Howdy Partners #25: What is the 'SaaS Buying River'

Franz Schrepf leads strategic partnerships for SteamYard, Hopin, and Session.

He's an expert at hacking into the customer buying journey (aka 'SaaS buying river.') He tackles the tough questions in the customer journey such as:

  • How do you get people to think about your brand at just the right time as they purchase different software?
  • How do you seamlessly allow them to book a call with one of your sales reps? When is this a smart strategy?
  • Can these tips apply to your company and partner team?

Franz's explanations will allow you to think strategically about the options available surrounding this topic.

Franz also discusses smart partner marketing, which means doing more than co-writing blog posts to announce integrations. He discusses different tools you can add to your toolbox as a marketer, and the successes he's had applying different ones to particular situations.

How do you become an A+ partner marketer?

You tune in to this episode 😉 and take notes as Franz discusses the power of video recording of implementation, external documentation, well-placed shout-outs in email campaigns, how to leverage events, and so much more.

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Full Transcript:

Will Taylor  0:17
Howdy partners and welcome to another episode of the How to partners Podcast. Today we have my friend, Franz who I recently met up with in the Bahamas. And before we dive into everything, Franz, how are you? How's the how's the Bahamas right now?

Franz Schrepf  0:35
I'm good. I don't miss like cloudy London right now,

Will Taylor  0:39
one of the exact reasons why I went down there to meet up with you, because not a lot of sunlight in Canada and I was feeling it. So, Ben, how are you? It's been a bit since we've had you on.

Ben Wright  0:48
Yeah, I'm good man. Busy. Definitely, I'd imagine a maybe 10 to 20 degrees colder than then fronds is in the Bahamas, we're in Salt Lake and yeah, lots of snow. And I look out the window.

Will Taylor  1:01
Nice. And so today we're going to be talking about partner marketing fronds recently made a LinkedIn post about the 20 Plus marketing program partner marketing programs that they ran with their partners. And so I'm really excited to dive into the do's the don'ts and the the lessons learned from all of these programs. But But before we dive into that, Franz, give everyone an introduction for yourself. Where are you at right now? And what are you building?

Franz Schrepf  1:25
My journey basically, in partnership started around two years ago. So first of all, like three years ago, in March 2020, I was a account executive that happened. So I was on the sales side of things shifted then into the channel partnerships team. So that was a fully new team and hoppin, and I build it out myself. And that's kind of like the kind of audience which would enjoy this podcast a lot. It's the kind of people who are either setting up the partnerships team for the first time, either channel partnerships, or agency partnerships, or Technology Partnerships, which is what I did afterwards, or the kind of people who recently saw reduction headcount, because we grew a partnership two to four people, and then reduce it again to one person right now, which is just me. And that just requires you can be a lot more resourceful, and thoughtful about the kinds of partnerships you want to do, and also the kind of partner marketing activities you want to do. So that really inspired this post, because I've done channel partnerships and hop in and then build out our hop in App Store, we have up to 50 apps. And now I lead all our BD efforts for hoppin as well as stream yard, which is a live streaming tool. And we've tried over 20 different partner marketing programs and partner marketing motions over the last two years. And what I really realized now that we're only one person, again, is that a lot of them didn't work. And that kind of inspired his posts, because I really wanted to show that there's one specific type of partner marketing motion, which really works, at least for us, and I help farmers as well. And that's the kind of motion which you can actually follow through on as well if you're a one person team.

Ben Wright  2:49
And I think this is coming at a great time for a lot of people with what we're seeing in the market love team reductions in similar positions, like you would love to start off with kind of how you start things off around how you see certain marketing programs fail. And I think that's an interesting place to start just to maybe get out of the way things people may be doing wrong or common mistakes.

Franz Schrepf  3:09
I think for me, the number one defining factor is whether it can actually yield sustainable results, right. And I think that's where most partner marketing programs will fail. So if you think about it, when you like launch an integration, you worked around three to six months, maybe with that partner to get everything in place, signed the contract, go to for the security view, and so forth. And then you launch integration. And that's a moment where people all of a sudden just get lazy, they're like, well, let's write a blog post, and then we're done. But that's not helpful, right? Like, because you write one blog post, you make one social media announcement, and then maybe you enable your CSM once or account executives once, and then you walk away. So you've spent six months building the integration, but you only spend like maybe like a week or two actually launching it. That's kind of like a really common mistake I see in partnerships. Because even then, when you follow up with another blog post, or maybe you bring a joint webinar out to the market, that's not going to help either, right, these all flash in the pan motions, because all emotions, which are just kind of like get your audience maybe excited, maybe they remember once. But if you ever worked in sales, you know that like you need to be either at the right time at the right place, or you need to have multiple touch points, right? So you wouldn't need a lot of these kinds of touch points. If you want to actually convert anybody to use the integration. It can come

Ben Wright  4:17
across as laziness a little bit to be honest, right? Like once you've launched the integration, you've done, they've done the work, and then suddenly, you're in a position of one shared blog post, and then nothing else happens. What do you think? Or why do you think that happens? Because I'm I know, partner managers aren't lazy, but he has a ton on their plate. So like, what what's the reason that people doesn't engage past that initial announcement?

Franz Schrepf  4:39
Yeah, I mean, you you've probably been in the same position, right? Like you worked on something for six months to bring it to market. And then there's actually like a shiny object syndrome. So by now you actually found a different integration you want to work on. So you actually just dilute your focus. You just kind of move on to the next thing before actually bringing the first one really to conclusion. And I think that's the biggest issue. I see. Do you ever issue I also found a lot is that you also rely a lot on your partner to market you. So that means that you build the integration, you invest all the resources. So then the deal is that they do all the marketing, right? But now the joke's on you. Because once you build the integration, it's already there. Like the partner already has all the benefit, right? So yes, they could market it. But they might also have other priorities, right? So they might not actually go and follow through with their commitment as much as you thought they would, right? And then the third one, which happens a lot is that, especially bigger partners might dangle a carrot in front of you as well, right? They might say, like, hey, our blog gets like a million views every month, right? But the audience is so diluted, that it doesn't really matter to you if there's a million views, right? Or maybe they post six blog posts a day. So then you're like one of those six blog posts a day, which gets like 200 views in that set, right. So these kinds of metrics, which often are dangled in front of you might not actually be as helpful to your company. When you think about like how to get an integration to market. As of our initiatives, which we're going to talk about in a bit.

Ben Wright  5:56
Do you? Or have you used some of the tooling that exists now like your reveal, and crossbeams where you can see pretty quickly like audiences to target and to market to like, have you used any of those tactics or techniques to promote integration? Because I'm just thinking through what you mentioned, it's a common thing, like I've run into it, where they say, Hey, you know, blog posts really good on SEO, and you get barely any clicks, it just becomes this pointless piece of collateral.

Franz Schrepf  6:20
Yeah. So we've crossbeam in the past, and I'm starting to get more revealed requests actually got one yesterday. So now, you know, that will join the reveal team, I feel like it's about time to to upgrade, and at least use both solutions. But it is something which we've done. In the past, we've seen mixed results. Sometimes it's been really helpful just to gauge whether there is a shared audience. Sometimes there's like a startup and you have like 2000, shared customers were like, Wait, hold on a second, like that doesn't seem realistic, right? So then there might be also like a mismatch on how we define customer with that startup as well. So there is it's not the silver bullet, but it's definitely something which can help you build conviction. I think something which I found was actually more helpful, at least to us was just to understand more about our own audience, right. So if we understand, for example, who like who is using what tool and then understand how much revenue is associated with that, that's a really big one for us. So actually, Marco, like one of the guy whiplash, he recently posted something which I thought was really interesting around, like how revenue or ARR associated with an integration or partner is actually completely undervalued. And I think that's really been mind blowing for me, because for a long time, we just valued if somebody adopted an integration over anything else, because we knew that adoption meant higher retention and higher renewal rates, right. But actually, what turned out is that when we dug into the numbers, there were integrations which were used by fewer customers, but actually the ARR associated with that was like three times as high as the ARs are associated with the second highest integration. So that really showed us that these customers are higher value for us, and they're more likely to stick around, which then led us to double down on them as well.

Will Taylor  7:55
Yeah, I love those insights. I wanted to reflect on what I've done in the past. And I've definitely done the hey, here's a blog post, you know, we get this much traffic. And so I'm sitting here thinking like, yep, yep, that was the wrong thing to do. Not that it's bad to do. And so if anyone's thinking, like, I've done that before, it's not the only thing that you should do, you should, you know, maybe give that but then also do other things associated with it. You know, repurpose that content, do socials, you know, if you have a podcast, put it on the podcast, like, really make sure that it's being distributed it appropriately versus just doing that one off program and same sentiment, I actually, I'd used the account mapping tools, I was using crossbeam, at the time to overlap our email list actually, with another's email list to see, you know, what is that CO marketing opportunity for, you know, who we could cross pollinate even from the top of funnel. So that's, that's a really good way to not only, of course, that you know, what the revenue opportunity is, and what the integration potential can look like. But also from the even higher level on the partner marketing side of things, you can overlap and see, oh, we actually have, you know, this many already in our communities or in our email lists. I love

Franz Schrepf  9:11
that example. Because it's so straightforward, right? Like, it makes it a lot easier to understand. Like, if you spend like four hours writing a really, really good blog post, and you just put it on medium hit post, maybe you like, link it on LinkedIn, and then go like, you know, we posted on LinkedIn to my network as well. And then you walk away. So one of my favorite examples around this is, for example, McDonald's, like McDonald's burgers, some people like them, others, I'm not the biggest fans, but they're the best sold burgers in the world, right? They're way more so than the burgers I make at home, even though my burgers might be better, right? But it's not the best burger, which is sold the most, it's the best promoted burger which is sold the most. So ideally, in an ideal world, you spend like 50% of your time building the product, building the integration, and then you double down by spending the next 50% of the time when actually marketing it. We definitely

Ben Wright  9:55
had that HelpScout where I walked into like an environment we had 80 integrations already, and it was like, okay, but there was no go to market around any of them. And so there's a part of love that goes into going back backtracking relaunching the integrations again re promoting them right, which, which causes a lot of complexity. So yeah, I love the idea. So switching, switching gears a little bit me and we talked through like some of the issues that exist and some of the risks and the missteps would love to change gear and talk about some of the things that do work. So we'd love to kind of ask you around, like, what are your like, favorite partner marketing programs in terms of like the ones that contribute the highest value? In your opinion?

Franz Schrepf  10:35
Great question. And I think that needs to be precluded a little bit that a partner marketing motion or partner marketing program is really just like a tool, right? So it's like a screwdriver or a hammer, or whatever. So depending on what the situation is, you might want to use a different one, even though there are some, which I find are more effective than others. But let's first discuss a little bit like how we understand where we want to, like Target a customer, right. And it all starts with like the user journey. So you want to start mapping the user journey first. And I think that's generally important in partnerships anyways, because that helps you understand whether or not you actually have a partnerships opportunity here or not. So hopping is a virtual events company. And I think this is a really fun example to use. Let's say you want to have an event and you want to have a photo booth, right? And your event, which one are you going to buy? First, you probably first going to figure out what you want to host your event. And then you're going to figure out which Photo Booth plugs into that, right. So similarly, Photo Booth companies have a lot of incentive to work with us and try to call market with us because our AES and ARS CSMs are actually the right people at the right time to talk with a customer about what kind of engagement tools they could use, right? But now let's go for example, for one step up the chain, right? Let's say like, you know, hop in wants to partner with CRM companies, right? That works because we are the right ones to talk to somebody who just bought a CRM, right? You just want a CRM, you want to start your marketing motion, the CRM company might go like, hey, here are different tools you can use for webinars, virtual events, email marketing, and so forth. And then they recommend us right, but the inverse is not true. The inverse is that we wouldn't be the right ones to recommend to you whether you should buy HubSpot or Salesforce, we're not in the position to do that, because we come further down the chain. Right. So that's really important to understand where are the different products located along the user journey, and along this chain, to understand where you actually have value to add as a partner marketer?

Ben Wright  12:24
I, I referenced it as a SAS buying Riva is like one thing that I use in it, and it's it is a great point, and again, relaying it back to HelpScout, we were a customer support tool. And you think about the order that people buy tools. And it usually does go CRM, first of all right, maybe some marketing automation, potentially support. And then we had partners like aircall that need a customer support tool for them to be tied into right. And so to your point, I love that. I love that image of like a map or a river where you actually plot out where the part where the where the customers buy certain tools. And then where can you plug in from a partnership Perspective Perspective. So yeah, I love and so once you've got that figured out, and you've kind of you've already kind of enunciated how well, you've planned it out Halton, and you've got those kind of structured points, what type of what type of programs work for each one, I guess, in terms of which ones are affected?

Franz Schrepf  13:15
Yeah. So it really depends on what kind of company you have are like what kind of company you run and what kind of go to market motion you have. For sales lead products, it might be a little bit trickier. But you can still offer for example, a trial or like a way for a customer to get started with you. Right. I love the example which you know, partner hacker founder Jared always talks about with PandaDoc, where they were in the onboarding email of HubSpot, I think that's like the exact right way of doing it, where when a new customer comes in, they're going to look for a bunch of tools, right? They're going to look for like, you know, something to sign the documents, they're going to look for something to like run their marketing campaigns or email campaigns, if they don't want to use HubSpot, they might look for a new scheduling tool, right? It's like chili Piper. So that's the right way to like a tackle it if you're one of those tools. Another thing which worked really well for us, is when you're a product lead growth company that you just give away to tool like for, you know, a month or so for free. I think that's perfect, because at least for example, on stream yard on the live streaming site, a lot of these large social media platforms, which we work with don't necessarily have their own tools. So they always need a third party to recommend it to. And if one of them is for free, for now, that's fine. Like you can just give it to them for free, and then the customer but at time of like, you know, the actual expiry expiration of the free trial, they don't even think about using another tool because by now they're so used to using your tool but didn't want to switch right. So that's the perfect moment to get into. And no competitor can compete with it. Because by that point, your customers are already used to your two in terms of like the actual content pieces, which I think work really well. One is like getting into these onboarding emails and onboarding flows. Do you ever one would be exteme creating video content which buyers would want to find on YouTube and other platforms? Because generally like I personally when I look at new software, I always go on YouTube and try to find a video Instead of watching a, you know, or reading a long form blog post, right, because especially like when it's technical, it's an integration is actually way easier to actually see somebody implemented it rather than going for like a really long blog post with screenshots and stuff like that, trying to understand what the value would be, right. Similarly, like, really good documentation is important for both teams. So really good book documentation for the partner team, as well as your own team is key. And what I found there is that, you know, at least initially, we had two separate documentations, we had like an internal one and an external one. And what I found is that it actually is a real hassle. Because the internal and external and both have to be maintained, they might not be of the same quality, right? So if you can, you shouldn't have only one documentation, which is the external public facing one. And your support team references that as well. Because that's how you find issues in it. That's how you like keep it up to date, it's a lot less hassle. And it's also something which can then be used by the partner team. Because that's like, the next thing which follows up is like, you want to have like a regular enablement session. So you can have actual sessions where you stay top of mind. So for example, if somebody thinks about, oh, I want to add pose to my event, they think about slider, right? So there's a great way like this kind of like session is a great way to think about how can I stay top of mind with the partners team, like the CSMs and two aces for that. And then the last one, which some of our partners like walls, for example does really well was that I always like a social social media wall, which you can integrate into your events to actually send a month, a quarterly enablement newsletter. So every quarter they send like an update of like, these are the things we worked on. They have like a PDF, which is like a one pager you can send out to your customers, vaulted pricing, and all the other updates that are CSMs. And AES might need isn't it to me, and I distribute it with the team. But it's a great way to like make sure that I stay like they stay top of mind with me and also Top of Mind workings.

Ben Wright  16:43
That one's like, in my opinion, a really easy lever that I don't see enough partnership teams do like I think a lot of us get obsessed with the three partner marketing motion, which is like to the end user of the customer, but in actual fact, like, especially when you're partnering with a company like a hoppin or HubSpot for example that have 1000s of partners potential hundreds of partners, the two partner marketing motion which is promotion of you and ensuring that you remain top of mind amongst that a and CSM population is just as important in my opinion and I and I see a lot of partner teams that miss that. Totally right like miss that. That whole motion totally. So I love I love that you reference that because it's it's it's not done often enough and gorgeous. Do It Really Well, right? Like their whole play that Chris Lavoie kind of piloted was sending a, an email newsletter out, and he doesn't even ask for permission, right? He'll just pull their names of like CSMs and E's and just truckmount, which for me, I love because if you can't get in front of people, that's one way to do it. Some people don't like it, but I think it's a good idea. So I know well, you're pretty kind of bullish on the two partner marketing pieces. All right.

Will Taylor  17:49
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think it's like the I was actually almost going to work with Marco to polish that whiplash. And it was for a partner marketing role. And the way it was structured was into three parts, it was to partner marketing, through partner marketing and partner marketing internally. And I thought that was really interesting, because I only thought about, you know, distribute our platform and you know, get revenue from that. But it's not as simple as that you need to focus on every single way that you can market is the all three of those, you know, your partner, and their organization needs to understand your offering more, your team needs to do the same. And then of course, the market does as well. So yeah, I love that that breakdown. So friends, I'm curious what your favorite of regardless of, you know, the amount of work required or what have you, your favorite partner marketing program, either the most fun one or the most useful one what what comes to mind,

Franz Schrepf  18:48
it's hard to pick one favorite, I think the best partner marketing programs and best partner marketing emotions are the ones which actually keep in mind, one, the ICP, so making sure that you're in front of the right people, and then be keep in mind their timing. So you should surface all the time, like every time a customer is the moment of making the decision, you should be there, right? So you should be somehow embedded in the process. I think that's the moment which are most important. One, one partner has actually done this really well with hoppin, so I thought that it would be fun to talk about them. But there's one agency called Smart ovens, which I actually work with since April 2020. So they're a German events agency. And they wanted to become a service partner on top. And before we had a service partner programs, so they're actually one of the first 10 agencies, which I launched, like our agency partner, pilot with, and what was really fun about them was that they were fully in person, and they didn't really know anything about virtual events. But at that point in April 2020, they were about to shut down their business. They license to cars furloughed at 10 employees, and they were basically about to close down. And instead of closing down what he did was Enrico the founder of smart events, double down on hoppin and basically helped us build the Hopkins certification by asking all the questions he had About hoppin, and then throughout the next year, he grew his team from 10 people to 40 people and went from regional player to international player. And the way he did it was that he basically helped us run all of our German GTM. So smart events basically became synonymous with anything happened related in Germany at a time when hoppin itself was actually still like a startup and small. And I was the only German speaker at the company. And I thought it was really interesting because he did a couple of things, which other agencies could do as well, like, you know, running ads, trying to be default leader in the virtual event space, and so forth. But what I felt was the most remarkable was that he really doubled down on us like until today for years leader like smart events is still like the number one hop in agency in Germany. And they also still talk about us every single day. And I thought that was pretty, pretty marvelous, because there's always the assumption that maybe it will be better with partner marketing, or like these kinds of service partners to branch out, right? Like maybe it would be better to branch out and like go from hop into like another virtual events platform, so you don't put all your eggs in one basket. But I think that's a mistake. Because what I found is that if you find a goldmine, you should just keep on digging, like, it's very hard to find a goldmine, it's very hard to find the opportunity, which gives you reliable results every time. But most of the time, what people will do is they find a goldmine. And then they go, Okay, this worked, maybe this other thing over there works as well. But instead, people should just keep on digging wherever to go comes out until they don't get any results from it anymore.

Ben Wright  21:19
Well, it's like there's this whole ecosystem. You mentioned, you mentioned HubSpot, which is which is great, but also the Salesforce agency piece as well. Right? Like it becomes kind of confusing. You wouldn't go from being like a world renowned Salesforce implementation agency to then being like, Oh, we're also gonna do Pipedrive as well, right? Like there's so much opportunity in the Salesforce bucket of it becomes to your point, almost like a devalue, let's say from from from splitting up attention. So so I really really liked that. fronds, we had to ask you for one tactical takeaway from today's chat. What what would it be for the listeners?

Franz Schrepf  21:58
So many, but I think the tactical takeaway really should be one, understand the user journey, understand what your customers care about at every single moment in time. And then be understand how you can plug in in that user journey as well. I love your analogy of the SAS playing river. And I think you really need to figure out like where you want to throw your fishing rod, where you want to like put out your bait for partner marketing motions alone. That sounds playing River.

Will Taylor  22:26
That's a wonderful point when you were mentioning that I was like, it makes so much sense. That is that's that's a clip right there. That is a great takeaway. Everyone. Take a look at your buying journey that your customers are going through and figure out where your tech lies and where your partner tech lies. Thank you for ons for your wisdom and insights and all the stories. It was great chatting with you again. And that is another episode of the hobby partners podcast.

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