June 27, 2024

Partnerships: The Secret Weapon for B2B Growth

As budgets tighten, partnerships emerge as a beacon for innovation and growth.  

In this electrifying episode, Drew Neisser sits down with Asher Matthew, co-founder and CEO of Partnership Leaders, to uncover the power of strategic partnerships in B2B marketing. Tune in to discover: 

  • Why partnerships are a key growth lever for B2B organizations 
  • The hidden “planning tax” that derails partnerships – and how to dodge it 
  • The three layers of effective partnerships: production, distribution, and consumption 
  • The rise of the “Chief Partnership Officer” and what it means for your organization 
  • Cutting-edge metrics to prove your partnerships are pulling their weight 

Asher shares invaluable insights on building high-quality, repeatable partnerships that drive real business results, using their strong partnership with HubSpot as an example. Learn how to leverage co-marketing, navigate relationships with larger partners, and create win-win scenarios that expand your reach and credibility. 

Whether you’re a CMO looking to stretch every marketing dollar or a partnership professional seeking to up your game, this episode is packed with actionable strategies to supercharge your B2B partnerships.

What You’ll Learn 

  • How to manage a successful B2B partnership 
  • What a modern partnership professional looks like  
  • How to measure partnerships 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 403 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [1:45] Meet Asher Mathew & Partnership Leaders  
  • [7:53] What makes partnerships successful   
  • [9:31] The partnership planning tax  
  • [13:58] Use Case: Partnership Leaders x HubSpot  
  • [21:14] The modern partnership professional   
  • [26:48] Where do partnerships sit in marketing?   
  • [33:42] Measuring partnerships  
  • [41:22] Partnership trends 2024  
  • [42:45] Partnership dos and don’ts

Highlighted Quotes  

You’re either leveraging channel marketing or you’re co-marketing. You’re either utilizing someone else’s audience, or you’re building an audience with them.” —Asher Mathew, Co-Founder & CEO of Partnership Leaders 

“One of the quickest ways to figure out who you should co-market with is to just ask your customers. Run a survey.” —Asher Mathew, Co-Founder & CEO of Partnership Leaders

“Look for repeatability, drive rigor from the start, and don’t tolerate vagueness. The world has been doing partnerships forever, and there are enough seasoned partner professionals out there. If you’re tolerating vagueness, you’re allowing unpredictability from the beginning and it’s going to cause problems down the road.” —Asher Mathew, Co-Founder & CEO of Partnership Leaders  

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Asher Mathew

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers! If this is your first time listening, welcome. And if you’re a regular listener, welcome back. You’re about to hear a Bonus Huddle, a specially curated Huddle that we run once a month with experts sharing their insights into the topics of critical importance to our CMO community. We call them Huddlers. This time, we’re talking to Asher Mathew, the CEO of Partnership Leaders, who joined us to share how CMOs can use partnerships as a key revenue driver. This is the moment, this is the opportunity because right now when budgets are down, this is a way of really stretching your dollars. He dives into how you can be a strategic partner, minimize the fallout of the partnership planning tax, what a modern partnership looks like, and explains their successful partnership journey with HubSpot. If you like what you hear, we’d love it if you could subscribe and leave a review. It really helps us out in our quest to be the number one B2B Marketing podcast. All right, let’s dive in.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade, Drew Neisser.

Drew: Hello, Huddlers. As B2B marketers grapple with ever-shrinking budgets, partnerships stand out as a strategic beacon for not just extending resources, but also driving innovation and growth. Today we’ll uncover how building effective partnerships is becoming more of a science than an art form. I mean, if you think back 10-15 years ago, yeah, there were people who did partner programs, but we didn’t certify them. We didn’t have sophisticated tools and processes and metrics that really are part of today’s state-of-the-art partnership programs. So with that, let’s welcome Asher Mathew, co-founder and CEO of Partnership Leaders. He may be the most knowledgeable partnership person in the world; we’ll find out. Asher helps partnership executives navigate their careers through a private network, education, research, and by speaking with groups like CMO Huddles. So with that, hello, Asher, how are you? And where are you this fine day?

Asher: Thanks so much for having me. I am in San Jose, California after a busy week of meeting with, I want to say, like maybe 300 partner professionals this year. It was a very busy week in Atlanta partnering.

Drew: What was the inspiration for founding Partnership Leaders? And what gap did you fill?

Asher: Yeah, if you really think about the economics of partnering, right, there is the layer of producing something with partnerships, then there is the layer of distributing through partnerships. And then there’s the consumption layer that can be solved through partnerships, right? If we convert that into how partner programs have worked traditionally, we’ve spent a lot of time on the distribution layer of partnerships. And the word “channels” is always used, like Channel Sales, channel marketing, distributors, those are the words that have been used historically, right? And then if you look at the consumption layer of partnerships, you can think of it as the services layer, where alliances have been used, the word “alliances” comes up a lot, the word “solutions” comes up a lot, the word “agency,” the word “services” comes up a lot, right. But if we look at the production side of partnerships, which is really where tech companies get together, the word “integrations” comes up a lot, right. But it also leads to joint ventures, it leads to creating new products together.

And so historically, the market has focused, or at least I would say the Community Market has focused on building things for the distribution layer of partnerships and the consumption layer of partnerships, right? But the tech partner professionals, you know, the people that are asked to go figure out how to get on other companies’ roadmaps, they didn’t have any place to go to. And it just so happened that I was one of those individuals. And I was looking for a place where I could connect with other people who were just like me, and we would talk about best practices, we would talk about the lessons learned, we would celebrate each other’s successes. None of that existed. And so we started this thing as a hobby.

And you know, like in every startup’s journey, there are a few things that the world helps you with, and then you have to hustle, right? So COVID basically provided us this amazing opportunity where the traditional community setup just didn’t work, like there was no way for you to go meet with people because companies stopped travel, companies stopped a bunch of things, right? So that gave us a chance to actually start this email group. We had about 11 people on it and then that thing became 900 people in three months, but all communities flourish, right? Like all digital communities flourished at that point in time. The thing about ours was, you couldn’t get in it if you didn’t know anybody else, because we didn’t have any resources, at that point all communities were, for lack of a better term, broke.

And so those were our humble beginnings. Since then, we now are the number one global private network for people who identify as partners, as ecosystem, as channels, as alliances – like in the partnerships world, whichever identity you assume, we are the home for you. We have 1700 paid members in 54 countries, that represents about 1200 companies today. We have all the way from SMB all the way to large, so like hot startups like Nectar to AWS, we work with all of them.

Drew: Yeah, it’s amazing. You and I talked when you were still working—were you at Demandbase? 

Asher: I was at Demandbase, yeah. 

Drew: Right. When you were still there where you started this thing as, yeah, maybe it’ll be something, and next thing you know, it’s a business and it sounds like a very successful business. So congrats to you.

Asher: It’s a really fun one too, and maybe the audience will appreciate this but there was a moment about a year and a half ago, where our members actually called us out and said, “Why aren’t you building this thing out? You literally have everything that you need.” And so what is it? Is it money? Is it resources and support? What do you need to build it? We actually like, normally what founders do is they come up with an idea, then they will raise a bunch of money, then they try to go create a category, then they try to go deep with all these things to build a company, right? Very rarely do your customers just call you out. And we got called out. And so we said okay, well, we’re gonna go do something about this.

Drew: Yeah. Which is just awesome. I want to go through that producing, distribution, and consumption thing because I think it’s so interesting. And a lot of the CMOs in CMO Huddles are technology providers, and often, they’re not the whole thing, right? And the more that they can bring a complete solution to the customer, the easier it is for them. So I’m so glad that you helped isolate that part of it. You’re absolutely right. We had a Huddle earlier this week, and the person who was responsible for channel showed up with their other person, right? Because that was the way they were looking at partnerships.

Drew: Talk a little bit about, in your view, and do we need to break each of these down? Is it the same principles of, as you start to think about partnerships and what makes them successful and obviously, we’re talking B2B here, but what are some of the core principles that you all preach?

Asher: Totally. My point of view, after studying the market and even though I was a professional and a practitioner myself, when you take on a role like this, you have a much wider point of view because we have companies that are in all different phases of their journey, they serve different markets. To me, you have to have a very clear corporate reason to go partner. The corporate reason is either I’m gonna go build something, I’m either buying something, or I’m partnering. In a lot of startups, which is where a lot of this confusion happens, the partners just walk through your doors similar to like some of, not all of your customers are your ideal customers. So they just walk through the door, and then they start demanding things and it becomes a shiny object syndrome problem. For executives, you have to have a very clear conversation about are we are going to build this thing, right? We’re going to support a use case or are we going to buy it, or are we going to go partner? That’s when you start to develop the partner hypothesis even further, and then it branches off into two: can this be solved through a product partnership or can this be solved through a go-to-market partnership? Then we can dive into it a little bit more in this conversation.

Drew: Those are really helpful because the reason we’re having this conversation is exactly as I said at the top of the hour, which is budgets are tight, and you’re trying to reach a group of people to get them to sort of put your product on the list. You’re trying to get on the shortlist as a marketer. That’s your goal. And obviously help, in an ideal world, close that deal. Partnerships can be, if done right, incredibly efficient because there’s a partner out there that probably already has a relationship with all the customers that you want to talk to. So that is the sort of go-to-market type partner. I want to talk about that for a moment because of the economies of scale efficiency that is there. As you’re laying out your partnership program, let’s again sort of go back to basics. We now understand that you got to have motivation, why you’re doing it. Well, we’re doing it because you’ve got this reach into this community that we don’t have. So now what?

Asher: So I would say, for this audience, we can think of using partnerships from the lens of either you’re utilizing somebody else’s audience, or you’re gonna build the audience with them. The two key words are, you’re either leveraging channel marketing, or you’re co-marketing. In my point of view, they are two separate things. When you’re looking at channel marketing, you’re saying, “Hey, I’m gonna go work with a company and they already have a set of partners, and I want to use their partners to get to my growth goals.” And then there’s co-marketing, which is, “I’m going to go and work with this other company, and we are going to market to each other’s audience.” And that could be prospects or customers. Those are two separate motions, in my humble opinion. Both of them come with their own, I would say, quote-unquote, “planning tax.”

I just put a document in the chat, and we can share this with the audience too, where one of your community members, John Miller, actually walked us through why it can be so difficult for marketing organizations to overcome this learning tax. One of the things that happens, and I’ve experienced this myself and Partnership Leaders also co-markets with brands like HubSpot and AWS. Marketers have a list of priorities, which are set up by the direct team. Then they want to go, like somewhere in there, there is a partner team that wants to go and work with other companies because the resourcing is all this, in most cases, it comes in the form of “I’ll give you 10% of a marketer’s time.” But the resources burden is maybe like 100x what that person has time for. So what happens is there’s this triangulation that needs to happen, and three different content calendars have to get together in this co-marketing scenario. The organization just isn’t ready for that.

Sometimes it takes time. If you were to do a campaign with McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, their content calendars are like forever. They have no sense of urgency because they’re going to do something for 100 years. So the timeliness of this thing becomes very problematic. Even though people have budgets, the budget is not the problem, it becomes the – how do I utilize each of the resources in a timely manner? Then one company always has more urgency than the other company, and this planning tax gets created.

Also, a lot of times people, before they hire a professional partner marketer who lives and breathes this, they give this to either a content marketer or a digital marketer. The digital marketer is just waiting for assets and the content marketer is just waiting for copy. So you’ve asked somebody to do some things very different than what they normally do, even though they may claim that it’s a cool idea. This planning tax gets created and it’s so burdensome that in this co-marketing environment, teams get frustrated and they just don’t want to do anything. Then the output, they unwillingly do the work, and then the output is in the form of a webinar or digital asset, a physical asset, event, or something like that. It’s just shoddy, and then nobody wants to do it again.

Drew: Right. So it failed from the beginning because it was under-resourced.

Asher: Surely. Compared to, let’s say what Partnership Leaders is doing right now. I’ll give you my company’s example, and hopefully that helps. We first aligned with HubSpot on their advocacy goal. HubSpot’s major go-to-market motion is community-led growth, right? We all know that they are big on community. So for us to work with them makes sense because their company’s culture is community-led, and we are a community. Then inside of that, we said, “Hey, what is your goal?” And they said advocacy, and we’re like, “What? You don’t even have a partner product.” And they said it doesn’t matter, we still want to support the community. So there was an alignment on this corporate goal. And then PL (Partnership Leaders) becomes one of the ways that they can accomplish that goal.

Now the person that is given this goal and this task is a partner marketer. And then everything is orchestrated. We have done maybe like six different reports with them. They were at a conference, we were at their partner day, and now we are helping them define their next-generation partner strategy. They have such a solid brand in this market, and we have such a solid reach because of the credibility that they helped us. Very few communities can actually say that they’ve done multiple successful projects with even a company like HubSpot. In the grand scheme of things, they’re just a $2 billion company. And we are now working with AWS, based on the success of that.

Drew: So talk about that. They have a lot that you guys wanted, right? They have reach, they have credibility, they have a much bigger brand. So it sounds like what you identified, the key thing there was something they don’t have that you do. And so you were coming in somewhere, at least in terms of the win-win proposition, good for them, good for you. They’re the giant, you’re the minnow. How do you make sure that one, we know that giants tend to move slowly, they can crush things underneath them pretty easily. How did you sort of navigate this? And let’s extrapolate from there to how can, if you are partnering with a much larger company, how do you make sure that it works?

Asher: So one thing we didn’t do is we didn’t go in with greedy eyes. We said, why don’t we take small bites at this, right? But our end goal is not one campaign or one activity, it’s we’re going to build a go-to-market with them. And we’re going to build a go-to-market with them because their track record is of doing high-quality things. And then they are probably going to test us on a track record of doing high-quality things. So if Partnership Leaders goes out and creates a bunch of hype, okay, procures a bunch of things that don’t make sense and don’t actually work on outcomes, they’re not going to do anything with us. So there was alignment on everything we’re going to do is high quality, but we’re going to build momentum. And if we’re going to build momentum, if it takes us three more months, it’s actually okay because once we have the momentum, it’s going to be hard to stop us. When we had that type of alignment, it was not hard to just start with the right resource, and then build this thing out ad then slowly, slowly, slowly, you know, and I’m saying slowly, and all this stuff really happened in two years. So in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really slow, but it may feel slow if you’re in a hyper-growth environment.

Drew: Right. If you’re trying to get something going and you were expecting to go to market in three months with a giant partner, it may not happen.

Asher: If you’re on the PD3 Plan, this may not work.

Drew: We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. 

This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to B2B greatness, and that donates 1% of revenue to the Global Penguin Society. Why? Well, it turns out that B2B CMOs and penguins have a lot in common. Both are highly curious and remarkable problem solvers. Both prevail in harsh environments by working together with peers, and both are remarkably mediagenic. And just as a group of penguins is called a Huddle, our community of over 300 B2B marketing leaders huddle together to gain confidence, colleagues, and coverage. If you’re a B2B CMO, why not dive into CMO Huddles by registering for our free starter program on CMOhuddles.com? I hope to see you in a Huddle soon. 

Going back to the sort of personnel focus, obviously for you this was a cornerstone marketing program, for them, this was just a thing of many things they were doing. How did you make sure that there was actually someone there at HubSpot who was paying attention or at least would give enough time to make sure that whatever small thing you were doing would work?

Asher: Well, it’s easy for us because one of our members took a job there, it becomes a little bit of a slight advantage. But also, we waited. We didn’t just say, hey, we really want this, can you go do this? Things started to happen naturally. One of the quickest ways to figure out who you should co-market with is just to ask your customers. Run a survey, ask them, “Hey, what are all the things that you read? And in those things that you read, or that you see, if there was a brand that you think we could have brought this message better together with them to you, who would that be?” And customers will just tell you.

Drew: Interesting. I wonder if they’d always know who that is. Every one of your customers is buying stuff from other people is what you’re saying and there within that ecosystem, whether you’re, you know, a tech company or a service company or whatever, there are others that they’re working with that probably have a bigger share of wallet, right? And that’s part of it.

Asher: Yeah, I would say in the channel marketing world, you’re a little bit, I would say, limited, because you have a set of partners that you just have to drive a message through, and they have a set of tactics. But in the co-marketing world, where you’re not reduced to an integration, or a product or something being created, you can just say, we care about this message in the world and this company is a proponent of that, and we are too, we’ll just align on everything that they do, or some of the things, right? So you could co-market on a social cause, you could co-market on an environmental cause, you could co-market on an economic cause. As I became a better student of marketing at my time at Demandbase, and also learning from Karen Steele, who was the CMO of LeanData. If you just think of marketing and co-marketing together, you can do a lot without staying in the confines of just a product world.

Drew: Right because there’s so many different things. Now, the challenge, you’ve already identified that a lot of partnerships fail because initially, the individuals assigned to it are not partnership professionals, they simply don’t have the time to do it well, and then it doesn’t do well and therefore doesn’t work and everybody goes, “Oh, this partnership thing stinks.” But there’s this chicken in the egg, because how do I assign resources when it’s not delivering anything today? You know, help us. It sounds like you start small. But the key thing in the story that you shared was, HubSpot represented a huge opportunity for your brand. And so I think part of this thinking just, you know, if you want to fight above your weight class, if you will, pick a partner who already is there. Figure out what the value is that you can bring to that partner and then make sure that you have resources that are assigned to it. And this is where it gets into your world which is, people who actually know how to do this. And so let’s just talk about what is a partnership professional today. I mean, you guys do certification, right? 

Asher: We do. 

Drew: What does that mean? What do you get certified on? What are you learning? What are these skills?

Asher: Yeah. Just to answer the question, if you’re going from zero to one in partnerships, the partner manager role is a very multidisciplinary role. Every good partner manager should understand basic marketing. We are recommending that if you’ve never had success with any partners, you start with co-marketing because you will refine your message. It’s the same thing as a startup going to market and right after product-market fit, they go to go-to-market fit but then somewhere in the middle, they get their message-market fit. If your messaging is working and you have a value prop that the customers really like and would want to discuss with you, then you can build the rest of your go-to-market on the backside of that. So the zero to one problem is solved through co-marketing. In some cases, people try to push this through co-selling but the co-marketing angle is, I believe, a better exploratory angle, in my opinion.

Let’s talk a little bit about the modern partner professional. Let me give you a little bit of history of what has been happening and what is now happening. What’s been happening is that people who traditionally didn’t cut it in sales were pushed to partnerships because they were the relationship people. What the market also knows these people as is people who like to wine and dine, and you know, all the stigma that we have in partnerships. The modern partner professional is actually not that at all. The modern partner professional is actually a business person.

We will do 300 events this year and I will tell you that at every event I go to, I’m surprised at how much alcohol is just leftover. It is to the point where we’re thinking about just converting to organic juices and stuff like that, and not even serving because nobody’s drinking because people are in conversation. We just had an event last night. We had about 90 or so people, and the conversations that were happening were business conversations.

So the primary one for us, with us being around and there’s a number of other organizations that are working with the modern partner professional to really help them understand how rigor is established in their sales process, how rigor is established in their marketing process. If I give you a quick framework, what I share with people is they first need to figure out how to research and develop their partners, similar to how you would start a company. Then I recommend that people need to figure out how to get a straight line to revenue. Once they figure that out, they need to figure out how to get a straight line to repeatability. The minute they figure that out, they need to figure out how they drive rigor to their organizations. After that, they need to figure out how they build resilience in their plans, because they’re gonna miss at some point in time. And when they miss, it’s either going to be the partner’s problem, our problem, or both; probably the customer – the customer is never going to say it was their problem. So finger-pointing is going to start.

So there’s got to be this R&D, revenue, repeatability, rigor, and resilience plan in place, so that people can present themselves as leaders, as executives, not functional people. That is a lot of the work that we’re doing. Obviously, a lot of this stuff starts at the very beginning, where when a partner manager becomes certified through our ecosystem university program, they go through: what does it mean to understand your partner strategy? How does execution look like? How do I report back? How do we become data-driven? All of these things that salespeople and I would say marketing professionals go through early in their career, now partner people are going through it. The concept of understanding your ideal partner profile, figuring out your target account list – again, all these things exist in sales and marketing. But the partner version of that didn’t exist this rigorously. And we have introduced a lot of that by building it with our community.

Drew: Interesting. So many different thoughts in mind on all of this that we could break down, but is the person that is sort of partner development the same person as partner manager? I mean, are we getting to the point where if these programs are big enough, you have people who can sort of conceive them, do the research, and really sort of set it up for a win-win, but then there are other people who are all about the execution and the rigor and so forth? Because it feels like research and revenue are kind of, you know, a front early stage. And then we’ve got this executional part.

Asher: Yeah. So because the pillars are you’re either in the product partnership land or you’re in the go-to-market partnership land. Both of those have these pillars in them because if you’re in the product partnership land, you have to figure out which use cases am I going to go solve for. When I figure those use cases out, how do I align our roadmaps together? Once I figure that out, what’s the commercial model for that? It’s literally the same thing as building a startup. And on the go-to-market side, you’re going to go figure out who are the right channel partners and how do I get these referrals and this reselling activity going. There’s a third component to it these days, which is becoming very popular called marketplaces. And it’s no different – you have to figure out which marketplace am I going to go list on and how many resources I’m going to put behind that. And that primarily depends on which cloud provider your customers prefer.

Drew: Interesting. As I’m thinking about this, as you’re elevating this professional, this level, and I’m imagining, at some organizations, this notion of a chief partnership officer is emerging.

Asher: That would be the third gift of the world to us. You know, as I was talking about the other gifts to the world, because every startup has, I would say, some macro help that allows it to take off. We were actually thinking about this, because historically, there is a role called the Channel Chief that exists and at least from my research, the Channel Chief is a very celebratory role. It’s not like an org chart role. And then what happened is about 18 months or so ago, SAP and Microsoft introduced the Chief Product Officer. It’s interesting, I’m actually talking to the Chief Product Officer of Microsoft right after this call. I’ll make the podcast available for everybody to listen to.

What’s happened is just like companies manage their SMB, mid-market, enterprise customers, they also need to manage their product partners and go-to-market partners. I say go-to-market because today go-to-market serves sales, marketing, customer success – all three pillars. So they’re all bucketed in there. But in that, you could have like four or five, six different types of partners. And so if there’s no enterprise leader who is responsible for prioritizing and optimizing partner relationships, then it makes it very difficult for the CRO whose job is to prioritize and optimize revenue, or in my humble opinion, the CMO whose job is to prioritize and optimize markets. When that doesn’t happen, then there’s this void, and the partner team just is being bullied around in the org. But if you have this enterprise leader that goes in and says, I will actually manage and contribute, and maybe in some cases, drive the buy-build-partner conversation, and the partner piece I’ll actually elaborate on. Then you create this organization that looks very similar to some of the other go-to-market organizations, except in this organization, you have the product resources to build the partner product and then you have the go-to-market resources to sell or market with partners.

Drew: So I’m thinking about the CMO audience and where this fits in. And it feels like, if you don’t have a formal partnership process, and you’re a CMO, and you want to stretch every single dollar you have, this initiative might not start in sales, this initiative will start in marketing. And at some point in time, it gets so mature that it rolls out of marketing, I guess, is the way you’re describing it. So as CMOs look at their team, I mean, I could imagine that they have a person on their team, if they see partnerships as a way of growing markets, then they’re going to want to have that expertise in their group, right?

Asher: To me, I’m actually okay with that, too. The CTO role is not a territorial role, right? It is a cross-functional role, just like the CEO role, or like when you’re an enterprise leader, you’re not a territory leader. You’re there to grow the business; it doesn’t actually matter whether you have direct ownership of those resources or not, I mean, case in point, the SDR role, where depending on the season, the SDR team is in sales or in marketing and just keeps revolving around. To me, it’s like whoever is going to care the most about these partner marketers and make them wildly successful should own that team, and then produce and make sure that they have the resources, the rigor, and provide them coaching. Some CMOs love that; some CMOs would prefer that they actually sit closer to the other partner colleagues so they’re in sync with that role. And it’s just a matter of preference and company, there’s no—I don’t believe—I don’t have a religion on it— I don’t recommend companies that have religion on this thing.

Drew: Right. It’s got to be what works for your organization. Some of it can be organic, but it is really about recognition. As you develop these programs, it’s an expertise; you need to have experts assigned to it. And, you know, it’s funny, because in any organization, if something is important, it really isn’t important until there’s somebody senior with that title owning it.

Asher: Totally and we were using the word experts, but I would even go as far as specialists because like today, the current state is generalists. And if we can just move this to specialists, the yield from these activities will turn positive much faster than in the past, and then if you can afford experts, and you’ve got this to a point where you’re running multiple co-marketing programs, how cool would that be? On one side, you’re co-marketing with B2C companies, and on the other side, you’re co-marketing with B2B companies. Now your brand—you know, one of—and correct me if I’m wrong, this is like why I came onto the show—but one of the bigger challenges for CMOs is going to be how do I keep my company relevant and co-marketing is an amazing way to do that.

Drew: Right. It can immediately give you credibility in a market you had no credibility in because your partner already does. Part of the thing that the specialist thing really reminds me of is that you have a process, you know where things can go wrong, you know what success looks like. So you can feel it if it is going off the rails, you can sort of bring it back, which kind of gets to this issue of how do we measure partnerships effectively? What is the state of measurement for that?

Asher: If the funding is coming from the demand generation bucket, you have to measure it with the same dimension metrics. If it’s coming from the brand bucket, at least for this audience, you have to measure it that way, and it just goes back to the same goal, right? Like, if you’re saying, “Hey, I will spend, let’s say, 2 million bucks on this campaign, and it’s a Super Bowl ad,” right? Then maybe you could market with a couple of other companies together and split the money up. And again, I have not done a Super Bowl ad.

Drew: It’s 6 million.

Asher: Oh, is it 6 million? 

Drew: Yeah.

Asher: But I don’t know if the folks that put these ads on will actually allow five different logos on the same ad, but it could be worth putting something like that together at a grand scale and then whichever way you want to measure it, it’s fine. But I always go back to whichever budget it’s coming from, just measure it the same way. Don’t create new metrics and if somebody’s trying to create new metrics, it’s just a waste of time.

Drew: The Head of Marketing practice at Forrester talked to us at the end of February, and they see partnerships as another thing that needs to be on the dashboard. In other words, along with, you know, employee SAD and customer SAD and prospect—you know, obviously, the normal, however you measure pipeline, but partnership being such a critical way of growth right now. And then this is a conversation that came up a lot in huddles in the last week, which was that you need to understand sort of the health of the relationship. You know a good relationship because you’re meeting every quarter, and they are excited about it, happy about it, and you know a bad one because they’re not returning your phone calls, and they’re ignoring things and pushing everything off. If you have enough of these, it makes sense to have some kind of, you know, the equivalent of a net promoter score for partners.

Asher: So we go back to if we’re looking at this as business owners, we have stakeholders in the market called prospects, customers, investors, let’s say analysts, but the stakeholders called partners don’t have the same rigor on them, just like everybody else has. But that’s changing now, because of what you just said, and the senior analysts pushing this through the market and creating a partner dashboard shouldn’t take that long of a time because you probably already have some way to measure customer satisfaction in your company. All you have to do is just move that to your partner audience. 80% of the things are going to be the same. If the partners aren’t picking up phone calls, which is the same thing if your customers aren’t picking up phone calls, right? If the emails aren’t coming back, if the conversations aren’t materializing into pipeline and deals or retention. But they’re not different. Like, it’s not a world to be scared of, I guess is what I’m pointing to.

Drew: That’s so helpful as we can use metrics we already have. In terms of budgeting for partnerships, I mean, again, I think this goes back to the beginning of the conversation, where it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. It depends on the partner, it depends on a lot of things. There are a lot of variables when it comes to budgeting. The ultimate goal, though, I’m imagining, is you’re gonna spend X and you’re gonna get a 10x return because you’re suddenly being able to engage a group of people that you couldn’t reach before, right? You went from zero to 100?

Asher: Yeah, and this is kind of the tough part in working with partnerships. When you’re going to ask for like benchmark data, you’re going to get very, very vague answers, right? Not every partner is created equal. So even if you took a study, then the data’s like false for your situation. What I’ve recommended is whatever your direct go-to-market is, this way should be more efficient than that. And even direct teams today—at least this is when I ran direct teams—when you hit a benchmark, you’re trying to figure out how to get that more efficient. And so you have to apply the same rigor on your partner go-to-market too, and push it to see how far it’ll go. You’ll start to hit cost-per-lead metrics and cost-per-opportunity metrics. They’re all the same metrics, right? And so all you’re doing is adding another line that says “partner” and start measuring that and seeing if you can improve that quarter over quarter.

Drew: I’m imagining a scenario that’s easy to sort of think about. So you’re in three vertical markets now. You want to get into a fourth vertical market and you say, we know what our costs are for these three vertical markets because we’re going and we’re doing it on our own. And you kind of know what our cost per opportunity is, or you should. So now we say we’re going to pick a new vertical, but instead of doing it direct, we’re going to partner, so whatever our cost per opportunity is, if you will, we want to make it half, right?

Asher: So half would be aggressive going out the door, but start with like, let’s say 10% or 15% or 25%?Half, I feel like it’s a little extreme. You could try it. You could say, a quarter of our budget, we’re going for half and the rest, we’re just gonna go for 25% and just see where you land.

Drew: Even a 25% improvement in efficiency and opening up a new market is huge. I mean, at this point in time, I imagine that most of the CMOs with a mature go-to-market motion would be thrilled with a 10% efficiency from a partnership.

Asher: And that’s just program dollars, right? You’re not equating the resourcing dollars. If you look at it from a company level, the company did not have to register in that market. I’m assuming like, there’s other compliance things that you have to go do. None of that had to happen. And I don’t know if all of those costs actually factor into your cost per opportunity. But maybe in sophisticated organizations.

Drew: One of the things that obviously comes out is defining these win-wins, right? Being able to envision that. When partnerships fail, it’s typically because one side is getting greedy, that they want more, they were expecting more, or they expecting it to be easier or whatever, and they don’t see the value equation. So this feels like a very fundamental part of the partnership ecosystem is just being able to create and envision equitable arrangements from the start.

Asher: Yeah, and by the way, it’s not rocket science, right? Like, some of the chatter on LinkedIn makes this feel like it’s rocket science. It’s literally like getting on a call spending 20 minutes and for seasoned operators, which almost all of your members are, this is a very straightforward thing. You know whether this is going to work out or not just based on the conversation.

Drew: Right. And because of all these other things that we’ve already talked about, that they have the interest in it, they have the same goals in terms of “Oh, we want to do this efficiently too” and you bring this to the table. And again, even a small brand has something to bring to the table. Usually, it’s something innovative that the big companies simply can’t do.

Drew: Are there any trends that you’re seeing that will be shaping future partnerships, other than we’re all going to do more of them?

Asher: I would say we’re all going to do more high-quality partnerships, because right now, and this is a slight concern of mine, too, is like we’re all very high on partnerships, right? Which is great. Like, it’s awesome. I love it. But we need to be very high on very high-quality partnerships. That’s what I think is actually going to happen is the world’s gonna wake up and find out like, “Hey, you can’t actually partner with everybody. You have to establish rigor. And if it’s not repeatable, you’re not going to do it.” And some people will follow this repeatability and rigor thing to the dark. And all the really good operators will like, look at it, like, we have to make the thing work this way. And that’s where the seasoned folks come in, right? They know that if it’s not repeatable, we’re just not going to do it. And then they cut bait, and then what you’re left with is amazing, solid partnerships that both companies are very proud to be a part of. And they feel like they can go to the customers and the customers are singing their praises. And you’ll know, like within a quarter or two quarters of launching that it’s actually working.

Drew: Yeah, it feels like again, this is the focus is your friend. You don’t need 100. You need two good ones in a lot of times.

Drew: Okay, well, we’re running out of time. So let’s just wrap up for B2B CMOs when thinking about partnerships and approaching them. Let’s wrap up with two do’s and one don’t when it comes to building effective partnerships.

Asher: So my two do’s are gonna be please look for repeatability and drive rigor from the start. Don’t tolerate vagueness. If it’s vague, don’t tolerate it because it doesn’t exist. Like, the world has been doing partnerships forever. There’s enough seasoned partner professionals out there. If you’re tolerating vagueness, you’re allowing unpredictability to jump in from the beginning. And it’s gonna cause problems down the road for you.

Drew: Got it. All right. This is why people have scopes of work in partnership agreements.

Asher: Have people write 2 pagers if they have to and review that until it’s very clear what both parties are going to get out of it.

Drew: If people want to find you, Asher, where should they look?

Asher: LinkedIn is great. This is the best job I have because it’s something that I love to do and so I’m around to help any discipline learn more about better partnering.

Drew: I love it. All right. Well, Asher Mathew, thank you so much for joining us. 

If you’re a B2B CMO, and you want to hear more conversations like this one, find out if you qualify to join our community of sharing, caring, and daring CMOs at CMOhuddles.com.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me. This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and Ishar Cuevas. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro VoiceOver is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, and learn more about CMO Huddles or my CMO coaching service, please visit renegademarketing.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser. Until next time, keep those renegade marketing caps on and strong!