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10 Tips to Build a Partner Program

by Lee Guillaume, VP, Partnerships

Partnership Program tips
Partnership Program tips

Channel and delivery partnership models have changed dramatically over the years as we move deeper into the digital and artificial Intelligence era. Most companies offer solid but dated advice on how to build a partner program. Companies who previously had a “do it yourself” culture are realizing the value of a partner relationship. Most are selecting startups as a first choice to help them fill their technology gaps. In the last few years Fortune 500 companies in every industry are realizing the value of partnerships. Many continue to cut costs, look for ways to do more with less and attempt to free up critical staff to support business critical systems and processes. This is not the answer. Following these partnership tips will give your organization a better chance to have a successful partnership program.

  • Partner Evaluation – Partner alignment with your company is critical. At a minimum, develop a simple partner evaluation checklist. Their culture, mission, sales strategy, goals, priorities, markets, locations are all important for a good alignment. Have your future partner complete a short questionnaire to better understand their skills, approach and strategy. Have a good partner balance of small, medium and large partners. If they are not compatible, they most likely will not be a good partner.

  • Win/Win In A Partnership Is A MUST – A successful partnership must be a win for both companies. Both you and you partner must offer value to the customer and make money doing it. Big brand partnerships often are one sided so set expectations early. Be clear up front with your intentions with all potential partners. Develop a co-brand strategy to ensure it’s a win/win.

  • Prepare for A Marathon Not A Sprint - It’s on rare occasion that any startup will waltz into a fortune 500/1000 company and pitch a partnership solution without cultivating that relationship. This simply cannot be done and takes months to cultivate and years to mature a partner relationship.

  • Communication – Engage with your partners often. Set up monthly status calls, quarterly performance reviews. Schedule technology and sales training sessions. Share your company briefs or product changes. Be transparent and call your partner often!

  • Evaluation and Improve – Inject a process that reviews your partner program. This should include team members, partners and customers. Identify what is not working and create a risk registry with timelines, actions and project owners. A 360-degree partner feedback should be implemented and taken seriously. Listen to your partners.

  • Partnership Value - Shift the Perception – The value of partnerships is often overlooked. Work with your partner on developing a strong value proposition. Together as a seamless team, brings much more value than one. Use this as a differentiator.

  • Partner of Partners – Interaction and collaboration within the partner ecosystem is a must. Understand who your partners have as partners and work with them. Set up calls and workshops to align partners. Your program will be much stronger with partners working together as a team.

  • Understand Your Partners Business – Understand your partner’s business strategy. What is their go to market strategy? What do they do and what are their challenges? If your partner is not successful you most likely will not be either.

  • Co-Marketing – Develop a co-marketing strategy that is easy to understand and offers customers exceptional quality and value.

  • Strategy Adjustments – You have a plan and are executing at a fast pace however delivery or sales is not where it needs to be. Take the time to review your strategy with stakeholders. Make smart choices on change and implement quickly. You may need to pivot several times before getting it right.