"PartnerStack is the best ecosystem platform on the market. We've done a lot of research, and no other tool can bring together agencies, influencers, distributors, customer referrals, and affiliate partnerships all in one place."
PandaDoc is the #1 document automation solution for proposals, quotes, e-signatures,and contract management. PandaDoc’s sales automation software streamlines document workflows for sales teams (and everyone else) to help make closing deals while maintaining compliance an easy win.
The value prop of PandaDoc is clear: helping companies that have complicated and long document workflows make agreements more simple. But until 2019, PandaDoc dealt with their own complicated legacy workflow — with partnership programs.
PandaDoc started with two distinct partner programs: reseller and affiliate. Their partnerships were run with a traditional channel approach, meaning each utilized its own PRM and compensation structure. They didn’t play nicely with each other. Worse, they left little room for experimentation with other types of partnerships, meaning there were potential revenue opportunities left unexplored.
When Bernardo Castaneda joined the team as the Senior Manager for Affiliates and Partnerships, PandaDoc was already using PartnerStack and work was already being done to consolidate their partnerships. He saw the potential to take it further.
Instead of keeping each type of partner siloed, they sought to create an ecosystem play where all these types of partners could coexist and work under a common framework, with a common tool, driven by a common set of KPIs — hence, PartnerStack.
Castaneda was familiar with using PartnerStack’s all-in-one ecosystem platform. He had worked with PartnerStack previously in his role as Director of Business Development (Latin America) at Pipedrive, a SaaS CRM geared toward sales teams. Working with a familiar tech stack in PartnerStack was a bonus for him. “It’s actually something that made the decision to start working at PandaDoc all the more easy,” he shares.
It wasn’t a lack of experimentation with the competition that made him glad to work with PartnerStack at PandaDoc. Castaneda estimates that he’s worked with five or six different PRMs in addition to having researched as many as ten while exploring agency partnerships. Both of his most recent two companies choosing PartnerStack above the rest are a clear indicator: PartnerStack does what other PRMs can’t.
“We evaluated all the ecosystem tools that we could use and really the only one that's a viable option is PartnerStack because it does allow you to have that common framework where you can have ISV partners, distributors, resellers, agencies and affiliates all working under the same tool,” Castaneda shares of the selection process.
It was crucial to PandaDoc to work with a PRM whose customer success team would correctly set expectations and work with them to develop solutions. When working with a competing PRM, Castaneda shares an example when this was not the case and sales departments made lofty promises to close the deal. When implementation time came, the PRM wasn’t able to deliver on the promises the sales team had made.
With PartnerStack, he says, that’s not the case, sharing that his CSM team at PartnerStack “has been very transparent with what's going on and has been very timely in solving these issues. And just their level of expertise both in the tool and in the partnership space is great.”
A successful PRM begins with a strong implementation plan, which Castaneda saw lacking with many of PartnerStack’s competitors. For PandaDoc (and any SaaS vendor), multiple tools need to connect in the company’s tech stack to provide a seamless workflow. According to Forrester, training and communication are often the most under-planned and under-invested elements of successful PRM adoption — and what’s lacking in an overall partner ecosystem.
In the past, Castaneda had seen how PRMs could work against a partner manager, making things more complicated. He highlights PartnerStack as the singular PRM to do the opposite — and actually help him do his job, better.
What’s more is that with complex PRMs like Impartner, difficult implementation practices meant that in order to get the exact right tech lift, they needed to buy additional services from implementation partners. Not so with PartnerStack, he says. “With PartnerStack we were able to solve everything with their in-house onboarding team who guided us,” he shares, noting that support has been on call for any pivots or updates.
He shares another example: Using Impact, a partner manager must complete four courses to learn to set up workflows. On the other hand, PartnerStack’s intuitive workflows “look(s) like marketing tool workflows”. Any partnership professionals that are familiar with common marketing will find the interfaces familiar and easy to set up workflows in.
By making commonly accessed workflows intuitive with easy-to-access attribution tracking features like UTM links, PartnerStack is able to make the good work that partnership professionals like Castaneda do that much more impactful and efficient.
Castaneda found that some PRMs make it difficult to understand and use features like deal registration for partners, even requiring a meeting with their dedicated CSM to set up. On the PartnerStack platform, it’s easy (and self-service) to create custom deal forms that reseller partners can update through every stage of the deal, all within the CRM.
And when it comes to partners, Castaneda says, a lot of PRMs simply aren’t built for the folks who use them. “They're not actually built for the partner, they're built for the VP of Partnerships that's not going to be referring or doing anything like that. Whereas [PartnerStack’s] UI really puts the partners first.”
By highlighting key information and providing learning tools so that partners can leverage more features to bring referrals, PartnerStack is able to make partner enablement seamless for the PandaDoc team.
“The fact the PartnerStack founders have such in-depth knowledge about the partnership space and have the appetite for building disruptive technology — that solves real problems for their partners instead of copycatting industry trends — puts them a step ahead of the competition.”
PartnerStack makes recruiting new, high-quality partners to your program easy by accessing the marketplace. The PartnerStack Marketplace is home to more than 80,000 partners who are actively marketing and selling SaaS products — ready for vendors to tap into.
In PandaDoc’s case, Castaneda shares that they have a constant influx of approximately 20-30 new partner applications. He says that the quality of those applications is higher than those recruited via other methods.
“As of today, 80% of the partners that are actually successful in both of the programs that I’ve been in were recruited through your [PartnerStack] recruitment efforts, not ours.”
With consolidated partner programs in the works, what’s next for PandaDoc’s partnerships ecosystem? PartnerStack got the inside scoop on the new tiered approach that PandaDoc has launched. It allows a more holistic look at partnerships, where each partner can transition through different stages.
For example, an affiliate partner can grow to fit what a traditional agency partner role, or down the line may operate as a reseller. Startup partners can grow into MDF programs and access new perks and revenue.
Whatever partner stage a PandaDoc partner is in, PartnerStack’s platform can automatically set triggers to allow them access to different features, learning tools or billing systems. PandaDoc is able to strategically plan which features each partner tier can access through the PartnerStack platform to support their growth.
For PandaDoc’s partners, this just makes sense. No learning new PRMs or enabling new billing systems — everything partners need is accessible through one ecosystem. And for the PandaDoc team a single source of payment for all their partners is a no-brainer. Castaneda says this eases one of the main pain points of running partnerships: ensuring payments are accurate and reports are centralized.
It also creates workflow efficiencies within an organization to have one centralized platform for all partnership work. “We're all using the same language, the same features, the same tool to reference. It helps eliminate some of the places where we're getting lost in translation.”
For Castaneda, a partnership between PandaDoc and PartnerStack made sense given the similarities in philosophies that he sees.
One of the most exciting revenue opportunities that he sees for PandaDoc is launching new programs through distributors like Arrow and Ingram Micro. PartnerStack’s top vendors have access to scale through distribution marketplaces with programs like The Pinnacle Program (Ingram Micro) and The Constellation Program (Arrow).
Castaneda says it’s a lowering of the barriers that no one else is doing. Undertaking a similar partnership on their own would cost PandaDoc an investment of $250K-$350K. PartnerStack’s “new disruptive product” cuts their cost tenfold, with a total investment of $35K for the program. “As long as PartnerStack continues being disruptive and bringing products to market like those ones, I really don't see anyone competing with you,” says Castaneda.
An issue he sees in the space is that partnership companies that were once innovating have stopped pursuing disruption and excellence in customer success. Instead, he sees too many falling victim to an all too familiar mindset that the only way to increase topline revenue is by increasing product pricing.
PartnerStack, he says, is taking a different approach by attacking the key pain points in the PRM space directly and finding easier, cost-effective solutions that allow SaaS companies to scale efficiently. He likens it to PandaDoc’s work and philosophy as well: focusing on creating a product at a fair price that focuses on a great UI and bringing disruptive ideas to the table.
“Most PRMs put the VP of partnership’s needs first and then the partner last, which makes it really difficult for the partner to be successful with the tool. By disrupting that and putting the partner first, you guys have really knocked that out of the park.”