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▶ Are there niche markets that certain partners could help penetrate? ▶ How likely are your partner's customers to purchase? ▶ Are you looking for local partners you can work closely with or national partners with more scale but less control? Once you have established criteria for partners, re- search and identify companies that fit your criteria and establish a connection. If you are a newer business, you may need to start with companies that will take a chance with newer products. Take the time to invest in personal relationships. If your partner is selling your product, develop a rapport with its sales team. By doing this, they are more likely to suggest your product. Be prepared for this dating process to take time. Be proactive in approaching partners that you believe of- fer the best fit, and do not engage with every partner that happens to find you or has a one-off deal. STEP SEVEN: ALIGN YOUR ORGANIZATION WITH YOUR PARTNERS TO DRIVE GROWTH The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about the steps necessary to create a proper process and in- frastructure for your partnership program. But do not forget about creating the correct internal culture and incentives within your company. Create a culture that aligns success internally in your company with the suc- cess of your partners. Training should be focused on helping your partners succeed. Your employee evalua- tions and compensation should also consider the suc- cess of your partners. Channel partners can boost sales, decrease time to market, and provide access to competitive markets. However, building a channel program can be challeng- ing and costly. Hopefully, this article provided some structure and suggestions to make this a bit easier and less costly than we experienced. S incentivize them appropriately. In general, the greater the commitment from the partner, the more status and benefits that partner will expect. STEP FIVE: INVEST IN A PARTNER SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE You cannot expect a partner to be successful without providing the necessary tools and infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the systems, processes, and re- sources that you deliver to partners to help them sell and support your product. These resources include: ▶ Education platforms — This can be simple, such as providing a training and user manual. Or it can be as complex as a custom online portal containing a searchable knowledge base, training videos, and white papers. Education platforms also can include classes, user conferences, and partner certifications. ▶ Developer resources — For integration part- ners, it is important to have full access to techni- cal resources, such as APIs, technical documenta- tion, and higher-level support/chat. ▶ Marketing resources — Marketing design files (logos, fonts, etc.) and specifications to enable proper marketing of the product. ▶ Dedicated partner representative — L arger accounts often benefit from a dedicated account representative to manage the relationship. ▶ Second- and third-level support — Depend- ing on the partner, they may want direct access to higher-level support resources to work on end-user projects or more complex issues. ▶ Lead generation and tracking — An online portal allows partners to register leads and track progress. STEP SIX: IDENTIFY RELEVANT PARTNERS, AND DEVELOP A PLAN ON HOW TO LAND THEM Each new partner relationship requires an investment of time and money. Just like your strategy to target cer- tain customers, you should also have a clear idea about who your ideal or target partners are. It is important that you define up front the attributes of your ideal channel partner. Be sure you know the an- swers to questions such as: ▶ How many partners do you need to cover your market? ▶ What are the key characteristics of partners re- quired to effectively sell your product? ▶ Which types of partners complement the strengths/weaknesses of your business? K E V I N K O G L E R is the founder and president of MicroBiz, a cloud-based POS and inventory management software with more than 25,000 small and midsized retail partners worldwide. MicroBiz created its reseller program in the 1990s, and relaunched it in 2013. Be proactive in approaching partners that you believe offer the best fit, and do not engage with every partner that happens to find you or has a one-off deal. SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 36 CHANNEL STRATEGIES Framework By K. Kogler SIX LESSONS LEARNED FROM BUILDING A RESELLER PROGRAM

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