It's not enough to just have partners – understanding them and tailoring the experience to their needs can truly set apart a great partnership from a good one.
This episode will cover:
Lindsey Traub brings expertise from:
She also served as the Director of Programs and Partnerships at Cart.com and built the company's partner program from the ground up.
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Magentrix is a pioneer in platforms for partner ecosystem management and partner relationship management 🤝
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Host: Paul Bird
Executive Producer: Fereshta Nouri
Content & Research: Fereshta Nouri
Graphics & Branding: Fereshta Nouri
Paul Bird: A deeper understanding of our partner can make all the differences in creating a better partner experience. In today's current and rapidly evolving business landscape, partnerships are more critical than ever. But it's not just enough to have partners. Understanding them and tailoring the experience to their needs can truly set apart a great partnership from a good one. In today's episode, we'll dive into practical strategies for improving your partner experience, explore ways to better understand your partners, and discuss the potential impact these strategies can have on your overall channel performance.
In the world of channel sales and partnerships, expertise in managing partner experience and engagement is absolutely paramount.
Today. We're privileged to have with us a seasoned professional who exemplifies this skill throughout an impressive career.
Our guest today brings expertise from working on partner programs and operations at Magento, where achievements included significant strides in enabling partners. Also working at Adobe as Head of Operations Strategy for Adobe Exchange DX, managing and launching a new ISV partner program that combined Magento Marketo and Adobe Partner Program, serving more than a thousand partners in the process. She also served as Director of Partner Programs at cart.com and built that company's partner program from the ground up. Please welcome a true thought leader in partner experience and engagement, Lindsey Traub.
Welcome to the show, Lindsey. It's great to have you here.
Lindsey Traub: Thank you so much, Paul. I feel like I want to hire you to do that intro for me every time I go into a room. That was amazing.
Paul Bird: See I can be your hype man. There we go.
You've had a diverse career in Ecommerce and now in simPRO
Maybe we could start out by, sharing a little bit about your experience with partnerships throughout your career because you've had a really diverse one.
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, absolutely. So my career started off in Ecommerce. I'd been in Ecommerce over ten years. Started off in inside sales, as many of us do, and then made a quick shift into account management. I think customer success was really where I found kind of my heartbeat, so to speak. And once I got over to customer success, we had a new partner program at Bronto, which is an email marketing platform that was later acquired by NetSuite and then acquired again. So I found out very quickly that I could make my customers stickier if I involved partners. Right.
So how can I work with partners to create a sense of community? Also understand my customers better.
Lindsey Traub: Right.
Lindsey Traub: So very frequently, I would give a call to a partner rep and say, hey, how's XYZ customer doing? I can't get responses from them, or, do you guys have any new features and functionality that we can collaborate on? Just really creating a tight knit kind of support community on behalf of the customer so that they have a, united front and know that we're in constant contact to make sure that their experience not only with us, but also with the other partners in their fold, are going to be really successful. So that was kind of how I first understood the power of partnerships. And then after I was in customer success for about six years, I made the jump over to Magento and then kind of started off my partner career, so to speak. Magento is really unique and it was an amazing experience because over 60% of their business I believe was sourced by partnerships at one point. And a lot of that was systems integrators. So really those mom and pop shops, the ones that are doing the plugging and the unplugging, making sure that Magento is working with all this other solutions really well. So I came in on the tech partner side and tech partners are often just not as well known.
Lindsey Traub: I don't think the sales team really knew what to do with them, what's their utility do, they help us in deals. They were getting such significant deal flow from the si side that we really had to kind of evangelize ourselves a lot. So that formed and shaped a lot of what I ended up doing from Magento onward, trying to figure out how to evangelize partnerships internally, how to enable folks not only internally and externally on what partners do. And that kind of brought me to today at Cart and then also at simPRO, which will be my future opportunity.
Paul Bird: Excellent.
Education is foundational when it comes to partnerships, right? Right. So why in your opinion is it so critical
Paul Bird: So why in your opinion, why is it so critical to gain that kind of deep understanding and almost create a profile of partners so you can educate people internally?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I think if you don't do it, nobody will. Right. I think for me, I saw the value in not only being the number one champion of partners myself, meaning I was guesting in sales meetings, I was volunteering to be on sales calls, I was on company wide enablement sessions kind of preaching the gospel and also teaching them what partners are from the ground up.
Lindsey Traub: So we led partner enablement sessions just called Partnerships 101. What are they and how do they help you be successful in your role, whether you're sales, customer success? We even trained finance and legal on what we do so that they would understand how we were involved. So we really touched base with everybody in the organization. And I think it was really important because once we started educating on what partnerships are and how they can be beneficial to everybody and what they do, then all of a sudden, I think the gears started turning and it started clicking that, this is an important part of our business, and particularly from a sales perspective and customer success. They realized that, hey, I need to start including them because I will get more deals. It's a give to get scenario. So for me, the education is foundational it's so important because if you don't do it, then you're going to have a really hard time getting your foot in the door with basically any at your company.
Paul Bird: Well, that's really critical because we talk about when it comes to partnerships and it's more than just a sales mechanism. Right. We want to make sure that we have education buy in, right from the C suite down. And to hear you introducing and educating people in the finance teams as well, that may not be part of that. Sales or marketing action is really quite key to being successful.
Cart created an ecosystem map to help customers identify potential partners
Paul Bird: Did you have any kind of strategy when you were kind of gathering and profiling partners or specific key characteristics that you were looking to gather in order for you to conduct this education?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah. So I think our goal really, particularly at Cart most recently, was to create kind of an internal repository of information. So one part of that was basically what I would call an ecosystem map. So we mapped out all of the partners that we have and tried to create just something super searchable for anybody who needed figure out whether we work with a partner or not. So it was really helpful, particularly for the services team because they'd be on a call with a customer and they would hear, hey, we need help with this. And they didn't know if we had anybody that we could turn to to help them with that need. So by creating that directory, that kind of internal repository of who do we work with, what do they do, like a quick description of what they do, what categories they serve, et cetera. That was kind of the foundation of helping everybody understand how to navigate the ecosystem. And then in terms of what we would gather, foundationally. Imagine creating a one sheeter.
Lindsey Traub: So when you talk to a vendor, you basically want the high level of what do you do? For us, it was also important to gather what markets and industries they served.
Lindsey Traub: Are you SMB or Enterprise? Because you have to understand the profile. Right. We would also gather success stories. So do you have something that you could share to create confidence in the end user if they have public pricing, things like that. So really the most basic but really important information for somebody to be able to quickly read this and then feel a little bit more informed and educated and speak intelligently to those partners, whether it's on a sales call or whatever. Because really what we wanted to do was create more opportunities for our partners to not only be involved in deals, but then to create that exchange of deals back and forth.
Have you ever experienced any challenges when collecting and profiling your partners
Paul Bird: Interesting ecosystem map. I love the term and I have a feeling that I will hear it a little bit more after this episode, is published and we will attribute it back to you as you're going through this, have you ever experienced any challenges when you're kind of collecting and profiling your partners? And if you did, how did you overcome them?
Lindsey Traub: Yes, we absolutely did. So I would say, to be honest, when you're asking a partner to do something, if they don't see an immediate monetary kick from know, is this a deal that you want me to take part in? Then they're probably not going to do it. And I get that we are all so, so busy. You got to keep your eye on the ball and you got to work on the things that will create value for you and your company. So what we did is one, we made it part of the partner onboarding process. So Paul, that's one of the ways that, we worked with you guys when we set up our partner portal with Magentrix. Essentially when you onboarded, when you first logged into Magentrix, you kind of had a checklist of things that you needed to complete in order to complete your profile. And so one of those things was fill out your partner one sheeter and submit it back to us.
Lindsey Traub: So it was just the profile that had all those pieces that I just described. And so I think by making it more programmatic and part of the onboarding process that they got hit with every time they logged into the partner portal really helped us because it was just a constant visual reminder. And obviously, we did have partner managers, right, like humans, that would remind them as well. But the whole goal, I think, of the partner portal was to take that heavy lifting and manual work off of our partner managers plates. And so having that happen in the background no matter what, was just incredibly helpful for us to get that information.
Do you have any suggestions in how a company can start the process of collecting partner information
Paul Bird: Do you have any suggestions in how a company can start the process of collecting this information if they have a multitude of, diverse partners within their ecosystem as opposed to kind of one or two profiles?
Lindsey Traub: I think that if you're building a partner one sheeter, there's always going to be basics that you need to know, right? So one is contact information. Two is what do you do? And give them a character limit because they will give you a novel. So give them a character limit on what you do. Success stories, mutual customers is really key. So it creates a sense of safety right, on the customer or prospects perspective to see that you already work together. And then I think obviously just kind of a hit list of features and functionality that make you stand out as well as targeting in the ecosystem. So again, do you work with SMB, mid market or enterprise, et cetera? I think those are the basics, right? Because at Cart in particular, we worked with partners across the entire spectrum from supply chain all the way to e commerce, all the way to agencies, to consultants so we really had to come up with something that was a little bit more one size fits all. So in that regard, you do have to level up to just like the basic categories that you need information about. And so if you're starting from scratch, I would say just start there.
Lindsey Traub: Start with the basics because that's what's going to enable your team internally to understand and speak more intelligently about your partners.
Data analysis can help you identify gaps in your partner portfolio
Paul Bird: Is there any role in kind of aggregating the data, doing a data analysis on these partner profiles? And if so, how can you use that effectively to help grow your program?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I think from the data analysis perspective, that's also where that ecosystem map came in, right? It was like we used that. So every time we got information from a partner back in, we initially basically kind of correlated it and collated.
Lindsey Traub: And then we would find places where we were weak, for example. So, hey, we've got ten email marketing partners, we've only got one in personalization. We should probably understand who the players are and go after somebody who can fill in some of these gaps, particularly if we're getting questions about it. Right, so I don't want to say that we're just going after partners everywhere because nobody has time to do that. But if you're getting questions from your sales and success team for certain types of partners, you go and you look back at some of the analysis you've done after you've aggregated all this information from what your partners have submitted to you, then you realize, okay, I'm seeing gaps in two places. This gives me a really good guide as to where I should be hunting new partners and hopefully signing new relationships to complete a more fully fleshed out partner portfolio. So from that regard, the data analysis around what they provided us was really useful.
Paul Bird: Perfect.
Can we customize a partner experience based on these profiles
Paul Bird: And how much of this can we use to leverage the partner experience? Can we customize a partner experience based on these profiles? And do you have any examples of that that you've done in the past?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, absolutely. So I think one of the things you can do it programmatically, right? So you can do it in a partner portal and you can do it in the ways that they interact with, for example, your enablement material.
Lindsey Traub: Right.
Lindsey Traub: So we knew that we had partners in a lot of different verticals, as I just mentioned. And so we like to basically customize what their experience would be, particularly in the portal as they logged in.
Lindsey Traub: So not only what enablement material would you have access to, but also what are the questions that you should be answering for us and what are the things that would be most exciting for you to learn about? So, for example, if you are a partner that works with us on our supply chain offering, then you probably aren't excited about the fact that we just released a new feature on our website functionality or ecommerce platform. So how can we adjust, particularly in the partner portal, what you see and don't see?
Lindsey Traub: Also, I think another way that we did that was through marketing automation. So basically, hey, can we build lists based on where we know these partners play and target content to them based on that targeting?
Lindsey Traub: So we had very specific campaigns for each type of partner and we would target, content to them based on that profile they'd created in the past.
Once a partner has a better experience with you, then they pass more leads
Paul Bird: Do you have any kind of specific success story where this better understanding of a partner led to a significant improvement in their experience and then obviously led to increased performance?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I can say that that has been a consistent threat across my entire career. So I think once a partner has a better experience with you, then they're far more likely to a be better enabled on your product and B pass you more leads.
Lindsey Traub: So a partner is not going to pass you leads if they don't feel confident about what it is that you do. Nor will they pass you leads if they don't feel it's a reciprocal relationship.
Lindsey Traub: So if it's not a give and a get, then a lot of times partners won't invest in it because they're getting nothing back from you. So I think in investing in who they are, in what they do in them, seeing that we're actively trying to enable our sales team. And by doing that, we're giving them more leads or getting them in the door more or having them take part in more events and thought leadership with us, then they say, oh, wow, okay, I really need to invest in this partnership as well, because this well isn't going to stay open forever.
Lindsey Traub: So I would say I think building that foundation has been really beneficial to so many partners throughout my career. And I don't know that I have the ability to drop names, but it happens frequently, it happens all the time.
Do you think that there is a cultural shift required to align goals with partners
Paul Bird: Do you think that there is a cultural shift that's required for an organization so they can align their goals, the company's goals, with the partner's goals, to really ensure that there is a mutually beneficial relationship? Or do you think that's a mechanism just on the sales the marketing side?
Lindsey Traub: I'm shaking my head because yes, absolutely, it is a cultural shift. And I think one thing that's also important is that you have to have buy in from the top down, right? So if leaders, executive leaders aren't saying, hey, partners deserve a seat at the table, this is important. This is not only important for a small segment of our business, but we all need to be aware of the success that partners can contribute, then if they're not doing that, then it's going to be incredibly, incredibly difficult for you as a partner professional to make a dent.
Lindsey Traub: So I think buy in from the top down is something that, I've always felt as integral in order to be successful. So I think yes, very adamant yes. For that.
Are there some specific steps that a company can take to build more collaborative relationships with partners
Paul Bird: Are there some specific steps that a company can take to and this would start from the top down to build that more collaborative and transparent, culture or relationships with their partners?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I think when you're talking externally right. I think that partners want to feel that you're bought into them as well.
Lindsey Traub: And so a lot of times, people feel like and I've talked to a lot of partners about this, they just feel like you only show up when you need leads from them right. Or you need them to co sponsor something. And so it can feel toxic at times. Right. Like a friend that is always asking you to donate to something or only needs you when they need you to take them to the airport. Right. That's not a friend that you want to have. And I think that that's true of partners as well.
Lindsey Traub: It's not just, hey, I need something from you. It needs to be mutual, and it needs to be that there's a clear value prop as to why you two should work together. So I think in terms of the steps that you would take to try and create that is a transparency, b attention. And attention doesn't have to be one off. A lot of times people assume, hey, I've got to build a massive partner team if I want to give all these partners attention. And obviously, that's amazing. If you have a huge team, that's awesome. But I think programmatic attention can work as well, such as building a partner portal experience that can serve so many, but tailoring it in a way that will make sure that they have content and marketing automation that's relative to them and helps them do their job better.
Lindsey Traub: I think those are foundational steps that you can take to try to create a little bit better relationships amongst your partners. Because really, it needs to be one that feels beneficial to both sides. What's the point of a partnership if it's not right?
Paul Bird: And I think that is the definition of partnership. Right. it is definitely a two way street. You need two to play that game.
Lindsey Traub: Exactly. Yes.
How has technology impacted the way businesses work with their partners
Paul Bird: So if we look ahead at the future of partnerships across your career, how has technology impacted the way that businesses you've worked for understand partners? And where do you see that going in the future?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I will say that technology has definitely had an impact, I think, in the past, dating all the way back to Attribution models.
Lindsey Traub: It was so hard in the beginning of my partner career to fight for Attribution tooth and nail and, hey, we got to bring in these sophisticated tagging systems. And how is it being reported in salesforce and is it first touch or last touch or multi touch? So I think there's been enhancements there. But then there's also a lot more technology around providers like Crossbeam right. That can do automated account mapping and can create some really nice synergies for you in an automated fashion. So there's so much more partner technology than there has ever been. And I think it's an exciting time to be in partnerships because I don't think we were thought of for a long time. I think it was very focused on sales and success, which makes sense because that's where the dollars are. But I think now that partners are being seen as a key player and someone who should have a seat at the table, the fact that there are actual platforms targeted to partners such as Crossbeam, such as Partner Page to create your partner directory, such as Magentrix to create your partner portal. I can only say that these experiences for partners would continue to improve because there's obviously always room for more players in the space or augmenting what already exists, which is exciting.
Where do you think the future of partner experience is heading, and any suggestions
Paul Bird: So where do you think the future of partner experience is heading, and any suggestions on what vendors can do to kind of stay ahead of the curve?
Lindsey Traub: That's a great question. I think where partner experience is heading is maybe twofold. I think one is going to be doing more with less, which is not necessarily anything new. Right. I think everybody who's ever been a leader has had their manager come to them and say, hey, I need you to do more with less, whether that's a budgetary restriction or humans, whatever the case may be. But I think because of what I just mentioned around the fact that there's partner technology, you are going to be asked as a vendor to do more with less with your partners and create more programmatic experiences.
Lindsey Traub: Like, standardize this, make it easier, make it easier for a partner that comes in as a mom and pop shop and then maybe scales up to be an enterprise provider over the years. I think that the future of that experience needs to be one that feels robust on the partner perspective. Right. It shouldn't feel disjointed. It shouldn't be hard to register a deal, it should not be hard to find enablement content. It should not be hard to figure out who you reach out to if you have a question around your integration or anything like that. So I think the future of partner experience has to be one that feels more integrated and seamless. Does that answer your question?
Paul Bird: Absolutely. You mentioned Crossbeam, and I wanted to also look at if there's any kind of emerging trends or technology to help manage experience. And you mentioned Crossbeam. The first time that I was ever introduced to account mapping platforms was at, Dreamforce, probably about five or six years ago. And Partner tap was right across the aisle from us at Dreamforce. And it blew me away that this technology was emerging at that point and now it's commonplace. Crossbeam reveal, partner tap, all in, keta partner programs.
Are there any emerging trends or technologies that people should be paying attention to
Paul Bird: But are there any other emerging trends or technologies that you think that people should be paying attention to? Things like OpenAI and chat GPT or others.
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I mean, I think chat GBT for sure that's popping up everywhere.
Lindsey Traub: So I think one of the things I saw most recently is SEO optimization. Using chat GPT is a huge thing. And we have a lot of agency partners that work on that.
Lindsey Traub: Right?
Lindsey Traub: So they're trying to figure out how they can augment their offering as a partner to not only incorporate Chat GPT, but also still have that human perspective behind it. So I think chat GPT is huge. I think there's a lot of fear around it. Hey, is it going to take our jobs? I'm not a titan of industry by any means, so don't take this to the bank by any means. But I think there's ways to incorporate it to make the partner experience far better. Right, so maybe you're doing something like co branded partner marketing. So, in the past, I launched a partner marketing portal while I was at Adobe. And so essentially what it did was remove the barrier of, trying to get bespoke marketing content. And we would basically create emails and one sheeters and things like that, collateral that the partner could use and co brand with us.
Lindsey Traub: And so I think taking something like a Chat GBT and inserting it into that something that you were already doing, could be incredibly useful.
Lindsey Traub: Because not only will you make the content even better, but it shortens the time to market for the partner to create that co branded collateral and content. So I think that's going to be a huge one for sure. I can't really think of another one that feels so timely, but that one, I think, is definitely going to be popping up a lot.
Paul Bird: Well, I think what we'll also see is the combination of these platforms together. Like having Chat GPT be able to create the language model, the text, the narrative for things like training or enablement videos and then moving it over to another platform to be able to deliver those videos. So they're engaging. I think we'll start seeing the amalgamation of a lot of these platforms into one. I think the fear is of the unknown. Simply, people are not used to the capabilities, using it to enable, know, make them more efficient during the day. So people tend to be afraid of things they're not completely comfortable with.
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, well, I mean, I think Hollywood hasn't done us any favors, right? Around all the movies where it's like a machine is taking my job. So I think we have the fear ingrained in us in multiple different ways. But I agree, I mean, the example that you gave is a great one, right? I mean, enablement and evangelism is so key to what I do when I build a partner program that having assistance with that and feeling like I'm coming up with fantastic content without having to bother my marketing team or my partner marketer who might be working on more high value co branded things. That's fantastic.
How can businesses make their partner programs more sustainable and resilient given future challenges
Paul Bird: So how about your, opinion on how businesses can make their partner programs more sustainable and resilient given the future challenges, the market competition, the evolution of technology? Any idea on how people can just be a little bit more resilient in these, rapidly changing landscape when it comes to partner technology?
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I think resiliency is a buzword right now, for sure.
Because there's been so much change, particularly in tech, right. So many layoffs. There's a lot of fear around that too. So you've got a lot of things kind of coming at you from different perspectives. I think resiliency could come in two ways, right? So one would be building those programmatic pieces so that if you find that, hey, I'm going to have to reallocate a resource somewhere else, I'm not going to have this person dedicated to partner management anymore. They're going to also be doing partner marketing and thereby might not be able to give as much of a white glove touch, for example, to new partners. I think building that programmatic foundation that we were talking about earlier, and leveraging technology that allows you to do that, like a partner portal is going to be really key.
I think that builds resiliency because you have that foundation that will run in the background for you no matter what. And then in terms of just kind of continuing in similar veins, I think you can build resiliency around continuing to make sure that your team is aligned with what the partner goals are.
And, when I say your team, I mean your entire internal team.
So what I was talking about before with Sales, Customer Success Services, marketing, if they're aligned on what you're looking to do and how you can help them, it alleviates a lot of fear, right? It alleviates the fear that if we're not on the same page, then these layoffs might be coming for us. And everybody has that fear no matter what, because of what's been happening in tech. But I think if you feel like you are in lockstep and you're on the same page and everybody has clarity on goals, that helps so, so much. I can speak from personal experience when I felt like I didn't understand what we were marching to, regardless of what I was in, then there was a lot of fear, right. And so if you can kind of eliminate or alleviate that, that helps a lot.
So as we start to wrap up any general advice that you would give to business looking to improve partner experience
Paul Bird: So as we start to wrap up any general advice that you would give to a business looking to improve their. Overall partner experience and their better understanding of what their partner channel is comprised of.
Lindsey Traub: Yeah, I think it goes back to the questions you posed initially right. Is, don't be afraid to ask more of your partners.
They should be telling you what they do, and then you take that information, which is fantastic information, and then leverage it to enable your internal teams and Evangelize.
I think it's a dynamic that should be flowing constantly. It should be going back and forth all the time. So if I was to give advice, I would say build your programmatic foundation as best you can, try to gather information from your partners so that you can better enable your teams, which then just continues to feed the will.
It's going to feed the flywheel and make sure that you have a strong give and get, because the more education that you have, the higher likelihood you have that there's leads going back and forth and leads equal money.
So I would say definitely make sure that you're focused on those two things, the foundational aspects from a technology perspective, and then also not forgetting to leverage your partners and evangelize and enable your teams.
Paul Bird: All right. Thank you, Lindsay. It's been great having you as a guest on the show today. It's really been an insightful conversation. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Lindsey Traub: Thank you so much, Paul. I really appreciate it.