In college, I took a class on graphic design. One requirement for the class was to have working knowledge of Adobe. Since most of us in the class had no idea how to use Adobe's expansive design suite, my school invited an implementation partner to visit and show us the ropes.
Someone from the partnering agency came to our class and demonstrated how to use the tools we had for InDesign to maximize our success in the class. I loved this presentation because it was created just for our group — the presenter polled us about what we wanted to learn and delivered relevant information based on that feedback.
I would've definitely struggled with using the software had it not been for the agency partner. I loved the experience, and it gave me an understanding of just how amazing implementation partners can be for the companies they support.
Implementation partners work directly with your customers to ensure they're getting the most out of your product. You can think of an implementation partner in the same way you think about tech support. Often, tech support agents are certified by the company they work for to give actionable solutions for problems.
The difference between tech support and implementation partners is that the latter can benefit from an increase in brand awareness and leads. If you work with them, you can offer their services to those who might need help with your tools past onboarding.
What is an implementation partner?
An implementation partner has the approval of the business they support to acclimate new users to the product or service of that business. Implementation partners can be helpful for software or product-led businesses or businesses that require an onboarding process.
If you offer software that takes time to implement and learn, like a CMS, you might look into working with implementation partners. They would be separate from the onboarding team you already have set in place. Their focus would be to give an in-depth training about your product, designed just for that customer.
You might use implementation partners if you want to offer consumers alternate methods to learn how to use your technology. Implementation partners have the bandwidth parent companies may not have when offering personalized solutions. In other words, a "do-it-for-me" approach is more feasible with partners.
For customers, implementation partners can be a cost-effective solution for selecting and understanding your services. If you charge an onboarding fee some can't afford, for instance, partners with lower overhead may offer lower prices. This way, you wouldn't miss out on a customer with a more restrictive budget and can be assured they're getting a proper onboarding experience.
Additionally, some partners can handle larger customers, and they can meet customer needs as your business scales. For instance, one of HubSpot's agency partners, IMPACT, specializes in helping large teams acclimate to their software. They offer an interactive training program that's designed specifically for the business they're working with.
So, that's what implementation partners are — now let's talk about how to work with them.
How to Work With Implementation Partners
The relationship your company has with implementation agencies should be mutually beneficial. The agency can look forward to more work and customers. Additionally, customers will have multiple onboarding options, some at lower costs, to your benefit. Let's talk about how to maximize your relationship with partners.
1. Set up a program or process for partnerships.
HubSpot has an implementation program called Solutions Partners. Agencies proficient in HubSpot's offerings can apply to be a partner and have their website listed on the Agencies page. This page is where HubSpot customers go to locate outside help with implementation, social strategy, and more.
Consider creating a similar program that facilitates focused and organized agreements. You'll already know what you're looking for in an agency, as well as what you intend to get out of the partnership.
Keep the purpose of the program in mind during the design process. Choose agencies that honor this goal. In addition, outline what your company can offer the agency. For instance, HubSpot partners can enjoy a website feature, a space for reviews, and the approval from the company as a valued source for onboarding.
2. Identify co-marketing opportunities with prospects.
When you begin to look for prospective partners, identify co-marketing opportunities.
This is because partners can enjoy the chance to win awards for their work. Agencies can display awards, tiers, or badges on their websites as well as company-approved program designs.
Consider similar co-marketing ideas as you search and select partners. Communicate how all parties can benefit. For incentives, you can give awards based on success, offer quotes for webpages, and even launch a new onboarding process.
For example, if there's an agency in your network that's pioneered a revolutionary method in onboarding customers, debut a joint campaign to generate more leads and interest in the program.
3. Make sure agencies are well-versed in your product.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's critical to partner with agencies whose teams are experts in your product(s). If your company offers a certification course, you can make that a requirement in the application process.
You can also make it a requirement for agencies to have a certain level of success using your offerings. For instance, if you offer a CMS, you can set the expectation that agencies who have at least 500 customers can apply to help SMB customers.
Make sure your method gives agencies a clearly defined way to show their expertise with your product. Look for their knowledge of offerings, mission, and vision, in tandem with their know-how. Remember, agencies should deliver an experience on-par with your company’s own offering.
4. Have an easy application process.
Even though you should be selective with approving partners, it's important to make your process accessible. Make the application flexible so every interested agency can show their work. You might find a rockstar partnership that way.
For instance, at some companies, all agencies need is proof of previous success and experience with the software. From there, they can expect a short interview period.
An easy application process will also be able to scale as your business grows. A two-step application is easier to manage as your company acquires more leads and broader goals. In addition, agencies that are interested in partnering with your company might be more inclined to apply if the steps are simple.
5. Make sure agencies can deliver highly technical solutions.
Agencies should be well-versed in the product and capable of delivering solutions. Solutions, in this realm, generally come in two forms: Results-driven, and those that are technical.
In the results-driven category, implementation partners need to locate where customers are having problems with the software, then identify solutions. For instance, if a company can't figure out how to use workflows to organize leads, the agency should be able to identify that, then show customers a fix that maximizes their software.
Fixing that workflow should improve organization between members of the team and drive growth for the customer.
On the other hand, maybe a customer can't figure out how to download a necessary extension. Agencies should have the know-how to lead customers toward the answer.
If your company offers a certification, consider whether it’s intensive enough for an agency application point. And consider developing a new course that covers the extra material companies should know about in order to be a successful partner.
Alternatively, develop a test or video challenge agencies must complete. At HubSpot, partners specializing in Sales Hub have to upload a video that shows proof of a highly-technical, results-driven solution. Consider developing a case study agencies must complete to apply.
Make sure your method for partnerships accurately demonstrates the agencies' expertise with your product. For example, a five-question quiz might not be the best route, but an interactive test could be better. A test could tap into each area of your software, and the interactive elements would give agencies the chance to put their own spin on your questions.
Implementation partners are an amazing way to grow the network within your business. You can begin to foster an ecosystem of users with agencies that help onboard customers. Agencies should have the capabilities to adapt to the way your company sells and serves customers — kind of like the gift that keeps on giving.
If you're interested in starting a partner program, you're all set to begin. Don't forget to keep your customers at the core of your planning, and you'll make extremely valuable partnerships that can help your business grow. Good luck, and happy onboarding.