Go-To-Market Solution Maps are a valuable tool for driving sales engagement through your most influential managed partners. The Solution Map process entails 1) defining the expected revenue from alliance partnerships, 2) prioritizing go-to-market partners per segment and geography, and 3) streamlining your sales and marketing efforts around those preferred partners. This article will shed light on the process and principles by which you can develop a Solution Map for your preferred partners, yielding an optimized portfolio of managed partners that receive premium account management and marketing resources.
Companies typically assess their alliances and managed partners in conjunction with fiscal year planning, with the purpose of aligning partner account management and marketing resources with company growth priorities and ROI expectations. The rigor that goes into such Strategic Alliances Assessments varies widely by company. Smaller companies tend to collect partners organically, accumulating productive and inert partners along the way. More mature companies have enough partner infrastructure (people and processes) to justify a thorough assessment of their partner ecosystem and are able to drive more predictable partner results in line with company objectives.
As indicated in the name, Solution Maps addresses partners that deliver solutions, whether they be services partners (consultants that adapt your product for customer deployments) or technology partners (ISVs that influence the sale of your products).
Start the Solution Mapping process by understanding your capacity needs by solution segment and geography. This is helpful in determining if you need anchor Services partners with specific capabilities (e.g., clearances and expertise in federal government). Technology partners should be considered for the Solution Map as well (but not new recruits – they should be incubated for product and sales alignment before engaging mainstream go-to-market resources).
It is easy to express partner revenue impact for traditional resellers and SaaS ISVs. A proxy for direct revenue needs to be developed for non-reselling partners (including systems integrators and traditional ISVs). Historical revenue sampling and forecasts for future revenue influence are useful in representing the equivalent value of these kinds of partners.
Determine the minimum market size that warrants partner management resources for each solution area you participate in. This informs which geographies should designate go-to-market partners in support of those solution areas. For example, professional services might be a big enough market opportunity in the US, but not in Canada.
Inventory top partners, assessing whether they align with the new FY priorities. This could entail a nomination process by which internal stakeholders can submit partners for consideration. In larger companies, this can be a politically sensitive process, balancing the interests of multiple product groups, customer segments (e.g., enterprise, mid-market), and “strategic” vs. revenue priorities. Since there is a finite number of partners that can be supported with account management and marketing, there needs to be a predictable process for assessing partner value in light of top company goals (including driving revenue and deployment of your latest product releases). Global firms should recommend coverage for the top global partners that receive centralized support while allowing for local partners that have significant region-specific impact.
The end result of the assessment process is a list of preferred partners by market and segment, with recommended staffing (account management) and budget (marketing development funds) allocations. This should be attached to expected results and measurement/tracking tools should be in place to enable accountability.
Having a preferred partner by segment and geography makes sales engagement and referrals more efficient and incents good behavior from your top partners (particularly if they know the status and support are reassessed annually). Once the Solution Maps are defined, follow through with individual partner planning, communicate the go-to-market list and rules of engagement to the sales and marketing teams, and exceed partner expectations so they strive to maintain Solution Map status.
Do you have the right partners, right resources, and right outcomes defined across your partner ecosystem?
Do you have sufficient partner coverage for each of the geographies you serve (particularly for enterprise implementation and support)?
Do your sales and marketing teams proactively engage preferred partners in their region, using consistent guidelines of success and ROI?
Is the go-to-market solution mapping process something you’re expert at or would you value facilitation of the process from an independent expert?