Avalara Launches Enhanced Channel Program Tailored To Its Diverse Partner Base

Looking to scale its channel operations to match its rapid growth, the tax compliance application vendor has begun rolling out the components of the new Avalara Partner Program – including new partner tiers, financial incentives and partner engagement systems – for its technology, accounting and integration/implementation partners.

Tax compliance application developer Avalara has launched a significant update to its partner program that offers a new tier structure for different partner types, a new partner relationship management platform, and expanded incentives and resources for partners.

The new Avalara Partner Program, unveiled Wednesday, was developed to help the fast-growing company scale its channel operations more effectively and modernize its channel approach to meet the needs of its evolving base of technology, consulting, accounting and MSP partners.

Seattle-based Avalara has worked with partners since its 2004 founding and operated a partner program for all that time. But channel executives say the new program takes the company’s channel efforts to a new level.

[Related: Avalara Promises Partners More Service Work Amid Program Investment]

“This business was built as a partner-first motion,” said Meghan Higgins, senior vice president of global partners at Avalara, referring to the company’s roots in an interview with CRN. “We’ve been a partner-first business, we’ve had a partner program, we are very committed to our partners.”

“But as the business has grown, we aspire to take it into another 2X dimension. So we have a very prescriptive plan on how we’re going to grow this business at a velocity and pace that outpaces what we’ve done over the last 20 years,” Higgins (pictured) said in emphasizing the need for the expanded partner program.

“We had to solve for scale. We have thousands of partners and we needed a way to create a [partner program] framework and a structure that did that efficiently and gave the partners [an] experience tied to their level of engagement and what they’re looking for from us,” she said.

The new partner program will roll out in a phased approach beginning today. Avalara, which was acquired by Vista Equity Partners in 2022 for $8.4 billion, previewed some of the new program offerings at its Fuse partner event in November.

Avalara develops cloud-based software that businesses use to calculate in real-time a wide range of taxes including sales and use taxes, VAT, beverage alcohol taxes, excise taxes and communications taxes. Online retailers, for example, rely on Avalara’s applications to comply with the complex patchwork of state sales taxes as they sell products across the U.S.

The company’s partner roster includes technology companies, primarily developers of ERP, ecommerce and other business applications that integrate Avalara’s software with their own; accounting firms that refer clients to Avalara and provide accounting services around the product; and systems integrators, VARs and consultants that provide implementation and integration services. The company is also beginning to work more frequently with MSPs.

Avalara’s online Certified Implementer Program directory lists dozens of partners including KPMG, Blytheco, SWK Technologies, Net@Work and PWC. On the technology partner side Avalara boasts some 1,200 product integrations: The company says that approximately 80 percent of its customers have a subscription to a partner integration.

Innovia Consulting, headquartered in Onalaska, Wisc., is a long-time Avalara partner that integrates Avalara’s tax compliance software as part of the solution provider’s Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Business Central application implementation services.

In an interview with CRN Trish Boccuti, Innovia’s director of customer success, described Avalara as one of Innovia’s “core ISV” partners. Executives from the two companies meet quarterly, she said, the two companies do joint customer prospecting together, and Innovia just received a bonus from Avalara for hitting 150 percent of its 2023 sales goals.

Innovia’s chief marketing officer received a briefing on the new partner program at the November Fuse event. “There’s a lot of nice features in there,” Boccuti said, noting the new tiers and the clear rules and requirements for moving up. “I think Avalara has done a really nice job of laying out the program and making it easy to understand.”

“Avalara’s updated partner program is an exciting step forward for partners looking to grow their business with Avalara,” said Matt Ferguson, director of sales and partnerships at Yantra Corp., another Avalara consulting partner, in a statement. “We are excited to be a part of this program and look forward to working closely with Avalara to expand our implementation work for businesses in need of tax compliance automation.”

The variety of Avalara’s growing partner base was one of the drivers behind the updated program.

“We wanted to really make sure we had a program that appealed to a broad range of partners,” said Frank Hanzlik, Avalara vice president and general manager of global partner development, in the interview. “We've really tried to build it around the way our partners’ business models are and how they can engage with Avalara,” he said emphasizing the program’s flexibility.

The new program offers three tiers: Authorized, Preferred and Premier, with separate tracks for each partner motion: refer, expand services and build integrations. Partners move up the tiers, which offer increasing levels of financial incentives and co-marketing resources, based on their level of engagement with the company.

Hanzlik said some of the new offerings include multi-year financial incentives and paying rewards for sales to existing customers, such as upsell and cross-sell deals, in addition to the rewards it now pays for sales to new customers. Accounting firms, many of which can’t accept commissions, can now offer product discounts to their clients.

Boccuti said the ability to earn margins on sales to existing customers, not just new customers, will be a win for Innovia given the ongoing engagements it has with its clients. “I really love working with the Avalara team. We do work with a lot of partners and [Avalara has] dedicated people for our team and they have made great relationships with us. It’s very refreshing to work with the Avalara team.”

The need to centralize and improve how Avalara supports its partners was another driver behind the new program. A new PRM system supports a new partner portal that Hanzlik said will make it easier for partners to access sales and marketing resources, receive technical support and maximize revenue potential. The company has also created a partner engagement desk to help partners with both technical and business questions.

“The real message is, as you do more with us, as you make those decisions to do more with Avalara…then we want to reward you for that,” Hanzlik said.