011 - Partner Operations - Philosophy AND Strategy with Matt Irving

Today we're talking Partner Ops.

Our guest is Matt Irving who runs Partner Operations for WP Engine.

But what we loved about this episode is that this isn't an episode ONLY for ops people. It's an episode for EVERYONE who wants to accurately measure, improve, and scale partner programs in SaaS.

Send this episode to your VPs and C-Suite, because Matt unpacks the philosophy and strategy for build partner lifecycle stages and building an enduring partner program. You're going to love it.

Oh and hey, we have a new sponsor.

Today's episode is sponsored by the Cloud Software Association. The CSA is the network of 3500 SaaS partnership leaders. Connect, gain an instant network across the whole industry, learn from peers, experts, and close deals. Come join. The CSA has a vibrant Slack community and incredible experts answering your questions weekly. Join for FREE at http://www.cloudsoftwareassociation.com/


Or wherever you get your podcast - just search PartnerUp The Partnerships Podcast!


Jared Fuller  00:19
Alright, what is up partner up we've had a brief hiatus because of there was a hurricane Kevin was moving. And then third time's a charm Third time's a charm. We got Matt Irving today from WP Engine who I'm so excited to jump into this because we've not talked about this incredible tenant like core, you know, component of partner, which is partner operation. So Matt heads global partner operations at WP Engine. Welcome, Matt to partner up with you guys for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. It's gonna be a good one, because we had to reschedule this three times because of various different things. And I apologize to everyone for that. Before we hop in, I got something pretty cool to share is that we're actually partnering up with the cloud software Association. So Kevin, you've been a member for a long time, right? Long time. Yeah.

Kevin Raheja  01:13
So cloud software Association, which, if y'all don't know, is the largest network for partnerships, professionals. So they have an awesome slack group that Kevin and I are part of. That's actually Matt, how we got connected to you. Right was in a thread on the CSA? Yeah. Big shout out the senior team. I've been a member for for many, many years across a couple of companies and stops. It's a great, great community.

Jared Fuller  01:37
Yeah, absolutely. So we're excited to be partnering up with the cloud software Association. So if you're not a member, get become a member, you can join for free, then they have paid membership for all this other stuff, too. So check it out, cloud software Association, hop in the slide group, we're actually going to be opening up some stuff to for future members, where we'll actually do q&a with podcast guests in the future, too. So a lot more to come there. Shout out to the CSA. Let's hop in now, Matt, I, I want to start with a particular question. Because we could just dive into various things around partner operations. But I've been prepping for this conversation, I said I was gonna bring the heat. So the thing that I want to level set on is like, What does good part partner operations look like? But I'm going to give you my definition. And I want to see where you agree or disagree. Because I think I think I'm getting closer here is, I believe that the first job of a partner team, once you've kind of validated, hey, we can have partners, we can, you know, you're not gonna have partner Ops, if you don't have some validation, right? Like, it's you don't need it. But like we can sell with partners, we can deliver through, we can do services, and we have people dedicated to it, then you probably need the partner ops function. Here's what I'm doing right now. I'm basically building what I call like our partner lifecycle. I have partner acquisition in the various phases. And then I have partner activation in the various phases or stages. And I view partner operations as creating visibility and insight on how to move people through that funnel. Tell me what you think.

Matt Irving  03:17
Yeah, I think that's about right. So typically, when a restart the about if you need an operations team or not, especially the partner, I think you continue to think about it either at the partner acquisition stage, but I think one, click back, you probably want to, you might want to start with is, if you think about your company strategy, and you think about your overall customer journey, how you think about who would be potential customers all the way through? Who are your raving advocates on the retention side, so you have the full breadth of the growth of the growth equation. The next question is, how much of that customer journey Are you willing to outsource or collaborate on? And that's going to be kind of like yourself with partners or work with partners are going to do additional services? And then and then like, the key question, I think that you get to with a view of both those things, what's my customer journey? And how much am I willing to work with a third party to go deliver one? Yeah, that kind of helps you kind of see what would the full scale of adoption look like? Because the further you go across the customer journey, and the number of partners that you have kind of compounds the complexity, more partners, just to get the engine, not really huge thing, more partners to do demand Gen, and selling and implementations and services and retention and upgrades. That starts where it gets where it starts to get complex. And then you I think, to your point, then get into the overall journey of what does that kind of botai funnel look like of all of these partners that I'm aware of who would make great fits for where we're going to partner within across our customer lifecycle all the way through? through different stages that would then go go into who are fully integrated partners, or were truly better together than independent.

Jared Fuller  05:08
Right? It's because like getting that visibility to the business, it's what I'm doing right now is defining these stages. And then how many partners fall into each stage. And then who are the Partner Manager is like, where does their book fall against the stage, which gives the manager on the partner side visibility into here's how I manage this channel, account manager, partner, sales manager, whoever it is, based on where their book is, in those lifecycle stages.

Matt Irving  05:37

Jared Fuller  05:38
let's dive into one of those particular areas. Because I think we can use that as a construct for defining partner operations, we can start at the beginning, or kind of the end of that lifecycle, maybe partner operations at the beginning. So kind of Tam right and identifying, you know, who our target partners and how does partner operations, kind of think about that. And let's make let's probably also give some color to partner at WP engines where you've had a couple different partner roles, channel versus like tech alliances, which of those of you kind of been working with at WP Engine and are most familiar with?

Matt Irving  06:15
Yeah, so maybe to do like one click clap back. So I started my career as a developer. And as a developer, I love being able to leverage different tools to be able to accomplish what I was building. So it's kind of a weird full circle thing, started my career as a developer working on WordPress sites, and now working kind of in a core component of WordPress. And so at WP Engine, one of the things that had historically kind of worked and I think that this is probably a journey of most SaaS companies are co selling, co selling is a great way to kind of dip your foot into partnerships, because you're able to look at the core question who has your ideal customer? And what is their level of relationship with them? I think whenever you start thinking about Tam, the interesting thing that you find is not typical partners probably have a mix of like great influence and reach. They know a lot of people and they have the ability to move those folks over. One of the critical observations that we learned over time is that most of the time those things are inversely correlated. So affiliates can reach out to a ton of people, but they don't really have a really good means of like, coaching them across, like all the different sides of the business. Then you think about the other side of it. What are the people with like, awesome influence? Well, Accenture, Accenture probably sells like a handful of customers, 10 year digital transformation projects, they're wildly embedded with these companies. And so they have high influence, but very low reach. And so that funding that mix of people that you're going to have those great relationships with that are going to be high influence, and those things are probably going to correlate to high MRR big deals. They can be compliance on the on the flip side with affiliates, like it may just be demand generation, low complexity, easy to support. And, and I think when most companies are getting started, you're trying to get kind of affinity for what, what what's the big thing that we need right now. So for us, the partner journey really started with the affiliate world. And so we knew, I think from from a lot of our leadership team had worked in development agencies prior had a lot of great relationships. content was a big was the key. WordPress inherently is very collaborative, in general is just being an open source community. And so the main bit of the PR industry started out in affiliate relationships we wanted to solve for, for in how do we really kind of drive customer market share in a lot of these agencies really want to go through the selling process or speak to the hosting side. And so low, low comply or low complexity to support give a referral fee, and you're really driving a great demand generation engine. And then, you know, over time, as it evolved, many of these agencies wanted to be involved in the sales process. And then over time, then he does wanted to be involved in the implementation process. And then over time, we met agencies who were really great at service. And so they didn't really have customers, they weren't really driving core selling processes. But they they're great partners on the back end for supporting brake fixed projects or things that were out of scope for, for technical services team. And so over time, we started kind of maturing the view of where could partners really play a role here? And going back to that key question, Where are we better together than them independently? And so that's kind of been a little bit the evolution from primarily an affiliate driven partnership model, all the way to kind of a fully integrated model. So we think about is like solution agency partnerworld insurance. Like where we're going horizontally with more customers, then that a lot of they're really concerned with the depth of, of services and solutions and how we think about our technology solution partners. So where are we in terms of product market fit? What are the things that we're going to do? What are the things that we can support? And then if that's one side, the other equation is what is a customer trying to solve for an overall solution perspective? And how do we go find the right best and breed partners to go around that solution? Can't be everything to everyone. But you can be a lot to to most people. And so how do we kind of tighten that gap? Go create dusting lead solutions? And again, Kenny, it's the same question. You're thinking about on the overall kind of agency solution side, back into technology integrations, where are we better together? That's,

Jared Fuller  10:48
you really does really well put in very well articulated around, where you look to find those partners based on the need of the company at the time, because so much of what people do when they're looking for role models is like, you have to make sure that you're looking at the stage of the business, right, the maturity, and what is most important to the company. And I like how you talk about affiliate to, you know, people that are actually in doing services. Let's take a snapshot of one of those, you know, phases in your journey to call it a moment in time. And I'm sure the question comes up. Where do we find these partners? Right? And kind of defining that Tam so not? Oh, you couldn't explain that over a five year period? Because it's going to be a different Tam over five years. But at any given snapshot, let's say people that are moving from the sell to service side? How do you go about identifying from a partner ops perspective? Like, hey, here's how we can identify some of our Tam, like, Here's 600, agencies, 60, agency 6000 agencies, that would be good or would be partners for, for your program?

Matt Irving  11:58
Yeah, so I think billing is a big challenge for a lot of sass companies in general. I think I think the answer like you want to kind of go for is like, who has the most customers and is easiest to work with? Yeah, right? That answer, right? Because you're, that's what everyone's looking for. I think one of the critical one, or one of the best pools of potential agencies that can go work with or, in our case, or if you think even more broadly, who would make for a great partner, it really starts fundamentally, this is gonna sound trite. But it really starts fundamentally with your customer key use cases and stories. And so for us, like, what is the overall big solution that a customer solving for? Who do they work with? What type of partners do do do they look for? What do they look for? Where do they work with a conversion rate optimization specialist versus a development firm versus like a creative firm who's going to be working with them on like a specific campaign. And so one of one of the big learnings for us was looking at overall users connected into our core customer accounts. And basically looking at what types of agencies or personnel show up here? What types of development firms are search showing up here? What types of other types of systems integration are happening there? And then kind of get back into what where do they play? Like, what conferences do they go to? What groups are they a part of? It also helps like, in terms of partnerships, like the diffusion isn't my first rodeo and think it was for groups like the cloud software Association, there's lots of smart people who have been solving this kind of thing. But I think the core, the core thing you've got to look at is what is the win for your customer? And where are they winning with other folks? And then then you kind of get to the next question around, like, if I'm going to build build a, a value creation table, how many sides are going to be at it? And like, what's kind of RPC like are we are we just going to be one side of what might be a full statement of work from one service provider to a client, and who else would show up on those line items. So I think that kind of helps you start thinking about categories. And then lots of interviews, like, you know, if you make customers successful, tends to be a lightning rod for other folks that wants to participate and want to interact. And so that that becomes like a really great way of like, hey, here are other ecosystems that other partners are working in. By and large, our own partners are our best acquisition engine and other partners. And so we it's interesting, secret sauce for a lot of agencies, especially like on the solution side of business. And so I think if you make your customer successful, make your partner successful. You find out where, where they're working together, and where you can fit in that ecosystem. Now, that really helps out. And I think it also helps you drive What are going to be the other innovations or investments that you're going to need to make as a company to make that value creation table. Even Larger. So are a lot of your partners looking for things like API first strategies like they want to maximize their services while reducing their dependencies on on physical interactions? Are they wanting to go stay in the use cases? And for whatever reason, like maybe a closed ecosystem? And maybe what open ecosystem was a kind of series of choices that you need to go on to talk about with your management teams? And what what you're comfortable working on? What what all that's going to look like from a defensibility perspective. But again, it kind of helps you kind of understand what what's the value that I'm bringing to the table? Where can we make the customer successful? in how do you best round out where the overall use cases are going to shine? And then start looking at what are the communities that you can start to tap into?

Jared Fuller  15:48
That this is, this is not what I was expecting. I like you're giving a TED talk right now on, like, some really good partner philosophy on identifying Tam, but I thought this was going to be about how to generate reports based on account demographics. Yeah. So let's, let's translate that, like what you've just given was gold. I'm, I love the philosophy on how to identify this. And I think a lot of it's going to resonate with a lot of people. let's translate that into, you know, what we think of traditional offices like that needs to populate an account list somewhere that says, you know, a partner prospect, how do you move from that philosophy to like, Hey, here's that, you know, account list, so to speak.

Matt Irving  16:28
Yeah, yeah. And the reason why I gave that as kind of a precursor is like, if they'll build with the end in mind, where your customers been, right? Where, where's that big ecosystem? If that's the end, work your way backwards? And so and so? Yeah, absolutely. I think the key, the key strategies can be helpful, and, you know, have a good idea of like leading indicators and lagging indicators along the way, will help you adjust and pivot. So very, very carefully, like, Who are they? What are the key accounts that we're working with? And what are the user records associated to it, that kind of help you start building out a, an account profile or account map? Who's connected to your core customer? And where are they winning? I think it knows that that allows you to start building out kind of a lead list of your the people that are within the ecosystem of who's directly work with my client. Maybe maybe another way to think about this are like concentric circles. So who are the people directly connected to my core customer? All right, awesome. secondary source? What are kind of the use cases that you're seeing in that? So like, econ might be a good a good example of, for WordPress, like we look at where we connected with Shopify ecosystems, with big commerce with Wix community with Whoo, all all different types of sources out there? Who are those like top 100 agencies and partners that live in that ecosystem? In any con? And then maybe that's a secondary source, the third source and interpret like leads, or potential partners that you'd want to go work with? Who what are the services that those econ partners are providing? Just only happen to be doing that in econ? So who's doing you know, that typical type of econ work for corporate communications clients or for crisis management sites, like who those players, and, you know, for, for us like that, that really kind of helped us start looking at, alright, outer edge of big service providers, and I'm not worried as much about use cases. Those are people like I want to start building out account based marketing campaigns around, I want to start thinking about my event strategy, I want to start thinking about thought leadership, how do we get them thinking about WordPress? And how do we think about how do we help them narrow in a use case and help them with overall at the end of the day, what you're boiling down to is, how do you help all of these people with pattern recognition, and they see a client they think of you? And so ABM on the outer edge? What are direct relationships that we can start going on as a secondary layer? And then thirdly, for the people that are directly connected your customers? How do you really go tell this customer use stories together? Where do you go join alongside them where they're doing services, that really kind of helps round out like, it's not going to be a partner account manager type of strategy, because I can be primarily content is a kind of a one to many type type of thing, that that kinda helps you kind of back into your engagement style. And then at the very end of the day, you'll you'll see that, you know, revenue will kill most ones. And so you know, more of those wins that you start getting together. You almost think about it in terms of getting finer and finer detail on a camera, like more revenue. These are the use cases we win with. These are the use cases we win with sometimes these are the use cases we really can't speak to, how do we double down here on this ecosystem that we can win an influence and then we can make a decision on the third if that's something that we want to get into or not. So

Jared Fuller  19:55
you're mad, this is awesome. This is this is so great, because you're You're talking about some things that are very important. I'm assuming you're on Salesforce.

Matt Irving  20:05
Yes. Okay,

Jared Fuller  20:06
so let's let's translate this into Okay, given what you've just said, what I intuited from this is that you might need to have let's call it partner types, like you have different types of partners, and they're going to have different journeys associated with them in different resources, different expectations in terms of the lifecycle. Talk to me about that, like, do you have partner type setup, you know, in your in your operational, you know, kind of Salesforce etc?

Matt Irving  20:30
Yeah. So so we we effectively look at it in terms of what are the buckets that people can sit in. So the Premier Li a technology of integration, some some, in addition to our overall product and service offering? secondary source would be like, who are affiliates or partners, in different use cases that kind of fall into that, but I really focused around the ninja duration, and then are, you know, most SaaS companies agency, in agencies often really kind of have like a really overused term, very loosely defined. crostini had a really good article around like, what you mean by agency like, are we kind of stuck with the same thing. And, and fundamentally, I think the four WP Engine, we often think about, who is representing the client, at the end of the day, there's some third party service provider between us and the client. They may own the relationship, they may refer the relationship to us, but they're somehow involved representing that client. So our agency types, let's kind of dive a little bit into what their journey looks like. So from the very outset, we display to our agencies, let's say that they're just coming to our website to learn. So there's no previous relationship there. We put out a lot of content that talks about how agencies work with their clients in WordPress. And specifically, what types of use cases are they winning with? What are like services that they can take up to their clients. So one of our biggest pieces of content is our, our site speed optimizer. So basically just looking at like, what our overall page loads, like how performant is the site. And agencies love this, because it's a great resource they can take out to a client, like you think of HubSpot had a great tool with the marketing greater website, putting your URL kind of lists out, you know, what's wrong? In I remember, even as a freelancer, like, I use that as a tool of No, show it to another client like, right, and marketing can be a thing. And so it kind of that speed that that WordPress to the tool is a big one. So we we guide them a bit of an understanding your own like, Alright, these are the types of clients that one with WP Engine, then we we present to them bit basically through our application process and through their content, like these are the ways that typical agencies work with you. So you can almost think of that as pattern recognition of like, Can I get fit for WordPress? Like, how Where do my services kind of align in this? Like, what kind of projects Could I pull off? effectively, like, what are agencies that look like me, then they go through a an overall application process to just join the program, the cost or anything like that, it's more of just a way for us to be to understand a little bit more about the agencies behind the application. And then, and then it's really just trying to kind of feel out, like, what's the best way that we can support a partner, our, if you boil down like every program and everything that we do, in terms of working with any third party, we want to support as many third parties with as many skews with as little friction as possible. Those are kind of the three core items that we want to kind of check off on kind of in your relationship that we're going to work with? And then Does that answer the question? Are we better together than then if we work independently with a customer? Does the services combined does that round out at an incredible awesome experience for core customer for their solving for, and we see this in SMB, and we see this all the way up to the enterprise

Jared Fuller  24:10
at that inbound applicate. to to to kind of quick questions here.

Do you have

Jared Fuller  24:16
whatever role title they are partner sales managers or channel account managers, hunting new partners? And then do you have them that are also you know, vetting and qualifying and signing up new partners from that application process? Do you have headcount associated with that?

Matt Irving  24:28
Oh, yeah, yeah. So we have more more kind of like a CR function. That's, that's taking those down. Or it may just even be just part of our partner success team. Seeing thinking that is like questions about the program to constantly thing. Who else is on the other side of this? What What does this program mean? We kind of divvy it out of like, Is there a conversation you can talk to a client or is there a conversation about a partnership, the conversation about a partnership, we drive them in the partner work if it's about client German sales work? All of that basically creates a record in, in Salesforce at an account level for for us like once they're approved as partners. And then we start giving them we we do kind of an evaluation with an SDR with with, with our sales org of like, Hey, tell us a little bit about your, about your agency, what are you solving for? We give them means through like things like deal registration, like they're looking for help in CO selling or anything like that. Essentially, like, what through the first like, matter of days, as they're going in through their first days with us as a partner, we're really kind of showing them here, the ways that we can work alongside you, if you just want to refer customers over we have a dedicated link for you standard affiliate model, it will will help your club close clients.

Jared Fuller  25:52
Okay, I want to pause here because this is interesting. So you're not necessarily super qualifying at the top of the funnel like, here's exactly what you have to do. You're more opening it up. And then you're giving them options and kind of educating in that partner onboarding of like, Where might you fit in? That kind of dictates what happens downstream?

Matt Irving  26:12
Exactly, yeah. And in the big thing that we're helping them understand is, again, like, we're going to partner, how do you want to partner? Where can we best help you? Where can we best be a resource together?

Jared Fuller  26:24
How is this taking place? Is this taking place inside of like email journeys, or inside of like a PRM slash, you know, kind of partner Academy, so to speak?

Matt Irving  26:36
it? Yeah, it's both. So we do email journeys on top of our partner relationship management system, big shout out to all down. And we leverage all bound, basically, is kind of that interlink between us and our third parties, drive them through educational tracks around like, how do you work with WP Engine? What are ways that you can work with WordPress or case studies that you can have, essentially just giving them lots of material for for them to just interact with. And then that sort of kind of working its way through of how can we best work together, so may have cases where they already have existing customers, we're just going to give them visibility to that. They can provide more upsell retention opportunities, we just kind of collaborate with them that way. That's one side of the equation. On the other side, it's more kind of just straight up demand generation. So they, they effectively want to link, they're providing maybe conversion rate optimization services, but they don't really get the hosting conversation. So they just kind of refer that out. So we give them the link and then a monetization path of just just a standard referral fee. And then for the people in the middle of doing services and like wanting to do Cosell, we get the means to do things like your deal registration, or ways to work with like a dedicated account manager. That way we can kind of come together to go speak to the different parts of the statement of work.

Jared Fuller  27:57
And you're bringing that, you know, kind of partner account manager into those conversations, then when they're identified at that stage of the funnel.

Matt Irving  28:04
Exactly. Yep. And then we kind of size it up between what is the level of sophistication and size of an agency and their types of clients like more kind of enterprise, versus, you know, one of many who may just be using other ones?

Jared Fuller  28:18
Who's making that decision? Do you have like a partner deal desk, so to speak? Like,

how's that

Jared Fuller  28:23
being assigned out? I'm curious.

Matt Irving  28:25
Yeah. So So I mean, everyone has like different ways of doing proxies on this like, for, for us, we kind of look at it in terms of how long is a partner have been in business? How many people do they have on their team? So like employee count? What are the types of services that are getting involved in, you can start to kind of tell what the specification is going to be on client based on like, their overall interactions. And then we also just by virtue of being in space, and in being able to collect a lot of data on this, like, we we also have a really good idea of a lot of these accounts. So who were kind of these named accounts, named third parties that we would love to work with.

Jared Fuller  29:08
They get assigned, you know, yep. If they're not named, then it's vetted by kind of someone on where they should go, if they raise their hand.

Matt Irving  29:15
That's exactly it. So it's a good mix between tech lead and people supported versus named account strategy, which is like people learn in tech support. And I think that's, that's a good operating framework to start thinking about if like, your, the level of sophistication like the level of a partner, like if it's going to be pretty deep, like what does it look like for you to dedicate the resources, read off that partner? And then, you know, as partners continue to work with us, like I love the way that you're talking about overall partner adoption in their journey or your ability to partner together as like a that grows at NASA in terms of sizes of customers and the number of customers then we're applying more research, more resources to it. What are co marketing opportunities for telling use cases? What are things that we could go do in terms of events together? What are different things that we could do together in terms of cross training multiple of their offices. And so that's kind of how we start thinking about like, the greater the engagement and the greater adoption, the more resources were giving in put alongside them versus those who don't really want a lot of resources? How do we just lower that bar friction for them to go consumers, however that they prefer? And then intraspinal support them along the way?

Jared Fuller  30:32
So another question around that. And I don't want to go down this rabbit hole if that is the case, but is that tiering related? Is that is that kind of tier related? Where you have like silver, gold, platinum, whatever? Or is that more bespoke? Like do you have published tiers and like, Hey, if you're here, you're this and you get these opportunities. If you're here, you get this and you get these bigger opportunities.

Matt Irving  30:54
Yeah, yeah. So So I would say it's tied to here. It's not it's not it's not necessarily one to one there. There are lots of third parties who have never worked with us that we that would require a lot of sophistication. So think like a big global size, like that's a different kind of use case. But for the for the majority of our kind of third party relationships our tears release are related to consumption. So as they drive more monthly reoccurring revenue that we're driving together, they're accelerating through our tiers. We have three tiers that are just based on on overall MRR consumption. Right and and we just added layer on services as they move on and through throughout those tiers.

Jared Fuller  31:37
Okay, fantastic. I think that's even having three and a simple Mr. Consumption based models great for you know, basic tearing structure. We'll we'll do an episode at some point on how to craft the perfect tearing program and right incentives. But that's a whole thing done unpacked by itself. Sure. Yeah. In Pete we've had peed on Pete's done it about as good as anyone at HubSpot right like HubSpot steering programs, really? How do I know this? I've talked to the partners, and they're really trying to make that next year, right? The CEOs, like really care about making that next year. So that's kind of like, you know, that they found the Goldilocks zone there of what makes a great tiering program. Let's let's move beyond kind of partner acquisition and into that kind of activation phase. Because I think you've done a good job in a level setting how partner option Think about this, I think, and we haven't talked about specific sales force reports or anything. So I love it. I think partner ops people or sales ops, people that are trying to figure out partner ops will get gain a lot from the the first part of this conversation. What about activation? So you they fall into their various buckets, the resources that should be assigned, you know, are assigned? Let's start with, what does that snapshot of reports kind of look like? Like,

Hey, where's

Jared Fuller  32:53
our ecosystem at of like, we've got acquisition, that's happened, we have these new partners that are sitting in onboarding, activation, some stage talk through how you get visibility on that to your partner organ, the rest of the business?

Matt Irving  33:10
Yeah. So So I think, like, from a from a very top line perspective, the the one thing that you want to look at our How many? How many relationships? Do you have that have turned? How many partners do you have? That can be a bit of a vanity metric, if you don't really tie it to like real things? Right? So great relationships?

Jared Fuller  33:29
You mean? How many? So you have partners, and then accounts that those partners have relationships with?

Matt Irving  33:35
No, like just direct relationships with a third party? So how many people are you partnered with?

Jared Fuller  33:41
So it's a number of number of partners that are signed, so to speak?

Matt Irving  33:45
Yeah, so I think it's like sign partners at the top. We, we think of it. So we're going to kind of talk about this kind of botai model. So in is actually a framework I use internally. So at the very left, so let's kind of define both bounce. So on one side, you have people that you're aware of. So you're doing list building, and you're doing look alike audiences your money out who would be great partners, but you have no relationship with them. And then on the flip side, you have your fierce advocates, your want your one to many relationships, they're predictable, they're scalable, they drive consistent relationships. They're at the top of your tier, like it's right. So one of the things that we built in terms of the activation layer were what are the leading and lagging indicators for each of these stages that we would look at? So people that we identify, do we have a lead record in Salesforce? Are they part of an ABM campaign? What does that look like? So that's kind of one stage. The next stage would be who are third parties that we've interacted with, but we've never closed the deal together. And so do they have a an account basis? are they connected to a current customer but we just don't know them? pause there.

Jared Fuller  34:58
I'm gonna keep doing this because there's you're just Dude, you're giving away too many secrets and too much good stuff. When you say, do they have a relationship with a customer that we're not aware of? Is that using, you know, maybe logins into like a customer portal or something? or How are you identifying that,

Matt Irving  35:14
that that might be a piece of it, it really how that happens is you may have a, you may have had just a direct client relationship that came up your sales team, you signed the client directly. And then over time, that client then brought in a third party to go manage a specific function or use case, that partner is now working with you and on the platform, but they weren't involved in the deal. So neither influenced or sourced from from the partner what you won here,

Jared Fuller  35:41
they were, like independent, they, but they were involved. So I'm gonna give a quick tip, because I love that you said this. Kevin lenahan on my team, what he does every week now, is he listens to Gong calls for the word agency.

Matt Irving  35:56
Oh, nice.

Jared Fuller  35:57
Yeah, legit, like tip you can take away, right. And he's found several key partners that we flipped turned into partners, and we now doing account mapping with and we're activating, because they were talking to, you know, a customer success, you know, team member or an account executive, they were involved in a deal, but not in any official capacity. So that's one way is like they're working somewhere else. The other way would be just kind of the holy grail, like they're in a customer's account, but you're not aware of, like, literally logged in, like, you know, operating drift or WP engine or some software. So I was just curious how you are identifying that.

Matt Irving  36:30
Yeah, and, and, and that goes back to like, we're across the customer journey can third parties interact with you. And, and so again, like in that second stage of like, they're connected to a customer, or they may have sent over a customer for whatever reason, or it sent over a prospect for whatever reason been closed? That's kind of a good category of people that you can flip pretty quickly. And become the next phase is like, who are people that you have active pipeline, or people who are trying you out? effectively, that the center of that botai, where both sides can come into play? is how do you get them to their first one, if you get them to their first win? With a little bit of friction as possible? That's kind of a game changing moment, because then you can always reference back if like, here's where we work together. Here's what this look like. Here's the types of projects that we work on. One of the downsides of account mapping, or is like, Hey, here's all the different ways that we could work together. And it's like, well, how would we do that? Or are they ready for it, or whole myriad of questions around what the engagement would look like, for getting them to that first one is a big is a big one. The next stage off of like, first one, we actually will look at in terms of like, what's what's like their next consumption path with us like they used, they just threw kind of a customer over the fence or conducted a customer journey with one of our sales folks, that was great, how do we get them involved in like a co selling opportunity or a deeper use case or something like that. And again, we're just trying to get more pattern recognition, more wins together, and better ways to work work with one another. And then kind of that last phase are like, Who are the people with some frequency of adoption with us. So they're using their link X amount of times per quarter? Here, the amount of people that are working on an ongoing relationships here, the people we have active pipeline with. So if those are the stages, then we're from an operations perspective, as you'd imagine, managing and benchmarking time and each of those stages, benchmarking the level of effort of basically going through those stages, and effectively trying to move again, as many people to the left and all those people you're aware of, to people who are going to be strong advocates. And as you think like, on the further side of people that you're aware of, that's probably the most tech lead piece of the business around, like, that's account based marketing. And that's email campaigns. That's low touch from a people count perspective. And then as they move on through the series of adoption, your people who are widely connected like big advocates for you, man, that's where the whole breadth of the organizations coming alongside them. How do we help you understand your services? How do we help you understand your customers, we're What are ways that we could go tell that story together. And again, like your customers are at the whole center of it of like, not beacon of like this customer successful because these two entities partner together, and they're truly better together because of my story as a business as a customer. So you've you've kind

Jared Fuller  39:28
of built out then like on the acquisition side moving to the activation, the leading and lagging indicators of success, obviously, lagging indicators would be things like you know, registered deals right pipeline MRR right, that's this one, and then those leading indicators. Let's spend a little bit more time unpacking that because, you know, those leading indicators are you make them visible to the org. And then there's going to be channel leadership partner leadership that presumably needs to go build programs to impact those leading indicators. So this is training materials, these are events, these are whatever they are. Talk to me a little bit about those leading indicators for partner activation.

Matt Irving  40:09
Yeah, yeah. So on on like the first one, like what types? What, what? what's the what's the second category? Again, people that were connected to but we haven't had a win yet together. So what are the case studies that they run into? You mentioned like the use case of like listen to gun calls where like an agency is talking about, like on a customer success side, that you can then like, go go to the sales bell. Tickets are really helpful around this, like, do third party submitting tickets on behalf of their customers? What are they asking for? What types of things are they working on? Social is a big factor in this, like, Where are people at mentioning you? Where Where were you coming up in those customer case stories that helps them influence like, well, what are things that we can address? Or like, what are the things that we could go co collaborate with existing partner, so you kind of get both wins of highlighting the partner as well as kind of meeting that need? Or maybe things like what are what pieces of content that would then turn into like a full scale enablement and training program. So may have a partner that we have this a lot, like, may just develop, you know, themes or something like that. So they participate in because system, but they're not directly, like sending clients in or building a lot of services around it. Like they just want to produce themes. And so how do we help people kind of go solve for the question at hand. And so it might just be a question of what we have the content, which kind of directed them to it. Or we know this agency, and like, we would love to go work with them, fly someone out, or just even have a conversation or tried to an se. So either way, like, there's a lot of these moments for discovery of what someone solving for work can come alongside it. And that really helps provide like, if the leading indicator is like Zendesk tickets, then like maybe we got them to understanding to resolve it. And then to serve a conversation with our sales team. Like that's kind of the exit stage of of that second stage, we're talking about it, we've identified you, you are now curious about like another opportunity, or another customer or a current customer upsell, and getting you closer to that path of looking first of all.

Jared Fuller  42:29
So as we come towards the end of our conversation, let's be mindful of the time of year that we're in, a lot of companies are coming up on their end of fiscal year, right. And 21 planning is either, you know, they're either being delivered, partner leaders and partner organizations either being delivered a plan by the business, or they're being asked for kind of their plan and how it integrates. Talk to me a little bit about how you think about, there's kind of a couple different ways to think about this, but like capacity planning, like, where are we making investments in terms of we we're trying to drive this amount of revenue or outcome, but we need to make these investments in terms of resources like headcount. So in traditional sales, you would do things like productivity per rep, right? and work backwards in their funnel math of like, reps need to make a million bucks a year, here's how many ops right, like you just build that funnel map, talk to me a little bit how you've built that capacity planning for your partner organization. And maybe for sake of argument, just making it a little clear, like we can leave out the affiliate stuff, since that's just, you're probably very different. But let's say agencies, like owned accounts in partner land.

Matt Irving  43:33
Yeah. So so I think our partner account manager efficiency is a big one. So how many accounts can a partner manage? directly, before pipeline growth starts to decrease? As essentially, like, what's kind of the overall, like peak effectiveness in terms of the type of agencies that they're that they're working with? Or maybe even like, the number of agencies that they're working with? That kind of helps us start start to look at like, what's kind of the flex in our team? Like, what was that gonna look like? Maybe on the upper end, like, that's one to a few accounts. So if you think of like your super strategic alliance managers, everything's custom, there's only a handful of people that they're going to work with, but they're going to be wildly busy. And then we have kind of another tranche of like, are named accounts that it's one to maybe 50 to 100, that we're, yeah, we're trying to get them effective. But, you know, a lot of that really just kind of boils down to like, what's the typical bit of average revenue per project, we see what are typical volumes that we're seeing there. And then on our lower end, people who are managing maybe one to a couple hundred types of agencies, you know, what's the frequency of deal registration that's coming up? What's the overall amount of time pipelines been worked and for the close rates run each of those motions, and then pure programmatic and self serve. Like that's kind of its own thing. If we look at that more in terms of like, when does our NPS start going down, because it's where we're not able to really effectively can meet with a customer is what that looks like. So we can apply more resources there to go lift up ARPU to lift up, and all those good indicators and making those customers successful. So there's not really a simple answer to this other than, like, we look at partner consumption, we look at partner scoring with us. And then we look at where rep efficiency is. And that's where, you know, most partner out people that I know, are very integrated with essential business intelligence. We're a finance group and a sales group, basically look at where our partners most delighted, where our reps most efficient. And we're where our customers most happy in terms of leaving churn, that kind of gives you a really good indicator across all three spectrums of the growth equation that you can control in terms of demand, NPS and overall revenue. And then that kind of backs into like, well, how many people are going to need, we're going to look like, what's a time to productivity? What's our typical efficiency that we're going to look through. And that that helps us cry more than anything. In terms of us, like, we're working directly with our channel leaders, or like our existing partner, relationship management folks, our core sellers to see what that looks like. But it is definitely more interdependent. So we have like a very strong point of view of what the data looks like, what's the voice of a partner? What are the voices of agencies that we're trying to help them become partners, and then it will keep coming up the outside, we have customers that are successful with us, we have sales people that are efficient, we have partners at the, at the Foundation, that who are happy, everything else will work itself through our growth equation. Man,

Jared Fuller  47:04
this is like this has been the philosophy of partner operations with Matt and I've, I was not expecting this. So I said I was gonna bring the heat and you brought something very different to the table that I think our community is going to love. And Eric, I'm gonna send this to you, my partner ops guy, cuz he's, he's been awesome to work with. But I think there's a lot there's a lot of good lenses to view how you create the reports how you create the visibility, how you create the operating plan, we could have just sat here and talk this entire time on, you know, what those reports are, and how to build them, and how to how to manage that cadence and surface visibility to executives, here's how our program is doing. But absent that philosophy, who cares? What what really matters, if you're not measuring what matters. So before we part ways, I want to give another shout out to the cloud software Association, which is how you and I got connected. So go find them on slack cloud software, association.com join up. We'll also be doing like discussion groups around future pod so we can discuss things like you know, partner operations, and you know, we need to unpack partner operations even more around partner fiscal planning. You know, there's so much more to dive into here. And I and this has been like the curse podcast too, because Kevin's internet went down midstream on the podcast. So you haven't heard Kevin this entire time? He's like, what's happening me? Like, I can't get back online. So but we got you and me recorded. Matt, thank you so much for for joining up. any parting thoughts? Or philosophies that you want to paint for our for our listeners?

Matt Irving  48:39
Yeah, um, well, first off, thank you for having me. I think for any partner ops people, or if I think about the growth lead, who has now just been given to go figure out a partner program, where you're an intern trying to go figure out how this is going to go scale. If you're a pea, who's trying to go pitch this to Brian Halligan, back in the, in the old days of HubSpot, I'm just keep coming back to the question. Where are you better together with your partners than independently? And how do you make that just 1% improvement over time tracking what would make that quantifiable better, pull the quote qualitatively better. And you'll be in good shape over time. On the cloud software Association, if you're interested in like the nuts and bolts of reports, and and all the schematics and you really want to get into the ones and zeros on this. I'm actually doing a talk with the cloud software Association here in January as part of their overall sessions. But if you have questions along the way, I'm at Raider design on Twitter, Matt urban on LinkedIn, and definitely around in the interwebs. So reach out, ask questions, happy to be a resource anywhere I can.

Jared Fuller  49:47
That wasn't even planned as part of the sponsorship but I can't think of a better CTA to come join. The cloud software association is like if you want the ones and zeros come in January to my talk. So you want to get to the reporting and insights come join the CSA and check out Matt's talk with the CSA. So, if you haven't yet, make sure you like subscribe Apple, Spotify, leave us a comment on YouTube. And we will see y'all next week. Got a big one next week. Big Big one Global Head of BD at zoom. So if there's been a breakout company in 2020 zoom is right there at the top of the list. So we'll see y'all next week. Thanks partner community. Thanks, Matt. Thank you.

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