Takeaway’s from Impact’s “Brand to Brand Relationships Based on Authenticity and Transparency”

As part of their PX 2021 month-long series of webinars and panels, our partners at Impact hosted an excellent session on creating authentic and transparent B2B relationships, specifically though a partnership program. Hosted by Impact’s CEO, David Yovanno, the panel was made up of Kate Marsden, Partnership Marketing Lead at Canva, James Gilbert, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing at Hubspot, and Aaron Weigum, Director of Performance Partnerships at Disney Streaming.

Industry Leaders on how the Success of Partnership is Evaluated Within Their Organizations

Marsden stated that at Canva, they utilize partnerships to increase awareness and understand the the full breadth of their capabilities. The KPI used to measure a successful partnership varies by partner. Similar to how a media plan will account for different stages of the sales funnel, a partnership program should as well. Some partners may not help you with customer acquisition or lead generation but could provide a boost in awareness around your company.

From Weigum’s perspective, “for Disney, we want it all.” A partnership needs to align from a branding and value perspective as well as provide growth opportunities. For Disney Streaming specifically, this means bringing in new subscribers to their services like Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. For something like their parks department, however, aligning with travel partners and hotels makes more sense for that business model.

Gilbert saw the key driver for partnerships as improving the consumer experience, though he added the caveat that Hubspot’s interests are aligned with their consumers already. A customer will continue to use HubSpot longer if their experience is smooth.

A key function of HubSpot’s partnerships is building integrations with other apps used by their consumers. Canva and HubSpot had partnered for this purpose. As a CRM, HubSpot sees an average customer using about 60 other apps in their workflow, so building functioning integrations increases customer satisfaction across all those apps and makes HubSpot a reliable source of truth.

Across all companies, committing to a B2B partnership program can drive revenue growth through both customer acquisition and retention as well as improve the general experience of your customer.

On Partnerships’ Organizational Structure and Challenges

An interesting commonality across all three organizations was how their partnership programs spanned multiple teams and departments—and often report to multiple people.

For HubSpot, partnership team members work across product teams, marketing, and B2B functionality and all report to managers within those departments. Disney has further stratification by global region. Weigum shared they view themselves as a “miniature solar system of internal teams.” Canva holds the most consolidated structure with their partnership team rolling up into B2B but still nested within the broader marketing program.

Marsden mentioned the skillsets needed to keep a long-term partnership alive span the entire organization. As such, building a successful partnership program can be a heavy lift. Once established, this program has the potential to reap massive rewards in terms of your business objectives.

I can attest to this as well. At Blue Moon Digital, we exist as our own independent department, but we work with and lean on stakeholders from Business Development, Marketing, Client Services, channel leads, and even our technology teams. Coordinating these efforts naturally invokes challenges, but once achieved, creates a shared multi-department success story.

Building a Successful Partnership Program

The panel members all agreed that partnerships still appears to be in a “wild west” phase. Much of this is due to current organizational design but also extends to how department success is measured.

Yovanno from Impact chimed in that the team is not yet “firmly planted in most organizations.” This can cause confusion and apprehension for both potential partners and internal stakeholders.

Externally, you need to demonstrate value. You should have collateral on-hand that showcases what you hope to do for your partners as well as outline what you hope they can do in return. Provide a roadmap of sorts for what your desired partnership will look like. If you have products or services that your partner or their customers would find beneficial, be ready to spotlight them.

Internally, you must make clear to your teams that you are not a competing channel. Your goal is to elevate the rest of the departments and make their jobs easier. Clear communication and value alignment are keys to internal success.

Use marketing as leverage to accomplish your program goals. Gilbert presented the idea of utilizing marketing assets to make deals happen rather than just celebrating previously made deals.

Within HubSpot, they have found success “timeboxing” their teams using marketing. By telling internal teams that there will be a marketing push for a partner objective in X month’s time they have increased buy-in from their internal stakeholders. People WANT to see this success and will work more diligently to meet such a deadline.

Partnerships are beneficial from a B2B perspective but it’s just as important these partnerships are beneficial to your clients. As Gilbert highlights in his comments, the integrations HubSpot uses make their clients’ workflow easier.

We take the same approach at Blue Moon Digital. Our partners provide additional services and capabilities that our clients take advantage of to improve the performance their channels. Furthermore, by partnering with companies like Impact, we strengthen that relationship on behalf our clients who operate in that space.

One final important note: partnerships are not an advertising campaign. Partnerships are relationship building. Yovanno made the point not to expect direct and quick return on investment. This is a long-term nurture environment.

Even when operating on the more direct lead generation, Weigum emphasized the importance of admitting the element of the sales cycle. Some deals take a long time to close. Both he and Marsden said some of the greatest keys to success in this realm are patience, perseverance and the resources to make these programs survive. Putting in the proper time and resources will result in a massive benefit to your business.

If you’re interested in how our partnership program can elevate your business, drop us a line.