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At the end of 2019, Forrester analyzer Jay Mcbain projected that 2020 would be the year that companies would view their partnership's journey to be as valuable as their customer journey. As 2021 begins, we all are looking back on the last year with a big sigh of relief and perhaps a mutual question of, "What the hell was that?" No one has a clue. What we do know is that the projection of Mr. Mcbain was correct. The importance of the partnership's journey has become exacerbated as the ecosystem's relevance has increased significantly over the last year. 

The revenue-building opportunities that partnerships present are endless. It has become increasingly essential that partnership programs nurture their partners. Furthermore, they must also provide valuable and meaningful experiences along their journey, just as they do for their customers. Moreover, the evolution of the customer journey now continues beyond the transaction; thus, the importance of partnerships is now more essential than ever. The opportunity that companies once had to directly influence future customers' decisions has now been removed. Customer buying decisions are swayed and often made by their interaction with third party influencers. Thus the importance that the role of partnerships plays is now more essential than ever. While there is no one size fits all solution to partnership programs, universal methods can be taken to ensure that the partner's journey is memorable. 

How to Find the Right Partner  

Jared Jones, Head of Ecosystem Partnerships at Launchdarkly, puts it very simply, "It has to be a logical fit - If it doesn't make sense, then it's probably not going to work." What is logical varies. The goal of a company's partnerships program must be defined and then aligned. Not only that, there needs to be natural synchronicity, an ability to work together and integrate seamlessly. 

Utilizing a tool like Sharework, a partner's potential can be identified instantly. Use account mapping to identify overlapping accounts. Further, check the partner's influence potential by seeing if the partner's contacts with prospective accounts in their CRM that are not in your own. And, to begin, identify where common opportunities exist. When you are just starting to dip your toes into the water with a partner, having a mutually beneficial action plan is the best way to develop trust.  

Stan, Partnerships Manager at SmartRecruiters, has three pillars that he measures their prospective partnerships on: 

  • Alignment: Do the two companies have complementary value propositions? Is there ICP alignment? Also, take into account if the internal company culture and external brand messaging are complimentary. 
  • Potential: How many customers do they have? How many prospects do they have? What geographies do they cover? How big is their marketing team, sales team, success team, and do they have the resources? 
  • Commitment Ultimately, it comes down to trust and commitment. The partnership has to have balance and an investment in resources to make it a success.

Partnership Structure & Onboarding 

As Stan said, each partner has to have the resources to ensure that the partnership is successful. When establishing a healthy partnership, there is an integration of the two companies, including the marketing and sales teams. From this integration, the value that the pairing of the two companies presents must be universally adopted. 

According to Sorina Codrea, a manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP., "Channel partners have several frustrations when it comes to the vendor relationship. Those include complaints about overly complex partner programs, administrative overhead that slows down onboarding, insufficient strategic guidance, and outdated training and support, according to a Deloitte analysis of tech vendor feedback and the "2019 Ease of Doing Business" report from business strategy and research firm the 2112 Group."

Onboarding is a critical component that is often overlooked when considering Partner journey experience. Just as a company wouldn't allow there to be confusion in the buyer's journey, you shouldn't allow confusion in the partner's journey. Imagine a customer not knowing how to utilize your website to purchase a product. The likelihood of this confusion leading to a sale is minimal. Now, imagine a partner not knowing the course of action with a partner. The odds are similar. It is improbable that an unclear partner onboarding experience will result in any activity that could build revenue, like co-marketing or co-selling. 

As we turn to 2020 for lessons in handling B2B business, one lesson, in particular, distinguishes itself among the rest - tech partnerships are powerful. We've seen them play an essential role in the survival and revival of many companies. We also have seen their actions be instrumental in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Knowing that Tech Partnerships carry such weight, companies would be remiss to ignore the value that the partnerships journey will play in their revenue-building strategy for 2021. They must make sure that they have an onboarding and integration plan. They must treat each partner with care. Ignoring any of these components could prove detrimental when trying to take steps forward in the year ahead.

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