Tom Levers

Software Partner Relationships + Customer Transactions = Success

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, Sales by Tom Levers on October 15, 2010

WHY ALLIANCES ARE NOT EASY

The stability of an alliance depends on how well the “partners” work together… that’s right it is a relationship. Often relationships depend on maturity and their rational application of reason during changing internal and external conditions. It is the willingness to renegotiate the “bargain of circumstances” that creates longevity in a partner relationship.

It is NOT Surprising a large number of alliances never live up to their expectation

A successful alliance requires real “in-the-trenches” discussions around the business and individual sales transactions… not merely an  exchange of product and pre-sales when the transaction reveals itself.  Unless each partner places a high value on the skills, resources, products and contributions each brings to the alliance with a commitment to a win-win outcome, one party will not create the needed importance to the Partners original success criteria.

Ask yourself… is your organization in a one-sided Partnerships ?

A 1999 study by Accenture, a global business consulting organization, revealed that 61 percent of alliances were either outright failures or “limping along”.  In 2004, McKinsey & Company estimated that the overall success rate of alliances was around 50 percent, based on whether the alliance achieved the stated objectives.
Many alliances are dissolved after a few years. The high “divorce rate” among partners often are attributed to some of these reasons:
  1. clash of executives,
  2. poor execution on one side of the relationship,
  3. changing conditions making the original reason obsolete,
  4. new or more attractive business/technology into market ecosystem,
  5. no market demand,
  6. and finally competitive change.

Partners are not always built for offensive reasons.

Many alliances are built early where an ecosystem exists to help a company reduce competitive disadvantages quickly… enhancing reach, capabilities, rapid delivery and awareness.
THE VULNERABILITY OF ALLIANCE  PARTNERSHIPS
The “Achilles Heel” is that each is not willing  to exclusively rely on the partners essential expertise and capabilities to deliver strong business value. To be a market leader (and perhaps even a serious market contender), a company must ultimately understand its “Core Capabilities” to develop and own as it’s capabilities… and what not to develop as “Core Capabilities”. This is pivotal to protecting competitiveness and build success with Alliances and Partnerships. Moreover, some alliances hold only limited potential… because the partner guards its skills and expertise.
DELIVER BUSINESS SOLUTIONS NOT JUST “TECH” SOLUTIONS
Another big driver to “partner relationships” is to impact “transactions” to not just using “Tech” alone”. It will  not win sales transactions and often gets discredited in a techonly senerio. Pure techie brilliance gets undone by vendor ignorance/arrogance about the client’s business needs & people needs – or by the client’s own limitations or tech ignorance. Therefore another test of a “partner” may be that the vendor has demonstrated, by delivering business solutions NOT just IT solutions, that they understand and support your strategy & your culture – and will “raise a flag” if your own people’s actions appear to conflict with either strategy or culture.

Joint Marketing Promotion Means More Than Money

Another key area of Partnerships is joint marketing. This is driven around sales of each partner, the availability of MDF (Market Development Funds), objective of relationship by each party. The objective must be individualized. For example Leads – Relationships are always enhanced when Leads are viewed as a balance sheet. How many leads are given or received… and how many leads are jointly closed? If either Partner expends too much effort with no results the relationship will sour. The key is to review joint business objectives,strategy and tactics on a frequent basis (ie. if leads, installation, support  are considered an important KPI by one partner  the 2nd partner must define its expected return for delivering these KPIs.)

Conclusion

Alliances between companies, whether they are from different parts of the world, or right next door… are a key component to life in business today. Alliances  range from no more than a fleeting transaction where both parties have a temporary need, to a  prelude to a full merger of companies’, technologies, and capabilities. Whatever the nature of business alliances, being a good partner is dictated by the relationship between its employees and is a key corporate asset.  In the global economy, a well-developed ability to create and sustain fruitful alliances gives companies a significant competitive perspective that is a key component  to a complete business strategy.

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Channel Partner Relationship Management

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on June 6, 2010

Using the Cloud is key for your Partners – but your Channel Size, Partner Stage and Confidentiality Requirements Drive the type of Partner Portal you may need.

For the large mature partner organization there are many tools around Channel Partner Relationship Management. TreeHouse Interactive, is an enterprise class SaaS solution with ALL the bells and whistles. TreeHouse allows vendors to keep track of leads and opportunities along side their partners but also provides information to partners on their requirements and benefits, deal registration, and links to marketing automation.

TreeHouse while expensive, allows different navigation for different tiers of partners so your top tier partners are able to see the appropriate information for them but it is blocked to your lower tier partners. MDF and Co-op can be uploaded to the system from distribution partners and channel partners can then apply for MDF and get approved. Partners can also link to marketing automation like Salesforce.

The interface is very intuitive and the ability to assign leads to partners iseasy and efficient! Of course with such a great solution comes a price and TreeHouse wouldn’t be worthwhile if a vendor doesn’t have hundreds of partners with millions of revenue dollars.

Syndication allows relevant content to be pulled from a vendor’s website and displayed on the channel partners’ websites. There is usually a container page with the partners’ look and feel around the top and along the left side and the content is updated on a regular basis. Vendors get their product and value prop information relayed accurately up-to-date in hundreds of other sites and the Channel Partners are able to inform customers on their own sites without having to send them elsewhere. How many times has a partner’s site shown the old model or the current model with the wrong image or information!?

When I was at Business Layers / Computer Associates I evaluated a company called WebCollage to make this happen. I don’t know if they’ve changed their process at all but it was incredibly manual to the point where we had requests from partners in email and would then fax or email them to our client manager to initiate the service. SharedVue’s tool Syndic8 is completely automated. Partners can even login and change their current view of products or services shown on their website.

SharedVue also provides some lead generation and tracking tools (don’t think PRM but every little bit helps right?). Using their tool Communic8 vendors can provide traditional and new media tools so partners can launch campaigns and track them all on the SharedVue tools. Partners of course get worried if vendors can see their leads (more so with some vendors then with others) so SharedVue offers a way to turn the visibility on or off.

 There are more bells and whistles that I didn’t go into here including their specific new media features (webinars, SEM, and Google AdWords). I haven’t used WebCollage in 2 years but SharedVue is certainly more user friendly and robust than WC was back then.

Are their other systems people have seen and liked? I’d love to hear about them. Drop me an email. tlevers@comcast.net