PartnerUp #109: 6 Do's & Don'ts of Partner Marketing You Can't Ignore

What is up PartnerUp!

Today’s episode is a crossover episode from the Marketing Together podcast hosted by Logan Lyles. Jen Spencer is the CEO of SmartBug, a full-service revenue-driving digital agency. She shares essential tips for partner marketing. She touches on things like balancing multiple partners and analyzing the reasons for success or failure of a partner marketing campaign.

Hope you enjoy!

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Full transcript:

Isaac Morehouse  0:00
Hey what is up, partner up. This is a cross podcast takeover. Wanted to share an episode of The Marketing together podcast, which you can find over at partner We've got a whole page for marketing together, podcasts every week newsletter every week, articles, we also have selling together. Again, these are all about using that near bound strategy, but applying it to the marketing profession and to the sales profession respectively. So unlike this podcast, which is primarily for people who work in partnerships, working together and selling together or for people who work in marketing and sales, but want to utilize the near bound strategy, so I just wanted to share this because I know a lot of the listeners on this podcast don't yet know about these other podcasts and they are something that you may be interested for yourself. But you certainly want to be sharing with people you work with who are in marketing or in sales, who you know may hear a show like partner up, be like, Oh, that's for partnerships, people. That's I'm not interested in that. But when you want to go hear from marketing pros or sales pros, How to Win bigger and faster by bringing partners in. You can send them these podcasts. So today's episode, we are sharing an episode from the marketing together podcast host, Logan Lyles shout out to Logan. Because it's just a great episode he interviews Jen Allen, who is a legend in the partner marketing space on six do's and don'ts of partner marketing that you can't ignore some great tactics. Great conversation. Hope you enjoyed the episode. Hey, and I'm gonna throw out there one last CTA. If you still are not subscribed to the partner hacker daily, what are you doing? Get over to partner And subscribe partner hacker daily. It's free. It is your morning partner fill in your inbox. Everybody loves it. We get emails, pretty much every day we get messages. People raving about how much they love it. We get people telling us all the time. It's how they start their day, every morning. It Forward. It's all their colleagues. Go sign up for the partner hacker daily. Usually got a little meme or a quote of the day in there. A couple of interesting things to think about interesting combos happening on LinkedIn around the partnership space article here or there. Whatever the latest events are bite size. It's fun, you can skim it see what you like Parker hacker daily. Go subscribe. Okay, enough me. Let's get to this episode of The Marketing together podcast. With your host Logan Lyles, and John Allen.

Logan Lyles  2:49
You go further faster when you're marketing together. But what if you don't know where you're going? What if the other person in the car hasn't agreed to the same destination? What if they aren't ready for the road trip? These are the questions we answer in this conversation with Jen Spencer, CEO of smartbug media. They're an elite partner in the HubSpot ecosystem. And Jen has done a lot of partner marketing in her career from both the agency as well as the brand side. So in this conversation, she shares three do's and three don'ts that will help you accomplish partner marketing success. And we answer those questions about how to align on the destination. Start out on the right foot with a new partner and make it successful for everyone, including the customers you're trying to reach together. Alright, let's get into the show. You have a lot of experience doing this both on the brand side and on the agency side. So I think you're going to provide some tactical things with both perspectives, which we often don't get when it comes to partner marketing. But before we get into those do's and don'ts, you are a big advocate of starting out on the right foot and especially some of the conversations you've had lately that preempt those conversations of how are we going to do this marketing together? Why should we so what would you say? What would you recommend to folks in where they start before they get into the do's and don'ts of actually marketing together?

Jen Spencer  4:12
I am ecstatic over the moon excited that there is new energy right now I feel it within my network of people who want to part and and are looking at an ecosystem approach to to to marketing and sales and driving revenue and customer happiness. But I think the one thing I just want to recommend is that people take a beat and they don't forget the dear old discovery process that that our sales friends no no so very well or hopefully you know so very well. Right. So you might think you might be doing your research and my recommend you know to your team, okay we should partner with these organizations, because I There are perceived synergies that we can have and It looks like there's a certain market segment that we're both kind of going after, or we're both supporting. But you don't just, you know, you want to take a moment to actually ask and ask some questions about what's going on in that business before you start partnering. Because when you decide to partner with another organization for marketing, and then sales and anything else, right, it's a significant lift, right? It takes effort, and it takes resources and time. So I would just say, to make sure that you're not not leaning on any assumptions. And you're really just taking a minute to ask what what that other organization has going on, and really understand what's valuable to them, and where they're going to be focusing their efforts. Because even if you've seen that over the last year, they've been doing certain things, and then you want to model it after those activities. Maybe they've decided those aren't the types of activities that they want for themselves in the next year. So just taking the beat asking questions, going on a date before you walk down the aisle.

Logan Lyles  6:08
Have you seen where folks have approached you kind of assuming, hey, this is a no brainer, right? And that has caused you to say, Hey, hold on a second, here are some of the questions we should ask first. And I guess my follow up question is, what are some of those questions you're often asking yourself, or when you're telling someone Hey, timeout, take a beat. Let's ask these questions to gather. What's kind of top of your list? Yeah,

Jen Spencer  6:33
I mean, at the very least, it's just like, ideal customer profile. So asking, Hey, who are we who are we actually targeting? And why. And then also is looking at a really are asking people trying to understand what their initiatives are, Hey, what are you focused on of the what are the top three things that you're focused on driving in the organization this year, to just take a step away from Marketing, and think about the broader organizational goals? Because while on paper or on online, right, it might look like, hey, this makes a really, this makes really good sense. From a partnership perspective, you don't know what's going on inside of that business. And so, so just being human and asking about what are the key initiatives so that if you hear, hey, you know what, we're really trying to build up a funnel right now, or really trying to brand ourselves as an expert in this kind of space, that then gives you insight to say, Oh, well, this is how a potential partnership with us might be beneficial. Or if you start to hear other types of of things that are very much unrelated to your goals and your intentions for approaching that individual in that organization, then it's a chance to take a beat and say, oh, okay, interesting. So this is what I was thinking, based off of your initiatives is it sounds like this is maybe biting off too much for you at this point in time, just asking for that kind of clarification?

Logan Lyles  8:00
Yeah, absolutely. There could be total alignment that you could see externally in ICP, in approach in the strategic narrative that you're both putting out there in the market doesn't mean the timing is right. Right. There could be internal things that are happening, right. And it does mean that the timing is right, for the sort of CO marketing initiative that you maybe have in mind, right? Maybe you ask that question. And it's like, the timing is right, in general, but not for the thing that you're thinking about. It's, you know, because like you said, you learn some things within their marketing department. What are they trying to accomplish right now? What are their OKRs for the quarter? And how can you align to those? So all of that I think plays into that taking a timeout to assess the relationship before you just assume that it's a no brainer, right?

Jen Spencer  8:47
Totally. And if I can take it even one step further, where it could potentially do damage beyond that conversation, is if you're looking to bring multiple partners together, and you make those assumptions about one of those partners, and you sell a third party partner on this idea of collaboration before you've had a chance to communicate with that partner you're talking about, and I'm saying this because it happens to me. Whoa, like you have an opportunity for like a lot of things to really blow up on your face. So it's just just taking a beat. And any Listen, we all get excited, right? And it all comes from a really good plays like no one's it's not negative or manipulative, right. Like everyone. I think people get excited about the ways that they can work together and how you can go further with each other. And that's 100% True, but but just make sure you don't put the cart before the horse. Absolutely. It's

Logan Lyles  9:45
the tagline of the show. We go further faster when we're marketing together. But we got to make sure we're in the same car were pointed down the right road. Yeah, and we both know whether we're going are we going to you know, are we driving to La are we driving to Scottsdale right Have that conversation first. So that is a great to have Jen, for the rest of this conversation, we're going to be talking about three do's and three don'ts. Once you've got that alignment, you know, the timing is right, the partnership is right. And what you want to execute is right, you talk a little bit about one of the things that marketing teams should do when they're marketing together, is aligning their marketing calendars. And it actually borrows from something that sales does when they're co selling oftentimes, but maybe we're not as good at as marketers. What do you mean there?

Jen Spencer  10:32
Yeah, so sales has gotten really good about saying, Okay, well, right. I've seen it. And I know we're doing a good job of this, but is looking at well, who's in our sales pipeline right now? Who's in the partner sales pipeline, and you look at look at them layer, layer them to see how can we help each other close these deals and in harmony, right, because we don't want one to then disrupt the other. Or you might even look at it through shared customer lists. And I know, you know, there's there's technology that folks use, like cross being right, where they're, they're, they're looking at that data together. And then looking at what are the opportunities that we have, what are maybe target accounts that we can, we can approach together in harmony. Marketing is it should take a similar similar approach, you hopefully have a calendar, you've got a strategic marketing plan, you've got an editorial calendar, you have key campaign initiatives, you have goals that you have set out, when you first start partner marketing together come together with each with each other's calendars look for where do we have overlaps? And and where do we have overlaps and certain audiences, maybe we want to try to target maybe it's with certain kinds of messages, maybe it's in specific regions, territories, or company sizes, but look to see what's common. So you don't end up creating more work for your teams that very, very likely are already running kinda lean, because that's just the way things tend to be, and you never have enough hours in the day to do everything that you want. So you want to look for those alignment spots that you have as marketing teams.

Logan Lyles  12:17
Absolutely. I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head sales teams are used to doing that, you know, with crossbeam, or reveal and finding that lowest hanging fruit. So it's not just, hey, where do we have alignment? Let's go try and tackle these new accounts together, let's grab that low hanging fruit of where we actually have overlap. And it ties into what we were saying earlier with timing right? Start with the stuff that's in pipeline, not just we have overlap here. And I think marketing could do the same thing, looking at those two editorial calendars and saying, Hey, we could do some stuff. But it doesn't necessarily need to be additive, right, we can find where the overlap is, and make what we're already doing better than adding to it where maybe teams are already stretched a little thin.

Jen Spencer  12:58
Yeah, honestly, it's a protection. This is like this is 100% resource protection, to make sure that you don't stretch yourself too thin.

Logan Lyles  13:05
Absolutely. Well, number two on your list of do's when you're doing partner marketing well, is to make the map out the conversion process early. So everybody's on the same page and making your calls to action clearer to the audience that you're trying to reach. I think the two both go hand in hand. But where do you see folks maybe not checking this box to make sure they're doing this to do their partner marketing? Well, I think it's

Jen Spencer  13:32
it's it's a natural oversight that we make when you're you're putting a co marketing campaign together. And inevitably, there's going to be one team, that maybe they're just going to have more resources and be able to spin up landing pages spin up webinar systems, everything a little bit faster. Or maybe one of the partners that's in this relationship, maybe that's their, their they prefer, they prefer they prefer that it's on that it's theirs. And and you as the as the other partner say, well, actually, that's great, let them do it. And and they can handle the burden of this. And we're going to reap the rewards of getting because we're going to be sharing that lead list. But remember that whoever is the one who actually is converting those leads, if it's like net new leads that are coming in, and this is for a very awareness stage campaign, whoever is converting those leads is likely going to have most of that kind of brand equity and and affinity with that prospective customer. And the more people the more entities more companies that you're adding, it's just going to become a little bit more diluted. So if you're going to go you're going to be co marketing on a regular basis. Maybe it's you're doing a webinar once a month or once every two months. You'd be every other you have the leads convert On partner A's website, and then the next time you're doing it on partner B's website, because I just think there's, there's gonna be this diluted, but dilution effect that happens. And also, you want to make sure that you've really mapped out what is the follow up cadence going to be, because the last thing you want to do is have all of the leads convert on one entity site. And then maybe one of those organizations has an SDR team that they just go full force after every single one of those leads. And then your team is following up with those individuals. And they're already irritated, like, why are people reaching out to me? Why am I being harassed, and this is the first time you've ever talked to them. So it's just again, like taking that beat and figuring out, okay, who's going to who's going to be the owner entity that's going to be converting these leads? How do we make it really, really clear on that form, that these are the two brands that are hosting this experience, and that you're going to be hearing from, and just making sure that the follow up communication makes sense for the customer doesn't just make sense for that individual marketing or sales team, but that the customer experience is a good one, because it's only going to end up backfiring and causing a bad brand experience for your company.

Logan Lyles  16:18
Absolutely. There's so much power in coming together reaching a larger audience. But if all we do is reach that larger audience and we confuse them, we annoy and irritate them, then we've actually done double damage to both brands, oftentimes. So I think that mapping out that conversion process isn't just about making sure we get enough leads out of this CO marketing campaign. It's about like you said, the customer experience and protecting the brand's reputation that are both involved there. And I think what you said there, you kind of alluded to the third do already, Jen is kind of tat, even though you're tag teaming, and it's a mutual effort. And that's where the strength is in marketing together, there's value in bouncing back and forth, who's taking the lead, both in you know, one brand is going to have a little bit more affinity with this segment of the audience that you're reaching, and the other is going to have a little bit more. But there's also some value in kind of sharing the load differently. Because each partner might bring different skill sets different capacity to the table, whether that's on the marketing ops side, or the the content side. So when you say kind of bouncing it back and forth, and who's taking lead a tactically, what does that kind of look like in some of the things that you've done with smartbug and your partners?

Jen Spencer  17:43
It's both shared responsibility. So making sure that the left is is equitable, but there's going to be times where there are there partners we work with who say, we don't have like the human power, like we don't have the actual, like just the muscle to act to get this done. But we have the money. So we can help fund this, this thing, right? If you will be the ones to actually push the buttons and do the work. Right, the content. And the great that might work if as long as we've got that resource capacity to take that that on. So it doesn't I'm not saying that ever has to be like even Steven for every type of activity, but you want to make sure that you are you're looking you get equal value, right, equal kind of perceived value of what each of those partners is actually going to be is actually going to be doing. And you you you also you want to be really clear, right? Like kind of well documented, what what that is going to what that's going to be so because there could be teen changes things that happen. And if there's some other executive or someone that kind of comes in and they see it, it looks like well, it looks like this one partner has been doing all of this work. You want to document what that exchange of value is not in great detail. Right. But I think just having a little bit of a have a have a paper trail for it is something that can just help protect the relationship going forward as teams evolve.

Logan Lyles  19:19
Yeah. For any agency side marketers listening to this, you know that oftentimes you're billing your clients on retainer, right? And oftentimes, you're gonna have months where there's a little bit more work, right that if you looked at it on one month, you're like, oh, gosh, we're upside down on this client, right? And then it's going to there's going to be some ebbs and flows. So I think kind of taking that mentality of the way we look at a client relationship and client profitability from a retainer perspective is similar to looking at it. In partner marketing. There are going to be ebbs and flows, but overall there is an equal exchange of value and left but it might look different. I like what you called out there. Don't assume that everybody knows that and knows the history right because they You might just jump in and be like, Well, what the heck? Why did we do 80% of the work on this webinar? Or whatever it was?

Jen Spencer  20:06
Right? And I think the other thing you look at it is, this is no different than even building an internal team, you have to assess what are our skills? Like where do we have a lot of strength? And where do we add a lot of value as an organization, whether it's, we, we own them, or we own the market thought leadership wise around a very specific topic, or we have the technology that enables that something to happen. And then the person or the entity you're partnering with? Well, they should ideally, they don't have the exact same skills and the exact same value, they have something complementary, that kind of comes together and creates an even like a well rounded sort of campaign or well rounded experience. So that's, that's the other thing when you're thinking about that kind of balance and give and take with your with your partnership, what are what are hopefully you're partnering with an entity because they're giving you access to people or to thoughts or to content, right, that that you don't have on your own, or it will be more challenging for you to develop on your own.

Logan Lyles  21:12
The Avengers would be really boring if they were all the Hulk, right? Ironman versus Captain America versus the Hulk, they all bring something different to the table. So think about that. If you're kind of the you know, the cocky smart one in Iron Man bring that and recognize that but don't expect that everybody's going to bring be Iron Man and bring the same things to the table well, as fantastic, Jen. So the three dues to recap there, align your marketing calendars, map out the conversion process early and share the load, but back and forth, it might look different from month to month are campaign to campaign. So those are three do's so let's do a little eat this not that let's talk about the don'ts of partner marketing. And number one on your list of don'ts is don't assume the customer knows your brand, front and center. So this ties back to something you were saying earlier in your follow up process. Don't assume that just because you were involved in this doesn't mean that they have the same affinity awareness understanding. So where would you say are some of the missteps there to kind of piggyback off of what you were saying earlier in that follow up process?

Jen Spencer  22:20
Yeah, well, I just got back from an awesome conference and had a great experience and went to a gathering that was hosted sponsored by four different entities. And I don't even know three of them, because I register for the event because of my relationship with one of those entities. So it just it's the problem is that that lead me as a lead that went to that individual salesperson who's doing that follow up, that individual has absolutely no idea that I only really know one of these one of these brands, and I don't know, I don't know who the others the others are. So there's there's not a ton of like ways, it's just you have to be aware of it right. And don't assume, don't assume that, that you're going to have the exact same talk track with every single one of those leads that you generate, especially when you've got more than two, far more more than two partners. But even when you when you only have to st you know, st same thing, same thing kind of goes. Yeah, don't, don't, don't, don't, don't do don't do that. And be really conscious of the more people the more people involved, the worse it's going to be.

Logan Lyles  23:34
There. There definitely is. I mean, there's already so many I think bad practices in b2b marketing, especially with event follow up that it lacks contacts that doesn't understand or take into account where the buyer is in the journey when you have multiple people involved. Like you said, it gets even more complex. For anybody who wants to dive deeper in that I would encourage you after you listen to Jen and I go back and listen to the episode here on marketing together with Mark killings from air meet, he talked very tactically about the the prep and the follow up specifically around an event and how you can be more thoughtful and make those messages land. If you're executing something, and you don't want to be the brand that's coming in to someone like Jen's inbox, the wrong way post event, especially if you've got multiple brands involved. So number two on your list of don'ts. Jen was Don't do something untested. What do you mean by that in a new partner marketing relationship?

Jen Spencer  24:32
So when you have a brand new partner that you're marketing with, you don't want to try to just do something completely brand new together? Because if it doesn't go well, you might not know is it the campaign? Is it the audience? Is it or is it these tactics is the message or was it the actual partner? And conversely, you could do something brand new and it could come off as extraordinary. or success. And then you might think, Oh, this is amazing, anything we do with this partner is going to be unbelievable. And then you, you know, you you over and you inflate, over inflate the potential results that you're gonna get from future campaigns. So so what you want to do is do something that you know, when you do this type of activity, this type of campaign, this type of message on your own, here's what the results are. Now, when we partner with somebody else, how does that change? And do we get more of a lift from the same kind of an effort that will give you a much cleaner sense of how successful that collaboration is, and, and just kind of keep you from making some bigger mistakes down the line,

Logan Lyles  25:52
you point out something really telling there, you can get false positives, or false negatives, right? A false negative, you're like, Ah, this partner doesn't know what they're doing. They don't have the audience, we thought, well, maybe it was more the campaign or, or the channel, right, because you're testing something new. If you're starting from where you've got a baseline, you've got to control, right now you can experiment with the partner, but you've got that control to keep things in perspective. And speaking of control, that's actually number three on your don't list is don't think that you can control everything with your partner marketing efforts, especially in the environment today. What do you mean by that? Jen?

Jen Spencer  26:29
Yeah, I mean, this is this is a lesson learned. A painful lesson learned, right? Where my marketing team, you know, this is years past, was, was working on a pretty massive campaign and really put, we put all of our eggs in for marketing in that basket, because it was, it was so so significant. And unfortunately, with the partner we were working with, there were things that happened in their organization that prevented them from meeting the deadline, hitting deadlines, and kind of meeting the requirements of the campaign that were really outside of their control. And then therefore, well, well outside of our control. So so it's, it's, I don't want to, I don't want this to come across, like I don't think people should partner, they absolutely partner together, you're, it's you're gonna go further together. I'm a firm, firm believer, but just make sure that you don't put all your eggs in one basket, make sure that your partner marketing efforts are the cherry on top of that ice cream that you have. And you're not, you're not your sales team isn't reliant on the output of that partner collaboration to hit your your revenue goals.

Logan Lyles  27:50
As the old saying goes, you know, hope for the best but plan for the worst. And like you said, hopefully you never have to use that plan B. It also is a selling point to make sure that your network and your partnership efforts go beyond like, Oh, hey, partner marketing is this cute thing we do over here, you should have a lot of connections, a lot of relationships that you're building, so that, hey, if this one partnership doesn't work out, it's not like, hey, we tried partner marketing for one u one campaign and it was a new campaign to your point earlier, and it didn't work. So you know, that flopped. And we're not going to be able to use these partner marketing efforts as an extension of our marketing team, which is exactly what we were talking about in last week's episode with Cory Schneider, VP of partnerships at Cisco. So to close it out. You mentioned earlier, you're hearing more buzz around leveraging the ecosystem. Partner hacker released, you know, their thoughts around the near bound methodology here in recent weeks. What are some of the things you're hearing and seeing when it comes to marketing together and leveraging an ecosystem in your marketing efforts that have kind of maybe turned your head a little bit or some interesting things that you see happening there that you would call out?

Jen Spencer  29:06
I think there's some really cool things happening inside the HubSpot ecosystem. As is, you know, I think so many No, I'm a huge, huge fan of HubSpot and been a power user for many years and we're an Elite Partner. And as HubSpot has really transformed from being a marketing automation platform to a true customer relationship, platform and service serving the needs of customers from marketing, sales, and even you know, service and being able to be used as a full front office solution for revenue teams. It's been really exciting seeing how solutions partners who have different experiences, different pieces of expertise are coming together to solve for the customer that's using hub squat as that platform so they all have HubSpot as, as that common denominator, right. And then you take you see there'll be be an agency like smartbug. That is, is service focus, right, we don't have our own technology. And maybe we're collaborating with another piece of technology that integrates with HubSpot that solves for a complex problem that we know customers have. And together, those three entities can come together and have a unique perspective and do a lot of education and knowledge sharing within within the market and the ecosystem. That's the stuff that I'm seeing that's happening that again, it's like birthed out of HubSpot focus on being a true CRM platform, and how they're able to really serve as the mid market. And where technologies and service providers are really coming together in some pretty exciting ways. I

Logan Lyles  30:56
think that that is a great way to round out this conversation because as someone who's currently building a solution partner program at at teamwork, I've been trying to follow in the footsteps of folks like Pete kupuna, who was episode one on this show for a very good reason. Because I think that he obviously set up the direction and the growth of HubSpot in so many ways investing in solution partners, and obviously today, it's gone through so many evolutions so much growth. I've still got my eye on what HubSpot is doing to activate their ecosystem to help their partners and help HubSpot and their customers grow better together as the saying goes, and so it's definitely one that I have my eye on as well, Jen, this has been a fantastic conversation, to closing questions for you, as we've talked the do's and don'ts of partner marketing and the do do's and don'ts of approaching partner marketing. You guys have a history of marketing well with a lot of your partners at smartbug. For folks who aren't connected with you in the team, what's the best way for them to stay engaged with you guys?

Jen Spencer  32:01
Absolutely. So they can go to smartbug Check out our resource center where you can start consuming a lot of our content that we have, and maybe you'll be inspired and you'll look for ways that we overlap and collaborate together. And also hit us up on LinkedIn or you can email marketing at smartbug

Logan Lyles  32:21
Well, for everybody listening and watching thank you so much for spending time with Jen and I today. Hopefully you can take something from our list of do's and don'ts when it comes to doing partner marketing well and remember we go further faster when we're marketing together.

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