A Partner Program With a Human Touch: Find Out What We Did In CloudTalk
We decided to take a full leap by launching a robust partnership program with generous benefits. What stands behind? The conviction that the best results are achieved when everyone can focus on their own expertise, yet still collaborate with others to create a powerful ecosystem.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Why having a Partner Program?
According to BPI Network, around 57% of companies claim that they use partnership to acquire new customers. Furthermore, 44% form alliances to gain new ideas and foster innovation. Indeed, by building a sustainable partner program, companies are able to:
- Diversify their revenue streams as well as their customer base;
- Acquire customers that buy software exclusively through their trusted advisors(according to MarketsAndMarkets, nearly 70% of enterprises are reaching out to MSPs to fill cloud IT skill gaps);
- Reach new territories and specific verticals, without incurring significant costs;
- Stand out amongst the competitors by combining their USP (unique selling proposition) with the USP of businesses with complementary products or services.
Since CloudTalk is not a lonely player and we are fully open to partner with companies that strive for common growth and outstanding results, we had been running a pilot version of a partner program for a while. As it proved we had traction, it’s now time to take a bigger leap.
What’s CloudTalk’s Vision
Our mission goes way beyond offering a world-class modern phone suite to businesses. We want to create a company with a soul that people want to work in and grow with. If employees and customers are not mere numbers to us, why should partners be?
In reality, we consider our partners to be a fundamental part of CloudTalk’s growth and success. Thus, we have decided to adopt an individual, organic, and holistic approach to partnerships as opposed to a one-size-fits-all and an almost industrial one we can see in many businesses.
How to translate this into a comprehensive Partner Program? “Having a clear vision of what a partnership is (i.e. in the first place, a relationship between two humans that have their needs and motivations) is just a starting point. It needs to be reflected not only in the program structure with its conditions and benefits, but also in all processes, in the organization of the team, in how we communicate internally, or in the tools we use,” says Kristyna Cardova, CloudTalk’s new Partnerships Director (ex-Pipedrive Channel Manager with global experience in partnerships and an advocate of the H2H concept).
How We Built Up Our Partner Program
We started with research and knowledge sharing. The core of our partner program is a deep understanding of the variety of partner businesses on the market and their different needs. Creating partner personas was part of the process and it helped us realise who our potential partners were, how their core businesses work and how we can all benefit from the cooperation. This allowed us to come up with a tailored strategy and quickly get the team aligned around it.
However, just relying on personas would be reductive. We mentioned that we promote individuality. As such, we evaluate business opportunities with the objective of creating long-lasting partnerships on various different levels, allowing us for organic growth.
“Individual approach is in the DNA of our team. On the other hand, a partner program needs to be simple enough to be scalable and cost-efficient”, highlights the Partnerships Director.
That’s why we created a comprehensive and transparent 4-tiers program with different levels and a corresponding structure of conditions and benefits. These depend on our partners’ main activity, on what they need for their success and what they can bring to the table. Thus, we invest in our partners as much as they invest in us. In the meantime, we stay as close to them as they need.
The whole program comprises both Channel and Integration partnerships under one roof, with several meeting points. This is because we have adopted a holistic point of view and believe they work as communicating vessels.
To make all this Partner Program evolution possible, we also had to undergo a deep restructuring of our organisation, both in terms of tools and team roles.
There is not really an end point to this new Partner Program. Just like when building a house, we have created healthy foundations to be able to easily expand it, adapt it to our growth and perfect it every day.
Partner Tiers and Benefits
Before jumping into benefits, let’s have a look at non-negotiable conditions to participate in the program. On one hand, checking the alignment in business strategies and common objectives seems like an obvious must, on the other hand, checking partners against company values is often forgotten. In CloudTalk Partnerships team, we have our 5 core values constantly in mind during partner acquisition and partner management:
- Customer focus: the customers will always be at the center of our attention, and we look for partners who value their customers as much as we do.
- Innovation: we are not afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone to shift frontiers in our industry and provide the best solution.
- Teamwork: we work hard together and we are ready to help each other. Good communication and a win-win attitude are key.
- Growth: we are constantly looking for opportunities to grow – not only our revenue and our common customer base, but also the product and ourselves as individuals through regular knowledge sharing.
- Human Touch: we embrace diversity and individuality as fundamental values of both our people and partners. This reflects on our relationship with customers as well.
Now let’s take a careful look at the 4 tiers composing our new Partner Program, so everyone can see where they fit the best.
As a company with a robust marketing team, we know what a tremendous work it takes to build a brand and generate leads. Within the Affiliate tier, we are looking for established marketers to extend our marketing team, focusing on specific countries, niches, and audiences.
For an effort put into promoting CloudTalk, we make sure that all Affiliates have everything they need and get proper recognition for hard work. Our Affiliates can choose their communication media and the way of marketing they prefer, as we value their creativity and experience. While we give them absolute freedom to execute their ideas, we also offer a generous commission of 30% and ready-to-use collaterals.
We are searching for:
- Content Producers
- Brand Ambassadors
- Virtual and Productivity Consultants
#2 Solution Providers
Spreading brand awareness is just one aspect of a partnership, but there is room for deeper collaboration. That is why we are searching for Solution Providers who want to maintain close, high-touch relationships with customers, as well as sell CloudTalk together with associated professional services. Solution Providers would further be responsible not only for converting customers, but also for the whole implementation process and account management.
In the Solution Providers tier, we have two separate levels, based on the volume of activity.
As a reward for helping us build customer relationships and support our sales, both levels of Solution Providers get lifetime commissions in a range of 20 to 30%. We further offerprofessional training and other exclusive benefits that come with the growth.
We are searching for:
- Business or Tech Consultants
- Software Integrators
- Value Added Resellers
Companies who are interested in reselling CloudTalk are responsible for handling a full customer management, including billing and support. As a reward, Resellers gain a generous discount in a range of 30 to 45%. Resellers also have access to custom training, premium support, and more assets.
Yet since this tier comes with a high responsibility from both our and partner’s sides, choosing resellers for CloudTalk is a highly strategic, thorough selection process.
- Large Value Added Resellers
- Large Software Resellers
- Managed Service Providers
#4 Integration Partners
Connecting our tools means connecting our unique values. Within this tier, we are looking for software vendors who would like to connect their software with CloudTalk. Integration Partners cooperate with our multidisciplinary, interdepartmental Ecosystem Team to further take care of the partnership management and participate in co-marketing activities.
You would join our colourful palette of current integration solutions for CRM (HubSpot, Pipedrive…), support (Zendesk, Intercom…), e-commerce (Shopify…), and more.
Additionally, we are constantly improving our open API, so any CRM, sales automation, support, e-commerce, and other solutions can easily integrate with our modern phone software.
We are searching for:
- Independent Software Vendors
Restructuring Our Partnerships Team
In order to keep up with our ambitious program and goals, we had to re-strategize our own internal cooperation. That led to some structural changes inside of the CloudTalk’s Partnerships team.
The team is now organised in three categories:
- Channel Sales. The Channel Sales Managers are the first and main contact of the partner throughout the partnership. They assist higher-tier partners, such as Solution Providers and Resellers, with structuring business strategy for selling CloudTalk and with their selling and account management activities. Before proposing business, or a specific tier, Channel Managers conduct extensive conversations with the potential partners to assess the possibility of a win-win situation for all the stakeholders (CloudTalk, the partner, the customers) and make sure to offer the most beneficial tier to start. Their approach is a combination of frequent communication, full support and personal onboarding. Although there is a common framework defined by the program and the Partnerships Direction, Channel Managers have a high degree of autonomy and freedom to develop their own acquisition and partner management strategy within their territory.
“My approach to partners is based on empathy. I always try to put myself in their shoes. When we understand how their business and ecosystem work, their challenges and their goals, we can then start to have a real partnership” – Davide Cogliati, Senior Channel Sales Manager at CloudTalk
- Ecosystem – The Ecosystem takes care of the entire partnership management (including communication and technical aspects) with integration partners in our marketplace and potential future integrations. A unique aspect of this structure is that the Ecosystem is part of the Partnerships Team, and not of the Product team, as you might see in other programs. This means that Channel Sales and Ecosystem constantly work together on a daily basis to guarantee continuity. The Ecosystem also serves as a technical knowledge base for the entire Partnerships Team, and often assists Channel Sales Managers during their calls with partners. It also represents the main link between the Partnerships, Marketing and Product team within CloudTalk.
- Enablement – The Enablement provides our partners with everything they need to be successful in their role. At CloudTalk, we take the Enablement very seriously, and we work constantly on providing partners with on-point training content and marketing materials. One of the most important objectives of the Enablement team is to turn the Partner into a Product Expert not only at the beginning, but continuously throughout the partnership. Therefore, our Enablement Team stands behind the management of our learning platform, which allows partners to get certified and add significant value to their proposition. The role of Enablement also covers everything from the team organization and internal processes to marketing communication with partners.
Each team member still has their unique responsibilities. Yet they stay in close contact to assist each other, share their knowledge, and work more efficiently.
The new Partnership Team structure therefore reflects an idea of our entire partner program – creating groups for individuals with certain expertise who cooperate to create an efficient ecosystem of partners.
New Program Requires New Tech Environment
Creating a new Partner Program requires the selection of the right tools to tackle our daily challenges, as well as ensuring that everything works smoothly for both the team and the partners. Since the beginning, we have looked for tools that would cover our present needs. However, in the selection process, we have also taken into account the future potential of the tools we were choosing. We valued those tools that would also be able to grow with us on a constant basis, reflecting the expertise, flexibility and user-friendliness we both offer and require. To sum up, we chose those tools that, in a way, “resemble us”.
So what does a great tool stack for successful partnerships need to include?
- A way to manage the relationship with partners and keep track of all the activity;
- Dashboards for partners and their channel managers;
- A system for leads tracking;
- A content library;
- A training platform;
- A community management tool;
- Sales and email marketing tools;
- A partner marketplace tool;
- A data platform,
The right tools have the power of making the difference in everyday work life. We are thankful we can rely on great tools like Kiflo (a flexible Partner Relationship Management that fits each of our partner tiers and is able to scale as our partner program grows), Pipedrive, Thinkific, or Crossbeam, and on companies like Davame (who offers automation services), among others.
In a Nutshell
There are many reasons for creating a partner program, from reaching brand awareness in new territories to boosting revenue and gaining new value propositions. Creating a brand new partner program (whether it aims on Channel or Integration partnerships) is a complex operation that requires some structural changes in both the tech environment and team.
Since our previous partner program proved there is a demand for partnering with CloudTalk, we decided to take the next step and come up with a distinctive model. The whole idea is simple. Forget the “one-size-fits-all” concept. We created 4 tiers that reflect partner expectations and allow meaningful, long-term partnerships thanks to a human-centric philosophy. A system where everyone finds their own place, yet cooperates as a part of a complex ecosystem.
Interested in becoming our Affiliate, Solution Provider, Reseller, or Integration partner? Visit our Partner Program page.