Episode - 005 - Adrienne Coburn - channel from startup to Scale

Today we're joined by Adrienne Coburn formerly Director of Partnerships at Uberflip and now Strategic Partnerships Manager at wildly successful Shopify.

Why does Adrienne want to be in partnerships the rest of her life? Tune in to find out!  While we talked about a lot, really the message of this episode is about the differences between building channel partnerships at a startup versus the learnings you get of operating in the channel at scale.  Partnerships professionals can benefit greatly from seeing both sides of the story, and Adrienne selflessly shares back with the community some of the differences she's seen at opposite ends of scaling an agency program.  We know you're going to love it.   Love the first 5 episodes and want more? Don't forget to share on LinkedIn, like and subscribe to our Youtube channel, and find us wherever you get your podcasts.

This episode is brought to you by Crossbeam. Crossbeam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service. You can sign up for free at Crossbeam.com.


Jared Fuller  00:00
So we're here. We're here with Ms. Adrienne Coburn. Adrian, welcome to partner up. Hi, guys, how you doing? Doing all right doing all right. Well, we're super excited Adrian's tuning in from north of the border in Toronto. I missed you last time I was there. And you were actually at a different company. You were Uber flip then. And now at Shopify, right? That's right. That's the journey. The big big difference, you know, startups selling to the enterprise versus, you know, kind of being in the enterprise selling to small businesses. But before we hop in and get all the way into, you know, Adrian's background of what we're going to be talking about today, quick reminder that this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners, while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. So you can sign up for free at cross beam.com shout out cross beam, shout out Boris. The teams that help make this possible for Kevin and myself, and our awesome audience. So we're gonna talk about today, we're gonna talk about that transition. Like, like, what comes to mind whenever you think about like, Hey, I was gonna start up selling to the enterprise. And now it's literally the opposite. I'm in strategic partnerships.

Adrienne Coburn  01:42
Hmm, yeah. I mean, it's been the best journey I could have painted for myself. And I think getting into partnerships, I had no idea. It was like, you know, take what job kind of comes to you. Because it's people were bashing down my door for those first couple jobs. And I couldn't have painted a better path to be where I am today to have the knowledge that I've gained along the way because think starting at a company like river flippin, for those who don't know, and we're flipz, kind of a past the startup stage, but definitely still a growing company, kind of 150 people were there, they brought me in to kind of figure out what is partnerships? And what does it mean to us? And where do we fit into the ecosystem. So I was kind of given this empty plate to say, like, try to figure it out. And by doing that, I figured out all the different types of partnerships, the value that it can bring the challenges that come with different types. So I really did understand kind of the big picture. And I think having that background to be able to understand how to kind of put together the playbook not just for one particular kind of partnership, but all the different types, has allowed me to come to a company like Shopify, which is massive, and there is every type of partnerships, but your purview is so much narrower in terms of what you're actually doing. And so it's allowed me to kind of understand the bigger picture and then understand where my smaller narrow purview can fit into that bigger picture.

Kevin Raheja  03:11
So Adrian, we have a lot of listeners who are in sales that are interested in getting into strategic partnerships. And I think you have an SDR background, right? And so how, what was that transition? like for you? How did you get it? How did you fall into strategic partnerships.

Adrienne Coburn  03:28
So I was at a company as an SDR and I actually went to a partner organization of theirs to manage the partnership between those two organizations. So that was my first view into partnerships. But it was in travel and tourism, very different industry, you know, not at all the same in terms of what partnerships actually means. That's kind of where I got my background into partnerships. So that was almost a lucky jump, that I could kind of go from a company that I knew everything about it. And that's why they wanted to be at this new company is so I could manage the partnership with the view of both organizations. And then going into a place like riflette, partnerships meant sales and a lot of ways. So to have that background to be able to sell through someone in this case, but still, at the end of the day sell. It's hugely important. When I started to grow out the team at uberflip, I hired two of our SDRs to be partner managers, because it's like, they understand it, they know how to get what they want, but they can do it with some grace to

Jared Fuller  04:35
What's that? What's that kind of look like for you today? Then, like, what what does success look like? You know, an Uber flip when you say revenue versus you know, Shopify, walk through kind of not the specifics of the numbers, but maybe what were your North Stars whenever you were in a startup mode selling to the enterprise versus you know, in a public you know, kind of company selling to small businesses.

Adrienne Coburn  04:59
Yeah, So I think the one of the biggest things at a startup is partnership needs to be everything. Like you need to have all the different KPIs loosely in mind, like things like attachment rate, and services brought in, and pipeline and all those different things. But at the end of the day, almost every partnerships team that I know at no have at a startup or small size, business. Money is what they care about at the end of the day. So it's like you need to play this delicate balancing act with like, you need to prove revenue, while still caring about everything else. But the only thing at the end of the day they might care about is revenue. So when we say revenue, you know, it's that qualified opportunity, where they're coming to kind of at that 90% that a partner is bringing to the table and the sales team can help close the partner can close entirely themselves. And so I think at a startup, that's hugely important is you need to prove that money at the end of the day, where a larger organization, it's, of course, important, but there's the out those other things that might have been like kind of side, KPIs can come become increasingly important. So for example, services rendered so like the amount of services that our agency partners are doing at Shopify is one of our major KPIs. Because that is what makes that the partner so important is because for the merchant, that's what they were not giving them those services the partner is. And so although that might have been like a side thing, that's really one of the main things that a place like Shopify, where it's like they understand it, it's going to take more of like a holistic view to make a customer successful than just bringing in that revenue.

Kevin Raheja  06:43
Adrian have, you had to adjust the way you work with partners coming from Uber flip, which is like more enterprise focused persona to a more SMB focused persona, how has that changed the way you work with with your partners?

Adrienne Coburn  07:01
I think at the end of the day, like I have always thought of my partners as my teammates, right, you know, it's their extended part of our team, you need to bond with them the same way would an internal team, so that kind of remains consistent. But I would say the sales relationship definitely changes. So at uberflip, our partners, I was like, so deeply ingrained with in terms of the services, they're building an offering, in terms of the the deals that they're bringing to the table where I'd have to, like actually work with the, you know, help work, coach them through that deal, and kind of get into the weeds of it. And so kind of the amount of time that I spent with these individuals, to get them educated to get them really believing in the mission that we were that we had, was huge. So like I yeah, these people were mixing the team for sure. workshop by like, they're bought in, they built their business around it already. What they need is just more of like a business coach and advisor to kind of be like, Hey, we're going in this direction, you should probably come here too. So it's more of a business advisor being like really embedded teammate.

Jared Fuller  08:06
So it sounds like in a lot of ways, I always talk about, you're competing for your partner's money, meaning partners make their money off of selling time. So every time that you ask for their time, you're literally asking them to spend money, right partners on your payroll. So it overflow if you really had to invest a lot of time into developing and convincing people to build, you know, services around, you know, your product offerings. Whereas at Shopify, those offerings are probably a little bit more defined. So you're probably the difference here is like you're trying to convince someone to get a new offering, and and bring it to market. Whereas a Shopify, it sounds like you might get a lot more resistance around Wait a second, you want me to change my offerings? Because you're going in a different direction? Have you experienced anything like that, where it's like, we've had to do change management as opposed to like, you know, lifting the rocket off the ground?

Adrienne Coburn  09:02
Yeah, definite change management. And that kind of goes back to the coaching. It's like, the these partners, it kind of, I guess it the whole, the shift goes from being an sillery product in which someone can use to maybe gain some services, maybe get a couple commission, referral paychecks, whatever it may be, to be in kind of the pivot point of their business. So the partners that I work with today at Shopify, they truly have built their business off of Shopify. So it is change management because we have to help coach them on we're going this direction now. But they're willing and open to do it, especially if they if if we are as Partner Manager is really getting in there with them, and educating them versus them then getting it like in the newsletter or something like that. So I think the appreciation there, but I think also like these birds have been around since the beginning of Shopify, they've seen it. They're used to it. They're just like, okay, let's, let's go, they're flexible. They want to adapt, they know that this company changes quickly. And that was What's makes it successful. So they're just kind of game.

Jared Fuller  10:05
He said something interesting there that I want to double click on whenever you're thinking about these partnerships, so like you said, they've been there from the beginning. Do you typically see like Shopify only partners? Or is it also, you know, hey, we also do Magento we also do privvy We also do, you know, WooCommerce, whatever the heck it is. It's like we do a lot with Shopify, but we do also other things, or these like diehard Shopify only Is that like a requirement, for example?

Adrienne Coburn  10:35
Doesn't not a requirement, but we do see a lot of it. People are, you know, they found ways to make revenue off of our business model. And, you know, but that's also kind of, like when you look at my purview, as a strategic partnerships manager, a lot of the time those strategic partners are people who have based their entire business off of Shopify. So I work with lots of people who work with different platforms, actually, events just to be able to work with people who are not just working with Shopify, because then we're learning about the ecosystem as well, and being able to see it from different angles. So it's definitely not not a mandatory thing. But I'd say a lot of these people are kind of purely Shopify.

Kevin Raheja  11:17
Cool, so so just structurally, what does strategic partnerships mean, at Shopify? Is there a difference between like, channel sales or and strategic partner management?

Adrienne Coburn  11:32
Yeah, it's a it's the million dollar question about partnerships at chef but there's, there's, I don't know, 20, partnerships, teams, it's there's a lot of different ways to look at the organization, and what they consider to be strategic partnerships. So I can't speak for everything. But basically, how my portion of the organization is functions, we have our, our technology partners, our agency partners, and our what we call channel partners with the rest of the world would not call channel partners. So those are people who are are effectively marketing channels. So they're really deeply ingrained and integrated into our product. And so those three are like the different categories. So for tech, and agency, we have what are called strategic partners. And those are effectively people that are just really moving the needle. So it's really that at scale, one to many, where we effectively have a sales force, or an entire customer success team out there on our behalf. So what defines them is really just the scale in which they bring in customers.

Kevin Raheja  12:37
Cool. So yeah, I mean, I went from HubSpot, where we kind of saw the same type of partnerships where they were really building their business off of our platform to going to a company like typeform, where it's kind of more ancillary. And you kind of did the opposite. We're going from Uber flip to Shopify, I'm wondering just like what, like how you've what, what's the management? That's different? With both? Is there? Like, is there a difference in like, how you have to educate partners that are just so entrenched in your product, that they're building a business off the back of Shopify versus kind of like a more ancillary product?

Adrienne Coburn  13:23
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think the level of education like my partners, now educate me on our product, like base, they sell me on the new features, because, you know, they're that kind of invested and ingrained in it, were at uberflip, it was a lot of education and constant selling. So I would say, constant selling in two forms, one to the partner, constant selling that, you know, we are the best x platform, we will drive the most results than constant selling internally as well, because as I'm sure you both experience, partnerships can often be like the, you know, ugly stepchild of the company, where they're trying to like somewhat brushed under the rug some sometimes. So that that kind of internal sale, never. So like that kind of like internal sale of like, this is important. And we need to invest in this in for a future. And that's, that's different because like it's embedded now, there's always gonna be a layer that no matter what department you're in, within an organization, but the the convincing is a lot of it's been done.

Jared Fuller  14:33
I think both of you just said something really interesting that it needs to be written about is like, these are very different strategies. And I hate to say it's tool versus platform, but it kind of is then that general dynamic, right? Like you're either serving a purpose or you can build something around it, like the services offered opportunity and, you know, adrift or an Uber flip. You know, might be more strategic and might be a part of a wider offering, but it's like, you know, Shopify or HubSpot like I'm driving around Have your organic traffic or I am driving your e commerce strategy. This is like a foundational thing where you need to understand what you're operating with. And whether or not partners can build a business around your business. So having seen that happen at Shopify, what would you say to someone that's, you know, kind of starting up on partnering up? Like, what do you think some of those indicators are as to whether or not you could build a business around, you know, a SaaS application?

Adrienne Coburn  15:29
Sorry, if so, for a, for a partner to build, like for an agency to build their business, or for a partner, for an organization to build a partnerships team.

Jared Fuller  15:39
I guess you could go both ways, but specifically around if you were to, you know, come into a company, and they were like, hey, we've had some people, you know, agencies, consultants, whatever, helping bring us into some accounts, like build a partner program, it seems like you need to make a choice right then and there. Are we a tool? Or are we a platform? How would you go about evaluating which one in which strategy would take?

Adrienne Coburn  16:05
I mean, I think it's a, it's difficult to be a platform, before you have the market share to be a platform. So you know, that's something where I think people get really hung up on this fact that we all need to be platforms, not everybody can be platforms, we're all platforms, then it would just be all these things floating out in isolation, like somebody needs to have the strategy that they need, that they want to plug into a greater ecosystem. So I think, yeah, I would say it's like, you can grow into being a platform, but it's a very hard place to start, before you have the customer base, the market share the product breath, to actually be able to do it. And then yeah, to be able to make the decision like, you know, we don't actually, we don't actually want to grow to the place where people are plugging into us. This is like a really brilliant strategy to, to go off of other people. But these companies put in huge investments to make these waves. Like why don't we just ride that wave a little bit? Yeah, I don't I don't have the magic answer as to like, where you decide that or how you set it. But I think that there's, we get to the fact that everybody should be a platform. Did I think I

Jared Fuller  17:15
think you just did you did? Because the answer is if you have to ask that question, then you're not a platform. Right? Like you grow into it, you become a platform, right? You know, Salesforce didn't launch the app exchange until they were, you know, 100 and 50 million in revenue, right, like they were already had a giant ecosystem before they really became a platform, and could build a business around it. I think that's it, that's a good point, you, every company really starts off as a tool, right, as a point solution as a pain killer for something in particular. And you might have an opportunity to grow into a platform. But there's few and far between, right? either work up from the data or down from the experience. And there's, you know, it's like CMS website management, right? There's like experience underneath that, then there's like data. So if you're not at the top or the bottom of those, you're somewhere in between, you're probably a solution versus a platform.

Kevin Raheja  18:10
Yeah, I mean, you said something inside, which is like, every SAS company wants to be a platform, but not every SAS company should be a platform. And do so like every platform should have a channel program, probably. But do you think that every SAS company should have a channel program if they're not a platform? And if they're more of a tool?

Adrienne Coburn  18:34
I mean, I'm probably biased, because that's where I'm going to make my money the rest of my life? Like, yes. I think maybe it's not a channel program, but definitely a channel strategy. Because you're almost any SAS tool that's out there is going to get someone coming to them and saying, How do I partner with you. And whether that's reselling a referral partner, or integrating or whatever it is, there's people are going to come to you and people are going to say that. And so if you are saying a different thing to every single person who comes and says that, then the redundancy is going to be huge First of all, but then you're going to end up doing your your clients and your your customers a disservice in the end and your partners at a service in the end, because you're gonna have a very disjointed solution. So even if it's not like a full fledged program with like, tears, and you know, different, all the very solid agreements, there should definitely be a strategy about how we work with partners. And when do we say no, I think is an important part of that as well.

Jared Fuller  19:37
You make a good point, I like to tell a lot of people don't like Don't do it. Don't do it. If you're questioning it, and you're not committed. I think that's the other thing is like, it's Yes, if you can commit to the learnings and the journey, you know, that's the reason why Kevin and I decided to start this podcast. It's just like, most people are figuring it out on their own. And then what happens is that someone And some other department gets thrown into partnerships and says figure it out, but without the full support of the business. And in that situation, I would say like, who do you report to? You know, do you report to the CEO? Is the CEO bought in? Or is this an experiment? It's an experiment. Good luck. Right? Like, it's the luck of the draw, you're really between a rock and a hard place to figure it out. If you don't have buy in which you said, you know, selling, selling internally, you spent a lot of time doing. Yeah, at Shopify. Are you still selling internally?

Adrienne Coburn  20:29
Always I think, you know, if any, if you're doing your job, right, there always be some level of selling internally, regardless of how established, but it's bigger than me now. And I think that's the thing, right? It's like, I, you could say that our partnership seems like 200 people, like we have so many individuals dedicated to making this work. And so it becomes less about like, I have to pitch this thing in. But you know, you're consistently proving value and pivoting to fit where the company's going. So I think that's something where your, that could be looked at as selling in with your company, consistently, like keeping up with whatever changes are made to see to sell, how do partners fit with that? Because if you're not making that pivot, then that's where a partnership seemed to kind of get like left in the dust, I guess you could say.

Kevin Raheja  21:21
So selling internally to like kind of a more established company, what resources are? Are you are you really like selling to obtain at a better public company that's growing quickly and has already invested? Kind of like in channel

Adrienne Coburn  21:42
when you come out of sync problems, right? Like, I always want more employees on my team consistently like, war? Like, that's not the right answer. I know that I would tell anybody that but it's not the right answer. But like, at a certain point, you do you know, you want that. So I think this is the same things when it comes to budget and hiring employees and all those types of things. I would say, the other big piece is selling in partner fit. So like, whenever there's a new program that's released, I'm consistent, like, Hey, how are partners going to be working with that program? Like the new products, like, Hey, who's doing the services off that product? Have we developed a strategy for referring merchants, to our partners who are using that product? So I think that stuff is just like your, you always have to kind of put your hand up and step in to these different areas where you're not necessarily being asked to, to just be the voice of the partner.

Jared Fuller  22:41
Take a different direction here. I'm more curious to be like, dive a little bit deeper into what are some of the best lessons that you've learned that you're like, I wish people should could know about this inside of the partnerships function and role. So this has been something that you're passionate about, there's not too many partnerships, people that I hear, say, I'm going to be making money like this the rest of my life. People like BD people go in and out. It happens all the time. So like, Yeah, what are some of the lessons that led you to say, like, Hey, I'm gonna be doing this forever.

Adrienne Coburn  23:16
It's not a lesson, I'm gonna twist your question. But hey, that's what I do. Say, like, why am I Why do I say that? Like, why do I want to be involved in partnership rise to my life. And it's like, the whole my whole kind of schooling career. And my first couple jobs at a school, I was always like, I'm not a salesperson, and I'm not a marketer. And I'm not a customer success, like, I am not any one of those individual things, but I have an interest in every single one of those things. So I don't necessarily want to be the one that is the account manager working with the customer success team, or I don't want to really want to be the demand Gen marketer, but I do want to have influence over how those things function. And that's what partnerships is, it's being able to kind of weave the fabric together of an organization through the partner lens to be able to involve your partners in all these different angles. So you're not you're not being the marketer, but you're absolutely influencing the marketing team and how its operating. So I don't know your question was, that's why I keep doing it. Cuz I just think is the most interesting way to, like be a part of everything within an organization, but not actually be on an individual team doing it.

Jared Fuller  24:25
I love that answer. It's like, you know, full stack employee that gets thrown around a lot these days. You know, entrepreneurial spirit. In my opinion, partnerships is the hardest job in SAS. That's why I say a lot of folks don't stay there because you have to do a little bit of everything. Right? Like it is jack Jill of all trades. And you know, you have people like pika puto who is on last episode and pizza now the CEO data box people that crush it and partnerships oftentimes go on to start their own ventures, Bobby, you know, it's been partnerships and then he was the CEO at Twilio. LCR Oh, it next right, like they move on to other things as well. But I think, you know, Adrian, Kevin, you know that and, you know, the ecosystem, we have our way like, we could actually create a an ecosystem of partner professionals, right the same way that there's a sales profession. So hopefully, we can share the secrets and do some stuff like that. What or go, I love the way you answered the question. But what are some of the key lessons that you've learned where it's like, wow, that one's stuck with me, it was painful. Or it was insightful, around strategic and I guess, channel partnerships.

Adrienne Coburn  25:39
Um, I would say that one of the lessons that I've learned in partnerships is to work with others outside of your organization, that that is not necessarily business related. So like, the reason why I'm here talking to both of you today is because I've met you in my life outside of my actual job, like, none of us have been partners necessarily in our actual jobs. But being able to learn from others in a part in the partnerships, organization or in partnerships, is not every profession does that, you know, not every profession has their little Slack channel, or like, Hey, what did you do with this? And what did you do with when you're in this similar situation? So taking advantage of the fact that purchase, people are so open to sharing best practices, and getting on a call to like, run through the program and like, run through the problem that you're approaching? is a lesson that I would say, everybody in partnership should be taking advantage of it just like, ping somebody and say, I'm approaching this problem, what would you do here 95% of the time, they're more than willing to lend a hand. But I think it's because like, people often are isolated as the individual partner person, at the organizations that we work at. So you need to rely heavily on on others to be able to get you through that. And another like, I don't know, just personal challenge I've had to learn is, I think we've touched on this earlier, just saying no to things, you know, you don't, you can't always follow the shiny object. And I'm prone to doing that. So being able to say no to an opportunity that could be actually awesome, but is going to, you know, absolutely wreck your team in terms of the capacity and resources you have. And it's going to have to be the only thing you concentrate on all year. But you know, no, being able to kind of find the opportunities that you want to grasp and be able to give most your effort to those and spend like 10% of your time, kind of following that like shiny object.

Kevin Raheja  27:37
So I have to ask this, because Shopify has been like one of those companies that's been most successful and most efficient at helping businesses grow during COVID-19. And I guess, like, how have you had to? How have your partners adjust to this? I'm curious to know, like, have you had to, like work with them during their shift? And like, how have you seen them pivot to this this change with COVID-19?

Adrienne Coburn  28:08
Yeah, is it it's been really amazing for our partners, and in that they, they've definitely ridden the wave with us. The conversations that I'm having this days, you know, it used to be a bit more like, helping them find clients or referrals, or, you know, coming up with business strategies to get a bit more into our merchant market. And now it's how do you hire developers? How do you get people trained on the product quickly, so they can start whipping out Shopify stores the next day? So you know, the challenge for these, these people that are working within our service organization now is like, how do we take it to the next level? Because we understand that now's the time. So it's definitely changed the dynamic of the conversation to be less troubleshooting, less sales driven, and more like, how do you scale a business to really take advantage of this time?

Kevin Raheja  29:00
It's really interesting, um, has, have you had to change the way that you like, educate partners, or onboard them? Or have there been any, like, significant structural changes in the program? That, like, based on like, new needs of the partner?

Jared Fuller  29:19

Adrienne Coburn  29:21
not yet. I think that will come with time. I'm sure we'll see it and a whole new wave of partner come out of this. Actually, I guess that's one, like we have seen new waves of types of partners that we just haven't seen in the past come out of this. So like, for example, business associations. So you know, like downtown in downtown Toronto, like Queen West has like a business association. And they're all of a sudden coming to us say, like, Hey, we need to partner with you because we need to get every single one of our shops online. And like, that's a different type of partnership, who, you know, they don't necessarily have the background in technology. They don't necessarily know how to develop a service around this stuff. But they know that the need is there and they're doing it to help their merchants versus doing To help make revenue. So that really changes the dynamic of the conversation about the value of being a partner, what those partner need, the long term vision of how we work together. So, you know, we've had to spin off different programs and education, to be able to really support those partners. So I anticipate that that will have to continue as well as really being able to look at not all partners want to be revenue generating partners, there's people who might want to come in for a bit more of the offline to online or something to that effect.

Jared Fuller  30:30
You said something interesting there that I don't know that this is a talked about topic. But I feel like I've encountered it. So many times. It's like partner segmentation. Right? Like there's so many different types of potential partners, like, there's agencies, but what kind of agency? Right, like, you know, e commerce is kind of one. But do you see segments underneath e commerce? Like you mentioned, this new one that popped up? But do you have a given that Shopify is a little more mature? Do you have a partner segmentation?

Adrienne Coburn  31:01
I mean, we do. But I'd say this is sophistication of it's not probably what it could be just because it's such a developing market, like these new services are being spun up every day. So to be able to have a really clearly defined segmentation model, this kind of bucketing people a little bit too much. So we have in the past kind of done more like verticalized approaches with you know, I'm only going to work with our marketing partners, and I'm only going to work with our design and development partners. But the reality is these people's business models are pivoting just as quickly as ours is. So segmentation between what value they bring to the organization, yes, but segmentation between like, what they actually define themselves as themselves as a business, not necessarily. So why what what they bring to the organization. I mean, like our technology, partnerships have a very different strategy than our agency than our affiliate center, you know, like all of those are very segmented, but not necessarily within partner type.

Jared Fuller  31:59
So, does Shopify have a services organization? Like do you do pro serve, onboarding, stuff like that internally? Not that you do a lot through channel, but is there any services internally?

Adrienne Coburn  32:12
No, 100% for it through our partners. I will caveat though, that we have two organizations, Shopify and Shopify Plus, I work specifically with Shopify, which is our SME versus the enterprise.

Jared Fuller  32:27
And Shopify plus does have I'm sure there's probably on both right, Shopify plus probably has large, or is it all self service,

Adrienne Coburn  32:34
they also depend almost like 95% on their partners to do it. It's like things that I should know more about that I just don't. But no, as far as I know, it's like 95% through our partner ecosystem.

Jared Fuller  32:47
The reason why I asked that is just, it's so interesting seeing partners, like develop offerings around a product like, like the the experience of like, let's say, oh, an ABM agency, and they're driving specific campaigns to a website around ABM, right, like, that's all they do. It's like their number one value proposition. And drift could be involved in that little sliver, but there's like 80%, else of other things that it needs to touch as well. So like they're a partner, but how do you build a service offering around just that thing, or virtual events, that that's a new thing that popped up during COVID. So many people are becoming virtual event agencies overnight. And it's like, that's one use case. And you have these agencies that kind of specialize across all of these various things across customer experience. And it's been a challenge to be like, how do you work with virtual event agency versus demand? Gen versus Seo? versus, you know, it, you know, implementer? And I think there's, I have some ideas around it. But it's, I'm always curious to hear from other folks if they've had to encounter like, hmm, the way that I work with this partner I own and this partner I own is night and day different. Right? Do you have partners like that today? Or did you add Uber flip.

Adrienne Coburn  34:06
And definitely an Uber flip, because it was a lot more one to one. So we had to, you know, like, depending on the service that they were burning, we would kind of have our own strategy and whether it was what they were trying to do, like the product was too small. And they need to do it more at scale, like that was a strategy versus if they could do like a bunch of bundled services around but surrounding the product. That was a strategy. And that was it was a one to one in the way that we were advising partners and working with them to develop those strategies that I had a lot more kind of insight in Intel and an enablement that I was doing to do that. Were at Shopify, like mass majority, like 80% of our partners are very self serve and the way that they operate with our organization. So you know, we develop content, we develop enablement, programs and trainings and that kind of thing that these people can embrace. If that is what direction they want to go. But it's very much up to the partner to figure it out.

Jared Fuller  35:05
One thing we haven't talked about yet is tiering. Do you have tiering in place today with different levels of partners, based on various metrics of success clients stories, etc?

Adrienne Coburn  35:19
No, we don't have tiering in place. But how it works is the strategic partners can work with that top percent of the, the agency partners. So in some ways, I guess we do, but I could work with a growing partner, if that's, you know, if I found that there's someone with a lot of potential that's within the ecosystem, you know, I could just as easily work with that person as well. So, yeah, it's interesting that a company of our size doesn't, I don't know, I don't know the background behind that decision. But I can tell you that it definitely gives lots of opportunity for people to kind of make it what they want, where I feel like sometimes tearing because it can be a bit structured, and you know, what it allows a partner to do? I think, I believe in tiering. And I, you know, I think that there's a lot of value in it. But it's definitely not a one size fits all as to whether company should do it.

Jared Fuller  36:07
It's interesting that Shopify does not have cheering. So you're a believer, then you think, you know, if you were starting a program, you know, over in a scaling organization, you'd be like, yes, Terry is one of the tenants of our program.

Adrienne Coburn  36:20
And so I tried to do cheering on her flip, but it was like, when you're starting out a program, it's too fake to have tearing? Yeah, cuz I don't have anybody in those tears. Like, am I telling you that you're a gold partner, but I only have five partners, and you haven't reached any of the thresholds that I've put in place to be a gold partner. Like, it's just, it's marketing at that point. And like, that's fine. You can do marketing campaign. That's that's one approach. But I think, at the beginning stages, I actually wouldn't recommend doing tearing. But I would say like, as your program scales, it is a way to motivate people. People are people love gamification, people love to see that they're climbing the ranks, they'd love to help hold that badge thing, like, I'm number one, or I'm in the top to be able to prove it. So I do think that it really, it really motivates partners and gets them to buy in a little bit more to doing like, the long term thing with your company.

Jared Fuller  37:15
Right. So it's definitely one of those big projects, it's not a, hey, let's throw up a tyrian page, and it'll figure itself out like, it has to be very thoughtful, because it, you can turn that you can turn people away completely, where it's like, I'm not jumping through all those hoops. And I'm not even gonna bring you that first client because I see the game and I don't want to play it. But if you do it right, you know, you can take them along the journey.

Adrienne Coburn  37:36
Yeah, exactly.

Kevin Raheja  37:39
How have your jobs changed, like going from working with partners with kind of like a more inbound marketing focus to a more ecommerce focus, like what's been the most significant change in your job as a result of those, those different channel personas.

Jared Fuller  37:58

Adrienne Coburn  38:01
just, I mean, education, like, it's, there's so different, and I didn't anticipate they really would be, but it's like, you know, the stuff that I took for granted about kind of knowing all the players and, and knowing the how the agencies functions within that ecosystem, it's like, you know, it's been a huge amount of education that I've had to do. I think if ecommerce there's a certain amount that you just know, intuitively, because I experienced it every day, where it was something like, like Uber, flip it, you know, I, you have, it's not natural that you know, the b2b marketing software. So there's a lot of stuff that you had to do to really educate yourself on the market, where, yeah, ecommerce comes a little bit more intuitively because you know, the brand's you kind of can can picture what a good experience is, like, versus a bad experience. And I think the what I, what I loved about more like the inbound world was just the close knit operations have all of the tech partners involved. And I think a lot of that does come from kind of that enterprise mindset of tool sets needing to work so closely together, and having strategies that are really aligned between those different tool sets. So you know, if somebody was coming on board, and in purchasing Uber flip, I needed to know not just how Uber foot was going to function, but also how every surrounding technology in that ecosystem was going to function with our product to really make sure that it was what they should be striving for it like what was gonna be valuable. Were with an SMB sale, and it's just not doesn't have that same in depth knowledge about how everything else works around you.

Jared Fuller  39:36
Because you're kind of providing an all in one experience in Shopify, to some degree, right? Like that's, that's really Shopify, the value proposition is like, you can, you can just, you're getting live and you're selling products and you don't need 50 tools like you might need with a, you know, a different type of product. And I guess that's where, you know, the whole concept of being a platform, right? A ecommerce platform comes into play.

Adrienne Coburn  39:59
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think it's, we say, you know, we build for most people most of the time, and that the rest of the time is where our partners come in. So like, Shopify works with thousands and thousands of tech technology partners, but they're really app partners, where it's more like Shopify is the, you know, the actual platform. And then you have these things that plug into it along the way, versus having like, 10 kind of equal technologies.

Jared Fuller  40:27
Yeah, like integration partnership versus app like this truly is a platform, right? Like, yeah, there's, um, there's a really good podcast called exponent, where they talk about platforms versus aggregators. We'll link that one in the show notes, I'll send it to you, if you haven't looked at it. It's a very interesting discussion of like, Are you an aggregator? Are you a platform? And I think at the end of the day, if people are building, you know, production quality applications on your site to fulfill a vision versus the end user, you know, living out of multiple tools, it's like they're living in Shopify, but getting what they need. That's, you know, that's the dream state for a lot of companies, you know, the App Store for e commerce, right for e commerce b2b? Yeah. is really what y'all have built there. Adrian, what what if we not asked you what do you like these two idiots? What if? What if we not asked you that you're like, Hey, this is the thing I would want to get out there the partnerships world.

Adrienne Coburn  41:22
My hopes, dreams desires? Now, I don't know, I think I'm

Kevin Raheja  41:34
if you were hosting a podcast, sorry, if you were hosting a podcast, what would you ask yourself?

Adrienne Coburn  41:41
That'd be an interesting one. Um, I think it's like, the the the partnership, career progression question is one that always kind of come to mind for me as to like, if I were to have somebody else host a podcast, what I'd want to ask them about. So I actually don't have any advice to give here in terms of how you navigate this. But I think it's like, we're at such a weird advantage and disadvantage, as partnership professionals where there is no carved out path. I think that opens a lot of opportunity for for you to be able to carve your own path. But it's hard because you don't really know what to work toward. So maybe I'll throw it back to you guys on this one. What would you suggest to somebody who's looking to really carve out that path? And figuring out what the next step is for them and their journey? Shopify? I'm not looking, just just putting it out there?

Jared Fuller  42:30
No, no, I don't think any of us are we're all great companies. I think, you know, if I would have gotten back to the, I jumped into partnerships a weird way, because I had a marketing agency and my own SAS company. And then I ended up getting into venture backed, you know, tech in the sales and partner side. But if I could go back and tell myself something, what I would say is go find the smartest people possible. In the I wanted to get in b2b and SaaS, go find the smartest people possible in join a company that's backed by, you know, good folks. And experience that scale, you know, from 50 employees to 500, right, or from a 200 to 1000. And you go for the learning. And I think that's, that's where most people I think, lose out is that I see a lot of people that are bouncing in partner roles, from like, 100 person, company to 100 person company to 100 person company, it's like, I don't, you're not going to learn, you're not going to learn. It's like, and their titles have increased three times. And I still am like, you need to challenge yourself and see that other side, like when I'm going through a drift right now is extremely painful. It's so hard. It's so hard to scale and grow, like with the demands of the market and the business. But I'm like, you know, it's good for you. Right? You learn a lot. Yeah. So I think those people like the ones that I've seen, like Bobby or Pete who've seen that ascension, right, from X number of employees to y number of employees from X number of revenue to y number of revenue, those are the ones that have learned and are the experts, but the ones that kind of like stay for, you know, a couple years at very, like the same size companies, I don't see their long term career getting better, even though they might have better titles, you know, three, four years down the road. I really care about the person that understands how to scale a business, because like in the partnerships world, going back to like that entrepreneurial spirit, like full stack employee, I want a broad, like range of exposures that I can apply to all of the complexity that we see in partnerships. That'd be my answer.

Kevin Raheja  44:36
Well, yeah, and and to elaborate to elaborate on that, I mean, Adrian, one of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you is because you've had experience kind of like building a program from the ground up at Uber flip and now you're at kind of a more established company that's in a totally different stage. And I think my advice for people who really want to learn, you know, the things that we're working on is you you have To kind of tackle it from from different phases, building a program from the ground up, and then like working for a company, you know, up, I don't even know what your market cap is these days, but it's massive, it's huge. And it's a completely different experience than, than working at a startup and building a program from the beginning, but I think it's important to really understand the differences in the programs and, and, and how to build them at different phases.

Adrienne Coburn  45:28
I totally agree. And I think like, even though I'm not building the playbook this time around, I'll be able to go to another company in my future life and do it with 10 times the amount of authority and confidence because I can I know the the bigger picture of scalability and what can work and what can't

Jared Fuller  45:48
Love it. Love it. I think that's that's gonna be like the perfect spot for us to call this one. Before we go, we got to remind the folks so this is Episode Five, and we're gonna be live on everything. Apple podcast, Spotify, leave us a review, subscribe, like all that fun stuff. And before we go, just a friendly reminder that this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners while keeping your data private and secure. So you can sign up for free on cross beam.com Kevin Adrian parting thoughts.

Adrienne Coburn  46:30
Thanks, guys. This was fun.

Kevin Raheja  46:34
Thanks for joining us, Adrian. That was awesome.

Jared Fuller  46:36
yeah. Peace out partner up community.

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