I’ve been reading a handful of celebratory announcements on social media highlighting the ascension of several agencies to Diamond or Platinum status in the HubSpot ecosystem.
This is an accomplishment, no doubt, and one any agency should be proud of but as HubSpot’s first Diamond Partner, I can assure you that status is no guarantee of success, nor is it a measure of an agency’s ability to perform.
When you think about it, partner level status simply means you’re handling a certain level of business with HubSpot as the marketing automation platform. It signals that you have acquired a certain number of HubSpot clients. The number required to achieve partner level status is not particularly high. Silver only requires $1,125 in monthly managed licensing revenue and that you sold the same $1,250 in licensing revenue. That means you can get to Silver by selling ONE nice Pro level client. That hardly qualifies you as an expert.
Gold is $2,100 in sold and $6,000 in managed. Platinum is $3,750 in sold and $20,000 in managed and Diamond is $20,000 in sold and $50,000 in managed. These tiers don’t take into consideration client satisfaction, leads generated, or actual business results delivered to clients. While it’s nice to achieve status, get your badge and be able to take advantage of the benefits of the higher tier, the impact on your business is going to be negligible.
Here’s why partner tier status means almost nothing to anyone outside your agency.
The Clients Don’t Know The Difference
I can’t tell you how many prospects have compared our agency to other lower tiered partners using the language like “We’re looking at some other HubSpot partners who are also Platinum Partners.”
Ok, first we’re a Diamond Partner and that’s higher than Platinum, but the agencies they were talking about were NOT Platinum, they were Silver partners. So, it’s obvious that the prospects and clients are just as confused as to the value of the tiering systems as the partners.
We’ve talked to prospects and asked them about their perception of the partners and the tiers and the consensus is that if you have a tiered ranking—you’re ok. There is no understanding of the different levels of experience. There is no understanding of what it took to get to be a Diamond level partner and there is no value associated with any of the levels. It’s very difficult to try and explain the differences to prospects during the sales process without looking like you’re selling or trying to make the other agencies look bad. It’s a very slippery slope and in most cases, we try to stay away from it.
Little do they know that a Silver Partner might have experience with one or two HubSpot clients and a Diamond Partner might have experience with over 100 companies. Clearly there is a significant difference and not many people are helping companies understand that difference. This includes HubSpot, who when asked for a partner reference, simply refers clients to their directory, with a wink and a nod—good luck!
The Benefits Are Few And Not Specific
What benefits do you get from being a highly ranked partner in the program? I’m not sure. I know there are some, but they are not regularly communicated, not promoted, not kept track of and we are not encouraged to take advantage of any benefits. Don’t read into this, I’m not complaining, and this is not a new condition for the partner program. We’ve stopped relying on any benefits and don’t expect anything for our Diamond status. I’m not disappointed because it’s been like this for so long. It’s great to be a partner, and great to be ranked highly, but as a smaller agency owner starts working to climb up the latter, make sure the effort is worth the reward.
There Are So Many More Important Goals To Be Achieved
I’m not putting the HubSpot Partner Program down, in any way. I’m simply noticing a disparate amount of attention focused on rising in the rankings vs. the true benefit I think agencies get from achieving that ranking. Focusing on so many other metrics, goals and rankings that to me are far more important and should be far more important to other inbound agency owners.
- I would be much more impressed with the agency who has figured out how to get four to five new clients every single month and has demonstrated their ability to do that for an entire year.
- I would be much more impressed with the agency who’s generated 20% net profit month over month for the entire year.
- I would be much more impressed with the agency who hasn’t lost a single client for an entire 12-month period. That is an incredible accomplishment.
- I am more impressed when agencies generate business results, leads, new clients and revenue growth for their clients. Stories, badges and rankings should be given out for this level of success and results.
- I am impressed by agencies who have received recognition from agency screening services like Clutch, G2 and Agency Spotter. Those companies call your clients, talk to them about their experiences, compare that information to your competitors and then rank you versus your competitors. Being mentioned as a top Inbound Agency, Search Firm, Design or Web Firm by these companies is a major accomplishment.
I encourage you to shoot for these types of successes, these goals and these accomplishments when you measure your success in 2018. I've seen too many agencies try to game the system by selling cheap retainers, getting the HubSpot credit, achieving their status only to realize a few months later that they have a ton of unprofitable clients that need to be fired or worse. Don't make that mistake.
Everything Can’t Be About HubSpot
Eventually, most agencies realize that they need more than just HubSpot to be successful. Then they realize that there are other marketing automation and CRM products that their clients and prospects are interested in. Now what? You can turn that business away, you can tell them you ONLY work with HubSpot, you can configure an engagement that has the client handling all the tech and you simply support the marketing and strategy. We’ve done all that. Most of that isn’t too pretty.
Then you start to consider other options, like being more technology agnostic. After all, there’s only going to be more technology deployed into the sales and marketing functions of a company. Technology applications across business are not shrinking, they are expanding rapidly. Being connected to ONLY one hardly makes sense. Now you’re looking at a handful of technology partners and your tier in the partner program and wondering about their importance.
So as you go into 2018; yes focus on rising up in the partner tier ranking system, but don’t focus on it at the expense of some other more important achievements, goals and objectives. I would rather see you double down on getting clients leads, then double down on closing a couple more HubSpot clients so you can get to Diamond status and be one of 30 other Diamond Partners.
Start Today Tip – Setting goals is a key part of running a successful agency. The selection of those goals is critical. When it comes down to do you want to be a Platinum Partner or do you want to be an agency with a high Net Promoter Score, an agency with a ultra-high retention rate, or an agency that makes gobs and gobs of money—I’d opt for the later three options every time. As you set your goals for 2018, keep them in context to your business and your long-term goals for your business. Make sure you understand the impact of achieving those goals and the benefits associated with attaining those goals. Moving up a level or two is not going to change your business. Refining your operation so you make more money or building a better sales process, so you sign new clients more consistently, that is going to change your business—for the better and for the long term. Focus on those.
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