Agency Partner

A Deep-Dive into the Digital Agency-Partner Persona, w/ Greg Portnoy and John Florey

Alex Glenn
July 17, 2021
Listen this episode on your favorite platform!
Agency Partner
July 17, 2021

A Deep-Dive into the Digital Agency-Partner Persona, w/ Greg Portnoy and John Florey

“You have to figure out what is the value that you're bringing to that partnership.”

Today’s episode is a deep-dive into the agency-partner persona.

Our guests:

John Florey, CEO of SAMA Labs a performance marketing agency partnered with platforms like Klaviyo and Attentive Mobile. They’ve spent the last 7 years assisting clients in growth with their tech partners involved throughout. John knows growth with partnerships, and was brought into Attentive’s partner program by Greg a few years ago, so he’s the perfect guest for the show.

Greg Portnoy, Former VP of Partnerships at Attentive Mobile and Hawke Media, now COO of Live Recover, and an agency-partnerships verteran, is our partnerships expert for this call because he found/onboarded John at Attentive.

In today’s discussion you will learn:

  • How agencies should look at “Partnerships” as a growth engine
  • How can agencies diversify their partners in order to quantify true growth
  • Qualifying and deciding on the partner track to pursue with each new tech
  • How to select / prioritize your partners
  • How can platforms mitigate favoritism
  • Dealing with the competition between partners
  • What is a optimistic and realistic partnerships strategy for an agency
  • Speaking to the an agency without a partnerships manager - their CEO is your POC
  • Some of the ways to break into this type of an agency who is busy and has a competing solution as a partner
  • Outreach tactics
  • Co-marketing-only partnerships
  • And we end on non-compete clause pro

Resources:Sendoso - The leading sending platform.Partnerstack - Partner tracking and payouts.Reveal - A free account mapping solution.

Episode Transcript

Greg: [00:04:32] of you.

[00:04:32] My name is Greg Portnoy. Currently the COO of librarian. We are a human powered cart, abandonment text message solution who is driving towards allowing brands to have more effective conversations and convert their customers at scale. And I've been a former VP of partnerships and a partner manager, myself and my career, and really just an absolute partnership.

[00:04:53]Officio, natto and geek for the last seven years. Yeah. 

[00:04:56] Alex: [00:04:56] And as I mentioned in the intro experience as VP of partnerships with Hawk media, going into the SAS world, running partnerships for a 10 of mobile, that's where you and John connected. And John, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and then we'll get into a little bit of the backstory, explain who you guys are working with today.

[00:05:17] And we've got some good discussion around it. The area of partnerships from both angles as usual. But John, go ahead and introduce yourself. 

[00:05:24] John: [00:05:24] My name's John Flori, I'm the CEO and co-founder of summer labs. We are a 37 person team focusing on growing e-commerce brands through pay marketing, acquisition, retention, creative branding, so on and so forth.

[00:05:39] And our unique angle is that we've spent the last seven years building our own brands to a nine figure revenues and leveraging that experience into helping other brands whether they're SMB or larger growing. 

[00:05:52] Alex: [00:05:52] Yeah. I love it. I love it. And you're on this show with Greg, not because of the new platform that Greg is now COO of live recover, but.

[00:06:04] The relationship that you guys formed while Greg was running partnerships at attentive. So let's do a quick backstory. How did that get going? That'll be the basis for some of the conversation that we'll have. Greg, why don't you explain real quickly? What about SAML labs was the draw? What happened?

[00:06:21] How did you guys start it off? And what is the partnership or what was the partnership when you left and then we'll go back to John. Yeah, 

[00:06:27] Greg: [00:06:27] definitely. John and I met at an e-commerce conference. In Boston a few years back. And I was just starting out at a ton of at the time and building out our partnership strategy and looking for really great growth marketing agencies that were interested in exploring new channels.

[00:06:44] SMS marketing was rather nascent at the time and John being not only an agency leader, but also Adidas, the brand leader saw the value in it. And we started to build out a formal partnership. Where the team at Sama labs would leverage a attentive on behalf of their clients to really help grow the SMS channel.

[00:07:03] And that's exactly what we did. Some iLabs very quickly became one of our best partners and really saw a ton of value in growth. I believe for their customers to the S channel. As a mess and attentive. And at the time that I had left the tenant of that partnership was only beginning to grow even more from 

[00:07:19] Alex: [00:07:19] what I recall.

[00:07:20] Yeah. And John, you have grown substantially from the tech partners that you have now attentive being one of them, but let's talk about your stack, John, and then let's talk about what you're doing with a tenant. So, 

[00:07:33] John: [00:07:33] you know, we're, we're a relatively new agency. Been at it for roughly about three and a half years.

[00:07:39]For us it was uncovering these SAS companies that we were already using with our clients and tapping into those relationships on the SAS side. So we can expand our knowledge on the platforms, build those relationships and then have some reciprocal and mutual wins with those platforms too. And attentive was something that was frequently coming up.

[00:08:01] And ironically enough, when I met Greg at e-tail east, he was like, well, why don't you guys. Partner platform. So for me, it kind of opened up this new horizon for us to really engage the, these, all this tech that we were using, regardless of whether it was on the tech side, the email side, shipping and fulfillment, and even on the the platform side, like the social media platforms like Facebook.

[00:08:24]Pinterest and electric talk. So that was a big moment in time for us to take that next milestone and be able to leverage all those things to help us grow even further. The relationship with attentive right now is great. It's a very competitive space SMS. I think attentive does a great job of nurturing the relationship on the agency side to reach the amount of customers that these platforms want to reach at scale agencies play a big part in that to leverage their book of business.

[00:08:46] And being able to mutually benefit from that too. So it's been great with attentive, did a 

[00:08:51] Alex: [00:08:51] fantastic job. Yeah. And you just struck a cord for a recent conversation that I had with an agency. They are a Klayvio. So Klayvio now has their SMS platform. Klaviyo's SMS team has been hounding this agency to get on the SMS side or start offering clients the SMS side, but they are really.

[00:09:07] Partners with the tenant. We deal with the same thing too. Yeah. So I think let's start with that because we have a talking point here to mitigate favoritism. Yes. But also choosing how to pursue the right type of partnership as platforms like HubSpot. Start launching all of these different essentially brand new solutions, their features, but with HubSpot, a good example is they have their support pub.

[00:09:33] I believe it's called which competes with Zendesk. It competes with gorgeous. I was talking to gorgeous as partner manager about non-competes Greg, you mentioned a comment in our poll, in our community about non-competes. Let's talk about just mitigating this scenario where Klayvio HubSpot, all these things.

[00:09:50] Giants have all of these features and you want to have the right tool for your client. You want to have the right strategy, but it's going to get a little bit chaotic. But what do you think about when you're at right now? An SMS provider, Greg, and you're talking to partners like John and they already have an SMS provider, but then they have Klayvio, who's breathing down their neck.

[00:10:12] Let's talk a little bit about just what would you do? What is the strategy? For both partnerships. And then John, back to you for the agency perspective on deciding on where to go with these different technologies and whether you use a solution specific tool, or you go with the big platform, what is the decision making process?

[00:10:31] Greg? Can we just chat about that for a 

[00:10:32] Greg: [00:10:32] minute? Yeah, definitely. And I think this is probably a topic that everybody encounters every day, you know, at the point of evolution that the e-commerce technology ecosystem is there's very few spaces that are not incredible. I don't want to say saturated, but competitive.

[00:10:48] Be it, you know, email, SMS, customer support reviews, loyalty, all that stuff. So it's unrealistic to imagine that one technology could only partner with one agency or one agency can only partner with one technology in a specific space. And granted there's definitely favoritism, but realistically, I remember when I was also on the agency side, one of the pain points and we partnered with Hawk media.

[00:11:13] Early to the game with e-commerce digital marketing. And so we, we were some of the first partners to a lot of the who are now biggest players in the space from a technology perspective. And one thing you realize is that technology platforms as a category are generally not nearly as good at sending business to their agency.

[00:11:31] Partners as agencies are to sending business to their technologies. And some of that is just the nature. The the stream of decision-making that goes on at a brand, they'll usually choose an agency before they choose the technologies. And a lot of times the agency is actually responsible for choosing those technologies.

[00:11:47] But that being said, you know, one of the biggest focuses while I was at an agency was trying. Diversify our technology partner base because a lot of our best technology partners, the ones that we were sending the most business to were not sending us business in return. And it was not anywhere near an equitable partnership.

[00:12:05] So I think this all leads to the point that even if an agency partner has other technology partners that they work with and maybe. You know, technologies that their team is more familiar with. That doesn't mean that if your technology and your platform provides a significant value add to their customer and even better yet can also provide a value add to the agency itself, perhaps in the form of management fees.

[00:12:29] Then there's always an opportunity to have a conversation because unless it's. Three top agencies that the technology has in their partner portfolio or vice versa. There's always room for another one. If that new partner can provide as much or more value and really make it a more equitable partnership.

[00:12:47] So I think that's really what it comes down to. Don't be, don't be discouraged if they're already one of the top partners of another competitor of yours. Because if you have a good value proposition, if you have a good product, if you're able to add value to both the agency and their customers, there's always an opportunity to have a conversation there and get in there and start working with some of them.

[00:13:07] Alex: [00:13:07] Very good answer. And John, I want to get your perspective on this and I'll be a little bit better at framing the question because some of these questions are going to be, long-winded just take kind of what you hear and what comes to mind and deliver that as the answer. That'll be awesome. But frame is this John and we had Jordan from snow agency in our collective yesterday, talking about.

[00:13:26] And I think it's very important for both agencies and tech teams to understand is every partnership can go down. A different track can be a different thing. It doesn't have to be, oh, you're a solutions partner. You sign this agreement and you're on this track to do just this. And if you're not going to do that, let's not work together and I'll go find someone else.

[00:13:44] But especially with SMS, the space is getting crowded. Now Greg has to develop a new program in the SMS. And agencies are going to be hit with SMS provider for this and that as well as mid-market, as well as enterprise and SMB have to have a strategy for what you're going to do with each type of use case and each type of partnership.

[00:14:05] And you have to kind of work more flexible be more flexible. I think with partnerships as a whole, as these platforms start coming up with new features and more players. The game in order to get the most out of it. I don't think you should create walls around your stack, around your partnership stack and say, you know what?

[00:14:25] We are only a tenant for SMS. Everyone else can screw off. I think you should be a little bit more flexible, but that's just me an outside perspective. But John, what is your internal conversation? What do you guys do when it comes to competing tools and having a tool for SMB versus mid-market what's your strategy?

[00:14:42] What do you, what do you think 

[00:14:43] John: [00:14:43] about? Yeah, I mean, for me and like you said, we do work with very similar platforms, whether it's attentive or, or postscript. And of course, Klayvio, we're a platinum partner with Klaviyo, so great relationship with them. For me, it's, it's, I, I do rely on the platforms to be compelling in their offers and their ability to be marketable to operators and owners and managers on, on the, on the e-com and the business.

[00:15:09] I try not to be too pushy. You know, we do advocate for what we feel is best and where the best value is for that particular business and brand and their budget costs of doing business today for an e-commerce brand has grown quite a bit. And even recently with a lot of this, you know, iOS changes that are impacting businesses to be profitable on their paid media sites.

[00:15:32]You know, it comes down for me, like where's the value add where the features the offers, sometimes it's just a matter of pricing. You know, the, the platforms are pretty simple in nature and a lot of them do a lot of the same things. And my job is to just be more consultated when I talk to these owners and operators in helping them pick the right choice if they don't already have a solution in place where we're taking over management.

[00:15:53] But, but yeah, I mean, I try to dive into that, right. It, it works pretty well and I leave it to them to make the ultimate decision, but I can only sway them one way or the other. So I, again, I have to represent the client before the platform, but help them make the best decision possible. So it's, it's a double-edged sword, but usually it comes out on a 

[00:16:13] Alex: [00:16:13] win-win for everybody.

[00:16:14] Yeah. You kind of have to pick and choose a little bit, but at the end of the day, the client's best interest is what you'll go with for implementation. Follow up. Question to that is, do you have relationships where you're not planning on. Ever implementing the product because it just doesn't make sense for whatever, but you do co-market with them.

[00:16:35] You do share leads. Maybe you have a relationship. Do you have any of those with tech companies? 

[00:16:40] John: [00:16:40] Sort of, so I'm gonna, it's going to be a little bit of a long-winded answer cause it's, it's better to explain it that way, but you know, on our partner page, you can see that the partners that we do feature and for the most part, it's pretty good.

[00:16:53] Categorically specific. We don't have a million partners in one type of offering emails, pretty singular there. Same thing. SMS is where it gets a little bit tricky, but some of them we don't frequently offer, like I'll bring up clear bank or now Clearco is an example where it's not a fit for everybody.

[00:17:12] So while I do want to advocate for it and, and build that partnership it's not something that I can have a conversation with everybody about. So But with the partners that we don't actively work with, like a Klayvio we do want to encourage them to be integrated in my system. So with my team and a lot of the account managers, so we do a lot of lunch and learns with these partners, especially on the intro side, moment's a new partnership that we've may have onboard in the last like week or two.

[00:17:41] We do schedule a lunch and learn to where they can have a little bit of a town hall session with the team so they can introduce. And then that's just another offering that, that the account managers can have at their, you know, in their tool chest. So when challenges arise that we can't specifically manage, that might be something that can down the road, be a little bit more beneficial to that particular client.

[00:18:00]You know, we do co-marketing blogs, newsletters, things like that. So we try to give them as much love as possible, but sometimes it shifts don't always fall right away where they're supposed to. And that's, you know, something happens over time. So we always have the intention of. Being able to leverage them one way or another, but for platforms that are not so frequently used, like email or SMS, it's a 

[00:18:18] Alex: [00:18:18] little bit more tricky.

[00:18:19] Yeah. That is the case. I think for 95% of the agencies out there, and the one we work really closely with that I think is on more of the far left there's far. Right. Which is. HubSpot. And we have maybe one other partner and we are service based and we don't do any partnership stuff. And we stick with our traditional XYZ.

[00:18:40] And then there's far left, which would be hock media. Greg, you were in Ashley's Scorpio shoes. I think what five, five or so years ago, something like that. But today they have about a thousand partners about 250 or so. I don't know what the number is. Our tech companies. They do partner with competing products and they go to market with their partners, with everything.

[00:19:02] They bring partners into all content, all events, everything that they do is, is partner related from what I can tell, at least on the marketing side. So. What is your, maybe put on your agency hat, but what would you do if you were in John's shoes? And there's just going to be more demand for his time from partners, but there's a lot opportunity in there.

[00:19:26] What sort of order of operations would you and strategy would you put behind the idea of partnering with. You know, as many people as possible. There's 

[00:19:35] Greg: [00:19:35] definitely as, as with all in my humble opinion, a moderation is key and there's a balance to be struck. So it can be very. It can be very appealing from the outside thinking that, you know, the more partners we get, the more business we get from partners, the more successful we'll be as a business, but there's only so many partners that you can effectively manage.

[00:19:57]And Ashley will be the first person to say something like this. And I'm sure out of all those partners that that Hawk has, they're, they're very strategic about which ones they work with. And I would say, you know, from the agency perspective, There is room for again, multiple types of partners within a specific.

[00:20:14] Category and granted some your team is going to be more familiar with some, you're just going to have more of your customer base already using. And some of them just fit your customer base perhaps from a functionality or integrations or cost perspective better. But that's not to say that there's not value for the few clients, perhaps that fit another solution for the few clients that you can get through partnership with that solution for just the pure exposure to your point earlier, Alex, the pure exposure of just doing some co-marketing.

[00:20:43] Maybe a thought leadership webinar, perhaps an event at a conference or in some local geography. So I think the important thing is more so understanding what is the value to your business and what is the value to your customers? And if you can get enough value in each of those categories to warrant the time and effort that you're gonna be putting forth on that partnership, I think it's worth a shot, but I think you should.

[00:21:08] Measure that. And try to evaluate that before you just dive head first into a ton of new partnerships, because you can very quickly spread yourself very thin and you'll find instead of having a few really good partnerships, you just have a bunch that aren't really 

[00:21:22] Alex: [00:21:22] performing. Okay. So I don't know. I just want to grow, you know, let's just say, I just want to grow.

[00:21:27] I'm an agency I'm maybe in John's shoes. I want to grow fast and I want to be in front of all those audiences that my partners are in front of. The term partner typically refers to that contract, that signed agreement that says, John's doing this and Greg's doing this. And there's payouts in between.

[00:21:45] And there's some stuff in there. Right. But when I say partner, let's think about partnerships. You and I are doing something together and in that world, it's like, okay, well, you've got to put out content. You've got to create a lot of inbound links for your agency. You've got to be a thought leader, which means you've got to show up on podcasts like this.

[00:22:03] You've got to be involved in events that is marketing one-on-one of course, why aren't agencies and why isn't everyone out there making sure that. Everything they do is partnership related is with someone else that is also selling into your target audience. And in that world, you could have a partnership that's three months long, and it includes a webinar and a couple of different posts and some social stuff.

[00:22:32] Maybe there's a contract, maybe not, but you never talked to each other. You never do anything after that. And then it sort of falls by the wayside. But John, I want to just get your opinion. And since you're in the trenches, you're doing this day to day, of course you have a lot of other things to see, but if you were to hire a marketing manager, how much of that would be partnerships related?

[00:22:52] What do you do with marketing today? And what is your opinion on everything? I just said? Yeah, a few things 

[00:22:57] John: [00:22:57] to unpack. So like for me, it's what I've learned in the past probably 18 months is to really manage expectations on what that partner's responsibility will be. For the agency and for your clients.

[00:23:13]What I've learned is most platforms that we partner with the Clearview is the attentive. I've realigned a lot of those expectations simply because there's more value to the clients and letting us manage that and be that profit center for us. Those relationships are a small profit center, all relative to the total top line of, of our agency, but it does help.

[00:23:36] And And, and it's, it's certainly important, but it's not going to change the course of our business. So the value for me in that partnership is nurturing the talent within the company on how to best use those platforms and advancements that those platforms are making feature wise, things like that.

[00:23:52] But ultimately that the client's getting the most bang for their buck in that. And that's really where my expectations lie for the most part. Some of them perform better than others with that expectation. And then the other side is the different types of partners that we do have that are not tech specific.

[00:24:11] And they're more advocates of us that is a bigger revenue driver for us. So my expectation from them is not so much. Bringing value to businesses, it's bringing more direct value to us as an agency. And those are the partnerships we nurture a lot differently because they're not bought into any one tech they're really bought into us and really subscribed to everything we stand for to help brands.

[00:24:34]So. I don't know if that answers your question in totality, but that's, that's one way that we 

[00:24:38] Alex: [00:24:38] look at it. Yeah. On this too, because it's situation where you, as the CEO have to check some boxes, you have to maintain control of the ship. Of course you can't derail the agency because you're off doing all this other partnership stuff.

[00:24:53]But in the world where you do have a head of marketing, Also doing partnerships. I was just talking to Boston over at hustler. Who's in this in this exact place with his agency where he has a head of marketing. He's got some salespeople, the head of marketing has been handling partnerships, but obviously she's overwhelmed.

[00:25:10] They want to hire a partner manager. And they're dealing with this whole SMS thing too. It's, it's, it's really awesome to have both of you on right now because we can, we can talk about SMS and use that as the example, but now Greg's got to do the same thing where he's got to come through. Agencies or at least create a partner program and hire someone to run it.

[00:25:28] But he's got to come into agencies who have an SMS partner and he's got to fit in to the agenda and have these types of conversations. So, John, I think are well, Greg, I want to, I want your opinions on. Well, I 

[00:25:40] John: [00:25:40] don't, I just want to add one thing to that, Alex too. So we don't have a partner manager and we haven't really had a need to have that because a lot of my biz dev guys do support those relationships to make sure things are flowing properly.

[00:25:54] But what I mentioned before, when we onboard a new tech company, we do have those lunch and learns where everybody in the company, at least marketing or web departments, most, most of the times creative. Gets involved. So they learn about this new relationship that we have from an agency to whatever the platform is.

[00:26:12] And what we've been really good at is the account managers that are more client facing on a day-to-day basis, understand what some of these challenges are and they know snap of a finger, oh, we have X, Y, Z company that can help solve this. And then they typically involve myself. If it's a relationship that I have, or any of the other business development guys to help make that introduction and really carry that.

[00:26:35] Across the finish line all the way to implementation. So, you know I'll bring up, Jairus is a fantastic example of a platform that's exploding and they have a partner manager that's, I'm sure up to his knees are up suits up to his neck and a lot of the agencies and brands that are trying to use this platform with what's going on.

[00:26:54] And so we had an introduction to the team and account manager in the company and said, you know, the account's spending enough. They make enough revenue. Love to have this platform involved so we can navigate some attribution issues. So I, I empower a lot of the team to really get familiar with what's available to them and that's how we incorporate, you know, the managers.

[00:27:13] Very good. Very good. 

[00:27:15] Alex: [00:27:15] I can talk for days on that. I've got so much to say, but I don't want to Greg please give me your advice. From that perspective, John's in a situation where he's going to get a lot of it. Competing tool requests. His sales team are managing some of the partner stuff. His marketing team is managing some of it.

[00:27:33] And it sounds like as a team, you guys sort of onboard partners and that partnership gets split up into different activities and therefore different people, own different activities. What are some of the things that you think about when it comes to partnership strategy and not having a partner 

[00:27:50] Greg: [00:27:50] manager?

[00:27:51] Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Most agencies that I've ever worked with, don't have a partner manager. It's starting to become more common, obviously, as I think all of us on this call are aware, but it's only a newer thing. And partnerships in general is starting to really get a lot more visibility and traction as a function within, within businesses on both sides.

[00:28:10] And so I think as with any kind of a business relationship, you need a champion and you need a key stakeholder within the business. For the businesses that don't have a partner manager, you have to figure out what is the value that you're bringing to that partnership. And then you have to find the person that, that benefits most within the business.

[00:28:29] So if you are an SMS platform, let's call it and you are helping grow brands. Through SMS marketing and that agency has a life cycle marketing, the manager, for example, or, or ahead of the life cycle marketing department probably email or SMS maybe now as well. That's the person whose job it is to make their customers most successful through that channel.

[00:28:51] So that might be your best champion if you don't have that value proposition necessarily, and maybe. Can really pay them a bunch in rev share or drive them a bunch of clients. Maybe it's the founder or the head of sales or the head of finance. Whoever's really going to be looking at the, the revenue that you're driving for that business.

[00:29:10] Or if you have a phenomenal marketing engine and you're able to really just give them a bunch of exposure through your marketing channels and your your audience. Of your customer base and whatnot. Maybe it's the head of their marketing. Whoever's in charge of their demand gen. So really it's, you have to understand what value you bring to the table.

[00:29:29] And then you have to understand who that benefits within the organization by understanding their business a little bit more deeply. And then you just marry those two together as best you can. 

[00:29:36] Alex: [00:29:36] Oh, that was such a good answer. Yeah. And this is the strategy, John, and, you know this won't be as valuable for you, but we have to put you in that personal.

[00:29:45] Seat for a second and say, okay, well, if the partner manager listening is after an agency who CEO would be the first point of contact, or at least it would come back to you probably that email or that outreach. And you would make that call to say, is it worth exploring? I'm guessing you can correct me in a second.

[00:30:03]And you do not have a partner manager to manage the routines, which are co-selling and co-marketing on the two major routines. Let's just talk about those. They have to get into your partnership, conversation, lunch and learns are an easy one. Obviously playing that, that role of, Hey we're niche. Yes.

[00:30:21] You partner with a tenant, but a tenant is very mid-market. Plus what do you do for those? Not quite mid-market companies. Do you have an SMB solution? If so, we'd love to be it. I don't know. Talk to me about any experiences that you've had on the positive side, and then let's talk about the negative side and ways that you would advise.

[00:30:40] People like Greg and Greg shoes. Now that want to work with you as a partner in the future, is there a way in, if you do have a competing tool. And you don't have a partner manager, which is essentially a bandwidth issue. What advice would you, what 

[00:30:54] John: [00:30:54] advice would I give? Well, I think it's, I think it's paying attention first and getting pretty familiar with who you're going after and what conversations they're having, whether it's through social media or stuff like that.

[00:31:08] And making it as personable as possible. I get dozens and dozens of LinkedIn DMS per day. And I probably ignore 99% of them. I mean, I'll, I'll glance over them to see if there's any relevancy there. But most of the time it's things that are like, people will target me for thinking that I'm like an e-commerce owner, which, you know, we have brands, but my focus is 99.9% on the agency.

[00:31:29] So so that gets, it's paying attention, being relevant to what you're going after. And asking the right questions, you know, for example, right now, CBD is getting hammered by. SMS. So which leads us. We do have a few CV CBD clients leads us to fake find another solution that allows us to do the things that we used to do, like SMS or at least an alternative.

[00:31:51] So I think it's paying attention to this like trends in industries and then speaking relevant to what I'm probably talking about, the way that we do with brands that are struggling with the iOS 14 five update. Like that's a universal struggle that people are having. So when we speak to it, And talk about the solutions we have for that to brands, ears perk up and they're like, wow.

[00:32:09] Okay. Tell me more. So I think it's the same type of intent to a CEO that where it's like immediate, they want value can bring and then save me from a couple headaches. That's something that I'll listen to every single day of the week. 

[00:32:21] Alex: [00:32:21] Awesome. And then Greg, back to you, I want your comments on that because you've been in both sides.

[00:32:26] Selling and and dealing with partnerships. So, 

[00:32:28] Greg: [00:32:28] yeah. One awesome opportunity that, that we haven't mentioned yet, and that I think actually very few companies take advantage of with getting into new partners and new agencies. It's your customer base. You already sold these folks. They already love your product.

[00:32:43] They already. Resonate with your value proposition. There's a good chance that a good portion. And then we're working with an agency. So why wouldn't you find out who they're working with, who they like from an agency perspective and ask them for an introduction? There's no reason they wouldn't want to do it.

[00:32:57] Putting two value added vendors of theirs together, and then suddenly you're not coming to the door saying yes. Can I have access to your clients are coming to the door saying, Hey, we already add value for these clients of yours. We'd love to see if we can add value for some more of them and for your business itself.

[00:33:12] And that's a very different talk track. That's not a sales pitch. That's a, Hey, we already worked together and directly. Let's see if we can work together, directly pitch. So I think there's a, there's a huge opportunity there. And at the end of the day, as we all know, there are thousands of agencies in this.

[00:33:29] Country alone that do this. And so you don't have to go after the same folks that everyone else is going after. You can go after some of the folks that may not be as saturated in that partner program, get some good case studies, get some good social proof points with those relationships because it's tough.

[00:33:44] John, I think will be the first person to say that the agency game is tough and it's competitive. And everyone's constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses. So. From the agency side. Yeah. You want to have the best products and the best partners and the best value propositions. So you can drive the most growth for your customers.

[00:34:00] And if the technology has a compelling value prop, then that's a conversation to have. And from the technology side, same thing, these agencies are constantly looking for the best thing and trying to keep up with each other. And you can leverage that to get yourself in the door for that conference. 

[00:34:14] Alex: [00:34:14] Yeah.

[00:34:15] Yeah, really good points. So yeah, so you can see what we're kind of doing, John. We're sort of talking about it from your perspective, getting the real, real life information of your persona, understanding that. And then we talk about some of the strategies to break in some of the things that these tech teams need to know about.

[00:34:32]I love the SMS example. It's super relevant right now because there's so much going on in that sector. For e-commerce, especially now we have a couple of talking points that I wanted to dovetail into one of yours. I believe John was how agencies can diversify their partners. So you're talking about diversification for both the tool use case, as well as front and back end and all of that.

[00:34:57] Things that now have partnerships related to it. But pull on any of those examples and explain what you meant by diversifying your partners. Yeah. I touched 

[00:35:05] John: [00:35:05] on it briefly before. It's how we look at the Klayvio and the attempted to the world and how they're their value add for us is, and, and primarily it's going to be client side client facing the referral fees that we get, you know, when we make those introductions.

[00:35:21] They're great. I appreciate it. It's it's always welcomed. And when, when it's growing, it's a great sign. Everybody's winning. And on the, on the inverses that it's, it's simply just that and there is other ways we can leverage. Their awareness in this space to help strengthen our footprint as an agency.

[00:35:40] I mean, that's like Greg touched on my world is extremely competitive and everyone is always nipping at everyone else's heels. So we've used, we'd like to use that as, as recognition, footprint, building, things like that. Being applied on partnering with Klaviyo is a pretty high recognition. And obviously we worked hard to do that.

[00:35:59] It allows us to have validity in the space for something related to email and same thing with attentive. I think we're a premier partner with attentive. So we're just one shy of the highest tier I believe or might be one other beyond that, but either way it's, it's fluidity in our ability to work with the most capacities.

[00:36:17] So that's kind of where I managed that expectation, where they bring the value and on the other side to diversify. The partners is looking at people that are more consultated right. And their allegiance is not so much. With dozens of agencies, they really narrow into one agency, which in this case would be us and help us.

[00:36:41] Build a book of business through them with their own relationships. And they're, and they really, you know, they don't, they don't look to diversify their agencies. They know that and feel confident that we're the best suited person or group of people. To work with their types of companies that they talk to specific e-com.

[00:36:59] And my expectation from them is that they will be a pseudo business development rep for us. So I'm not having to hire a bunch of sales guys and girls that's something that that person can be more direct for those warm type of leads. And the expectation is that we're going to get leads. We'll be able to close that business.

[00:37:17] They'll benefit from their own referral fees through us, but that's the expectation I have out of them. So that's how we diversify. So this way we're still. Growing at scale with more clients through people like that, because I'm not going to count on, rely on you know, the, the platform side to be able to do that because, and I do, but it's not going to be at the rate that we need to take the agency.

[00:37:37] Alex: [00:37:37] I love that. Yeah. And you mentioned mitigating favoritism and one of the points earlier on but this, this is kind of that next step where you, you pick and choose your strategic partners, you sort of fill those buckets and needs for your customers. Okay. That's sort of. Table stakes, I guess you would call it, you do SMS, you need an SMS partner.

[00:38:00] Then you go a little bit deeper into your stack and you start filling the most other buckets. Then you start looking at more wider use cases of different things that your customers are doing, or why. Wider scenarios, right? So you've got customers that are growing fast, they need capital, they can't get capital fast enough, which means you can't get the retainer jacked up to where you want it to be or where you need it to be, to give them those services incomes, you know, clear coat.

[00:38:26] Perfect. So you start building that wider partnership stack. Now I think the best thing that we always try to get out of these episodes is that strategy that would convert your type of agent. To a partnership and how these partner managers can make sure that they approach you through the right doorway, through the right conversation in order to get your attention.

[00:38:51] And then they have to play the right sort of game, according to how you are. Partnerships in order to keep that progressive. And then obviously the rest has to check a whole bunch of boxes, but coming to you through LinkedIn, coming to you through cold email have you had any good experiences with a cold outreach from somebody that you never heard of?

[00:39:09] And then it became a partnership recently that you can pull from anything at 

[00:39:13] John: [00:39:13] all? No, I mean, I, I'm trying to think. I mean, most of the relationships that we have. We're stimulated by us. Knowing that the plan form would bring some sort of value to us in one form or another probably the only one that would be closer to that would be SamCart.

[00:39:29] So SamCart's a landing page solution for. Both e-commerce and on e-commerce platforms or, or businesses. And we use them for all of our billing. They approached us and said, Hey, you guys are building landing pages through click funnels. Why don't you use us for your clients? So we already had a pseudo relationship, a very light one, albeit, but they had approached us and said, Hey, there's so much more we can do together.

[00:39:53] Let's talk about that. Other than that, we've kind of cherry picked and approach these different brands. To, to nurture the relationship, you know, work through ourselves. Got 

[00:40:02] Alex: [00:40:02] it. So there was a need, whether that came from internal knowledge or a client mentioning it, or maybe you saw it somewhere and you approach them.

[00:40:08] The followup to that question is, have you ever just looked at or accepted any sort of conversation purely around the partnership and no. And making it clear that you may not ever implement or use that solution, but you're happy to work together on something else. Has that 

[00:40:25] John: [00:40:25] ever been big commerce is a good example of that.

[00:40:28] So, you know, most of our clients are either on woo commerce or they're on Shopify. That's just how it is right now. Big commerce has a really good solution around e-commerce brands that have B2C and B2B elements to it. It's a great platform. They're putting a lot of focus and energy into it, but it's very difficult for me to say someone who's pretty successful and happy with Shopify and say you should change platforms.

[00:40:51] And here's why, so we have tons of conversations with them and trying to think of different creative ways to do that. A lot of their business does come from people migrating off Magento into a platform like big commerce. So that's where we catch them in that, that inflection point of do they go down the Shopify road or do they look at big commerce because.

[00:41:09] Sometimes they're not afraid of being in the Shopify box. And some of the horror stories that people have shared about the limitations around Shopify, which today they're becoming less and less, but that's where we try to catch them. And sometimes it doesn't always happen in BC saber. So we're, we're, you know again, a great relationship, great people, great team.

[00:41:29] I think they've done a great job in building that partnership infrastructure. But it's just kind of a symptom of the times where it hasn't really fruited the way that we're intending to. 

[00:41:39] Alex: [00:41:39] That's a great example. So the, the question back to Greg now is related to what your plan is for structuring the partner program internally and specifically around what John and I were just talking about where.

[00:41:55] Partner managers. I think they have a lot of pressure, obviously for those revenue events, they, they all do, but there are so many quality partnerships to be had if they are more open to just working with the agency on something, doing something together. The name of the game. So is that something that you've thought about that you have the ability to enable a new hire, a new partner manager to reach out to people like John don't put a lot of pressure on John to sell or bring in any of his clients if that's not in the cards, like a big commerce relationship, but then be more flexible with the relationship as a whole.

[00:42:30] What can you do together this quarter that would drive awareness back to the product that you're representing and bring some thought leadership to John. And just doing more together. Is that something that you've thought about? Is that something you implemented with a tentative? What is your perspective and point of view?

[00:42:47] Yeah, 

[00:42:47] Greg: [00:42:47] there's, there's definitely a lot of that. And, and one of the things that I am constantly telling folks is that different relationships just take a different amount of time to actually get them. You know, the, the really small relationships you could get those going immediately. If there's a really great mutual fit, some of the medium ones could take six to nine months to pencil.

[00:43:08] The average partnership actually takes six to nine months to actually. Generating value. And some of the larger, more strategic partnerships are, if you're going after some of the more popular folks to John's point, the Klaviyo's the attentive. Sometimes those take up to a year to pencil from either side.

[00:43:23] So there there's a lot of opportunity to really start driving. Incremental value in the short term. And it could be through just, Hey, let's tag each other and call out the partnership on LinkedIn. Let's do a joint blog post with some content that we've probably both already produced, but we can repurpose it.

[00:43:42] Just to get out there together. Let's maybe host a joint webinar again, maybe one where you invite your clients. We invite our clients. You kind of talk about a few of your thought leadership pieces. We talk about ours and you know, these things don't have to be insanely and wildly successful out the gate, but you start building that relationship and you start trying things out and hopefully.

[00:44:03] After some period of time, you either see that, Hey, this, this just isn't a fit. And we both did our best, and there's nothing wrong with that. Not every two businesses are destined to partner, but hopefully after a while you start seeing that something's working better than another, and you find little ways to add value to each other.

[00:44:20] And one client here, one client there starts to stack up and it starts to work out. You know, don't expect everything to just be a home run straight 

[00:44:29] Alex: [00:44:29] out of the gate, run for your perspective. For most partner teams out there is I onboard John, get him all set up in the program and John brings me, you know, five new installs and clients that week.

[00:44:43] And it's a continuous thing that sort of home run. And yeah, that's what we all strive for John too. He would love to have partners that. His clients are demanding and he's a professional at, and he has support of course, but I think the world of partnerships in general just puts too many walls up like that.

[00:45:00] The poll that we had in our collective on, on non-compete clauses. And John, I want your opinion on it because we were talking about it yesterday, but what is your experience with non-compete clauses in partner programs? Have you ever been served a contract that required you not to partner with their competitor?

[00:45:18] I can't think of. 

[00:45:20] John: [00:45:20] The PLA I think it was a newer web CMS platform that wanted to partner with us and they wanted to do like a two year non-compete and I just laughed. I would never sign anything remotely close to the non-compete for a partnership. 

[00:45:33] Alex: [00:45:33] Oh my God. Okay. So I'm gonna name a couple of names here because I think it's important for the whole ecosystem to understand, but the previous podcast episodes.

[00:45:41] Two, I think two podcasts episodes. The goes Remington, Remington runs impulse, creative, top HubSpot and formerly top drift partner. The drift partner team decided one day to send out updated contracts of their partners that included a non-compete clause. They did not mention that clause when they sent those out.

[00:45:59] Some of the partners just signed it thinking no big deal. The smarter partners obviously read the clause. And two of those partners that I know personally said they didn't sign, it stopped all communication, drop the relationship in its tracks. So major damage. Greg, what's your experience with this?

[00:46:17] What is your opinion? I get there's a devil at devil's advocate side, right? The partner manager obviously needs to spend time and money and resources developing the agency to be a partner. And they don't want the agency also doing the same thing with I get that. But what's your opinion on this? What is your advice to other partner teams?

[00:46:35] Greg: [00:46:35] I mean, this might be an unpopular opinion, but I personally, I only prefer to work with. Companies that are actually driving real value. If you are driving real value, right? Be it an agency or a technology, then you really shouldn't have to hide behind an exclusivity clause. I think that that's a bit of a desperate move where you're so concerned about your competitive set and your lack of moat or defensibility in your value proposition that you need to try to lock folks in to these exclusivity clauses and look.

[00:47:05] It works in some places. I will be honest that while I was at attentive in our top tier of partnership, if you wanted access to alpha and beta products, if you wanted access to roadmap before anybody else knew about it, things that actually were kind of trade secrets and IP, then yeah. We asked if you would be open to signing.

[00:47:25]Allowing us to be your exclusive SMS partner and granted, some folks were open to it and some folks definitely were not. And we did not push it in a very aggressive way. And if someone said, Hey, we just can't do that because that's not the way that our business operates. You say, okay, it was worth a shot.

[00:47:38] And we'll do as much as we can without really kind of, you know, giving away too much of the secret sauce. But overall, I think it's a, I mean, in the example you just gave, I'm not surprised that that's the way that it went down and I. You should focus more about having a defensible value proposition than you should about locking folks into 

[00:47:55] Alex: [00:47:55] exclusivity clauses.

[00:47:56] Yeah. And I think a stop. Yeah. There may be an NDA, obviously, if you're going to include them in product roadmap stuff, you don't want them sharing that, not just with your competitors, but maybe you don't want them sharing it with anyone. NDAs can cover that. I think just the general mindset of this relationship.

[00:48:11] The agency's not in the business of making sure that another tech company is aware of what you're doing is just crazy to me to even think about how that would even happen. So, yeah, I think we've got the devil's advocacy side. There's some certain times when your CEO may require and you as the partner manager are just stuck course, try not to let it infiltrate your.

[00:48:33] Of the program, because once you start getting too restrictive I think that's when programs that I've seen tend to just come and go pretty quick, where they create a really restrictive program. They only work with this type of agency in this type of way. And their program tends to phase out or at least at agencies tend to not be interested in it.

[00:48:54] So those are all the talking points that we had. John, a thing else on what we were talking about, the main points, anything that you want to say? I 

[00:49:02] John: [00:49:02] don't think so. I think we covered a lot of important. Topics you know, on the exclusivity thing, I agree with everything. Greg said, if I, if the platform more in some specific and really confidential components, and I, you know, at that point I would understand it.

[00:49:17] You know, it's the same thing for us. We are a month to month agency, which is a growing trend in the space because look, if you're adding value and you're growing clients, they're not going to have any real. To leave or, or consider other 

[00:49:28] Alex: [00:49:28] yeah. Awesome. Greg, anything we missed and then Greg just might as well talk about what the status is and what the plans are and the timeline for launching your program.

[00:49:37] If you're going to launch one soon. Yeah, 

[00:49:38] Greg: [00:49:38] definitely. I mean, there's so much to talk about when it comes to partnerships. I think the most important thing is understanding who are the right folks for you to partner. And selecting those partners effectively and diversifying between, like I mentioned, the folks that are going to be immediately valuable, the folks that are going to.

[00:49:58] You know, three to six to nine months to start to pencil. And then some of the more aspirational partnerships with the bigger fish that, that could take up to a year or more to pencil. So, you know, diversify your portfolio, as they say, I think that's incredibly important. Make sure that you are filling the top of your.

[00:50:17] Partnerships funnel with all different types of partners, make sure that you understand what your value proposition is. You know, don't be lazy and try to go the route of the exclusivity clause. Take a little bit more of a thoughtful approach and actually make sure that you actually, you have a good talk track and you have a good value proposition and ask partners.

[00:50:33] You know, people, you don't have to. Just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks you can actually ask your first few partners and say, Hey, what would be valuable to you? What can we do that would make us a more valuable partner and then double click on that and make your business more focused, you know, get that internal.

[00:50:50] Buy-in get that internal alignment, make sure that your organization understands why you're doing partnerships. If you're just one person, be it, your apartment manager, you're a head of partnerships. You're a head of marketing, whoever you are. That's trying to do partnerships. You can't do it on an island.

[00:51:05] You need the entire team to be bought in. So make sure your organization. The value of it and then just go out there and try some stuff and, you know, fail fast. Don't devote too many resources or attention into something that's clearly not working. And ask, ask the experts, you know, join professional groups.

[00:51:25] It's partnerships is not rocket science at all, but too many folks just try to reinvent the wheel instead of understanding what has worked in the past and what makes sense to do. And that's what we're going to do here at live recovery. You know, I am fortunate to have been doing partnerships for, you know, I think over seven years now.

[00:51:43] And my favorite part of this job is what I tell everybody. It's one of the only jobs where while you are building your. Value proposition for the business. You're also building your own personal value proposition because you're building long-term relationships. So I'm going to leverage a lot of the relationships that I've built with folks like John and yourself.

[00:51:59] Over the years, I'm going to find the opportunities where we really can add a differentiated value proposition to agencies and show how we're not just another SMS marketing platform. What we're trying to be, and then we're going to test stuff out and we're going to see what works and we're going to build our business and our technology from a very partnerships first perspective, because that's what I know.

[00:52:21] And I still truly believe in my heart and soul that if a business is doing partnerships, right, it should be driving at least 30 to 50% of your revenue. So that's exactly how we're going to approach it. We're just going to be very thoughtful. We're going to try a few things. We're going to leverage existing relationships.

[00:52:36] I think we'll be 

[00:52:37] Alex: [00:52:37] successful if you're the wheel, Greg especially with partnerships, it's going to be successful. So let's end with this, John, what are you open to today? This one week, this month? And then what are you open to any time with relation to partnerships? Are you always open to backlink opportunities and getting involved in content and webinars and podcasts?

[00:52:56] Awesome. If you're interested in looking for this type of tool and this type of solution right now. Yeah. I mean, 

[00:53:02] John: [00:53:02] we're always. Either open and willing to try new things. You know again, like I said before, we're a pretty young, relatively young agency that's growing fast and we encourage those types of partnerships and ways we can collaborate.

[00:53:19] Fantastic copywriting crew that writes some amazing articles. That call markets is some of the partners we have now. So yeah, I mean we just want to take it as far as we can push it and certainly willing to collaborate with the right fits and, you know, find something that we might not be touching on now.

[00:53:37] That's going to help take us to the stratosphere in 2022. That'd be 

[00:53:40] Alex: [00:53:40] awesome. Yeah. Yeah. So if you're looking for an agency persona, like John's reach out to him, don't be pushy. Offer value right off the bat offered to buy him lunch in his team, lunch to share your solution offered to include them in something.

[00:53:54] Get that reciprocity going right off the bat. And then if you're an agency listening, obviously Greg and live recover are in process, but we'll have a partner program sometime soon. And of course join us in the collectives, the agency partner collective and the partner programs collective reach out to me, Alex Glenn, if you need information on any of that but that's the make them famous podcast.

[00:54:18] Thank you all for listening and we'll see you on the next step.

Thank you for listening to our podcast. Make sure to also check out our services at and the new product for managing partnerships in one place: