Quote: “For now, I need to take a month or two and drive value to TJ and his team and not ask for anything in return.” - Christopher Vigmond
Coming off of an enormous series C, and a rebrand, we have Clearco (formerly Clearbanc) and their Agency Partnerships Lead Christopher Vigmond. Along with Chris is one of his top producing agency partners T. J. Jones, Co-Founder at EmberTribe. TJ and Chris have been partnered for 2 years now, but things really took off when they started working together to refine Clearco’s partnering process.
In this episode, we uncover:
[00:07:54] The state of Clearco’s partner program
[00:13:23] How much of a factor did partnerships play in Clearco’s series C
[00:15:01] Partner enablement at Clearco
[00:19:55] How TJ justified hours into partnerships
[00:23:32] Activating partnerships for Clearco
[00:33:30] Types of partnerships that work well for TJ/EmberTribe
[00:39:04] What’s next for sales/marketing partnerships at Clearco
[00:43:06] Closing remarks on partnership best practices
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[00:04:38] Christopher Vigmond: [00:04:38] Thanks for having us, by the way, Alex. It's It's great to be on the show here. Three words just a little bit less than that, but a data driven partner program is how I would describe the Clearco agency partner program.
[00:04:50] Alex Glenn: [00:04:50] Awesome. Yeah, we had a little bit of background about what's that a, what what's happened, what you guys have done? I think it's very interesting, very unique and very mature. I would say from the programs that we talked to, I think you guys are very mature in the way that you handle partnerships in the way that you create that transparent.
[00:05:08] Enablement process that we're going to talk about today on the show with us is one of your top partners. Let's get a quick introduction to TJ and then we'll go back to Chris about the program. So TJ, who are you? What's the agency name and give us your top five tech partners. Sure. Yeah. Thanks
[00:05:24] T. J. Jones: [00:05:24] for having me, Alex.
[00:05:25] My name is TJ Jones. Co-founders here in tribe and we're performance agency that we've you know, primarily working with software as a service brands, as well as e-commerce brands for their leaving the partner which growth. So we've been doing that for the past five years. Spent hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend for our clients profitably and are yeah, really, really excited what's happening within the space particularly around e-commerce and some of the brands.
[00:05:53] And so when we're working with a brand, you know, brands typically have different needs. The biggest need primarily is funded. So that's where Clearco comes in at. They've been a huge you know, partner of ours since, since the beginning of the product and the product development of clear insights think about any anything a direct consumer brand would need to be functional and operate.
[00:06:14]That's what we, you know, we have partners in our partner program for that. We also, you know, and, and, you know, one thing I'm most excited about dovetails nicely with Clearco is that eventually when these brands, when we grow them, they eventually want to exit their business, excuse me, exit their business and potentially sell.
[00:06:34] And so we, you know, we have our integrated intermediary partner for that as well. And so what we're trying to do with the brand is not just to be a marketing partner or growth partner, to direct campaigns, but bring on partners who have, you know, ancillary services or complimentary services or products or or tech products.
[00:06:55] They can also help the brain
[00:06:56] Alex Glenn: [00:06:56] grow as well. Yeah. And you used to be a director of program development. So you have a little bit of experience with sorry, partnership development. You have a little bit of experience with sourcing and enabling partners, which is great. So you've been through it on both sides.
[00:07:12] Now you have a fully functional. And successfully commerce agency and you're leveraging partnerships to help your clients grow at every level. And this partnership with clear co it is very unique because of Clearco's business because of what you are. You're not an email solution, you're not a CRM, right?
[00:07:31] You guys provide the access to capital for TJs clients. So very unique. So I want to get into that real quick so we can help our audience understand what to take out of this, what to really apply to their business. But talk to me about the partner program today, if there's any tiers to that program and how you work with your agency partners.
[00:07:52] Chris, I love to so
[00:07:54] Christopher Vigmond: [00:07:54] just taking a step back here We I've been at the company leading the agency channel for about two years. And so if you think about how the agency channel mixes with our core product, which is marketing capital, there's a natural fit there, right? We will give companies more capital and the agency is going to help us effectively deploy that capital.
[00:08:11] And so we've had really good relationships have been more informal. And less predictable and sustainable. Basically starting back in 2019. And so what we realize is, is around September, October of last year, we were like, listen, we have technology that we can leverage for the agency channel as well.
[00:08:30] Not only can we underwrite companies to provide them marketing capital and inventory capital. The coolest thing is that we can underwrite these businesses and then also have agencies connect their brand accounts to be able to make very, very strong matches based on data between e-commerce brands and our agency partners.
[00:08:50] So if you think about it, the port, the really program went from, Hey, TJ, I have a brand, here you go. And. Maybe the close rate was like 10% because I wasn't exactly sure on what TJ could execute on or what was really what he was looking for. Maybe it was a brand, which he was like, I don't have experience with this type of brand.
[00:09:07] And so it was more informal. There was a lot of wasted hours in the process on my side. And so when we started to leverage data and I could go to a brand and say, Hey, Brent, a, do you want. Me to introduce you to an agency that has proven and scaled companies in your category on the channels that you're spending at your spend amount at your growth rate at your average order value.
[00:09:29] Do you want me to take all the things that we know at clerical about your business and match you with an agency who has proven success in scaling companies just like that? And there was an overwhelming the resounding yes, I definitely want to meet and agency based on data. And so that's really where the program takes took off where it was like, Hey.
[00:09:47] I went to my agency partners and ever tried was such an early adopter of this. It was like, Hey, connect your portfolio of accounts. We will underwrite those portfolio and understand what, where your strengths are and what types of brands that you guys like to scale, spend them out and stuff like that. We will match you with brands on the other side of the marketplace or the partner program that are looking for people just like your agency.
[00:10:08] And so that's really where it was things launched off and it was like, I could finally report up into internal stakeholders internally at Clair co and say like, Hey, listen, I can guarantee and predict and forecast that I'm going to be able to do this amount of revenue this year for the company, because it's finally based all on data.
[00:10:24] And so we had a much better idea of where we were, where we were going and what it was going to take to get there. So it's just a little bit of a background on the step it took. And really what I found was a secret. When I built this, it was like just leveraging my company strengths. Technology and having our AI.
[00:10:41] So leveraging our AI to build a very, very strong program.
[00:10:44] Alex Glenn: [00:10:44] Wonderful. Yeah. And I'd like to get a little bit more insight around how you define personas. That would be those that you can lean on for this type of transaction. So the agency is now in between Clearco and the brand, or at least you're trying to insert the agency.
[00:11:02] So first talk to me about the persona, who it is, why you looked after that persona. And then I want to talk a little bit about internal conversations and how you sold upper management, or maybe upper management was already on board or the directors, or even the investors. How everyone talked about the, the potential for bringing agencies into these sales.
[00:11:23] Christopher Vigmond: [00:11:23] We've unlocked one type of agency and we've fully unlocked it. And that's the performance marketing agency. And that's why every tribe has been such a strong partner of ours. And if you think about it, it's very simple, right? It's that performance marketing shops, they are paid and rewarded based on what they can do and what they can spend.
[00:11:38] And then the return that they're able to get all that spend. So it is a very natural fit and it's like we can two extra three X your budget as an agency and under 24 hours. And you will be able to scale that client much stronger. So that's the persona that I'm working with currently. I would love to unlock them some more and that's what we're, we're building out right now.
[00:11:57] But what we have unlocked is that performance marketing category and real quick on, on clear coaches raised our series C and one of the big things. When we were going through that process was their ability to have a flywheel effect with our brands. So a brand takes capital from us, and then they want a recommendation from us.
[00:12:17] And we can recommend based on data that TJ and his team, TJ can spend that capital much more efficiently than they would do with an in-house marketing team, because scale that company quicker to where we can deploy more capital to that company. So, if you think about it, it's benefiting us in terms of Clearco obviously we get paid our 6% flat fee on capital, and then it benefits TJ.
[00:12:39] Cause he gets net new business to be able to help scale that brand. And he has a routine or built in with that as well as performance metrics. And then we help the brand. We can scale your company quicker and more sustainably when you're, when you're matched with the right partners. So internal stakeholders.
[00:12:53] I love it, but what was even more interesting was when we were raising our series C, they were like, listen, you guys have you, it's so cyclical. You can do all of these things and they will keep coming back to you and you'll keep introducing them to partners based on data. That's going to help them scale their business.
[00:13:08] So. That was super cool to see. We're just fresh off raising our series C and to hear that feedback from the investors was super encouraging. Repeat
[00:13:15] Alex Glenn: [00:13:15] that for me, if you can, TJ, just the last part. And under this context, how much of a factor did partnerships play in the series? C
[00:13:23] Christopher Vigmond: [00:13:23] the series C you played a massive part of nip because we also do have a product that's in pilot right now called buy now pay later for B2B services.
[00:13:31]And so for an example is if I do refer a piece of business over to Amber tribe, That brand and the agency has the option to be able to take that six month contract where they're getting paid monthly convert that we will pay for that monthly retainer upfront to TJ and his team and the brand can finance that retainer through clear coal.
[00:13:50] So I'd say we went from being a. One product organization back in early 2020 with just having a mark, our merchant cash advance our marketing capital product, and now having inventory having buy now pay later, having this, this partnership ecosystem, where we can deploy capital effectively with our partners and continue to reap the benefits of that by them continuing to come back.
[00:14:12] So it had an absolutely instrumental effect in us raising our series C.
[00:14:16] Alex Glenn: [00:14:16] Yeah, that's important to hear, I think for those founders and some of the board members that are listening back to TJ now, right. We want to hear how this all relates in an agency's business. This is the important thing about this podcast, TJ.
[00:14:28] So it's, it's very crucial for partner teams to understand. Yes, Clearco has a product that is used in some way, shape or form in an agency's routines with clients. They know what the product is, but really how does that. Bolster your services. How does that play a role in your day-to-day conversations with clients?
[00:14:49] Where does it fit in? So can you maybe talk to us a little bit about how clearco works to enable you to sell more services, how it works to bolster more services? Do you have retainers on top of it? How does it fit into your
[00:15:01] T. J. Jones: [00:15:01] business? That's a great question. Come from agency, world. You know, I didn't plan on starting an agency, but it's something that me and my business partner, we saw a need in the marketplace to be more performance driven.
[00:15:13] And so when we started in 2015, that's what we started out doing was thinking about this from a performance perspective. And anytime you start having a performance conversation at all, it gets back to data. So Clearco you know, we were having to manually get access to accounts and look at. Trailing, you know, six month run rates and, you know, to help better forecast for the accounts now with their product.
[00:15:37] Well, we're, we're basically able to do is get in there, make an assessment. If it's someone we can help very quickly and then help with forecasting. You know, even on a first call to come in with real data, real numbers to say, here's where we think we can help. Here's where we think we need to be able to go to be able to here's what we think we need to do to be able to achieve these metrics.
[00:15:59]That's a really. Interesting first call, if you have with someone rather than just like, kind of doing your typical budget need or a budget authority, need timing, questions that are typical and like, you know, sales processes. It's like, we don't really subscribe to that at all. We come in and we have access to data where we can see very quickly.
[00:16:20] This is a brand. We definitely believe we can help scale and here's how we can get there. And if you're a founder on the other end of that conversation, that has to be very refreshing because you know, in a world where a lot of services based companies are, are always pitching. We can kind of come in and, and really let the data.
[00:16:39] You know, speak more so than, you know, the types of
[00:16:42] Alex Glenn: [00:16:42] services that we offer. And let's, let's stay with you TJ for a minute. I hope you don't mind, Chris. We've got an expert on the line, so I want to make, I want to get a lot more from TJ, if you don't mind. So TJ couple of factors, there, there are competitors to Clearco there's other.
[00:16:57] Opportunities there. I want to hear from your perspective, what you really loved about clear coast program about maybe even Chris himself about the people inside. What makes you want to double down on Clearco? As your partner for this endeavor for the service for this way, that you're going to work with clients on top of the funding.
[00:17:18] And then after that, let's talk a little bit more about in general with other partnerships, some of the do's and don'ts, but talk to me real quickly about
[00:17:25] T. J. Jones: [00:17:25] sure. I mean, as a founder myself I can tell you, they take very seriously the ability to. Taking non-dilutive capital or funding down to founders who might not be able to, to raise around or do something like that.
[00:17:40] So you're, you're working with, you know, they're, they're, they're they're funding founders who primarily wouldn't have access to capital in any other ways. And they're kind of democratizing the flow of capital within different industries. And that's really attractive to us because when we started, we're wanting to work with a group.
[00:17:57] We wanted to work with founders who were underserved, who didn't have access to this, that, you know, my, my story is I grew up in a city that, you know, it's not a major metropolitan city. There were no investors there to speak of. There were no, there was no access. There were no resources. Right. And there's hundreds and thousands of people just like myself that are out there that Clearco is funding.
[00:18:20] You know, on a daily basis. So that was very attractive us. And then, you know, and that, that really meshed well with, with our source. So, and then when, when insights came out, when they, the new product developments are happening, that's when we really, really got excited because we saw a way to position what we do in a very, very different way than maybe your traditional, you know, agency would position their services.
[00:18:43]And so that's, you know, that between those two things of being able to also focus on founders and founding teams and using data to make decisions, it just became a no brainer to want to partner together to, to keep serving growing e-commerce
[00:18:59] Alex Glenn: [00:18:59] brands. Got it. So it fits a need the product itself. That's what I'm hearing.
[00:19:03] So from that first sort of check box there in the partnership itself, you have been in it for two years, you know, there's a lot of things that have to happen. There's a lot of other check boxes that have to be there. Communication, obviously the ROI of the partnership itself, not just the product. You have to spend time with a partner.
[00:19:24] You've got to do things. You've got to be places you've got to learn. You've got to train your team. There's resources being expended. So. On top of just using Clearco and referring it and maybe getting some commission, it sounds like you're a lot deeper into the partnership. And we're going to talk about what that is on the data side and on the portal side.
[00:19:42] But talk to me about what you do and how you kind of justified those hours and that time. Going deeper with the partners clear co yes. But pull on any other examples that you have. Yeah, I'd
[00:19:55] T. J. Jones: [00:19:55] love it. I mean, we can talk about exit planning and things like that with some of our other partners, but I can't stress this enough.
[00:20:03] Like with this existing partnership, the like Chris mentioned earlier, it's like the ideal customer profile matches up. They're using Al they're using, you know, Algorithmic data to feed in what companies are going to be really good. A match for Ember tribe. Tribe has a very specific sales process that we have here too, too.
[00:20:25] Actually tell people if we can help them or if we cannot, which seems to be a big missing piece in the marketplace right now with when brands are working with agencies, it's like, how can you determine if you can give this brand a lift and revenue and what bank Clearco's product does is, is help us solve that problem quicker.
[00:20:44] So that on first glance on looking at their data, we can have a really good sense. Hey, is this a brand that we feel like we could two to five backs in the next 18 months? Or do we feel like this is a brand that we could, you know, 17 X and the next 24 months, it gives us tools to be able to do that. So the fact that we were both aligned with kind of the, the need that founders had and they were building.
[00:21:12]Tools and products to the service that once we realized that we were, we were kind of all in around that. So that that's, again, that was the most attractive piece of the partnership is, is less about the rev share and more about, you know, when, when everyone wins, because really who needs to win is the client.
[00:21:30]It's not about clear-coat, it's not about Ember tribe. The client needs to win. The client needs to the founder, needs to be able to grow and scale their business. And ultimately they need to surround themselves with people. Who can actually give an informed decision if that's possible. And so for us, it starts with like looking at their unit economics of their business.
[00:21:47] You know, you have a product that sells for $200 and your gross margins are 20%. And your repeat purchase rate is 2%. Well, whether you use Ember tribe or another agency, it's going to be really hard to get growth for you because your unit economics are just fundamentally. Upside down versus if you're working with a brand who, you know, has 70% margins and a repeat purchase rate of, you know, 50% and their average order value is 190.
[00:22:18] Well, there's some really good data points to say this is going to be a very successful brand. And so what it allows the founder to, you know, to understand is like, oh yeah, I have something here. It's something that can definitely start scaling and then start taking additional offers. You know, from Clearco as the, as new revenue gets generated through both
[00:22:39] Alex Glenn: [00:22:39] teams.
[00:22:39] That's great. That's a great answer. So the client has to win clear co and the partnership seemed to be focused and aligned on the same thing. You're making sure that every new introduction, every new implementation, every new. Nah, just recommendation in general, it's all for the client's best interest.
[00:22:58] And so in the program, since this is partner enablement, we have to talk a little bit about some of the things that go on some of the things you do together, too. Talk about your partnership to clients, to talk about your partnership to Clearco users. Co-marketing co-selling, we're going to talk a little bit about the data and the partner portal itself, but back to Chris, if you don't mind, TJ, I want to hear a little bit about some of the activities that you do, Chris, with your top partners, like TJ, to make sure that.
[00:23:27] More activity is coming out of the program. More stuff has happened for sure.
[00:23:32] Christopher Vigmond: [00:23:32] So I've always thought this since jumping into the partnerships official partnerships, sort of a job description a couple of years ago is that like the input does not equal to the output. And so what I mean by that is it's very manual.
[00:23:43] You have to continuously have meetings with partners to get them, to send an email to their client base or to bring them up in a conversation on the QBR with their account management team or, or whatever it may be. Right. And so. What we decided to do is to flip that and to automate everything. And so what I mean by that is now.
[00:24:03] Instead of having a, getting a need to bring us up in conversations in terms of financing your e-com clients. It's like, Hey, listen, why can't we just insert ourselves into these presentations with your clients in terms of offering, maybe as an example, maybe TJ offers Hey, with package a, we can deliver this amount of top line revenue in the next six months, or package B with an extra a hundred thousand dollars.
[00:24:25]Here's where we think we can take your business. So really integrating us into their, into their. Current client process and the meetings that they're already having, how do you get into there to automate that? And if they're interested, there's an automatic link that they can go through. They don't have to bring me into the fold to say, Hey, here's a warm introduction to Chris.
[00:24:42] And then I pass them off to a sales rep internally and all that kind of stuff. We decided to automate all of this. So that. DJ does have a client that he thinks is a good option for us. He can send them through the cold branded page, which will automatically trigger on our CRM custom communication to go out to that brand.
[00:24:59] And then it will be distributed to a specific sales rep that has a specialty in dealing with a brand like that. And that is familiar with Amber tribe's clients. So I feel like automation has been a huge piece of this. On a current client piece. And then also in line with that is if you have a co-branded page that will lead to automatic distribution of the accounts internally, and then I'm hands off with that.
[00:25:23] We can start to insert ourselves into sales process as well. And so TJ keeps mentioning insights and benchmarking. What that allowed us to do is really Really scale are really the relationship because for TJ he's like, Hey, listen, why don't you, why don't you link up to our friends over at Clearco because they're going to be able to tell you how you're doing in comparison to people in your category, or we'll be able to prior to call one.
[00:25:47] So that's what DJ does extremely well is he leverages their insights and benchmarking tool because. If you think about the way that agencies onboard clients, maybe culture or culture, you they'll get an audit and then they'll go call three or call four. They'll present a plan with us prior to call one, you have full visibility into their growth rate.
[00:26:04] What they're spending on what channels you have, their average order value, lifetime value, their current cost to acquire a customer, their current role. And so you could start to formulate a sales pitch prior to even call one. By having access to our tools. So I think input equals output is like, Hey, if you can automate the majority of that to have that, it'd be just as effective as if you were doing like a warm handoff.
[00:26:27] That's what allowed us to scale and focus on other ways of adding value to each other's organizations is. Let's automate the referral process. It's very easy. Let's just automate the referral process. So we don't have to be involved in it. Let's go plan for bigger things like we've been doing with buy now pay later.
[00:26:40] I love it.
[00:26:40] Alex Glenn: [00:26:40] I love it. So just the seamlessness of it all. Just the ability to, for the agencies to trust in the process of I'm going to put that partner here, they're going to be treated with a custom experience that has my brand. It's not going to go to a salesperson that doesn't know that I'm. With that client, that, that is my client.
[00:27:02] So it's not gonna be taken out of my hands. Essentially. Some of the fears that partners have when salespeople get involved is that they just don't know that that partner is with that client. You know, that it's not associated. Sorry, Alex. I
[00:27:14] Christopher Vigmond: [00:27:14] just wanted to say really green point. There is like, that was also a piece that TJ was.
[00:27:19] Wanting to make sure that I was on top of his like, Hey, listen. Yeah, that's great. If we, if we do have the code branded content that we can just sign them up and it's seamless, we need them make sure that your sales team, as you had alluded to Alex, there's not just hounding my clients. Like they signed up for insights and benchmarking.
[00:27:33] They didn't sign up to get 10 calls a day to take capital from. Right. So that was another trigger is like once we did automate it, making sure that the right emails were being sent out to say like, Hey, here you say some benchmarking is populated. Your offers are in the portal. Let us know if you want to jump onto a phone call.
[00:27:48] And make it that seamless because at the end of the day, our partners are super important to us. And we do not want to inundate their clients with messaging when that's not the messaging that they were getting from, from our partners. So I just wanted to touch on that quickly.
[00:28:01] Alex Glenn: [00:28:01] So so let's put the the tires on the road a little bit and maybe talk about a couple of scenarios that, you know, TJ, if you can pull from a couple of recent or just.
[00:28:11] Some of the best scenarios where it really worked, you know, so Chris has been developing this program. Clearco has been putting all of these automations and processes together for partnerships. Let's talk about the timeline and maybe go through a couple of the stages where you started to put clients into this mix.
[00:28:29] And then it really started to work. Well, talk me through some of that timeline and some of those examples,
[00:28:34] T. J. Jones: [00:28:34] I guess the most recent one I can think about is, you know, we've had two deals go to market. And when I say go to market, I mean, they. They've sold to an investment capital groups. And so some of, some of those groups or some of those folks that get surfaced inside our portal and then we see them.
[00:28:49] So literally we can talk to an a brand, you know, maybe they're, let's say sub $5 million brand understand what they're looking to do grow them over the next 12, 1824 32 months. Then introduce, you know, another partner, like I mentioned earlier and I I'll just name, drop them global wired advisors out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
[00:29:11]We specialize in, you know you know, mid market types of transactions for, you know, digital businesses. So product based companies any, any business that's you know, maybe on marketplaces or are selling directly through Shopify, you said the platforms. And so that was a really good example of a successful, you know, we, one partner made an introduction that partner was able to grow the account to a sizeable rate where it made sense since for an investment, they came to take notice.
[00:29:39] We introduced them to our investment banking partner or intermediary. Who wanted to take them to market. And then they, you know, they eventually sold the business for a really nice multiple on on their EBITDA value. So. Just, that's a really good success story of like when it, when it works really well.
[00:29:57] Alex Glenn: [00:29:57] That's great. So the process for you, I mean, how important is, is just having that trust level, that blanket of sort of security with these clients. You're working with some really major brands from what I hear. So there's a lot at stake. Right. So when you're about to put a brand into a partner's hands, you know, how much emphasis do you put on all of the, all of the different factors of the partnership and are there some things that are maybe from a worse or less refined partnership that you can pull on where you can say, this is what happened?
[00:30:34] That didn't work. And this is why we really love making sure that the process is refined and how we look at things. Anything on those notes, just what, what the process is like and how, how it could go wrong, I guess.
[00:30:47] T. J. Jones: [00:30:47] Yeah, no, I have a lot of thoughts on that, but cause it's, it's making assumptions about, you know, how each person views the world.
[00:30:56] Right? And so we have to really dig in and understand what assumptions sometimes founders are making about their product. I talked to one founder the other day said, Hey, as long as you guys come in and are, you know, 70% you know, 30%, 30% or below my marketing spend, you know, you're going to grow my company with 30, less than 30% of my overall revenue being associated with marketing.
[00:31:20]And so you can do that, right. I was like, sure, we can do that. But I'm really glad you told me that, that that was an assumption that you had, that you only wanted to spend all in. 30% or more of your revenue on actual marketing. That that was not uncovered, you know, for, until like the third or fourth call.
[00:31:38] So it's really important when we're working with, with brands and working with other partners is. To really understand what's sometimes what the question behind the question is, and really dig in to really understand that. That's why we, I mean, I think the data-driven approach is the best because it doesn't really you know, it's, it's very black and white, you know, either you have something that is viable that you feel like you can scale up because the unit economics and everything works in your business or you don't.
[00:32:06]And that's what I love about. You know, one of the tools that clinical provides is getting those level of insights earlier on makes both part it's, cause it's a win for both because we don't want to do shoddy work or the brand not get as much value from it. When there were some assumptions earlier on that we could have uncovered.
[00:32:27] So, I mean, that's how we use the tools they provide, but also it's like also direct, clear communication around what the expectations are for growth.
[00:32:36] Alex Glenn: [00:32:36] I love it. Thank you very much for that, TJ. Yeah. It's an important to understand. I mean, you've been through the gamut. You seem like you've had a pretty robust career in this space.
[00:32:45] You've been a partner development manager. You've run an agency. You've seen both sides. You understand how. Technical. It can be and how difficult it can be. But on the same token, I'm sure you do have those partnerships that you never touch a PRM. You never deal with any software, not a lot of data going back and forth, but it just works for whatever reason.
[00:33:05] You guys co market together, co sell a few deals and it's you liked the people and it's less about the software. So there's both sides. I think Clearco's definitely far on the right where everything's buttoned up. I want to mated. Systematized, and it's really working from that standpoint. But there is stuff on the far left that can work as well.
[00:33:22] So it's always good to hear kind of what happens and, and, and what types of programs that you do
[00:33:30] T. J. Jones: [00:33:30] that helps. I mean, at the end of the day that the client has to win. So what is this ideal customer persona that both brands have. What are they going to really get out of this? And so if it's core, if it's value added content Producing content, if it's you know, gating content, then maybe only people that only have access to certain criteria meet some exclusivity or something like that.
[00:33:53] So, yeah, there's you know, there now that's opening back up you know, doing in-person things that are specific to each partnership, I think is going to work well for us as well. But yeah, I mean, we, we've stuck with you know, co-branded. Meetups co-branded you know, live sharing and the ability to kind of get in it's really about unlocking new audiences with these partners.
[00:34:14] So how kind of fun an entrepreneur who, you know, is an eCommerce entrepreneur who wants to take on capital, who also needs that capital run their business. There are there's, there's lots of folks in the, in the ecosystem to be able to tap into. To reach them accordingly and all of us have different sizes of audiences.
[00:34:34] And I think that's, you know, I liked that the Clearco's kind of came in and taken authority in charge of the space and said, and kind of democratize the funding. Process through it all. Because that, that that's been one of the limiting factors for early stage brands is not having access to capital.
[00:34:53] So yeah, it's, it's been a great
[00:34:54] Alex Glenn: [00:34:54] partnership. Yeah. Tons of alignment there. And I'll come back to you in a minute with this question. TJ, but advice for partner managers, what not to do when things go wrong around. Simple things like communication, what they force on you certifications even, you know, I've, I've heard things like some companies won't even do a lunch and learn until the entire agency signs an NDA.
[00:35:16] So think about things that just don't work for your agency that caused roadblocks in the partnership discussion that caused things to fall through the cracks. So think about that for a minute. I'm gonna go back to Chris with some things that you have. To make sure are in place, making sure alignment's there.
[00:35:32] And then going through the process of setting up your new agencies and getting them into this system, what are the minimums there? And then how do you go about getting them from zero to expert trusted whatever your final status is? Yeah,
[00:35:46] Christopher Vigmond: [00:35:46] I think like you sort of got at this a little bit in terms of prepping TJ there, but like a lot of partnerships.
[00:35:53] It's like give and take, right. And you will not be able to give anything until you take. And that's a lot of partnerships it's like, yeah, this sounds good. Let's find a deal. And it's signed and it sits there because no one wants to take the first step in terms of activating a net new partnership. And so one thing that I found was super effective was, Hey, TJ, what do you want in this relationship?
[00:36:13] And how can I help you the best outside of access to capital for your brand, for your founders? What is it? How can I add value to you, Chris? It's a net new business against my ideal customer profile. And so literally just saying, and managing internal stakeholders and just saying to people, Hey, listen, I need to take a month or two here and just drive value to teach in his team and not ask for anything in return.
[00:36:38] And that's really how you take it from zero to one in my mind. And with my program, that's exactly how it's been. The a few weeks of, of interviews with agencies, understand what the value prop was. And my value prop is, listen, I can help you guys to drive net new business acquisition. And so that's how I get all of my partners from zero to one, one to 10 is we have the first agency partner onboarding call and we establish fit.
[00:37:02] And if there's a fit, you go into active management, active management means right away. We're going to serve as brands to you to show you that we can drive value to you immediately. And that gets everybody internally at all. Agencies are years perked up. Oh, Clearco actually, they refer to as a brand already.
[00:37:20] And we actually talked chatted with them two days ago. And so making sure number one, it's very overt. What your value add is, and it's very concrete. It's like, this is how I drive value. And you can start to action that obviously people internally at agencies, excited to start making moves to help refer business or cold market or whatever it may be.
[00:37:39] And it also gets the ears perked up with other agencies as well. That listen, instead of spending a hundred thousand dollars a month on, on LinkedIn ads or Facebook ads to acquire a new e-commerce brands that can partner with Clearco and they can do that for me and help me with that. And so that's really how we've built this program is like, Let's hit pause on the current program around September, October last year.
[00:38:00] Let's understand exactly what we're trying to solve for, with our partners, which are our customers. If we're at the end of the day, right? TJ is my customer, I, in my partnerships role, how do I make my customer happy? And we found out what that was, and we actually did. So that's how I get. All of my partners from zero to one, and then also continuing to deliver on that value prop takes them from a one to 10.
[00:38:19] Alex Glenn: [00:38:19] Well, this is where everything kind of happens, you know, in these first 90 days of the partnership, that's where things can either work really well and progress. And you have some deals close, hopefully in that time, but at least all the training happens. Onboarding happens is excited. Partner team all knows the agency.
[00:38:40] Chris, one more thing in that whole process is the sales team and the marketing team where they get involved in the partnership at clear coast. So if you have a new agency that can do a lot for the program, that has a great brand, that puts out great content that is maybe somewhat of a subject matter expert in the space and a thought leader.
[00:38:59] What do you do next related to sales and marketing? For this top tier partners. So
[00:39:04] Christopher Vigmond: [00:39:04] just to confirm if, if an agency's on my radar, which looks like a great and natural fit, sort of what are my next steps?
[00:39:10] Alex Glenn: [00:39:10] Yeah. I'm just thinking about the top tier partners that, you know, can do a lot for Clearco as a brand, especially your program, there's sales and there's marketing that have.
[00:39:20] Obviously some play some place in this whole conversation, some place in the strategy. Just talk to me about when and how, and if you pull in people from marketing, people from sales, how you guys have those conversations on the
[00:39:31] Christopher Vigmond: [00:39:31] marketing piece, we host a once a week called partner pulse where we put the spotlight on either a new partnership that we've just launched or a successful partnership.
[00:39:41] And we chat. Although various items that basically we can help both of our founders. And so incorporating more of a marketing flair once, once the relationship is established is extremely key. You can only go so far with lead sharing and stuff like that. You're going to need to get social proof out there.
[00:39:57] And that's where we bring in marketing all the time. If we start to run campaigns, targeting each other's ideal customer profiles, whether that be on any channel. So that's how I would bring in. My marketing team, my, my sales team how I bring them in is they're the ear to the ground, right? They're the ones working with these brands and understanding who these brands are working with to drive their paid acquisition.
[00:40:18] And so I would say that's more top of funnel for our sales team to say like, Hey, are you currently working with an agency? Oh, what agency is it? X, Y, and Z. Okay, great. Well, I'll put them in the system and we'll see if we can establish a relationship with them. And so I would say marketing sort of cakes, you are top partners and giving them a voice and a voice, a co-branded voice with clear co whereas sales is more like top of funnel.
[00:40:40] Hey, keep your ear to the ground in terms of like, if you're hearing about. One agency's coming up on multiple calls. We probably want to have a discovery call with them. And so that's more top of funnel.
[00:40:49] Alex Glenn: [00:40:49] Got it. Very cool. Yeah. This is important, especially bigger orgs. And how many people is clear-coat today?
[00:40:54] Yeah, we're
[00:40:55] Christopher Vigmond: [00:40:55] just about three. I think we might've surpassed 300. Why being so big? EWAS over. This is because we've gone from two 50 to somewhere in and around 300 over the last couple of weeks, we had 27 people start two Mondays ago. A half of those were in. Dublin, which oversees all of Europe. And then some of them were in Sydney, Australia that oversees APAC.
[00:41:17] And so that's, we have 150 people on the
[00:41:19] Alex Glenn: [00:41:19] sales team alone, especially larger sales apartments. It can be, it can be tough to get them involved in partnerships. Have you struggled with that as a program at all? Just getting other departments involved, having some sort of strategy and process. It's for sales and marketing or has it been culture fit?
[00:41:37] Everything's good. Yeah. I mean, when
[00:41:39] Christopher Vigmond: [00:41:39] you scale this quickly, Alex, it's, it's incredibly difficult. Probably one of the biggest difficulties in scaling this program is as the management of the sales, they have numbers they need to hit, and we have aggressive target that our organization, our team is so focused on hitting those targets as well as they should be.
[00:41:56]And so when you started to bring up partnerships, it's almost like a, it's almost like a fly flying around in their head where they're trying to SWAT it away. Cause they're trying to focus on hitting their targets each and every single month. And so, yeah, it has been a struggle with the conference struggle, but it's a good struggle because they are, they're willing to help out with partnerships and I'll pitch partners and things like that.
[00:42:14] But at the end of the day, you have to tie incentives into it, right? Like if you're going to be selling capital and you have a certain amount of a certain target that you need to hit, I need to align my incentives to pitch my partners in line with what your targets are, so that you'll take time out of your day to help my program.
[00:42:30] So yeah, to answer your question, it's a struggle, but as long as you're aligning everybody in terms of targets, in terms of incentives and all that kind of stuff, then naturally and cohesively, it does. It does mesh great to hear.
[00:42:41] Alex Glenn: [00:42:41] And then TJ I asked a question before going back over to Chris, but let's talk real quickly about some of the.
[00:42:49] Advice, but also just some of the things that you believe partner programs shouldn't do, shouldn't talk about shouldn't put into place, anything at all. So if I were to ask you what you know, your advice as a new partner manager, if I was over at clear coat anything you would say to me to make sure that I didn't know shit the bed well, I
[00:43:06] T. J. Jones: [00:43:06] mean, when you, first of.
[00:43:08] So that earlier, I was just thinking about, yeah, just not getting into a relationship that neither party wants to be in that it's not beneficial. You know, there will be months where it's going to benefit one partner more than the other, but if you're going to take the longer view of this and typically any partner that comes to you with demands is usually a red flag.
[00:43:26] Red flag for, you know, for our team. And so it's kind of a non-starter for us and, you know, have we lost business because of that? Sure. But we've kind of grown it in a sustainable way. And it's, you know, at the end of the day, we could to, you know, work with the brands we want to work with and you know, where it's mutually beneficial and we get to grow together and could we've grown faster if we, you know, probably would let partners twist arms or vice versa, like sure.
[00:43:52] Like that's, that's the way the world works. Right. But. I think, you know, I don't know this, this is a little tidbit, but I mean, No, we started this company. We had small kids at the time and you know, now more than the last five years, six years, we spent more times with our families than we ever have.
[00:44:07] It's like, we're, we're never going to get that time back. And so it would've been a really tough six years if we would've just capitulated to demands of partners and mainly perspective clients, right. Or somebody like that. And so it's really important to know this side of relationship before any transaction amount changes, hand.
[00:44:27] Like what each person wants from the partnership. And so, again, it's just around honest and open communication, which you know, which we've respected greatly about from Chris and his team, which is why it's made such a
[00:44:39] Alex Glenn: [00:44:39] good partnership. At the beginning of that answer. You mentioned some of the roadblocks that have caused you to just.
[00:44:45] Stop the conversation. Some of those roadblocks, I imagine they're in line with possibly making you sign a contract, possibly making you sign a non-compete. I heard this from one major platform out there. They released a new contract to all of their partners that had a new non-compete in the contract, and they burnt some very successful partnerships with that contract that they sent out.
[00:45:10] Talk to me about that. What are some of the things that are just either red flags? Or non-starters. For you with the new tech partner, you
[00:45:18] T. J. Jones: [00:45:18] know, being able to forecast, you know, what is going to happen to the future is almost, I mean, nobody has a crystal ball. So when you get into the world and non-competes and things like that, it gets, it gets tough because no, nobody can, can see like what, what the figures are gonna hold.
[00:45:33] But so like for instance, we'll have, you know, partners come to us and say, yeah, we want to work with you as a partner. Can you fill out this RFP to get into our proposal process? And it's a a hundred page document, and I don't know about you all, but I've never met someone who's ever actually won an RFP.
[00:45:47] I'm sure there are people who win them and I've just never met them. It's just because it's long laborious process that ultimately you don't know how it's adding value. So like, you know, we have, maybe this is where you're getting at, but. Yeah, we have kind of a strict, like no RFP policy here where it's like, if a partner needs us to submit long documentation around things, like it's not worth it for us because we're already starting the relationship kind of on our heels.
[00:46:11] And it just, you know, that, that, that doesn't fit with it.
[00:46:15] Alex Glenn: [00:46:15] Perfect example large RFP processes or any RFP for you is, is that non-starter that you mentioned. Okay. I know where you are. Just getting to the hour. So I want to wrap things up, Chris, anything that you want to say before we jump, we've answered all the questions that we came here to answer, but I'm going to go back to you, Chris, for any final words about a partner enablement or just things that came up while TJ was talking there.
[00:46:42] Christopher Vigmond: [00:46:42] Yeah, for sure. I think this lock cast is great for maybe like a junior partnerships person to, to understand sort of pain points and maybe pull up some common themes. Yeah. If I could say one thing, it would be find out what value you're driving to your partners. And, and if we execute on that and you will have a ton of strong partnerships, partnerships in my mind is a yes, you're creating a moat.
[00:47:06] Creating value for the businesses, but it's a revenue driver. You're are here to drive revenue for our organizations partnership. And so, as long as we understand that, and I understand exactly what TJ is looking for in the relationship. And you relentlessly go after that, you should have a ton of success in partnerships and your sales team should be listening to you and your internal stakeholders should be loving.
[00:47:25] You're doing cause you're going to have a long and successful career in partnerships. So. Again, just finding what that value add is. And for us, it was data-driven recommendations and providing insights and benchmarking upfront prior to call one. But they'll just be when I worked at the wise of any junior partnerships, people listening to this, this great podcast is just understand the value you're being asked to drive and then drive that home.
[00:47:44] Great advice,
[00:47:45] Alex Glenn: [00:47:45] TJ, anything
[00:47:46] T. J. Jones: [00:47:46] we missed really enjoyed you. Haven't had an assault. Thank you.
[00:47:49] Alex Glenn: [00:47:49] Thank you both for being here, Chris. Thanks for helping set this up, TJ. It's great to meet you.
[00:47:54] T. J. Jones: [00:47:54] Thank
[00:47:54] Christopher Vigmond: [00:47:54] you. Bye .