A lot of organizations believe they have a killer product that’s better than their competitors’, that can solve a problem unlike anyone else but in this article, I want to convince you of the value of taking the product to market with a partner.
I’ll explain the value of partnerships, how you can create programs to drive both awareness and adoption, go to market and launch with partners, and drive home the importance of always taking a customer-first approach.
My name is Sangeeta Walsh and I work for RingCentral. RingCentral is headquartered in Belmont, California. Our company is global and I'm going to write about how partnerships drive happiness.
My corporate life
At RingCentral, I manage our global product partnership, and also our analytics partnerships. Essentially, what I do is work with different ISV technology partners to make sure that they understand how we work with them, and how they work with us.
I was recently also a finalist for Women in IT Silicon Valley, on developer advocacy, because I also manage our developer team.
I speak at a variety of events, we sponsor a variety of events, as you can see here, just to get people to be more aware of how together, we work better and we drive awareness and adoption of all of our different products.
Because, if you are wanting people to learn about what you do, the best thing to do is to work with someone else, and talk about how together you do something even bigger.
RingCentral is a cloud communications platform. Essentially, we provide a hub for people to have a cloud phone, so they don't need to have wired services, to have video meetings so a competitor would be Zoom and WebEx.
We also provide team messaging, which competitive products would be something like Slack or Hangouts chat.
On top of that, we have a contact center. So when you are, for instance, calling United and you want to find out a little bit more about your flight information or talk to an agent, when it says press one to go here, or press two to go there, that's a contact center technology.
We have a digital customer service. If you're on Twitter or Facebook, and you're complaining to the gap, all of that information is getting brought back into RingCentral's platform, for instance, so those agents can handle and respond to your requests adequately.
Lastly, the outbound contact center, for us to be able to manage how an agent would call outbound.
RingCentral essentially lives in the middle of all of these different products. What I manage is the way that these different products integrate with other cloud communication companies like Google, Salesforce, Zendesk, and the list goes on.
We also manage our developer marketing, how other companies perhaps Zapier, or there's a lot of smaller CRMs, like Prosperworks, built into our cloud communications platform.
Essentially, why I'm here today, is to talk about why it matters to be in product marketing, and why it matters, even more, to be in product marketing with different partners.
Why should you care?
We want to believe that not only are our products great, but our products can solve any solution for anyone else. But here we're trying to get people convinced of doing that with a partner.
There's a lot of different organizations that feel like 'we have the greatest product, we're going to promote it, we're going to publish it, we're going to speak at events'. But in essence, sometimes that's not always well received, you have to go to market with a plan, and ideally with a partner.
Enable your partners
One of the things to first talk about is how to enable your partners. For instance, I speak quite often with Google, I'm always going to their different events, I'm always speaking with them about how we enhance G Suite.
Partner collateral - better together
I'm speaking with Google on what they do to enhance RingCentral. Essentially, I'm giving them tools and materials for their sales team to go and adequately talk about RingCentral.
So when they're in a deal, and someone says, "I really need a more robust messaging product that Hangout's chat can't solve for", we want Google to automatically think, "we'll use RingCentral".
With enabling your partners, it's key to have the right collateral.
Build a partner webpage
I always make sure before I'm going to go to market with let's say, a new product with Google, I have an adequate partner webpage.
Our landing page, our call to action in any sort of blog post or any sort of commentary always goes to one page that talks about how we're better together.
Develop a quick reference guide
Secondly, I develop a quick reference guide. This guide is essentially just a quick snapshot of 'Here's what we do, here's what they do, here's what we do together. Here are potentially the problems or the talking points you can discuss when you talk about our products'.
Create videos showcasing value
The next piece is creating videos. A lot of people think to create a video takes a lot of time, it actually does but you could actually create a less than two-minute video that's a simple GIF file that shows how workflow is, with just some key bullet points.
I've found that to be much more effective than just having a datasheet, for somebody to see visually how something is integrating, especially with a partner.
Produce an eBook
Lastly, is to produce an Ebook. Now there's a lot more collateral that you can do with your partners but these are the key pieces that have worked for us at RingCentral.
I'm sure if you look up RingCentral on Google, you'll probably see a lot of this content exists. An Ebook itself isn't just about how we're great or how they're great, it's more thought leadership, talking about how we solve for a problem in this industry, and how these two companies can solve for this problem together.
How many of you drive programs - demand Gen, lead gen?
Demand Gen programs - Drive awareness
One of the things that RingCentral has been really working hard to do is to continue to drive awareness, we want to make sure we have campaigns with our partners.
For instance, you partner with Amazon, Amazon has a contact center product called Amazon Connect, and we have a contact center product.
But what we know is that if we find a prospect that we go after, and they are actually already using Amazon Connect, we have an integration with Amazon Connect, we shouldn't abandon the deal, we should realize, "Okay, we're not going to sell them RingCentral contact center, but we could sell them RingCentral in other services".
So we create campaigns that address those types of needs, we make sure that even if we don't have something that's exactly going to be what the customer wants, we have something that might augment to what they already have.
We look for campaigns where we can buy lists of let's say, admins, or IT managers, or even a generic manager end user to give a persona of 'this is how it's going to work together and easier with your system'.
We also sponsor many events. What we do is we like to go speak at Salesforce, many of you I'm sure attend Dreamforce, we like to speak at Octane, we speak at Knowledge for ServiceNow.
We're constantly having our booths up, talking about our product and not only talking about the partnership, but we're talking about how we work well together in each other's platform.
Then we work with analysts and press. Do you work with PR/AR? That's a very key point. One of the things we like to do is put together a press kit from all the collateral that I was talking about earlier.
We like to take all of this data, put it together, and then we go to the press and we say:
“Wouldn't this be interesting if we did an announcement with let's say RingCentral and Slack? How would people think because you seem like your competitors, yet we're working together.”
These are a lot of ways that we feel like we can go and disrupt industries together by going and talking to analysts or getting press or getting articles together.
Lastly is webinars, this is the most traditional way that many people run any sort of content for outbound research. With webinars, what we really try to do is gate that.
So if you want to get more information, you have to put in all your content and you have to put in all of what you're looking for before you can get information.
Really, these are the big four things that we focus on with our partnerships to drive happiness with our customers.
- Campaigns so our customers can see what we're doing together.
- Events so we can have more outreach and possibly go to the events where our customers are working, such as Google Next.
- Working with press and analysts so we're making sure we're putting publications out there.
- Finally, having webinars.
Go to market
So how many people reading traditionally do go to market?
Cross-promotion - Drive adoption
I think all PMMs have to do go to market, whether they really think they're doing it or not. We're all doing it. The biggest piece with me when I'm going to market is launching with different partners.
One of the things is if I'm going to launch a product, and let's say I'm launching a product with Okta, what's Okta going to do for me? If I'm going to create content, collateral, an Ebook:
- Is Okta going to do anything with it?
- Are they going to give me a press release?
- Are they going to talk about us?
- Are they going to sponsor us on a web page? Etc.
You want to make sure when you're launching a product for a particular customer, to drive awareness with that customer, you're launching that product with that customer, with that partner in mind.
By either having a story that's being solved - taking a customer story and saying, “With Okta and RingCentral, we solved the use case of somebody spending five hours to provision a new user to two hours and this is how”.
You want to launch together.
You want to optimize a marketplace and what that means is at RingCentral we have an app gallery, and with our app gallery, our customers can quickly go to our app gallery and say
“Wow, I use ring Central. Here are all the different products that they have with their integrations and here are all the different partners that they have.”
I want to make sure my app gallery is accurate, it is the place and the source of when we're talking to another cloud company, you can see what that cloud company is saying about us and what we're saying about them.
It has reviews, it has the ability to contact you, it has the ability to download and pay and get different integrations. Same with G Suite, Marketplace, the Play Store, etc, we go and we optimize search words in their marketplace because we want to make sure people can easily find us.
Empower your customers
We want to empower our customers. A lot of things that we do is work very closely with our customers to say:
"You might be unhappy with some of the services that we have right now but let me give you a list of all the things that we're doing, all the things that we may be doing with different partners. We know you might use this tool, but maybe you want to use this other tool. Maybe you realize we don't have a competitive advantage with this partner.”
There's a lot of empowerment in really going to our key customers or customers in different verticals where we talk about our partnerships.
Lastly is incentivize. The biggest way for our partners to do more with us is for us to incentivize them. Perhaps we'll sell a G Suite license for 10% off because you're buying a RingCentral license at your company.
Or we'll work with Salesforce and you'll get Service Cloud at a specific fee so you can get the integration with RingCentral.
All these four key pieces are what we do to drive adoption and what we do to drive our customers to better use our products.
Productivity - Customer first
In the end, it's all about making your customer happy. What we try to do together with partners is to have beta programs.
In fact, right now, I'm actually doing a beta program with Google for add ons. You may or may not be familiar with G Suite add ons, but you can add a bot and you can immediately send out a message, etc, in different G Suite products.
I'm working with Google to do a beta program with our customers. That way we can get customer feedback for a case study, we talk about how we have certain use cases for certain verticals.
It's actually quite helpful because it identifies potential gaps in your product.
Onboarding and implementation, having that quick reference guide, having an administrative user guide, having what the customer in mind needs to look at in an easy way would actually make your partner and you happy.
Because it's always very confusing when you're learning a new product but it's even more confusing when you're using an integrated product, which is what I'm focused on.
Not only do you have to learn about RingCentral, but you learn about how RingCentral works with ServiceNow? Having this onboarding document is really driving what the value is that you're getting in ServiceNow.
This kind of ties with the beta program. So anyone who's happy, typically, we don't like to have any story of anyone who's not happy. But anyone who's happy, we will write a great success story.
Here's the problem that they had, here's what was saved with RingCentral and ServiceNow. Or here's what was done better, to make their business be more productive together.
Lastly, is promotion and promotion can go a long way. I mean, it's a lot of the things that I spoke about earlier, it's all about:
- How do you articulate what you're doing?
- How do you work together?
- How you're doing ads.
- How do you plan to promote together?
- How do you plan to drive awareness once you've got a successful partnership?
Partner ecosystem value
Here's an image that we use quite a lot with our executive team.
What we know is that when you have an ecosystem, when you have a platform that has a lot of partnerships and a lot of people that are working together, you have other people creating content for you.
All of us in product marketing, we're all working really hard to constantly create content. But one of the problems that I think many of us can face is:
- Is your content of strong value?
- Is your content reaching out to an industry or a particular persona that you need?
When you see here in the ecosystem value, there are partners that are actually creating content on social for you, because you've enabled them correctly.
There are partners creating AR and PR because you've agreed to do a press release with them or you've agreed to go speak at an event where there'll be analysts.
There are partners going out and they're referring you and they're inviting you to sponsor events. So actually, you can get them to sponsor your own events and take their marketing discretionary fund, their MDF, and have them sponsor your event.
Without even putting forth perhaps half the effort you do for your own product, if you put in some effort, you can have other people create content for you to drive awareness and adoption, and in the end customer happiness.
If we want to drive awareness, we want to create content with workflows and solutions in mind.
We want to produce content that showcases thought leadership. Instead of just saying use my product, it's the best, it's what everyone uses, you want to talk about why people should be using cloud communications, for instance, or why somebody should be using these widgets because they have a problem and these widgets will solve for it.
You want to drive adoption, you want to build campaigns, you want to have touch points where people are able to march to the same persona and say:
"We're going after this type of group, we're going after healthcare. Together, we're going to go to healthcare events, we're going to speak at this healthcare seminar, we're going to create collateral that's focused on healthcare, we're going to have a campaign that's going to talk about us together with healthcare.”
Make it easy
Then you want to make it easy. You want to make sure your content is readable, you want to make sure your partner can read your content, you want to make sure that while you're talking about the value of your product, you're talking about the value of your product with somebody else, which can be hard because sometimes.
Many companies feel like "I'm the best, no one else is like us, we have the best product, why should anyone else care". But it really does help if you have a strong cloud partnership, at least in our case, to have someone else talk about you and generate that buzz as I showed earlier.
Lastly, you always want to think about your customers. Whenever we launch products, we typically will talk about what the product does and what its features are. But never do I sit down and say this is what the product solves for.
If you don't really sit down and think this product is saving this much time or driving this much success, you're not probably marketing the product correctly. You want to make sure that when somebody is using your product, they know what they're solving for.