Lisa Penn is the Sr. Director of Global Indirect Partners at SAP and has been working in the partner community for many years, having started her career a partner herself. Her take on the partner perspective is real and raw: “Partners will do what gives them the most comfort and gives them the most results until they are forced to a point where they can’t do it any longer.”
This way of approaching their businesses creates a significant challenge in the era of digital transformation. Some partners may not be in enough pain yet to notice it, but their patterned and familiar ways are just not going to continue to net results as more and more customer buyer journeys are happening digitally and without any direct contact with the partner.
“The best way to have a partner understand digital transformation,” says Lisa, “is to have them think about their own actions.”By encouraging partners to think like their prospects, it becomes easier for them to understand the perspective of their would-be buyers, whether in B2B or B2C spaces. “There is also a partner type out there that understands the world is changing around them, but they need help understanding that world.”
With many partners, marketing is likely the last thing on their mind, so it’s essential that your marketing support be simple to implement, clear and prescriptive. Different partners will have different needs, proficiencies and resources, so it’s okay if your program is tiered (e.g. a good, better, best framework) and it’s okay if the partners don’t follow every single step. It’s your work to make sure you define each step and the likely desirable outcomes that would result. If they feel strongly about their autonomy or they need to be more tactically selective due to budgetary or other constraints, that’s fine but make sure that you are offering data that demonstrate how each tactic will support a portion of their business goals.
Identify and Overcome
An important aspect of the prescriptive approach is to make sure you are showing a very realistic pathway for your partners to follow and that you understand there may be obstacles or roadblocks along the way. This means helping them to understand what the challenges may be along the way, including those they may face within their own organizations. Highlighting potential speed bumps in advance makes them less likely to disrupt your partners as they work through your program and if they’ve anticipated the issue and are pre-armed with a solution, the challenge will have less impact to the partner’s resolve in executing the work.
Help Them Understand The Results
Partner personnel, especially non-marketers simply can’t get funded again if they can’t demonstrate outcomes. In many partner organizations, marketing is not an ongoing focus within the enterprise, and so when there is an opportunity for specialized and focused attention on marketing, it’s important that the partner can articulate whether or not the effort was worthwhile. Part of being prescriptive means making sure that you effectively communicate not only the pieces they need to have in place to get the results but also how to interpret and report against their marketing outcomes.
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