The "Circles" strategy

in Agency-user and Tech company-user on

It's one thing for you to be partnered with another company. However, it's exponentially more valuable to increase your presence in their ecosystem by partnering with anyone and everyone in that ecosystem that specific partner already partners with. 

That's what we call a "Circle." 

Think of a "Circle" as a group of people (not org's) within your partner program who have the same goals - whether that's a customer persona target, getting value from a large confernece they are attending, or maybe exist in the same city...

The term "Circle vs Rows" originated in church actually. 

It relates to the strategy deacons and preachers use to get their congregations closer to one another - therefore increasing participation and attendance (retention) each week. 

If a preacher simply talks to the rows of people each sunday, they will have active attendees who sit up front, but inactive (one a month tops) attendees who sit in the back. Those in front meet each other weekly, share phone numbers, and help each other be consistent with church. 

Those in the back never get close to anyone because they rarely attend, sit in a different spot each time, and have little incentive to get close to the other church-goers. 

However, IF the preacher holds roundtable-style meetups (think AA meetings, sunday schools, book clubs...), they are putting those rows of people into circles, where they can talk to each other and even look at each other as opposed to at one person every week. 

This practice increases attendance, retention, participation... and therefor revenue (more donations). 

My suggestion to partner teams is to practice this. An example from HubSpot is their "Hug" meetup events hosted by a local hubspotter in any city wherein they bring together other hubspot users in their city to discuss strategy, new features, pain points etc... HubSpot goes a step further in their program by introducing new partners to veteran partners in a mentorship sort of capacity. This practice ensures that if any partner is being pulled away from the program, or falls inactive, they probably have at least one or two others (besides their PAM) to pull them back into the program.

Creating "circles" (vs rows) within your partner program can increase program success early on

Watch and read this to learn how to increase activation and retention inside your partner program. Here's the gist:

  • You have agency and tech partners.
  • They have partners within an ecosystem (i.e. HubSpot, Shopify...).
  • Why would you go back to straight-line connections instead of creating the stronger and more flywheel-enabling Circle?
  • Land and expand... As you strengthen your partnership with one of those org's, your name will start being mentioned more on their calls with the other partners and you will get much closer, and therefore more value back from, that ecosystem.
  • Also, reduce partner attrition, introduce your service partners to one another, and try to get them into partnership discussions with a platform you integrate with that provides value to the services that the agency sells.
  • Finally, bring a group of partners all focused on the same ICP together to run the routine below (watch the video)

How to execute this strategy: 

Find a core ecosystem partner (i.e. a top partner in one ecosystem like HubSpot or Shopify), and instead of the uphill battle of activating that busy larger organization...

Find out who they also partner with, and develop those "Konnections." The GTM with those connected partners as a group.

Then, run this routine (last half of the video after I talk about why co-selling is difficult): 

  1. Determine an easy first group of partners (~5), agencies and tech, in one ecosystem, who are all selling to a niche ICP (i.e. D2C shopify stores in EMEA under $25M annual revenue...). 
  2. IF you are using Partnerhub®, you can simply go to your top partner, then scroll down their "Konnections" tab, and see who on that tab you are also partners with, open their profile and see if they have the same ecosystem / size / vertical tags as the other Circle partners you had in mind. 
  3. Create a sheet or Airtable base, or "Circle
  4. Start an email thread with these partners explaining your plan and inviting them to a call to strategize. 
  5. Anyone who's in after you review with them, create a recurring calendar event (once a month) wherein you will all bring; 5 customer leads in the focus persona, 1 co-marketing opportunity, and possibly a budget to spiff the other partners' salespeople for referrals... 
  6.  Review the new leads for those who have them as a customer, or want them as a customer. 
  7. On the first call, or once a quarter, create a Memorandum specific to that Circle documenting it's purpose, promises made, goals... 
  8. Exchange offers specific to each lead (i.e. "I'd like to interview the CMO of that company on my podcast. Can you introduce me under that context?"). 
  9. Review the leads exchanged on the last call with discussion around the stage, who can help with alternative points of contact, possible offers... 
  10. Ask these partners to post a blurb about your company, and keywords to listen for on customer calls, to a Slack channel your sales and/or CS team are in so they know when and how to mention your product or service. 
  11. Relay this info to your CS and Sales team in a matter of your choosing (you have unlimited teammates in Partnerhub® so feel free to invite them there).
  12. Keep the Circle going and if anyone fails to bring value, replace them. 

What you will find if you execute this routine well is a lot more partner-sourced revenue. Your partners will be mentioning you more on calls... Customers you lose eventually get pushed back into your pipeline by your partners... Higher retention... 

Maybe even a hug from your CRO 😉

Here's a demo of the Konnections feature you may want to use to find your Circle partners:

Log in and start viewing your partners' Konnections now!