Your partner tech stack is a mess.
Partners are complaining about the number of logins they have to maintain.
Leads are lost to email and Slack messages that never got 'managed.'
Attribution is a joke, and Finance is behind on invoicing and payments.
Your tech stack is a monster demanding to be fed the only thing it eats - resources. People, money, and partners.
This week: why you need a vision for Partner Experience. I've been operating on the assumption that you and I agree. Acting like we're in this little secret club together with secret high fives and whatnot because we believe in the value of Partner Experience.
But that may not be true.
So if you're new and you don't know why you need a vision for Partner Experience, or you're trying to understand your own thoughts about Partner Experience, hopefully, this week is for you.
Partners are customers
It's a BIG debate in the Ops world about architecture and how to set that up and manage it properly.
Is it one account? Is it two? How do we see both, and what do we do when...
*sigh*.... you're right, Executive Function... stay on topic...
Layering relationships creates complexity, and complexity requires intentional effort and thought.
Let’s say you have a colleague at work you like well enough, but you only see them at work. Then one day, you see this colleague in public at your favorite ax-throwing hangout, and you suddenly realize you both have a deep passion for Weird Al Yankovic, specifically his polkas and his romantic non-romance songs.
Just like that, you’re dating. Now you have a two-layered relationship. Things are more complex, and it suddenly requires more attention, and it's going to need more resources from you.
When you make partners out of customers, or you make customers, partners, you do the same thing. You layer on the structure. You layer on relational complexity that needs different levels of attention.
Partners are foundational
Second, partnerships (or Ecosystems?) are becoming foundational elements of company planning. If you're starting a company right now you should have an eventual partnership mindset in front of you for how you want to grow your company.
Growing from $100m to $500m is already a monumental challenge, and it will be nearly impossible without Partners in the future. This means Partner Experience must be built into your foundational planning, especially for software companies.
If you have a software company, you do not have a services company, you don't have a customer success company, and you don't have a legal company.
You have a software company that should focus on delivering great software with partners that help supplement these different groups.
Partners allow you to grow your brand and spread your economy beyond your company into these other companies. It's fascinating, and it should be part of your foundational plan.
You need to be thinking about what it looks like for partners to show up at your door, to resell your software, to engage with you, and co-sell, to learn about your product, to fold it into their mix… all from the very beginning or your architecture for both product and systems.
Failing to do that will create operational debt you’ll be paying back for a long, long time.
Partner are... decisional? No... that's not right...
The last reason is that having a defined vision for Partner Experience means you don't make decisions in a vacuum. PRM acquisition is a good example.
It's easy to point to, and very few people would argue with me about this platform being heavily, if not entirely, driven by a single feature - deal registration.
It’s also typically driven by unscalable manual efforts reaching a breaking point: it's painful, and now it's too manual; we’re losing visibility because of bad attribution; partners are complaining about our response times; we’re sometimes never even responding to the lead; etc.
You’re facing a retroactive effort to get caught up.
Here’s the truth - many PRM platforms are happy to sell you on deal reg alone because they believe they can expand once they are in the door. It’s basically what all software companies do. Land and expand, baby. Land and expand.
So they give you Deal Reg. You think you bought deal reg, too, but actually, you have a fully functional PRM, and you never leverage the value. Every call you're on, they're trying to sell you more, and they're telling you about your login rates and how high they are, and how great that is.
Then you buy another platform over here because you need marketplace and directory, but maybe you didn't know your PRM had directory functionality, or you just didn't vet the functionality, or it doesn't actually meet all your needs for marketplace directory and in-app listings, so you spread your budget further across multiple platforms.
And maybe you don't have an SSO because you put both of these in place at different times. No big deal; it’s just two systems right? Partners will manage, and most are small and heavily dependent on our solution, so they’ll adjust.
We can do SSO later. But you never do. SSO can be costly and doesn’t have a direct tie-in to revenue. You have to figure out the value of efficiency measures and those soft costs are often… soft. You never said the Partner Experience is an inherent value-added concept, and as you get 7 systems deep into your tech stack you wind up too busy and too resource-strapped to take on SSO.
Without a vision for Partner Experience, it's difficult to build a roadmap.
Partner Experience starts with architecture, and architecture starts from day one.
You wouldn't wait to think about the customer experience, and Partners are customers, too. You wouldn't build a mansion without a solid foundation, and Partners are key to getting you to the mansion. This kind of foundation means every decision will have a purpose and a place so that'll you be ready when people show up, and it's time to really scale fast.
A vision for Partner Experience is not just responsible planning - it's going to be essential to attract top partners, talent, and investors in the months and years to come.
Now you just need to figure out who owns it.
Next Week: Who Owns the Partner Experience?