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Interview with David A. Yovanno, CEO, Impact.

Originally published in Gigabit Magazine, March 2020 edition. Written by William Smith.

In a world where even the largest companies are having to find new ways of reaching customers, Impact offers a digital approach to the sometimes arcane business of managing partners. With the company fresh off a US$75mn funding round, Gigabit speaks to Impact CEO David A. Yovanno to discuss the rapidly growing industry. 

How would you describe Impact?

Impact is a partnership automation platform. Just to give you a sense of scale, we’re managing about $50bn in ecommerce sales on the platform today. That’s all coming from partners that are referring business to our clients. We have about a thousand enterprise clients on our platform, and these partners are of many different types. They’re business-to-business partnerships, influencers, software integrations, channel partnerships, and traditional affiliates. 

“ Traditional selling and advertising just isn’t getting the job done on its own anymore”

I mentioned over a thousand enterprise clients — it really spans across all verticals. In the US, we have top retailers like Target and Bass Pro Shops, some of the largest consumer technology brands like Microsoft and Lenovo, some of the large platform brands like Uber, Airbnb, Ticketmaster and, more recently, financial services like Capital One, American Express. 

Why are companies automating partnerships?

Number one, traditional selling and advertising just isn’t getting the job done on its own anymore. There’s a lot more data out there now about how people just don’t trust salespeople. They don’t like advertising, especially millennials. Millennials are the largest generation in terms of spending patterns right now, and they don’t like advertising. 

Then you see reports about how 90% of new digital advertising dollars are going to just Facebook and Google — Facebook’s rates have increased by 130% in the last year. Add all that up, and I think most people would agree that consumers today just don’t trust anything. They’d rather do their own research, tap a relationship that they already have, whether it’s a company that they’re doing business with, an influencer that they’re following on YouTube or what have you, and get a recommendation. That’s how people are finding, discovering and doing business now with today’s enterprise. We’re really tapping into that trend. 

“ While partnerships have been around for a long time, they’ve been in ad hoc agreements”

Many of the big software companies, especially, are shifting from reseller partnerships, to referral partnerships. Microsoft, for instance, is signing up 7,500 new partners per month and 80% of them are not resellers of their software. They’re not selling shrink-wrapped software anymore. They’ve got influencers, and they’ve got systems integrators that are referring customers directly to Microsoft. 

What are the kinds of problems faced by your clients that Impact’s expertise can solve?

It starts with a challenge they have with traditional selling and advertising. While partnerships have been around for a long time, they’ve been in ad hoc agreements, ad hoc contracts and fragmented teams. Now, with the rising demand for partnerships, it’s creating a problem for them because they don’t have a contracting system. They don’t have a way to consolidate and manage everything — to automate their partnerships. We cover the tracking and crediting of who referred a sale. We also handle payment processing, and we’re processing more than $2bn in payments this year to partners. 

Another problem is in finding partners. What Impact is doing is automating the full from the discovery and recruitment of new partners through to contracting and payment processing. We also track engagement, and we have CRM functionality. Then we deal with the protection against fraud, because the more types of partners that you work with, the more you’ve got to deal with the nuances of that. 

What is most crucial for companies to understand about partnerships and partnership automation?

Most businesses that are familiar with digital marketing think of partnerships as affiliates — things like cashback coupon sites which have been around a couple of decades. That is an important part of partnerships, but it’s becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the total partner mix — representing less than 20% of the total partner mix on the Impact platform today. A new partnership category that I love are social responsibility partnerships. BarkBox, for example, has partnerships with veterinarian clinics where people are shown how to subscribe to the service, and for every new subscription BarkBox will donate a commission to the veterinary clinic. 

Could you tell me about the trends you’re seeing in partnerships?

The biggest trend in partnerships today has to do with structuring the relationship between the enterprise and the partner. What can the enterprise give the partner to increase their social currency with them? A lot of our retail clients will give a product demo or sample, for example. 

“ Many of the big software companies, especially, are shifting from reseller partnerships, to referral partnerships”

You’re trying to understand your partner. What’s unique about their relationship with their audience or with their customers, and how can you relate to that and tap into that? Maybe don’t have such tight guardrails on what they can and can’t say. Maybe just be a little bit more open, and trust that they know their audience or their customers and that they’re going to position you in the best possible way to maximise the number of referrals. 

What would you say are Impact’s goals for the future?

We’re focused on being a product-led organisation. Leading with technology, streamlining the user experience, making it more and more simple and demonstrating more and more value to our clients. Our vision is to be the standard software that every business needs to automate the partnerships that are becoming an increasingly important channel to grow their business. 

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