When launching a new partner program, it can be difficult to strike the balance between getting everything just right for your partners, and launching quickly so you can start learning from them.
What’s the bare minimum a partner program needs to help new partners have a positive experience? What are the right tradeoffs to make if you want to launch a new program as fast as possible?
… and what if you want to launch three programs as fast as possible?
That’s what was on the mind of Cory Snyder, Vice President of Sales and Partnerships at Maropost, even before his first day at the company. In this case study, we take a look at the unique requirements and compromises Cory and the team at Maropost decided on and how they collaborated across the company to:
When Cory Synder started looking for a partnerships platform to launch Maropost’s partner programs on, he hadn’t even officially started in his role there as Vice President of Sales and Partnerships. But as someone with upwards of 10 years of experience in the partnerships space, he already had a clear plan laid out to get their partner program up and running — and wanted to make it happen ASAP.
At the same time the partnerships initiative was being developed through Cory, Maropost was in the process of acquiring companies, like Neto and JetSend, with the goal of expanding them into new markets. Naturally, a key factor in Cory’s search for a partner management platform was this ability to flesh out each brand acquisition’s partnership opportunities — a need that PartnerStack was able to meet through its ability to support not only different types of partners, but multiple partner programs on one platform.
Many people that set out to launch a partner program are doing it for the first time, having transitioned into partnerships from another role in marketing, sales or product. The amount of learning and context required to get a program up and running is often the first real roadblock they face, especially when it comes to getting buy-in from their colleagues and leadership.
That was never a roadblock for Maropost, as the conversation around launching a partner program was sparked by their founder and CEO, Ross Andrew Paquette. To ensure it would get the attention it deserved, Ross hired an expert he could trust into the executive team to own all revenue growth, from both direct sales and partnerships. Of course, that’s Cory.
With this approach, Ross:
By checking these boxes from the get-go, Ross made it possible to fast track the launch — and success! — of the program.
“One of the biggest frustrations that we face as channel leaders is alignment with leadership, and specifically executive alignment,” says Cory. “When you hire somebody to come to a role, give them the freedom to do that work. That's why you're hiring them: to give them the ability to just run with it, trusting that you hire the right person to do it. That's ultimately what Ross said to me… and it’s the reason we were able to get our programs launched in 3 weeks.”
While Maropost consists of different brands and solutions (which we touch on later in this article) Let’s talk about the launch of their first 3 programs for their solution under the Maropost brand, namely:
The trust and support Ross provided Cory translated into the entire go-to-market team prioritizing partnerships. This was essential as a key part of Cory’s partnerships strategy is seeing each program as an extension of the go-to-market team.
Each program corresponds to an internal team within Maropost that’s responsible for supporting and enabling each type of partner:
By using this “extension approach,” Cory was able to communicate the need for organizational buy-in and secure the support he needed to enable each type of partner.
Of the relationships Cory forged between partnerships and other departments, the relationship between Cory and Jacopo Mauri, Senior Director of Demand Generation at Maropost, was most integral to the success of their swift launch.
“So executive alignment is super important to be able to get something going and get it launched,” said Cory. “But to keep it going to have success, you have to have alignment with your marketing team. Jacopo and I have a one-on-one every week, but we talk every single day.”
For Jacopo, the connection between partnerships and marketing is clear: “We work on partnerships initiatives because I know we’ll get revenue out of it, and at the end of the day that’s our goal.”
When Jacopo says our goal, he doesn’t just mean marketing; a major factor in encouraging this collaboration between marketing and partnerships was that they had a shared revenue target for their combined initiatives.
Ross and Jacopo worked together to create the partner enablement assets that are essential to onboarding partners, including:
Cory came into Maropost with a clear plan and buy-in from every team he was working with. But he also wanted to launch really fast so they could learn really fast, meaning that regardless of how much support he had, some compromises would have to be made.
But it’s OK to make compromises, as long as you understand the pros and cons of each and adjust your expectations accordingly. Here are some interesting trade-offs that made their 3 week launch possible, while also allowing them to boast some impressive success.
Maropost’s goal was to get their new programs live as soon as possible, but they were OK with waiting a while to really ramp up partner acquisition. Instead, they focused on ways they could acquire early partners without a fleshed out acquisition plan:
At around the 6 month mark, Cory was able to dive into the data of the 250-300 partners they had acquired and then make informed decisions on how to approach their partner acquisition more strategically. For example, certain leads coming from their Trusted Advisor programs were better qualified, by gaining this kind of insight from the initial data they had collected they are able to dig deeper into the profiles of these high value partners and find out how to acquire more similar partners.
Effective partner onboarding can greatly increase the likelihood of new partners staying engaged with your program after signing up. Cory knows this. But he still made the conscious decision to put off building out his ideal partner onboarding.
Part of this was simply a matter of bandwidth: to launch a new program from scratch, on a new partnerships platform, in just 3 weeks means some things will have to be imperfect. And in the case of partner onboarding, getting it perfect the first time — before you’ve had the opportunity to recruit and interact with any partners — is nearly impossible anyway. As with its partner acquisition strategy, Cory and Maropost decided to wait and understand the kinds of partners coming into their program before fleshing things out too much.
“I would have loved to address onboarding and enablement earlier, but I would also do it all over again the same way,” said Cory. “Well… I might make my first hire a bit sooner!”
That first hire Cory refers to Maropost’s Partner Sales Manager. “Once we had 200+ partners, it was time for us to hire a Partner Sales Manager with a ton of experience in partner onboarding and enablement. If you can figure out how to help your partners monetize the partnership through their services and product offering, they will see a clearer picture on how to sell it.”
While the Maropost team had a general idea of the types of partners they wanted to attract, they also didn’t want to make assumptions about who that audience could be without some real-world testing.
On the decision to put off developing Ideal Partner Profiles (or IPPs), Cory told us: “One of the mistakes that people make is when they start a new program, they try to dial in their IPP so deep that they miss potential opportunities that they may not have thought about. So for me, I'm not. It doesn't cost me anything extra to just have 200 partners in our programs, right?” (With PartnerStack at least, it doesn't.)
Instead, Maropost waited to see which types of partners would perform best in their program so that they could build their IPP around their top-performing partners later on. Making this trade off proved to be the right move. Two of their three IPPs ended up being spot on, but their agency profile needed more detail around who those agency’s customers were. Learning this information before building out their agency program too much allowed Maropost to ultimately create a better agency partner experience.
By launching this way, they were quickly confronted with all the gaps their initial three Maropost brand programs had, but it also made it easier for them to prioritise which gaps to tackle first. More importantly, it gave them a customized template for subsequently launching the rest of their products’ programs.
This is a visualization of all of the programs Maropost runs on PartnerStack today:
Maropost’s decision to use PartnerStack to power partnerships was a strategic one. It was essential that they were able to run multiple programs, products, and accommodate different partners, all in one platform. Most partner management software can handle only one type of partner, one program at a time; by contrast, PartnerStack has no limits on the number of programs you can run or the types of partners it can support.
Following their acquisition of Neto in 2020, Maropost had to decide how to structure their partnership programs with the consideration of Neto’s current customer base, which is primarily in Australia. The ability of PartnerStack to manage multiple partner programs and adapt to regulations in different countries allows Maropost to smoothly transition this newly acquired product from a largely Australian market to a wider North American market.
Another learning they applied is the power of the PartnerStack Marketplace to drive partner acquisition for a new program. The launch of Neto is also a good example of the lift and power the marketplace can provide new programs. With no other marketing, Maropost's new Neto program gained 150 partners through the PartnerStack Marketplace in a little more than a month.
Given the growth trajectory Maropost is on, launching fast proved to be well worth the tradeoffs that came with it. That was possible because they took the time to understand the longer-term goals for partnerships at their company, and decide on the tradeoffs they were OK making right now to start moving in the right direction.
Launching a program (or even multiple programs) in the timeframe Maropost did is possible, but it’s incredibly difficult to do well. It requires adjusting your expectations and being in it for the long game, which is only possible if you’re aligned with your executives, your teams, and your platform provider on what matters.
Cory told us that beyond internal factors, it was PartnerStack that made it possible for Maropost to meet their goal of launching quickly: "We have industry knowledge that helped, but the fact is without PartnerStack, there's no way we would have launched in three weeks, straight up."