Partner Strategy Framework
Web, cloud, and other software companies are in the enviable position of having low marginal cost of goods once their products are developed. Despite this highly leveraged model, most software companies think fairly narrowly about their partner strategy.
The opportunity is for software companies to expand their thinking and take a platform approach toward their product. The lack of vendor-neutral guidance for building such partner ecosystems triggered the birth of this blog.
I’ll lay out over the coming weeks, a detailed approach for software companies to maximize the value of upstream partners (aka platform vendors), depth (managed) partners, breadth (program managed) partners, and the broader ecosystem. The purpose is to grow 1) partner loyalty, 2) revenue, and 3) brand goodwill.
Partner channels and ecosystems don’t optimize themselves. It takes thoughtful planning and focused execution to compete and win. Let’s get started!
Partner Strategy Framework
The following Partner Strategy Framework takes into account the evolution of relationships across managed partners (upstream and downstream) as well as casting a net to capture mindshare from the broader community (partners and advocates).
The 4 overall partner initiative areas are:
Partner Management: managing your closest, most valuable partners. These are the partners that would directly impact the business if they were to switch their go to market strategy away from your product to a direct competitor. There are several scale models for maximizing these partners that we’ll discuss in future posts.
Breadth Enablement: you can’t justify depth resources (technical and business development staff) for the breadth community so you need to devise an efficient, scalable set of programs that communicates and nurtures their usage of your product.
Ecosystem Activation: connecting with your influencers as individuals helps grow advocates in the breadth and depth partners you’re looking to recruit. Examples include developers (if you are a platform player) or accountants (if you sell small business accounting software).
Vendor leverage: most software companies have platform providers for development tools, databases, operating systems, and other dependencies for their products. Knowing how to align with those vendors’ (or open source community) interests to maximize your marketing and go-to-market support will be valuable if you align with their marketing priorities and rhythm.
A comprehensive partner strategy could include all 4 initiative areas, depending on the scope and extensibility of your product. Most software products have web-accessible APIs which opens up the possibility of taking more of a platform (and therefore leveraged) approach to your partner ecosystem.
Next time, I’ll deconstruct the 4 stages of development (Advise, Acclimate, Activate, and Accelerate) and start expanding on the individual strategy, approach, and tactics as represented by “key verbs” in the Partner Strategy Framework.