Howdy Partners #9: Tiering Your Partnership Programs

Howdy Partners #9: Tiering Your Partnership Programs

Multiple Contributors 27 min

So you’ve got your programs launched and they are performing.

What do you do when you recognize all partnerships are not built the same? From buy-in, partner performance, company potential...all of these are aspects to consider if you think tiering your programs may help.

Learn about what you need to keeping an eye out for, why considering tiering is important from the start, and how you can begin to frame a model to help you tier effectively.

3 key takeaways

  1. Tiering partnerships is about creating different paths for partnerships to succeed and scale.
  2. Having a tiering system allows you to create systems and processes around different partnership paths depending on which partners you want to invest more into, and less into.
  3. Save tiering for when your partner program is more mature.
  4. In early stages, you don’t need to tier. Tiering helps partner programs decide how much time to spend on each partner. In the beginning of a partner program, you have enough time to activate every partner.
  5. Partner tiering is dynamic.
  6. Partnership tiers aren’t static. If a partner changes how committed they are to the partnership, your commitment to them can change as well.

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Full transcript:

Ben Wright 00:19

Foreigners, welcome to the Howdy partner Podcast, the podcast that every week gives you tangible tips on how to improve your knowledge on partnerships. I’m here with one co host this week, Tom, Tom. Hello. How you doing?

Tom Burgess 00:33

I’m good. We’ve already lost one.

Ben Wright 00:37

Yeah, not many episodes in and we’ll decided that he’s. He’s had enough of us this week. He does have an excuse. I guess he’s caught up at an airport at the moment. Yeah, airports are are a total crapshoot at the moment.

Tom Burgess 00:51

I see. So and he I know he’s, he’s in Toronto. And I’m not sure if you’ve heard of like the nightmares that Toronto Airport is having right now. I traveled to Vinyard maybe a month ago and I actually had a decent like, you know, no troubles getting and getting out. Like, there’s some stuff going out. Like they don’t have any, any staff and during the summer months, like I’ve heard of nightmares, like people being stuck at the Toronto Airport for 25 hours. And it’s weird. They’ve got US customs at their airport, instead of going through customs on the way back. You just hit it there. And I Good luck. Well, that’s all I have to say.

Ben Wright 01:29

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the same like all over the world, like even Salt Lake, which is usually a pretty calm airport. There’s like security lines out the door. So as if the wall can get any crazier, you can’t even rely on our travel now, which is, which is unfortunate. Let’s, let’s leave that. Before we let’s get back to some of the more positive stuff. What we’re really here for what our listeners are here for. And that is that is partnership content and partnership knowledge. Again, cool episode we’ve got coming up. It’s one that is often discussed. debated, I would say it’s a fairly contentious topic. Some people believe in this, some people don’t. But today, I guess really the kind of thing that we’re going to cover is is tearing tearing partners should you shouldn’t you what is tearing, all that kind of good stuff. So by the end of this episode, you should, you should have a an understanding of what tearing means whether you should really be considering it for your partnership program. And a little bit kind of behind the curtain on on Tom, the program that they’re created Vinyard and some good stuff there. So without further ado, I’ll kind of Chuck it over to you, Tom to kick things off. And I guess let’s start like the real basics. Right. What is what is tearing and partnerships? What the What the What do I mean by tearing? I guess?

Tom Burgess 02:47

Yeah, you can think about it much. Like there’s products out there have tiered subscriptions. You know, if you you buy Spotify, you buy Vinyard. You know there’s different levels of of product features, product benefits, but you’re also kind of an I guess, on that front, you’re actually paying more money. And I know with some partnerships, you may charge a fee, you might not. But at its at its core, you’re looking at different paths, for partnerships to scale and succeed with your platform as a partnership. And it definitely takes into consideration what types of partnerships, you’re running, you know, technology side, so SAS, the SAS more the integration pieces versus the service side, but the principle is still the same, which is, you know, should we be launching a tearing model? What does it mean to have a tiered model? And really what’s important? So, you know, for instance, if you find my top two, your partner with X company, what does that mean? And honestly, like from a partnership, lens, tearing might not even be promoted or public to to your your n partners, and that’s okay. But what it allows your team to consider is how are you going to mature? Have you matured enough? Because I think that’s a really important piece of we’ll get into, but how do you see yourself scaling to the future and building some specific paths that allow your partners to scale faster, or maybe play a better, more intangible role and integrated role with your team versus maybe something that’s more like self serving, guided, where they can still get all all the bells and whistles of a partnership, you they just don’t have managed people? So that’s me. Yeah. Theory.

Ben Wright 04:28

Yeah, that’s a good, good overview. And I think, in a similar way that SAS products have have tiers. They’re pretty definable, right? Like, I know if I’m in a premier tier of video, and I have X amount of capability if I’m in the middle tier, so maybe dive into that for me a little bit. Like how do you think through building tiers, as it pertains to partnership? What What things are you taking into consideration? What behaviors maybe just give me an idea of like, how do I To build tos and what are included in those days?

Tom Burgess 05:02

Yeah, good question. And there’s a couple of different themes here. One of the most important themes that I am very passionate about is is like really the mindset play, which I’m actually going to save for the second piece. The other side is, is do you have partners that stick out? As someone who is just succeeding without you even being there? They’re clearly vested, they’re clearly bought in. And you know that the company is a fit for them to drive mutual revenue together. And what that what that points out to me is like, Wow, do we need to have a partner manager, like, activate them continuously? You know, do we need live support as a continuous basis to help that that plateau, or that hockey stick growth kind of be seen faster, versus just kind of sitting back and letting what’s happened happen? So it gets into the idea of, of like, how should you be tearing? Or like, what what are you firm? It’s like rudimentary basics, how do you build a scorecard to then run your partnerships through to see where that comes out? So you’re looking at ideal company profile doesn’t align with your company’s does the product if it’s a tech company, but more importantly, like what’s, what’s the revenue potential? How big is the partner that we’re talking about? What’s their what’s been their historic context? You I and I say that, very importantly, like, what I’m not suggesting, thank you, well, sorry, my son’s down here, told him to keep buddies

Ben Wright 06:35

he’s doing is he’s doing his regular regular guests. So it’s so good, so good.

Tom Burgess 06:42

The one thing I don’t suggest is, if you are just starting your partnership journey with your company, you’re thinking about launching a partnership program. Tearing is is not for those early phases, you need to be you need to be activating partners, you need to be getting familiar with the partnership program, you need them to get familiar with the product. And it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like you’re a pirate, and you’re just sailing the waters looking to see what’s out there. And that’s what you really need to spend your time doing. I’d say tearing, you know, should be considered as you’re maturing, you’ve got an established partnership base, because then you can go in and say, you know, how is the how is the ship running? How is our team set up to help them succeed? And I’ll, I’ll tell you quite, quite bluntly, like the reason that that ad Vinyard we are starting to consider tearing is because we don’t have enough team members to activate 150 partners, like there’s just not enough time in the day, there’s not enough people power to be sitting there with, you know, 40 different partners every week, you’re just you’re gonna, you’re gonna be like scratching the surface. And that’s not a knock on our partners. That’s just the reality of the game. It’s much like being at a service agency, are you going to keep throwing people to service more clients? And so I think that’s a really important call out is that tiering is for a very mature program. Now you can start thinking about it. I, I believe when you have a scoring mechanism in place, that’s a juice. All right. Thank you. Thank you. Where you can take it upstairs. Okay, I gotta continue to talk, because I’m talking pockets. My gosh. You got the scorecard, right. You have a scorecard where you can run your partnerships through it, whether that’s based on historic Arr, which I was kind of touching on before I went on that tangent? How are your partnerships doing? Is, clearly that’s one of the most important success factors, are they referring business. And then it’s, then you start to peel back the layers and you’re like, How’s their mindset. And mindset is a really important piece. To me, if you don’t have that one plus one equals three, type buy in from the partner perspective. They just see you as a vendor. To be to be fair, that that, to me is something where I’m not going to invest my time is if they’re not willing to either. And sometimes that’s a good thing. You know, a lot of times these these partners are very self serving nature, and they know what they can do. So you just kind of let them run with it. But that that mindset piece is huge. So just to kind of reverberate things to consider is going to be and how you should really start to consider tearing is can you build a rubric? Like do you have clear data to provide that your partnerships are scaling? Do you have internal, you know, Team issues where you can’t service all these partners? And then, you know, as you build that scorecard out, like, what’s the mindset aspect? Because if you if you see someone’s talk to your partner, but they’re, they’re assholes, like, what are you going to do? And that’s a that’s a really important piece. And I think it just goes unsaid too many times.

Ben Wright 09:41

Yeah. Yeah. And I think the the scorecard is an important one, but that just touched on one of the points you made at the start of like, and especially that I guess the stage I’m at from a partnership program perspective, it’s very much like creating a program and I think I agree with you in the fact that like that, there’s no point in my mind at tearing I mean, how do you to me So you’ve got planners on board, and you can actually assess them. One thing I would say, and again, I feel like I call out crossbeam and reveal a lot on these calls. But that is for me, like a good indicator to at least begin to think about in your mind who is a, a more strategic partner, then maybe another? So you can see pretty easily on crossbeam, like, Okay, we’ve got 500 mutual customers. Yeah, for me, that’s like a good indicator against maybe another partner, where we’ve got five mutual customers, and from there you bucket them based on like, Okay, how much? How much effort are we gonna, we’re gonna put into to that partner. With that being said, like, there’s also occasions and I’m sure you run into it at VGR, where you have partners that are competitors, right? So I mean, I don’t mind revealing it, like at the moment video and HelpScout, talking about maybe a partnership, right? Without like, I’m aware that for you, customer support is a great vehicle for you to approach and with that, there’s a lot of big players, there’s Zendesk, there’s intercom, how do you think through? Or how does it differ where you’ve got players that all play in the same market, and save your one of your sales reps are asked, or who would you recommend for a customer support tool? How does that rubric or that scorecard play into lead sharing? I guess, when you have competing partners,

Tom Burgess 11:23

that well, and that specifically, is where that that like, relationship building and mindset element comes in. So handy, because I mean, every every SAS platform out there that has partnerships launched, I mean, I would never suggest, well, I don’t know if I would suggest it or not. But you should, you should be agnostic to certain verticals. And especially, I mean, like video arts perspective, our goal is to be anywhere to be everywhere. So we can’t just kind of sit back and choose, you know what? Well, Zendesk is the big guy, we’re going with them. Sorry, Ben. And that’s actually, that’s not the case. We want you to be a partner with ours, when we get to talk more, but but the big point there is, and I think it’s very simplistic, then this is where like that partner buy in is so important. If the partner is vested, if they they’re adaptable, and they show that there’s a willingness to scale with your company in a partnership, that is a really key indication as to my value and the value that I can bring us. So it equals that one plus one equals three. And I know that doesn’t math out, but that’s the 2x, that 3x or 5x, because we’re both so aligned. And a really cool way to consider this is that, you know, let’s say HelpScout is, you know, a, you know that vid yard or any other platform is not necessarily going they’re going to be pretty agnostic in your space. So they’re going to have competitors that are partners, sales teams, right sales teams, to me, are going after their targets. And, and, you know, they’re not, they are super laser focused, for you to break in the market for a sales team to be so aligned around their product and yours together as a solution. You need to pitch that to them. And so really the products and the companies and the partnerships that can envelop the entire company, and help multi teams scale and align and adopt and be confident in your product. Now, all of a sudden, you’ve got teams that are not only talking about their product, but they’re bringing up their product and HelpScout together, or they’re bringing up their product and Zendesk together, because they’ve had that education. So when someone can spoon feed it to them, because they realize the inherent success and possibilities out there. So all that to say, if you if you want to partner with someone, and you know, there’s competitors in the space, if you’re just going to sit back and let that partnership happen, or just kind of like, get emails, maybe refer some business. That’s not the Win Win mentality. And that’s not You’re not, you’re not going to beat your competitors, to having that company really talk about you.

Ben Wright 14:03

So I think you mentioned a couple of things and tons of like, what factors are important to you? So I guess one of them you mentioned was was mindset. The element there that you mentioned was kind of ICP account overlap again. So I guess the only question for you with like mindset and assessing your partners on like, how engaged they are? How do you? How do you scale that from a partnership perspective? Because when you assess mindset, it’s fairly subjective, right? Like for some partner managers mindset might mean that you’re very responsive on emails, and you do jump on calls whenever they want. To others it might mean oh, they’re a lot more engaged in like the account mapping thing, and they’re sending me leads like, how do you, I guess, qualify mindset and then how do you how do you scale that up to a way where people are doing accurately right and they’re actually assessing partners correctly?

Tom Burgess 14:56

And that’s a that is a that is an answer. Well If that question is really important, the answer is never going to be the same for every company. But I think that leads into really the crux of it is that if, if your team can build a consistent and standardized approach to understanding how your partnerships are working, and working is is once again, to tone you’ve got How is your partner doing? Are they referring business consistently? Do they? Do they understand your product? Are they like, delighted by your product? are they reaching out to you with ideas? That’s one side. The other side is, are they like mutually bought in or they ghost like simple, simple items like ghosting, new on calls, not responding to your emails, not referring business, a negative attitude or like, you know, not like sending in unnecessary report support requests that you have to kind of answer to always bringing up problems with the product like it. That’s that stuff that everyone gets. And I’m not trying to be like, you know, kind of like the, the negative Nancy over here. But it’s stuff that adds up. Right. And so when we take a step back, one of the ways that I think teams scale and understand this is one, you know, especially with partnerships, you need to you need to be very transparent. And you need to be very upfront and honest. So by building out this mechanism, right, and taking those simple items into consideration, are you guys have regular conversations? And is it? Is it fruitful? Do you have set agendas? Are you coming out of that with like a game plan and tack? And are you seeing that the fruits of your labor pay off? Yes or no? is really easy to do. The other the other really important piece that I want to touch on there is how are you onboarding partners. And it sounds trivial, but almost almost building this kind of like this assessment period where you’re able to kind of like kick off the partnership, give them some homework, right giving them homework, go go through this product training video series, get certified in in like positioning and how to sell, you know, Vinyard or how to sell HelpScout. If they’re willing to invest time, and go through the proper steps to essentially being confident and adopted and launched as a partnership instead of you kind of spoon feeding that to them. That’s a really good indication in terms of the long term viability of that partnership. And the long term buying that they have with your with your product.

Ben Wright 17:30

Yeah, the the train LMS thing is a really interesting thing is something that we’re building into, we’ll build it into all of our programs, but even our affiliate program, which if people aren’t aware of affiliates, like the majority of those people are just like YouTubers, and blog posters and stuff like that. So they’re not, they’re not all equal technology or strategic partners. But like, for us, what we’re creating is, if you watch one video on, like, what is HelpScout, you get pushed into a higher tier. So we’re doing that for a couple of reasons. And I think it goes back to like, it’s a small ask, if you want to be signed up to be an affiliate to ask you to watch a three minute video on HelpScout. Right? That, for me is the bare minimum effort that you need to be a HelpScout affiliate, right? Like, you don’t want to put too many barriers in front of people to sign up for the program. So anybody can sign up. But if you want to get moved into that higher revenue to and you’re gonna be earning 5%, more, which is substantial from a, from a revenue perspective, just go through learn the product, and like, show that you that you care and and actually understand what we do. Right. So so so I agree the LMS one is, yep, is I think we’re really good equalizer.

Tom Burgess 18:39

And I was just gonna say we, you talked about technology earlier, like the use of crossbeam, like rely on technology to help you aside from just like tearing rely on technology to your advantage. And and I think it speaks to the idea of tearing is not for, you know, the the burgeoning partnership program, it needs to be somewhat established. But you know, that’s and that’s where you can say like, I can purchase an LMS software because the other side of this mix, and honestly, like one of the biggest elements to why you should be tearing is you’ve got to have some self serve program, you have to have some aspect of, of letting leading your partners but letting them kind of like lead you. And by them showing investment by them being able to educate themselves or gather necessary resources, you know, from day one to say, You know what, I feel pretty good. Like I can start referring this product and weaving it into our services. That’s, that’s amazing. And that’s where that’s where you start to build efficiencies from a partnership lens. That you know, we don’t need 10 people because we don’t need to 10 active managers you know, even with our lower two partners that aren’t doing anything, and that’s just kind of a waste time now all of a sudden, you’ve got this, this you know, it’s like automated walkway that I’m sure will is walking out at the airport right now. You put them on that you let them walk through it, they can look in the windows and see the advertisements And then kind of pick and choose when they get off and what they do. So I think that’s,

Ben Wright 20:06

yeah, I agree. And actually, my previous company brainstorm, we ended up like tearing our partners, where we had like dedicated partner managers over the top 20%. And then we actually had, I think, one that handled 80% of our partners, because a lot of them are like just doing like 500 bucks a month, I never want to jump on calls. And it’s like, at that point, unless they show and again, I think the the point to add there is, those low tier partners, low tier partners can suddenly become high potential, right, where you can move them up at I think what we’re not saying is like, once they’re in that little category, there’s no end in sight, we’re gonna forget about them. Because if, for example, they suddenly get their act together, and there’s a new partner manager, and they want to do co marketing, and they want to jump on calls, and they want to, like that, for me is again, that mindset of okay, now you want to partner instead of just being a transactional, vendor type relationship. So I think that’s the other point to make is like, I don’t think what either of us are saying is, once you once you don’t do it, right, you’re not in that volunteer forever. There’s, there’s ways out of it as well. Right?

Tom Burgess 21:09

Yeah. And just to kind of wrap up wrap a bow on this, you know, that that’s, that’s really the secondary factor. I think we’ve we’ve talked about some of the, like, the ways and the mechanisms or the thought, as to, you know, when or why tiering might be right for you, and honestly, like, how, how some of the the assets or resources that we’ve talked about can help you initially to your partners, and then you know, at certain at certain milestones, longterm to your partners. And then of course, from like the relationship standpoint, how does that factor into tearing, but to your, to your point, like, we’re not suggesting that, you know, you know, what, you’re allowed to your partner, you’re gonna stay there forever, you need to be continually reviewing that, whether that’s on a monthly or quarterly basis. And you can use that same scorecard that we talked about upfront to kind of go in and say, oh, you know, wow, like XYZ partner just referred, you know, over the past quarter, five deals, three of them close, and it was 60k. In ARR? Like, should we start to consider that they’re like, now, the wheels are turning, they’re starting to, like, support the business and like, let’s help them, you know, 5x, that. And so that to me, and I’m going through that right now, I see partners all the time, they’re like, why don’t we have we need active managers on this. So you just got to find that time. And once again, as long as your team can build a very consistent and structured way to do that, now, you’re not throwing a lot of variables into the mix, when you’ve got very subjective ways of scoring that are important. And you’re Yeah, I’m like, think about that, and scale at nauseam.

Ben Wright 22:37

Yeah. And I think just final point, before we kind of wrap up hit. In terms of indicators, again, you just made a really great point in terms of, okay, panelists in our lower tier, let’s call it that doesn’t engage, suddenly, they generate a lead that brings 60k in for HelpScout. My first thing is email in that partner manager and said, Hey, if we can close 60 grand worth of ARR, the potential for this is huge. Let’s start engaging more and creating more and moving them up tears, right, getting a dedicated partner manager. So I think there’s always indicators that maybe even outside of like the mindset stuff, and the relationship stuff, there may just be like an opportunity to really talk you through a lead, and suddenly, you’ve gained a substantial amount of revenue, which is an indicator for you to be like, maybe we should write everything and move

Tom Burgess 23:25

for a was this just a blip on the radar? Or should we start to really pay attention? Actually, like, one of the things that I didn’t cover that that, you know, as you start to scale and mature, we talked about the ICP up front, like how does your company’s ICP align in like any scoring mechanism to tearing partnerships, really, it should be your ideal partner profile. And once once partnerships start to kind of take off and you’re like, you know what, I know who I want to partner with, because I’ve seen 20 of them come through and they’ve been established for a year, build the ideal partner profile, don’t don’t necessarily lean on the ICP of your company lean on the IPP of your program.

Ben Wright 24:02

Cool. No, I love it. Well, it’s been fun. I think everybody has listened in has hopefully got a little bit more of an understanding of of what tiering is, whether you should consider it and ultimately how it can be a really effective mechanism to scale and manage partners. So Tom, appreciate the time today and hope everybody’s enjoyed listening until Until next time.

Tom Burgess 24:23

See ya folks.

Multiple Contributors 27 min

Howdy Partners #9: Tiering Your Partnership Programs

From buy-in, partner performance, company potential...all of these are aspects to consider when tiering your program.

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