In E41🎬 we continue sharing the best SaaS #partnerships playbooks.
In this workshop Justin Zimmerman, great GTM manager & marketer, whose famous motto is “integration ≠ partnerships”,
📑 explained his Playbook for Finding Partners Who'll Drive Sales.
I'm sure his customer-first, data-driven approach to finding partners will inspire many to take partnerships to the next level.
How to get customers to drive warm partner referrals
The "appointment getting" Loom videos he sends
Simple GTM Partner Test
Partner Webinar Template That Drives Sales
Q/A at the End
Justin, good to see you - I'm really excited to do it with you. Before we start with slides, I would love to hear a few words about how you come into partnerships. You've been in marketing and content and amassed a great experience. Tell us a little bit more about your backstory.
Funnily enough, I got a call the other day from the first partner deal I ever put together. About 15 years ago, there was a company that had about 1,000 customers. And I would call it an agency and they were looking for opportunities to work with both other agencies and tech partners. And we spent a couple of years working together and through the process of learning how their product fits with other products, learning how other customers are using their product in creating content and stories that allowed people to see the use cases and value, which is really going to be a lot about what we're going to talk about today is articulating the value of how one product works with another. That's really the mechanism that gets people's minds to remember which products are the best products for particular customers, for particular industries, and for particular markets. We worked together, they called me up again, they want to take their partnership program to the next level. They've got about 33,000 customers now, so much, much, much bigger. And we were just doing maybe partner marketing if that's what you want to call it back then. And they're now actually looking to get into a more integrated embedded, multi-channel approach to partnerships. My career has definitely grown since then. I couldn't answer those questions ten years ago, but I surely can help them now. It's just funny to see things come full circle after all this time and be right back where we started but on a whole new level.
I'm really excited to hear your talk and we'll jump into that in a second. I love your motto “integration is not equal partnerships”. But at the same time, I think it would be great to maybe preface our talk by saying, what type of partnerships we’re going to be mostly talking about?
I'm going to be talking about tech partnerships, tech-to-tech partnerships. But a lot of the principles that we and I would say motions that we go through will apply to other types of partnerships as well. I mean, the principles of partnerships, or do we have mutual customer overlap in some way, shape, or form where our customer and our products or services can align. What would be the mechanisms and steps that you could go through to test if this is a good partnership or not? And it's not just about customer count. And then, some of the things that you can do go-to-market-wise, regardless of whether it's tech to tech. Those are going to be my examples, because that's where I spend a lot of my time. And I'll be sure for anybody listening who's not just in product partnerships, or tech partnerships to add a little bit of extra context, so that way they can pick up on it as well.
Justin, please take it away, and then we'll do the Q & A after the talk.
Alright, everybody, hey, thanks so much for making time to join us. We love a live audience. The life of partnerships is humanity and connection. Thank you for taking the time to join us. And if you're watching this as a recording, don't worry, there'll be an opportunity. I've put some calls to action inside of our deck here where you can reach out and connect with me if you have any questions as well. But of course, being live here in person will get you the easiest, fastest answers. I'm Justin Zimmerman, and today, we're going to be talking about a playbook that I've used documented over the years that's helped me find really solid, great, in this case, tech partnerships that I've used to drive sales. This is going to be a high-level walkthrough overview. Unfortunately, I only have about 30 or 40 minutes to go through things where we could probably spend three or four hours diving into each aspect, examples and use cases and so we're gonna stay high-level today, but I think you're gonna get a good broad picture. If you're new to partnerships, or if you're seasoned, and looking for additional ways, thoughts, techniques, and tactics that can help improve your existing processes. This is my playbook, homegrown. I'll jump into a little quick bit about me.
I consider myself a go-to-market manager and marketer, marketer first. My last 20 years have really been spent understanding value propositions, articulating them through marketing, and then putting them out into the channels in order to attract, acquire, convert, and retain customers. And partnerships, for me, is actually just a combination of those two things. Instead of being about one product and articulating that value proposition, you're looking at one, two, maybe even three value propositions across multiple companies that you can string together into a cohesive story to attract great partners, attract great customers from those partners, and put them together in a way that everybody achieves value.
In the last year, just thank you. I don't know where it came form, although, I do know I've been working hard at it. I was named the number one person to follow on LinkedIn by Crossbeam. There's a little link in article there. I have to give myself a shout-out there. If no one else will, then I will do it myself. Surprising and interesting fact about me, I have a mindset of consistency over intensity. You can see right there, I'm on days 1413, probably a little bit more than that days in a row running streak. I haven't missed a day, got out there, put my shoes on the cold, the wind, the hot, the heat, traveling under all conditions, I've shown up and built a mindset of discipline and consistency. I want to jump into an important thing. I think a lot of people reason why they follow me and listen to me why Roman has me here today, no fluff. There are a lot of great concepts and there are a lot of great big picture things out there. But the reason why people come in watch and listen to me is because as a marketer first and a partnership person next, I document my approach, and I create content, in order to show step by step what I've done to do what I do, and then in a way I can share back with the community that follows me. And what you're going to see are actual screenshots, tactical implementations, martech, and things that I've actually done, not theory. We're gonna get into today's agenda, which is really four main things. And one of the last things if you're watching this live, you can ask some chats, you can ask some questions in the chat, and we'll get to those at the end.
This is almost a step-by-step process. In today's agenda, the first thing we're going to talk about is how to actually find great partners. There are millions of them out there, maybe hundreds of 1,000s. How do you narrow it down to ones that are going to matter to you? Matter to your customers and matter to your bottom line? I'm gonna talk about how I use existing customers to drive those conversations and to find those warm referrals to additional new partners. The next thing I want to talk about is my appointment getting Loom videos that I use for outreach to then actually get appointments with other partner managers who want to do business with me. What do I say? What do I do? What do I send to actually stand out from the crowd and book meetings with high-value other partner programs and stand out from the rest? The next thing then, once you make those meetings and those requests and all that gets booked? Well, you got an alignment, but do you actually have traction? And I'm going to show you a couple of simple go-to-market partner tests that I use and have created that you can use as well.
And then lastly, one of my favorites is if there was one thing that I could be known for and go super deep on. Partner webinars, they are the most valuable first go-to market strategy that has a lot of long-lasting legs, if you know how to do them right that actually can drive sales. As a marketer, now in the partnership space, I can dive deep into how I generate multi-product go-to market webinars that generate dozens of trials and sales. I'm going to give you a view of that.
The big idea, you want to attract great, amazing partners, and you want them to have fantastic overlap, fantastic alignment, and actually drive leads and sales. Where I come from in my philosophy is that, if you focus on what customers value, you'll find partners that you'll value. I'm going to give you an example of that throughout this. But keep that in mind. Go to customer before you go to market, go to customer before you go to market, and you'll start to understand their world, what they need? What their challenges are? And as I try to think about it as a go-to-market strategist and partner manager, I tried to put on the hat of I'm wearing the chief solutions officer role. What can I do to help bridge the gap between where they are and the results they like to get through agencies and apps? When I focus on what customers value, I can then start to identify what partners will value, because we're going to have mutual overlap.
The first step in that process that I have implemented and used was going into my existing customer database to drive and get warm customer partner referrals. If you think about it, if you reverse engineer success, from what matters to your customers, go to customer first, go to customer first, go to customer first then go to market. Well, what does that first go to customer motion look like? I'm going to give you a couple examples that I've used. I have another saying, and there's a whole conversation around this. And I'll save you the long explanation of it. But I call it ABT, Ask, Build, Tell. You always want to ask, who is this for? And why does it matter to you? Who is this for and why does it matter to you?
You're gonna see the word ask - where can you ask customers what matters to them in their world? One of the first places that I've put an ask is, you can ask to get sign up. There are a couple of ways to do this, whether you're signing up on a free trial, again, this is for tech partners, but this could also be for anybody that uses forms to capture leads, this will work for you, too. This could be a drop-down menu of all the most common places that people tell you they heard you from, or what am I favorite is to actually leave this blank, and let people fill it in. Because one of the things I noticed is that when people are able to write it in their own words, you're going to get a sense and feeling of who they're talking about. The categories will expose themselves, and you'll be able to have a clearer, richer understanding of how people hear about you. Because what often will come up is I heard through a friend, or I heard through my rep, or Google told me, or a marketing group, and you'll get these like generalized explanations of where and how people found you. And in that is a conversation starter. What you can't see here and I recommend doing is, I will connect a Zapier integration to these responses. And then when they say a friend, I'll say, hey, so and so I saw you signed up and you mentioned you heard about us through a friend, could you tell me what friend? Or you said, a group? What group? Or you told me about a partner, which partner? Make it easy, but open to the person who's signing up the customer to tell you how they found you, and create one simple Zapier sequence with one simple email that goes out. And then from there, what you'll start to see is, oh, the rep over at ABC company, or the owner of this particular named Facebook group. You will be surprised by how responsive customers are when they get this simple response, and how many partners and opportunities and marketing places that you can then discover that you wouldn't know otherwise because Google Analytics is not going to tell you what your customers are telling you, what your trial is going to tell you. One of the first places to reverse engineer success from customers who are going to help you discover great partners is immediately at signup. When it's fresh in their mind and they're getting that referral because they're in a world in an ecosystem that you aren't completely aware of. But you can be by asking them.
The next place you can ask is, well, what's the next step in the signup process? Well, the onboarding emails and this is a real-life example from an email sequence that I built out at one of my last SaaS companies, where when someone signs up, you ask them in the P.S. “hey, curious, what are some of the most essential other apps and tools you'll use alongside us?” And they'll respond with you can see here, we've got these insurance sales, Ninja quoter, we've got this CRM and dialer that we use, and everything integrates into our dialer. You'll start to get a feeling of their ecosystem. And maybe these are already on your radar. And we're just validating potential partners that you're already considering. Or they're putting brand new opportunities that you can go off and reach out to, which I'm going to get to next because again, this is giving you the who, and the why. And then you're going to go into the what and the how and the next section where you reach out.
Another place you can ask is just basic surveys. Everybody runs surveys. The next time your team or marketing or customer success -you hear about them running a survey. See if you can sneak in a little bit of language. Again, those same three words I asked before is what? I mean not be three words, it's three questions that I asked is what are the other apps that are essential to your business? Again, you can find that out in a survey. And you'll start to see again that overlap.
You can't see the questions here, but what is the primary way you use this service? What CRM do you use? And then lastly, the third question was, what were the other essential apps that you use alongside us? And you can see here, communicating, job, and sales machine, and then, these three other apps stack together. And from there, literally this email opened up a partnership for me that is still paying dividends every single day to the day, even though this was almost two or three years ago. This came from a customer conversation that came from a survey. The last place that you can go to ask and I highly recommend it, is just really simple. In your Slack channels, ask your head of support, ask your head of sales, and they're going to tell you, hey, I know so and so over it's so and so or this company keeps getting mentioned. Again, you're generating those warm leads in order for you to actually go off and reverse engineer success from customers who are already using other products that they want to use with yours.
Now that you've got this great treasure trove of amazing warm leads that are reverse-engineered from existing customers who are telling you, “hey, we want to use your product with this service, or we got referred to from this other company”. What do you say and what do you do to go out there and actually make those connections and actually transform those conversations into booked meetings? I'm gonna give you a picture here of what I don't like and what I don't do. If you're sending messages like this, and you're not getting responses, well, the reason why is, as a partner manager, you just don't want a general, “hey, I'd like to book a meeting with you”. There's no context, there's no value. What I'm going to show you in what I send, is what I say and do to get these, I would say, almost a near 50% response rate from the partner teams that I reach out to. Don't send, “hey, I want to confirm I have the right number for you, I'd like to discuss partnerships with you, and then send a link”. That tells me nothing about who the person is, and that tells me nothing about the value proposition. And I'm not most likely going to respond to this. If you're not offering anything of value other than book a meeting with me that talks about partnerships, you're probably not going to get the results that you want.
Now, let me show you what I send. All right. When I get a warm lead from my customer, and they tell me or a couple of customers. What I'll do is I'll go on LinkedIn, I'll find their head of partnerships on LinkedIn, I'll sign up for their partner program. And I'll get an understanding of those two things simultaneously. Then what I'll do, I will then go on in the case of tech partnerships, I'll go right to Zapier and I'll see if we have any common integration already existing some common use cases. And that's usually like the first step of value articulation that give first - let me demonstrate value before I asked of anything, even your time. And what I'll do is I'll make a Loom video. For those of you who text me at this number here, there's a link to the Loom video, you can watch it yourself that's in the slide deck. And I'll walk through it, I'll make a two-minute video and saying, “hey, this is Justin. I saw that some common customers were talking about us. Here are some common use cases. And without any heavy lifting (emphasis on heavy lifting), I see that we use Zapier together. And when there seem like some immediate use cases that we can test out”.
How much better is that of a message then let's talk about partnerships? Would you like to get a message as a partner manager or channel manager or partner marketer from someone who's done some research, demonstrated use cases, shown up with a video, talked to previous customers? There's a reason why my responses are near 50%, while I'm sure this is somewhere near zero.
Sometimes, in addition to that LinkedIn message, I will also send them an email because not everybody is on LinkedIn as much as I am. And so I do know most people are on email. I will also then go to that same person's profile, I use a tool called Apollo.o, they have a free 50 credits a month. Just grab an email address from LinkedIn and then boom, there you go. And then I'll send a similar message saying, “hey, this is Justin, just sent you this message on LinkedIn, not sure if you see it all the time, but I thought you might be excited to see this little two-minute video, I made of you on partnerships”. And reiterating that message. From there, I will get meetings. And we will talk about use cases. And we will start to build what could be the beginnings of an amazing partnership together.
Let's fast forward a little bit quickly here. And then let's say, all those boxes are checked. Great use case, plenty of customer overlap, a high degree of alignment around what the roadmap is, what our roadmap is, and what we want to try to accomplish in the next quarter or two. That's really just the first step. You don't actually have a partnership when you just have an agreement on customer overlap, because what you're going to discover if you haven't already, and something that I repeat very consistently is the best partners aren't the biggest partners. The best partners are going to be the most reactive, responsive partners. People who will show up and get their hands dirty in projects with you. That's going to come down to the people on the other side has nothing really to do with the brand, it has to do with the incentives, personality, and willingness of the people. What you really need to test for, is not just density of customer overlaps, but you need to test for willingness and responsiveness. Willingness and responsiveness of the teams and the resources in that company, as well as their customers. We're going to cover those two things right now.
Test number one. This is a real fun one. I call them demo days, some people call them launch and learns. And really what's the point of a launch and learn, right? You get a bunch of AEs and product people on one side and a bunch of AEs and product people and marketers on the other. And we all come together, and we demo our products. And I think it's great that we're able to see the product in action say, hey, this might be something that we are going to sell or co-market together.
I think that's good. But one thing I discovered in that, it can be added to that as a value to doing these demo days. And just like in many webinars that I do, is that if you treat it like a marketing experiment, you are actually, when it's your turn to go and do the demo who's ever leading that, they should be thinking, “I'm trying to activate this group of people that are watching right now to some form of action”. Why are you even spending time together? Is it just to watch a movie of somebody else's product? Or are you actually trying to engage with them and see if they're going to be responsive? One of the things I try to do in my demo days is put together the highest, most valuable level features. And then at the end, you can see these two questions that are highlighted here is
A - run a poll, it's really easy for them to get engagement the way you would do in a normal webinar, and say, do you think any of your accounts might be interested in the solution we provided here? Simple, yes. Light lift. Guess what? If you're using the right webinar software, it will be able to track who said that. And you'll be able to have a list of people who are watching that are engaged in saying yes or no. Again, engagement even at the micro-level. And two, if yes? Can we follow up after this meeting to talk about who?
Wouldn't it be great at the end of a demo day or a launch and learn you have a list of one engaged AEs or product or marketing people who are willing to start talking with you about reaching out to customers? And then two, quite possibly having a list of customers right off the bat. You don't have to wait. Right there, you're testing engagement of the other team's responsiveness to work with you, and then two creating a potential list of customers who can actually validate the partnership going forward.
Another thing that I love doing and I want to do more of these. It's not applicable in every environment, but I call them Offer Splinter Tests. And a lot of companies, especially in the tech space, have slices of their product that are free and testable, but they're sometimes just bundled in buried inside of the main offer when the reality is that if you could pull that splinter out, turn that into a specific offer, and give your partner one lens of value to help position that as an initial offer, it would be a great opportunity to test out. Well, we've got this in this case, on the left here, one of my clients, Woodpecker, in the email marketing space in the email sales space. An important aspect that every single prospector needs to have in place is a good warmed-up domain and email. And everybody knows that cost money and takes time, but Woodpecker offers it for free. Wouldn't it be great if you in your company, your team had something like Woodpecker that you could then say, “hey, partner, we have this free 30-day warm-up tool. We know everybody who's cold outbound email needs this as a service. Why don't we offer it to your customers for free?” Put together a little video, put together a little landing page, and see how many people want to sign up and try this one part of our service. It's like micro freemium if you want to think about that splintered freemium.
On the right-hand side, email validation. A utility and a tool that your product is a part of, but you can splinter and slice out and turn into an offer to engage with your customer, with your partner's list. As well as being a good steward of partnerships by going first and offering value. Great way to test out that partnership's willingness of the team to even work with you. Then two, is their list and their customer base even interested in something more than this? Again, we're trying to test before we invest, before we put it into the integration before we put it into a big huge marketing campaign and go-to-market webinar.
And then lastly, for testing out things, one of the things I like to do is what are the top 10 customer account intros? Again, it's the same but similar but different way of approaching this. You go inside of Reveal or Crossbeam or whatever account mapping tool. And you meet with a couple of AEs on both sides. It's like a mini mini demo day with the top two or three AEs. And try to see hey, can we trade baseball cards here? Do you have 3 to 10 great intros that you can make? One of the things to really think about here is this is maybe not necessarily about making sales. This might actually be about asking your potential partner's customers what they need, what's missing? And doing almost product market research with their customers to find out how well is this solution that you're going to offer applicable to the broader set of customers and accounts in theirs. It could just be an intelligence exercise, and it doesn't have to be about sales. Again, you're trying to test before you invest. Hey, you know what? Maybe they love the product right away, and they want 50 accounts, and everybody's happy. And you talk through the use cases as well, and it builds from there. But it doesn't have to necessarily be about dollar bills exchanging hands as a mechanism of validation.
All right, guys, well, we're coming close to the end here. We've done reverse engineering on who might be great potential partners because our customers have told us. These are the apps, services, and places, and environments that matter most to them, you reverse engineer that. And now, you've created great outreach and videos that then get you engaged with potential partners and their teams. You've set up those demo days, you've done your testing, and you've got great validation. And now, you're ready to go-to-market. One of the best ways to go to market in addition to obviously, launching the API, which Roman and I talked about before is integrations are not partnerships. Just because you build the integration and you connected two apps, you're not going to get a flood. Everybody expects a flood of customers, we launched the integration. But oftentimes, unless there are very specific circumstances, you get a trickle, if nothing, and you really need to have actively managed partnerships with a partner manager and a partner marketer, working together to actually articulate the value of how these tools work together.
For me, again, partnership webinars are the best ways to help bring that value to market. I'm going to show you very quickly the approach and setup that I've used. This is last week already, we're I think we almost put 400 people across multiple companies on a webinar. And we generated dozens of trials and demos for each one of the participating partners. This is a multi-partner strategy that I've used. But before you can get to the results, well, you got to do some planning. One of the biggest missteps and one of the biggest challenges in doing a multi-partner webinar, to get the results is you just have to have really, really clear and simple planning. Just right off the bat, what I would do, if you're thinking about putting together your next partner webinar, is a plan for at least six weeks, have a two-week planning process or two-week sprint, a two-week production phase. And finally, a two-week promotion phase. And make sure that you put this in your calendar in a broad bar across the hallway. That way, you're just clear on what's being done, as well as adding all the important stakeholders. That way it's on their calendar too. Then once you get to the big high-level. It's on everybody's calendar, the next most important part is getting into the nitty gritty. In order to get traction across your team and their team and possibly another company, you have to actually walk through and audit each other's sales and marketing funnel. You can see here, just a simple example that I've used is you have all the mediums and all the places that are potentially available as marketing inventory. Do they have solo emails? Do they have an SMS list? Do they have a Facebook group? Do they have a Twitter group? Do they have a company’s LinkedIn? Are there any personal people with a great following on LinkedIn? That's this one, Intercom, homepage banner, blog, and newsletter. You want to really walk through that as a general list, not everybody's going to have everything. But that's not the point. The point is to find out what they have available, what you have available? And then what dates you guys are all going to put together and align on to get that message to the market? Super important step.
And once you have the high-level, the mid-level, then we get the nitty gritty. Don't worry about all the details here, but I'm just giving you the steps and process. Then once you get alignment around who's going to do what? You need to build it into your project management tool, because conversations that are not documented, don't turn into results. After you have that conversation around who's going to do what? Then you need to put that into your project management system and manage it.
Alright, we're gonna take a step up now. And for the remaining time we have available, I'm gonna walk you through the results of what we just talked about. From my partner webinars, one thing I strongly recommend is to think about your webinars as a workshop. A workshop is designed to activate and engage customers on both sides to get better results using both products. One of the things I tried to focus on is you can probably see here it says “look over our shoulder to see step by step.” What you want to be able to do is walk people through like I'm doing right now, an overview of how they can get results with your products together. The first step in activating them, is actually using language that has activation built into it. Use the word “workshop”. Who was registering for this workshop? It's not a webinar. Again, it's not a movie that they're signing up to watch in your product. It is a workshop they're going to engage, because engaged customers buy. People who are watching a movie, they're eating popcorn, and they're not hitting the engage button to buy the next service and upsell. One thing I add in here, is a second step to the process for personalization, we don't have to go into that too much. But don't be afraid to add a second step to collect more information. 80% of the people who you put this in front of, were going to convert and give you more data to help lead score your leads to share with your partners. This is an important step on segmenting and lead scoring the leads who sign up for you and your partners. And then lastly, this is one of my biggest secrets here. You can actually start to generate leads and sales for you and your partners by just simply putting some call to action and free trial on the landing page, not forcing them to wait two weeks to actually join the webinar or watch the webinar. And then finally get the offer, move that offer forward in time. This is one of my biggest gives that people get. And then lastly here, when you're actually structuring the webinar? When you go through your different steps and stages, one thing I highly recommend is that the end of every section that you walk through, have a call to action. In this one right here, we talked about the process of warming up your domain. The call to action here is “go inside, click this button, and add warmup”. In this section here, here's how to connect your account to the application. Simple stuff - you show them all the results, and then you show them how to get them.
And then lastly, another activation is go download this Chrome extension, because you've demonstrated in each one of the sections, an approach that's going to show deliver them value and at the end that call to action. Sequentially through that actually starts to onboard them, starts to engage them and get them getting to use your products. I have a whole webinar I did on this. If you'd like to see the actual deck that a lot of these slides are based on, again, text me at this number, Justin one. And then if you put your email address in it, I'll make sure you get not only the deck that you're watching right now but the deck of my partner webinar template that accompanies all this.
That is about the biggest and fastest walkthrough of everything I've done in the last 10 years for everybody's had a chance to watch this. If you're live with us right now, we're going to jump into questions. And if you're watching this as a recording, feel free to text me at this number as well. And as you watch and learn, I'll be happy to receive and respond to them.
That was fantastic. And no fluff at all. It's very specific. And I learned a lot of myself, let me just ask Jonathan’s question straightaway. He's asking what are you using for the background of the Loom video that you're sending?
Part of our job as partner people and depending on your role is prospecting. You got to find people who will want to talk to you and one of the best ways to do is to personalize it. What I'll do, I will go to that person's Zapier page. If you're in tech partners, most companies are on Zapier in some way, shape, or form. And I will just simply go in, you can create a test zap. And I'll start with theirs. And I'll be on the screen. And I'll do a screen recording on Loom saying, “if this is the trigger, boop, and then this is the result with my product”. And I'll just do a simple, “hey, I discovered that when you launch this trigger with your app, and we fire this action off with ours, Oh, my God, look at all the possibilities.” The background I tend to use for those Looms in tech-to-tech partnership outreach, will be Zapier. But that might be different for you. You want to just think if it's different for you, well, what's the context that can help you demonstrate? What's the page that can help you demonstrate a better-together story?
Thank you so much. Let me just take you back what I understood, and then I would love you to maybe elaborate or correct me where I'm missing something. You basically, try to get nuggets of knowledge, what are the tools that the customers are using through getting their feedback in different ways, in signup process and elsewhere. And then, you would go and talk with those partners saying, “hey, we already have these clients who already use both of the products, so integration would make a lot of sense for us. We have this client customer list as well, who might also join your customer base and probably the other way around as well. And then after that, you would facilitate integration and then integration is not partnership like you mentioned and I think is brilliant. This is something that I assume myself actually a lot is that companies do integrate and that they expect something to happen. And typically, it's not the case. You need to actually spend a lot of time and build momentum to make this integration work and building a framework helps a lot. Did I understand the gist of it correctly?
You got it. It's like, would you rather answer a call or set up a meeting with someone who has customers raising their hand saying, “hey, we're getting value out of these two things” or would you respond and take a call from somebody who's just saying, “hey, I like your product or service, let's talk”. And I try to come from again, like that first slide, one of the first slides are, when you focus on customer value, you can then work with partners that you'll value. And it will be reciprocal as well, because it's the same story just you're going first and bringing this approach to them.
One of the things that I found really insightful is about splinter testing, effectively micro-free - I love it. Do you think it's something that many companies can implement or is it something that is sort of rare?
Two answers to that question. One, you can splinter on two dimensions - you can splinter on product, and you can splinter on price. If you splinter on product, then you really do need to have some functional utility. And this might even be just generally part of your marketing and go-to-market strategy in general, regardless of whether it's a partner-based marketing. You really should be thinking in terms of what's some utility, that's going to attract people to engage in my product at some freemium level, if we're talking about tech partnerships. And then that just becomes a special branded landing page with a partner's name on it that then you're just from a marketing perspective that partners now just a new lead source for that particular entry point, that conversion point for your product. That's what you should be thinking about is, what's the free offer that's gonna get people? It's not just ebooks and lead magnets that you can offer the market and your partners to your customers, but actually utility and free software that actually helps them get work done.
And then on price, this one's really easy. Is there a special offer or discount that you can say, “hey, let's test out anybody's initial interest at all on the partnership side”, with some really, really limited, but ridiculously low price point just to see if there's any traction at all, between the companies. Typically, I could see that what needs to happen, there needs to be some recognition of your product. You can't put a price in front of somebody even making it close to zero, and have people evaluate at all if they don't understand the context of what problem that product is going to solve. You have to really look at that, because you can't just drop your price and then say, “hey, they're not biting”, there might be something missing in that as well. And that's the other dimension.
We just covered tech partnerships and you have a background in marketing. You probably understand the entire range as sales is somewhere in the middle between marketing and technology. I'm wondering how your framework could be applicable for different types of partnerships. Not only technology partnerships. How do you adjust this for marketing partnerships or sales partnerships?
What you're really just doing is shifting the audience that you're trying to influence to action. In a sales environment, and I hear this very often, instead of trying to focus your marketing efforts on acquiring your partner's leads and customers to try your service, you're taking that same set of motions, and you're trying to connect and enable your partner's sales teams, as well as your own, on the value of how these two products and services work together. They're the mechanism to the endpoint. Normally, marketing is the endpoint to the customer. But in this case, sales is the endpoint of that customer. Your job is to educate repeatedly, and I would say systematically, sales teams on both sides, the range of opportunity that's available to their customers when these two products are put into the same motions together.
Your entire framework, the entire presentation is brilliant. But I'd love to hear your opinion, if you could pinpoint 1-2 things that are crucial where people are missing out typically, where do you see disconnect more frequently in this tech to tech partnerships? Is it reaching out to a lot of partners without context like you mentioned in the beginning? Or is it not activating partners after the integration? Or not using the entire stack of marketing possibilities that companies have? Where do you see people missing?
Sometimes it's not their fault. I would say a lot of partner marketers and managers. They're struggling and dropping the ball, mostly because it's not their fault. And it's mostly based on the organization's focus on where partnerships live. And based on where partnerships live, that focuses on what partnership's functions are. In one case, you're going to drop the ball if your partnerships team is under sales and your job and your KPIs are tied to volume, number of contacts, amount of outreach, number of calls. If you're more of a BDR, then you are a partnership manager or a partnership prospector, in the new ecosystem term, you're going to be focused on quantity over quality.
I'm waiting for the quantity train in partnerships to knock on my door and say, no, no, no, we got it. And here's how it looks, and you're wrong. And just so many of the people that and I'm always trying to reality test, not just my experience, but with others. And I haven't seen the quantity train win over the quality train. If the true mechanism, the 80-20 of the Pareto principle we hear over and over again, is truly how partnerships work, then where the ball gets dropped, again, is not putting an emphasis on spending enough time planning in what the ideal partner looks like. validating that through your customers, validating that through your customer success, and support teams, looking at your product roadmap, and seeing where there's gaps in your delivery that you're never going to solve with your own products. And instead of build or buy, you're going to partner, you go through those exercises, you can come up with 12 to 15 super top high-level partners, that then especially if there's alignment from customers, and success and support and all that stuff that when you reach out to them using the mechanisms that I talked about, you're going to actually discover partners that you can work with for the long term because you're validating their interaction, you're validating their customer database, and activating them pretty much every month in some way, shape or form. Because it's a continual activation, you don't activate partnerships once, it's every month you need to have communication. And that's the other thing that gets dropped a lot, is not having scheduled. Super simple stuff, do you have a recurring one-week, two-week, one month, check in with your partners around what the goals that you're setting are? And when you have that, then everything else can fall into place, if you've got alignment with your team and internally, and like I said, reverse engineer the success of the customers out to the market. And then you have somewhat of a plan instead of goals, which a lot of partners and companies do. And I don't think I necessarily am 100% in that category yet either. And it's an area of improvement for me, and then where I am super strong is and it makes up for that lack of super defined planning is that I have rigorous regular recurring meetings with my top partners at least once every two weeks, at least. That way, when we meet, we can talk about what's next? And even though if we don't have a long-term plan, we're iterating bi-weekly on a sprint toward hitting goals together. And for me, those are really the three main things that I don't see a lot of that I get asked a lot about and that I implement and I see generate results in success for me.
That was actually, very golden nuggets. My last question is, could you share a little bit more? What is the best way to contact you? Obviously, there's a phone number, but other means as it needs as well. And what’s you're up to these days in terms of how partnership people can get some help, insights and maybe advice from you?
I would call it micro-famous in the partnership space on LinkedIn. Type in Justin Zim on LinkedIn and you'll hear or see something from me. And from there, I write about these types of topics, I share my playbooks there. I have been setting up at least once a month, a session similar to this for my audience at partnerplaybooks.com. And then once a month, I either share new levels of understanding on my existing playbooks, or in this case, we're doing a channel manager's playbook and I'm bringing on some people who have expertise in the area that I don't, that I want to learn from. I thought, well, if I want to learn about it, why not invite my community of people who follow to come learn along with me? We'll be doing things like that.
If you go to partnerplaybooks.com, you'll fill out some questions about who you are? What you're looking for? Where you are in your state of business? What type of business you're in? That will give me some understanding and insight into how new pieces of content and playbooks I should create. And then you'll get also an invite to one of my next meetups, where myself or some other expert will talk about playbooks that they've implemented and share in similar ways of what you've learned here today.
I think it was an amazing talk. And I love your value-first approach and no fluff as well. Very actionable insights. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I hope that we'll do another one, when each of us will amass a little bit more knowledge and a larger audience and stuff like that. I'm looking forward to following your success.
Thank you. I look forward to coming back.