Forging a Partner Ecosystem at Welcome Software
This is part of our 2021 Q1 spotlight series on working with strategic integrators and agencies. Read more about this series in our intro article.
This week, Deven Ravel joins us to discuss his experience in the partnerships industry, advice for other partnerships professionals, and more.
This spotlight series is brought to you in partnership with PartnerStack.
Deven Ravel recently joined the Welcome Software team. There, he oversees all of their partnership activities as the VP of Global Partnerships.
Welcome Software used to be known as NewsCred, a leading content marketing platform. They had a small, unofficial partner program, and while content management was great, they knew they needed to do more for enterprise marketers. NewsCred made a strategic business decision to divest the content agency service and rebrand as Welcome, expanding their offering to include multiple categories of marketing software.
Today, Welcome Software supports the campaign planning process, bottoms-up budgeting, collaboration, digital asset management, brand compliance review, and more for businesses and agencies. The goal of Welcome Software is to help marketers use their budgets wisely, collaborate with their teams, and get a deeper understanding of which strategies drive revenue.
Why did Welcome Software decide to work with SI partners?
There were three main reasons why Welcome Software recently decided to begin partnering with SIs.
- Decrease customer acquisition costs through agency referrals
- Grow ARR through partner-influenced expansion in large enterprises
- Drive better CLV in high-value cohorts via partner white-glove services
“Our product team is creating new offerings, essentially on a monthly basis, to reach the needs of our new brand. These are areas we haven’t delved into before with the previous offering. We’re bringing in agency subject matter experts to advise on product roadmap priorities based on trends they are seeing in their client base.”
On the benefits for SIs, “At the end of the day, a consulting partner will get revenue, expand their business, and increase their offering.”
Deven shared that Welcome Software is currently targeting 10% of revenue to be a mix of referral and co-sale activity for “year one” of the new partner program.
What metrics do you track to measure success in partnerships?
Deven shared that he currently has two active technology partnerships he inherited. “Those are both going well. We’ve been conducting typical lead-sharing activities — which has resulted in some recent wins. We just signed our first consulting partner a few weeks ago.”
Deven reports into the sales organization — his boss is the CRO. The decision to put this type of partner program in the sales organization was deliberate and is proving to be effective. “I see consulting partners as very important for this type of product. Involving them in the sales process is crucial. There are two main metrics we track — first, the partner pipeline. We look at just the general partner influence pipeline. How many does this partner bring, how many deals is the partner involved in? Then, our ARR goal. Each partner is expected to do a certain amount of business with us.”
Both of those goals are gradually increasing as they expand their partner program. To incentivize partners, “We’ve built some accelerator programs to make it easier for partners to bring in deals to co-sell them. If they meet a certain threshold of referred business, we’ll increase commissions by a certain percentage, making it more lucrative to bring in referrals once they’ve understood our process.”
How can you get team buy-in for SI partnerships?
Deven is currently educating their team on what partners can bring to the table. “It’s more of a post-sale experience for us in the early stages. In a large client with significant ARR, there are certain conversations where our product team agrees to work on integrations. We have multiple partners that are highly experienced in specific integration use cases and can have a roadmap and SOW put together very quickly.”
“We as an organization don’t always need to do things solo; let’s not make a customer wait when we know we have a partner that can transition this activity over to.” Deven is training the rest of the company to know when to reach out for support and collaborate across sales, professional services, and product teams.
What are key activities for partnership enablement?
Deven shared that partnership enablement is something he’s very focused on. “We get all of our partners set up with a no-cost sandbox for our product. It’s so important to have them actually use our product.”
“I’m a huge fan of giving consulting partners more up-front, versus asking for referrals.” Deven is focusing on how quickly he can get a partner to close a deal with them. Deven’s goal is to launch either a co-marketing blog or webinar before the beginning of Q3 to celebrate the mutual “wins” in the early stages of the program.
They have also implemented an Account Executive buddy system. “We pair AEs servicing more complex deals with partners to ensure they have the external support they need.”
Deven’s most significant consideration is his product has multiple new offerings and solves a lot of different needs. “We might not always land an enormous deal with a huge ARR. We might land a deal under six figures, but if I can bring in the right partner to do that strategic work, that partner will inevitably find expansion opportunities that can be three to five times higher than the initial deal size. The goal is to get expansion partners ingrained in the product and complex client needs. Seed them into the client base, which will ease the internal pressure for our CS organization, and drive up NRR faster than only relying on internal post-sale activities.”
Deven shared that this year, their team is incentivizing consulting partners on new logos; next year, they will focus on the “land-and-expand model.”
How do you select new SIs to partner with?
Deven is meticulous about the partners he chooses to work with. “I’m a huge fan of consulting firms that are under 200 people. I interview them to understand not only their business model and the industry they play in, but I actually question them on their hiring strategy.”
One of the critical things Deven looks to understand is how firms hire their consultants. “One of the reasons I was so adamant with partnering a former firm I had worked with was I knew that they hired a mix of traditional consultants and marketing leaders from various industries. The firms that can move quickly in developing a program around your product can put themselves in your prospects’ shoes. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the consulting firms I talk to implement those hiring strategies.”
What tips would you share for building a strong SI partnership?
When you’re taking a product to market, you have to research and validate a product-market-fit. Deven shared that you need to approach partnerships the same way. “You need to understand your ideal partner profile — is there a partner-market-product fit? My product helps to reduce complexity in enterprise marketing workflows. It’s not a magic light switch. To use it well, customers require a lot of consultative support to first understand the existing complexities. For other SaaS products, the partner profile is very different. It’s important to understand what your product is trying to solve and segment it out.”
Deven also feels the ecosystem mindset is important. “Something I’ve seen work well with other SaaS companies: they know their product is complementary to other products that can’t do what they can. When you build technology partnerships, the best strategy is to find an intermediary. Find a consulting firm that can say, ‘You know this is great, and this other product is great, but when you combine them, they solve way more problems and drive a higher ROI.’”
For example, Welcome Software is a content marketing, analysis, and executive platform. So, they’ve decided to collaborate with sales enablement software. “Salespeople need content. Our platforms can push approved assets into a sales enablement tool that results in meaningful engagement with a target audience. The clients love it, our consulting partner loves it, and I feel like we’re two tech companies that have each other’s backs.”
How do you know you’re ready to partner with an SI or agency?
The most important factor for Deven is that organizations need to get their whole team on board with the partnership. “In a new partner program, everyone in the organization has to think like a partner manager. If I didn’t take the time to sit with my team members, I wouldn’t get genuine support. Now, my team understands why partners help. If a partner program is siloed in another part of the business, it won’t scale.”
It’s important to consider past experiences and how they play a role in partner program perceptions. “You need to do essentially a maturity analysis for where your team is coming from. Some people have had poor partner experiences, no partner experience, or had partner experience for a product and go-to-market strategy that is very different from what’s happening now. They need to understand the purpose behind the partner program.”
Explore more insights on successful SI partnerships.
This article is part of our Q1 series highlighting partnerships with SIs and agencies. Each week, we’ll highlight a different leader and their experience in the space. Follow us on LinkedIn to ensure you don’t miss an update!
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