Successful Product Partnerships, Part 1: Josha Benner
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
This article was guest written by Shohei Narron, Technology Partner Manager at Google Cloud
Many of our Partnership Leaders community members work in [Product Partnerships], managing strategic product integration initiatives at their respective companies to create a win-win-win outcome for their customers, partners, and the companies themselves. We sat down with five such partner leaders working on product integrations to understand what makes integrations a success, how to avoid common pitfalls, and how to sustain product partnership relationships long after the initial excitement of signing a partnership agreement has waned.
This Spotlight chapter is brought to you in partnership with Sendoso.
Background and Context: “I’ve been working at Mixpanel, a leader in self-service product analytics, since January of 2020. When it comes to integrations, my main focus has been on those integrations that bring in all the right data and those that trigger targeted actions throughout a customer’s stack. For getting data in, we’ve been working with CDPs and DWHs to let customers import all their event and people data to then analyze in Mixpanel, and other partners across the modern growth stack to allow customers to combine their product data with engagement, attribution, or experiments data to better understand and analyze the entire user journey. For data out, we are focusing on partners who want to receive our cohorts and people data to let customers engage with their users in a more targeted way as well as exporting our event data to 3rd party solutions like DWHs for additional BI analysis. In the past, we had tried to offer a broad swath of features directly within Mixpanel, but the last year has been all about “less, but better” for Mixpanel. We’re now focusing all our resources on providing the best product analytics in the world and better integrating with other best-in-breed solutions.”
Integrations as a Driver for Growth: “Our goal is to never lose deals because of a lack of integrations. In order to accomplish this, we look at a weighted set of criteria to figure out what integrations the market in general, and our customers and target accounts in particular, are looking for. This includes direct requests from customers and the associated ACV, technographic details for target accounts like what tech stack they’re using, integration needs resulting from our own product roadmap, and competitive intelligence for feature parity.
In addition, we’ve built out a partnerships team and are investing in better collaborating with 3rd parties that have built strong integrations. Partnering effectively and efficiently will help both sides not only close more opportunities but also learn about new ones, leading to accelerated growth. ”
Making the Partnership Official: “Obviously, integrations are the requirement for partnerships — it’s very hard to work on joint GTM and to provide value to mutual customers if the tools don’t connect in the first place.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve partnered successfully with many tech companies that are part of the growth stack to offer joint solutions to our mutual customers or help each other with new business. And we just launched a program in October called Mixpanel Collective to codify this process. Once another company has built and documented an integration and when we have five mutual customers, we start discussing official partnerships.
There are three tiers (Certified, Gold, and Platinum), which all have mutual referrals in common. Then based on their tiering, partners receive different levels of access to engineering, joint marketing, co-selling, and strategic alignment. We are paying referral fees to our partners to have them participate in our success and to incentivize their investments into integrating with Mixpanel. We’ve also set up the program so that our sales people get a portion of any referral fees from new leads that they bring to partners as a SPIFF, and have the incentive to engage and work with our partners. We want to show that we’re as serious as our partners about this, and are willing to build meaningful mutual pipeline.”
Partner Tiering vs Success: “We currently look at the number of mutual customers and partner-influenced ARR to determine partner tiers. We’re early in the process of structuring our partner efforts, and partner-sourced ARR would put up a pretty high barrier to moving up for the state we’re in at the moment.
On the other hand, we look at two kinds of metrics for integration success: Integration usage like monthly / weekly usage to determine how heavily any given integration is being used, and integration adoption, which tells us how many of our mutual customers are making use of any given integration — if there’s heavy usage but only at a select few companies, that means we’re not doing a good job evangelizing the integration, or the integration may not be as valuable as we initially thought. We strive to optimize for the latter and help our customers get the most of their tech stack.”
Enabling and Raising Awareness: “The first and easiest thing to do is to add new integrations to our integration directory — it’s fairly basic at the moment, and we’re trying to add more substance and details to these listings, especially around the joint value of the integration and all the FAQs around features and capabilities. We also have internal and customer-facing newsletters that cover new integrations or upgrades.
For official partners, we’ve set up a monthly partner day to run an enablement session with one technology partner and a solution partner followed by Q&A across our GTM, product, and support teams.
For Platinum partners, we connect team stakeholders like SEs, product managers, etc. with each partner to directly ask for advice and request help if needed. These partners also get a chapter in our internal onboarding process so Mixpanel staff learn about them first. And we are training all our Solution partners about our Platinum partners and their integrations with Mixpanel as an additional benefit.”
What to do when some integrations are being used significantly less than others: “Our goal is to drive integration adoption, provide more value to customers, and become more ingrained in their stack. Based on partner tiering, we ask our internal CSM team to discuss integrations and integration usage during QBRs. We also have a growing Solution Partner network that helps our customers define, set up and integrate their stack.
If integration adoption deteriorates over time, we’ll go deeper into why that’s happening before drawing any conclusions. If the tech landscape changes and the partner technology becomes less relevant, the integration adoption is a bit out of our control — it’s not an issue of our product quality, and we won’t worry about it too much. If it’s caused by the integration not keeping up with new features from our partner and Mixpanel, we’ll work with the partner on improving and updating the integration itself. If customers are using Mixpanel with the integration less or differently than we anticipated, we need to reassess our own competitiveness and what that means for our roadmap.”
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