When I say the words partner program, what do you think? What tools or strategies come to mind? If you are or have been a product owner or marketer, maybe your brain goes straight towards the term “affiliate” and affiliate link tracking apps like referralsaasquatch or getambassador.

Or if you are dealing with consumer brands, maybe the only partner programs you experience are influencer-based and tracked using apps like Influenster or Traakr.

But what if I say the words “Channel Relationships”, “Co-Selling” or “Reselling”… That’s what we’re most interested in here at Automated today.

So we’re going to discuss the new world of partnership strategy – specifically in the vertical of Partner Relations Management and PRM software like that of today’s guest – Founder of Partnerstack.com (formerly Growsumo.com), Mr. Bryn Jones.

Bryn and the team at Partnerstack help companies open scalable and cost-effective acquisition channels through partnerships. Companies like Intuit, Asana, Evernote, and Freshworks use PartnerStack to manage their channel relationships which average between 20-40% of their overall revenue.

My former guest and founder of Reply.io, Lee Gladish, is a user of Partnerstack.com and told me yesterday his channel-partner-referral revenue will reach around $500K this year alone.

partner programs

And of course, with this level of revenue, there is the stack to consider – how will this new channel become an integral part of existing operations, and who do you need to run it?

Needless to say, I had to get the answers from the horse’s mouth and that meant getting Bryn on to help me illustrate what a partner program strategy is, how it’s woven into your standard operating procedures, and what it means for those who execute effectively.

I’m very excited to share this with you so let’s go ahead and get started!

Show Notes:

Intro to Bryn:

Athlete turned entrepreneur – previously swam on Canada’s National Swim Team
Graduated from Y Combinator in Summer 2015.

  • Enterprise software
  • Slack but worse
  • Referral program turns into a product
  • Shopify
  • “Channel Program”
  • Y Combinator 2015
  • Built enterprise platform
    • Sat inside of a larger tech stack
    • Multiple internal parts influencing partnerships

Intro to Partnerstack:

PartnerStack YC’15 (formerly GrowSumo) enables companies to leverage partnerships in order to grow revenue, increase distribution, and go to market faster. Top software companies in the world like Asana, Drift, Freshworks, and Intuit use PartnerStack to power their reseller, marketing, and referral partner programs.

The company was founded in 2015 and went to market in 2017. It began with 4 team members and has grown to 28 and counting. Their growth is largely attributed to their mastery of partnership relationships. Bryn is with us to tell us everything we need to know about developing and scaling a successful partnership program.

Firstly, I’d like you to help me illustrate the difference in partnerships and ‘affiliates.’ I had one call with someone recently who said: “Oh, you mean like affiliate marketing?”

PartnerStack is much more than the average affiliate software such as what you can find here. We include much more in-depth features that help you work in a tight-knit ecosystem with your partners. This type of stack is called Partnership Relationship Management (PRM).

What is PRM Software?

Partnership Relationship Management (PRM) solutions.

PRM includes:

  • Affiliates – posting links with tracking on keywords across your channels
  • Referral partners – people simply referring to their customers.
  • Resellers – typically where people are building their business off of selling yours.

The PRM contenders are:

PartnerStack – PartnerStack (formerly GrowSumo) enables companies to leverage partnerships in order to grow revenue, increase distribution, and go to market quicker and more efficiently. The fastest growing software companies in the world like Asana, Drift, Freshworks, and Intuit use PartnerStack to power their reseller, marketing, and referral partner programs.

Allbound PRM – Allbound is a cloud-based channel sales and marketing platform that allows organizations to give real-time access to sales enablement, marketing tools and resources in one intuitive mobile-friendly place. With Allbound’s next generation PRM, businesses can arm their partners, resellers and distributors with the content, training and campaigns needed to close more deals faster.

Impartner PRM – With nearly two decades of experience in accelerating indirect sales, Impartner delivers the industry’s most advanced SaaS-based Partner Relationship Management solution, helping companies worldwide manage their partner relationships and accelerate revenue and profitability through indirect sales channels.

PartnerTap – PartnerTap is a mobile app for salespeople to manage and collaborate with their referral partners. PartnerTap transforms sales partnerships through automation.

Zift Solutions – Zift Solutions is the Enterprise Channel Management leader, delivering the people, processes and technology organizations require to drive channel success. Relied on by more than 80% of top channel chiefs, Zift boosts channel program productivity and profitability by automating and aligning marketing, sales, and operational processes. The ZiftONE platform integrates with established systems to speed time-to-sales, create an exceptional partner experience, and provide faster ROI.

If a founder believes “We’re too early and you need a prominent brand (like those you see on your home page) before you start any partnership program.” Then we respond with:

No matter what, it’s important to start your partnership program immediately. Starting early means you will collect more data over a long period of time. Once you have data, you can take better action in the future.

There’s no point in waiting for your partnership platform to be perfect because it never will be. And even if you do have a ‘perfect’ system, there is probably something wrong with it because it hasn’t even been tested yet. Your partnership stack will go through many iterations, don’t worry about making mistakes in the process.

What do you think is the most interesting development in partnership strategy in the last year?

Partnerships are becoming more and more like marketing relationships over time. Because of how tech is developing, it’s becoming more necessary for companies to centralize all their affiliate, reseller, and integrated service provider partnerships instead of having one-off services rendered.

Companies are running co-marketing campaigns to recruit partners together; customers that purchase more than one solution typically have a higher ACV. As companies realize this, having sophisticated partnership programs becomes a no brainer.


Where do partnerships fit into the “stack”?

Traditionally Partnerships has sat under sales but increasingly we’re seeing it sit under marketing as marketing continues to become more responsible for driving revenue. Because of this, partners are being included in the companies CRM and are given access to their marketing automation.

We tie all the CRM into the payment gateway if necessary. Partnerships need to be provided with a dashboard if you expect them to be successful. In other words, we are the technology layer between companies and their partners. We make it clear who is making money and where they are making the money, which resolves the “channel conflict” issue.


Let’s breakdown the unit economics of a partnership program:

When developing a partnership, it’s important to not settle for the “cheap” option when it comes to software. When you scale, you will save a lot of time and money by having the appropriate software in use.

Here’s an approximate breakdown:

  • Partnerships can generate about 30% of revenue
  • LTV of referrals from partnerships is much higher than marketing/sales-driven customers
  • 150-250% greater
  • Different types of Partner will have different LTVs
  • Setup costs (software, landing page)
  • Hire an FTE ~ $60-$100K
  • $12-$20K in software the first year


Steps to set up a successful partnership program:

  1. Identify 10 partners who are engaged with your brand
  2. Build personas around those individuals
  3. Narrow down individuals with the same persona
  4. Go find more of those individuals
  5. Determine the fees associated with the program – monthly,
  6. Build your media kit
  7. Landing pages
  8. Content about their business – the pain points they face that your tool benefits – how they can be successful in their business.
  9. Target the list with that content
  10. Reach out individually after they’ve seen the content.

How do you incorporate partnerships into your stack at Partnerstack?

It starts by getting recommendations from our agency partners. Then we leverage PartnerStack to track when partners submit leads; those leads are handed off to our sales resp through our CRM. We also leverage PartnerStack to send trigger based emails to partners based on activity, which improves retention and can help with things like.

PartnerStack also lets us tag partners in specific groups, which gives them access to different types of sales and marketing assets, and different commission structures