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  • Larry Gregory

The 4 Stages of Partner Development

Let’s consider the 4 Stages of Partner Development: Advise, Acclimate, Activate, and Accelerate. The following graphic outlines activities and outcomes that should be pursued and measured for each partner development stage. Use the Partner Strategy Framework from post #2 as a cross-reference. 

The 4 Stages of Partner Development

Activities will be executed differently across depth and breadth audiences, but the general approach and outcomes will be the similar.  Let’s consider how we apply the “Advise” activities in context of the 4 Partner Initiative Areas:

Managed partner relationships should be staffed with advisory roles (e.g., technical advocates and business development managers) that keep them up-to-date on new product developments.  These “trusted advisor” relationship are important as these partners have greater leverage on revenue and are less likely to adopt faster than the broader market organically.  Aside: I personally prefer BDM to PAM (Partner Account Manager) because it implies more accountability to driving new business (ah… the power of titles).

There is a distinctly different approach to recruiting managed partners, with more hard and soft investment required up front.  Recruit partners won’t have proper motivation (despite incentives) if there isn’t customer demand.  If your sales teams can identify customers who desire to see the partnership happen, that will provide context on which to recruit an otherwise reluctant partner.

Breadth partner communications comes in a more automated form (newsletters, blogs, video recordings, etc.).  This could be triggered from “partner program” membership or opting into a 1-off web campaign.  The goal here is to grow these partners into deeper levels of partnership commitment.   Your breadth communications systems should also apply to managed partners, but they’ll want support to help adapt to their particular business context.   We’ll talk about partner programs another time, but the important thing is to “talk with”, not “talk to”.

Your target ecosystem (defined as the key influencers for adoption of your product) need to be reached in a way that they feel connected to the company.  The message needs to be delivered in context of their environment such that they see you as a peer in their community versus fly-by-night promotion of your latest product.  The goal is to grow advocates among this target ecosystem — they are an indirect way to influence your depth and breadth partners.  Aside:I recently heard the adage (from MySQL Founder Marten Mickos) that 70% of your audience doesn’t care what you say, 20% will agree with what you say, and 10% will always disagree.  However, the 70% cares very much how you respond to the 10%.  This rings true from my experience, and highlights the need to have a purposeful and effective ecosystem engagement effort.

Lastly, let’s talk about upstream partners (vendors).  They’re a bit like “managing up” your boss.  Keep them informed to the degree they require and continually probe for additional opportunities and initiatives.  In this way you stay on their managed partner list and will learn about new resources (so you can advise them how you fit as a preferred partner).

That’s just the Advise Stage – there’s much more to convey.  Hopefully, you can understand the summary intent from the graphic.  Next time, I’ll start walking through the end to end management of each partner area, starting with Managed Partners.

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