When you get right down to it business is mostly about successful collaboration.
I often get asked by business owners, mid size organizations, franchise owners and associations which one or two or three marketing tactics have been the most successful for other or similar businesses, or have the greatest results.
The answer depends on each specific business and their associated marketing strategy. But in a nut shell, one of the most effective ways to generate lots of high quality leads is to develop a network of partners that you are strategically aligned with.
Developing a Successful Strategic Partner Program
Now, let’s look at few words in that last sentence. Develop – this takes work, it’s not something that’s done with one meeting, or conversation. Strategically aligned – these are partners that serve your ideal customer and that you feel 100% confident in.
These strategic partners can be organizations and/or individuals that provide something that is core to the delivery of your product or service or that enhance your core offerings in ways that allow you to go after markets you could not currently serve.
So how do you do it? Well, it starts with identifying and recruiting the right partners. And we’re not talking about the traditional 80/20 rule, in which 80% of your channel revenue is driven by only 20% (or less) of your partners. In today’s economy, where everything is being “SaaS-ified” or sold in a subscription model, the margins to maintain 80/20 just aren’t there. The goal today is to focus on building targeted, mutually beneficial partnerships with similarly aligned partners:
- Find partners with complementary offerings. It could be a product or a service, but it must complement your offering in some way.
- Make it a win-win relationship. What will your partners get out of the relationship? What are their goals? Understand they, too, have a business they are trying to grow. So beyond increasing your bottom line, what will you provide them in return? How will you help them make money?
- Expand your sphere. Consider partners who might bring vertical, topical, or service expertise you don’t already have. Say you currently serve the restaurant market, but your product would also serve the hospitality, corporate, and financial services markets. Collaborate with partners who already have a customer base and expertise in those verticals.
- Determine partner types. What kinds of partners do you need to scale your business? There are affiliate, referral, alliance, service, and technology partners; think about which type will help drive you towards your end goal and expand into new markets.
- Get agreements, systems, and processes in place. You must have a solid agreement between you and your partner to dictate procedures should things unravel. Systems and cohesive processes for onboarding, training, reviews, etc. will also help ensure the program runs fluidly.
For example, my organization provides strategic marketing consulting, but every one of our clients needs help with their online presence. In order for us to succeed we have to develop partnerships with organizations that can deliver online marketing help in the manner we prescribe.
Given we now have virtual access to the greatest talent available worldwide, for every service we need to make our clients successful, aggressively packaging this talent as part of your offering has become a major competitive advantage.
Designing and building a foundation for engagement
For partners to achieve success, you have to get them—and keep them—engaged. And the best way to do that from the start is to empower them with the knowledge, tools, and resources in your sales and marketing arsenal.
Keeping partners up to speed on your brand and the evolving details of your products or services is often the most challenging part of growing a partner channel, simply because you have to transfer knowledge to others who don’t work for you, near you, or sometimes even in a similar way as you.
What’s the solution?
Access. Access to marketing content and sales resources. Access to people and processes. Access to culture and thought leadership. And sometimes even access to data and competitive insights that you otherwise keep confidential.
With that knowledge, partners will be more equipped to guide the customer along the path to purchase.