Go-to-Market strategy for your product’s API integration

18 min read

Stephen is the lead product marketing manager and partnerships head at Outreach. He is Sales Hacker’s “50 Must-Know Heavy Hitters in Sales & Marketing”. Previous to Outreach, he worked as a corporate strategy manager for Precoa.

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Summary

  • People need to go with their eyes wide open while looking for partners to integrate with. Every single partner has a different approach to supporting.
  • People need to have a high level of self-awareness about where they sit at the table. Either a small player or a big player, they should have their own integration.
  • There is a huge need for people who are using the sales engagement systems and platforms well to be more targeted. There is always this kind of discussion and balance for personalization between automation. Either end of the spectrum is probably wrong, you gotta be really balanced in your approach and understand what works. 
  • The more you succeed at working with partners, the more those partners look at you and say, this is going to be valuable integration. I see a lot of people use this. I will help them go to the next level.
  • Understanding what your general kind of partner program looks like, which partner you should double down with and then from there, be very customized with the top level and you would have a marvelous script on how to work with.
  • You would be surprised that often people don’t really ask, they ask a lot for on the product sides. Once it comes down to go-to-market, they just say, ok great. Thanks.

Transcript of the podcast:

Speaker: Stephen Farnsworth

Host: Nikhil Premanandan

Nikhil: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Limitless Podcasts. A place where we bring together global leaders in sales and marketing. My name is Nikhil and I am the host of Limitless Podcasts. We just interviewed Stephen Farnsworth from Outreach. 

Stephen is currently the Head of Partnerships at Outreach. He has held multiple positions at Outreach ranging from being an SDR transitioning into a managerial role in the sales development function. To tell you a little bit more about Outreach, Outreach is a leading sales engagement platform that has recently become a Unicorn. Before joining Outreach, Stephen was the corporate strategy manager at Precoa and he’s also currently mentoring at the Bravado. 

Stephen and I talked about how partnerships are a crucial GTM strategy and how early stage businesses can leverage these partnerships. Before we dive into this conversation, this episode is brought to you by Hippo Video. 

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Next listen to this exciting episode with Stephen Farnsworth. Stephen! Welcome to the show. 

Stephen: Hey, thank you. Appreciate you guys having me. 

Nikhil: Thanks a lot, Stephen. So before we get into, you know, the discussion points here, we would like to understand a little bit about your career journey so far and you know, what you guys do at Outreach? 

Nikhil: Yeah, happy to share more. So first up, I’ve been with Outreach for about, gosh, almost three years now. I came after doing corporate strategy for a few years at an insurance company Pacific Northwest in the U.S. Portland, Oregon. And, started to just kind of feel it. Yes to get into something a little bit faster moving that get into kind of one of these young tech companies and see if they if honestly I was at a point in my life or it could have been fun to do something really risky. It was a no kids, not much family, no real commitments yet. So I was like ‘Hey  I can move across the country. I can move and see what happens. When the company decided to go crazy or box and basically it’s gone crazy. Since I joined, we have had almost 10x revenue and ARR and we will have about 4x pin-sized from an employee standpoint and that’ll again get more dramatic this year. So I came from corporate strategy and I just didn’t really understand the tech world but loved the idea of this product. When I joined Outreach, actually I was one of their first SDRs in Seattle, in their kind of headquarters. And, I didn’t know what an SDR really was. I just thought of something with sales and let’s just do it where I’m going to be using the product every day, and so I think I can get back into a more of a strategic role soon. And so I joined us an SDR ended up managing the SDR team in Seattle and then took over some kind of a more of a partner manager role for some time and then I lead partnerships now from a product standpoint from kind of product marketing, go-to market and things like Biz Dev, relationships, really anything partnerships today ends up pulling up falling out of my wheelhouse and my teams wheelhouse. 

Nikhil: Awesome! Great to career path there, Stephen. So congratulations once again on becoming the Unicorn. That was great news again. And yeah, you mentioned something about having no kids and taking that risk and now becoming a father, so congratulations on that as well. 

Stephen: So yeah, just a couple weeks ago. So it probably wouldn’t make that same jump safer risk now.

Nikhil: Yeah, now that you mentioned that you’ve taken up a bigger role at Outreach. And you mentioned how you’re heading the integrations department. So for a lot of viewers or a lot of listeners out there, do you recommend integrations as a GTM strategy and if that is the case then how do you choose an integration partner? 

Let us say there are a lot of sass companies out there. Do you have a framework on how you choose an integration partner? 

Stephen: Yes. It’s a good question. I’ll say my answer is probably very different depending on the situation. Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, I think you need to go. With your eyes wide open as you’re looking at just who you integrate with in the first place. Like I think every single partner that you could potentially choose from or you’re going to invest in is going to have a very different level of how much they’ll support you and that so for us, I think we’re a relatively small company at Outreach. I guess it’s still a small world. We’re very much a start-up the same point in time among sales tech companies. We’re actually quite large. There are many that are like real really, you know, Unicorns. I think they’re only a few that have really been dubbed. The unicorns amongst a dedicated sales tech and so for us, I mean if it’s a smaller company than us, which is generally what we see that it’s trying to integrate with us, I think what I try to help set expectations with a lot of these companies like early on as ‘hey if you’re going to integrate with Outreach first off there’s a lot of benefits to us. Like we’d like having an ecosystem around us. We like to have our customers have lots of choices and different tools that they can use that enhance their average experience and help make the Outreach usage more sticky and even even more effective. 

What I’ll say is I also I’m pretty clear with, you know, most of the partners that we have that come in and request API access and want to start building into that they need to be making that decision to build that integration in the first place. Because they believe at their core that there’s a business opportunity to do that doesn’t require Outreach to do a lot. What I’m saying is ‘Hey, if we do something if Outreach is going to help you and we’re going to market with you, we’re going to sell with you, organized or whatever we’re going to develop our product with you. Like that should be great. Like that should just be kind of the cherry on top right now. If you see a business opportunity jump in do it, that’s fine. And we’re going to help and to be clear. There may be other partners in the space that make it easier for you then say. Oh, yeah, we will do XYZ and ABC based on you even deciding to partner with us. In some cases it’s an outbound motion where you’re trying to drive integration. So I get called All the Time by companies looking for us to build into them. And I think in each case there’s kind of a different value prop for solving for and I think it’s really such a long way of saying before you start the dev work, I think you should understand the level of support you’re going to get and then so that you can go into the partnership eyes wide open and what am I going to get from this company like realistically. 

And then, from there you can make the decision on okay, you know what there is a compelling enough need for a compelling enough customer base that we have that makes it worthwhile for you to build this integration. 

Nikhil: Exactly. Now what you said actually makes a lot of sense. Because you know that actually leads into my next question. So you have that great experience, and also, you know being there with Outreach when it was a small company, and now when Outreach has become this Unicorn, alright. So you’ve been there when Outreach was an SMB pitching together, you know partners Tech giants, like let us say Salesforce to build into Salesforce and now you are a place where there are other smaller companies who are looking to build and integrate with you, allright. 

So what do you say should be the expectation from SMB who’s looking to build into Outreach. Okay, so good size of the table. 

Stephen: I think I think there needs to be a high level of self-awareness and where you sit at the table. First of all, so you’re right in the earlier days for us and to be clear again we’re relatively small compared to a lot of the companies that you could integrate with. I think it’s just an awareness of where I am at the table? Am I the small player or am I the big planner?

And so for us in the earlier days, we were more often the small players. I’ll say even now we’re not far off and we’ll give you a little early preview, but we’re not far off from announcing from finalizing our integration with Microsoft Dynamics. Now Dynamics is actually a pretty small CRM as compared to Salesforce and others only with I think around three or four percent of the market, but it’s still Microsoft at the end of the day. So for us when I work with them. I will have to recognize that this is Microsoft, which is a much much much bigger like them sending a social post or something that seems very simple to me like a little tweet about our integration like that can move the needle for me. And so I need to I need to be prepared first of all, but for them not to do much but hopefully those little things that they can do useful and I needed for be prepared to do all the work. 

Like you just have to again walk in and I’m going to do 95% of this and I’m going to hope that if I make that easy experience for this other much larger. It builds you a couple things that will be really useful for me inside give the same advice to all the companies that are integrating with us today. It’s a huge chance that if you’re a small little company trying to integrate with Outreach. First of all, you’re going to get a lot of face time with us, we care about you or get it. We’re going to help you and we’re going to work with you. But at the end of the day if you want to really invest from a go to market standpoint, you’re working with Outreach, most like I am going to make you do most of the work. That’s what’s going to happen. There are going to be some instances, obviously there are some exceptions there. 

Maybe there’s some really compelling gap that you solved it, may be competitively we aren’t handling very well or you solve something that we really want to do in the future in which case we might double down on you and there are instances where there are small little companies where I’ve spent sleeping with the disproportionate amount of time on integrations and supporting their go-to market efforts based on the things that they’ve done. 

Nikhil: So when you know, these smaller players are integrating with you and when you are integrating with bigger players out there, what do you look for, do you look for visibility or do you look for revenue as a metric? And how do you categorize these Integrations? I understood that I’ve asked you questions. But first what do you work on? Do you work on the revenue numbers that you generate from these equations or are visibility. Let’s answer that first. 

Stephen: Yeah, I would say first of all it’s every single one is going to be different. I think the point is to understand the gold going in. Like they’re going to be Integrations you say this is going to be varied Revenue driven for us like this. This Microsoft Dynamics release we’re doing like we saw a market enough of a market that says we really want to move towards winning some Dynamics customers. So there is like a revenue goal attached to us doing that in the first place. 

At the same point in time, it’s also very product-driven because for us we’ve long said like long been a single CRM solution just with Salesforce. And for us to be the big multibillion-dollar company we want to be, we need to be CRM agnostic and that’s something that we’re moving more towards. So I think for us I just have an understanding that for a lot of the, you know, frankly you Hippo Video. What you guys do, you guys are awesome. And the sense that there’s a huge need for people who are using sales engagement systems and platforms well to be more targeted. There’s always this kind of discussion on balance and personalization between automation and I think they’re either end of the spectrum is probably wrong. You gotta be you got to be I think we really balanced in your approach and understand what works and for us like there’s there’s a number of video vendors that have really hit the hit the stage and they’re attacking things in their own way and so for us like we don’t we probably don’t look it and integration like Hippo Video, which is a really well done integration and say oh I expect that. I’m going to see a certain amount of revenue come from that. For me it’s just the fact that you’re solving friends a customer needs in the first place. 

But on the flip side you guys met if you decide to double down say, you know what there’s a few sales engagement platforms out there and we think that Outreach is our most compelling opportunity. I probably would look and say, you know, I want to have a neither revenue goal or like a number of user goals within a certain period of time that says I’ve hit this I’ve not only built-in integration for outreach which can be an expensive thing to do from a Dev resource allocation. But I’ve also made sure that I’ve aligned my go-to-market efforts whether Outreach is going to help me or not I’m going to do so internally so that I can actually capture this market and that’s I don’t think you guys are doing a good job with that and that’s again it’s the more you are succeeded that and this is kind of a chicken before the egg, sorry about that. Like the more you succeed at working with Outreach customers the more that Outreach is going to look at you and say this seems like a valuable integration, I see a lot of people use this, you know, I will help them go to the next level.

Nikhil: That leads into my next question. Do you have separate teams which work on these Revenue Integrations and Visibility Integrations, or is it the same team that works on them as well. 

Stephen: Yeah, I would say first of all there are a lot of companies out there that are very like integration driven in terms of how they build products. Like integration platforms as a service, for example, you know, the Zappiers and Trace whole those areas of the world like their gag, right? That’s all they do. So their teams, I’m sure they have very nuanced product teams that have goals based on that. For us generally when we’re going to build Integrations, we’re going to focus on two things one is we may just have a product initiative that has nothing to do with integrations. But because we’re solving some gap that means we ought to align with some other companies that will help us in that capacity. And so we’re going with our product team. It’s generally just a regular old product team with its own initiative that doesn’t typically work with Integrations, but they get involved, I get involved because it’s something where we think a partner can help.

On the flip side though, there are times when there are for us, we really tried not to build like a single integration. We try really hard to build with anything in the APIs framework that allows us to extend some capability with an Outreach that then multiple parties can access and for us that’s I think a focus for us is that we have a team. Oops, there goes my life. We have a team that focuses heavily on just the kind of extending the platform PIR or API.

Nikhil: That brings me to my next question now that we have understood what works and you know how to build an actual creation framework and you know get those equations built into the system. We would like to know a little bit more about how you plan a GTM strategy with those Partners. So how let us say we are a star. And we have built into you know an outreach. What would be your advice to and how do we look at this particular strategy attitude? And once the integration is bit how to take it apart? 

Stephen: Yeah. It’s a great question. I think that whether you know, whether there’s a published like tearing system like a level system, what type of partner you are externally you may have something where it’s clear as day where you fall in like the priorities of the partner. In other instances, it may not be something that’s public but you should be sure that in the background internally. There is a company that’s the company that you’re reintegrated into its kind of looks at you and levels. Out against other partners in general and so they I would I would advise that if you don’t have this you understand what it is that matters to you from a partner standpoint and then have an essentially a template of what you would do for each level of partner. 

So for us, I think we have a launch I think, you know pretty by now. I believe I’ve launched in my couple years in this row like I we’ve launched probably 60 Integrations and being that in that level of integration, there are a lot of them where their we have a very templated pretty easy launch process that we can do over and over again for some of the smaller partners that were again it’s very useful for them and it doesn’t take a lot of resources from us. That’s perfect. 

Our annual user conference is in April April 7th to 9th. It’s called Unleash that conference. There are big announcements, big product announcements and product product key notes that we are probably not going to air a lot of our Integrations in that keynote. Like just only a couple that maybe really move the needle or really matter to us what we talked about and I think it’s just understanding again understanding what your kind of general partner program looks like which partners you should double down with and then from there be very customized with panda at the top level and then the rest you need to have more prescription to how to work with and so any partners I do think even some partners are very small. Can a very small tear the very kind of young startups that work with us. 

I think a great thing to do and sometimes it can be a little bit annoying frankly, but just asking and asking us what are the options that are available? Like I’ll take you through it you’d be surprised at how often people don’t really ask and they just maybe they ask for a lot of the product side. But once it comes out of the go-to-market, they just kind of say okay great, thanks like and and that’s it and knowing, for me, that’s fine. 

Because again, I don’t need to spend a whole my time on these sorts of things but everyone saw but everyone says like what we would have done more like we could have done a social post. We could have you done some blog posts or something we would have we would have amplified. There’s there’s a lot more willing to do if you make it easy for us. 

Nikhil: Awesome. Now that you mentioned that you have a small template that takes it to your partners. Can you actually get into that a little bit more just to understand? You know, what are the steps that you as Outreach does with GTM plan with the partners. 

Stephen: So I mean I would say that we’re not anything special. Like I would say that we found very descriptive a lot of others do and that can be as simple as we probably aren’t going to do a lot of the again the lift on are for a lot of smaller integrations. 

But you can imagine things like a blog post, social post, customer email newsletter inclusions. We’re going to, you know, we don’t do this often, but you can do an email notification of some sort. You could announce it at a conference that we’re occasionally doing case studies or webinars were partners and even something like the webinar.

We’ve done this sense of simple, but we’ve made a lot of progress in her partner marketing efforts just by understanding our webinar process and we have very clear processes of hey, there are certain types of partners that Outreach will host on our webinar and we have a very clear list of I process and expectations if you do that on the very clear process for here’s what you’re like what you’re going to do. And here’s what Outreach is willing to do and then it’s up to the partner to self-select in because they’re willing to do that or self-select out because it’s not something they’re willing to do and so I would say that really if you were to look online I’m sure any how to launch a product forget any sort of encouraged. What’s a product marketing launch process? That process is going to be probably 95% the same as us. 

I do think there’s some interesting things you can do with LinkedIn and some social platforms today and that I think our own little bit more unique and certain companies do a really good job at utilizing some of these newer channels that launch products. 

Nikhil: Awesome. So now that we understand these partnerships work, you have a few other panels on how to take these partnerships to market and you give these amazing options depending on the size and scale of the company they can actually choose. Now, do you have a few examples where some of these partnerships work and could you take us through some of those examples? 

Stephen: Yeah. So here’s our first say. I think a really important thing going to this is understanding who the person is that you’re working with the other company understanding what their motivation is. For me I often work with lots of you know, I’ll work just based on my wall work with product leadership at a company or the BD leadership or the marking these you could be very different in terms of who I work with and I think generally when you have more segmented you understand where people are coming from. For me and for Outreach like there is and there’s a huge ecosystem or a huge group of people that you’re working with your general appointment back to me somehow and for me, it’s important like I roll up on the market like I’m under marketing and I work really heavily with products. I’ve said I might be internally that reach out. 

Of marketing and so for me I’m less worried about specific opportunities that come in like Revenue opportunities to come in like maybe a BD manager would like were there they care a lot about like the specific opportunities that can drive from Partners now do I track that and do I like those? Absolutely, but for me I care a lot about how big of a marketing opportunity this is. I guess this is a company’s brand that if I’m aligned with I will get more awareness. Or from me and from probably saying I care a lot about what the customer needs and wants and has asked for and so we build in focus our operations there. So sorry. I don’t know if I had answered a question. For me I know what my motivations are. And so I think getting on the same page is very helpful with these Partners. 

Nikhil: Yeah, it was actually perfect. So you always have to look at integration opportunities as a BD of opportunity and that is what a lot of businesses lack. What I feel about partners is that there are a lot of companies that build these great partnerships, but they lack that acumen to take it to the market. 

So, understanding that every integration acts like a BD opportunity as separately which can generate its own revenue stream is actually a great advice. So thanks Stephen for that brings us to a close of this podcast. So before I let you go just want to understand if our listeners want to reach up to you, what is the best way to reach out? 

Stephen: Yeah, actually I think generally the end of the season, hey follow me on LinkedIn. But yeah, but go ahead and take me on the kids were actually really bad with my LinkedIn messages and maniacal about my email and so I would say feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if there’s something for us to connect on deeper get see if you get a bunch of you my email via LinkedIn and then that’s the way they actually think everyone’s An email or trade agreement but start start with LinkedIn.

Nikhil: Awesome. And the last question. What are your goals for 2020. Personally, I understand you know that you’ve got a great development in your family. But what about your professional goals for 2020? 

Stephen: Yeah. Keep my baby alive on the personal side. That’s I think that’s that’s next. Yeah professionally. I think we really got a lucky start where we have an ecosystem that’s growing around. A lot of interest from a lot of companies for working with us. And I don’t know if we’ve done a great job yet really scaling some of our efforts and in part of that means honestly creating barriers to working with us so that only the right companies are coming through the door. My 2020 goals are very much focused on how do I scale myself? How do I scale my team to focus on the things that matter.

Nikhil: Excellent goals for 2020, Stephen. Thanks a lot for joining us on another episode of Limitless Podcast. And I’ll see you soon. 

Stephen: Thank you. 

Nikhil: That was Stephen Farnsworth from Outreach. Interesting episode there and really good insights given by Stephen. There are some of the key points that I really liked were, you know, you have to find out about your GTM opportunities available before integrating with your partner because these GTM opportunities help your platform as well. Align your goals with the level of support that is offered before integrating with a partner. 

If you are in SMB integrating into a big Market or an enterprise product be prepared to do all the heavy lifting in terms of go to market strategy and promotions. The value delivered to the partner customers is directly proportional to the support offered by them. And always you get integration of opportunities as business development opportunities. Thank you everyone for listening. 

We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Subscribe to our channel for your daily dose of quality learnings and insights into the world of sales and marketing.

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Sanjana Murali is a Marketing Specialist at Hippo Video. She is an award-winning blogger, one of her articles on “Customer Success” was selected from worldwide participants and won her MVP 2019 award. She has learned the knack of ranking her blogs and website pages in the 1st result of Google Search from her 6+ years of writing and marketing experience. She is also the host of #Limitless webinar and podcast series at Hippo Video. She loves to talk about branding and marketing with videos. An eternal writer, words are her lifeline.

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