Creating a seamless customer experience is every B2B SaaS company’s goal, but why is it so elusive? Because a single product can’t do everything.
Most tech companies can’t afford to sink time and money into feature builds that aren’t part of their core product. And even if they have that capacity, the end results often aren’t as impressive or effective as products already on the market. Which begs the question — how else can you deliver a seamless customer experience?
Integration partnerships are the answer. Keep reading to understand what integration partnerships are and how you can maximize their impact on your customers and your bottom line.
What is an integration partner?
An integration partner — sometimes called a technology partner — connects its platform with yours to bring additional value to end users. Importantly, that value isn’t something either product could provide without significant engineering lift.
PartnerStack’s Director of Product, Sean Harris, says, “Software companies only get a few of what I call ‘innovation tokens’ a year and need to use them wisely. Integration partners extend the value of your product without wasting one of your precious tokens.”
Benefits of leveraging the right integration partners
SaaS integration partnerships are particularly beneficial. Both parties continuously update and differentiate their products, which means that as one gets better, the other does too.
Integrations partners improve customer value
Unlocking key parts of your customer’s workflow that they couldn’t do before or that took a ton of manual work improves customer satisfaction and engagement. The best part? The integration itself is low effort — particularly if you have an open set of APIs (more on that later).
Integration partners decrease churn
Delighting customers with new integrations doesn’t just increase product usage; it also increases retention. If your tool becomes customers’ “one-stop shop”, they won’t get rid of it. Plus, highly integrated solutions are tougher to rip and replace, keeping customers locked in for the long haul.
Integration partners give you a new GTM channel
Adding new integration partners to your program inherently expands your target audience reach, giving you exposure to their customers and prospects and vice versa. Taking advantage of this new channel through joint ABM (account-based marketing) campaigns and sales training can boost your brand awareness and reel in new leads you may not have scored otherwise, especially if your partner’s business is a beloved tool in your space.
Integration partners drive revenue
Organic leads from co-marketing are just one way to monetize integration partnerships. Co-selling is another one. Putting a better story in front of prospects increases your value and can push deals over the finish line. And usually, integration partners are incentivized to bring you new deals through a revenue-sharing model. Connecting you to one of their existing customers can dramatically accelerate the long sales cycle typically seen in the B2B SaaS world.
A sneaky benefit of integration partners: your APIs get better
Allowing your integration partners to build on top of your API set is bound to reveal new bugs or enhancements you never considered. And chances are, your customers use your APIs, too. Addressing integration partner feedback increases your viability in the eyes of other prospective integration partners and gives your customers a better overall experience.
How do you identify new integration partners?
If you’re just starting your partner program, it can be tempting to partner with everyone to get your name out there. And if you’re a more established organization, you’ll suffer from a different problem: overwhelm. Customers constantly request new integrations, and companies pitch you on an integration all the time. But not all potential integrations are worth exploring.
Here’s how to whittle down your list or start building a more targeted one.
Discover and prioritize customer needs
Some integrations are business critical — think payment platforms or CRMs — and must be established right away. Once you’ve crossed those off your list, conduct customer interviews to understand their day-to-day activities. That will help you zero in on the integrations that solve customers’ most pressing problems or enhance their productivity. Remember, the more this integration embeds your product in your end user’s workflow, the better.
Example: At PartnerStack, some of our most valuable integration partners are account mapping tools. Why? Because partner managers are constantly checking to see what overlap they have with partner customers, using that to drive important conversations and close new deals. Accessing those tools straight from PartnerStack gives partner managers all the information they need at their fingertips, speeding up their process.
Think in terms of categories over individual products
After several customer interviews, patterns will start to emerge. Start grouping the things your customers are asking for into various buckets. Categorizing them helps you narrow your focus and identify the top one or two brands to prioritize. “Running an integration with the most well known platforms will reap the most value for you and your customers,” says Harris.
Do an account mapping exercise
Leverage products like Crossbeam and Reveal to determine how many customers you share and how much prospect crossover you have. If there aren’t a lot of shared customers or shared target accounts, an integration simply may not be worth it.
How to set integration partners and customers up for success
Once you’ve nailed down a new integration partner, here’s what comes next.
Create a GTM plan
You didn’t expect to see this first, did you? Your integration doesn’t have to be finished before you market it. In fact, you should start early. Harris advises, “Creating hype about the integration launch can increase the number of customers who use it and preview the integration to prospects who wouldn’t have considered buying your product without it.” If a potential integration partner’s not willing to contribute from a technical and marketing perspective, consider it a bad sign — it could severely restrict your mutual ROI.
Discuss the use case
Get crystal clear on how the integration will supplement features you already have and how it will slot into your ideal customer persona’s workflow. You’ll also want to discuss whether you’ll need to build a custom integration (which may require provisioning new users or test accounts) or if the partner can build off of your existing API set.
Provide accurate documentation
If you’re letting integration partners build on your API set, they’ll expect guidelines and documentation. And you should give it to them — a wrong implementation can cause downstream issues that create more work for your team.
Oversee the partner’s development
Be available to answer any questions and be willing to test the integration. You may also want to coordinate testing with a trusted customer who will give honest feedback to you and the partner.
Explain how customers can enable it
Most integrations have a fairly straightforward setup, but docs are your friend. Consider creating videos or interactive demos to add more color to written documentation and to help end users feel comfortable turning it on themselves.
Integration partnerships don’t stop at launch
Building the integration is just the beginning of your partnership. And maximizing the outcomes of an integration partnership takes commitment and effort you can’t spread across an entire team.
That’s why many companies dedicate a specific person to integration partnerships. They’re responsible for:
- Sourcing new integration partners that will cultivate a positive customer experience
- Packaging up the value prop and core differentiating factors each integration offers
- Working with marketing teams to develop and distribute new co-marketed content
- Teaching the better together story to the partner’s entire revenue team and arranging opportunities for the partner to do the same
- Meeting with integration partners on a regular basis to build business relationships, exchange leads, brainstorm new GTM strategies, and review KPIs
Choosing the right strategic integration partners can provide huge value, helping you win against competitors. One final note: nurturing and going to market with integration partners can be infinitely harder without the right platform to manage your activity.
Check out PartnerStack, the number one rated partner ecosystem platform. Book a demo to find out how we help you start finding new customers, expanding your market share, and scaling new verticals, segments, and geographies today.