Partnering with Agencies as a Tech Company: Best Practices from Notable
Channel professionals are familiar with the extreme benefits that come with agency-technology partnerships. Outside of the increased prospect trust that comes from partnering with an agency, there’s also a significant opportunity to expand distribution and your product offering — all contributing to an improved customer experience.
Just a quick glance at Rebecca’s LinkedIn profile is all it takes to see she has a ton of experience with large organizations. From working directly for iHeartRadio and Audible to supporting organizations like IBM and Popeyes through Prolific, Rebecca has run the gambit.
When she learned Prolific was going to be acquired, but that the new organization wouldn’t be maintaining their consulting contracts, Rebecca jumped at the chance to start her own agency. She had no previous aspirations to be an entrepreneur, but it’s clear Rebecca was fit to lead.
On Notable’s culture, Rebecca shared, “If people feel compensated and appreciated for the work that they do, they come in and feeling grateful, and excited to contribute. I feel a great amount of responsibility to the Notable team because they work so hard for one another and for our clients. I’m impressed by the level of commitment and dedication they bring every day, and in return, they deserve an environment that is fair and flexible. I don't know what's so complicated about treating people like adults. It’s the right thing to do, and it always makes it way to the bottom line - for every vacation day someone takes, I find that they give back three days of really hard work in return. I hate to say it, but I really do feel like it's that simple.”
Your Tech Company’s Personal Trainer
While Rebecca was able to bring a few clients with her from her previous role, she has been able to expand Notable exponentially in a short period of time. How? She’s focused on impact. “We’re kind of like a personal trainer. We don’t just give clients tools or a list of recommendations and walk away. Sometimes our clients even resist the work because we ask them to tackle some tough questions. But we’ve been doing this for long enough to know what it takes to deliver an impact, and we know we’re here to make a mark. We’re here to help our clients develop new habits and drive measurable results. Anything less is a missed opportunity for everyone involved.”
Prioritizing Prospect Education
If you’re not a wine connoisseur, you’re really at the shopkeeper’s mercy when you walk in. The expert shopkeeper might have a recommendation based on the wine’s balance, body, and fermentation process when all you want to know is how sweet it is.
It’s the same thing when it comes to technology. You probably hear a lot of technical jargon that sounds good, but how can you decipher between tech speak and real value? Just like a wine novice gets the same enjoyment out of a $20 bottle as a $200 one, if you’re bringing a tool into an organization, you don’t want it to be so sophisticated your team can’t, or won’t, use it.
Rebecca shared that when they’re helping narrow down tools, she often asks how many people on their team will use the tool and how many hours a day they’ll need to be in there. “The message we send to our partners at tech companies is that if you sell them a tool that has 100 features, but they don’t know how to use 75 of them, your tool only has 25 features in their mind.”
Rebecca has been working to get involved earlier and earlier in the sales process, which often takes longer than necessary. “That’s because customers spend way more time on parts of the evaluation than they should. We’re here to say, ‘Look, you've narrowed it down. Spending more than a week on these questions is just wasted time.’ At the same time, we can also help them make sure they're not skipping critical decisions.”
A big piece of what Notable does is help tech partners shorten that sales cycle. “For any of these tools, you should expect a return on your investment and a sizable one. If we can give customers confidence, then every day they're not buying it, they're losing money. It’s no longer about kicking the can down the road to save money, but really about money lost.”
It’s All About Change Management
Rebecca shared that integration is where technology companies have it all wrong. “Running a services business and coming from the customer side, I was like, ‘Look out world, I’m here to show you all how it’s done!’ There were a few things I was right about, but I was mostly wrong. Having the right answer is not the missing link, but rather the ability to change the organization’s mindset about using a new tool and sharing its management across an organization. Services require a greater investment of time and resources than most tech companies can offer.”
In the grand scheme of things, getting people to change their integrations is the easy part. Getting people to change their behaviors is where the real work comes in. People in technology will be familiar with this — anytime you release a new feature, some people are hesitant at first, but eventually they come around to it.
At Notable, Rebecca works to support her tech partners through the change management process. “I say to my tech partners, “You guys have built these tools at a level that I'm so in awe of what you’ve achieved. Keep focusing on building the best SaaS tools out there, but don’t confuse that with services. Education does not come in the form of meetings. It comes from introducing it, then supporting it, supporting it, supporting it.”
This approach is also designed to make renewals a non-issue because they’ve turned clients into super users. Rebecca shared that more often than not, her clients are actually expanding their contracts when it comes time to renew. “Our mission is to ensure they experience the value of their tool. From here, they only want to expand. It’s a strategy designed with our clients’ CFO in mind.”
The Sum is Greater Than the Parts
Agencies first trying to partner with tech companies may experience some skepticism, as they want to see the value before introducing an agency to their customers. Rebecca shared that when she was first getting started, she was lucky because so many former colleagues, associates, and friends reached out. “I always understood that we needed to illustrate how Notable could add value for the partner and for the client. It took at least a year until I was able to have meaningful examples and case studies under my belt.”
Oftentimes, there’s a perceived notion of conflict between sales and channel. “Just like tech stacks, the sum is greater than the part. The agency is not at odds with the technology. It's not a zero-sum game. In order to show the customer that the tool will do what we say it will, you need a wonderful tool and you need very healthy services support. I do think there's still a little room for technology partners to really embrace that. I think that comes from them seeing really great agency's success stories.”
Now that Rebecca has those experiences under her belt, she’s able to illustrate the success and become part of the story. Agencies have a significant opportunity to improve customer experience, with technology partners being strong catalysts for success. Likewise, technology partners should understand the benefits of expanding and improving services with agency support.
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