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28 September 2021

7 Expert-Recommended Steps To Create The Ultimate Partner Ecosystem

by Christy Ransom Reading time: 7 mins
partner ecosystem

A New Stream To Accelerate Your Revenue Potential

Are you maximizing your company’s revenue potential? While acquiring new customers or retaining existing ones may seem like the most obvious solution to growing revenue, a more effective solution can be found outside of your organization, in the form of a robust partner ecosystem. In fact, McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2025, nearly ⅓  of total global sales will come from partner ecosystems (2018). 

If you haven’t built a partner ecosystem, you could be missing out on unrealized revenue.  In a recent research study, 60% of business executives say a partner ecosystem is the most effective way to address, and even lead, disruption (Accenture, 2018). While partner programs offer vast and untapped opportunities to drive recurring revenue, you need to be able to build, scale and optimize them correctly. In this article, we outline 7 fundamental steps to help you build a powerful partner ecosystem that expedites revenue growth through shared value realization.

Prescribe An Enablement Model Based On Partner Categories

B2B software partners generally serve two functions; Sales and Customer Success (CS). They acquire customers and fulfill the job of maintaining and retaining them. Unfortunately, many value-added resellers either have an elementary understanding of Customer Success or don’t have a dedicated CS team at all. 

As a first step to creating an effective partner program, you need to create an enablement model that categorizes all partners based on their Customer Success maturity. As you begin this process of classification, consider the following questions:

  • Are these partners going to need a lot of support from our organization?
  • Will they lean on us to provide tech support?
  • Will they require our assistance in training their employees, as well as customers, or will they be able to handle this themselves? 

Based on the answers to these questions, you can then categorize partners into various buckets and appoint an enablement model that corresponds to their position on the maturity curve. This prescriptive approach to your partner relationship will help you determine how much support and service each partner will need to ensure their success and whether they’ll truly be able to execute your vision. 

Define Customer & Partner Outcomes

Before you embark on a partner relationship, you need to define and communicate the outcomes you want your partners to deliver to your end users. This is critical to ensuring that your partners have a clear grasp of their responsibilities and you have an explicit set of standards against which you can effectively measure your partners. 

At the same time, you also need to clearly outline your expectations of your partners, which should align with your expectations of your internal Sales and Customer Success teams. As  your partners are an extension of these teams, they should be accountable to the same outcomes and measurement criteria.

Create A Partner Portal

Strong communication is the crux of a successful partnership program.  To achieve this, a partner portal is essential. A partner portal serves as a central repository of information that seamlessly connects you to your partners and facilitates knowledge-sharing. By enabling   you to tailor the information you share with partners based on their maturity and service offerings, a portal will also empower your organization to take a prescriptive approach to your partner program. 

To make the most of this collaborative platform, ensure you have the following information available for your partners:

  • Marketing materials, including product information and data, detailed sheets on features roadmaps, and talk tracks
  • Sales assets, like proposal templates, one-pagers and a pricing list
  • Customer Success collateral, such as kickoff and QBR templates, playbooks and key benchmark metrics that partners can use to evaluate customers 

Facilitate Training & Enablement

While a major component of training and enablement occurs through the resources you share in your partner portal, direct training is also important. Depending on the maturity of your partner, you may have to conduct one-on-one training sessions regarding the CS motion motion; product and solution (Value-Based Outcome) training, success planning, onboarding, adoption, renewal readiness and the like. 

This is a great opportunity to arrange inter-organizational forums for feedback and knowledge sharing.  We recommend that you arrange a quarterly meeting for your partners to share their feedback as well as any noteworthy responses from your customers with your organization’s senior executives. Putting your partners in touch with your CIO, Product Managers or CCO will allow you to communicate your message and vision firsthand, while getting direct input from partners and making them feel like an integral  part of the process. 

Continuously Share Data

Once you’ve established your partner program, you need to keep the momentum going by keeping your partners up-to-date on new product developments and customer data. Disclose important information like customer health and adoption data as well as churn, risk and upsell indicators.They should have access to the same customer data that your internal teams have access to, barring any privacy or proprietary concerns, so that they can acquire, retain and expand more customers on your behalf. Data sharing is a two-way street; as you share this valuable data with your partners, they should be sharing important data with you, including how your customers are doing, renewal likelihood and key customer metrics. 

A costly mistake that leaders make when it comes to knowledge sharing is informing partners of new developments and features at the same time as their customers. Your partners are an extension of your team, so they should be made aware of any changes and updates at the same time as, or quickly after, your internal teams. 

Measure & Iterate

If you treat your partners as an extension of your Sales and Customer Success teams, you need to measure them in the same way. Similar to a customer scorecard, you can create a partner scorecard that collates all important metrics into one dashboard and gives you a holistic view of each individual partner and your partner ecosystem as a whole.

A few components you can measure and validate include; delivery of product feature roadmaps, end user satisfaction (this can be done through CSATs or in-product messaging and usage) and their engagement level with your organization in the form of training events attendance and portal usage. Based on the results of these metrics, you can determine if certain partners need more training, where there are areas for improvement or if you need to revisit an agreement entirely based on consistently poor performance.

Nurture Your Relationship Through A Partner Enablement Team

A huge mistake that often derails the success of a partner program is assigning responsibility for the entire partner ecosystem to a single individual within your organization. A partner network is vast and complex with a plethora of information and processes that need to be continually shared and administered, such as partner training and annual certification. To do all of this effectively and reap the rewards of your partner program, you need a partner enablement team that is dedicated to the success of each individual participant and the program as a whole.

You Reap What You Sow

Creating a lasting and successful partner program requires clear communication and constant collaboration. Your program will fail if you abandon your partners after their initial introduction and enablement. To ensure revenue-generating success, you need to cultivate a strong partner network  through building a mutually-beneficial relationship, sharing data consistently and providing adequate training to help everyone realize the full potential and ROI of your ecosystem investment. 

Introducing, growing and scaling a partner program successfully requires constant iteration and change management. Read our recent article to learn how you can use Agile development to innovate faster and future-proof your organization.  

Christy Ransom

As a dedicated Customer Experience leader with 20+ years of industry experience, Christy now leads the customer success strategy team at Valuize. With a bold customer-centric vision, Christy is committed to pioneering the development and global delivery of enterprise-level customer experience initiatives for Valuize.