Cloudbeds was founded in 2012 and since then has become one of the fastest-growing technology partners for the hospitality industry, serving a global customer base of thousands of properties across 157 countries. The Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform seamlessly combines operations, revenue, distribution, and growth marketing tools with a marketplace of third-party integrations. Cloudbeds was voted No. 1 PMS and No. 1 Hotel Management System by Hotel Tech Report in 2022, Best PMS and Best Channel Manager by the World Travel Tech Awards in 2021, and has been recognized by Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 in 2021.
For this interview, we sat down with Patrisa Philips, Referral Partnership Director at Cloudbeds, asking questions regarding her career and how she manages her new role as a partnership leader for the growing company. So, without further ado….
Bond: Hi Patrisa! Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Could you quickly introduce yourself - Who is Patrisa?
Patrisa: Hi Bond! Happy to be here. Well, Patrisa is above all a Florida girl - she loves the beach, the sun and the fun vibe of the Southeast Coast :)
I’ve always worked in IT. Before joining Cloudbeds, I spent 30 years at IBM working with small, medium and enterprise clients in the U.S. So far, my business journey has been fantastic. I have had amazing mentors who have helped me learn and grow my career, so in turn, I have felt a responsibility to pay it forward by mentoring others. The technology landscape and business models are always changing, and there are constant growth opportunities, meaning you are constantly learning - something I enjoy luckily. In my current role, I gather insight from speaking with Partnership people like the team at Bond, and of course, from Cloudbeds partners, to understand how we can help them better to grow.
Bond: Why did you pursue a career in this direction and what does Partnerships mean to you?
Patrisa: Starting a career in Partnerships was not my initial plan actually. In the early days at IBM, we started working with dealers to resell IBM hardware. I wanted to understand why people were interested in selling our products, and IBM had introduced multi-tier models to sell products through distribution. Applying best practices from the distribution models, I gained a lot of knowledge and became the subject matter expert on Partnerships. The combination of Sales & Marketing within Partnerships made me realize that this was the ideal career path for me, rather than just sales, for example.
Partnerships is not only about relationship building, it is also about exchanging knowledge. I learn so much from partners, and working with a growing company has given me a whole new perspective. Established companies like IBM typically have processes in place and sufficient resources to achieve all the objectives. However, at a startup or smaller company, you need to define what matters most and make deliberate choices to allocate the resources.
And don’t forget that partners are meant to help each other. I’ve seen many one-directional partnerships, while actually both partners should ask each other these questions: what makes your business grow, what do you need, and what can I provide in return.
Bond: Do you think Partnerships in Hospitality Tech and in big tech (based on previous experience at IBM) are managed differently and if so, how?
Patrisa: In most SaaS companies, Partnerships are not part of the initial business model and thought process. SaaS companies often discover only later that growing revenues, expanding services or integrating with partners becomes a need and then lack the right people to take care of Partnerships.
It is a profession in development and we need more partnership leaders who know what it takes to build and implement strategies that lead to results. But SaaS businesses are very cost driven, so it's harder for them to build Partnerships teams.
My advice is to start with baby steps. A growing business needs to figure out what is important for them now and then scale to different partnership models relevant to their company objectives. At the same time, their partnership team gains experience and grows internally.
Bond: You joined Cloudbeds 7 months ago, how does your vision influence the Partnership Program of Cloudbeds?
Patrisa: The one guiding principle for the success of Partnerships is that it needs to be cross-functional in the organization and have the support of internal teams, and that is what we are establishing here at Cloudbeds
I find it’s best to start simple. Gradually, when you understand your audience and know how they work with the product, you can introduce more granularity and model the program to the type of partnerships, i.e. consultant, marketplace, etc.
When I joined Cloudbeds, my first objective was to observe the different types of partners, who manages them and how they are managed. It gave me the opportunity to see where processes could be improved. I noticed things were operating slightly fragmented, so I decided to bring all our partners together: from our marketplace partners to our commercial partners. Now, we are implementing a single partnership program that incorporates everyone, bringing value to each partner type, and to Cloudbeds.
With our program, we give our partners the opportunity to grow. Not only monetary, but also through self-enablement and co-marketing initiatives that put the spotlight on them. We encourage them to utilize our global platform to create brand recognition, position themselves and generate business opportunities.
Bond: Cloudbeds is a global leader in PMS Technology for hospitality. What is the size of the Partner ecosystem and what type of partnerships does Cloudbeds offer?
Patrisa: Cloudbeds has hundreds of active partners globally that we divide into two buckets:
1-Referral Partners - When the partner submits a new lead to Cloudbeds, our team qualifies and closes it in return for a reward.
2-Marketplace and Integration Partners - This type of partnership includesOTA’s, POS, and other categories of integrations that are featured in our recommended list of partners and third-party providers available on https://www.cloudbeds.com/integrations/.
But through the evolution of hospitality, there are opportunities to look at new partner types and personas. In cooperation with Bond, we are now adding different types of partners like hospitality management organizations, consultants, tourism boards and associations.
Bond: With the Cloudbeds Ambassador Program, you intend to create a network of Ambassadors, who are Consultants and Experts in Hospitality. Can you tell us why an ecosystem of these types of influencers is important for Cloudbeds?
Patrisa: It allows Cloudbeds to expand our sales and local reach. Having a close relationship with our partners and understanding their needs is key for us to fuel our own growth and enter new markets. Looking back at my experience at IBM, I know that people tend to do more business with people they know well. That resonates a lot, globally.
Bond: How about partner retention? Research shows that almost 80% of partners that sign up to a program become dormant. How do you cope with that at Cloudbeds?
Patrisa: We are always striving to improve, and we have made huge progress over the past few months. Since joining the team, we have implemented several new initiatives to keep partners engaged, and so far, we are seeing a great response.
Firstly, we launched an initiative to reach out to all our partners to understand who are active and who are dormant. With quick touchpoints via email, we asked them if they were still interested in the program, and advised them about our new plans. Some partners said they were not interested anymore, however the majority were interested in what we had to tell them.
Once we mapped out our active partners, I quickly realized that there is only so much you can do with a small team. Like our clients, we also needed automation, so we are implementing a new Partner Management System. This will help us automate tasks and operate more efficiently, while the data will provide insights to the teams to help them decide which efforts to prioritize.
And most recently we started a quarterly webinar series exclusively for our partners, to communicate regularly with them, share product updates, talk about specific areas of the system and share events where we can meet each other.
These measures allow our Partner Managers to have more constructive conversations with the Ambassadors who want to grow and stay engaged. To increase retention, we have to show partners that Cloudbeds is the right platform for them to team with, not only in terms of product but also in our value-added proposition.
Bond: What are the main benefits for Partners to work with Cloudbeds? What is your value proposition to partners?
Patrisa: Cloudbeds is not just a hospitality platform, we are a technology hospitality platform.
Our value to our Ambassadors and Marketplace partners is that we are tech and data driven and always up to date on the latest trends. Our partners can trust that our technology attracts more and more clients, we are growing and we are constantly evolving to the standards of our customers and partners.
Our promises to our partners are:
1- They can be sure that they are recommending a modern and best-of-breed technology.
2- They have human relationships with our team. We invite them to events and create initiatives in local regions to bring forward their business and share that with Cloudbeds clients.
3- They are being heard and we are working to improve our partner programs and their visibility. We strive to bring them value through mutually beneficial tactics. One example is we are developing an Ambassador directory to give them visibility through our website.
Bond: What are the challenges that you are facing and how do you plan on resolving them?
Patrisa: We are growing rapidly so we need to ensure we are building strong & sustainable foundations that can scale and be implemented across different markets.
The pandemic is in different stages in different countries, so we are analyzing each region where we operate to understand the current climate for those partners and if they are actually ready for us. We cannot assume, so we need to be data driven.
Another challenge is hiring people. There is so much talent in the market and so many competitive and complementary companies are searching for the same talent.
Finally, when you're doing well, your competitors become fierce. We have to recognize and acknowledge that, and deal with it by staying on top of our game!
Bond: What are the most important factors to bring results to a Partnership Program in your opinion?
Patrisa: The most important factor is definitely mutual respect. The value proposition is bi-directional, so both sides need to communicate and be structured to achieve great results. This means being honest from the start. Some partners do not fit our needs, but we also are not ready to accept all types of partnerships. So while we learn what partnerships work and which ones don’t, we have to make sure we revisit those when we are ready.
Secondly, in partnerships you have to be receptive to change.. New business models in hospitality are forming and as a hospitality tech provider, we have to be agile and adapt to these trends.
Bond: One last question: Tell us an anecdote with a partner? And a learning curve from this situation?
Patrisa: All Partnership professionals must remember that they are representing their company! You have to keep company interests and needs top of mind.
In IBM, we had a partner program with incentives. I discovered that one partner misrepresented our product to their clients, and on top of that, there were monetary expectations that were never discussed with us. I reprimanded them, they promised it would not happen again and we ended the conversation optimistically. I ensured they had everything to avoid this situation from happening again.
But it happened again! Our next conversation was more heated, and as a result, I started to question this relationship and decided to terminate it. Believe it or not, the same year, I received a company award for actually terminating that partner relationship. I got the support from the team around me and that was quite a thing.
Bottom line is: Keep your company objectives clear. If your partner is out of line, try to get them in line again. And if it doesn’t work, it’s ok to end the relationship. Relationships are important, but there should be mutual respect.
Bond: Thanks so much for these great insights Patrisa, is there anything else we should know about you and Cloudbeds before finishing it off?
Patrisa: Good things are coming for Cloudbeds customers and partners as we continue to grow. Encouraging businesses who work in hospitality to join the Cloudbeds Ambassador Program. Feel free to contact our team at email@example.com. We have an amazing partner team who will take care of you. And please don’t hesitate to message me on Linkedin! As I said in the beginning of the interview, I like to mentor and my door is always open.
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