to go up to a potential friend outside of work and say like, Hey, how are you going to be a good friend to me? You know, I think thinking of it in that way is really interesting. But it’s also easier said than done. Like, what if you’re getting all this pressure from execs or you have to make a number or whatever it is like, how do you really give that love to a partner when you have several partners? How do you look at that? What’s your advice there?

Marco de Paulis: Yeah. I mean, I think to be successful in this role, first off, you have to be very empathetic. You have to be very curious. You have to genuinely like people and want to help people and want to do well together as a joint solution, a joint partnership. And if those don’t resonate with you, like you shouldn’t be doing this roll period. And if you approach work like that, regardless, if you get this pressure to perform, it’s like nothing is going to happen. Right. And so first off, if you’re coming into partnerships, you should have a little bit of a ramp up, whether it’s three months, six months, a year. That’s obviously less and less common. But you should have a little bit of time to like, just like any AE or BDR, need a little bit of time to just ramp up. And so that’s that time where even if you have a clock starting in three months or six months, build that relationship really early and find creative ways to add value. Right. So the traditional way of adding value is leads and co marketing. Well, in an early program you may not be able to do either of those things. So just what would you do? Just like any good person, you would listen to what that person needs or what they could find value in. 

It could be introductions. It could be giving them data and insight about your product or about your service that they may not have known that would be valuable to them in their conversations and their customers.

It could be finding relevant articles, information, sending them. And hey, just thinking of you thought you would really appreciate this or your customers would appreciate that. Really like anything, just to your comment about being a friend, like what makes you think of your friend and send something to them or shoot them a text or call them. It’s that same idea people just want to be thought of. People like to know that they’re heard and they’re seen. And that can make the difference between you and another partner person who doesn’t treat them like that. And so once you start to build a relationship, then things happen. Like good things happen ideally faster then longer. But it really just depends. And I think in terms of like combating leadership who have those expectations, you know, it’s not easy and it’s not like a one and done conversation. It’s something that you’re going to, I’m sure, have a lot of conversations about, depending on who the leader is and getting that buy in. But I think what does a business owner understand in terms of a longer term output versus a shorter term output? I think an easy comparison is product like, hey, we invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineers to build something. We don’t expect to get revenue out of it the following month. Right? That feature release isn’t going to give us back that engineer salary for that quarter it took him to build, but we know that that investment is going to bring us more customers and retain customers.

It’s the same thought process about marketing, it’s the same thought process about partnerships. And so trying to help people understand this is how it’s thought of. Like if you just want immediate revenue, that’s a BDR, that’s an account executive. So having that candid conversation and setting some goals for like, look, this is what we’re going to try and do, but we need X amount of time to get there. And the value of partnerships is that we’re going to hit certain KPIs that aren’t just net new revenue, but we’re also going to expand our traffic and our audience, their marketing. We’re going to improve our product in terms of retention and lifetime value. We’re going to increase adoption of features and things like that through integrations and other partners and making it clear that you are more than just a source of revenue. You have to get that alignment and you have to make that case and then set some metrics for how you’re going to measure it and how you’re going to hit it or come close to hitting it, because I think that’s the difference between, frankly, keeping your job or not is actually marrying data and what you’re tracking against versus what you say you’re going to do or what you say partnerships does.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it’s always a fine balance to get that buy in and to set the expectations because it takes a while for partnerships to unfold. And you can’t just snap your fingers and have it happen, like you’re mentioning. And speaking of keeping jobs, there’s a lot going on right now. There’s a lot of layoffs, a lot of uncertainty within the market. You know, what should folks who lead partner programs think about and what do they need to remember when weathering the storm for for this year?

Marco de Paulis: Yeah, I think it’s twofold. I talked a little bit about that alignment and those KPIs and that output. So really making sure that with leadership and the heads of other departments, marketing, sales, customer success product, that you guys have common goals, things that you can measure and track and report on and that both teams are rowing in that same direction. Because if you don’t have that alignment and that buy in, partnerships are super beholden to customer facing teams and more external facing teams like marketing. Right? And we can’t be successful with that without that buy in and that support and that help and that actual execution going to the market, going to customers. So making sure you have that, making sure that leadership understands that you guys have shared goals and common goals that you’re both tracking towards, I think is a really, really important part of like regardless of the economic situation, I think this is how we take partnerships to the next level at as a whole. And what is kind of missing sometimes from that level of maturity of partnerships. And then I think the other side is I talk a lot about internal marketing, and I think that we should be marketing internally even more than we should be marketing externally as partner people. What I mean by that is share wins, share success, share stories really anywhere you can, because there’s something about stories that stick in our brains, right? Even more so than metrics and numbers.

And when you humanize it with a story about, Hey, this mutual customer came back and we won them back because we launched this new feature, this new integration, and it added so much product value and now they’re a larger account than they were before. And that LTV is is growing. Or stories about how referring a certain partner to one of your customers ended up helping them grow their business and now they’re a larger customer on your platform than they were before. Because of the success of this joint partnership between your customer and your partner and things like that. So like, share those wins. Anything with sales, anything with marketing, anything with CS, you always really want to make sure that they know not only are we aligned and we’re trying to hit targets together, but these are actual scenarios that my customers can see and that my customers are experiencing and my contacts can have great successes with through this partnerships department, right? Whether it’s with integrations or solution partners or what have you. And then like surfacing all of this stuff together just gives you that peanut butter and jelly of proof that people can really digest and remember and it sticks with them. And it just really is that ultimate, I think, sort of formula to prove your value and your worth and show you really that comprehensive 360 degree view of what partnerships is and what it does.

Tori Barlow: I think that’s really powerful. And it almost reminds me sometimes even in, you know, in marketing from the direct side, understanding and having execs understand attribution. And when you show that timeline of like they were a lead three years ago, now they’re back, you know, here’s the world view of it almost doing that with the partnerships and and really building up that relationship side of things. Like, to your point, if you have a relationship with the partner that starts X time and a year later, that’s when you really start to see your first deal come through. Like explain that relationship building. And that is testament to how long that took to actually see the revenue side, because otherwise you’re just showing revenue. And like when you started the partnership in an Excel spreadsheet and it’s like, well, why did that take so long? You know? But to your point, you tell that story, it can be more helpful.

Marco de Paulis: Yeah, No, 100%. That’s a really good point to like to show a story of just one particular partner and the timeline of what happened to get to that first shared win together or whatever it is. And I, I tell my team all the time, like build in public and just like share progress and share these stories, right? Whether it’s marketing a story or just showing what you’re working on. Because I think that’s another thing with partnerships is sometimes it seems like a little bit of, I don’t know, like a black hole maybe of like one of those partnerships people do. Like, I see them on LinkedIn, I see them posting data and stuff like that, but like what actually goes into partnerships and helping demystify that I think is really that’s a good point too. That’s a takeaway for me. Like, yeah, look, we had to do these account mapping sessions and then we had to get in front of these account managers or these SME’s. Also. In the meantime, in parallel, we’re working with the product team and supporting their API development. And then we finally closed this one deal. And then out of that one deal, we marketed a case study together and we got it on the newsletter and now 40,000 people saw it. That’s a really powerful story and just shows like, okay, that’s six months of work. Like just to get to that and that’s one out of what are 40 partners or something.

Tori Barlow: Now what it really comes down to is showing your value across the organization. And I don’t really think that’s just now with the market conditions. I really think that’s the way partnership programs are evolving globally right now. Whether you’re in the US and EMEA, wherever you are, like partnerships are really starting to take an effect and you really have to show your value across the entire company. So how do you do that? How do you also show bottom line revenue?

Marco de Paulis: Yeah. You know, I think it’s going to vary business to business. Of course, like now, I’m part of a big logistics company and so we look at it a little bit differently and then what a SAS company would. And I think one thing that is a little bit unfortunate, right, is that partnerships get so much focus on top line revenue. And the key studies out there, right, when a CEO is like, oh, maybe I should like do partnerships, we should hire someone for partnerships. They usually just see that case study. 30% of our revenue came from Partnerships Channel. And so then that’s just naturally the focus. Like, Oh cool, let’s just turn this on, right? We flip a switch and we’ll have 30% more revenue than we did last quarter, and that’s definitely not the case. Number one, there’s so much that goes into that. But to your point, you really should be thinking about various metrics and data points that you can track and show value. And bottom line, I think is a really big one. I think SAS, the easy play well, there’s a couple of things that I would track in SAS. Lifetime value is super critical, right? And that’s a perfect other side of the coin to net new revenue, retention or churn is super important. Like every SAS company is trying to hit that magic negative churn number. I think there are some interesting data points on like cross-selling and actually expanding and growing accounts through partners or through integrations.

You know, it’s obviously more profitable to grow your existing accounts that have already closed than it is to continue to go to market and bring new customers in. And and showing all of that data again, sort of like in a nice, beautiful, whatever it is, multiple bar charts kind of next to each other or however you want to display that alongside net new. And that’s something that we’re doing as well internally. We’re tracking expansion revenue for existing accounts, we’re tracking net new, we’re tracking influence on things that we don’t source also. So like, hey, how do we add value in things that we don’t even bring to the table? But we know we have partners working with the accounts that our sales team is working. So whatever you can do, top line, bottom line in between to show your value in the organization is really critical. And I think that that’s going to help not just in this economic situation, but in terms of the pressure that a partnerships team is going to get or the focus for like what they should be doing. 

You need those other data points to get that support, get that buy in to get the right KPI set for your team and to justify the investments in the other areas of partnerships or product or whatever it is that you need to be successful.

Tori Barlow: How to not suck at partnerships, Marco. You’re such a bright force in the industry. Where can folks go to connect with you?

Marco de Paulis: Yeah, LinkedIn. Only that I’m on there a lot, as I’m sure you know. So you can. Yeah, just find me there or shoot me a message or a follow or whatever makes you happy. I will reply and I’ll get back. And I really am all about kind of building in public and showing folks like what I’m doing and how you can maybe use that to inspire some work, some projects, some ideas. So yeah. Marco Marco DePaula Space PR is happy to connect and chat with folks if you’re there.

Tori Barlow: Thank you to our guest Marco Direktor e Commerce Partnerships at Ryder. 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.

If you’re tasked to do this, do you have somebody who helps you with creating this program? Do you have your own experience or can you brainstorm with some of your leadership? Or if not, really try to get input from from your peers, from the community, from experienced people who can help you to build the program.

What’s not going to work is just copy what HubSpot did or, you know, sometimes you hear this, “Oh yeah, I had this webinar. This is how HubSpot does it. Yeah.” Chances are that your company is not yet HubSpot. You may would like to understand what HubSpot did 15 years ago, but even then the market has changed quite dramatically, so even that may not be applicable. So really making sure that there is a clear, consider it like literally like a business plan for launching a new like a new business, literally a business within the business. What is the timeline? Who’s doing it? What resources do you need? And not only money like support from team you mentioned a few times to support from marketing some hours from the legal so you can draw the legal aspects. And not just try to ask somebody to share their partner contract because again, it might as well be that’s not being applicable for your company, even though there are some things you could certainly take as a base, you will need to have your own lawyers to make sure that it suits for you. So really making sure that you have a go to market plan and if you find yourself in a tough spot to do it alone, it’s generally good to have at least four eyes on anything, right? So make sure that you have this expertise on creating this.

Tori Barlow: I love that. Who doesn’t want to copy what HubSpot did and all facets. And from a marketing perspective, I definitely do. I think this is crucial. You have to be partner ready. And if you’re not, how do you get there? One double check: Who’s bought into it? Is it the entire leadership team or just one person telling you to go after and do one thing. Verify you have goals? What are the company goals and what are the partner goals that bubble up to that? I think if you ask your CEO or whoever, what are the company goals and they don’t have any, I think that’s a red flag. And if you’re interviewing for a partner manager role and you ask what the company goals are for next year, the following year, whatever they are and there aren’t isn’t an answer, you know, dig in more or maybe question mark that one. And then finally, make sure there’s someone who knows how to do a go to market plan and is your partner on this entire process. This is pertinent for any sort of partner strategy to be successful. It’s really laying that foundation. Thank you to our guest, Martin Co-founder of partner experience 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.

Thank you to our special guest, Martin Scholz, and our listeners.

Show More

More From The Partner Channel Podcast