Here were my top 10 takeaways (in no particular order) from SaaSConnect:
#10. SaaS is NOT “direct only.” There was tons of data being shared at SaaS Connect (including my own quick presentation of some awesome SaaS adoption data from Blissfully). One of my favorite soundbites were from Rob at SaaS Capital. He shared that companies with channel partnerships grow at a rate of 5% higher than their peers, and in general companies are now bringing in 22% of their revenue through partnerships.
#9. We're making fewer mistakes. There was a lot of talk about SaaS partnership mistakes to avoid. The good news is that it got pretty repetitive quickly. Which means we are maturing as a group and a functional practice. More people and companies are getting it right (see the SaaS Capital data above).
#8. You are not alone. SaaS Connect likes to think of itself as an open community that shares stories. Doing so ensures we don’t repeat peers’ mistakes. If you aren’t sharing and listening, get started.
#7. Cowboys don’t succeed( in the long run). One of my favorite quotes shared was peer feedback a member received from her boss in the midst of structuring a large partnership - “If it’s Lindsay’s deal, it’s no one’s deal.”
#6. Don’t celebrate the partnership. There were a few speakers who shared their experiences from early on in their partnership careers. Where it was easy to get distracted by the thrill of signing a new partnership. But let’s not forget that at that point, in general, no money has changed hands. Instead, focus on celebrating customer wins. Hold the champagne until we’ve solved customers’ problems.
#5. Showing up matters. In today’s online world it's too easy to think we can do everything digitally (“social selling” anyone?). But it is really hard to develop and nurture a partnership without face-to-face time. As a boss once told me, “Your investment in face-to-face nurturing that relationship will pay off if you have to work hard together to resolve some problems.” And when it comes to showing up, kudos to the executives from 99Starts and OneSaaS who came from Australia to hang out and share with their SaaS partnership peers.
#4. Look for mutual benefits. Whether you are selling or partnering, everyone talks about trying to achieve that win-win scenario. I thought Michele Albanese from Drift nailed it when she spoke about that struggle. When as an emerging company you are trying to get attention from partners who don’t see the opportunity. Working hard and listening in the discovery phase will help you find that black swan and turn things around. Great advice.
#3. Strive to partner with bigger companies. Those partnerships can give you immediate reach and credibility. But take into account how much longer they will be to develop and bring to market. And be ready to weigh the opportunity cost of being able to instead partner with 2-3 smaller, more nimble companies. Look before you commit.
#2. Internal partnering is just as critical. SaaS partnering (and BD in general) can be a lonely business. You have faith in the opportunity. But you have to convince the rest of your team and colleagues about the opportunity (see #4 above). If you and the team have worked on a bad partnership in the past they will be skeptical when you bring them the next great opportunity. Remember to learn from your mistakes and educate them on what you need to do differently to succeed this time.
#1. No API? No partnership! If you want to partner with other SaaS companies, make it easy for them. Allow them to integrate quickly. Your competition has great APIs.
If you want to hear more about SaaS Connect, see the post that Lauren Kelly of OPEXEngine wrote - SaaS Partner models today are”Not your father’s Buick” (link to her excellent post).