We met David at Agency Connect, a cocktail party series hosted by the Cloud Software Association to bring agencies together to talk shop and build relationships with software partners.
Our host is Sunir Shah, CEO of AppBind, which makes it easy for digital agencies to sell more services to more clients by bringing the managing and expensing of subscriptions under control.
Thank you to David Fischer, Solutions for Growth, a marketing agency in Connecticut. They provide all of the marketing tools and strategies that businesses need, particularly small businesses, to let the world know why they’re great and why their market should be buying their products and services. They’re celebrating their tenth year.
Solutions for Growth works with a pretty large number of all different types of vendors to provide the services that our clients need. In particular, they have a really strong agency model. They sell one-time up-front strategic sales, but then stick the client by selling ongoing managed services around the technology.
I thought he’d have a really strong story to tell us about working with software partners.
Who has been the most disappointing software partner you’ve had?
We run cold marketing campaigns. We rotate in and out a handful of clients at any given time of the year. We use two vendors I’ll talk about.
Silence after the sale
Considering the amount of business that we provide them with, it’s remarkable how silent they are. There is a degree of excitement when we sign up with them. They tell us all the money that we can earn and how great their businesses. Then we don’t hear anything. It’s as if they are not considering us as a serious partner to sell their services.
We get paid very regularly, which is very nice for what we sell on their behalf. But if they use their own tools and reached out to us regularly to educate us and support us in terms of how to present their services to the market, I think it would be a far deeper, more meaningful relationship.
We never hear from them except for the automated email saying that there is money in our PayPal account.
Honestly, they are not always top of mind because being out of sight is being out of mind. You got to stay in front of your market. Nobody wakes up every morning thinking about your business except for yourself.
We’re actually their salespeople, but we don’t have any marketing support: no collateral, no case studies. We just have some basic information on the website. It’s up to us to go to the website to get some information and really wrap our heads around their program.
Sunir. That’s interesting. I’ve talked to a lot of these cold email providers, like Reply.io, Outreach, Apollo.io and Snovio. They are universally like this because, of course, they started off as sales teams. When they get to the partnership side, they’re all learning.
It’s not that they don’t want to support you. They’re interested. After all, the interesting thing about the cold outreach programs, though, is these are often extremely managed services by agencies because a lot of companies don’t have the wherewithal to run cold email.
So, even if you have clients come in and out across your client portfolio that’s an opportunity for them. If they supported you better, those cold email campaigns would last longer because just simply there would be more successes, and then you have more clients running on it.
Who has been the best software partner you’ve had?
My kudos have to go to Constant Contact. We’ve been working with them for nine years. We’ve been a certified solution provider of theirs for that time. I believe we’re one of the biggest ones in the country for them. Over the years, we’ve driven hundreds if not a thousand customers to them over the years, and I attribute that to the fact that we feel the love and they feel the love. It’s a two-way street. That’s something very meaningful.
Official, authorized partner program
They have had different degrees of support for their program. It has changed over the years. They used to have something called Complete Emails and they have something called the Authorized Local Expert. Now it’s just called Solution Providers.
But there is a team there whose main job is to nurture the relationship with their partners. There is an email twice a month telling us what’s happening there. There’s a quarterly webinar. There is a special email address for partner support. There’s a robust reporting system on the partner console. There’s someone available to talk to who is responsive. There’s a special Facebook group for Constant Contact solution providers that is monitored. You post a question there and within a few minutes you get an answer. So they really recognize the value that their partners contribute to driving customers to them.
In years past, they also had an annual conference that was fantastic. That no longer happens, but that was a very fertile ground to spread the culture of Constant Contact, to learn from other marketing agencies, to get to know middle and senior management at Constant Contact. So you end up drinking the Kool-Aid there because you’re there for three days.
Big commissions don’t matter
Constant Contact does show the love to their partners. And it’s really demonstrated both in their support, in their commission payments. It could be a little bit higher. But really I only have good things to say about them.
Any advice for software companies reaching out to you to become a partner?
I wish that question was posed by those vendors, because this is a very serious comment.
Ask me how we sell our services first
Most of them do provide some marketing material, but they never ask us how we sell their services–particularly in the time of COVID.
I have yet to have a vendor reach out to me and ask, “Hey, David, when you talk with a client, how do you talk about our services? What do you show? What do you tell them?”
Provide simple marketing materials
We would appreciate it if some of the vendors provided us with, for example, a three-page PowerPoint deck. Really simple. You can’t present 20 pages on Zoom, particularly to small business owners who have the attention span of a gnat.
“Do you need a one pager? Do you need a short video? What do you need, David?”
Lessons from Constant Contact’s Authorized Local Expert program
Sunir. Speaking of Constant Contact again, that’s another thing they were really good at. They actually ran seminars in person across 22 metropolitan areas in North America. They built a huge playbook of material and collateral, which they didn’t keep to themselves. They gave it to all the partners.
Then they worked with partners to adapt that material based on their needs because they aren’t Constant Contact. They aren’t selling Constant contact per se, they’re selling themselves with Constant Contact.
It became a very efficient machine. Agencies became such big advocates of Constant Contact because the pitches got so good that you would start closing clients for your agency with the Constant Contact story.
Correct. That program that you’re describing in the 22 metropolitan areas was superb. I attribute a big part of our growth to that. I was part of what is called an Authorized Local Expert. We were certified which builds your credibility and legitimacy as a marketing agency.
Our job was to find the venues and get people in a room, like chambers and associations and libraries and so on. We’d get 15 to 25 people in a room to talk about email marketing, which was a self-selecting audience. You collect the contact information, you follow up with them, and then you have three new clients. That was smart.