073 - Raining on the Partner Parade - It’s Not All Roses and What To Do About It, with Michael Cole

What is up PartnerUp!?

Partnerships are wonderful, right?!

Well, not always. In fact, sometimes it’s downright brutal. We can talk about how great the era of ecosystems is, but the day-to-day reality of partnership pros is no cakewalk.

Everflow’s Michael Cole joins us for real talk about the hard parts. But it’s not all gloom! We also discuss how to overcome the challenges, and the massive silver lining in the early innings of this era. We also discuss how to not waste time, why measurement is so hard, and whether partnerships should live inside of marketing.

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Full Transcript:

Jared Fuller  00:00
Oh I feel like that right there should have been the cold opener. Yeah, we're live. We're back. Actually, for those viewers and listeners, there was actually no interruption right. I think

Isaac Morehouse  00:24
it's mostly it's mostly listeners Gera. Let's be honest. We have very, very few people want to see our faces on YouTube.

Jared Fuller  00:30
Yep, that's true. Well, there is something coming on that there's partner up studios version two, where I actually have a couple of cameras and maybe some interactive stuff in the background that isn't just fancy. Lights, which will be more about this in a little bit. But what is that partner up? I'm back. I've actually been gone for a few weeks I've been in the feeds and the audio, of course, not video, according to Isaac, and everyone that knows the dozens of you that watch on YouTube. I'm excited to be back, I had my daughter Sophia. So a little bit more energized. Got some sleep on our belt. And I'm excited to be here today to get some real talk going with our guest, Dr. Michael Cole from everflo. What's up, Michael?

Michael Cole  01:14
Everyone. So I'm the Head of Marketing at everflo. We're a partner marketing platform. So we live and breathe this world. And I figure like, the best way for me to introduce myself to this community is by just being the negative Nancy who just the tent and makes everyone depressed.

Jared Fuller  01:35
Whoa, okay.

Isaac Morehouse  01:37
I'm really excited. I'm actually really excited about this episode, because, like, hey, let's get real for a minute. Because it's really like Jared and I are always talking everybody. Our partner hacker stuff is at a very high level about how how this era is the era of ecosystems and how like, Hey, if you're in partnerships, you're in the right place, this is where things are going, et cetera. All that's true. But it doesn't change the fact that it is a grind from day to day. In fact, I just had a call with with somebody a listener who reached out, shout out to Greg, Greg Wasserman, who just reached out and was like, Hey, I'd love to get on a call and just chat, I listened to your episode, where you're talking about your partnerships, failures. And he basically was just like, Dude, it's hard. I'm trying everything. I'm barely getting any traction, I don't have a lot of internal support. He's like, You guys, I love everything. You're saying it's inspiring. But then I turn around day to day, and I'm like, Man, this is a slog. So we're gonna, we're gonna get into some of that.

Jared Fuller  02:35
I think there's a lot of it that emanates from like, I don't know, the same way that you kind of introduced this topic, Michael of being the negative Nancy, if you will, or the negative Nic, or the Mad Mike, whatever you want to call yourself is like, I feel like it's two sides of the same coin. I was talking to a partner tech founder yesterday, who was saying like, look, it doesn't matter if you're selling into the channel world, or if you're selling into the partner world, we're experiencing different problems for the same reason. And if you're in the software, native space, so like SAS, right, there's no on prem, there's no kind of like it channel of old. What we're encountering is, okay, maybe there's this movement of people that are like, yeah, partnerships matter. But everything's still built for going it alone. Like, it's still built around the old construct. And if you're in this channel, old world, then it's built as an entirely separate independent business unit with its own p&l. It's like a walled garden, like it's completely boxed in. And to get to that next step, it feels like there's a lot missing on the front lines, like and we're hearing a lot about it. That's why the content is being consumed so much is that, you know, it's still hard out there, and then it's still hard out there and then feels man,

Isaac Morehouse  03:50
would you call it the meat grinder? Jared? Yeah,

Jared Fuller  03:52
the meat grinder? Shout out. Kevin Lenahan. Yeah, the meat grinder is what my team called it. Building early partnerships that drift?

Michael Cole  03:59
Yeah, one thing I just want to mention is like, just before I get into stuff, like the good parts about it is that like, the value of partnerships is crazy. I mean, for us, we're a bootstrap company, like 35% of all our inbounds are word of mouth referrals like that. echo chamber effect is like, super powerful. And the other thing that's really cool is that this is according to our head of partnerships. So he's a little bias in the data. But our retention from customers coming through partnerships is 2.2 times higher. So if an average customer was like 10 months, 22 months for that same customer like that is insane value. And this is kind of why I wanted to talk about some of these things that I'll get into a little bit later. It's like, this is why it matters is that if you are looking at just say the leads coming in from partnerships, you're only looking at like 30% of story like those same people are also way more valuable as customers than your other channels.

Jared Fuller  04:58
Michael, you're a head of marketing Why do you care about how long someone stays? I mean, that's normally. Sure, I'll hear See, my CMO, friends and Head of Marketing friends talk about lifetime value, right and retention rates over time, but it's almost lip service you lead with that is like the stat that mattered. I'm just curious why leave with that says I don't hear most marketers talk that way.

Michael Cole  05:22
That's fair. I mean, it's because it's a really good stat, to be honest. I would say that the thing with that is mostly like, it's just a reflection of the value more than like, you're right, I don't actually care that much about lifetime value. But I can tell you that that reflects that, like these referral type traffic, and the customers that become referral partners, all of these relationships we build, like, that word of mouth means that there's a lot more pipeline coming in. And because in our organization, marketing partnerships are the same division, like, anytime I get these high value, high pipeline type referrals, it makes me look way better at my own company. So that's where I think, as a marketing leader, it's very important.

Isaac Morehouse  06:11
Well, I mean, and to Jared, you know, this very well. Also, if you've ever worked at a company where customers love it, they're rabid about it. They're very loyal. It's so easy to be a marketer, they're the number of stories you get from your customers, the quotes, the social proof, the they geek out, when you when you come out with a new piece of swag, like your awesome everflo hat you've got there, you've got customers that are taking selfies with it, and like, that makes your job so easy. And that's related. That's that, you know, that's that stat about like, churn and customer. So there is there is absolutely a self interested reason that a marketer should care about some of those stats, even if they're not the KPIs necessarily, that they're accountable for. Just in terms of like, what you have to work with, what assets you have, your customers are part of your marketing, right. And like, if they're good, and they stay around a long time, and they love you, and they have a high, you know, NPS, whatever, everything gets easier.

Michael Cole  07:11
Yeah, I usually say like, if you want to be successful as like a marketing leader, make sure your customer success is great. Because everything looks good, if you have that incredible word of mouth. And I think what's cool about sort of like, the things that you guys have been talking about is that partnerships can build word of mouth outside of your own, like small world. And like, that is incredibly powerful.

Jared Fuller  07:38
I feel like we could get our own on our own hype train, you opened up with being Mad Mike. And now we're talking about all the great stuff that is coming from partnerships. So I want to I want to turn that hat backwards. Yeah.

Isaac Morehouse  07:49
Yeah, we can't we can't wait to rain on the parade. Now, it's like, yeah, that's great.

Jared Fuller  07:53
Give it a run on the parade that we started today, our own horn immediately. That's, I'll have another sip of Kool Aid, please. Do. You know there's there's some of that. So,

Isaac Morehouse  08:03
well, let's let's talk about what sucks. What sucks? I mean, what are the what are the things that are like the brutal realities of partnerships, you know, shit, that's not working, and that you're dealing with all the time.

Michael Cole  08:13
I think the main thing with partnerships, it's hard is that, like, it's really easy to waste your time and waste your team time. There's so many times, I mean, I think especially like, we have strategic partners, where they are perfectly aligned with us. Like, we know that their customers are the exact same as our customers, we go to the same conferences, this should be a slam dunk, and they are open to partnerships. And then nothing happens. You get past like five different people in their company, the person who is their partnership person will disappear one day, and then the next one will come and then they'll disappear. Like, it's really easy to waste your own time. And anytime there's any technical side to that, your engineering team is going to hit you really quickly if you're spending a lot of time and nothing ever happens from it.

Isaac Morehouse  09:05
You know, Jared, I've been meaning to ask you this for a long time. Because, as you know, when we when we first started talking about partner hacker, I was like, but I hate partnerships. You're like, What do you mean? And I was like, looking at my past experience. Anytime someone's like, hey, let's explore a partnership. My brain immediately says time waster. Because it's usually someone that's like, oh, in theory, I like what you do, or we have similar customers or we're in a similar space. We're not competitive. So let's just get on a phone call. And then we just talk and then we end the call and they're like, great, it'd be neat to do something together. And nobody knows what to do. And there's not an obvious thing, and it's just this. So I've heard your success stories. Jared of the panda doc partnership with HubSpot, and some of these epic moments. But you've gotta have a ton of time wasted calls a ton of exploration, a ton of running into brick walls. You're like there's two things right? There's the people that really want to work with you, but there's just not a there there. And there into your time. And then there's people that you know there's a there there, there's mutual value, but you can't get them to do anything. What like, what percentage of your time is spent on one of those two? Sort of negative difficult experiences versus those finding those wins?

Jared Fuller  10:17
Are we going to pivot to pivot me for the first time on this podcast from like the the soapbox that I love to stand on? And just so happy about this moment, too? Are we gonna date ourselves? Isaac with like, the Dear Abby columns? Do you remember those as a kid growing up? Absolutely. You're Abbi. It's like I needed some advice, like this bad thing happened. It's amazing how much of Survivor bias you can have. That's all start, right. There's like some survivor's bias. And there was a, I won't even mention the podcast, because it's so controversial, but I was listening to one last night is with a, someone that you definitely not follow. So I won't mention the person's name. They were talking about probabilistic thinking versus luck. Right. And it's like, I want to say that in a lot of ways, I was lucky. But the reality is the, if you think about it in probabilities, there's some probability that if you're finding and going through a bunch of partners in living in market, that you might find the one by spending the time that goes, Oh, holy shit, there's a there there, and it's big. And then there's a probability that you might go, I have to win this at all cost, right. But there's also the same probability that me I could have been in that exact opposite scenario where the probability was, I didn't find the one, I spent a ton of time in market, and I wasted everybody's time. I think I'm often known in those situations for someone that probably spends too much time on those things. So I think the thing that comes to mind for me is if I'm, if I'm an icy, like, first time partner manager, or I'm in partnerships, I'm sharing this with someone on my team that's in partnerships for the first time. I probably have the most guilt in my career, about putting partner managers on the front line with not knowing if they have the right list of partners to go after even, right like the partner.

Isaac Morehouse  12:11
And that's and that can demoralize somebody quick, you know, oh, it doesn't

Jared Fuller  12:15
demoralize them. I just messed up their career man. Like, as a partner leader, I went down and I built partnerships. First, I didn't just I didn't do this by like being hired to me like, hey, go figure this out. partner managers like I carry a quota. Isaac, you've seen this firsthand, I carry the quota. Before I give the quota to someone else. I've done that every company I've been at, I stand firmly by that, because if I can't do it, I can't ask you to do it. But then I like I do it. And then I pass them off. And I'm like, I kind of ate through like the best possible contacts and the best possible people, the best possible partners, where the heck are they going? And I think that is I mean, just because this is the first time I've really thought about it this way. There's a handful of people that I you know, I would apologize to today if they were watching the show, because I didn't figure it out for them. I really didn't. And it's so hard if you have a partner leader that's on one hand has something figured out on the other hand is like shit, they had some sauce. It ain't working for me those same partners, it that doesn't work for my field, the pitch and how they work. It's not working for me, like whatever playbook I had. wasn't working for them. And I really don't blame anyone other than myself. In that situation. So yeah, man, that's it's frickin hard out there. And that's why you know, Kevin Linehan, Bennett Boucher, Michel Aveni, shout out to some of the old drift partner crew, they referred to partnerships, getting it off the ground adrift as a meat grinder. That doesn't sound like a fun job, does it folks? Not at all. So I know what you guys are experiencing out there. And gals. It's, it's definitely hard. He's made me sad.

Michael Cole  13:54
So on a on a happier note, one, like, advice I would give, especially if you're starting a partnership team for the first time, is, rather than looking at strategic partners, always start with your biggest fans. Like, who are the customers are super happy. Just ask them for referrals, build some way that you are letting them raise their hand and be like, Hey, I do love your product. This other company would be a good fit for you here. Let me make an introduction. Because like, these are the easy wins. Like these are the ones that like the softballs. It doesn't require anyone else that your team like, but you need to have some process for asking.

Isaac Morehouse  14:32
Yeah, yeah. You know, just that whole question around. I was actually just talking to Jared about this earlier today around like, how to know when you're wasting time or when you're going in the wrong direction when you're new to something like you're thrown into partnerships for the first time. Like at first in any field, every potential activity seems equally valuable. So you just try everything, but then you Have to you've got to give yourself permission to do that. But then you have to kind of create a little rule for yourself. It's like, okay, after some amount of time, I have to start getting better at knowing what things I'm not going to spend time on. Like, it's like, it's like an analogue to when you're early in your career, just say yes to every opportunity. And then by the time you're late in your career, you should say no to absolutely everything unless it's an absolute hell yes. Right. And it's like that in any field that are microcosm, like, okay, all these partnering activities, I'm reaching out to all these, I'm trying this I'm trying to, and I was talking to somebody just the other day, who manages every kind of partner, integration partners tech, like they're the only person right and so to them, they're like, I don't know what's the most valuable, I'm just gonna do everything, right. And then eventually, you start to realize, Oh, got it, I can start to see a time waster coming, oh, I've tried that before. I know, it didn't work. And you just like, you have to start to get ruthless over time. And like, but but know that at first, you're gonna have to have some of that. That's just it's one of those really weird skills, trying to teach somebody if you've ever managed people, like, the difference between activities that are valuable, and those that are time wasting. So I don't know, I'm curious if either of you have have thoughts or tips on that, like, okay, it's great. When you first start out that yeah, of course, you're gonna get, you're gonna hit a lot of roadblocks, you're gonna have a hard time. But at some point, you got to develop that judgment muscle of like, sniffing out, this is the one that we drop everything to pursue. And these other ones don't matter that much. How do you how do you do that? How do you teach that?

Jared Fuller  16:27
Damn, that's a that's a hard one. But you might have just, you're gonna have to shut me up. Because you might have just touched on something that I think is like, that's where the art is. I just I'll do I'll do a self plug, because I just released my first ever like, piece on strategic alliances, so strategic alliances, partner up and play to win as part of the handbook as a previously unreleased chapter. So like this never seen the light of the day, I just hit it in the book. It's a 20 minute read. And in it, I write, basically, to the effect of this, Isaac, that I think startups in general, are the biggest victims to endless opportunity. Right, you get starry eyed syndrome. And then early salespeople, even you, you hear like, you know, phrases, like buyers or liars, or you'll have a sales manager from years of your who use a phrase like happy years, right? Hey, you have happy years, right? Partner, people absolutely have happier years. startup founders have happier sellers have happy years. There's something there, right? There's something calling to you. And it might just be the category, it might be the size of the company, it might be the persona, but you think this is it? And that's

Isaac Morehouse  17:41
where Imagine if we partnered with that Uber, we'd instantly be worth you know, it is I think you start to taste it. You know what I mean? Because whatever, you somebody, somebody followed you on LinkedIn, who worked there, and all of a sudden you're Yeah, like,

Jared Fuller  17:56
I think I think we're getting one layer deeper here, though. I actually how you asked me that question, like, I'm unpacking this a little bit more, is that founders have this opportunity, or have this same problem. But I think the partnerships people are perhaps the only ones duped more than founders. Right? So founders is like that one, hire that key customer, that vertical that feature that conference, that logo that design that whatever the heck it is? Isaac, you have no idea what I'm talking about right now. Because eyeroll have that face right there. Yeah, you get started I'd syndrome, right? Everything kind of becomes your baby and like Don't call my baby ugly, right? And in the partner land, you're so alone in that fight, and you don't have the authority. Here's the other thing. If you're the founder, people might just listen to you and be like, okay, yeah, that's great. I mean, you might take your company, but as a partner person, you, if it doesn't work, you're going to just get fired. You know, like, you don't get to have loss after loss after loss. You really have, you know, with every partner, you got one shot. And then as a partner manager, or first time partner exec, how many shots do you have for like putting your neck on the line and saying, Hey, this is worth investing in, you don't have that many? Maybe three, three strikes, you're out. Like if you really try to like rally the company around some sort of strategic partner initiative. Yikes.

Michael Cole  19:31
So I have three more positive points of advice on this. So first off, like, I think so much of why partnerships is become insanely hot, is because crossbeam and Reville. Like those two companies solve such a fundamental challenge of partnerships, like the ability to know when you connect with a partner, how many shared customers you have, how many of your prospects are their customers, that means you're talking in terms of like actions And you know who you're actually like creating your, your partnership and CO marketing towards, like, who's the audience? So I think that that solves a one piece to like, you should make sure I mean, as a partnership person, you're gonna run into this at some point, you're gonna have to start establishing guardrails, because you'll you'll burn through if you want to ask for integrations, you have to be very, very, tread carefully with your engineering team. Because if they build one integration where no one uses, they're gonna hate you. And three, like, you just got to test because if you can't find a champion, or I mean, you mentioned in an earlier episode, Jarrett, about like, just being willing to basically like, work harder and like, be willing to just like go all out, when no one else will go all out. Like if you're not willing to do that, and you don't find a champion, it's probably time to move on. Because it's either gonna be easy, or you gotta be willing to work harder than everyone else. And you can only work harder than everyone else on maybe one to two partnerships at best.

Isaac Morehouse  21:04
That's a great, that's a great. That's a great thought. Yeah.

Jared Fuller  21:08
That was the summary of I mean, the summary of the chapter is basically like, so what's the solution to all of this APA Ria, right? It's like, there's almost like no answer, because there really isn't like a tactical playbook. There is some art there for knowing how to size up partner opportunities. Like, yeah, there's then matrix, I wrote a big chapter on like a 20 minute read. But knowing how to not spend six months figuring out the same answers, but six minutes, 60 seconds, right, six seconds, like six seconds on the website? Nope, not worth our time. Like, I feel like that's where I'm at on strategic partnerships. Sometimes. It's really this, like, what's the solution? You can't build a partner ecosystem to me until you've won inside another partner ecosystem. Right? Like, quit trying to think that you need to derive value from partners until you have delivered value to partners. And it's like, well, wait a second. That seems backwards. Yeah, stop trying to make partners when inside of your quote, unquote, ecosystem until you have one inside of someone else's. And then guess what happens when you've done that inside of like, a juggernaut space, or at least a category leader, someone that's important to you, you know, what it takes for your partners to do the same thing inside of you. It's kind of like owning the number owning your own quota. And I think that, to me, is like why strategic alliances and startups are so important. You need to win there before you go and try to win 50 other partnerships. And that gives you like another microcosm of potential partners, their service partners, their tech partners, their consultants inside that other ecosystem that you can pick off a little bit more easy. Like, where I screwed up people's careers. If we want to talk real talk, like I screwed up people's careers. I did I messed it up. Like I took account executives and I put them into partnerships that were good account executives. Some some crushed it like Seamus McGrath shout out Seamus, like a drift. I mean, hit his number every month and every quarter for years, wild month, one fully ramped quota. month one, same thing with Bennett month, one fully ramped quota.

Michael Cole  23:20
And what would you say like why? Why were they amazing?

Jared Fuller  23:24
That's why I was tying back to, it's because we were winning inside of another ecosystem. So the the TAM of partners became very narrow and small, like we were able to leverage each win into another win, hey, we just pushed this integration update. Right? In it's, it's related to the service partners or agency partners, hey, we just got this call with the CEO of this other service company that you work with, we understand that they focus here, but you focus there, it seems like because of what we're doing here, you'd make a really important partner, they're like that conversation became so much more contextual in around them, versus the other conversations where I'd be like, hey, go attack Microsoft. And it's like, we're like waiting in Marketo. And then it's like, hey, this other person, like I pulled off a partnership or two. I'm like, yeah, we can go replicate this in Microsoft. No, we couldn't, we weren't ready. We didn't have that strategic alignment with Microsoft yet. So what we were doing within this other ecosystem didn't map apples, with apples to oranges and this other one. So I think that's what I mean by strategic alliances and focusing people in I mean, I don't know you kind of like open up this entire conversation and debate on like, how to know if there's a there there. If you're a great CEO, if you're a great partner leader, you put guardrails around that question, Isaac, you go like, hey, the whole universe is not full of possibilities. We're talking about the Adobe Creative Cloud, you know, ecosystem. And if they're not essential to that you're having a wrong combo. Yeah, I think that's the answer.

Isaac Morehouse  24:59
Michael, I would love to hear, especially from a marketing standpoint, where, you know, you're, you're looking at all this attribution. Jared said, hey, look, you only get so many shots, you know, so many losses before you get fired, right? So you're, you're failing at getting some partnerships. And so you're, but what if you're actually succeeding? But it's not getting counted? Because I hear that, like, that's an issue, right? You're not getting credit? Because things are so complex. Now we talk about influence. What does that mean, right, you've got, you've got all this stuff going on, and your partnership efforts, maybe they're actually really paying off. But they're getting mis attributed, because people's behavior doesn't map to exactly a process that's easy to track, they go off and do something else, and then they enter through another channel or whatever. How do you how do you think about that? Because of course, from a manager standpoint, someone's like, oh, no, the work I'm doing is actually really valuable. It just can't be measured, right? And then you're always like, you're going to be skeptical. But on the other hand, it's true in this complex ecosystem, how do you how do you properly look at? You know, like, what do you tell those partnership, people who are like, Hey, I'm actually I firmly believe that I'm creating wins, but it's not showing up in the data. So I'm not going to get credit for it. What do you do there?

Michael Cole  26:18
Yeah, I think it's always going to be a challenge, and nothing's going to ever be completely perfect. But I think, and this, one of the interesting things about this is it applies to more than just like these, like strategic partnerships, even like affiliates, influencers, articles, content, all these other things that are in between marketing and partnerships. It's the same issue. Content influencers, these are top of funnel, a referral partner, they may be top of funnel, it's someone who's learning about your brand for the first time. They're not, they're not coming to your website to buy, they are learning about you being like, Oh, this is really interesting. And say, they are actually being like, Okay, I could actually use this, what are they gonna do, they're going to leave, they're gonna go to like GE, to, they're going to go to these other review websites are going to want to do their own research before they make any decisions. And I think, a big challenge. And the problem when partnerships is siloed, from marketing, is if that user goes and does research, and then they click on a paid ad, or they come through some other marketing channel. And then they sign up for a demo, at that point, attribution is going to say like, Okay, this email, this email came from paid ads, they deserve all the credit, the partnership person brought in the trust, they brought in someone who is learning about your brand for the first time, which is really high value, and you're not giving them credit in that situation. So the way I like to think about it is that you should be looking at things that are not just your leads and pipeline, like those are very important. And that's how you evaluate the quality of partnerships is who like how the pipeline progresses. But you want to look at engagement metrics before that, like things, do they visit your pricing page? Are they checking out white papers, newsletters, etc. These are all engagement metrics. And if you have a partner who's sending you like, say, 50, user clicks, like a month, and those users are not signing up for demos, but they are like checking out a ton of your website. These are all super viable signals that say either they're driving really engaged users and aren't ready to buy right now. Or maybe there's something else very wrong. And those users are like, the accountant at that company, and they will never be interested in your product. And you have to think about like, Okay, we need to have a conversation about how we can actually start talking to the right people. On both sides.

Isaac Morehouse  28:44
It's it's funny, because there's this thing where like, if you ever heard anybody say, Oh, you guys are everywhere? Like, have you ever had that experience at a company, we've definitely heard that with partner hacker who do a lot of content, right? That's like a sign that because you're your customers, you want them almost like wrapped in this blank everywhere they go. And they keep bumping into you directly or indirectly, okay, they see an ad or they see some content you put out, but then they're talking to somebody at another company, and they happen to mention you, and then you get like, and if you do it, right. It's like attribution starts to almost matter less, because you're like, we're surrounding our customer. They're we're living in their ecosystem, as Jared likes to say, and anyone who is a part of making that happen, should be a part of the credit for that right process. And I know that's it's tricky with the measurement, but just kind of putting on that framework, like, what are they bumping into all along the way? And who's a part of that and just, you know, other companies saying that we integrate with them? Oh, they did a they did a joint event with this company. Cool. That raises them in my mind because I like that company, right? Like, all those parts. All those steps along the way are so important, and I think that's the era that we're we're starting to move into is, can we start to actually measure that more accurately? Can we start to dial that in? And I think that's like what's about to be unlocked. That's my gut.

Jared Fuller  30:10
What I want to tie together what Michael said early in what you just said Isaac Mather, you, you gave some kudos to crossbeam. And reveal, right, because of that kind of data layer. And Isaac, it's kind of like, this isn't from the partner hacker manifesto. This is when we said, look, there was kind of like four eras that we could think about in terms of like modern commerce, right brand era, no data, no data and the brand era, like you can't attribute anything. It's just, you know, direct display, Billboards, radio, TV print. And then there was kind of like this sales digitization era where we were able to at least get things digitized, where there became data. So I call it the the sales, digitization era, then there was this marketing automation era where everything can be automated and attributed. It's not just about automation, it's about attribution. And like, creating insight from that data, data profiles, retargeting, like the automated side, and then we're emerging into this partner ecosystems era. And I feel like that same cycle is repeating itself. No partner data, right? That's the brand is like the, in the partner era emerging. There's no partner data. Well, how could you attribute anything if there's no partner data? Like none, like trust is the new data isn't saying all data is evil?

Isaac Morehouse  31:27
That's the era where it's based on going golfing, you know that that's the golf course. It's where it's happening.

Jared Fuller  31:33
Right? Right, that Martini lunches are what happened, right? So it's happening again, where like the next thing that needed to happen in order for attribution to really make it there was this partner data layer. When I saw Bob Moore speak at the cloud software associations conference this year, and he was talking about throwing the first pitch of the first inning. Right, you know, it's for the people that actually watch it on YouTube. It's this book, right, the cold start problem, Andrew Chen, like that book is a big deal. If there is no partner data, there is no network of people sharing that data. How do you attribute it? Which kind of leads me to like the negative spot, that kind of like we all feel is like, Well, how do you measure it? It's like the world is still built. On this going it alone. It's kind of how we open this right, the entire Mar tech stack 10,000 companies are built on the premise that you don't work with your partners. Why? Because they only have access to one database. Yeah. It's wild. What's about to change? It's absolutely wild. So I think, you know, we started off with a little bit of negativity, be some negative nancies, some mean mics, or whatever it was. But you know, it's definitely definitely never been a better time to be in partnerships than being at the seat in the midst of this change.

Michael Cole  32:57
I know right now, it's insane. Like, just the just, there's investor interest everywhere. Like we're getting like giant companies just reaching out of the blue and being like, Hey, we've heard of you, we're actually just gonna do a huge partner marketing push for next year. Do you want to build like a high end integration with us and like, these are some of the biggest companies in the space, like, right now is insane to be in partnerships. And it's always good to be in the sort of Gold Rush periods where everyone's rushing, and there's so much opportunity, and that with opportunity comes money, and it's a good time to, to stake your claim right now,

Isaac Morehouse  33:36
Michael, I want I want you to make the case, because you've mentioned you mentioned in passing just a minute ago, I want you to make your case for why partnerships should live inside the marketing. Org.

Michael Cole  33:49
Sure, yeah. So one of it is the attribution challenge. So I mean, I know you've talked about attribution in the past to like, it will never be perfect. And what you really want attribution to do is help you make good decisions. One of the things that I like on like tracking attribution is like, part of like, our own sales pitches, just like have everything in the same place with the same metrics and signals. So you can basically treat certain channels and partners differently. Like if you know, that partners driving engagement, they should be first touch attribution, which means that like, if they send a user, I don't care if they went through paid ads, and went through all these other review websites, and all these other things that could have been tracking, I'm gonna give them credit because I know that they're valuable. And I don't care if it's imperfect, I just want to make sure that I am rewarding this partner because strategically, at the end of the day, like this relationship matters, and I want them to feel the value and reward of that. So I think that's one piece. So what I like about having under marketing is if you don't have any marketing, you're gonna have silos of all these differ In channels, and you're not going to build a and then everyone's gonna be arguing about who gets credit like, is it the salesperson? Is it the partnership person? Is it your demand gen person or your content person, if you have everything tracked in the same way, and you're all you're looking at the same signals, it really lets you sort of like appreciate these different channels for what they are, and see things that, like I mentioned earlier, like, if you start doing it this way, you're gonna realize it like you and your organic traffic, people that are actively seeking you out there, like, post customer metrics are going to be lower than your referral partner. So things like expansion, are they upgrading other modules? Are they becoming annual plans? It's gonna be higher with partners, retention, are they going to be lasting longer? All these things are super valuable. But if you're not looking at that whole picture, and not seeing like, Okay, what does a partner referral mean, versus my Google Ads referrals? Like you're missing out on that. And the other piece of that is, in that situation, like, you may only get two referrals from that referral partner. But if that referral partners, referrals are worth 10 times a value, that partner is extremely valuable, even if they're like a mom and pop agency that just trained someone really well, it makes him successful. So this is where it gets really important because like, without comparison, none of this data means anything. It doesn't doesn't at all,

Isaac Morehouse  36:28
I think it'd be fun at some point, Jared, you telling me if this would be interesting to have a little, I don't know, like a debate or a point counterpoint where we've got somebody arguing for partnerships living in the sales org, somebody in the marketing or, and somebody's like, hey, it needs to stand up on its own and not live under either these. I just, it's interesting. This is kind of like a thing that I've heard it just this week, I've heard you're the third person that I've heard say it's got to live in marketing. I don't know if I've just been talking to marketing leaders disproportionately, or what but I find that to be kind of an interesting conversation.

Jared Fuller  36:57
I mean, this is my thoughts are in the partnerships department. It's not a department.

Michael Cole  37:07
I think that's fair. And I think it's also just like, there should be no silos in these companies like sales and marketing are supposed to be friends, not enemies, where they shouldn't be fighting for credit anyway, it's just that you have to have like something that everyone agrees upon, as like the rules of engagement. And like, what makes every division look good in the company. So they're not like school,

Jared Fuller  37:28
I'm gonna challenge you on that, Michael, give me an example of where a marketer should live in the sales team. Give me an example where a salesperson should live in the marketing team. It doesn't really make sense. But it makes sense for a partner person to live in the marketing team, it makes sense for partner person live in the sales team, in the product team in the success team, right. So that when I say in the partnerships department, I feel like the marketing and sales analogy, right? Like, of course, they're supposed to be friends. But the department functions are useful because I don't want salespeople writing my marketing copy. And I don't want my marketing people trying to sell people, they are slightly different. Whereas I do need a partner function in each of those departments. And that's why I say in the partnerships department, it doesn't matter, like who is the Executive owner to me, as much, as long as the entire company has that overlay? Right? Like you could have the SVP or VP of partner, whoever the heck report to the CEO or the CRO or the CMO. It doesn't matter to me as much I feel like the overlay is more important than who it rolls up to. Although I would agree, how can you have a marketing department if you don't prioritize what's happening in the market? And that's typically where partners are. So if I could pick CMO or CRO I'd pick CMO.

Michael Cole  38:42
Yeah, I think that's a good point. But I would say that even like with the sell side, like you want to give your sales team the ability to say Mark, when there's like referral partners and stuff like that, like it's important that every single person like how they are, like, measured and judged. They have a way to sort of like update something that will then be seen by partnerships, and will be seen by marketing, if you don't have that sort of like alignment between the three divisions. Like, you're going to come up with a lot of like internal struggles in politics. So that that's my main point is like, you want the same conversation between all teams. The same language? I

Jared Fuller  39:24
I definitely agree with that, you know, obviously any of these things that we're talking about, like they're not a panacea, right. Like it isn't a one size fits all solution at the end of the day. I think the thing that we cracked a little bit in this episode for like the folks that are hitting, you know, hitting the wall in partnerships right now, despite the energy and enthusiasm in the wider community in the moment is, if you don't feel like you have good guardrails, they probably aren't there. And that that itself is a problem that is probably the most pervasive one in all of the land like the attribution problem and these other problems is like Look, if you're having problem justifying your partnerships from like an attribution standpoint, for getting investment in budget, you're at least winning. And you might be encountering a fundamental like, our entire stack isn't built for this, how we build financial models isn't built for this. That's gonna take time. Regardless, it's hard to fight that battle, you're just in a hard spot, but you're on the right path. You have truth and honesty and results on your side, and you're going to win and you have wider ears than you've ever had to that message. So like right now, I'd much rather have the same hard conversations that I had two years ago. Oh, my God, I'd love to have those conversations today. Two years ago, it was like, we're not paying sales reps on partner deals. Full stop. And I'm like, Oh, you don't know how much we're going to fight over the next quarter. We're going to have a lot of conversations, you think that's the way it's gonna work? It's not gonna work that way. And I'm going to annoy you to the end. It's like I had to sign up for that I had to be the most annoying, hated person in every ops meeting, until it was like, Okay, we're paying salespeople.

Isaac Morehouse  41:05
So, so here's what I'm hearing, here's my takeaway from this conversation, that partnerships isn't any easier than it used to be. It's really freaking hard, really hard. But there's a really awesome, there's a really awesome reason to stick with it. It's growing, the tech is getting better, the support is getting better the knowledge, the learnings. It's like, we're so early. And I think human beings, like don't feel happy. If they're not struggling, they don't have a challenge, challenge and struggling is okay, struggling, without meaning without purpose. There's no reason when their struggle doesn't contribute anything. It's like you're just having a hard time for no particular. And that's what humans can't handle. So the good news is, yeah, what you're doing is really frickin hard. You're gonna struggle in your partnerships, but it's hard in the right direction, you're right in the right place at the right time. It's like being in rocketry, right? You know, in the in the 60s, it's like, yeah, it's just as hard as it's ever been. But you're at the right place at the right time. Because it's about it's about to go to a whole new level, right? Like, the technology is coming out, like you're in the right spot at the right time. So the so taking away that lesson that that optimism with you that like it doesn't necessarily make what I'm doing any easier. But it makes sort of the meaning and the impact. It's nested in something much bigger. You know, I'm a part of something that's actually happening here. And like, it's going to start to get easier as the tools develop, and more and more attention is focused on it. That's what I'm hearing.

Michael Cole  42:36
Yeah, one of the things I say on it is that the other piece of this is just the fundamentals, partnerships, and especially referrals from partners is the highest value type of like, lead you can receive. Technology just helps you prove that to your team and show you where to scale it.

Jared Fuller  42:56
i Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And it's just following the same layers of you know, the sales, digitization, the marketing automation, like we're now getting partner data, companies like everflo are then able to actually run partner like marketing that where there is some next best action, like, automation doesn't have to be this AI like everything's predictive and figured out. It's just like, what happens next? Like, what happens next? For most of the marketing world, when a partner is involved? There is no what happens next. Like, it's like, okay, cool. We did this thing. What happens next with all these partners, nothing. It's like right there. It's right now like we're seeing it being built. It's a good time to be in partnerships. It is. I love it. Well, we took a negative route. We did some real talk. And then we came full circle. Isaac, what are we got plugged wise for coming up in partner hacker land?

Isaac Morehouse  43:49
Oh my gosh, I can bet we have. We have so much going on. We have just ridiculous amounts of stuff going on. I'm really excited. September's gonna be crazy. So we just we just dropped our handbook. If you haven't checked it out, you gotta go check it out. It's right on the homepage, partner hacker.com. You can click and see the handbook. It's free PDF, HTML, but it's also on Amazon. Just at cost. We're not making anything off it. It's just to fulfill it and print it. And we dropped that thing Darren and like within the first four or five hours, it was the best seller in its category on Amazon. So that's a while thank you for ecosystems anthology of partnerships handbook.

Jared Fuller  44:26
Thank you everyone. I'm going over to my bookshelf to grab a copy. So partner hacker handbook for the dozens of you that watch on YouTube. And that joke is so old right now.

Isaac Morehouse  44:39
It is it's we're gonna keep coming back to it though. No, but so the handbook dropped but but we have a bunch of stuff coming in September. We've got we're gonna we're doing a couple events. We're going to do an event. First Friday was not on the first Friday of this month, as you noticed. First Friday got taken over by Third Thursday this month because of the Labor Day weekend. So three Good Thursday, First Friday on a third Thursday. That's what we're calling to little bizarro world, keep an eye out for that. We're going to do an event there, it'd be really cool. We're going to talk from the agency perspective, it's going to be a really fun, really fun event. Just sit down, chat, some great sessions, grab your whiskey or whatever. And then we got another event coming up later in the month. Kind of a kind of a partnerships University one on one, we'll talk more about that later. But it's coming up like a like a half a day, kind of a back to school, special partner school. So that will be coming up as well. And some pretty crazy other stuff that I don't think I can say it yet. Because when this episode goes live, it won't be like that. So it won't be sad, but I'm just gonna say

Jared Fuller  45:42
you're gonna here's what I'll say the handbook we are number one in Amazon, in business, business strategy, number three, and marketing are you number two and marketing number three in sales. 1000s of people have read the book in 24 hours or bought or downloaded. Wild, wild. So if you add up the reader, the PDF download of the Amazon sales and the Kindle sales, it's over 1000. Now

Isaac Morehouse  46:08
that just makes me stressed thinking about I know that there's typos and formatting errors and stuff like that. And the unlike Oh, great. Now everyone's gonna see it. I found several of them.

Jared Fuller  46:18
Oh, I wrote that and that's wrong. That's a typo. That's the grammatical thing we did as good as we could. But here's what I'll say. Even with that everything that we've done, the announcement that's coming this week that you listen to this or within the next seven ish days. It will be the biggest news in partnerships history. I'm stoked. biggest news in partnership.

Isaac Morehouse  46:39
Now you gotta deliver.

Jared Fuller  46:40
It will be. I'm excited. So with that, I'm excited to be back from maternity leave. Mystery LinkedIn land and partnerships community. Michael, that was a heck of an episode. Thanks for teeing us up with some real talk because I got to talk about the other side of all this was a blast, man.

Michael Cole  46:58
Thanks for having me. You guys. It

Jared Fuller  46:59
was wonderful. Awesome. All right, partner up. We will see you all next time. Peace.

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