Ep16: Ashley Hildreth, Head of Partnerships at Trustpilot

This week on The CoSell Show we are thrilled to have Ashley Hildreth, Head of Partnerships at Trustpilot.

Topics Covered:

1. How to curate, authentic, lasting connections with your business partners

2. How an artistic background can help enrich your partnership pursuits

3. Using account mapping to match customer profiles when integrating your partnership

More Questions for Ashley?

Find Ashley on LinkedIn

Want to partner with Trustpilot? Email: partnerships@trustpilot.com

Brought to you by our host: Taylor Baker (Podcast Producer and Head of Content at CoSell.io)

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Follow along with the podcast transcript is below:

Taylor Baker:
Hello listeners and welcome back to the Co-Sale Show. I’m your host, Taylor Baker, and today we are going to talk about jumping out of airplanes, how to curate authentic, lasting and deep connections with your business partners and how an artistic background can help enrich your partnership endeavors. Who better to talk about this with than Ashley Hildreth, the head of partnerships at Trustpilot. Welcome, Ashley.

Ashley Hildreth:
Hi. Thank you.

Taylor Baker:
We’re so happy to have you here. To get things started off, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your current role at Trustpilot?

Ashley Hildreth:
Sure, yeah. I am currently the head of partnerships at Trustpilot for the Americas, so essentially I oversee a team here that works with a variety of different sizes, shapes, and colors of different partner types, but they’re primarily marketing agencies, technology partners and publishers and other websites. But I’ve been with the company for just about four years now, started as part of our new business team and then as an army of one. Then grew up with the partnerships team as we started to expand and scale-out the program.

Ashley Hildreth:
But prior to joining Trustpilot, I used to work at another tech company selling business management software and scheduling tools, and prior to that I actually co-founded and ran the Iguanas Print Lab, which is a business that helps kind of raise up out in Brooklyn and that was the screen printing studio and artists workspace which is still there today.

Taylor Baker:
That’s very cool. I’m definitely going to ask you some more questions about all those things later. But really quick, would you mind for our listeners that don’t know Trustpilot well, can you maybe explain a little bit more about what the company does as a whole?

Ashley Hildreth:
Of course, yeah. Trustpilot is a leading global online review community where people can come to read and write reviews about their experiences with brands. And for brands, we provide a business tool that allows our customers to proactively invite their customers to leave them a review and then be able to manage and share that review throughout their website and online and marketing channels, and so on and so forth. Our mission as a brand is to really become the source of truth for authentic feedback, so we do take the authenticity of the reviews on our platform very seriously and we’re hoping to shake up the industry.

Taylor Baker:
Hey, that’s great. Sometimes it is really hard to just decide whether or not somebody was just mad because they got a bad sandwich one time or if it’s a genuine grievance they have with the company. So thank you for giving us some authentic reviews.

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah, I think the state of the union right now, there’s just a lot of funny business going on in the market and so there’s just a general distrust that’s going on with us as a society, and I think it’s really important to be able to give folks a place where they know that they can trust that material and that feedback. And so that’s what we aim to do.

Taylor Baker:
Awesome. So one of our favorite questions to ask here, the Co-Sale Show. What is something fun about you that our listeners cannot find on your LinkedIn profile?

Ashley Hildreth:
Ooh, something fun. I am a…

Taylor Baker:
No pressure.

Ashley Hildreth:
I’m a licensed skydiver and I can jump with other people and do all this- stuff.

Taylor Baker:
Like the formations.

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah.

Taylor Baker:
What? How did you get into- Oh my gosh, how did you get to that?

Ashley Hildreth:
It’s certainly like a company you keep kind of thing where I had some friends that all were skydivers now granted I heard a lot of really crazy stories and a lot of really funny things where, it’s funny when you have a malfunction and something goes wrong with your parachute, it’s not funny, but it’s funny like to hear how people get out of those situations.

Taylor Baker:
Okay. Usually, they discuss free falling without a parachute?

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah, no big deal. And as somebody who was not a skydiver at the time thought that that was all very crazy and insane. And then one day I was standing on the edge of a plane about to jump out with my own gear, and it stuck.

Taylor Baker:
Well, I go hiking on the weekends with my dog. Is that just something you’re like, “I’m going to jump out of a plane today. It’s a nice Saturday for plane jumping.”

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah. When I’m in it, I was jumping several times a day, multiple weekends a month. We would go and camp in the drop zone. We’d wake up to the sound of the plane, run to the plane, throw on your gear, jump out, pack up, jump out again, pack up. You’re very much in it and it’s got a very strong community of people that I all very much love.

Taylor Baker:
I’ve always heard skydiving spoken about very much like a, “It’s my 30th birthday and I want to do something crazy,” or, “I just got divorced and I want to do something great.” It seems like it’s sort of like a rite of passage and you do it once and you’re like, “That was insane. And I did it.” I didn’t realize that there was sort of this… Well not underground, but very much above ground community of skydivers.

Ashley Hildreth:
It’s a whole sport.

Taylor Baker:
Madness. Wow. Well, thank you. Well, I could definitely, I have so many more questions about this interesting community I just learned about, but I guess we showed a sashay back on over to partnerships.

Ashley Hildreth:
Right.

Taylor Baker:
So no better question to start out with than how do you normally determine who you are going to partner with?

Ashley Hildreth:
Sure, yeah. So I think we’ve got a couple of different partner profiles that make a lot of sense for us. So we work and when I first got started doing partnerships at Trustpilot, it just kind of naturally fit when we were working and talking about partnerships with digital marketing agencies. So agencies that provided either some kind of paid search or SEO or social media marketing or built websites and did AB testing around conversion rate optimization. So Trustpilot reviews and social proof and those trust signals all help all of those traditional channels fire off and perform better.

We will, one, we’ve sought out a couple of those agencies, but I think now a lot of that is happening more organically where we find out where an agency is currently working with one of our customers or a prospect that our sales team has been working with. So we’ll usually start from either an introduction or we’ve had a shared mutual contact of some sort that will then kick off the conversation. So for those agencies, I think that’s a natural fit.

And then for tech partners, a lot of that will be driven by data. So take a look at who and what is in our customers’ tech stacks and look for commonalities and trends and if there’s a conversation that needs to be had about potentially integrating, then we’ll pursue those conversations with those technology solutions as well.

Taylor Baker:
Great. So once you have selected those specific partnerships that you’re going to go after, what does the actual process look like for initiating the partnership and integrating your systems together?

Ashley Hildreth:
For tech, and I think this is like a fairly standard practice at least it seems to be with tech partners we’ve been working with. There’s a lot of discussion around account mapping, so trying to find out what’s the ideal customer profile for both parties? And is that something that fits well for each? Beyond that, then look at who are our mutual threads, so how many mutual customers to be currently have in common. And if there is not a large number there, then maybe let’s take a look at what the trajectory looks like for both companies and are there new markets that we might be able to break in together, whether that’s through co-marketing or by launching an integration.

And so we basically kind of that story and take a look at what is the value prop here between our two companies. And is it valuable to our audiences and to our customer base? And if so, then if an integration is warranted we’ll pass them off over to our product team for evaluation and we’ll interface there to help collaborate on that discussion.

Taylor Baker:
Very cool. So in your three years at Trustpilot, you’ve probably seen a lot of partnerships come down the pipeline. What would you say has been your most successful partnership and why?

Ashley Hildreth:
So I can probably say without a doubt that it’s likely been our partnership with Conductor. They’re an SEO tool and they provide SEO services. We refer to each other as tech fam.

Taylor Baker:
Aww.

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah. We’ve got beyond just the business relationship, we’ve got a really strong personal relationship there. Their offices are really nearby. We’ve got a really strong company or similar company cultures. We’ve in fact had employees that have worked at both companies as well, but I think the value prop for what we offer our customers has been really well defined and really makes it easy for both of our customers to understand why and how they could be working with the other party, making introductions and lead generation really easy for one another, as well as putting together content for marketing purposes or for blogs and stuff that resonates with both of our audiences. But that personal connection really I think is a key factor to the success of that partnership.

Taylor Baker:
What about that relationship made it more personal? Is there anything in particular you guys did to foster that type of relationship? Or did it happen pretty organically?

Ashley Hildreth:
I think really making sure that you’re able to get face time with your partners is really critical. Early on we had some key stakeholders from there and come to us and meet in person and get in front of our sales and our customer success team. And then vice versa, I went over to their offices, brought a couple of folks from our end. Beer doesn’t help. So getting a lunch and learn style meeting together where you can get everyone in a room and ask questions and have a couple of drinks, coordinating socials. Like I said, their office is pretty nearby, so coordinating some meetups to get our teams comfortable and competent in working with one another helps build our network between the two companies so that it goes beyond just the two partner contacts. Our executive teams know each other, our sales teams know one another, customer success knows one another, et cetera, et cetera. So I think that’s helped to build a really strong relationship.

Taylor Baker:
I think food, in general, makes everything just kind of a lot more relaxed and people are a little more at ease. And I mean personally of any situation, there’s brie or any sort of cheese in the mix, I am already, you’ve got my, my heart.

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah.

Taylor Baker:
But I’ve talked to a lot of my guests about making these professional relationships more personal. And one of my recent guests, Curtis Davey, was saying how his best partnerships are people that he can talk to like his own family. They have that sort of candor. And I think hosting something like a lunch is immediately going to make it a little more personal than being like, “Oh, come into my conference room and we will all sit and watch a presentation.”

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think there’s certain companies I believe that have a little bit of partner fatigue where they have a lot of people that want to partner with them, and therefore the lunch and learn format can get a little exhausting for the audience. Like you’re kind of sitting in a room listening to a sales pitch from another tech company or from an agency. So I think if you are in that situation, making your content fun and being personable and if not, doing like kind of that broader art audience presentation where you have a room full of people taking the opportunity to do smaller groups where you’re taking them out for dinner, or you’re coming into their office with a breakout group rather than presenting to a larger audience. Just gives it more of like an intimate vibe and you’re able to connect with the individuals in the room.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, absolutely. So on the other hand, have you experienced any partnership horror stories? And you don’t have to name names, maybe just in general things that went wrong or advice on things to avoid?

Ashley Hildreth:
So I wouldn’t say that I have any horror stories that would be on the fault of a partner. I would say that part of our job of people in partnerships is not only selling and evangelizing externally, but also doing so internally. So getting your teams caught up on what the partnerships strategy looks like and who our partners are to make sure that there’s consistent education and a consistent talk track that goes on not only internally but externally.

And so that could be in relation to how our products speak together or if there’s an integration. If there is a specific pricing conversation that happens between those two entities, between us and the partner, making sure that that is consistent.

So I think while I don’t really have any particular horror stories that I would be like, “Ah, that was terrible.” I have found certain situations where I’m like, “Oh, I think the messaging on that could have been a little bit cleaner.” Again that just goes back to being consistent internally as well and over communicating what our partners are capable of and how we engage with them.

Taylor Baker:
So one thing I really love about your history, and you touched on this a little bit, we’re going to transition away kind of from partnerships just because I love talking about kind of careers and the paths that led people to partnerships. And you mentioned that you worked in the design space and were in fact a founder of a company in Brooklyn. And I just am kind of curious what inspired you to make the initial transition from the arts into a world of partnerships and technology?

Ashley Hildreth:
So a lot of that was life, Taylor. Circumstances of life. That studio was my baby. I was really proud of what we built there and everything that we accomplished. So I helped cofound a creative workspace and an artist studio that specialized in screen printing and printmaking out in Brooklyn. And we also provided classes and a facility for people to be able to use our studio. And I’m very much like loved the consistent problem solving that was always happening. And that was not only just the strategy of the business, but also just the technical evaluations that are always happening with how we would approach a print job or approach a problem or troubleshoot within the studio.

Yeah, I think there came to a time, a point where the studio felt like it was up and running and firing and I had an opportunity to move out to the West Coast, and so- The Southwest rather. So I took a leap and that leap wound up taking me a couple of steps, I think, off the path of where I thought that I was going to go. But then an opportunity had risen where I wanted to go back to New York and I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with what was next. And I found Trustpilot. And it gave me the opportunity to kind of figure out what I could do with my mixed experience in both forming a sales team, partnerships and all the things I was doing at the print shop. I got to kind of really hone in on the sales end of that. And they were offering a really good product and I was just really pumped to kind of like do something different.

I can’t say that it was super planned to be honest. It was just kind of like life brought me here. Yeah, it just was very organic. And I actually very much love that just about the individuals that are here because we have people from all different walks of life and I think it makes for a really interesting dynamic that everyone can like learn from each other, from all of their different past experiences all in one place.

Taylor Baker:
So I am curious though, have you found that your art and design background has uniquely prepared you for the role that you’re currently in?

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah. I think when I started in partnerships at Trustpilot like it wasn’t really done before. We had an individual that was doing it here kind of one-off, but it wasn’t like a globally organized team. So kind of forging that new path has presented all sorts of new and interesting challenges that we’re always trying to problem-solve. And so I think coming from an artistic background, I think that is probably one of my strong suits, is problem-solving. I think that’s helped me kind of take a different creative outlook on how we can approach partnerships and the unique challenges that come along with that.

Taylor Baker:
So since you have done this with a beautiful declaration, what advice would you give your fellow creatives on breaking into the business/tech world?

Ashley Hildreth:
For me, if I were to follow my traditional kind of outlook from when I got out of college as a graphic designer, if I were to kind of dial back the clock a little bit, as an individual, I had an opportunity. It was either, “Hey, do I go after working at an agency? Do I go be an entrepreneur and start up my own studio? Or do I look for brands that I could go and work in house?” And so I think the latter of those options could be a format where one could easily kind of learn the ropes for what it’s like to work at a tech company if you come from a design background.

But if you’re looking to get into sales, I think it’s a really good way to learn fast. It’s baptism by fire for many, many companies to learn a new way of how to like to think a little more creatively about how you can position yourself from a business end. A lot of artists don’t know how to position themselves when it comes to business opportunities and thinking about how they can sell themselves. So I think even that could be an asset. If the job doesn’t stick as you don’t want to go over to tech company to work in sales and do the grind for that, at least it could be a nice takeaway to learn how to position oneself as a marketable asset for future business opportunities.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, absolutely. I think I, unfortunately, had the experience of the kind of witnessing hands on people that are just talented, but they don’t know what to do with that talent or how to market it. And you can be the most talented human in the world if no one ever sees you, it’s not going to make a difference. So I think there’s definitely advantage to working in a position that would help you learn those skills to which you can then go apply them to your creative endeavors.

Awesome, Ashley. Wow. Thank you so much. Sort of on the wrapping it up side, do you have anything exciting coming up, either a professionally with Trustpilot or exciting skydiving trips or anything cool coming up?

Ashley Hildreth:
I don’t have any cool skydiving trips coming up, at least not planned yet. I am going down to Miami for Art Basel, which I’m very excited to go see all that. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been down there.

But for a Trustpilot, we just launched our first consumer facing campaign, which is a really exciting time for us. I think a lot of our marketing has been very much B2B driven and focusing on getting businesses to use Trustpilot platform. But now we’ve taken over both Houston and Chicago with this big consumer facing campaign with billboards and taxi toppers, and we’re really investing in creating more brand awareness with the people that would be writing reviews rather than the businesses who use our tools.

And so it’s just really fun to see Trustpilot in the wild and see businesses start to kind of take that on on their own as well and incorporate our brand to their, you know, above the line advertising strategies. So big stuff. If any of your listeners are in either market, keep your eyes peeled for that little green star.

Taylor Baker:
Sure. Wonderful. And I’m sure our listeners are going to have some questions. How can they reach you if they want to get in touch?

Ashley Hildreth:
Yeah. So either you can find me on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to get in touch with me and get in touch with me quickly. We also just have an email alias if you’re interested in partnering with Trustpilot. It’s just partnerships@trustpilot.com.

Taylor Baker:
Wonderful and don’t worry listeners, I will link to all of that in the show notes so you have easy access to Ashley. Well, Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time. It was a pleasure to have you here on the show.

Ashley Hildreth:
Great. Thank you so much, Taylor.

Taylor Baker:
And to all of our listeners out there, thank you for listening and be sure to tune in next week for even more exciting Co-Selling content. Now go get your partnership on.

Sell more, together.