In our previous article, we explored the benefits of strategic partnerships between tech services companies and platform providers. Now, it's time to dive deeper into the intricacies of forming successful partnerships. In this post we will talk about how to deepen this relationship.
This post teaches you how to deepen that relationship by connecting three topics
Key Stakeholders at Platform Providers - As with any other B2B relationship your relationship with the organization is a function of your relationship with the various stakeholders. To deepen the relationship you'll need to build relationships and understand the value and priorities of each of the stakeholders.
Align With Partner Priority And Maturity - Understanding the stakeholders gives you the tools to grow aspects of your relationship with partners. But to be effective your penetration needs to match the partner priorities. The partner priority broadly changes based on the maturity of the partner hence we will discuss the priorities in the context of maturity.
Manage Risk Of A Partner Focused Growth Strategy - Finally this is a strategic decision for your company. So you need to understand the risks involved with taking a partner focused growth strategy.
Key Stakeholders at Platform Providers
They act as the primary point of contact between the platform provider and your tech services company. Building a strong rapport with partner managers is essential for effective collaboration. You should have a regular sync with them reporting your accomplishments. In addition they'd be able to guide you on the priorities of the partner and act as your advocate making relevant introductions and alert you to other opportunities.
The most critical measure of depth of the relationship is the public credentials the partner attaches to you. This includes partner tier, competencies, and certifications. Your partner manager will help you in connecting with the appropriate teams. They can guide you on the different requirements you need to meet to join different programs, co-market initiatives, obtain funding for training and certification.
Sales and Account Executives
Building relationships with sales and account executives facilitates lead sharing, customer referrals, and joint sales opportunities. Connect with the account executives on any account you are woking on. Build relationships with them, and once they associate you with customer success they will bring you into their other accounts. Remember though, that the sales and account executives and compensated on revenue. So to build these relationships you'll have to demonstrate your ability to accelerate and unlock revenue.
Engaging with product teams allows you to stay informed about product roadmaps, upcoming features, and potential joint innovation opportunities. In addition each of the product teams have their separate customer outreach and marketing efforts. Relationships with product teams are especially important for mature partners where it is important to find a niche within the partner's ecosystem.
Professional Services Team
Enterprise software implementations are blocked by man power. Recognizing this enterprise software companies not only build partner relationships but also have to build their own professional services organizations as they mature. Professional services team may seem like a competitor at first glance but can make excellent partners. Their charter is to improve revenue for software hence they make excellent partners. You can bring them into your existing deals to gain more credibility with the customer. In addition they are incentivized to bring you into their deals.
Partnering with marketing teams enables co-marketing efforts, joint campaigns, and access to a wider audience for your tech services. Partners in fact have credits they make available to co-marketing efforts so building a relationship and aligning with their marketing team can save immensely on your marketing costs.
Align With Partner Priority And Maturity
An early stage partner has a huge advantage. In the early stages the partner is also trying to prove the viability of their solutions. They need proof points from customers and proving their value in defying the status quo. For this they need what this excellent article calls rocket science practices that can trail blaze with their customers. They need you to prove the validity of their platform. The processes are rudimentary but it is easy to penetrate since they don't have a large partner ecosystem. They make introductions and listen actively for feedback. Geoffrey Moore describes the role of the tech services company in his book, "Inside The Tornado" as:
They almost certainly call for the services of an independent systems integrator. Why? Because the visionary customer wants to deploy a novel infrastructure well in advance of the market and lacks both the technical know-how and the project management skills to do so. This is precisely the scarce expertise that integrators provide, and once they are on the scene, all power is ceded to them.
The hard part with this partner is finding the right partner. It requires keeping up with developments in technology, trying them out, and deepening relationships with technologies that align with the value you want to provide to your customers.
As a partner is scaling they will be in a land grab to establish their market share. They have already proven out their value proposition so they are interested in landing new accounts and keeping their competitors out. At this stage projects that provide stickiness to the platform are most important. A good example of this is projects offering migration. It becomes harder with more people entering the partnership. Geoffrey Moore in his book "Inside The Tornado" describes this behavior by the platform provider in this way:
Market leadership is a territory capture game in which you overinvest resources in order to prioritize sales within the target segment. Partnerships that are focused on that segment are entitled to the extra support of these resources.
At this stage you need to take a bowling alley approach with the offerings of the partner. Look for new and underserved areas within the partner to establish leadership in that area if you are new rather than becoming a me too partner. The partner would rapidly operationalize their partner management and it is important to keep pace with the changing status quo. Being diligent about providing the data on your impact and make sure they value the impact you have on their business
As partners become established business starts to stabilize. They have a stable and mature partner ecosystem. At this stage it is important to prove your value by bringing more customers to the partner and leading successful implementations. There isn't the same kind of gold rush once the partnerships are stabilized because there are many more established partners already there. Finding an underserved emerging niche within the partner may be more important. The key in this scenario is to grow your niche and make your way to becoming one of the more established partner. But this space may be competitive enough that you may want to not have them as the primary partner you're basing your strategy off if you're new.
Manage Risk Of A Partner Focused Growth Strategy
Change In Direction
Relying too heavily on a single platform partner can lead to vulnerability. If the partner changes strategy and you don't adapt you may find yourself losing a major lead source. This can devastate your business. Another fact to note is that the change in strategy isn't a possibility. With a rapidly growing partner it is an inevitability.
Partners are interested in growing their own business. So they would not want your to be giving business to their competitors. This may limit your option for deepening other relationships and rule out potential customers. You can choose to go the non-exclusive route but then the partner is less likely to send leads your way.
Loss Of Neutrality
Customers would not perceive you as neutral any more if you are too closely tied with a partner. You always want to always be the trusted source for your partner so you will find yourself in a balancing act.
This article helps you understand how to engage deeply with platform partners. A strong platform partner can be a strategic ally in growing a tech services business. In fact it is such an important component that for VixulCon the only workshop we are doing is about establishing partner relationships. You can find out more details on the VixulCon page.