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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 189

January 30, 2024

#189 Katie Landaal: Building and Leading Successful Partner Ecosystems

In this episode of the Ecosystem Aces Podcast, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer at WorkSpan, engages in a conversation with Katie Landaal, SVP of Global Alliances and Ecosystem at ZoomInfo.

In this episode of the Ecosystem Aces Podcast, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer at WorkSpan, engages in a conversation with Katie Landaal, SVP of Global Alliances and Ecosystem at ZoomInfo.

During the discussion, Katie provides a detailed exploration of ZoomInfo's partner categories, which include technology, solutions, and sales. She emphasizes the significance of clear messaging and co-selling as crucial elements in fostering successful partner relationships, all underpinned by thoughtful leadership.

With over 14 years of experience driving enterprise growth, maintaining margins, and increasing revenue, Katie is portrayed as a dynamic executive. Her expertise spans technology, operational management, and business development, with a notable ability to align strategy with execution. Recognized for engaging decision-makers and crafting winning sales strategies, Katie is described as a goal-oriented strategist and a strategic powerhouse with a proven track record of maximizing revenue.

Topics covered include:

  • ZoomInfo's partner ecosystem and strategy - 1:35
  • Partnerships and collaborations in a tech company - 8:15
  • Partner integration and product development - 12:56
  • Partner marketing strategies and co-selling - 17:28
  • ZoomInfo's success and leadership principles - 25:02

Chip Rodgers  00:09

Welcome back, everybody to another episode of Ecosystem Aces. I'm really excited to be joined by Katie Landaal. Katie, welcome.

Katie Landaal  00:17

Thank you. I'm glad to be here. I know we've been going back and forth quite some time. So I'm happy we finally got to make this happen.

Chip Rodgers  00:24

Yeah, me too. And and we've been seeing each other at events and all.

Katie Landaal  00:30

It's just been right now with all of the different conferences and meetings and things like that. It's just been wild. 

Chip Rodgers  00:39

So, Katie Landaal, is SVP of global partnerships and ecosystems at ZoomInfo. And just so excited to have you on Katie, you have a big job, you've got a lot. A lot of things to take care of. And ZoomInfo was just such a powerhouse in the industry. Really excited to have you here. And I'm looking forward to chatting. 

Katie Landaal  01:11

ZoomInfo, definitely a powerhouse, and it's challenging at times. Because there are so many different aspects to our entire partnership ecosystem. But luckily, I have an incredibly strong team that helps and supports me, I couldn't do it without them.

ZoomInfo's partner ecosystem and strategy

Chip Rodgers  01:35

Well, that's great. Always important to have a good team, helping you and so let's talk about that. Katie, we could start there and talk a little bit about the overall landscape of partnerships with ZoomInfo. And, how does partnering fit into the strategy?

Katie Landaal  02:03

Well, traditionally, partnering just like we're seeing elsewhere has never really been a main focus or main driver within our go to market motion. And again, this is a common thing. Most of the time, partner ecosystems or partnerships are always kind of out on their own island. And, yes, they bring a lot of value. But, it was never really considered as a main pillar. What I love is that a lot of that evolution has changed over the last, especially 18 months. And ZoomInfo definitely has shifted gears to really put a lot of investment and our best foot forward into that partner ecosystem.

Not that we weren't before. But now we have even more focus on it and more leadership support, and so forth. So it's been great. So that's kind of how we do it today. It also affects everywhere, everything from our top of funnel, middle funnel and bottom of funnel, depending on the type of partner how we engage with them. And what type of relationship we may have. It can be a technology partner, it could be a solutions partner, or it can be a sales partner. So those are the three categories that we have within our ecosystem, which is pretty common.

Our technology partners, they include all of our cloud providers and the big names out there, we all know. And then it also includes any of ours since we're in the data worlds, also includes our MDM, and those relationships there. So the likelihood of Informatica, and Reltio, and Databricks, all of those and Snowflake, of course, which we have a very strong relationship with, they all are included within that category within the technology space, the other half of our technology group is essentially our ISVs or all of our product integrations. 

So we have a pretty rigorous process for that. We do everything from a connector to a mutual integration. So maybe it's, surfacing each other's products and each other's platforms in some way, shape or form. And then sometimes we take it even further than that, and sometimes there's some sort of white labeling or something like that. 

We did that in the past. I know, especially when we were trying to scale which again, most organizations do. We don't anymore. So everything we have is all rightfully ours and proprietary to us. But it is something that's always kind of talked about, at some point, most people approach us as well. So it's kind of fun. So that's our technology group, our solutions group that's specific to our GSI. Our SI is our consultancies all the way from the mom and pop shops all the way up into that enter International, the really large guys. 

The centers, the Deloitte, the Capgemini and then down to, like I said, the mom and pop shops, and we are revamping the way that we do partnerships there, we've always been highly successful, probably in the enterprise space. So you're looking at more of the larger firms. However, we've been also seeing that quite a bit more of those mid market or even SMB firms, they're just as impactful and fantastic partners to work with and a lot more nimble and quicker. So we are revamping that program as we speak, and kind of building that out into something that's better and scalable, and much more supportive of our partners versus kind of these ad hoc trying to push these things through each of them, and so forth.

So, that's really exciting to see, that's really starting to gain some traction and move pretty quickly. And so I'm excited to see how that grows over the next six months to a year. And then our last sales, we used to have a sales partner program, we had decided to actually pull that back a little bit, we saw that we have these channel programs that we just did not do well, quite frankly. And that was mainly just that we didn't have a good foundation, in order to operationally do it well. It was always on its own island, it was always kind of not pulled into the normal day in day out operations of the rest of the organization. 

So in this instance, we kind of decided, okay, we need to just pull that back a little bit, make it much more simplified, clean up the process and the experience for our partner, and then we kind of rebuild again. And what I mean by that is, we're just not doing any of the tearing, or get a certain amount of go to market activities with us, if you're at a certain level or things like that, I wanted to kind of take away from that. So that we could really focus on quality over quantity. And that's where we're highly focused in the sales organization right now. So we also have the affiliate program, we have the referral program, and that all kind of ties in together and sometimes we have partners that cross into all paths. So it just depends on the type of relationship we have with them. And whether we're doing some big huge go to market together or not.

Chip Rodgers  07:33

So just a few things going on.

Katie Landaal  07:34

Yes, a lot. Like I said, I would not be able to get any of this done without the incredible team that I have. They are all rock stars in their own right. And just, it's amazing to me the amount of stuff that they get done. So I would suggest anybody who you know, either an IC now, or is planning to be, it's great at first, when you're really doing ground up work. However, once it really starts rolling, you start to see that you clearly cannot be an IC anymore, and you need that additional support. Support is so important.

Partnerships and collaborations in a tech company

Chip Rodgers  08:15

Well, that's phenomenal. And I love to dig in a little bit, tech partners, services partners, and then sales partners, I'd love to dig in a little bit on the tech partner side, and you alluded to it on building solutions together, going to market together with your Tech partners. Talk a little bit about that process? Where does it come from? Are you seeing each other in the market? Or do you have customers that are asking and how does it all come together?

Katie Landaal  09:02

It's honestly a mixture of all of the above. Typically, if we start to engage in any real integration with each other's products we surface again, surfacing up in each other's UI. That is, usually because there's either a very strong market, ask for it, or there's some sort of collaboration that strengthens both brands, because it's a better together type of story. 

So that's where we see the most success. And most of the time, those are really long conversations, because there's a lot of work to be done prior. And then there's a lot of the post work as well. It takes all parts of the organization to have some sort of part into it, I would say. But the biggest place we start obviously, is we want customers first and we have to kind of gauge what's more of a priority. For our customers versus what's not. Sometimes some customers think that it's the most genius idea, however, and it could be we have to make sure we have to prioritize against the masses, almost what's most requested? Or what makes most sense.

Chip Rodgers  10:17

Because you repeatable as it's something that the market is. 

Katie Landaal  10:21

Yeah, exactly.

Chip Rodgers  10:24

So how do you do that? Are you connecting with your, I assume, with the product teams as well and sort of like, fitting the ecosystem roadmap? Within the product roadmap. 

Katie Landaal  10:39

So we work very shoulder to shoulder with our entire product team. And I'm sure some folks know ZoomInfo has quite a few different products within our entire suite. So we have different leaders on each of those pillars of products, which is fantastic. And we essentially meet with them regularly to make sure that we as the partner team are on the same page as the product team so that we're running all of the business aspects, right of that integration. And then they're only concerned about the actual work itself. 

The engineering development, the design of it, that type of stuff. So it kind of also frees up their time. So they're not having to get bogged down by what should the messaging be with marketing? Or where should we take this? Or how should we advertise this? Or how do we train our customers? And how do we train it internally, and all the minutiae of that of basically, product management falls mostly on our team with the help, of course of the product, product team and product marketing team.

Chip Rodgers  11:44

Interesting. So, essentially, you have some folks within your team that are, in a way, product managers, product marketers.

Katie Landaal  11:57

I would say that they act as a quarterback, so they really hold the relationship of ZoomInfo to that partner, as well as holding the relationship from the partner to ZoomInfo. So they're kind of that representative on both sides. And they're really more of the coordinator and making sure that all the little pieces are falling together.

Of course, yes, they are a part of those strategic conversations. And obviously have very strong input and so forth. However, at the end of the day, it's really up to the product because it's their product's decision. But we're just here to really facilitate and help and guide, the entire process so that it doesn't, fall off, or we miss things or we didn't think about a different angle, because maybe product is only thinking in one silo, who knows, we're kind of there to bring in more of the big picture and bring all the various pieces together.

Partner integration and product development

Chip Rodgers  12:56

How do you work with the product teams to make sure that, ZoomInfo, your product roadmap, you have direction, places where you're planning to grow? And do you have some sort of whitespace areas where you say, Okay, well, we're not going to go in this direction, we'll let partners kind of sort of protect that for them.

Katie Landaal  13:27

Interesting. potential conflict. Sometimes potential conflict, depending on timing, and how long you know it may take for that integration are what the case may be. Most of the time, what we try to do is, we obviously know where we're going long term our partners do not. So that also is the job of the partner team to make sure that it aligns with what our long term vision is, so that we're not wasting time. 

It might be great now, but not really great in the future. So it's definitely a balancing act. We have to manage our transparency, and strategy to our partner. But at the same time, we have to reserve some of that for our own secret sauce that we do on our own for our own things.  And every organization is like that.  We all have a little bit of that behind the curtain stuff. But for us, we do quarterly prioritization. So we try to prioritize that. We look at what everything we're doing internally for ourselves and for our own product, as well as what we've agreed to both between the leadership, product and partner and then slotting those in accordingly. 

And obviously, there's movement, sometimes some things get prioritized over others. And most of the time if that happens, it's because there's some sort of large market ask or there's some sort of strategic, go to market play that we have together, or something along those lines that it just makes The most sense for us to essentially, be married in the market, as I say. 

So that's kind of how we do it. But it's ever evolving. It's not something that's black and white, unfortunately. And that's what I think a lot of people don't realize there's just a lot of aspects to it. And you have to be able to kind of get a look at all the pieces right and really drive the organization to the right direction.

Chip Rodgers  15:25

Six or nine months ago when Gen AI sort of ruled everybody away like, Okay, well, let's reprioritize?

Katie Landaal  15:39

Well, the interesting thing about Gen AI is right. I mean, it's been around, this isn't a new thing, or at least AI, let me rephrase, AI has been around for a long time. Gen AI is just kind of the new, coined term out there right now. But yes, that is the top of everyone's mind, it was all anybody talked about at Dreamforce. And so I think it's interesting to see how a lot of different organizations are coming together and partnering on how to make each other better, while at the same time being better for their customers. 

But still differentiating themselves from each other. So maybe utilizing the AI in a slightly different way, so that it's not, impeding on that relationship or anything like that. At the same time, we're seeing a lot of tech consolidation, too. So with that, a lot of people are trying to pull it all together. So it's a very seamless workflow that flows really well into their organization that everything is very automated, because that's kind of right, AI, everybody wants everything automated and running right now. 

And so it's, again, a balance of trying to figure out what this looks like now versus the future? And how are we fitting into this, and, again, aligning not only with product, but our chief technology officer as well. And then, of course, talking to our CEO and president and on top of our entire go to market our CRO and things like that. So it's kind of getting alignment across the board and pushing in that direction, so that we stay within the guidelines that we want to be.

Chip Rodgers  17:20

So fascinating.

Katie Landaal  17:24

I literally could talk about it for so long.

Partner marketing strategies and co-selling

Chip Rodgers  17:28

There is so much going on. So you've sort of gone through the process, you've worked with product teams, prioritize, you're working with partners. And now you've built some solutions, got something that's ready to go to market. Let's talk about the go to market side, core marketing activities, aligning up those, events and other activities, campaigns that you have going on, and then getting into the co-sell side as well. 

Katie Landaal  18:03

So what I'll say to that is on the marketing side, I'm very lucky that our CMO is very partner centric, he loves partnerships, he thinks it's a great thing, and that it can do a lot of things not only for revenue, but customer satisfaction also, he does a lot for branding and messaging and content and all the things. And so it's great that he has allowed us or has created a team specific to partner marketing. 

So we have a team within the marketing organization that all they do, and all they work on is messaging, collateral events and then how does this fit into the rest of our marketing efforts, which is great. And so it's really nice to see that I think, for me, I've always said, It's better to have folks that are dotted line to you. Because they're more connected to what everybody else is doing, versus them going and just trying to have meetings to figure out oh, what is happening? Let me take this back. And then, it's a lot easier for them just to be part of the marketing team, for example, already know what's on the roadmap to already know what's coming up.

And they can say, hey, we have a partner that this might be great for, or hey, if we're looking for a speaker, we've got this partner channel as well, we have a ton of leadership support in and so forth. And so it's pretty interesting. I think that's the strongest way of doing it. And then when it comes to the go to market motion, you really have to find the right messaging, so that customers don't get confused on the partnership because you never want them to think, Well, why am I using one versus the other? Or why do I need to use them together? They're like, similar because they're all in the go to market, b2b tech stack. They're all Martex, they're all sales tax. 

And so that's where, it's really important to differentiate yourself and really make sure that that messaging is very, very strong, and very black and white as to what the partnership means, what it's delivering to the customer, and why it's important, in the market today, when you start making it too loose, that's where you get run into trouble, at least in my opinion, I'm a very transparent person, when it comes to our partnerships. 

What I've seen out there before is they're going to market and they're saying all these things, but it's a bit of a generalized statement. And then when you get into the nitty gritty, you've got your customer saying, well, that's not what it said. And so that's why I've, I really, truly believe in a very, very clear, direct message so that there's no confusion. 

Chip Rodgers  20:54

That is smart. You're right, there are so many. What's one of the challenges I think of partnering is that there are areas where it really makes sense to partner but there can be this whole competition issue, a little bit of overlap over there, and how do we make sure that we differentiate and make it clear to customers.

Katie Landaal  21:17

What is the partnership that we have? We are you know, this is not mixed in with this or whatever that looks like? I think messaging is key. For sure.

Chip Rodgers  21:28

So, then how about Co-selling, getting?

Katie Landaal  21:34

So co-selling is fantastic. When it works well.  Well, I think a lot of partners are well intentioned when it comes to co selling, but we all know, salespeople, I love you salespeople out there if you're watching this, but they're one track mind, it's hard for them, and it's no fault of theirs, it's hard for them to think about partners in their conversations, and Co-sell unless there's some sort of regular activity or regular reminder of what's going on, which is why I think, some of the tools out there today that have come out that are now surfacing that kind of information directly into Salesforce so that those sales folks can see it firsthand. 

It is phenomenal. And game changer. Because before there was a lot of this, Hey, I've got this partner that wants to talk to you, can you guys talk together, and then they all kind of don't know what to say. And they don't really know how to co sell or they don't really know what to talk about as far as their customers go. And so what's nice is now it's a lot of this, a lot of that automation is happening for them. 

And then they're coming more to the partner team to say, this was a great co-sell motion, is there any way that we can expand in this other area or this different segment or whatever that looks like? And that's where the partner team can help facilitate that versus us just being a receptionist? Or basically, let me connect you to this person. Let me do this.

Like it just doesn't work that way. I think also, Slack nowadays, too, has been great for co-sell, especially when you get two organizations together, as long as you have dedicated people, obviously, managing those messages and making sure that they're getting responded to and people are connecting and so forth. But it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Chip Rodgers  23:30

Slack Connect is pretty amazing. Because it just makes it feel like you're just part of the team. So that's phenomenal. And I agree with you, I think it's the sales teams, they have a hard job they do.

Katie Landaal  23:58

It's hard. It's hard to really think about Co selling, but I think, again, with enablement partners, and as well as some of those automations with tools that are coming out and things like that, it seems like there's a much better shift with Co selling. That's really cool to see. And I think as long as both parties are really, genuinely active in that and also dedicated to it, it can be really successful between both parties.

Chip Rodgers  24:23

And I think once things get sort of you're priming the pump and get the flywheel going. Some either institutional knowledge or whatever. This partner was really great. It's fantastic. Katie, this has been just, I mean, it's 24 minutes. We're already into this and I can't believe it. I feel like we've just barely scratched the surface.

Katie Landaal  24:54

I feel like literally in all of these different areas, I could just go into detail but yeah, for another time?

ZoomInfo's success and leadership principles

Chip Rodgers  25:02

Well, yes for another time. And, I'd love to maybe one last question or thought, you've been doing this for a while. And has there been anything like that? And now as you're leading a team, it's like, hands on. So what are the things that you as a partner leader that you help you convey to your team to keep them going in the right direction? Make sure that they learned from you. They've still got to learn themselves as well and make mistakes and all that. 

Katie Landaal  25:39

So I came early in my career, I was very much an IC and so it was hard for me to transition into full vulnerability here, it was really hard for me to transition to a leadership role some time ago, because I was just so used to doing it myself. And I was going and going and going, I was like the Energizer Bunny. What had happened, though, is, as well as I thought I was doing on my own, there were things that were falling off or not moving as quickly as they should have, because I'm only one person.

There's no way I would have to do it all on my own. And so, my career went on, and I started managing more and more people. I really learned it's more about delegation and prioritization and transparency with your team. So as long as they're on the full, same page as you and you're constantly updating them on either conversations that you're having with leadership, or externally, that maybe, for example, at Dreamforce, I have, debrief meetings with each of my leaders on my team to give them the rundown of who I talked to what we talked about, and just so that they know, we're all on the same page.

And I think that is really key to being a strong partner leader. And I think it's also you have to be very good at seeing, like, I'll keep going back to this, but the big picture, being able to pull all the different levers. So it goes in that motion or that direction that the organization needs to do, or the leadership wants to do. You're like the conductor of the train. And you're like trying to make sure all the little pieces work. So everything's running. It's nice. It's fun, too. It's a lot. It's challenging, but it's very fun.

Chip Rodgers  27:27

Delegation, prioritization.

Katie Landaal  27:29

Transparency. Those are probably my three top ones. 

Chip Rodgers  27:33

That's awesome. That's great. Great takeaways. 

Katie Landaal  27:37

No problem. Happy to help anytime. 

Chip Rodgers  27:41

So Katie, thank you so much for taking some time and sharing just all the incredible things happening at ZoomInfo. And, your personal journey as well and leadership principles. Really helpful. 

Katie Landaal  28:00

Not a problem. I'm happy to be here. Always happy to come anytime. And I will, I'll talk your ear off if you want me to.

Chip Rodgers  28:11

Great, fantastic. So Katie, thank you again, for joining. And thank you all for joining as well. And so I think with that, I'll say we'll sign off and say see you next time in another Ecosystem Aces. Thanks, everybody. Bye, guys.

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