App Marketplace Strategy

Make it hard for Platform Partnerships teams to ignore you

Hugh Durkin
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There’s a common misperception that App Marketplaces and their partner ecosystems are small, elite clubs. Many newcomers to ISV partnerships believe an intro to the C-Suite at Salesforce, Meta, Atlassian, or Shopify is the first step towards a successful partnership with them. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let me explain, with a little help from a man from Shopify.

The App Marketplace “head” is larger than you might think

Most mature App Marketplaces are big. Where big means the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of customers through one marketplace, but where big also means there are thousands of apps and integrations listed in them. Shopify recently pushed past 13,000 listings in their App Store. App Marketplaces are getting bigger and bigger by the day.

Atlassian, Salesforce, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, Intuit, ServiceNow, Autodesk, Zendesk, Zoom, SAP, and Oracle each count over 2,000 apps and integrations listed in their App Marketplaces. You’re probably wondering about HubSpot - they recently pushed past 1,500.

That’s a lot of products, and a lot of people involved in the process of building them. Every app or integration is developed and launched by a team of engineers, designers, product managers, product analysts, product marketers, partner managers - for starters.

It takes a village

There are also tens of thousands of people “selling” those apps and integrations every day, tens of thousands of customer service reps helping customers find, install, and use them, and tens of thousands of agenices supporting all of the above. That’s a lot of humans.

So I hate to break it to you - on its own, one relationship with one C-Suite executive won’t make your partnership successful. It takes a proverbial village.

With tens of thousands of people involved, and tens of thousands of products in play, one relationship simply can’t be a starting point for a successful partnerships.

So, what can?

Let me steal some words from Brian Peters, Head of Platform Partnerships at Shopify. He recently joined Tai Rattigan on the fantastic Groundwork podcast, and was asked how partners should approach getting started with platforms like Shopify.

Make it hard for them to ignore you

In his own words:

No one’s going to like to hear this answer, but the first way is to make it hard to ignore you… you have to do all the things that are going to help grow your company that you would on Shopify versus off Shopify.

By “all the things” Brian means the non-negotiables every partner must do to scope, build, and market an app or integration. No matter who you know, or which C-Suite intros you think you might need, you’ll still need to do each of these things - and more:

  • Talk to your customers to understand their pain points, use cases, and need for an app or integration
  • Read and understand API documentation to know how to build that app or integration in the right way
  • Read and understand the requirements of each App Marketplace, its associated programs, and the listings within them
  • Get early versions of the app or integration into the hands of alpha/beta users to understand whether or not it creates value for them
  • Create a launch plan for the integration from product marketing, to internal enablement, to Product Hunt, to email and social campaigns
  • Set up tracking and analytics in the right way to understand how customers are using the app or integration, why they’re using it, and the distribution effect of it

Starting with a C-Suite relationship won’t remove the need for any one of these. You’ll still need to do all this - and much more - to build a successful product and partnership. But when you do, the effort you made becomes more tangible more quickly.

Customers always decide

When you do the basics right customers will speak highly of the app or integration, and place their votes for it through ratings and reviews on App Marketplaces. Sales and support teams will speak highly of it because it’s closing deals for them, and because it’s easy to support with high quality documentation available through a high quality App Marketplace listing.

Platform partnerships teams will see a new signal on their internal dashboards, telling them the app or integration is growing quickly and earning great feedback and reviews. You’re on their radar. Before long, they’ll reach out to talk about co-marketing campaigns, market development funds, and more. This is when and how special relationships get built.

All because you made it hard for them to ignore you.

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