Partner Program Strategy: Going Beyond Channel Sales
Partner programs typically focus on reseller channel operations including sales and marketing collateral, product training, and sales incentives. As companies grow, they expand their scale and leverage of “indirect partners”. Creating a recruiting engine that attracts and cultivates an army of influencers requires partner marketing. We can learn from Microsoft’s successful community development tactic: Channel 9.
Channel 9 was formed in 2004 to provide greater transparency to developers and encourage them to engage in dialog with Microsoft (the name was derived from United Airlines’ practice of broadcasting cockpit dialog on channel 9 of the airplane audio system). The site hosted videos, blogs, and other content that appealed to those developing solutions on the Microsoft platform. It effectively served as an outbound marketing channel to attract and sustain relationships with the developer community.
Channel 9 also helped tell partner stories (including how they leverage underlying Microsoft technologies). Partner stories were captured on video at industry events (most recently at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference – where I used the opportunity to summarize Competegy’s Partner Mapping software).
Partner Mapping Summary
Today there are numerous online communities (e.g., social networks) enabling this kind of mass dialog, but many companies don’t engage their partner network in this way. Familiarity encourages adoption and Net Promoter Score positive sentiment. How are you engaging developers/partners en masse to encourage integration and referrals for your products?
How does this relate to partner program strategy?
Once you have triggered interest from a potential partner, you need to land them in a program and nurture them as they build their business and revenue relevance to you. A well-conceived, tiered partner program encourages partners to initiate and grow their commitment over time.
Mature companies can lose track of partner program ROI over time and miss opportunities to use their partner community asset to drive company growth. Partner Mapping enables companies to use their partner program more strategically (beyond typical channel sales promotions) and generate new company revenue from both reselling and indirect partners.
In summary, you need to reach partners (via solutions like Channel 9 and social networks), educate them (through self-serve product training), activate them (by securing their commitment in via partner programs), and enable them to sell (through self-service sales & marketing materials). See the Partner Strategy Framework for a more detailed walk-through of Developer Ecosystem and Breadth Partner strategies.
P.S. About the Channel 9 Guy
One small partner marketing example is the Channel 9 Guy. He symbolizes communications with the community (note the wireless headset). I planted a Channel 9 Guy in a geocache 5 years ago. He has traveled over 3,200 miles since then, carried from cache to cache by complete strangers. How are you activating your partners to carry your message?