Here’s the Strategy Behind’s Partner Ecosystem (It’s One Every SaaS Leader Can Follow)

Ty Lingley has built partnerships that generated millions of dollars in revenue for brands like Unbounce and Now he’s taking his lessons learned and applying them to objectives and key results (OKR) software platform In a chat with SAAS NORTH, he explained the strategy behind’s partner ecosystem that every SaaS leader can follow.

Key takeaways:  

  • Define business goals first, then see if partnerships will help you reach them.
  • If you choose to invest in partnerships, go all in.
  • Set up infrastructure like content and relationship management to attract and maintain partners.
  • Don’t be afraid to set up tiers and cut low performing partners so you can focus your resources on investing in winners.

After building partnership programs at and Unbounce that brought in millions in revenue, Tyrone (Ty) Lingley is leading partnerships at, an objectives and key results (OKR) management platform. He’s been named one of the industry’s top leaders to follow, and has worked with global companies like Google on partnerships. Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Ty shared how he’s building’s partner strategy - and the framework he recommends to any SaaS leader looking to grow revenue with partnerships.

Step 1: Define what partnership means to you

Like any good strategy, Ty recommends starting with the end in mind, focusing on desired  business outcomes over a 1-3 year time horizon, regardless of partnerships. Once you understand a business’ key objectives, discover how partnerships factor into the equation and what correlating investments the CEO and board have committed to.

“There’s a difference between saying you want partnerships versus having a team, a program, and ingraining partnerships into your company culture,” said Ty.

In order to truly embed partnerships into company culture, the entire organization has to be accountable for partner success. He shared the example of Microsoft, which tracks how much its partners earn compared to every dollar it earns; being a "partner-first" organization, the more the better. It's this mindset that has enabled CEO Satya Nadella to create a 300,000 strong partner network that influences 95% of Microsoft's commercial revenue. The company always strives to have partners earn more than Microsoft earns from the partnership, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella regularly shares how partners are doing financially from their work with Microsoft. 

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Step 2: Know what kinds of partners you want and need

Ty said that partnerships at consist of three partner types:

  1. Consulting partners who provide OKR-related services upstream to their customers,  creating healthier accounts more likely to renew and expand. Examples here include OKR boutique consultancies, HR/Agile coaches, and larger management consulting firms.
  2. Technology partners who Integrate OKRs and into the tools teams use every day, creating stickiness and more active customers.
  3. Strategic partners who may be either of the former types, but carry more weight in the mutual investment and potential outcomes of the partnership. These partnerships usually have a longer time horizon, are more complex in nature, and require multiple executive relationships in order to bear real fruit.

Step 3: Make your investments and place your bets

When it comes to partnerships, Ty likes to make table stake investments and strategic bets in order to realize the full potential of his function.

An investment, said Ty, is when a partnership initiative or priority has become table stakes For example, OKRs are a companywide scorecard and in order to know the score accurately and in real time, you need to integrate into people's existing workflow so as to not add more calories to their day. Building integrations with Technology Partners is table stakes and makes the appropriate investments in order to meet the integration demands.of our customers.

Bets, on the other hand, are opportunistic in nature, and attempts at "skating to where the puck is going," said Ty. Where will our customers be making investments and spending time in the future? How can we enhance that investment with unquestionable value?

In Ally’s case, the Salesforce ecosystem is a prominent example of a bet. The Salesforce ecosystem holds many ideal customers who are currently underserved with goal management functionality. With that in mind, investing in a partnership with Salesforce including building a deep, two-way integration, means a huge potential upside if a compelling storyline of value is delivered and conveyed to that ecosystem.

When it comes to partnerships, Ty likes to make table stake investments and strategic bets in order to realize the full potential of his function.

“It’s about taking a bet that the problem within a certain ecosystem is large enough, that we can solve it, and that there’s a gap we can fill,” said Ty.

Step 4: Set up your partner infrastructure 

Underpinning the success of your partner partnerships and programs is infrastructure and process. Ty said it’s critical to be intentional about your partnership "stack" and that means selecting the right tools at the right time for your partnerships.

Here's what's partnership stack looks like:

PRM software: Ty uses PartnerStack to handle Ally’s partner management.

Account Mapping: Ty uses the market leader in Crossbeam to find overlapping prospects, open opportunities, and customers with partners in order to drive GTM activity.

Partner recruitment and activation: Ty uses Partnerhub to discover new partners and accelerate the GTM process with them.

Partner directory software: Ty uses PartnerPage to give his partners more exposure and the ability to generate inbound interest for their products and services.

Internal education: Ty uses Highspot to house internal education and enablement materials in order to scale partnerships through various departments at

Step 5: Invest in partners that invest in you 

When it comes to scaling up a partner program, Ty recommends three ways to invest in top performing partners: shared OKRs, growth paths, and “partner-first” signals.

Shared OKRs: This is a quarterly planning exercise with partners that puts a stake in the ground as to what you're committing to and how you'll actively measure and monitor your success. It's all about accountability.

Growth paths: Some may call this tiering, it's essentially incentivizing your partners to move up the food chain. In return for increased performance, It might be larger cash rewards, increased co-marketing activity, or more service opportunities with customers.

"Partner-first" signals: these are overly communicated commitments that differentiates your approach to partnerships from others.

To illustrate a powerful "partner-first" signal, Ty shared the example of Shopify, which recently
announced that App Partners won’t have to pay a commission fee to Shopify on the first $1 million in revenue. This, said Ty, is a huge commitment to partnerships: the company is very clearly saying they invest in partnerships so much that they don’t even need to take revenue from you for the first million dollars - they are confident it will spur greater innovation and development and drive more value to the ecosystem at large.

The partnership game is in its early innings

Despite having over a decade  of experience under his belt, Ty explained that the partnerships game is in “its early innings.” While this means there’s a lot of room to grow, it also means the job of anyone working in partnerships is to further the maturity of shared vocabulary, best practices, and tooling to get the function on par with other GTM departments like sales and marketing - there isn’t a well-worn playbook to follow, but it’s accelerating fast.

“Partnerships is an often misunderstood function, but there’s a huge opportunity for those who get it,” said Ty. “The SaaS companies that do get it right will be on the right side of the ecosystem revolution we’re seeing take place with partners at the center. It just requires foresight, strategy, and commitment to flourish.”

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