Advise and Acclimate Managed Partners
In a prior post I introduced the 4 Stages of Partner Development. Stage 1 (Advise) was to effectively communicate with partners. We’ll continue the discussion in context of Managed Partners. Your mission is to develop strategic alliances with companies that represent the greatest market growth leverage for your company, will leverage your latest offerings, and value your partnership.
Here’s a reprint of the Partner Strategy Framework:
Recall the Advise stage is about engaging partners with your message. It doesn’t mean they care or will act on that message. In the Acclimate stage, you’re looking to educate them on your product/service capabilities. It is a more active engagement, with them seeking to learn your offering in detail. For your breadth partners, deliver relevant messaging through your channel communications, and progress your audience toward greater maturity, offering support in exchange for their commitment to take development action.
Strategic alliance partners will be more inclined to develop in advance of customer demand if you help them with business justification (offer time and commitment bound marketing investments, make the customer benefit case) and ease their technical uptake of your new product/service capabilities. Roadmap briefings, product presentations, and market analysis help make the early adoption case for large partners. Document your agreed-upon milestones and gives/gets in a shared plan. Revisit this plan monthly/quarterly to assess fulfillment of the partnering relationship. Ultimately, the KPI for the Managed Partner Advise stage is whether it yields highly satisfied relationships. This can be measured via well-worded survey. The score itself can be an internal performance motivator and the feedback verbatim will prove enlightening.
Managed partners require more specific enablement support. Types of support may include Technical Advocates, Evangelists, or Engineers to grow their understanding of your new capabilities. You can scale these resources to the broader ecosystem (e.g., technical learning, showcase “how to” stories. However, be careful about inflicting social media upon your staff (both in terms of their bandwidth and skillset).
You’ll also want to establish a partner accessible system where you track partner development readiness. It is valuable to know what partners have which projects planned so you can manage their progression toward a marketing event (e.g., launch or other marketing campaigns) and align solutions across top customer scenarios. Where possible, balance managed partners across your target industries to maximize your market reach and provide simpler go-to-market engagement for your field sales force.
Whenever possible, take a full lifecycle, integrated view when creating partner systems. You should have one adoption tracking system (spanning breadth and depth programs) that feeds short term marketing evidence needs, partner management priorities, and go-to-market market prioritization. Retain system memory and consistency so you can invite prior partners into your next release cycle when it comes around (enabling a relationship over time, even with breadth partners).
The Acclimate system will need to provide tangible benefits for breadth partners to opt in. This includes access to online training (e.g., documentation, webcasts), development teams (e.g., moderated chats, podcasts), and technical support (e.g., email-based support). Measure Acclimate stage success by activation into early adoption/partnership programs. Get more aggressive by setting targets for managed partner adoption of your new version or even seeking competitive share shift in your partner’s run rate.
Next time we’ll explore how we “Activate” partners in order to grow visibility for them and build up a broader marketing wave for your own product/service release.