Discover more from Dear Stage 2
Getting started with a channel strategy
Advice for moving from the idea stage to project stage
DEAR STAGE 2: We’re thinking about setting up a partnerships team, but trying to figure out if it’s too early. When is the right time to invest in partnerships? What are the considerations? And if we do say “go”, how do we get our partner program started? ~Channel Curious Founder
DEAR CHANNEL CURIOUS FOUNDER: Conventional wisdom will tell you to invest in your direct GTM motion before you spin up partnerships. I believe this is true for most companies — find product-market fit before scaling, retain control over message, manage faster feedback loops and own the early customer relationships. That said, in a macro environment where inbound is harder to scale and outbound is less effective than ever, partners are one channel that is helping to break through the noise.
I have a thesis that buyers are using their peers, networks, and connections more actively in the buying cycle, specifically at the start and end of a process. At the start of an evaluation, they are gathering feedback on what vendors to engage, and at the end, they are gathering deep references to compare the vendors they have shortlisted. A partnerships program can leverage these existing relationships as a way to tap into potential customers and capitalize on trust that has already been built.
In a recent article, Mark Roberge breaks down “Partners” as a demand generation article, sharing great perspective on how to assess if this channel is a good fit for your product/company (worth a read!):
So, let’s assume you’ve caught the partnership bug and you’re ready to launch a program. Where do you start?
Asher Mathew is the CEO of Partnership Leaders and has led partnerships for Avalara, LeanData and most recently Demandbase. I kicked this question over to him to share some advice on how you get started with building a partnerships program. Asher’s framework is simple. A channel strategy tends to evolve through 3 stages:
Asher shared 6 golden rules to help you evolve from the “Idea” to the “Project” stage:
Don’t build too soon: Don’t confuse the need for product integrations with partnerships. Integrations are solutions to making sure your product delivers fully on your value proposition for your customer. You generally want to establish a solid direct go-to-market (GTM) function first to ensure you have a direct line to your customer base. Once you have a repeatable motion you can begin venturing into partnerships.
Maximize customer value: Once you have a repeatable direct GTM function, focus on maximizing customer value by seeking input from your customers. Understand their pain points and identify areas where strategic partnerships can enhance the value they derive from your product from using multiple products together. Partnerships, particularly integration based ties, can also serve to make your product stickier.
Define your Ideal Partner Profile (IPP): Developing an Ideal Partner Profile (IPP) is crucial from the outset. Just as you define an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), clearly articulate the characteristics, capabilities, and synergies you seek in potential partners. This will guide your efforts and help identify partners aligned with your vision and goals.
Prove your partnership MVP: Prioritize proving the viability of your partnership concept by executing it as a project or minimum viable product (MVP) before committing extensive resources. This approach allows you to demonstrate results and validate the potential value of the partnership before scaling it up or investing heavily in resourcing a team. This means going deep with a few partners
Hire for today’s needs: As with hiring your first sales hire, you need to hire for the right experience level- someone who is ready to get his or her hands dirty, iterate quickly and learn what works. Do not start with a VP hire when they won’t have anyone to manage.
Align compensation: Be very careful assigning quota to this new department during the project phase. You want to invest in building repeatable and scalable partnerships, instead of chasing any revenue available. Focus on building the foundations and laying the groundwork for future revenue growth in the early days.
Excited to hear about your journey into the project stage - let us know how it goes!
Until next week!