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Five Steps to Executing an Award-Winning Partner Program

So, you’re looking to build a sector-leading partner program that even your biggest competitor will be jealous of? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s no secret that in B2B tech, new partner programs are at the top of every organization’s to-do list, and rightfully so. In fact, 74% of companies say partner programs and co-marketing are a high or very high priority for their business.

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With companies jumping at any opportunity to make their program the best, the competition is ruthless. This poses the question: what can solutions providers do to ensure their partner program stands out successfully?

Here are the five crucial steps I’ve taken to build and grow B2B tech partner programs, based on learnings from over a decade of experience.

Start by Setting Clear and Measurable Goals

What do the words ‘clear,’ ‘measurable,’ ‘attainable,’ ‘relevant,’ and ‘time-bound’ all have in common? They’re all words that will ideally describe your partner program goals. That said, your goals should be specific to what’s important to your organization – whether it relates to revenue, integrations, delivery speed, customer satisfaction, or any other factor.

When setting goals, it’s okay to start by thinking ‘big picture.’ But, it’s important to zoom in and get as specific as possible to establish a clear and measurable goal.

For example, if your goal is to win new clients in New Zealand, your next step is clear: find resellers to manage that market for you. Additionally, you may be trying to break into a vertical client base, in which case, you’ll want partners with reselling experience in that specific area. That way, you can leverage their existing relationships to onboard more clientele.

Roll out the Welcome Mat

You know how people say that a good first impression works wonders? Well, that’s especially true in the world of partner programs.

To show partners that your newfound relationship is authentic and solid, it’s important to prove that they play a huge role in the success of the business. For example, developing a welcome kit and structured onboarding program can certainly demonstrate the value of working together.

Think of a partner program like a symbiotic relationship; both parties gain value and trust from working together; and there’s nothing people love more than feeling appreciated and seeing their work celebrated. Knowing this, it’s important to share success stories from your partner program with internal stakeholders, existing partners, and new potential partners.

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Align Goals Company-Wide

In a perfect world, your executive team will have the same ideas about what they hope to achieve from a partner program. However, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t live in a perfect world. To address all the varying opinions and ideas you’ll likely face while building and expanding your program, clear communication is your best friend. This helps ensure all stakeholders are on the same team and are rooting for the same goal going forward.

One mistake that companies embarking on their partner program journey often make is neglecting the rest of their wider business. They zero in on the potential success of their partner program, which leads to the internal services team feeling as though they’re being replaced by partners. To convince your wider business that supporting their specific efforts is still a top priority, educate them on how the partner program will benefit them, whether that be through increased adoption or customer satisfaction.

Start With a Solid Foundation and Build the Structure From There

What’s worse than having no partner program at all?

Having a partner program that has absolutely no structure.

Structure is king after all, and without it you’ll never have a productive, scalable program. I recommend kickstarting each of your partnerships through a single customer or opportunity; not only does this help identify key tasks and milestones at each stage, but it provides clarity for both sides of the relationship.

From there, you understand what works and what doesn’t, and can replicate the process three to four times. By forming a routine, you can start to feel comfortable with your partners and get into a natural rhythm, which is when things start progressing exponentially.

Create an Engagement Scorecard

The most successful partner programs are able to both identify and solve problems quickly, and determine which partners are making the biggest splash. And as the world of sales and marketing technology is always changing, companies have no excuse not to easily access data about the partners in their program.

Even though every partner is unique, and therefore, the data and metrics that are accessible will vary, the following questions can help act as an engagement scorecard:

  • What are the benefits of this partnership for both sales teams?
  • Is leadership aligned?
  • Does this partnership have a clear pipeline and measurable success?
  • Are you aligned at the channel level?
  • How are both sales teams benefitting from this partnership?
  • What is our clear go-to-market plan?

That said, building transparent, personal relationships with partners will always be key, because whether we like it or not, not everything is measurable through data.

While these tips should act as a guideline for growing and expanding your partner program, it’s important to recognize that not all programs are created equal. You know your program and its goals better than anybody else, so be sure to cater it to your organization’s specific needs.

And, if you remember anything from this article, it should be that the most successful programs treat their partners as an extension of their own business. It’s okay to be selective and work with only those who you can truly learn and expect a lot of success from.

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