Human beings are natural collaborators, and our strategy in business shouldn’t be any different. This is especially true in the digital economy – the rapid pace at which the IT landscape is changing has created an urgency for innovation, and the only way this can be achieved is through the evolution of partner programs. Though the relationship between software vendors and Value Added Resellers (VARs) provides the partnering VAR with a certain level of independence in decision-making, ongoing collaboration should be thought of as the backbone to these kinds of business relationships. To ensure that partners are set up for success regardless of their level of engagement, software vendors must establish programs that provide the following:
An “economy of ideas”
Need an idea for how to grow your partner ecosystem, or further tailor your solution portfolio? Why not ask the parties directly involved? Don’t limit communication with your partners to formal email chains and quarterly meetings – make sure conversations are ongoing and open. Partner programs should take advantage of the connectedness of today’s society by implementing the same principles. Showing partners that you value their opinions will make them more inclined to share their aspirations and challenges, allowing for problems to be addressed before they occur. This is especially valuable in the partner relationship between a VAR and vendor. By keeping a steady flow of communication, vendors and partners can work together to bolster the VAR “value-add” that will accompany a given solution. Many minds make light (and innovative) work.
Once a VAR has decided on a solution, they then become the direct point of contact for the end-user for solution customization. The paradigm of the channel has shifted, making it a marketplace with limitless options to choose from. Companies large and small and from many industries are seeking out cloud-based solutions from VARs, but given their wide range of specific needs, conversations to find the right fit will not be the same. No solution will be one-size-fits all, and as such, vendors should take the time to understand their VAR partners’ industry of focus, and provide them with the marketing and sales tools that best target that audience.
However, effective partner programs must go past sales assets, and offer education and enablement. Through training programs, discussion boards and support availability, partners are given an outlet to ask questions and receive immediate feedback. Not only does this have the potential to increase time-to-sale, it also fosters a strong sense of community created around the partner ecosystem.
A clear measurement of success
As a foundation for many VAR/vendor relationships, VARs are required to meet authorizations and/or revenue targets to maintain the partnership. While the thought of “requirements” might come with a negative, one-sided connotation, these details should not be left to the fine print of the agreement. Instead, partners should be provided with a linear view of the journey to reach these benchmarks, inclusive of certifications and communications that should occur along the way. Support materials such as trainings and marketing assets are useless without direction on how to use them, so laying out a clear-cut path in best practices is invaluable to ensuring partner success. To that end, these kinds of partnerships must be symbiotic, and the achievement of these milestones must be recognized. Whether it comes in the form of financial incentive or additional marketing resources, rewards are a necessary part of any successful partner program.
Though the business partnerships of yore often centered around a smaller party working toward the success of a larger party, placing a premium on active, collaborative partnerships is more important now than ever, meaning ideas are as good as dollars.