For Partnership Leaders

Episode 11: Bridget Graf - How Partnerships Enhance Customer Value & Loyalty

Bridget talks about how partnerships enhance customer value & loyalty, setting expectations before starting a partnership & why you should get an MBA.


This week on The CoSell Show Podcast, we are delighted to have Bridget Graf, the Product Marketing Manager at CallRail, as our guest. 

 

Topics Covered:

    1. How Partnerships Enhance Customer Value and Loyalty
    2. How to Set Expectations before Starting a Partnership to Increase Success
    3. Why Getting Your MBA can be a Good Career Move

 

More questions for Bridget?

Brought to you by our host: Taylor Baker for CoSell.io

Listen & Subscribe

 

Apple Podcast   Spotify   Stitcher_Logo

 

Follow Along With The Podcast Transcript

Taylor Baker:
Hello listeners, and welcome back to the CoSell show. This week, we are thrilled to have Bridget Graf of CallRail with us. Today, we will discuss everything from how partnerships enhance customer value and loyalty, to why and when going back to school for your MBA might be a good fit for you. Thank you so much for taking the time, Bridget.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.

Taylor Baker:
Absolutely. So to kick things off, can you tell our listeners a little bit more about your background and your current role at CallRail?

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. So my path has been not necessarily linear, maybe more of a stepping across a little horizontally, a little vertically at the same time. Started my career at a marketing agency working on the technology side. I worked on mobile apps, actually. And then about a year ago, I came to CallRail as a product marketing manager focused on selling to marketing agencies. So, basically with the insider secrets I got from my previous job, I was able to understand the buyer personas and the pain problems and anything from the agency perspective. So now as part of that role, I run our agency partner program at CallRail. So anything from the marketing, co-marketing, as well as any of the sales enablement, all of that comes through me.

Taylor Baker:
Wonderful. I've actually found that a lot of my guests have had that sort of ... They're like, "Oh, well, I majored in marketing and now I do something totally different." Or, "My path has been all over the map." But we're taught in school, okay. You pick a major, you go to college, then you get a job and you follow this path. But it is not like that anymore, and that's actually a lot more fun.

Bridget Graf:
I didn't have an idea of what business was when I was in college. So now once I had a real job and I was realizing that there are so many different aspects to business besides just finance or accounting or marketing, it's much more multidimensional than that. I realized kind of what my niche was and how I could bring what I learned from undergrad and my journalism degree to my partnership job.

Taylor Baker:
So, one of our fun questions we like to ask everyone is what is something about you that our listeners can not find on your LinkedIn profile?

Bridget Graf:
So if my LinkedIn was like my Instagram, you would learn that I recently just got my motorcycle license. I'm trying to get a Vespa or a scooter and scoot around Atlanta, and I've wanted to have a high powered engine scooter. So in order to do that, I had to have a motorcycle license. So I did that a couple of weeks ago, and you can find me on the the mean streets of ATL on a Vespa in the near future.

Taylor Baker:
That is amazing. What color is your Vespa that you want to get?

Bridget Graf:
I don't know yet, but in the perfect world it would be light yellow.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, I don't see a lot of yellow ones. All right. So, back to the partnership side of things. As the product marketing manager at CallRail, what originally initiated the growth of the agency partner program within your company?

Bridget Graf:
So at CallRail, we actually did an industry analysis where we looked at our whole database and tried to have a better understanding of our customers and a little more personalization, because we would just have customers come in and wouldn't really know a lot about them and wouldn't market to them as a whole. And when we went back and we looked at the different categorizations of our customers, we realized that we have a lot of customers that are agencies. And not only that, but our best customers are agencies.

So we wanted to be able to further the relationship with our agency customers by offering a program where they can advocate for us, but we can also have some kickback and benefits for them. So that was kind of the genesis of the agency partner program. I started working at CallRail once it was already decided that that's what we were going to do. And I was assigned ... My first task actually was to launch the partner program. So I wasn't as much on building the business case side of it, at least initially before it launched. We've been in market since February, and we've been able to look back at the data that we've gathered so far for the partner program. And I've learned a ton about it, and they're just going to keep iterating on it, too.

Taylor Baker:
That's great. There was a Forrester study of 450 different companies, and 20% of the revenue of those companies was attributed specifically to partnerships.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. What we find with marketing agencies is it's kind of, especially with partners and resellers as a program, it's a really good way for us to have that one-to-many relationship. If we empower the partners to sell, the partners can sell to all of their clients or any of their clients that they think CallRail would be valuable for. So rather than us having salespeople for every single person that comes in CallRail, we can just have the marketing agency be able to manage that relationship. Especially with our clients, but also with CallRail. And we just find it's a much better way to scale our business.

Taylor Baker:
I'm really happy to hear that's working out for you guys. So, customers are the bread and butter to a company's success. How do partnerships add value to your customers?

Bridget Graf:
I think a really simple way that people focus on a lot, especially initially, is the kickback that you get. So whether it's a discount ... At CallRail, historically we haven't done any discounts I think period. But for our agency partner program we're actually about to launch a new discount for this upcoming quarter, which is very exciting. So, that's a really simple way to show partners that there is value. Any of the business that they're bringing is valuable. We also do a revenue share. So any new customers that a partner will bring us, we give them a percentage of that invoice back every quarter. So those two things are obviously monetarily valuable. Beyond that, we also offer co-marketing. So basically you get access to our database, you get access to our reach as an agency partner. So anyone that's like associated with our Twitter, our LinkedIn can see any kind of co-marketing with our partners, and they can start relationships that way.

Even just as an awareness play, being associated with CallRail is hugely valuable for customers because we're the market leader for call tracking. So all of the ways that we provide value, whether it be quantitative in revenue share or discounts, or qualitative in terms of social media or any kind of co-marketing campaigns. That is a really easy way for us to kind of build value for CallRail, but also for our agency partners and their businesses.

Taylor Baker:
So, CallRail deals mostly with reseller partnerships. Have you seen those relationships increase your customer retention?

Bridget Graf:
Absolutely. I actually just recently did a big data poll and analysis on our customer lifetime value for agency partners, and our customer acquisition costs for clients of agency partners. And what we found is that the retention for clients of agency partners is so low. It's not similar to any of our other customers. So our turn for agency partners is so low that it's one of the most valuable customer types that we have. And to maintain that relationship just means retention and stickiness of those clients for a really long time.

Taylor Baker:
That's amazing. You can't really hope for anything better in a business. Customer loyalty and retention is very key. So sort of in that respect, is there anything within those partnerships that are proving to be the most successful that is a through line that you've seen? Any best practices, or anything that seems to be working out and creating that sort of customer retention?

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. I feel really lucky because obviously I run the marketing side of the partner program, but I couldn't do it without my channel sales managers, what we call our agency partner advisors. Which are kind of a dedicated point of contact for any of our partners to be able to help with sales enablement, help with co-selling. Anything honestly that our agency partners need, our partner advisors are there for them.

So to have that one-to-one customer relationship with our agency partners has been hugely beneficial. Not only for us to better understand our customers, but also for our agency partners. To just have someone to talk to at a software company is sometimes really difficult to find. So to have someone like an agency partner advisor, I hear positive feedback on them all the time from our partners. So it's really nice for them to have that relationship with our partners, and to be able to I guess enable each other.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah. That's really great advice. There's not really like a checks and balances system. I've heard a lot that you really need, like you said, an a dedicated person or agent committed to that partnership and nurturing it.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. If I was doing it all by myself, I can't even imagine. I couldn't do it.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah. You can only be spread so thin. It's really smart that you guys have divided up and have like an individual agent for every partnership you have going on.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah.

Taylor Baker:
Wonderful advice. On the flip side of things, partnerships sound really good in theory. And there are a lot of benefits for sure that come out of them, but are there anything that you've seen people do wrong?

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. I think for us, the kind of biggest hurdle that I'm working on right now to get over is just setting expectations on the front end when people are joining the program. We don't explicitly call it a reseller program, so sometimes people join and just expect to be able to reap all of the benefits that we're giving, and there are a ton of benefits that are available to any partner. I think though it is important to establish it as a partnership, and it's a symbiotic relationship and it's not just take, take, take from either side. Right?

So something that I think we've learned from is just setting expectations to say, "Hey, bring us new business and we'll give you other benefits based on that." And I think those expectations sometimes aren't always set in stone or clearly explicit from the beginning, but it's something that's really important for our program. So I'm actually working right now on making sure that that is as explicit as it can be. Because the revenue won't come and the partnerships won't be everything that they could be, and mutually beneficial if we're not speaking the same language.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, absolutely. The symbiosis of a partnership is the foundation of it being successful or not.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah.

Taylor Baker:
I've heard a lot of stories of partners going into these engagements being like, "Oh, okay. Well, you are going to bring this great value to me, and I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride." That just works out poorly for everyone involved. One of the first things a company should really do is figure out what their assets are and what they have to bring to the table. Because any relationship in life, business or personal, you don't want somebody that just drains you dry. You want someone that adds value to your life, and you bring that value to them in return.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. Absolutely. We want to make sure that we're attracting the right kind of partners. Their business model fits with the reseller program, and they would love to have the relationship with CallRail to be able to say, "Hey, we're CallRail experts." You know, when they're selling to somebody new or when they're going back to their clients and trying to see if CallRail is a fit. So those relationships we've seen work a lot better, where people get it.

Taylor Baker:
So in that aspect, how do you actually ... I mean, are there any red flags you've seen from companies that you can kind of tell like, "No, they're not really going to pull their weight," or maybe they don't fully understand what's happening. Or is there anything our listeners could maybe look out for with seedy possible partners?

Bridget Graf:
It's not necessarily that there's any kind of quantitative or qualitative details that apply across different organizations that I could say. For us, I think it just depends on the conversation when you're doing discovery on whether someone should join the partner program or not. There are certain types of agencies that are just interested in getting more leads for their business, and we're not a lead gen engine. That's not why our program was built. So by associating with CallRail, you should get more leads, but it's a correlation. It's not a causation. So whenever people are really focused on either how many leads are you going to get me or how fast am I going to get revenue sharing, those things will happen, but that's not the foundation of the program.

Taylor Baker:
For sure. Well said.

Bridget Graf:
Thank you.

Taylor Baker:
So when you do find a potential partner, and the partnership is underway and it gets going, is there a way that you measure the success of that partnership? Is it purely revenue? Is it from consumer responses?

Bridget Graf:
There's a couple of different ways that I think we want to do it in the near future. Historically, we've only really measured it on new MRR, so new monthly recurring revenue that partners are bringing to us. Mostly because that's the easiest way for us to be able to measure it. Because I can track it in Salesforce, I can track it in our backend. I can't really track month over month growth. So it's difficult to say you get a percentage if you grow this much or anything like that, because the only thing I can really look at right now as a metric is new MRR. However, in the future I would like to be able to also measure any kind of growth based on upsell opportunities, growth opportunities. Right? If you're using more phone numbers, if you're using more minutes, you're using more text messages or form fills, there's lots of different ways that you can grow revenue that's not necessarily new MRR.

And I'd like to be able to have that available. Not only to us to be able to track, but also for our partners to find new ways to grow. You may not always have a new client that's ready to be brought onto CallRail when our agency partner advisors call you and say, "I'm ready to offer you help. We're co-selling, or anything you would need." Sometimes people just don't operate like that, especially marketing agencies. They don't just have clients ready to go. However, I think that it's important that we figure out other ways to kind of grow that revenue together and make it more beneficial. So if it's a new add-on that we're really saying if we want them to use a beta and they get special pricing once the beta launches as an MVP, anything like that, I think we could do a better job of. And I'm hoping to see some of those things happen in the future. But for now, it's new MRR in the future. It should be cross sell, upsell, upgrades, anything like that.

Taylor Baker:
Great. So I do want to switch gears a little bit. I know our listeners, including myself, have really enjoyed your partnership advice. But I want to pick your brain a little bit. You were discussing earlier that you have more of a journalism background, and now you're working in the more business and partnership space. I was just curious, like after years of being in the workforce, what exactly inspired you to go back to college and pursue your MBA?

Bridget Graf:
Oh, yes. That old thing. I'm just kidding. I realized that there's so much more to business than just what they teach you in undergrad, so I wanted to go back and become more of a generalist. I really have no concept of finance. I had no concept of marketing principles. Even though I was in marketing, I didn't understand the principles of marketing and the four P's, and any kind of corporate strategy, sustainability.

I had no idea what any of that stuff was, but I started to get interested in it and I didn't just want to teach myself. I do way better in a classroom setting. My character flaw is I kind of like school. I decided to go back and get my MBA. Especially as a woman. I felt like when I'm going to be later in my career interviewing for CMOs, CRO, CEO positions, I'd like to have that differentiating factor on my resume to say, not only am I qualified for this job, I have the chops to prove it and I have the education to prove it. So that was a big part of it as well, is just kind of setting myself up for a career longterm.

Taylor Baker:
Well, it's just a smart call. I've worked in an industry where I've met and/or worked with a bunch of artists. And they're incredibly talented and left brain focused and very creative, but they don't know anything about the business side of it. And no matter what you're selling, whether it's paintings or software, you have to know how to sell it. And I've seen a lot of careers just be dead in the water because they didn't take the time to know and understand the entire process. You can't just be one thing, like you do have to ... Especially if you're going to be the brand or the CEO of a company, you really do have to understand how at least on a basic level, how everything kind of works.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah, absolutely.

Taylor Baker:
So you mentioned a little bit, you know, as a woman I feel like X, Y, Z, or I need this. Do you have any advice for fellow lady bad-ass entrepreneurs that are working in business and partnerships?

Bridget Graf:
Something that I've really taken to heart is to always have a perspective. So if somebody asks, "What do you think about this?" I always try to have an opinion. Not even like an aggressive opinion or an unfounded opinion. I try to make sure all my opinions are good perspective and intelligent, and considering all sides and all that stuff.

But if someone asks for your opinion, I feel like you should always give it because they respect you enough to want to hear what you have to say. And even if someone isn't asking for your opinion, if you have a perspective or if you are thinking of it differently than other people, bring that to the table. I think that a lot of times women silence their inner thoughts on something or silence their opinions or their perspective because they just don't think that it's the right time or that anyone will listen, or anything like that. But if you're at the table, it's absolutely your right to be able to have that perspective.

Taylor Baker:
Oh. 100%. I sadly, for myself and other women I know, can say there have been many times where because we were afraid of hurting someone's feelings or them thinking we were saying the wrong thing, that we just were like, "It's easier just not to say anything." When more often than not, your opinion is not only valuable, but it is interesting and compelling and is something that men or women, whoever is in the room with you may not have thought of. Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing that. Do you have anything exciting coming up? Any thing you guys are doing at CallRail? Anything personal? Whatever. Anything exciting you want to share?

Bridget Graf:
CallRail is my life.

Taylor Baker:
What is a personal life?

Bridget Graf:
Yeah. Yeah. With an MBA, ongoing degree and CallRail, that's 97% of my time. But I can say for the agency partner program, we are trying to ... We are actually coming up with a promotion schedule. So every quarter we're hoping to have different promotions for agency partners, whether it's discounts or access to certain betas or special pricing, anything like that. We really want to work with and reward our agency partners.

At CallRail, recently we've expanded our offerings from not only call tracking but also form tracking. So any of the wonderful features and data and information and insights you get from CallRail [inaudible 00:18:45], we now offer for forms. So we're trying to be able to offer any way that a prospect interacts with your business to be able to track it with CallRail. So the product is growing and growing, and with that it's going to attract more agencies, more of our high value customers. So it obviously bodes well with the agency partner program as well, so we have a exciting Q4 and hopefully a really exciting 2020.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah! It sounds like you guys have a lot of stuff coming up. That's amazing. Congratulations.

Bridget Graf:
Thanks.

Taylor Baker:
I'm sure our listeners are going to have some questions for you about CallRail or about partnerships. How can they reach you?

Bridget Graf:
My LinkedIn is just LinkedIn/BridgetGraf, G-R-A-F. Twitter handle, It's just @BridgetGraf. My email is also just bridget@callrail.com. If you want to set up a call or ask any questions or anything like that, I'm more than willing to knowledge share because I wouldn't have gotten where I am without people that are smarter than me helping along the way.

Taylor Baker:
Bridget, thank you so much for your vulnerability and kindness and insights. I know our listeners are going to find a lot of value in everything you had to say. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Bridget Graf:
Yeah! Thanks so much for having me. I've enjoyed it a lot.

Taylor Baker:
And to all of our listeners out there, thank you for listening, and be sure to tune in next week for even more exciting co-selling content. Now, go get your partnership on!

Similar posts

We are about to enter the era of referrals and relationship-selling. Join our community.