For technology vendors, building the right integrations and partnering with the right companies is imperative. Partnerships allow you to reach a larger customer base, build more innovative tools and generate more revenue. Unfortunately, too many companies try to build these kinds of relationships ad hoc, rather than dedicating a team of experts primarily focused on finding, building and maintaining excellent partnerships. Whether you sell an email marketing solution, a CRM system, or any other kind of enterprise service, you should look into building a team of AI partnership experts who can help you turn automation and digital colleagues into new features and products.
Finding the Right AI Partnerships
Technology collaborations are not something you should stumble into. Your team should actively look for and recruit companies that are a potential fit for your specific solution and customer base. As this team will be mostly focused on partnerships, they will have a firm grasp on which companies make good partners. Some factors they will want to consider include:
- Does this company have a product that is complimentary with our solution?
- Does this company’s customer base align with ours, or introduce us to a new customer base to whom we would like to sell?
- Can they get us access to executives to whom we’ve tried but failed to gain access?
- Can a partnership with this company help improve the final package of products and services that we deliver to clients?
There are three key points to focus on when seeking productive partners.
Solve the partner’s problems. Partners need revenue of course, but more importantly they need something that fills a hole in their current set of capabilities. They need something that is easy to learn, simple to consume, and that creates significant residual value in the form of follow-on or expanded opportunities to sell their core product or service.
Make sure there is a mutual value proposition. You should seek a unique value proposition that can be realized by both companies. Nobody wants to buy a tagalong solution without differentiation — even if it’s cheaper.
Strive for clear commitments from both sides and mutual investment. Partners that are not willing to invest the time to learn, or the resources necessary to build, effective skills are not well positioned to deliver value and will not generate the yield you want. Instead, seek partners that appreciate the value of mutual investment and building a plan together.
If you rely solely on salespeople operating without assistance from a dedicated partnership team to drive your partner strategy, you’re taking a big gamble. In our experience, this kind of short-term focus compromises longer-term success. By establishing a team of experts solely dedicated to partner development, you can free up your sales team to focus on what they do best — pursue and close deals as they come in.
Building the Partnership
Conceiving and creating an actual AI-based partnership is a technical process that requires input from potentially many people. You need to have key stakeholders on both sides of the collaboration. Everyone should consistently be on the same page — in the same room, or on the same call — as technical experts, product managers and business decision-makers map out the offering that is built and how it will function. Building a functional, bilateral relationship that offers both parties clarity and measurable benefit is hard work.
Your company should develop skills of dedicated Partner Account Managers (PAM) to guide potential companies through this process. A good PAM knows how to build trust and enable a partner’s success over time, which in turn will be their success as well. Focusing on this partner management skillset helps avoid transactional, short-sighted behavior.
Launching the Partnership
Launching an AI partnership involves more than putting out a joint press release and sharing a contacts list. These partnerships have the potential to provide massive value to all parties involved, or they can go totally unnoticed, fail miserably and alienate clients. Determining messaging, the look and feel of a joint solution, and end user expectations should be tasks dedicated to partnership experts. Slapping two logos next to each other on a presentation slide and telling everyone the partnership is live is far from effective partner messaging. Instead, you will need to effectively convey how a partnership benefits end users, how best to communicate that to the industry, what the go-to-market strategy should be, and how leads will be tackled. These tasks are too important to leave to employees who are not exclusively focused on this process.
Maintaining the Partnership
The most important thing you can do to maintain and grow a partnership over time is to establish clear KPIs and track them together. Figure out how you want to measure success and focus on those elements. Eliminate constraints to the business, whether they are training-related, sales-related or otherwise. Having a well thought-out go-to-market strategy focused on key segments, markets and target accounts, with a well-defined set of solutions, will help advance the partnership’s joint value proposition.
Clear and transparent communications underpin an effective partner strategy. You should talk to your partner frequently and proactively. Additionally, effective coordination between your PAM and your sales team can help accelerate the business. The PAM can focus on enabling the partner, building demand and generating pipeline. Sales can then focus on the best strategy to close the business.
If you’re interested in learning about how IPsoft partners with other organizations in the tech community, send an email to [email protected].