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Are partnerships a good way to scale a SaaS business?

Answer by Manoj Ranaweera:

In Q4 2011, we made a strategic decision to take a partner lead approach, as we struggled to connect our product/service with existing business processes.


We went live with Buffer (Buffer your documents for increased productivity) in Dec 2011 followed by Zendesk (Enrich Zendesk customer service with centralised documents) in March 2012 and ended 2012 with 14 product integrations, some of which were build by vendors and others by third parties such as Cloud services and software from Cazoomi

In most cases, selection of SaaS apps for integrations were based on our use of the complementary product, e.g. we use CapsuleCRM (Export leads in real-time to CapsuleCRM for lead nurturing and conversion) as our CRM, and Zendesk as our Customer Support Desk. So these integrations are used by us daily as well as our mutual customers.

The second key reason is that these products extend value of our product further, as well as enrich the product we integrate with, e.g. We enrich Zendesk customer service desks with documents and improve call centre efficiencies.

In the case of Buffer, it extends our product by auto publishing documents on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.

Before we integrate with any product, we explore the value of co-marketing opportunity. For Zendesk and HootSuite, we issued press releases, joint blog posts and social media campaigns, which brings further attention to our brand and others.

In some cases, we have gone for brand associations. We were launch partner for Marketo, and our integration allows document leads to be exported to Marketo in real time for lead nurturing.

We believe our partner lead strategy is one of the three reasons for our growth in 2012. We ended the year with 250% growth adding over 50,000 user accounts to 20,000 we had at the beginning of 2012.

One aspect to bear in mind is that these integration partnerships do not necessary result in increased revenues, unless you have a sizeable team where you could allocate resources to market and sell joint offers.

Whilst these integrations helped to build our brand awareness, we believe, some of these integrations should actually generate revenues in 2013 for us. You need to work really hard to get value from these partnerships, so make sure you identify the specific value you want to achieve from partnering.

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