We’ve seen it all so many times – partnerships that start with fanfares, champagne and celebration, only to fizzle out in studied indifference and a rueful sense of missed opportunity.
Lots of activity but precious little results – no net-new business and the one joint-win that did happen, was at low/no margin.
Clever marketers know that it doesn’t have to be that way and certainly from my experience (on both sides of the channel divide), the partnerships that work best are the ones that are based on mutuality – where the objectives of each party are complementary – typically around access to market, skill sets and cost-to-serve.
Once the objectives are clear, and are clearly complementary, then start at the bottom! I mean no disrespect to the quota carriers when I say this, but success starts not at the top of an organisation but at the bottom, co-selling with a nominated sales-person from the partner organisation. The right sales-person will identify and qualify some initial opportunities and bulldoze through the sales prevention processes that make it so hard to book initial orders.
Only now, once the proof points have been established, can effective marketing really start to add value.
Yes, you need to co-market to generate awareness and leads, but it’s just as important that your success be promoted to both sets of sales teams – yours and your partner’s. Even though you’ve got your lighthouse account and your press placements, it will take time to build up momentum so you should commit as much of your own resources to progressing the next few opportunities as you did to your first co-sell win.
Keeping your propositions “front-of-mind” in partner’s sales teams will require huge energy – staff turnover in your partner’s sales team and updates to your own portfolio mean that you need to combine Social Media, Digital and Live Events to constantly brief and re-brief the partner’s frontline personnel.
Once the partnership is properly in its stride, the biggest potential risk is that it might go stale – where there is no particular problem, but not much fizz either. You can ease this potential problem with the simplest of all contract devices – a renewal date. The renewal process should be formal and should evaluate performance against agreed performance standards. The default outcome of renewal should be termination of the relationship so that both you and your partner have to agree to do something active to extend the relationship for another period.
The relationship will come to an end at some point. If you are to avoid the spreading of FUD by your competitors, the press release at the end of the relationship is just as important as the press release at the beginning. Make sure that both the market and your customers know why the relationship has been terminated, how existing customers will be supported and how prospects can continue to access your products.