- On December 22, 2020
This blog post on ‘The Importance of Broadening Channel Partner Ecosystems’ was written for Forbes Technology Council by Gorilla’s CEO Carlo Tortora Brayda.
When looking at your partner strategy, it is essential to think beyond linear sales distribution. In the early days of commercial sales channels, the setup was very straightforward. You would appoint a distributor and run the majority or entirety of your reseller business through them. That was perfect for the earlier age of demand-driven commoditized product movement.
Today, so much of the technology sector is based on complex solution selling. Thus, there has been an incredible development in the sophistication of channel strategy.
How often have we witnessed deals fall through at the very end of the sales cycle? More often than we would like, I bet. Research on corporate data center management revealed consistently how third-party trusted advisers are consulted prior to making a purchasing decision. These trusted advisers often take the form of product-agnostic consultants and complementary technology vendors.
It is in the vendor’s interest to make sure its sales partners are aware of this and that they are supported through this uncertain terrain. Rather than leaving things to chance, learn about the most fitting influencers and specifiers for each vertical market of interest and create a process that would align each of your channel partners to the related ecosystem of influencer and specifying actors.
By doing this, you can turn potential opponents into allies from the get-go. And as Sun Tzu put it in The Art of War, “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.”
Your channel partner should be able to go out and win business, not as a lone ranger but alongside an unbeatable partner ecosystem. This concept was the birth of partner-to-partner ecosystems.
Here are three things you can do to support your own channel with partner-to-partner ecosystems:
1. Design a repeatable, scalable, industrialized process.
Start by building a database of complementary partners for your partners, focusing on the categories that have influential or specifying power within your prospect base. Usually, these ecosystems are highly verticalized.
Develop a scorecard and profile this database in detail. Information you may want to capture includes scoring their ability to complement your partners’ proposition from a technology or services perspective, determining their business and technology strategic direction and seeing how that aligns with your partners and, finally, scoring their level of influence and persuasive power with the target clients. Large global system integrators, for instance, would typically score high in this last category.
2. Scorecard your partners in a similar manner.
Subsequently, develop a simple algorithm to work out the level of compatibility between your partner and this outside ecosystem of potential partners. As you find matches that score highly, you can propose these to your partners and initiate the outreach process with the subjects of interest. This is not unlike creating an automated matchmaking service.
3. Let a neutral third party drive the relationship-building process.
The vendor itself is beautifully positioned to do this. Alternatively, a specialized partner marketing concierge could help by facilitating a pairing conference call and laying out the structure of a simple partnership plan.
In the case of product-agnostic consultants, focus on information fulfillment and early-bird access to the product road map — these things have great value to a consultant and help them become more knowledgable for their customers. In addition, there is a huge opportunity with partners that can complement your partners’ propositions.
In these cases, your facilitator or concierge should lay out a simple joint business plan and hold each partner in the ecosystem accountable for the timely execution of their tasks. Partners look to harvest new opportunities from each other’s install base, on the basis of a carefully laid-out plan, clear rules of engagement and well-rehearsed, flawless execution to ensure the customer experience is excellent.
Subsequently, the concierge can help define and smith the conjoint value proposition before launching several new customer acquisition campaigns. These campaigns would be funded by marketing development funds (MDF) or through distribution contra revenue in general, adding to the flexibility and ease of program deployment. As this generates net new revenue, it is easy to justify additional sales incentives to partners. Sales incentives are an essential component. Partners should be incentivized to detect and declare new opportunities, and they should have generous bonuses upon closing new deals.
Partner-to-partner ecosystems rarely work out spontaneously. Many companies have failed to build such ecosystems by trying to create a digital meeting ground where companies could develop new relationships of their own accord. To achieve success, the process should be driven. In selecting a facilitator, make sure they have a proactive personality and a project management skill set.
Ecosystem development opens up new greenfield revenue streams. Vendors that use partner ecosystems at scale penetrate commercial white space at unparalleled speed. Partner-to-partner ecosystem building is a highly innovative strategy that, when correctly managed, can grow revenue and elevate the partner experience with your brand to new heights.
Learn more about the Gorilla approach to helping you broaden your partner ecosystems for added security and see how we could help your distribution be more secure.