The GTM Bowtie: How To Overlay Partners Across the Complete Customer's Journey Part One

The GTM Bowtie: How To Overlay Partners Across the Complete Customer's Journey Part One

Ella Richmond & Will Taylor 14 min

Partnerships is not a department. A true nearbound partnerships strategy is an overlay on the business.

 

In the past, a lot of organizations confined partnerships to pipeline generation.

 

Neither the executive team nor the partner professional understood how partners could drive impact at every stage of the buyer’s journey so partner teams became “a glorified BDR team.”

 

In this two-part series, we’ll show you exactly how partnerships can become the linchpin they’re meant to be, the glue that holds every department in your company together.

 

Using the bowtie model as our anchor, we’re going to break down each stage of the buyer journey into three categories:

  • Why partners are critical to this stage

  • How to best use Reveal

  • Plays you can run wiith partners at this stage

Pre-work

Before you can successfully action nearbound data, you need two important components: the rhythm of business and your nearbound revenue platform.

Rhythm of Business

A prerequisite to overlaying partnerships to every department is understanding your company’s rhythm of business.

 

To summarize Jared Fuller’s chapter on the rhythm of business in Nearbound and the Rise of the Who Economy, a company’s rhythm of business is the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual series of cadences and rituals.

 

Every company has a rhythm, and every team has a rhythm. In other words, this rhythm of meetings, syncs, publishing calendars, and reviews defines who you are as a company and team.

 

It’s the partner professional’s job to understand every department’s rhythm so she or he can overlay partnerships across each of them.

 

Important action: Set up a meeting with your Sales, Marketing, Success, and Product departments to review their calendar—quarterly goals (perhaps the most important), upcoming events, content, campaigns, strategy, etc.

 

Read more here.

Set up your nearbound revenue platform

Before you can overlay partners to your company’s existing motions, you need to set up Reveal.co, the nearbound revenue platform, to do account mapping.

 

Here’s how:

  1. Sign up (for free) on www.reveal.co (sign up link)

  2. Complete your onboarding flow (< 3 minutes)

    1. (our team provide complimentary live time to help you)

  3. Connect your CRM or data source

    1. GDPR + SOC 2 Type ll compliance info here

  4. Invite your partner(s)

  5. When ready, engage our team & your ops team to ensure your partner data is syncing with the rest of your data

Now let’s dive into the bowtie!


Awareness / Attract

Purpose: To drive greater exposure of your company and solution inside of an existing ecosystem.

 

How partners help:

  • 2x the reach

  • Broader expertise creates more value for customers

  • Tap into existing trust, the hardest currency to develop in an ecosystem

Which department(s) are most involved:

  • Marketing

Partner types:

  • Media partners

  • Communities

  • Influencers

  • Key Opinion Leaders

  • Content-level co marketing tech partners

Why partners are critical to this phase

The left-most side of the bowtie, the awareness stage, also referred to as “top of funnel,” casts the widest net. 

 

In the awareness stage, potential buyers become aware of your brand, product, or service with one goal: to learn about the ecosystem.

 

These marketers help customers succeed by creating content like articles, podcasts, webinars, and whitepapers that are general but informative like trends or industry-related information. Then, they distribute them as far and wide as possible.

 

In the past, it was normal for marketers to take a company-first, conversion-heavy approach to their top-of-funnel content. They’d start with the question, “What do we want to say,” but today company-first content doesn’t cut through the noise.

 

Today, the best brand-building content answers the question, “How can we serve our ecosystem and customer” and it does this by partnering with those your buyer already trusts, those who have already gotten to the promised land your customers are seeking.

 

Customers guard their attention and only consume immediately relevant and valuable content. That’s why partners are critical to a company’s success at this stage of the bowtie.

 

Partners shift the focus from the company to the customer and ecosystem, expand reach, and enhance the value of content by providing broader expertise.

 

That sounds nice in theory, but how do you implement it? Keep reading.

How to best use Reveal

Use Reveal to:

  • Determine which partners to co-market with

  • Validate the fit of your potential co-marketing and cross-pollination efforts

  • Identify specific account lists to target with your program

  • Understand audience demographics

  • Expose additional data (engagement data, health scores, etc.) to further filter targeted lists

Step-by-step Reveal instructions:

  1. After identifying potential partners, invite them to connect on Reveal

  2. Connect your CRM and prospect account list to their audience/customer-base

    1. If they are a media company, consider overlapping their email subscriber list

    2. If they are an influencer, consider having them export their LinkedIn connections to create a list

    3. If they are a community, consider their membership

  3. In this overlap, you can identify the potential of your prospects <> their customers/subscribers/followers

  4. You now have immediate insight into what type of company this partner can help you reach

    1. Is it enterprise level? A different industry? Maybe it’s more wide casting than it is specific – regardless, this information would be invisible without Reveal

  5. You also have a specific list, that you can filter further, to then target with marketing/sales communications to invite them to engage with your thought leadership content

Plays to action nearbound

You’ve used Reveal to validate co-marketing efforts and figure out which partners to run nearbound plays with, now you have to decide what plays to run.

 

Plays include:

  • Articles on broad topics

  • Industry trends

  • General data visualizations

  • Podcasts with well-known guests

  • Paid ads

  • Press releases

  • Free e-books and guides with general content

  • General templates and checklsts

Plays in the aware/attract phase have broad appeal. They’re often free and accessible, making it easy for people to share.

 

Recent in-market examples include:

Example nearbound play

Flowla partnered with the top 100 Sales and Revenue voices on LinkedIn to create a free, ungated report on the state of sales.

 

Here’s how they did it:

  1. Chose a relevant question/trend to explore

  2. Defined their POV

  3. Outlined a list of influencers with a POV

  4. Scanned these influencers’ existing posts

  5. Contacted these influencers to learn more about their POV

  6. Made it easy for these influencers to participate in the report

  7. Compiled all of the voices and created one comprehensive report on the state of sales

  8. Made it easy for these influencers to share the report.

Check out the free, ungated report here.

 

This worked better than if Flowla had built the report on their own because the 100 influencers:

  1. Enhanced content value—Featuring insights and contributions from 100 leading experts ensured that the Sales Almanac was rich with valuable, diverse perspectives. This high-quality content made it highly appealing and useful to sales professionals, increasing its attractiveness and shareability.

  2. Built credibility and trust—By collaborating with the top revenue voices on LinkedIn, Flowla borrowed their credibility, making the Sales Almanac a trusted and authoritative resource. This trust is crucial in attracting a new audience who might be skeptical of unfamiliar brands.

  3. Helped Flowla expand its reach—Partnering with the top 100 revenue voices meant tapping into existing, substantial follower bases on LinkedIn. This instantly expanded Flowla’s reach and visibility, as these influencers shared the Sales Almanac with their audiences.

  4. Created buzz and engagement—The collaboration naturally generated buzz within the sales community. The influencers’ promotion of the Sales Almanac sparked conversations and engagement on social media platforms, driving more traffic and interest toward Flowla’s offerings. This led to organic growth and increased the amount of people aware of Flowla’s brand.


Educate / Nurture

Purpose: To nurture potential customers about the problems you solve and how you solve them better or differently than any competitor.

 

How partners help:

  • Endorse your offering

  • Share their trust and influence with people and teams they already work with

  • Pair your partner's industry knowledge with your “net new” learnings to their audience, blending the value and making use of the existing momentum. 

  • Allow you to surround your customers with trusted nodes of influence

Which department(s) are most involved: 

  • Marketing

Partner types:

  • Influencers and practitioners

  • Key Opinion Leaders

  • Strategic technology & service partners

  • Content-level co-marketing tech partners

Why partners are critical to this phase

The educate stage of the buyer’s journey is where a buyer learns about the problems your solution solves and decides whether or not it’ll be helpful to him or her.

 

This is where they are now, or become, problem-aware.

 

They’re doing things like:

  • Researching

  • Looking at products

  • Raising and addressing concerns

  • Engaging with existing content

  • Asking for help from their network

Before the Internet, the buying journey was a controlled, linear journey. Buyers didn’t have extensive access to information, and Sellers were seen as experts or consultants.

 

Today, however, the buyer’s journey is not linear and buyers have access to the world’s information instantly.

 

In fact, Jay McBain (Chief Analyst, Channels, Partnerships, and Ecosystems at Canalys) explains that every buyer has 28 touchpoints from the moment they learn about their problem to the moment they decide to buy your solution. Most companies only own four of those moments.

 

The least sophisticated companies own less than four. The best companies that have mapped the buyers’ journey, know who influences the other 24 touchpoints, and partner with them.

 

These other 24 touchpoints could be agencies, marketplace listings, influencers on social media platforms, or even word-of-mouth references. What these people have that you don’t have is trust.

 

It’s more impactful to your customers if these trusted sources endorse your product than if you were to speak about it yourself.

 

That’s why it’s valuable to bring these touchpoints into your marketing initiatives.

 

Each partner brings his or her unique expertise and a list of people who trust them. So the value of your content and the reach are both amplified.

 

It’s 2x the value and more than 2x the reach for effectively 50% of the cost.

How to best use Reveal

Use Reveal to:

  • Validate your audience

  • Created ABM targeted lists

  • Determine which partners to co-market with

  • Curate a specific list to reach out to with a specific, relevant message

Step-by-step Reveal instructions:

 

(Steps 1-4 are repeated from the awareness stage. If you’ve already gone through them, skip to steps 5 and 6).

  1. After identifying potential partners, invite them to connect on Reveal

  2. Connect your CRM and prospect account list to their audience/customer-base

    1. If they are a media company, consider overlapping their email subscriber list

    2. If they are an influencer, consider having them export their LinkedIn connections to create a list

    3. If they are a community, consider their membership

  3. In this overlap, you can identify the potential of your prospects <> their customers/subscribers/followers

  4. You now have immediate insight into what type of company this partner can help you reach

    1. Is it enterprise level? A different industry? Maybe it’s more wide casting than it is specific – regardless, this information would be invisible without Reveal

  5. You also have a specific list, that you can filter further, to then target with marketing/sales communications to invite them to engage with your content

  6. Filter this information even further, with custom fields (from both you AND your partner) in Reveal like:

    1. Your or their marketing lead score

    2. An ABM score from 6sense or Demandbase

    3. ICP scoring on either side

    4. The # of deal influencers

    5. Identifying any existing open opportunities

*Note, for #6 you can get creative. Consider additional pieces of information like:

  • If you have a free tool, do you track when they signed up? How often they sign in? What “tier” of free user are they?

  • You can even run specific campaigns against closed-lost or churned opportunities that could be revitalized with your partner.

  • Effectively any information from your favorite data tool like Apollo or ZoomInfo!

How to action nearbound plays

Plays include:

  • Educational articles

  • Comprehensive Guides

  • Research reports

  • Informative live events

  • Infographics or visual explainers

  • Case Studies

Plays in the educate/nurture phase are informational, aimed to build knowledge and trust over time. Often, this kind of content helps prospects understand the context and relevance of the company’s offerings.

 

Recent in-market examples include:

Example nearbound play

We asked six top revenue leaders from companies like 6Sense, Clari, and MindMatrix what they really thought of partnerships. This article addresses a common pain for partner professionals—lack of alignment with the revenue organization—and it provides insights into the minds of top revenue leaders. This educational content is applicable to a broader audience, but not quite as broad as content in the awareness stage, and encourages deeper engagement.

 

Here’s what we did it:

  1. Defined our target audience and what they might find relevant

  2. Defined our topic

  3. Outlined which leaders would have the best insight into this topic

  4. Pitched these leaders on their involvement in the piece

  5. Conducted interviews with these leaders

  6. Wrote a comprehensive article, weaving together 6 different voices

  7. Promoted the article

In the past, a company would have authored a piece like this with the help of a few revenue leaders inside the company’s existing walls. The nearbound mindset, however, challenges that approach. 

 

By tapping into 6 different revenue leaders’ insights, and varying experiences, this article does a few things incredibly well:

  1. Enhanced credibility and authority—Featuring insights from well-known CROs, VPs of Sales, and Business Development leaders like Greg Theriault, Latané Conant, and Liz Christo boosts the credibility of the article. These individuals bring recognized authority and experience, making the content more trustworthy and influential.

  2. Real world validation on the POV—While nearbound.com’s team chose the article topic, the willingness of these top revenue leaders to share their perspective validates the importance of the conversation.

  3. Relevant and useful for the target audience—Each of these leaders and companies has earned the respect of the market. This makes the content not only informative but also directly useful for Partnership Managers who want to understand how they’re viewed in the marketplace, and who want to change this view positively.

  4. Create more discussion—The varied viewpoints from leaders who are both supportive and skeptical of partnerships enrich the discussion, offering readers a more nuanced understanding. This article is meant to spark more discussion across partnerships and revenue professionals. When a person goes from reading this article to engaging with the conversations about it, they’ve moved from the educate to the engage stage.


Engage

Purpose: To turn prospects into customers.

 

 

How partners help:

  • Access to critical intel

  • Can influence purchase decisions

  • Make intros with key decision-makers

Which department(s) are most involved: 

  • Marketing

  • Sales

  • Customer Success

Partner types:

  • ISV (tech) Integration partners

  • MSPs and other service partners

  • Resellers / distributors

  • Consultants / agencies

  • Strategic Alliance Partners

Why partners are critical to this phase

In the engage stage of the buyers’ journey, buyers are making their final decisions about whether or not to purchase your product or service.

 

Potential customers are:

  • Demoing your product

  • Seeking outside references

  • Surfacing objections

  • Evaluating costs and benefits

Sellers are very involved in the engage stage running demos and working to address objections. While Sales is primarily responsible for the outcomes of the engage stage, Marketing supports them with material like pitch decks and case studies.

 

Within the past year, the engage stage has become infinitely more difficult. Budgets have gotten tighter, more decision-makers are required to make a purchase decision, and every company is cutting “nice to have” software and services.

 

Not to mention, every buyer is overloaded with emails, calls, and media. It’s getting harder for Sellers and Marketers to effectively engage potential buyers.

 

This is where partners are helpful.

 

Buyers today are not only informed, but they also have a no BS mindset. They care about their time and don’t want to waste it.

 

The best Sellers employ a mix of research or Show Me You Know Me, and exclusive partner intel, influence, and intros to move conversations forward that would otherwise stagnate.

 

They ask trusted sources for exclusive intel to help them build stronger pitches and make the most of every conversation. 

 

They learn a potential customer’s tech stack and ask key partners to endorse their product.

 

They avoid crowded inboxes by getting intros from known and trusted individuals.

 

If that sounds great then why aren’t more Sellers leaning on partners?

 

Sellers have traditionally feared involving partners in their deals, afraid partners would complicate or slow them down. It is the responsibility of the partner manager to properly overlay partners on existing Sales motions to help Sellers, not create issues.

 

So how do you do that? Keep reading.

How to best use Reveal

Use Reveal to:

  • Identify which of my prospects are already customers or open opportunities of my partners

  • See which of my open opportunities overlap with partners

  • Determine which partners might have intel on prospects

  • Determine which partners might be able to influence prospects

  • Strategize a plan to co-sell with partners

  • Identify key decision makers and deal influencers that partners worked with

  • Create reports right within the CRM that can be used for automation and within regular sales forecast + deal review meetings

  • Push data to the CRM to better filter and prioritize prospective accounts based on the partner signals

  • Go as far as bringing in custom CRM fields from your partners right into your own CRM

Step-by-step Reveal instructions: 

 

(Steps 1-6 are repeated from the awareness and educate stage. If you’ve already gone through them, skip to step 7).

  1. After identifying potential partners, invite them to connect on Reveal

  2. Connect your CRM and prospect account list to their audience/customer-base

    1. If they are a media company, consider overlapping their email subscriber list

    2. If they are an influencer, consider having them export their LinkedIn connections to create a list

    3. If they are a community, consider their membership

  3. In this overlap, you can identify the potential of your prospects <> their customers/subscribers/followers

  4. You now have immediate insight into what type of company this partner can help you reach

    1. Is it enterprise level? A different industry? Maybe it’s more wide casting than it is specific – regardless, this information would be invisible without Reveal

  5. You also have a specific list, that you can filter further, to then target with marketing/sales communications to invite them to engage with your content

  6. Filter this information even further, with custom fields (from both you AND your partner) in Reveal like:

    1. Your or their marketing lead score

    2. An ABM score from 6sense or Demandbase

    3. ICP scoring on either side

    4. The # of deal influencers

    5. Identifying any existing open opportunities

  7. Either…

    1. Submit those accounts into “collaborate” to ensure you are tracking against the partner being properly attributed

      1. Note: When accounts are pushed to Collaborate within Reveal, you will be automatically notified when an opportunity is opened allowing you to properly attribute right within Reveal

    2. Or, enable your sellers to take action by clicking the “Get intro” button right within the CRM, which will then be automatically submitted to the Collaborate area, as well as routing to the appropriate channels (that you select) for additional communication

  8. Monitor the opportunities within Reveal on your regular meetings with partners, surfacing relevant changes in your sellers’ opportunities and to tap in partners when more support is needed

*Note, for #6 you can get creative. Consider additional pieces of information like:

  • If you have a free tool, do you track when they signed up? How often they sign in? What “tier” of free user are they?

  • You can even run specific campaigns against closed-lost or churned opportunities that could be revitalized with your partner.

  • Effectively any information from your favorite data tool like Apollo or ZoomInfo!

Here is also where you can begin using the 3 I’s play, focusing on using Intel, Intros, and Influence to systematically leverage partners in the sales cycle.

 

Read the Nearbound Sales Blueprint for a play-by-play guide.

How to action nearbound plays

Plays include:

  • Interactive content

  • Engaging and community-driven posts

  • Interviews with experts

  • Topic-focused podcast episodes

  • Community engagement

  • Surveys and polls

  • Personalized email campaigns

  • Detailed guides

Plays in the engage phase encourage deeper interaction. Companies continue to build trust by providing value to prospects. Often at this stage, prospects are engaging in conversations with the company either on social media, through email, or places like events. 

 

 are informational, aimed to build knowledge and trust over time. Often, this kind of content helps prospects understand the context and relevance of the company’s offerings.

 

Recent in-market examples include:

Example nearbound play

 

The Nearbound Summit 2023 brought together 100+ speakers from around the ecosystem with expertise in overlaying partners into every part of a company’s go-to-market strategy.

 

While the Nearbound Summit both increased awareness and educated prospects, the main goal of the summit was engagement. Out of the thousands of individuals who attended sessions, those who got the most out of the event attended networking sessions, used the chat feature, tagged speakers on social media, and took notes in their workbooks.

 

This event was a successful play for the engage stage because it attempted to bring go-to-market and partnerships leaders together to dialogue, learn, and take action.

 

Here’s a simplified explanation of how we did this:

  1. Decide you want to run an event and figure out which partner(s) you should include (use Reveal)

  2. Approach your partners with a specific direction. 

When: General date and timeline 

What: Topic – what industry trend will you discuss?

Who: Who you want to include from their team

How: Format

  1. Divide and conquer based on strengths.

  2. Use the overlaps from Reveal for your curated list of attendees.

  3. Mobilize all relevant team members, from your event marketing, to your SDRs, to your partners’ teams as well.

  4. Prepare interactive content

  5. Run the show day-of.

  6. Engage the audience in chat and on socials, and leave your audience with specific CTAs.

  7. Repurpose recordings and questions from the audience into articles, social posts, video clips, and more to drive more value to the ecosystem.

  8. Use intent signals during the event to follow-up with attendees afterwards.

 

Why it worked:

  1. Gave thought leaders a platform—By creating a space for these conversations, the summit encouraged open dialogue and knowledge sharing among industry experts and participants. This not only enriched the content of the event but also fostered a collaborative environment where new ideas could flourish and evolve.

  2. Connected those who have been to the promised land with those who want to get there—The summit acted as a bridge between seasoned professionals who have successfully navigated the complexities of partnership strategies and those aspiring to achieve similar success. This connection provided invaluable mentorship opportunities, practical advice, and real-world examples that attendees could apply to their own efforts.

  3. Curated list of speakers and partners—Partnering with leading organizations and influencers not only enhanced the event’s credibility but also expanded its reach and impact. Each speaker was selected for their expertise and unique contributions to the field, providing attendees with access to top-tier thought leadership and insights.

  4. Engaging sessions with interactive elements (workbook)—The Nearbound Summit was designed to be highly engaging, with interactive sessions that encouraged active participation from attendees. By incorporating elements such as workbooks, participants were able to follow along, take notes, and apply what they learned in real-time, making the content more practical and actionable. Attendees could work through exercises, reflect on their own strategies, and develop concrete plans to implement in their organizations, thereby maximizing the value of the sessions and enhancing knowledge retention.

 


 

 

The old channel world was built off of transactional partnerships. The era of the ecosystem will be built off of both transactional and non transactional partnerships.

 

Part one detailed how to overlay partners across the phases: Awareness/Attraction, Education/Nurture, and Engage/Selection. 

 

Part two will detail how to overlay partners across the phases: Convert, Onboard, Adoption/Impact, and Expansion/Growth.

 

To make sure you don’t miss part two, sign up for the nearbound daily newsletter.

Ella Richmond & Will Taylor 14 min

The GTM Bowtie: How To Overlay Partners Across the Complete Customer's Journey Part One


In this two-part series, we’ll show you exactly how partnerships should overlay across every stage of the buyer journey.


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