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Exclusive Early Interviews With the SaaS Awards Finalists

A sneak peek at what some of the best and brightest in SaaS are innovating on in 2022.

We’re heading to sunny California for awards season! This November, it’s all about recognizing the industry-changing innovation of the SaaS world at the SaaS Partnerships Awards, presented by PartnerStack as a part of our STACK’D customer summit. There are 18 programs and six partnerships leaders in the running for five awards that recognize their boundary-pushing work in the partnerships space. 

Before the awards are announced, we chatted with the finalists to learn what’s set them apart. From creative uses of affiliate tools to the secrets of scaling, read on to see how select finalists from the SaaS Partnerships Awards are making waves in the world of tech. 

How partnership leaders are innovating in 2022

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It’s no secret that to stand out, you need to be doing things differently. Our finalists have pushed the envelope in every aspect of their programs, from how they measure their partner’s successes to how they use tried-and-true platform tools. 

Interact, a finalist for Most Innovative Partner Program, is finding creative ways to use existing tools to their advantage. Growth Manager Jackie Aguglia explains how the program encourages affiliates to promote live events like webinars, “We’ve added PartnerStack code to all of our Hubspot landing pages so that when we have a new event, we can create a custom link to the Hubspot signup page. We also create resources for the event, like an email sequence, social posts, and blog templates.” Is that inspiring you to think outside the box with your tech tools?

Making room for in-program partner growth

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For Alexa Kilroy, Head of Brand at Triple Whale, an Up and Coming Partnerships Program finalist, innovation lies in unique revenue share offerings. The program allows partners to opt-out of revenue share, instead passing savings onto their clients who could benefit from Triple Whale the most. By doing so, they allow their partners to build incredibly strong relationships with their customers. This allows businesses with high growth potential who might need financial assistance to use Triple Whale, realizing its value and the value of their partner. 

Triple Whale also innovates by leveling the playing field for partners, recognizing their value regardless of size. “We’ve developed the program to provide the same level of opportunities to all of our partners — so whether the partner is a massive influencer or a smaller independent consultant, our partners are rewarded all the same for referring valuable business to Triple Whale,” explains Kilroy. This philosophy is the top piece of advice she’d share with a new program, saying,

“Transparency on partnership terms, keeping clients in the loop on how PartnerStack works, and treating each partner as a VIP is the best way to scale your partnership program with success."
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This approach is shared by Omnisend, a finalist for the Top Use of Technology award. Senior Affiliate Manager Žemyna Treiderė notes an emerging trend in the industry, saying, “Partner programs are lowering the barriers from application through to initialization. There is a distinct separation between those who are interested in a revenue share and those who are not. These lower barriers allow the newer agencies/freelancers to grow inside the partner program, increasing program loyalty.” 

Allowing businesses at different stages of growth to join programs and see their benefit is a fantastic way that these finalists are growing the industry at large.

Related: 5 inspiring leaders changing the partnership game.

How finalists are using technology to further partner programs

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A partner program can either be helped or hindered by its tools, and Formstack’s VP of Partnerships, Zak Pines (in the running for both Top Use of Technology and Partner Leader of the Year) knows this. Pines shares how Formstack uses their own software, saying, “I am a big believer in using our own software so partners get to learn about Formstack products throughout their engagement with us. For example, we use Formstack for Salesforce for a prefilled partner profile form as new partners get started with us.”

However, Formstack’s approach isn’t purely in-house, with Pines explaining how combining their own tools with outside platforms offers the best results. “Beyond our own software, Partnerstack is an important part of our process for our partner growth managers to manage a white glove referral process and automate the payout process,” he notes. Pines also notes that small touches like form data pre-fills are important to make sure the user experience stays smooth. “Ease of use for our partners is a key criteria to any software we use,” he says. 

Additionally, leaning on well-established tech to create a seamless and involved experience has been a defining feature of Formstack’s top-tier partner management. “We use Slack as a partner community to engage with partners in real-time to make co-selling, solutioning, and support easier as part of our day-to-day collaboration with partners. And lastly, LinkedIn has been a great way for us to grow and communicate with our partner community — I consider it both a one-to-one and one-to-many messaging platform for me out to our partner community,” Pines says. 

When it comes to tech, it’s the whole picture — from the small details to the driving integrations — that level a partner program up. 

An authentic approach to partner relationship management

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A standout theme in our interviews with finalists was commitment to making the partner relationship personable without interfering with a program’s ability to scale.

For Up and Coming Partner Program finalist SocialBee, Roxana Motoc, Head of Marketing, shares that it’s a progression-focused approach to affiliate management that’s leveled the program up. “If we notice an affiliate doing a great job of getting clicks, we work with them on getting more signups, too. If an affiliate has a lot of signups, but they don’t convert to customers, we work on strategies to help them advance in their customer journey,” she says. Always setting eyes on the next step in the affiliate journey keeps SocialBee’s program in a proactive state, pushing affiliates to reach the next milestone as soon as they’ve achieved the first.

Roxana notes that alongside a forward-focused approach to their affiliates, there’s an element of real connection building that can’t be skipped. When asked what advice she’d give to a new program leader, she focuses on being authentic, noting, “

"When your affiliate sees your genuine interest in helping them, they want to help you too — beyond any monetary compensation."

Strategic Partnership Director Andrew Simmons and Strategic Partnership Analyst Maya Yankner of Papaya Global, a finalist for Up and Coming Partnership Program, share a similar sentiment when it comes to success in a partner program. “View and nurture every lead as if it’s your only one,” they say, adding that weekly follow-ups and personal coaching at the signup stage have set their program apart. Personalized attention like this can make a highly tangible difference in activation and retention rates.

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Measuring success and setting partner program goals

High-performing programs have a commonality: they’re future-focused. All of our finalists were actively setting goals for 2023 and beyond, with well thought-out KPIs, fine-tuned growth aspirations, and program benchmarks top of mind in each interview. So, where are these programs headed and how will they get there?

They stay focused on the big picture. “Honestly, we feel the most successful when we connect with and engage partners to get innovative with us and try something new, whether the initiative itself drives signups or not, because the more we work together the more we will all win together,” says Aguila of Interact. 

Using data to track partner program success

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For some programs, a more nuanced approach to success tracking works best. Monday.com’s Referral Program Manager Dor Winter notes that they were able to achieve the desired 200% increase in partners recruited, increase their partner activation rate by 250%, double the average deal size of their partners, and see a threefold increase in the number of deals closed. Looking forward, they’re adjusting their KPIs to support optimization of internal processes, third-party collaborations, and visibility of the program's data. Setting goals that aim high while staying reachable was a winning practice for our finalists, and revisiting those goals regularly is how they ensure future success.

Considering your partner program a work in progress — forever

When it comes to future focus, Partnerships Leader of the Year finalist Cory Snyder of Sendoso focuses on never settling. “I’ve been building partnership programs since 2010 before it was cool, haha. Working all types of partnerships, I manage my programs based on simple paths and improve over time. My programs are never finished. As soon as your programs are finished, so are you. I’m always looking to reiterate my programs based on the needs of our partners, our ICP, and IPP,” Snyder says.  

See more: Best practices in partnerships that'll elevate your work.

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The bottom line? Never stop listening, learning, and trying. We can’t wait to see which finalists will take home the SaaS Partnerships Awards, but we’re a bit biased — we think they’re all worth celebrating.

STACK’D is running from November 2nd-4th, 2022 in San Diego. Grab tickets right here

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