The tech channel is all about relationships. We naturally create connections with people and companies whose interests align with ours.
However, we may not realize that these informal relationships could lead to formal go-to-market partnerships that benefit both parties. Leveraging relationships to reach our revenue goals might not be our initial goal, but it can become a vital revenue generation, retention, and expansion strategy.
At Zift Solutions, our leadership team recognized the potential of our informal relationships early on and decided to double down on an alliance strategy, beginning with giving me the task of building out the Zift ZONE Alliance Program.
If you’re in a similar situation or would like to add a formal strategic alliances program, follow these five steps to ensure mutually beneficial and profitable alliances:
1. Set goals and objectives for your alliance program
To ensure success, it’s essential to clearly define goals and objectives for your alliance program. Consider the following examples:
- Increase “stickiness” with your customers – We all know retaining customers is easier than selling new ones. Alliance partners can help with customer retention by extending your portfolio to include implementation services, complementary technologies, and consulting services that help customers maximize the benefits of your solution. For example, a UCaaS provider might create an alliance with an SD-WAN provider to ensure network quality of service for voice and video applications running on its cloud communications platform.
- Generate revenue for your company and your alliance partners – Generating revenue is an obvious goal but vitally important for businesses and partners. Referrals from your alliance partners connect you with prospects and opportunities to generate additional revenue.
- You also can boost revenue by earning referrals for recommending your alliance partners to your customers. Expanding your geographic reach and vertical coverage through alliance partnerships can also open doors to customers and revenue you might not have realized otherwise.
- Elevate your reputation – A good reputation goes a long way with potential customers looking for proven vendors. Securing third-party endorsements from alliance partners can enhance your company’s credibility. Becoming part of an ecosystem puts this strategy on steroids by earning validation from multiple partners. Furthermore, alliances with ecosystem partners signal to customers that you’re focused on their overall success, not simply on selling your platform.
- Create co-marketing opportunities – Joint marketing initiatives are opportunities to strengthen and amplify your go-to-market strategy. Social media events and joint webinars are good examples of how you and your alliance partners can co-market to benefit each other. Placing your logo or promotions on partners’ websites and social media channels is an effective way to cross-promote. Additionally, joint press releases are beneficial for amplifying your message, and joint case studies can show the value of your joint offer.
- Play defense – Depending on the nature of your alliance, you may achieve preferred alliance partner status so that you’re recommended rather than your competitors. By developing an ecosystem of supporting vendors around your solutions, you also demonstrate to customers that you’re a trusted expert in your industry and a market leader, which can position you ahead of the competition.
2. Identify right-fit alliance partners
Not all partners are good fits — you need to ensure you can identify who will work well with your business and select the right kinds of partners. Consider the following partner types and how they might fit into your alliance program:
- Software providers – Software providers are helpful additions to your strategic partner alliance because their applications round out your offering and solutions portfolio.
- Services partners – Some of the best partners are those who install and implement, train, or troubleshoot your solutions. Their business model goes hand-in-hand with yours, making co-marketing and co-sales a no-brainer.
- Consultants – If you can convince trusted business advisers to recommend your solutions, you are likely to develop a successful pipeline of leads because their recommendations are highly regarded.
3. Articulate the benefits for your alliance partners
The tricky part in building an alliance program is convincing your partners that your business is a good partner for them. Be sure to communicate your value to partners by emphasizing the benefits of partnership, such as the following:
- Generate new revenue opportunities – Just like you; your partners care about generating new revenue more than anything. Here’s how you can support your partners:
- Recommend partners to your customers.
- Offer opportunities to earn referral fees for recommending their customers to you.
- Include your alliance partners in your partner or provider locator service.
- Expand your geographic reach – One of the most attractive aspects of alliance partnerships is tapping into new geographic areas. It’s far more efficient and cost-effective to leverage businesses in other geographic regions rather than attempting to break into new locations on their own.
- Marketing – Alliance partners often find marketing perks enticing. Some examples of co-marketing include:
- Press releases
- Partner spotlights in customer newsletters
- Social posts
- Sales support – Additionally, alliance partners often need help with sales. Consider supporting these sales enablement initiatives:
- Sales training
- Sales collateral
- Co-selling support
4. Operationalize your alliance program
Your alliance partnership program needs deliberate processes and careful management to succeed. Avoid inviting partners to a half-baked program. Doing so is likely to damage your budding business relationship. Instead, ensure your program is up to snuff by doing the following:
- Establish and sign agreements outlining the terms of the partnership.
- Create a checklist for onboarding new alliance partners.
- Build a portal with their onboarding plan, sales tools, co-brandable materials, etc.
- Provide meaningful training modules, tools, and technical information.
- Build a plan to incent your team to sell and refer alliance offerings.
- Prioritize which partners will bring the most benefit with the resources you have.
- Develop a procedure for tracking referrals in both directions.
- Promote partnerships and develop “newsworthy” projects.
5. Measure the success of your alliance program
You’ll know if your alliance partnership program is working by measuring your success. Measurement will depend on your goals but generally may include:
- Referrals and leads from partners
- Revenue from partner referrals
- Revenue from leads and referrals you send to alliance partners
- Amount of services sold and the size of those services
- Customer retention rate
Strategic alliances are not cookie-cutter relationships, but they do require structure to make them successful. Start with the goal of creating mutually beneficial relationships. The more successful you can make your partners, the more they can drive success for your organization.
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