Buddy Check: Identifying Revenue-Driving Partners

Illustrated rope knot

Camp CallRail Workshop, Buddy Check. Session 5: Bridget Graf, Product Marketing Manager at CallRail, sits down with Unbounce, Titan PPC, and Earnworthy to discuss all things partner marketing in this fireside chat style session.




Bridget: Thank you so much for joining, everyone. Today we'll be talking about identifying revenue-driving partners as part of our fifth and final Camp CallRail workshop. With us today, we have representatives with Unbounce from Titan PPC and Earnworthy, who are two of our agency partners. We're going to be chatting about how you can identify revenue-driving partners, how to build services off of softwares and partnerships, and much more.

I'm Bridget Graf, and I am Team CallRail. I manage CallRail's Agency Partner Program. I host webinars and thought leadership about what we're talking about today. As a fun fact about me, I got my motorcycle license last year.

For those of you who aren't familiar, CallRail is a lead-focused analytics platform that helps you bring clarity into your digital marketing efforts. We work with other platforms like Unbounce, HubSpot, and other places that you already are to help you improve your advertising spend and provide tools that are intuitive and helpful.

Anca: Hi, I'm Anca. I manage the Partner Program at Unbounce. If you don't know who Unbounce is, we're a leading landing page optimization tool, and we help marketers launch campaigns faster and convert more visitors.

Patrick: Hi everyone. I'm Patrick, Co-Founder and CEO of Titan PPC. I've been doing PPC for a very long time. I remember when cost per clicks for a few pennies. I’m obsessed with pay-per-click, love golfing, love dogs, and I love to play disc golf. Nice to meet you guys.

Titan PPC is dedicated to the art of PPC. We work with hundreds of our own direct clients and about 180 agencies around the world under a private label program. We stay hidden and help manage PPC for them as well. Whether it's direct clients or through our agencies, we live and breathe PPC.

Nicholas: Hey everybody, great to be here. My name’s Nicholas, and I'm the founder and growth marketing consultant at Earnworthy. We're a small growth marketing consultancy based in Boca Raton, Florida, and have been obsessed with marketing for over 10 years. When I'm not working on marketing campaigns, I'm usually talking about it on my podcast called Growth Marketing Toolbox.

Earnworthy, is a small growth marketing consultancy. What we really specialize in is helping, especially agencies, build high-converting landing pages. We work very closely with Unbounce and CallRail. We love these products. If you're an agency looking to get more value out of your landing page opportunities, we’d love to chat.

Session Agenda:

  • Choosing software and partnerships
  • Building services with partners
  • Getting the most out of your partnerships

When you're choosing a software for your clients, what do you look for besides features and functionality? With all the benefits that a lot of these partner programs offer, comarketing, revenue share, how do you stand out?

Patrick: For Titan, the choices are usually based on ease and customer service. Price doesn’t necessarily matter. In earlier stages of business, that's what you're looking for, but we came to realize quickly that customer service and the ease of use are more important. We're a marketing agency, not a design agency. We don't have a team of designers in-house. A tool, for example like Unbounce, where we can have one design and then work with it, is huge.

Customer service is our team's learning. Our model's based on keeping customers around for a really long time. As long as a customer is happy, as long as we're converting, as long as we're proving results and continually growing, that's what matters. After we find something we love, we start looking into partnerships and marketing opportunities.

We want to make sure it's something we can use and everyone with zero experience can fall in love with to use in-house. It allows us to scale quickly, and allows every account manager on the team to use the tool without relying on one person or a specific team.

Nicholas: What I would add is also the community aspect of the company, tool, or product. In fact, Unbounce's community was the way we first heard about their partner program. Seeing a vibrant community around a SaaS product these days says so much about the quality of the product, because I think we all want to partner with best-in-class tools. Certainly, Unbounce and CallRail are best-in-class in their industries.

Don't underestimate the power of community, whether it be a message forum, a Facebook group, or interactions with the support team. Just being able to see from social media interactions and the level of engagement people have talking about that product can influence whether or not an agency or a marketer should partner with that company.

As a follow up to that, what do you consider best-in-class? Is it market or brand equity in this space?

Patrick: A lot of it is based on culture and community. How is that company evolving? What are they doing to grow and make life easier for us? We're always looking to make sure that business is a leader. Showing leadership is huge. Usually, when you have that culture and growth, it tells you that something's working well on the inside and the technology should follow. We don't necessarily look at review sites or G2 anymore.

Nicholas: On top of that, we try to find tools that are really good at one thing or a few things. I'd rather build my own marketing stack with the best call tracking product and the best landing page builder instead of finding a Franken tool that tries to do everything. There's a lot of those types of tools out there that have partner programs, but I've always leaned towards the ones that are best-in-class at one certain thing.

On top of that, when you find a tool that when you ask a marketer, "Hey, what's the first tool you think of for call tracking?", or "What's the first tool you think of for landing pages?", they say CallRail or Unbounce, you know you really found the best tool in that category.

What is the inflection point or timing that you think of when deciding on a partnership once you’ve been using a tool?

Patrick: Unbounce is a good story. We started with them when they were quite young and had a pretty small team. There were other options out there. Obviously, there still are, but we started using Unbounce and fell in love. What we fell in love with the most was the culture that they had built. We had the luxury of working with them at an earlier stage, but the size of the company or what stage they're in doesn’t really matter.

It's about taking a leap out and starting to talk to people, build relationships, communicate, and talk to the person on the other side of the chat, saying, "You're a rock star. Have a great day." Be friendly. I think that naturally leads to cool things. Those people start to fall in love with you as well and become advocates of your company.

Other than the technology and software, I really believe in culture, communication, and how customer service interacts. If you're talking to someone on the chat or on a phone call and they're the friendliest person in the world, that comes from the top down. You can just tell that they're doing it right. For us, that's huge. We try and do that here as well.

Creating meaningful partnerships

Do you have a certain time period after which you try to reach out to potential partners? How do you guys think about how to best find your advocates?

Anca: I think it's quite interesting because on the one side, a lot of the people joining our partner program are already customers. They are already familiar with our product. They know a lot more about it than can be taught within a few onboarding emails. The conversations that start there are meeting halfway. The person knows the product very well and is able to sell it in a way that meets the standards or requirements for somebody to understand it quite quickly.

That opens the door right away. That's why we have the community and all of these places where people can shine. It helps them stand out to us, because we're quite fortunate to have a lot of people active in the program. We want to make sure we pick the right ones to represent our brand. That's what becomes key in the conversation.

The first time we get in touch with somebody that used to just be a partner in the program, maybe not even a customer, we start talking about who uses Unbounce, how they fit our brand, and then take it from there.

How do you think partnerships help your agency? How do you think that partnerships like CallRail and Unbounce would help?

Patrick: It's priceless. It's been a massive part of our success and growth. First of all, the technology of tracking calls and showing that to Joe the Plumber on the other end is difficult to do without Unbounce to increase conversion. There's also been dozens of other ways both CallRail and Unbounce have helped.

We don't necessarily reach out and say, "Oh, we're going to start a new partnership." Like Nicholas said, you start by using a tool. You start by using technology. You fall in love with it. You build that relationship. You start talking to people about it. You join community boards. That has to happen to boil up. You don't just get featured in a blog post or join a webinar for no reason. You get your toes wet, take a leap.

Take some risks, say, "Hey, I have a really cool case study for you guys. Are you interested?", or "I'd love a testimonial," or "I heard you're starting a partner program, could I give you advice or thoughts on how that might work for our agency?" Whether it's case studies or blog posts, that's huge for both CallRail and Unbounce. Those lead to new business, new customers all the time, like CallRail's articles on how Titan works with our customers.

Unbounce has worked with us to create blog posts on how we price as an agency. We also enjoyed attending the call to action conference with Unbounce. That's where we get to see people face-to-face, build relationships with leaders and decision makers in the company. Just take leaps and throw yourself out there as much as you can. We found that CallRail and Unbounce had said, "Yup, let's do it. Let's do an article, let's do a blog post. Let's do whatever."

Nicholas: I think what's really important is that if you're going to partner with a company or a product, you have to love the product. You have to use the product, because a lot of the clients or the prospects that are going to come to you looking for help. They're going to ask you some tough questions about that product. If you are just signing up for partner programs for the heck of it without really understanding what's under the hood, you're not going to be qualified to answer those questions and you're not going to be helping those people.

We've had a long history of working with Unbounce and CallRail. We understood the product well and have used it for many different campaigns. By the time it became apparent to us that there are partner programs, it made natural sense to become a part of it. You have to start by just understanding what's under the hood, because you're going to represent that brand somewhat, and that brand is going to reflect upon your brand. For that to work, you have to understand what it is you’re working with.

Getting the most out of a partner relationship

Anca: Let's move forward in time and imagine that we have the partnership. Let's imagine that you found the software, you love this software, you want to work with it. Let's take it a step further. I'm going to ask Nicholas first. How do you build your services onto this partnership? What does that kind of like? What's the catalyst for it?

Nicholas: We specialize in something that is very niche, landing page optimization. People come to us looking for help with Unbounce. Maybe they're already using Unbounce and CallRail together. It's just a natural extension that if they don't want to figure out how to set everything up themselves, they're going to look for an expert in that space.

It's been easy for us to leverage that partnership relationship, because customers see us as an Unbounce expert or CallRail expert. It makes that initial conversation a lot easier. Then it's a matter of building trust and showing that beyond just being a partner, we have the results to show that we know what we're doing.

In addition to that, we like being able to offer an incentive or a discount for anyone who's looking, specifically for anyone who's getting started with Unbounce. Being a partner gives us the opportunity to offer these types of discounts. That's also been a good incentive for helping us leverage that partner relationship and make it benefit everyone involved.

Have you found that it's important to sort of mark that expertise to showcase to somebody from the first moment they see your website that you are an expert in the software?

Nicholas: I think all of us understand the value of trust logos or trust seals. That to me is one of the most important things that come out of a partner relationship. This trust that you are able to display the badge, whether it be an Unbounce partner badge or CallRail partner badge, says so much about helping a client or a prospect decide between you and the millions of other options out there for the marketing services. We try to put those badges everywhere we’re able to. I think it definitely makes a very noticeable difference.

Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of partner programs, but it's not just necessarily about that badge. It's the actual partnership, the people behind it, and who you're working with to build those relationships. You can easily get lost in the mix being a partner with a company, so you definitely have to stand out.

When you think about a partnership, what makes it successful for you? How do you measure that? What does it actually look like in your P&L, for example?

Patrick: I think there's two sides to it. One is the actual persona relationship. We're lucky enough to live in Vancouver. We get to see the people at Unbounce a lot, face to face, whether it's at the conference or not. Revenue aside, success to us is having that relationship with them, being able to chat with them, maybe give them a hug at the conference or whatever, and building that up. Our model and a lot of models are based on monthly recurring revenue. We're an agency, we charge clients a monthly fee.

At the end of the day, it does come down to revenue, but to the point where the technologies we're using shouldn't even really become a price factor. As long as we're using something that keeps customers around for a long time, then it doesn't really matter. If we can expand the customer lifetime value from a year to two years by using one of these tools, ultimately, it’s worth it. It feels really good to have relationships with these people and build it over years or however long it takes.

When you look at the time you've been a partner officially in your tenure, what's been the most valuable thing that it's given you?

Nicholas: I would say with CallRail, it's just been the access to the CallRail team. Having a more direct relationship with the CallRail team has helped in many different cases, whether it be a specific client need or asking a question, trying to see what's around the next corner, what's on the agenda with CallRail, or how things are changing. You normally wouldn't have that type of access, but because of the partner relationships and the partner program, that's been really, really helpful for us.

Is there a direct link between what this partnership does for your agency and what it does for your clients?

Patrick: Whether it's this partnership or any of the partners, we pass that forward by feeling good about who we're working with. The actual account managers working with our clients are using tools that they can use, they're comfortable with, and know they can go onto a chat with. They can pick up the phone, call CallRail, and speak to someone right away. I think when we have happy account managers and we're working with a trusted company, everyone feels good. We also get access to some betas, maybe some alphas at times. We're partnered with Google as well, which gives you a slightly higher level of support.

Unbounce and CallRail support is world class no matter what, but I think you pass forward that warm and fuzzy feeling. It makes everyone feel good about using it. If an account manager here is working with an angry or grumpy person on support from some other technology, then it’s not fun. That's why we believe that culture and customer support are a huge factor for us to make life easier. I think, again, that passes off to the customer and makes them happy as well. If we can replicate a few landing pages in two minutes versus spending hours potentially, or if we can track and prove calls to again, Joe the Plumber and say, "Actually, you did get 35 calls this month from CallRail," then it makes everyone look good and feel happy, so.

Anca: Nice. Yeah, that's great, warm and fuzzy. That's what I'm going to remember from today. Bridget and I talk about this a lot. We try to imagine how we are supporting an agency and how we're going to help you succeed even more, because programs morph every day. You're always trying to figure out the next thing we could do to help the agency succeed.

I think one of the big things that always comes up is the strategy around pricing, packaging, and positioning the software you sell. At the core of an agency, they want to maintain a profitable, solid relationship with the software they use. Do you make the software mandatory for your clients? How do you position it to them? How do they hear about it?

Patrick: We push these tools to all of our clients. Is it mandatory? No, I would say that we've evolved. For example, going back just me, I would not necessarily use it. I wouldn't necessarily push it. It was an extra cost. Do I need to do it? Is it worth it? Do I have to pay for it? Is the customer paying for it? Over time, you realize that the model is keeping these customers around and happy for a really long time. I would say 80% of our clients probably use it. It's part of our sales process now. CallRail and Unbounce are both mentioned from the very first call.

We're transparent with what we use. We don't necessarily scan or private label CallRail or Unbounce. We say, "This is what it is. This is what we're using. This is what they charge. We have an agency account you can use." More and more use it. It's kind of 100% mandatory. When a customer says, "No, I'm not interested in investing into landing pages," or "I don't need to pay $45 for call tracking," we're not really interested in working with them. If we can't prove success, they're going to fizzle out after 30 days or 60 days.

We typically include it in our packages now, depending on the client. We might mark it up, or include more or less depending on what they're looking to do. Typically, for most clients, we'll build them a custom template based on their brand and include 10 variations of that page to match up with the campaign. We're so in love with CallRail and Unbounce when other clients say, "Hey, we use X other tracking or X other...landing page builder," we actually say, "You know what? That's fantastic, but we won't actually work with that tool."

If someone came to us with another tool, that's great. I'm happy to have it, but our team only works with CallRail and Unbounce. Eventually, they'll push over and understand that "Well, if these guys here can actually work on it for me versus me doing it myself, it makes life easier." We usually convert most people over.

Nicholas: We're not like a traditional full-service agency. Since we're just specializing in the landing page build out, a lot of times clients will already have an account with CallRail or Unbounce, or they'll come to us looking for recommendations. We will always direct them to have their own account, because I know there are different pricing models.

There's a lot of agencies out there that have everything hosted in one central account, but we encourage our clients to have their own Unbounce and CallRail accounts. I think it makes so much more sense for the client because it's more transparent. They can get in there whenever they want. They own everything. It makes it a lot easier and frictionless even if they do have to take on that expense of opening those accounts, and we help them with that. I would say almost every client we have has their own account either for Unbounce or CallRail or both.

Anca: Nice. I think I've seen throughout the last month especially, people using the partner program in various ways. I think it's interesting to see how there's big differences between approaches in agencies and within an agency on the various clients. What I understand from both of you is that there's no one size fits all approach. Is that true, Patrick?

Patrick: Yeah. We have a slightly different model than Nicholas, but I think both models are fantastic. We have an agency account. We're very transparent as well. The client knows what they're using. They know we're using Unbounce. We do push them to get their own CallRail account.

Anca: Yeah, I'm also curious how involved they are in the software they use? Do they get training on it?

Nicholas: Yeah, absolutely. Again, there's not a one size fits all for this. We have some clients where they literally say, "I don't even want to look at the account. I'll sign up for it and get you access. We don't want to deal with it." There's other clients that absolutely want to know everything that's going on. They want to know how everything works. With Unbounce, in particular, it's gotten to be such a need that I actually put together a course on Unbounce, Unbounce for Beginners. This is something that I normally would sell, but for any clients, we just give it to them, and they go through it.

If they still have questions, we'll jump on a call. That course has pretty much eliminated the basic questions that we kept getting asked by clients who love to get in there. I love being able to talk with a client who actually understands the software. It’s that next level where we can get more advanced and talk about things like smart traffic and AV testing. It makes it a lot easier when the client really understands the basic mechanics of how that tool works.

Building community with partnerships

Bridget: I think the interesting thing is that both Unbounce and CallRail were built with small businesses in mind. As we grew, we realized how impactful agencies were on our small business market. In trying to provide the software to you all, we are also in the market of understanding the services that you're providing and making sure that we can help with those things. If it's a discount with Unbounce's service for being a partner, that helps your margin. If it's specialized support and making sure your account managers are happy, that's huge too. Initially, I don't think CallRail was built for agencies.

Now that we're in this SMB and agency space, we're taking all of our feedback from agencies and trying to build it in a way that makes sense for you guys to be able to grow and scale and build your own businesses off our platform too.

The next section of our talk here is getting the most out of your partnership. Do you have any client success stories or the genesis of your relationship with CallRail or Unbounce?

Patrick: This is going back quite a way. When Unbounce was a slightly younger company, we had to throw ourselves to businesses and say, "Hey, I'm here.” I don't know how many employees Unbounce has now, a lot more than when we did this, but we actually threw a pizza party for Unbounce years ago. I think there were maybe 80 to 100 people working there. For a young agency, to spend, I don't know, $800 on pizza was a scary thing. We’re still seeing the impact that pizza party made several years later.

If you differentiate yourself, get in the way, and throw it out there, all of a sudden the customer service person on the phone is saying, "Well, you should use Titan as your PPC agency," or if someone says, "Hey, I need help with this," they're going to recommend you.Just get out of your comfort zone. We've done stuff like that, which is fun to do. The biggest takeaway is just don't be afraid. Even if you're starting off, reach out to a bigger company and start to build that relationship with them. It comes down to being friendly and talkinghttps://www.callrail.com/blog/what-is-partner-marketing/ to everyone and anyone when you're at conferences to build those relationships.

Bridget: Nicholas, I know in CallRail's program, we have around 1,200 partners. I'm sure Unbounce is similarly pretty large. How do you differentiate yourself? How do you make sure that you're considered for opportunities like this or other case studies? How do you make sure you're top of mind?

Nicholas: That's a great question. That's something I think about all the time. It's not only important with partner programs, but it's also important with client services. These days, you have to differentiate. I think what Patrick was mentioning, being able to go beyond just signing up for the program, is great. There's been programs where we've signed up for it and they don't know us. We don't know them. I don't know why we signed up for it. You have to take advantage of the opportunity.

If you're going to sign up for these programs, don't sign up for every program under the sun. Sign up for the ones that you really care about and feel like you can invest some time each week. It takes weekly effort. Get involved because everything's connected. The way we first heard about the Unbounce program was from the Unbounce community.

I was involved in the community, invited to attend CTAConf, informed about the experts program, which led to the partner program application. Going back to CTAConf and being a workshop presenter, all those little opportunities started just by getting involved in the community. One door will open another door. It really comes down to creating those relationships, creating open dialogue on a regular basis, and not just signing up for the program and then expecting terrific results.

Bridget: I feel like, especially as someone who's in the weeds with our partner program at CallRail, sometimes we get agencies that sign up who aren't as interested in putting in the work. Partnerships go in two ways. I don't know everybody personally to be able to consider them for opportunities, but when I meet somebody at a conference or somebody emails me and wants to talk about their customer use case or something like that, they will stay top of mind for me when an upcoming opportunity happens. Patrick, I know we've done a couple of case studies with CallRail and Titan. How do you think like case studies or testimonials or any kind of success stories you guys have had have helped new business development for you?

Patrick: It's huge. We've done some with CallRail, some with Unbounce. What I find in my advice to anyone starting out is similar to what Nicholas said, you have to differentiate yourself. You can't sit and wait for them to say, "We'd like to do a case study on how Titan PPC prices their pricing for Unbounce or whatever." We pitch ideas to our partners and say, "Hey, this is a cool case study. Hey, we did this really unique thing." CallRail and Unbounce are always looking for content and cool articles.

We did a case study on a particular template we designed for an insurance company in the US. It converted at a high rate, so high that they created a template in the Unbounce library called The Titan, which is pretty cool. Little things like that help. I'll keep saying the same thing: you have to go take the risk. Take the leap and build those relationships. Don't be afraid to reach out and talk about a cool story. Ultimately, when we're featured on a partner's page or a testimonials page those end clients see it and those accolades definitely help to close a sale.

I can send a library of links to a landscaping company or a B2B software company to say, "Hey, this is what we did for this. This is a template." We naturally get content written for us through CallRail or Unbounce. We're not writing this article, they are. We're happy to share that with our clients. We get clients and leads all the time through these articles. "Hey, I noticed you were here. I found you on the partners program." It's priceless. It leads to new business.

What reporting software would you recommend?

Patrick: We use NinjaCat and ReportGarden depending on what platform we're reporting on. We use ReportGarden for Facebook usually. It's a bit of an easier interface. Ninjacat.io, I believe, is the extension for most Google and Microsoft Bing network reporting. The reporting for us is more of the conversations that happen. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how many people open canned reports. It's the value of the communication with the account manager that's more important throughout the month for us.

Nicholas: One of my favorites is Supermetrics. It's a really nice tool that ties into so many different platforms. My philosophy is if you can get it into a Google Sheet, you can visualize it using Google Data Studio, which is free. If anyone hasn't checked out Google Data Studio, there's so many cool things you can do. With the combination of Supermetrics and Google Data Studio, what you can come up with is limitless.

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