Jeff Cheal 47 min

Nearbound Podcast #165: From Zero to $400M in Revenue - Finding Success in a Crowded SaaS Market with Jeff Cheal


Jeff Cheal explains how Optimizely generated $400 million in revenue in a competitive and crowded SaaS market.



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For the last like 12 to 18 months, if you went on, and this is so silly, if you

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just

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Googled Optimizing, our ARR reported numbers were much lower, this is because

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Optimizing merged with the company Epic Server back in 2020, and the problem

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with brand awareness

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is that when you come together to brands, you choose one of the names, people

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only know you as one

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thing as opposed to, "Yeah, this should be a really diversified business."

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[Music]

0:32

All right, we're back at last. Welcome to the Nearbound podcast, and it's

0:36

always so much fun

0:37

to spend some time and market with folks and then get them back into the

0:41

conversation.

0:42

So today we have in Jeff Chill from Optimizely that just posted about Optimize

0:49

ly crossing 400

0:50

million in revenue. And Jeff, you and I had the chance to meet in New York at a

0:54

sales assembly

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dinner and kind of geek out on all things partnerships revealed near bound. And

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I was like,

0:59

"Oh my gosh, we have to have you on the pod." So it's so great to see you here,

1:03

my man.

1:04

Yeah, thanks to the invite. I appreciate it. And yeah, it's a big day for Optim

1:09

izely. It's great

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to get that out there in the world. And it's exciting. Good time to be part of

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the ship.

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100%.

1:16

No, that's insane. When I saw that post, I told Jared, I was like, "I did not

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realize

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that Optimizely was that big." And in a time where there's a lot of

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doom and gloom around SaaS, I think just being reminded, there's a ton of value

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being created.

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There's a ton of success out there as well. So I was excited to see that. And

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especially

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because I was like, "Oh, you're coming on the podcast today. I got to learn

1:40

what are the secrets

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from an organization that's crushing it at that level."

1:43

Well, we got to share a big reason for the announcement, right? It's a little

1:49

bit of just PR

1:49

about Optimizely because for the last 12 to 18 months, if you went on, and this

1:55

is so silly,

1:55

if you just Google Optimizely, our ARR reported numbers were that slower. This

1:59

is because Optimizely

2:01

merged with the company Epic Server back in 2020. And the problem with brand

2:05

awareness is that

2:06

when you come together to brands, you choose one of the names, people only know

2:10

you as one thing

2:11

as opposed to, "Yeah, we have a really diversified business." And getting away

2:15

from,

2:16

I think, a history of Optimize, which is A/B testing, started in 2012 by two

2:20

Google product

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managers. And this really like romantic story and now merging it with this

2:25

platform story and

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bringing these things to the forefront. That's what helps us get into market.

2:31

We were meeting this

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week. CEO was meeting with some of our partners. And we got asked, "What are

2:36

our biggest problem

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is right now?" Even having good AR numbers. It's just being aware for the right

2:42

products. It's

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being known for something and not everything. And it's really hard to do,

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especially in a crowded

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SaaS space. Actually, I want to tie what you just said together, Isaac, with

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what Jeff just said.

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Because this just dropped in the past week was the Scott Brinkers MarTech

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landscape.

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Did you see that, Isaac? Oh, my gosh. I had to use a magnifying glass. It was

3:03

like a

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ponter-lessed painting. It was just more absurd than ever.

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So I have to comment on this because it's very relevant to this conversation

3:13

being that I think

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optimizes is one of those pillar companies. How many of these have actually

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crossed 100 million,

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much less multiple hundreds of million in revenue, optimizes being one of the

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paragons of that space,

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is that it grew from 11,000 last year to 14,106. Nearly 30% growth in one year

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for a mature landscape.

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It's like, I actually did not anticipate that. I didn't think that it was going

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to grow so much.

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Now, obviously, a lot of those are AI-fueled MarTech applications. But given

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what we saw last

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year in a consolidation and a lot of companies hurting, I was surprised to see

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so much growth.

3:50

And maybe, Jeff, you're probably closer to that MarTech interesting narrative.

3:55

I'd actually love

3:55

your opinion on what you've seen in the past couple of years is a lot of

3:59

companies rigor around

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go to market and partnerships. How have you grown in a time where the number of

4:07

competitors is

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increasing and the number of net new entrants into the space is increasing?

4:14

Yeah, we grew a few different ways. We went through five or six different

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acquisitions in three or

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four years. We were acquired by Insight Partners who invested in a business in

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a tough time to try

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to bring together some similar companies. We modeled out our acquisition

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strategy around one concept.

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And that was growing up into the right on the Gardener Force to report. A DXP

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platform that had

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a pretty clear definition of how to win. And we moved away from the competitors

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to the standalone

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solutions and we're aiming at the adoption point. And we want to have a

4:47

cohesive suite.

4:48

In doing so, you invest. What came out of that, though, was 10,000 customers

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with over 70% of

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them owning just one of our products. If we just stopped doing new acquisition

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and did cross-sell,

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we could be growing as well. And that would be a great way to grow at a pretty

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reasonable pace.

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And so we're finding vendor consolidation not only from the buyer perspective,

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because customers do

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want to buy from single vendor. We have opinions and options across all these

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platforms. We bought

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good solutions that are leaders in a bunch of quadrants and that's good. I

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think the anti-

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composable solution and a suite solution, we have good things in a lot of

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places and that solidifies

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the customers. I think as customers are getting more practical about their

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spend, they do want to

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invest in a platform, whether that is Adobe, whether that is Salesforce,

5:39

whether that is other

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brands that have unified Martec, because it's just frankly too much work to go

5:45

to multiple vendors,

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even with good point solutions. So you said something very important, unified

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Martec. And I

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always can call people's bluff just by going to their homepage. And I love that

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I go to the

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Optimizely homepage and it says we are a team player. And you're featuring

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integrations and

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the ecosystem story and those nearbound integrated networks that you have right

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at your fingertips.

6:05

And I actually love the marketplace and everything that you all built there. In

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addition, of course,

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to the boutique agencies, to the more GSI players that you now have as a part

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of your ecosystem,

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that is part of the narrative of this maturing market is if you don't interoper

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ate, if you're

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not a team player, if I can't trust one major vendor to help me make 10

6:25

downstream decisions,

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then I don't really want it to add in that new vendor.

6:29

Right. And I think, you know, on the integration side, like our challenge is

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that it's not going

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to be like our system robust, right? Like we're not the center of anybody's

6:39

Martec slide. Like I

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always position like if you vision a Salesforce and their own Martec slide and

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where you fit in that

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like massive confusion and investment, like it is very rare to be in the middle

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of it's not even

6:52

really important. Like you have to integrate with the other pieces and places.

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So whether that's

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our product team asking my partnership team to go out there and find key integ

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rations for things

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that we just don't do well, right? And acknowledgement that when we hit that RP

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, you know, a good

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person that our RP is going to be, do you integrate with X? Like do you

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integrate with X? And it's

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going to be that sales person's like dread and fear to say like, do we

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integrate with X? And make

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sure I can say yes, right? Whether that's the pieces that we know they're going

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to own like a good

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CRM or social platforms or whatever it's going to be. And so you can't be a

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leader if you don't

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play well with others. And I think we've done a great practice job of playing

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well with others.

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So I would love to ask you a little bit about given the size of your ecosystem

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and you have

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partners on the tech side as well as the solution side, you as the I think your

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title is VP of

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partnerships. Is that correct? Yeah. What are you doing? Like how are you

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starting with the strategic level before we get down to the tactical level?

7:55

What are you thinking

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about on kind of like an annual or quarterly cadence in both of those buckets?

8:00

What are you

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trying to achieve? Is it like net new partners? Or is there a certain number of

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activities you're

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trying to drive with partners and how does that differ from app to solution?

8:09

Yep. On the solution

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side, over 50% of our revenue comes from solution partners, right? And we've

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been a partner driven

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network for our long history on the on the CMSI because that's a very partner

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driven approach.

8:23

When I started in 2015, we had no outbound SDRs. We were all inbound just

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taking and leads because

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majority of our leads were coming from our partner network, but then it was

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good or bad.

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Now we're at this place where we can be proactive. And so the solution side is

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working with partners

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on referrals and trying to bring in business by creating books of business that

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are partners.

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When they invest in our tech, we certify them. They want to refer to us. They

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want to build

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because they get huge service dollars of our platforms. On tech, it's totally

8:54

different.

8:55

Because what we're trying to do is establish entropy with our technology

8:58

partners, right? We're

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trying to go to the leaders in certain tech platforms and attach ourselves to

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those deals.

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And we compensate our team on referred deals by partners and then influenced.

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The challenge is

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forming a partnership with a tech partner and having them refer business to you

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, that's like

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earned equity. And that doesn't happen overnight. You need to really nurture

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that. That's a lot of

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the new down philosophy. It's coming together and being able to align sales

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teams to each other

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and gain that equity to where you want to refer to each other. The fact that we

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chose to then

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compensate our team on influenced deals where we're sharing intel, we're

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getting into a run

9:39

together, we're figuring out how we went together. And so from a team

9:42

perspective, my KPIs are

9:44

attached to deals. How many deals can we attach a tech partner to? Increase win

9:49

rate in order to

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establish when a partner was involved, when they worked, right? And then

9:54

renewal rate as well.

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We definitely look long term at how many customers are renewing. The close book

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revenue,

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that should be there. It's icing on the cake. And how many deals refer? It's

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those incremental

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attributes that allow us to amplify the value of tech partners in a way that we

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do.

10:11

How much are you fighting over the influence component?

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It's tough, right? And that's a hard one to attach to think the business is

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open to that

10:25

attribution knowing that, hey, we're establishing value in intel. I think the

10:31

important thing,

10:32

Isaac, is that we have representation on our partner team on the C level. We

10:37

have a chief

10:38

partnership officer and that chief partners, if officer grew her book in her

10:42

experience,

10:43

in bringing in partners, establishing their place in our business. And so when

10:47

you bring an

10:48

influenced attribution to our CFO or to our CSO or whatever, that fight has

10:53

already been fought,

10:55

right? And now it's just numbers and it's attached. And I think what they want

10:59

is accountability

11:00

for aggressiveness, right? We want to bring our tech partners to deals. We don

11:05

't want to make it

11:05

the job of sales reps to ask for it. And so by bringing these people along and

11:11

adding intel to

11:12

our win plan on somebody who's already trying to form a win plan, that's where

11:15

they see the best value.

11:17

What I love is how you're talking about the improvements to the business model,

11:22

right? So like,

11:22

attach isn't necessarily a panacea partner attach rate, right? Par, Aaron McG

11:28

arry is like

11:29

one of my buddies that talks about this. It was formerly Qualtrics and Sales

11:32

force. And I love

11:33

the talk track around this because what we're trying not to have is that debate

11:36

about influence

11:37

where like, look, when partner attach rate exists, what happens to the unit

11:41

economics of the business?

11:43

Look at the win rate of the partner attach cohort. Is it fundamentally better

11:46

or is it not?

11:47

And what we're not talking about and arguing about is the effectiveness of the

11:50

partner program.

11:51

What we're talking about is the growth of the business, right? Like, you need

11:55

to be able to

11:55

demonstrate the impact of partnerships on the overall growth of the business.

12:00

And that's how you

12:02

do it. You speak in terms of business numbers, not just partner metrics, Qualtr

12:05

tr metrics.

12:06

So I love the way that you frame that. It's how we should be having these

12:10

conversations in order to

12:12

have a partner led or ecosystem led business that is running nearbound plays.

12:16

You can

12:16

say the Intel play, right? Which I love. It's like, hey, AEs know how to

12:20

interoperate here. And

12:22

that Jeff's tech partners aren't just going to hand me deals that are ready to

12:27

sign on the dotted

12:28

line for six figures. Like, I need to build a multi-threaded business case. And

12:32

not having

12:32

partners involved would be really silly. And the good reps are on text

12:37

exchanges with their

12:39

counterparts at the partners that they know from a tech perspective. That's

12:43

exactly what I'm going

12:43

to ask you about. How do those reps work? That's really good. They know. And we

12:48

tie it up for them.

12:49

You know, scale is not need. You know, linking reps with each other. It's

12:53

getting the reps in

12:54

the same room and letting them establish their business. And they know whether

12:57

it's by vertical,

12:58

by size, you know, we're mid-market enterprise. It's the same enterprise rep at

13:02

the partner that,

13:02

you know, like keeps the fountain running. They do that work. And we don't need

13:07

to do that work.

13:07

So I can go establish the next strategic partner, right? And bring that in.

13:11

Here, we went through

13:12

an interesting change. So, you know, when I really got involved in partnerships

13:17

about over a year ago,

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we really did not have this attribution for the tech program team. And even

13:22

having somebody in

13:22

the sea level, like the philosophy was there, but it took me nine to 12 months

13:26

to get over the

13:27

economics of it. And whether it was where are the points going to come from?

13:31

You know, what's the

13:32

attribution of the point? Everything is a point of the deal, right? If it's a

13:35

percentage, what's that

13:36

going to do? Is that coming out of the marketing budget to acquire the customer

13:40

? Is that coming out

13:41

of our, you know, retention budget to keep the customer, whatever? Because it

13:45

does all point

13:46

to money, right? Somebody's not getting margin from that. We're paying out

13:49

somebody else to do it.

13:50

I think when it changed was the proof point of the increase win rate, right? To

13:57

where, you know,

13:58

we knew that. And then, you know, our CFO, CSR willing to now add more people

14:03

to the attribution

14:04

that would get paid on it by, you know, we're creating better behavior by

14:09

paying the right

14:09

people. And it was not easy. It was really not easy. And it was a lot of

14:14

headaches. And it was a lot

14:15

of waving the flag to people that otherwise had a lot of other things to care

14:19

about. And finally,

14:19

giving their attention where they've been like, listen, we'll give you the

14:21

tools, we'll let you do

14:22

this. We're going to model this out. We're not going to let it go forever

14:25

without analyzing it.

14:26

But we trust that the model that you're presenting will work.

14:30

Right. So you had to have those tactical, you know, wins in those stories and

14:34

the reps like,

14:35

you have to fight the good fight, right? Like there is no, there is no solution

14:40

or magic wand

14:41

where all of a sudden your executive team goes, you know what, you're just

14:46

right about everything.

14:47

Like it's an ongoing battle and you have to be willing to take that flag. And

14:51

one of the things

14:52

I talked about in the book, the Dearbound Minds have this journey from

14:54

curiosity, right, to courage,

14:56

to conviction, like, you got to be willing to risk and to fight the fight. And

15:00

that's the job to

15:01

be done is you got to unite the departments and, you know, get them to be

15:04

comfortable with the

15:06

risk associated with it and build that trust. I think it's a fantastic call out

15:09

. I had one

15:10

quick question coming back to because I'm playing in MarTech for the past

15:14

couple of, you know,

15:15

cycles of my career. And this is getting a little bit more tactical. One of the

15:22

partners that I

15:22

worked with when I was at Drift was a little company called CRO metrics or

15:25

Chrome metrics,

15:26

right. And they're a top agency, they were a top agency partner. I think they

15:30

might have been

15:31

number one when I was doing some stuff with Optimizely at Drift. And then if I

15:35

code your

15:35

solutions page now, I'm seeing some bigger names like proficient, right, and

15:39

proficient has a big

15:40

book of Adobe business. And they're like premier platinum, which is CRO metrics

15:44

now is like gold.

15:45

There's a different tier in place. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about

15:49

like,

15:49

hey, we had these boutique agencies, but then I see proficient. Okay, there's

15:53

some SI growth there

15:54

and it's in the Adobe ecosystem. I'm assuming that proficient and that's going

15:59

well. Talk to me a

15:59

little bit about how you go from like these boutique agencies to start winning

16:03

and having

16:04

preferred platinum spot, you know, partnerships with, you know, an SI like a

16:07

proficient.

16:08

This is the crazy part is that you bring together Optimizely has a complete

16:12

partner philosophy

16:13

that was almost like, you know, in a in a glass bowl compared to the partner

16:17

philosophy that was

16:17

at every server. And your tiering is all thrown off and your attribution is all

16:22

thrown off and

16:23

your values all thrown off. Note that, you know, Optimizely learned a lot in

16:27

its partner ecosystem

16:29

the years before acquisition and had to go through some growth. And so with the

16:32

partners that it

16:33

was choosing the value that it was gaining, there's a lot of partners out there

16:36

in the ecosystem,

16:37

making a business off of Google Optimize that just frankly weren't interested

16:41

in partnering

16:42

to the platform like Optimizely. And so you met two different companies at the

16:46

same point.

16:47

When you bring them together, now we're able to go to a proficient, for example

16:50

. And their

16:51

interest in us is that we can talk to multiple teams in that business and bring

16:56

those teams

16:57

together on a single account. And so the proficiency and the bigger GSIs of the

17:01

world,

17:02

they're interested in our multi dimensional like Aspen Reap launched a

17:05

partnership with WPP. And

17:07

it's because of their, you know, different agencies focused on different things

17:11

. Now a CMS project

17:13

and a developer project can be paired with a crow project to do it that way.

17:16

That doesn't

17:16

change our interest in chrometrics. We still have that focus with chrometrics

17:22

where they are a

17:23

platinum player in their space to do incredible work in a specific line. They

17:27

've never really

17:29

bricked out into CMS development and that approach. And so while Optimizely can

17:33

take a sweet approach

17:34

and we can focus on certain partners that want to touch like multiple parts of

17:37

the ecosystem,

17:38

we can still tier our partners. Now I'll say like the tiering of partners is an

17:45

incredibly hard

17:46

discipline to keep it right. Because you can't take away a tier unless you want

17:51

to be yelled at in

17:52

private and public forums about it. It is impossible to measure different

17:55

partners in different

17:56

places in the same way. Our partner team works incredulously to try to get like

18:00

everybody on the

18:01

same page. But yeah, it's incredibly hard. And so in that note, like our public

18:07

tiers might be

18:07

mismatched. We look at those partners strategically in a different way on what

18:12

we're promoting to

18:13

them and how we're valuing them. And so we'll continue to keep those two things

18:17

parallel where

18:18

there's experimentation only partners that would be valuable and then the

18:21

proficiency too.

18:21

What's interesting about that to me that just stands out is

18:27

the difference in the end customer. So like this is where Isaac, your title is

18:36

Chief Market Officer,

18:37

not Chief Marketing Officer. And I've always had this strong pull towards

18:42

market dynamics

18:44

and less so company dynamics. And what you just spoke to was like, hey, the

18:48

market that we're

18:48

growing into requires a different type of partner, right? The customer outcomes

18:52

, etc. And the partner

18:53

value proposition is different. And what Jeff just said, I think it was a

18:57

really, really good sound

18:59

bite on understanding your partner value proposition has to change based on the

19:03

market that you're

19:04

going after, the customer demands, and specifically what the partner wants. You

19:08

have to help that

19:09

partner solve a problem, right? So this cross departmental and being able to

19:13

multi thread

19:13

and have a more strategic engagement is absolutely critical compared to, let's

19:19

say the, you know,

19:20

conversion rate conversation with Chrome metrics. That doesn't mean that's not

19:23

important for a

19:24

subset of your market that you need to grow. But then you start to think about,

19:27

you know,

19:28

divisions or market opportunities and territories, not just based on company

19:32

size,

19:33

which certainly there is some of that, but based on customer need and demand.

19:37

And that you're

19:38

going to have some partners that are really great for some customers and

19:41

segments. You have some

19:42

partners that are very different. And in that maturation, you start to

19:46

understand, ah, I understand

19:48

the market. I understand what the customer wants and the what the customer

19:52

needs. And

19:53

that's the reason why partnerships exist. You know, I think, you know,

19:57

proficient makes its

19:59

book on, you know, Adobe business and that's fair, you know, and I think they

20:02

do that because

20:03

Adobe provides a suite of tools and good integrations across like multiple

20:07

touch points that allow

20:08

a proficient project at an enterprise level to grow a huge scope of work

20:13

spanning both like

20:15

CMS development, working operations, strategy design, like all the pieces that

20:19

it comes. If

20:20

we can carve out that in any way by bringing in integrated tools that allow us

20:24

to tell that

20:25

same story for a different price point with a different trajectory and company,

20:29

you know,

20:30

we're comparing in size all the time. We're really trying to meet those guys at

20:34

the front,

20:34

not only in the quad room, but also like at the customer. And that's a good

20:38

thing. You know,

20:39

it's an honor to be able to compete against those guys and have the same story

20:44

told and be

20:45

interesting at the same time. They will always be, you know, dedicated players

20:49

in our space. They

20:50

just want to do CMS development in that size. But it really is where we want to

20:53

be. So everybody

20:54

trigex upwards. It's knowing from a solution partner side that we can meet them

20:59

at multiple

20:59

points of their story because it's ultimately the partner story. It's the story

21:03

that they're

21:04

telling. It's the transformation story that we're telling. We're a suite of

21:07

tools, you know,

21:08

that fits really well into that story. So you have to build a suite that comple

21:11

ments them rather

21:12

than trying to get them to play your game. Jeff, I want to bounce back for just

21:16

a second on

21:18

the kind of executive buy in executive alignment topic. Because I want to see

21:23

if I can tease

21:24

something out here that I think might be really important for our listeners. So

21:28

you have what I

21:30

think a lot of people in partnerships imagine is the perfect scenario. Oh, you

21:35

've got a CPO,

21:36

you've got executive buy in. Sure, it's easy for Jeff because everybody there

21:42

believes in him and

21:42

gives him the resources. I want to ask you a question. Even though you have a C

21:46

PO, even though

21:47

you have executive buy in, do you still have to frequently and repeatedly go

21:53

through the process

21:54

of proving to your internal teams, to your executives the value of the

21:59

approaches you're trying to take

22:01

having and rehabbing those conversations about whether or attach and influence

22:05

makes sense.

22:05

How should we do compensation? Is that something that's just settled and now

22:09

you can do whatever

22:09

you want or you're continually having those conversations? No, and we're not

22:13

trying to win

22:13

directly. I think the way that we win is we get sales to be our champion. We

22:19

prove it to sales

22:19

people so that they're screaming on it. Because if we're doing it in our own

22:24

bubble, they're going

22:25

to stop believing us after a while. It has to be that we showed marketing, that

22:29

we were a pipeline

22:30

generation by doing partner marketing and attribution to partner-in-a-red

22:34

events where

22:35

power three, power four events drove better pipeline generation than standard

22:40

field marketing,

22:41

right, where we could grab other people's customers and bring them in. On the

22:45

sales side, we have to

22:46

have sales reps, not only in our public channels, like saying, "Hey, we won

22:50

this deal because of

22:51

this partner." That's a big deal too, Isaac, is that we have a few places in

22:55

the business that we

22:56

scream from the rooftops. We have to fight to constantly be in that wingwire to

23:02

say this partner

23:02

was involved and this deal was made because of this partner. If you do that,

23:08

the CFO conversation

23:10

becomes really easy because then they see the amplification. I love and hate it

23:15

. Our partner

23:17

community and the partner philosophy that's being built, when it echoes in the

23:21

boardroom,

23:21

when our CEO walks in and has a conversation and is told that we want a deal

23:25

because of an

23:26

integration, that's going to happen. That wasn't really our work. That's going

23:29

to happen naturally

23:30

anyway. He doesn't need to stay like, "Oh my gosh, we don't have a--" or "We

23:34

lost a deal because of a

23:35

certain partnership." That stuff is getting echoed the right places. We win,

23:39

but it's

23:40

it's diligence. It's staying a first-class citizen. It's making sure that the

23:45

business and the sales

23:46

philosophy doesn't come first before the partner philosophy and it's proving to

23:50

them through

23:50

results and picking the right partners and going to market the right way and

23:56

helping them win.

23:57

I always say it's worse when the business is here and then the partnership is

24:01

here. The more that

24:02

you overlay those two things, the better you are. My victory is going to be

24:06

when partnership revenue

24:09

is a top-line plan on our 2025 revenue. Right now, it's add-on. Right now, it's

24:14

evergreen.

24:15

It's benefited on the top. When we are beholden to a certain part of the

24:20

revenue stream and now we

24:21

can budget ourselves that way, that's when we really won. That was such an epic

24:26

little monologue

24:27

there. I response to that question. Jared, I was thinking about your rhythm of

24:31

the business

24:31

section and nearbound about the business goals and the partnership goals. The

24:35

more those are

24:36

tightly aligned. I just think it's such a good reminder for listeners, like if

24:39

you ever find

24:40

yourself and I know many of you do because I talk with you all the time,

24:43

feeling a little bit

24:45

thick to me like, "Well, my company, I don't have executive buy-in. We don't

24:49

have a seat at the

24:50

table. It's only whatever you think is going to solve it and finally you'll

24:55

just be free to go do

24:56

all the things you want to do and no one will bug you about whether they're

24:59

working." That's

25:00

never the case. It's not the case for marketers. It's not the case for any

25:03

department

25:04

at let alone partnership. Understanding that there's a lot of tools in your

25:08

toolkit. One is getting

25:09

those quick, easy wins with the other department so they can start to believe

25:12

in you and be willing

25:13

to give you more time and chance. Another is having a, I like to call it a

25:18

causal chain,

25:19

a logical story for the ways in which partners, that's different from

25:23

attribution because

25:24

attribution is not as easy a lot of times. But at least you can tell a story

25:27

that's logical and you

25:28

can show here are the steps along the journey and why partners are going to

25:32

make that better.

25:33

Then have attribution to the extent that you can while recognizing it's

25:37

imperfect. But if you

25:38

kind of layer those together and then you have stories and anecdotes that you

25:42

highlight,

25:42

highlight those wins repeatedly and don't just assume that people, okay,

25:46

everybody knows now they

25:47

get it. I don't need to keep highlighting it. Yes, you do. You need to keep

25:50

reminding. We

25:51

want this because of partners. We want this because of partners. That validates

25:54

our causal theory.

25:55

That also is fortified by the attribution to the extent that we have it and you

25:59

're kind of like

26:00

cycling through those all the time even when you have executive buy-in. That

26:04

conversation never

26:05

ends. I think that's just a good reminder for everybody. Yeah, we do. I never

26:11

just would call

26:12

me shy. I try to scream every chance that I get and even we'll announce anytime

26:17

we have a new

26:18

connected partner on reveal. We'll go and put a value proposition to the team

26:24

and say,

26:25

this data is now available to sales and we'll get them interested. In doing so

26:29

in that quick snippet

26:30

of information, the good sales are if I can see the adoption and the login of

26:34

the tools, I can

26:35

see the interactions on Salesforce, be sure of the data. I can see the number

26:38

of interactions I have

26:39

with the tech team because they see a new dimension and it invigorates them to

26:43

want to win more.

26:45

It's not peppering and it's proof too because it gets them thinking, what's the

26:49

next partner that

26:50

I need? When they're asking for it, when they're initiating it, when they're

26:53

part of the conversation,

26:55

and it's not just throwing stuff on a wall and seeing what sticks, then we're

26:59

all bought it. We have

27:00

invited partners to big events throughout the year. Our sales kick off. We

27:05

invite partners

27:06

to their dedicated partner days like a lot of other stuff. So partners are part

27:10

of that ecosystem

27:11

connected directly to sales and now it's not just in another room. It's all

27:16

aligned and I think that

27:17

repetition and forced behavior makes the financial conversation that eventually

27:23

come much easier.

27:24

You have to have the reps and sets and that's why I love speaking in terms of

27:27

cadences of rituals

27:28

and the rhythm of the business from annual down to the daily data place. So

27:35

picking that apart a

27:36

little bit more, I think a lot of folks haven't really seen the promised land

27:41

when it comes to

27:42

effectively utilizing partner data. I've written a length about this. One of

27:47

the first pieces of

27:48

content is I wrote with Kevin Linahan on the reveal team, we wrote a 55 page

27:52

guide about the ultimate

27:54

guide to driving. That was the hardest editing job I've ever had in my life

27:58

trying to whittle

27:58

that thing down. So it was literally just about how to utilize partner data and

28:04

track partner

28:05

activities between sellers and reps because that actually actioning the data is

28:10

the hardest part.

28:11

I'd love for you to unpack a little bit more down that story, Jeff, of like,

28:15

hey, so we announce

28:16

that we have a new connected partner and this data is available. What else is

28:19

happening? Talk

28:20

to us a little bit more about how you're actioning this in a way that you feel

28:23

like, hey, this is a

28:24

big part of versus waiting for partners to come to you. You are activating it.

28:29

Yeah, we're lucky enough to have managers who sort that data. And I think like

28:33

sales reps

28:34

weren't discovered on their own, but man, they will absolutely take it once you

28:37

show them and

28:38

bring more deals to the table. And so a few dimensions that we do are like many

28:43

, when we launch a

28:43

partnership, we'll find five or six active deals in the short term. And I tell

28:47

my managers like,

28:48

you have to not just ask for their leads. You have to give them leads back. If

28:53

we're going to be going

28:54

in and evaluating their customer base and trying to find our opportunities, we

28:58

also need to use the

28:59

data, find our customers versus their prospects and give them a few return

29:04

needs to be sort of

29:05

just and then on those deals, we come to the table when my manager is inviting

29:12

rep A versus rep B.

29:13

I'm also sorting the partner's data to find out other customers of that rep in

29:19

advance. So I'm

29:20

trying to bring multiple opportunities to that rep so that they so I brought

29:23

something that they

29:24

wouldn't have, make their life easy. Don't try to discover it and make them

29:27

like social, right?

29:28

Then once you're in and you start to establish, then it's my manager's job to

29:33

keep the cadence

29:34

going to tell the story, to invite the right data so that the right data points

29:40

are coming and we're

29:40

almost building that playbook of what the conversation is going to look like

29:43

because we've all had,

29:44

you know, the rep to rep conversation where everybody shows up at a bad mood,

29:47

nobody wants to help

29:47

each other and then suddenly partnerships are getting the way rather than value

29:51

props, right?

29:52

But it's, hey, we bring these points home where we implement this deal,

29:55

especially since we can

29:57

attribute to that and then, you know, that's value to the job and then it's

30:02

finding, you know,

30:02

the way out. What are we going to do next? How are we going to help each other

30:05

win, you know,

30:06

finding that extra so it is a lot of work. It's almost three times the amount

30:11

of work on the tech

30:12

partner manager to make that thing go. Once you get that flywheel moving, like

30:16

our strategic

30:16

partnerships are really good ones. Like we just don't have to do that anymore.

30:20

Like they do it for

30:21

themselves because they know the value that they're getting out of the

30:24

relationship. Our biggest

30:25

problem right now is that we truly believe we have too many valuable

30:29

partnerships to action on

30:30

an a given point. We just have a huge ecosystem of tech partners that can be

30:35

incredibly valuable

30:36

to us and, you know, it's very hard to turn, you know, an average partnership

30:43

into a good partnership.

30:45

You know, we make the joke that like average partnerships are just really good

30:49

pen pals, right?

30:50

They're just amazing pen pals that we say nice things to every once a month. We

30:53

're supposed to have

30:54

a one-on-one, but we want to turn those into strategic mutual partnerships

30:59

through, you know,

31:00

commercials, through relationships, through everything. And the work to take it

31:04

is going to be three times

31:05

the effort that you think. But once you get it moving, these will be very

31:08

valuable for both sides.

31:09

So one of the questions I have for you, because I've definitely seen this stall

31:14

out in that early

31:15

phase before you get that flywheel going, you get a new partner, you start

31:19

sharing data with each

31:20

other. And it's like, cool, this data means there's opportunity everywhere. For

31:24

every department,

31:25

this can help our CS reps, you know, retain customers, this can help our sales

31:29

reps, our

31:30

co-marketing. But when you started with something very concrete, you said we

31:34

look for like four

31:35

or five active deals that we can, you know, utilize that partner to help us

31:40

with. And we try to give

31:41

them some open deals that they have who are customers of ours, try to give them

31:45

maybe some

31:46

Intel intros influence. That step right there, I'm really curious who is taking

31:52

that. Because what

31:52

I notice happens sometimes is you your sales team wants the leads from them.

31:58

But you got to give

32:00

some info or some leads to them. And that's probably going to come from your CS

32:04

team. But what incentive

32:06

do they have? Or is that coming from your sales team as well?

32:08

Type partner manager has to do it. Because nobody else is being attributed on

32:12

it. And like,

32:13

the CS team will do it in certain relationships. But like, the data is so clear

32:18

. It's searchable.

32:20

It's findable. Like, we don't need these teams to do that. We can put these

32:24

carrots out. And

32:25

many times I ask my tech team, like, you need to represent yourself as a sales

32:28

person. You need

32:29

to put yourself out there as we have enough sales force data to know the health

32:33

of the account.

32:34

You don't need that rep involved because they've got other things to do. And

32:39

they're being asked

32:40

to join partner calls all the time. Like, you have to be their constituent.

32:44

Because when you do,

32:44

they will pick up the slack and drive it. But like, if I don't need to ask the

32:48

rep, like,

32:48

I can look at the cross of the data. I can see the managers. I'm assuming data

32:52

quality is good.

32:53

But I'm going to throw some things up there and help and drive. And so by the

32:57

time, like,

32:58

the involvement is there, it's really already set.

33:01

You know?

33:02

Man, you just cracked that. It's so interesting because I think it's easy to

33:05

feel like,

33:06

okay, as a partner, as a partner pro, I'm just this orchestrator. I'm

33:09

coordinating everything.

33:10

I got so many things on my plate. So we'll get a new partner and then I'll say,

33:13

hey, sales reps, could you help them out and like give or success reps? Give

33:17

them some intel.

33:18

And then you're like, hand it off. They're like, well, they didn't do anything.

33:21

And they're not

33:22

going to do anything. Like, you're just saying, just go do it yourself. The

33:25

information is there.

33:25

The data is there. If you have a quick question to ask the rep on the account,

33:30

they can answer

33:30

you directly. But you can go and deliver that information. You can go deliver

33:34

the value to the

33:34

partner and grease the skids and make it easier than for you to get that value

33:38

back for your reps.

33:39

I wish this worked. I mean, they sound good on paper, but like, it does the

33:44

common CS,

33:45

like rep who has the attainment goals and has, you know, 40, 50 customers to

33:49

manage,

33:50

really care about like $1,000, fifth for the right information, maybe that they

33:53

're not going to

33:53

see for two or three months. Like, it's what we threw out there. But in reality

33:56

, like, if I can

33:57

do their work on their behalf, like, what I want is for them to know when they

34:01

get the question of

34:02

like, which tech partner should I, you know, pursue? Now, doing all that effort

34:06

does not mean that I

34:06

could have like, you know, 30 good partners that I can like run at that level.

34:11

So at some point,

34:12

you have to consolidate and pick the right ones. And that's not fun. You know,

34:16

I don't like letting

34:17

a partner down who has good momentum and like not pick it up the speed. But the

34:21

reality is to

34:22

give them that executive like presence, you know, you have to deliver at that

34:26

kind of level

34:27

and not type of data. And so you end up finding the ones. One last thing too,

34:31

guys, you guys,

34:32

when we pick our partners, like a lot of what we think about is, yes, we have a

34:36

lot of partners

34:37

that are bought together by our customers, right? The partners that really

34:41

succeed in

34:42

care of selling with us are the tech that meet us at the compelling event. When

34:47

we sell

34:48

experimentation, for example, there are tools that you cannot buy without other

34:52

things, like a

34:53

sixth sense or a demand base or our content square or quantum metric. Those are

34:57

bought by the same

34:58

buyer. They're in the same budget. They're considered at the same time. Those

35:02

partnerships

35:03

are great. I take a lot of partnerships that are enacting on active customers

35:07

of ours selling down

35:08

the road. Those are good. But let's focus on the compelling event partners

35:12

first, because that

35:13

will get sales out of bed, right? They're going to tax themselves the same RP

35:17

and that makes a

35:18

difference. So you got to lean in on the ones like that. And say and say no or

35:22

not yet to

35:23

partners who you like is a very hard thing to do. But yeah, it's necessary.

35:27

It's funny from a company in 400 million in revenue to it's just a founder in a

35:33

slide deck

35:34

and maybe an MVP product in the VC realm. I mean, Isaac, you've certainly seen

35:38

this like why now?

35:39

Why now? It's not just enough to have a value proposition. The compelling event

35:45

for me has

35:46

always been my best way that I've closed deals or big partnerships or something

35:50

like that is like,

35:50

why now? It's like, well, there's an existing initiative. And when I talk about

35:56

nearbound sales

35:57

or nearbound marketing and aligning on accounts, it's like, what are you trying

36:01

to align with with

36:02

your partners? Well, there's a business challenge and there's a business

36:05

initiative. And guess what

36:06

companies don't talk about? Companies don't talk about on LinkedIn, on their

36:11

website,

36:12

their business challenges and their business initiatives to solve that. No one

36:16

talks about

36:16

that publicly. The only way that you get that information is by working with

36:20

folks that are

36:21

going through that process. So you or one of your partners is a part of those

36:26

business initiatives.

36:27

And you have some insights into those business challenges. And when you come

36:31

together for that

36:32

compelling event, that's where you are inevitably going to see win rates

36:36

increase because you're

36:37

selling into an existing business problem with a known solution where you are

36:41

an expert. So I

36:42

love that compelling event component that makes you operate more like a

36:47

business operator by

36:49

understanding the customer, not just, hey, here's the partners that work well.

36:52

Well, why did they

36:53

work well? It's because of what you just said. Yeah, there's a fear. You look

36:56

at that RFP sometimes

36:58

and you see, you know, optimize Z and it has to integrate with XYZ. There's

37:03

certain things on

37:03

there that our sales reps know will be a cascading budget decision, right? We

37:07

're going to buy the

37:08

CMS before we buy this. We're going to do this before we're going to do this.

37:11

And nothing scares

37:12

off sales more than knowing that that other thing might get in the way of your

37:16

like,

37:16

availability, right? That there's a line of demarcation and they will go away

37:21

from that partner

37:21

because they just don't want to get involved. I want to get my money. I don't

37:24

want that partner

37:25

involved because I know that might actually come first in the process and come

37:28

first in the sale.

37:29

There's not much I can do about that. I can then instead bring along other

37:34

partners at the

37:35

compelling event and make tech partnerships a value, even though a particular

37:40

partner might be a

37:41

contention, right? I need to bring other things to the table and I need to help

37:45

show them that it

37:46

was a group effort so that even though it'd be a big ticket item that we sell

37:50

with because we

37:50

have a lot of big ticket items that we sell with won't get in the way, then the

37:54

practice itself was

37:55

still successful even if that one partner maybe wasn't valuable in that

37:59

situation.

37:59

I have to make a lighter comment on a phrase that you said earlier. I wrote it

38:03

down because I

38:03

loved it so much. Average partnerships are just really good pen pals. Your

38:07

account

38:08

executives don't care about Popo, partners on paper only. They couldn't care

38:12

less and I think

38:13

what is that compelling event tying those things together? Don't bring your

38:16

account executives or

38:18

your CSM's pen pals. They don't want more of your work. What they want is they

38:22

want your help

38:23

and that's not where a pen pal comes into play. That's where an activated

38:26

partner in a customer

38:28

story with the compelling event comes in and that's the difference between a

38:31

partner operator

38:33

that's just doing a job and a partner operator that's achieving results. I love

38:37

how you

38:37

frame that out, Jeff. The biggest fear that a sales rep has is losing a deal

38:41

because we don't

38:41

integrate with something and we've had that before and that goes straight up to

38:44

the executives.

38:45

Why don't we have an integration with these guys? It's so silly. What are we

38:48

paying you for?

38:49

You should be out there learning ahead of time because our competitor had a

38:52

better integration

38:53

in this case. That's just lost effort. That's not feature. That's a thing we

38:57

can fix. They're

38:59

constantly paranoid about the thing that we don't have in order to fix it. They

39:04

will take a meeting

39:05

with a partner to make sure they know about it, to make sure they have their

39:07

relationships,

39:08

but they're really counting on partnerships as a function to always be able to

39:12

say, "Yes, I think

39:13

having involved in these pen pal partner and paper relationships and these A's

39:18

come together,

39:19

they've always got themselves in mind. They're never thinking about the other

39:23

partner on the

39:23

other side of the phone, the way that a partner manager is." That's why I think

39:27

we have to evoke

39:27

that into place. Bring along until they have to help them win the deal. Bring

39:31

along. The best

39:32

partner example is, "I bring along a tech partner. We're talking about a deal.

39:38

We realize that the

39:39

tech partners in another part of the business that I'm in, I bring them into my

39:44

side of the business.

39:45

They bring me into their side of the business. Now we're not just helping each

39:48

other. We're expanding.

39:49

It's giving my sales rep some of the goods inherently. We're all a little

39:52

selfish as we should be.

39:53

You're trying to model out how to make them get something so that I can get

39:57

what I need to."

39:58

Quick question on the data side. When you're talking about these compelling

40:03

events or these

40:04

pieces of information about a sequence, a cascading effect of budget, the order

40:10

in which

40:10

customers are going to buy or expand something, are you tapping into your

40:15

partner data to set up any

40:16

kind of automations or alerts that say, "Hey, this customer is probably ripe

40:22

because they just

40:22

became a customer of this partner of ours," which historically means that they

40:27

're going to be in

40:27

the market for our offering. Next, do you have those kind of processes set up

40:31

where you're

40:31

kind of automatically prioritizing or pushing alerts to people or is it more of

40:36

a manual digging

40:37

into the data account by account as you go? Now we have more amplification when

40:43

somebody just

40:44

becomes a customer of our partners, that new data set. That's a huge dimension

40:48

of the shared

40:48

data that we get through a platform like reveal, right to know when it gets got

40:52

launched because

40:53

we know that investment will typically relate to the other investments that we

40:57

're seeing if we

40:58

didn't know about it before. We have way more data than we know what to do with

41:02

. That's why a full-time

41:04

partner manager could look at that dimension. It's very hard to have that

41:08

automation. A problem

41:10

that we have too is that some of our partners sell multiple products and maybe

41:13

we only integrate

41:14

with certain parts of their tech stack and certain products that they sell

41:17

rather than everything.

41:18

It's certain parts of their business is related to ours. I don't know a perfect

41:24

way to do it. I

41:24

wish I did because then we'd be pushing more information to them rather than

41:28

doing it. It's just got to be

41:30

diligence to ask the right questions, to find where the decision making was and

41:34

be able to look at

41:35

that data and see the trends, to be able to get a better out of it. I know that

41:38

we are doing our best

41:41

when we register new deals as a team. Look at those new deals immediately. Look

41:46

at the partner data,

41:47

immediately bringing the partners so that we're not coming at the last minute.

41:50

Now we're trying to

41:51

bring in tech partners at the discovery and accepted stage rather than a

41:55

contract stage to just ask

41:56

for a reference letter. There's this rev-ops utopia that I can see looming on

42:01

the horizon. People are

42:03

getting bits and pieces of it. Some things are manual. There's some alerts here

42:07

and there, but you

42:07

can imagine a world, not like you have all this data. If you have the data from

42:11

your partner ecosystem

42:13

and you've got it all flowing in your CRM, over time, the sophistication. We're

42:18

just learning how

42:19

to use this stuff and to use it well. The ability to proactively push that

42:25

information wherever it

42:26

needs to be, to set up triggers, to reprioritize account lists, to set up

42:31

recommendations for

42:32

marketing campaigns. There's just so much there. You start to bring AI into the

42:37

mix. I start to get

42:39

really excited about where this stuff can go. What we're doing better is we're

42:45

big proponents

42:46

and build with data. We're big proponents in partner data. What we like to do

42:49

with RAPs is try to

42:51

triangulate all the tech that we see that somebody's invested in and try to

42:55

come up with some idea

42:56

about their investment level, but what type of tools they bought. That helps

43:00

profile out the buyer

43:02

and their appetite to buy. You can't always get it right. You can definitely

43:07

see combinations of

43:08

tech stack that work. Where we meet best is where built with next to partner

43:12

data, looking at the

43:13

two data sets, trying to then extrapolate their cycle and their investment

43:20

curve and say, are they

43:22

our ICP? Did we get it right? Did we put them in a right ICP bucket? Then it

43:26

allows us to ask the

43:27

questions, "Hey, we saw that you invested in this. Was that a part of the

43:30

business? Was that something

43:31

you brought in? That's an interesting investment." Now we know they have an

43:36

enterprise budget because

43:37

the tools that they buy, we can go and feel really confident about what we're

43:39

trying to sell.

43:40

I think this was such a phenomenal conversation on how to get through the messy

43:46

middle of the

43:46

partner phase. It's a great analogy that messy middle. You're not in perfection

43:53

land, Jeff,

43:54

but I think you're showing like, "Hey, getting through the other side of this

43:57

is actually,

43:58

there's rewards here. There's gold at the end of this rainbow." If you stick to

44:02

it,

44:02

you follow what Jeff said, you can get through the messy middle and you still

44:06

have messy stuff

44:06

going on. All partner programs do. All businesses do. It doesn't change. It

44:11

just, "Okay, the flywheel

44:12

starts to operate. You start to see the network effects." I think you've done a

44:16

phenomenal job.

44:17

Congrats again on hitting 400 million. It optimizes with a program that's

44:22

generating over 50% of your

44:24

revenue. We appreciate that. Constantly telling the team, you've got to pick

44:30

the right bets.

44:31

You're building a garden. You've got to be feed all the plants. Some of them

44:35

are going to grow

44:35

and some of them are not. We have to be ready to try to commit to a partner,

44:40

but fail fast to be

44:41

able to pivot and do the ones that are more strategic to the business. The more

44:44

critical we are and

44:46

not thinking that a partnership may be deprioritized, not a partnership put

44:50

away. We can re-invigorate

44:52

a partnership after six or nine months. We can focus on more on the strategic

44:55

to our business now

44:57

that helps us succeed. We're constantly balancing the short and the long. You

45:01

have to be flexible

45:02

to dare. You have to be willing to ebb and flow as other partner teams change

45:06

and grow and do.

45:07

Try, do it. We have a good framework here. I think to build a strategic partner

45:13

, we'll continue to play

45:14

that playbook. If the force has changed, we've got to move on and try the next

45:18

with the same playbook.

45:19

You're right. Muscle memory is going to be what gets us there.

45:21

I love it. Thank you so much for guiding us through the messy middle. Jeff,

45:26

Isaac, it's good to see

45:27

you again. We've been trading back and forth on different shows, etc. I'm

45:32

excited for the next

45:33

phase. Do we have anything to plug, Isaac? I don't know if we officially can

45:39

yet. I will just say

45:41

it may or may not be related to our big annual nearbound event. I'll leave it

45:47

at that.

45:49

We've got a couple big announcements that are coming up. We haven't dropped any

45:52

of the

45:53

crazy stuff since the book on y'all. Thanks to everyone that listened.

45:57

My marketing team was like, Jared, they're like, "Wow, things have been really

46:01

nice and calm and

46:02

regular and also too calm and regular." I told them we needed to increase our

46:08

chaos quotient in

46:09

this quarter. Pay attention in the next few episodes. We have some big

46:14

announcements. In fact,

46:16

we've said they're always going to get bigger and better. The next ones get

46:18

bigger and better.

46:19

I'm really excited when we can announce those. Thank you, everyone, for

46:22

listening. If you haven't

46:23

left us a review on the different podcast channels, go do that for us. I was

46:28

just on

46:28

DG's podcast. I'm like, "Oh, he asked for this every time. I'm going to ask you

46:31

. If you've been a

46:32

long-time listener, go leave us a review on Spotify or Apple Podcast or if you

46:35

're watching on YouTube,

46:36

hit that like and subscribe. I got to throw over one more plug too. Go get the

46:39

nearbound book if

46:40

you haven't read it yet. If you haven't read it yet, go get it. Go send it to

46:43

somebody. If you have

46:45

read it, give a review of that thing too. Jared, if you know people that other

46:48

podcasts,

46:49

Jared is doing the podcast who are talking about the book. More than happy to.

46:53

Now that

46:54

people are ingesting it, there's a lot of great conversations happening on what

46:57

do we do next.

46:57

Keep it going. Keep the conversations going so that we can make it easier.

47:08

[music]

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