Updated: Jul 16, 2019
The thing about partner networks is that they are scale engines. You will have the opportunity to leverage your partner’s network to market and sell through other partners or to customers at scale, and your primary partner is looking to you to market and sell at scale. Except in the case of large strategic partnerships at the enterprise level, most partner networks provide a self-serve model for you to share your solutions and take advantage of the partner program benefits on your own.
Sometimes, depending on the solution offering, target customer, or market scenario, you will be assigned an account manager to help you navigate the partner relationship. But more often than not, you will be granted access to the tools and resources available to members of the partner network, and then left on your own to navigate the assets and build your business. If the partnership is important to you (and it should be, or you shouldn’t be spending any time or resources on it), you will need to assign an individual to explore all the features and benefits of the program to ensure you are optimizing your alliance with your new partner’s network. Don’t wait until someone reaches out to you—positioning your solution smartly and strategically within your partner’s ecosystem is solely your responsibility. Be proactive.
Tools and templates
Most partner programs offer some marketing guidance. Some offer catalogs of marketing tools and templates. Others provide co-branding guidance to help you use their logos and brand imagery correctly. Once you gain access to the resources provided, be sure to download all the guidance and relevant artifacts. Work with your design team or an outsourced agency to better understand how to apply the partner’s brand and how to position your solution within their parameters. Leveraging their guidance to create on-brand messaging and collateral will help your solution gain the attention of your primary partner and other partners in their network.
If available, be sure to download partner sales-enablement tools and templates as well. These resources will help you educate partner sellers about your solution and provide them with the talking points, demos, and sales pitch to drive sales conversations. Do not assume that partner sales teams can learn enough about your solution based on your marketing materials alone. It is important to equip them with the customer pitch decks, sales scripts, frequently asked questions, proof points, pricing models, demo guidance, and services and support information they need to have impactful conversations with customers. If your partner does not provide these templates, create your own, and be sure to follow the partner’s brand guidance for co-branding your assets so sellers recognize the value in your joint sales proposition.
Many partners offer local, regional, and global awards or recognition programs. Be sure to engage in the awards process. Even if you think your solution is too small or doesn’t have enough time or experience in the market to tell an impactful story, it is never a bad idea to apply for an award.
Best case scenario—you win the award and all the acclaim and recognition that goes with it.
Worst case scenario—you’ve put your solution story in front of the decision makers who judge the awards.
Even if you don’t win the award, chances are those judges will remember your story and think of your solution the next time they are asked to share a case study, invite a partner on stage to speak at an event, or assemble a partner advisory meeting focused on your area of expertise. Applying for recognition doesn’t mean you have to win the award. It means you will receive recognition from the subject matter experts who are looking for solutions to feature.
Attend partner networking events. Local events. Regional events. Global events. Network at the events. Review the sessions and select some that may accelerate your business. But look for the networking events that will enable you to have conversations with partners and influencers. Attend the cocktail receptions, the dinner parties, the pre-day events, and the social functions. More impactful business conversations happen at the dinner table than at the conference table. Find the side meetings. Participate in workshops. Look for the small sessions that foster dialogue. Look for the sessions where influencers or decision makers are likely to show up, so you can start a conversation about your business. Be event savvy.
Often, event websites provide the opportunity for you to request 1:1 meetings with speakers, executives, and key decision makers. Request time with them. Schedules fill up fast, so be sure to set aside time to peruse the event site and learn how to maximize your presence at the event. Even if the partner’s calendar is full, they will likely offer a phone call or alternative connection point. It doesn’t hurt to try to meet with people in positions of power who can help your business grow.
If you do find yourself with the opportunity to meet directly with someone from your partner’s organization, be prepared to maximize your 15-30–minute meeting. Be prepared with your short, concise elevator pitch about the innovative solutions or services your business provides and have three concise asks prepared for the partner. People think and remember in threes. Request access to resources, funding, sponsorship, or something to specifically grow your business or enhance your partnership. Offer your services and solutions in support of the partner’s business objectives. Find a mutually beneficial relationship point and pitch it. Be a good listener and receive feedback openly. Don’t waste anyone’s time. Take the advice and direction you receive and apply it to your business, so you can circle back with a success story to gain another meeting with the partner leadership team in the future.
Ultimately, you will receive from any partner network a reflection of your own efforts. Do not join a partner network and expect customer leads and sales opportunities to fall into your lap. Positioning yourself smartly within your partner’s ecosystem requires a dedicated effort, hard work, and a willingness to adjust your expectations and efforts based on feedback. And remember, relationships take time to establish. Building a strong partner network doesn’t happen overnight. But once you’re in, finding resources and developing content to optimize your position in the network is a wise first step.
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