Before the partner outreach, before the partner pitch meetings, and, yes, before the virtual high fives, you need to identify which partners are a right fit for your company as it stands now and as your company expands.
You could partner with just anybody — but you shouldn’t.
A thoughtful tech ecosystem roadmap can create a $19 billion opportunity. But with more than 5,000 companies in the martech category alone, scoping and qualifying tech partners can seem a little daunting.
To make launching your tech ecosystem a little more fun and purposeful, we’ve compiled five steps for identifying your most promising integration categories and potential tech partners.
Step #1: Gather Customer Feedback to Identify High-Demand Integrations
Your customer’s tech stack wishlist can help to inform your tech ecosystem roadmap. Learn about your customers’ integration requests, their pain points, and the use cases for how they wish they could use your product. Generate customer surveys to ask your customers about the tools they’re using and how satisfied they are with your product. Communicate with your customer success team regularly to ensure you’re keeping your customers’ needs top of mind when scoping potential tech partners.
Store your customer feedback insights in tools like Notion or Airtable in order to identify the integrations and use cases that are in high demand and to observe tech stack trends among your customers.
Let’s say you have a high volume of e-commerce customers who consistently ask for integrations with payment processing software like Stripe or Fiserv. Keep the “payment processing software” category top of mind, and validate the demand for the category and corresponding software companies in Step #2.
Step #2: Use a Technology Research Service to Identify Themes Emerging in the Market
Wish there was a place where you could browse tons of B2B SaaS companies without needing to know exactly what you’re looking for? You can use a technology research service to learn about potential tech partners by category and understand which software vendors are popular among buyers according to reviews and ratings. Below are a handful of technology research services companies:
For example: If you’d like to learn which “predictive analytics software” are most popular in the market, find the category page in G2.
Using the technology research service, consider these factors:
- The company’s reviews
- The company’s ranking
- Comparative analysis against other companies in the same category
- Reports featuring the company (like The Forrester Wave, which identifies companies that are leaders in their categories each year)
Additionally, further validate your potential tech partners in your top integration categories by determining the below criteria:
- Employee count (Does the potential partner have enough headcount and support within the partnerships team and cross-functionally? How big is the partnerships team, relative to company size?)
- Number of partners on Partnerbase
- Number of partners and types of partner categories on their “partner page”
- Number of LinkedIn followers and relevant partner news your potential partner shares publicly
- Availability of APIs (for ease of building the integration) and existence of an integration marketplace (for visibility of your integrations and as a sign of your potential partner’s tech ecosystem maturity)
Step #3: Cross-Reference Your Customer Feedback Insights and Market Research
Compare the list of integrations your customers have requested from Step #1 with your shortlist of integration categories and potential tech partners from Step #2. You should start to notice some trends around the types of integrations your customers are requesting and common tech stacks among potential and existing buyers. These insights will give you a window into the types of integration use cases that can influence sales and improve retention.
In Step #1, you used customer feedback to identify payment processing software as a high-demand integration category for your customers. Let’s say account based-marketing (ABM) software and customer relationship management (CRMs) systems are also common integration requests among your customers.
Through your research, you’ve discovered that:
- A high volume of your customers have requested an integration with a particular payment processing software and the software ranks highly on technology research services sites.
- A strategic account has requested an integration with an ABM software company that rates highly among buyers, is a leader featured in The Forrester Wave, and has open APIs (so your developers can get started with building the integration right away).
- A handful of ABM companies are trending in the market. Developing integrations with them could help influence sales.
Step #4 Identify Which Potential Tech Partners and Integration Categories Your Product Can Feasibly Integrate With
At this point, you know who you’d like to partner with. Now, it’s time to determine if you have the time and resources to actually partner with them.
In Step #1, you determined criteria relating to your potential tech partners, like employee count, partnerships team size, and API availability. These all play a role in your ability to partner successfully with specific companies and categories.
Let’s look at partnership team size as an example. If your potential partner has hundreds of partners but only one partner manager, you could encounter a variety of challenges — including an imbalance of responsibilities where your marketing team is left carrying the weight of your co-marketing campaign.
Regarding API availability, if your partner has a closed API but your integration isn’t a priority for your partner, you’ll need to put in a lot more work to convince your partner the integration is worth their time.
The combination of customer feedback, market trends, and ease of working together is critical for determining your most promising tech partners.
Step #5 Map Accounts With Your Partner
Now that you have your top picks for potential tech partners, you need to validate your research and convince your potential partner and your internal team that the partnership is worth the investment. The fastest way to do that is to ask your potential partner to do a quick account mapping exercise.
If you’re using a partner ecosystem platform (PEP) like Crossbeam, you and your potential tech partner can identify overlaps among your “customers”, “prospects”, and “opportunities” lists in minutes. If your partner hasn’t connected their CRM to their PEP, you can ask your partner to upload a CSV of their most strategic accounts or a handful of prospects their sales reps are struggling to break into.
Then, choose one overlapping account to introduce your partner into, and ask your partner to do the same. Get an immediate co-selling win with your partner, and use the results to encourage buy-in and forecast the future success of the partnership.
Each successful partnership you launch will help you get more resources further down the line and expand your tech ecosystem. Avoid launching a partnership that sounds promising but fails to satisfy your key performance indicators (KPIs).
A few ways to remove ambiguity from your co-selling process:
- Develop a term sheet to identify relevant stakeholders and surface any red flags before signing the partnership agreement.
- Use a PEP that integrates with tools like Slack and Salesforce.
- Put your co-selling process in writing for your internal and external sales teams to reference.
Additional considerations for approaching a new tech partnership:
A thoughtful partnership requires time and resources from two companies. A potential partnership could look great on paper, but if it’s not a priority for your partner, it’s not going to work.
Below are a handful of questions you should keep top of mind to ensure the partnership will be mutually beneficial:
Who will build the integration — you or your partner? What’s the state of your API and your partner’s API? If your partner has an open API and a full-featured sandbox environment, it will be easier for your developers to get started with building the integration as soon as possible. If your partner has a closed API, your partner may need to invest in building the integration themselves. If the integration isn’t a priority for your partner, it may never end up in their product roadmap.
How will your go-to-market (GTM) teams work together? Do you and your partner have respective Ecosystem Product Managers (Ecosystem PMs) to ensure everything is running smoothly for your developer teams as they build the integration? How will your marketing teams or partner marketers work together on co-marketing collateral? What’s the timeline for launching your integration and any relevant co-marketing campaigns. Are you and your partner responsible for generating a specific number of ecosystem qualified leads (EQLs) each quarter or initiating a regular cadence of co-selling motions once the integration is live?
How will you approach co-marketing your integration together? If your partner’s marketing team or partner marketers don’t have the time and support to produce your co-marketing deliverables, the integration may sit in your partner’s integration marketplace and become nothing more than a dormant listing page. Discuss the cadence of potential webinars, events, and other co-marketing activities you plan to produce together, and identify the stakeholders you’ll be working with before signing the partnership agreement. Make sure to meet with members of your partner’s marketing team before signing the partnership agreement to ensure they’re on board with your GTM strategy and know how they’ll contribute to the success of the launch.
How will you approach co-selling your integration together? Having a process for co-selling means nothing if your internal and external sales reps don’t see value in the partnership. Decide on a process for rolling out sales enablement for your sales and customer success teams and your partner’s teams. Decide on a process for connecting your sales reps to discuss their overlapping accounts and for initiating introductions into those accounts. Will your sales reps have regular co-selling syncs? Will your sales reps generate ecosystem qualified leads (EQLs) for your partner’s sales reps? (And will your partner’s sales reps return the favor? What happens if they don’t?) Will you reach out to your partner on behalf of your sales reps, or will your sales reps reach out to your partner directly?
Are you ready to grow and scale your tech ecosystem? Complete our 14-question tech ecosystem maturity diagnostic to understand how your partner program stacks up against your peers, and get custom-tailored resources and actionable next steps. Find out if you’re an Explorer, Producer, Connector, or Supernode.