In the B2B tech space, it seems like new partner programs are springing up wherever you look. It’s hardly surprising, given that 54% of companies say that partnerships drive more than 20% of their total revenue. With so much competition out there, how can solutions providers ensure their partner program is a success? And, what should prospective partners consider before committing to a program?
Here are my five most important takeaways from over a decade spent building and growing B2B tech partner programs.
1. Determine goals
All partner programs should be underpinned by clear, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals. Depending on what’s important to your organization, these might relate to revenue, integrations, delivery speed, customer satisfaction, or any other factor.
When setting goals, start by casting a wide net, and then narrow that down as specific as possible. Once you have this defined, it’s easier to think about who you need to target. For instance, if your goal is to win new clients in Italy, you’d want to find resellers to manage that market for you. You might want partners with reselling experience, with a strong presence in Italy and who work with your typical client base. You might also want them to work in a similar or associated area to your own, so you can leverage their existing relationships and ensure they understand your proposition and messaging.
2. Know why partners should care
It’s important to get off on the right foot with partners. Consider developing a welcome kit and structured onboarding program. These can help partners feel like they’re a key part of your business and educate them on the value of working together.
Needless to say, a partnership is very much a two-way street. Both parties must see the value in working together, and, crucially, trust should be mutual. To demonstrate this, make sure you’re consistently sharing success stories from your partner program with internal stakeholders, existing partners and new potential partners. When partners see their stories and accomplishments being highlighted, it makes them feel appreciated and that the work being put into the partnership is paying off. Content related to success stories is worth its weight in gold.
3. Align internal expectations
Your executives will inevitably have varying ideas about what they hope to achieve from a partner program. Clear communication is crucial at this stage. By ensuring all stakeholders are informed and aligned up-front, you will secure the support you need going forward.
Once your executive team is on-board, you need to agree to rules of engagement across the rest of the wider business. For instance, your internal services teams must trust that you’re not trying to replace them with partners, but are supporting their efforts. To achieve this, make sure the added value that partners will deliver – increased adoption, customer satisfaction, etc. – is crystal clear.
4. Structure and processes provide a plan
Structure is crucial to a productive, scalable partner program. After setting up a partnership, a great way to manage these relationships is through a structured lifecycle that identifies key tasks and milestones at each stage. This provides much-needed clarity for both sides and enables each relationship to move forward.
I’d recommend having in mind a first customer or opportunity to kickstart each partnership. When you’ve completed that deal, you are through your first key milestone. From there, try to replicate this process three to four times. After this, working together will start to feel natural and instinctive – that’s when things really start to take off.
5. Always measure successes
As sales and marketing technology evolves, it’s becoming increasingly easy to access data about the partners in your program. As such, it’s possible to identify problems and rectify them quickly. Equally, it’s worth checking which partners are excelling and prioritize them for joint marketing activities and closer alignment.
Using an engagement scorecard is an effective way of measuring the success of partnerships . Depending on the data at your disposal, the metrics you track might vary, but you should generally be seeking to answer these questions:
- Do we have channel-level alignment?
- Are both sales teams educated on the partnership and its benefits?
- Is there a clear go-to-market plan?
- Is there leadership alignment?
- Is there a clear pipeline and success coming from this partnership?
Of course, not everything can be measured through data, so building transparent, personal relationships with partners remains invaluable.
Though a well-designed partner program should follow these principles, in truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach which guarantees success. Your partner program should suit the specific needs of your organization and evolve as your business grows. Successful partner programs treat partners as an intrinsic part of a business – and subject them to the same levels of quality control. This means being selective and not working with anyone that approaches you. It also means rewarding those partners who generate excellent results.
Preseetha Pettigrew spearheads partnership go-to-market strategy at Seismic. Together with her team, she works with a range of consulting and technology partners to accelerate joint growth plans and deliver successful outcomes for customers. Over the past year, she has relaunched the focus of Seismic’s Partner Program and recruited over 50 new partners. She’s also added new channel models to the program and integrated new and existing partners further into the Seismic business.
This story premiered on our sister site, Channel Marketer Report.