Software Executive Magazine

December 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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nel sales become a connected conversation between your partner account managers and the organizations they support. Processes can be seamless, reducing fric- tion for the partner and making them feel special every time they engage with your company. And the really cool part? The opportunities at scale are incredible. Get the model right, and, much like the growth hacking example, you could have a team of five people supporting the individualized needs of 5,000 or more external contributors, all of whom have the ability to move the needle on your revenue or customer satisfaction. GETTING IT RIGHT FROM DAY ONE In my long experience working with high-tech com- panies, I've torn my hair out at the mess that is often created as companies scale through partners without any thought to the underlying strategic and technical foundations on which their channel stands. Part of this problem was a lack of maturity in the technology solu- tions marketplace, leading companies to buying legacy modular partner relationship management (PRM) ap- plications or custom implement CRM platforms like Salesforce to try to solve the partner engagement prob- lem. Reverse engineering the mistakes of the past can be a painful and expensive process and is somewhat akin to fixing an airplane at 30,000 feet. For startups and high-growth companies there is a huge competitive advantage in starting the right way and scaling in that image. In the last few months, we've had the pleasure of working with great software companies, all of whom really get the value of digital first partner engagement. These companies are pur- suing a results-driven approach to helping drive their channel success based on hard KPIs that can be mea- sured against strategic objectives. They are embracing next-generation digital technology to help them drive these results, and because of this they have significant advantages as their programs begin to scale. I would go so far as to say their approach will be game-changing in terms of their opportunities to drive partner-led growth. So whatever your current channel life stage, if high growth through partners is on your agenda, now is the time to consider embracing a digital first channel ap- proach. Getting this right might just be the key compo- nent of your success. S want to partner with you? Once they have expressed interest, how can you make sure they are supported to easily start selling on your behalf? Just like your customers, if you create a bad experience for partners when they first touch your program, they are not com- ing back. There is a lot of other software they can sell. GREAT TECHNOLOGY IS THE KEY TO CHANNEL SUCCESS Think about how marketing has changed through the utilization of platforms like HubSpot. Or how e-com- merce is now a category for a type of company, not just a piece of technolog y. Giving your partner the right experience (from the first click of interest they demonstrate to the first deal they close) is now a critical component of your success. And this means a lot more than providing a partner web portal and deal registration button. The channel com- panies of the future will understand that effective part- ner engagement is more like world class account based marketing (ABM), just with many more variables. You need to focus your program's content, tools, and offer- ings to the precise needs of your channel community. This focus needs to be in the context of each specific user, the stage they are at in their partner journey, and what they are trying to achieve at any given moment (not to mention their physical location and the lan- guage they speak). All too often, I've heard growing tech companies say- ing "We are not sophisticated enough for that yet" or "We just need a basic website for our partners." This tells me two things: 1. They are not really serious about partners and 2. They are very unlikely to scale their channel any- time soon. THE POWER OF YOUR PEOPLE Whatever the term you like to use, expertise in "growth hacking" or some equivalent has unquestionably helped companies skyrocket on shoestring marketing budgets. By providing smart employees with technol- ogy to systematically manage processes like content publishing, social syndication, and lead nurturing at scale, many organizations have reaped huge benefits in leveraging new world techniques and technologies to fuel their growth. The same principles can easily be applied to ambi- tious channel-focused organizations. With the right mix of team and technology, the few can truly serve the needs of the many. Channel marketing becomes a science — the ability to correlate messaging, offers, and solution-selling content with the precise profile of each and every member of your channel community. Chan- J A M E S H O D G K I N S O N is the CEO and founder of Webinfinity, the SaaS-based channel experience company he founded after being a channel solutions provider. He is a career entrepreneur and thought leader in technology and channel markets. He has focused on the challenge of partner experience for more than 15 years. 41 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM DECEMBER 2017

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