Strategic Alliances (Cloud, Technology, System Integrator, ISV and OEM partnerships) are apples, Reseller Channel partners (Value Added Resellers) are oranges. Sure they’re both partners, but the similarities end there.
One needs deep collaboration to succeed; the other uses set rules and automation to scale.
Yet, we often see High Tech vendors utilize partnering tools that work for their channel partners and apply it to their most important strategic alliances. No wonder strategic partners engagement is low and people resort to personal productivity tools to patch the lack of truly shared system of collaboration.
WorkSpan has helped enterprises such as SAP, Intel and CenturyLink engage with their strategic alliances differently and here are the 7 differences and associated best practices we have learnt from them.
- Strategic Alliances Need Collaborative Process for Decision Making
Channel oriented MDF / partner portal tools are meant to coordinate large numbers of partners where the focus is on automation. The approach is to set rules of the game and let channel partners scale your GTM at arm’s length.
Strategic alliances on the other hand have a deeper collaborative relationship forged in shared solutions and are 4x higher in value (e.g. a Joint Roadshow on Cloud Transformation across 12 cities) than a channel marketing proposal (e.g. a lunch and learn event or webinar).
The funding process will require multiple stakeholders on both sides to influence and is often done via emails and conference calls.
Look for Strategic Alliances oriented MDF process where you and your strategic partners can have shared visibility and collaborative decisioning for the co-marketing program. On WorkSpan, your regional partner marketers can endorse a campaign proposal received from your alliance’s regional marketers, then global program leaders decide which campaigns to fund based on campaigns goals promised and collective endorsements received up and down the chain. Deep buy-in ensures shared execution once approval is received.
2. Strategic Alliances Need n-way Partnerships
Customers buy solutions, not individual point products. Alliance partners band together to offer a solution that works for the customer. This is happening more frequently as Cloud, Technology and SI partners come together on marketing programs to address new needs as diverse as digital transformation, hyper-convergence, IOT and security.
Channel Marketing MDF solutions are typically one way and one partner at a time and hence using a Channel MDF solutions will force operations teams to handle multiple proposals with each strategic partner independently on the same campaign.
We are seeing a rise in collaborative go-to-market where multiple strategic alliances come together to capture new opportunities — e.g. Lenovo + SUSE + MapR + SAP coming together for big data analytics or Dell EMC, Microsoft Azure and ATOS bringing hybrid cloud to market together or SAP and Google Cloud partnering together to attract 3rd party developers to build intelligent apps with AI / ML use cases on SAP HANA.
Strategic Alliances MDF process should have flexibility to invite multiple partners to the same campaign proposal and cross invest in shared go to market. On WorkSpan, you get more out of your own MDF investment by spending alongside your strategic partners on the same campaign in one place.
3. Strategic Alliances Need to Track Goals and Performance over Longer Time Horizons from Lead to Revenue
Each strategic partnership is special and needs to track overall impact on awareness, pipeline and revenue impact. This long range goal planning requires strategic alliances co-marketing programs to set goals and track results for longer horizons.
Channel MDF solutions focus on proof of execution and immediate vanity numbers. Usually, it is related to financial compliance and a snapshot of execution (e.g. number of attendees for a given event).
If strategic alliances are truly a strategic go to market, B2B marketing teams must rise to the challenge. Set goals that track metrics beyond # of attendees and track & share pipeline and revenue impact ( e.g. # of marketing qualified leads and sales accepted opportunities and revenue closed) over time to truly assess the success of your joint marketing campaigns.
New innovations in marketing collaboration for Strategic alliances can not only simplify goal tracking at the proposal stage but also collect results data automatically with permissions over a longer range of time. On WorkSpan, you can track progress manually or connected to each other’s CRM systems. You can see longitudinal impact long after the campaign is over and then aggregate up to the overall impact of the program. Managing goals and investments at the program level allows you to be responsive to regional or industry specific gaps and improve campaign effectiveness by eliminating poor performing campaigns and doubling down on best performing ones in a shared system of record with both trust and accountability.
4. Strategic Alliances need Push and Pull Campaigns
In strategic partnerships, good ideas come from everywhere, specially the field marketing teams from your strategic partner organizations in the network.
While Channel MDF solutions are designed to receive requests from one party and provide investments from the other party, Strategic Alliances must be ready to operate in both modes, where there is push and pull of campaigns based on shared investments.
On WorkSpan, you can not only propose campaigns to your strategic partners, but also receive proposals from them. In addition, you can also see campaigns that have been made visible to you from your colleagues and partners and you can knock on the door to join in. This level of visibility in your trusted circle helps foster and achieve the exponential potential of your relationship can cannot be attained on one way Channel MDF solutions.
5. Strategic Alliances need Agility to Respond to Market Changes
As Strategic Alliances work across companies and internal organizations, the strategy evolves and aligns in flight due to changing market dynamics.
Doing these processes over transactional Channel MDF tools may feel like changing tires on a running car.
Strategic Alliance tools must provide ways to “work out loud” connected with your partners, so you can stay agile and make those changes to inflight campaigns and programs. By creating circle of trust, engaging in easy in context exchanges on comments and tasks, Strategic Alliances are more collaborative and empowering to achieve the full purpose of the relationship.
On WorkSpan, you can assign work from programs to campaigns communicating important changes, review and change funding decisions, add new members to the program and campaigns (imagine not skipping a beat when a turnover happens when your strategic alliance has a change in personnel) and see campaign results in flight and long after they are over. If you come up with a best practice campaign in one region, you can easily copy and run in additional regions with same or different strategic partners quickly. This way the team can adapt, propagate and run with agility.
6. Strategic Alliances Need “Better Together” Content
Funding proposals and decisions are just a start to these campaigns. Strategic Alliances need to prepare a more coherent joint story and position integrated solutions for their shared customers. As a result assets are jointly built, often with additional agencies involved, with review and approvals on all sides.
In Channel Marketing partner solutions resellers get microwave ready campaigns where minor changes are permitted and content back and forth is not encouraged.
On WorkSpan, the same campaign proposal where financing is approved, is augmented with a Campaign Assets section where you can upload or link to campaign assets by its audience and relevance to the buying cycle. You can track asset approval stages, this way you and your strategic partners can be aligned on the right campaign assets to be used with each others audiences. You can even bring along agencies or select one available on WorkSpan who may be building content on your behalf.
7. Strategic Alliances Want to Leverage each other’s Audiences
A joint go-to-market will also attract a larger audience and reduce cost (cost per lead) if each strategic partner is able to send the campaign to its own audience. This means your marketing has to be boundaryless in its setup where circles of trust can form across your marketing teams and with multiple strategic alliances’ marketing teams.
On the other hand, Channel Marketers Marketing and MDF solutions will let their channel partners drive events and activities to their own isolated audience without deeper collaboration in demand generation together.
On WorkSpan, the same campaign proposal where financing is approved, is augmented with an Activities section where you can plan, assign and track specific campaign tactics executed by each strategic partner. You can create a list of plays and the alliance can then perform the plays with mutual visibility using each company’s own CRM or Marketing Automation system. WorkSpan also provides integrations so that you can bring tactic level performance data (e.g. how did you strategic partners event invite perform vs. yours for a joint event). You can even bring along your agencies or select one available on WorkSpan who help you execute social, email, web or physical events.
So instead of utilizing channel partner tools for strategic alliances, we recommend that you implement processes meant to leverage each other’s audiences.
With the rising number of strategic alliances to capture emerging market opportunities, companies should investigate how to orchestrate their marketing networks in a modern way. These 7 differences shows that simply carrying over a partner solution from your channel side is not the best way. Instead, look for a system that provides an ability to engage with your strategic partner network that enable a GTM to flourish with shared visibility, accountability and velocity.