A Guide to Scaling Successful Partnership Operations and Programs

A Guide to Scaling Successful Partnership Operations and Programs

Successful partnerships have become a critical growth lever for companies across industries. However, effectively scaling partner operations and programs presents unique challenges that can undermine these partnerships' full potential.

Successful partnerships have become a critical growth lever for companies across industries. However, effectively scaling partner operations and programs presents unique challenges that can undermine these partnerships’ full potential.

We’ve had an excellent panel of Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot, Jay McBain, Chief Analyst at Canalys, Maureen Little, VP of Technology Partnerships at Okta, Chris O’Neill, Chief Growth Officer at Xero, and Connie Wu, Head of Business Development at Asana.

Their insights covered strategies such as aligning partner ops with core business KPIs, tailoring partner communications, integrating data, and fostering greater ecosystem collaboration.

By the end, you’ll understand the emerging role of partner ops in driving growth.

The Role of Partner Ops in Successful Partnerships

Graph showing how successful partnerships integrate partner ops and programs across their teams.

To drive growth through partnerships, partner operations cannot be siloed or disconnected from the core business. 

McBain emphasized, “The only way to succeed for ecosystem leaders is to embed their people, align to the KPIs, the initiatives, and objectives of that organization.”

Partner ops must be integrated with overall company goals and initiatives. This enables partnerships to support the customer journey across every stage holistically. 

O’Neill explained that partner ops should consider how each “gear” in the business engine – from acquisition to retention – could be enhanced by partners.

Partner operations become a critical driver of strategic outcomes when aligned with business KPIs. Key elements of this strategic alignment include:

  • Collaborating across departments: Partner ops should coordinate closely with marketing, sales, and product teams to ensure programs support shared objectives.
  • Mapping partner impact: Be clear about how partners contribute value across the customer lifecycle. Track performance against business goals.
  • Avoiding silos: Don’t let partner operations become their own disconnected empire. Keep the focus on enabling company-wide priorities.

With the right strategic integration, partnerships can act as force multipliers for your most important business initiatives. This enables partner ops to elevate its impact.

Three Best Practices in Partner Operations

Once partner operations are strategically aligned, companies must hone their execution of key programs. Here are three best practices that enable the success and scaling of partnerships.

1. Effective Partner Communication

Communication is vital for maintaining strong alignment with partners. Wu noted that partners can act as “force multipliers” when properly engaged. Tailored, customized messaging ensures this level of engagement.

  • Customized content: Target communications to specific partner needs and interests. Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Consistent cadence: Establish regular touchpoints via the channels partners prefer. This builds trust and familiarity.
  • Transparent tone: Be clear, candid, and human in your communications. Avoid overly corporate, jargon-heavy language.

Little emphasized starting with robust one-on-one relationships. This allows for better partner understanding before scaling communications across the entire ecosystem.

2. Data, Measurement, and Integration

Data and measurement enable the full impact of successful partnerships to be visible and valued. Yet, as Little noted, the influenced revenue generated by partners can be nebulous: “There is no Webster’s Dictionary definition of what influenced revenue is.”

Accurate tracking remains challenging but critical, especially for financial reporting. Best practices include:

  • CRM integration: Incorporate partner data into CRM and other systems to link efforts to business outcomes.
  • Unified dashboards: Create aggregated views of partner performance and health across programs.
  • Anti-fragmentation: Avoid siloed data and partnerships operating in isolation. Pursue integration.

3. Enabling Connections and Collaboration

Partnerships thrive through vibrant ecosystems where players connect and collaborate toward shared goals. Partner ops play a key role in fostering this sense of community.

  • Facilitating introductions: Proactively make connections between partners for mutual benefit.
  • Creating gatherings: Host forums for partners to interact and strengthen relationships.
  • Providing resources: Supply assets like co-marketing toolkits to support joint partner initiatives.

“The partners can be the force multiplier,” Wu said. Harness this through aligning priorities and cultivating shared purpose.

Conclusion: Building Succesful Partnerships Through Partner Operations

Scaling successful partnerships is a journey of continuous learning and improvement. While challenges remain, putting in place strategic alignment, tailored communications, data integration, and collaboration sets the stage for partner program maturity.

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