You’ve probably been hearing a few terms being thrown around a lot more recently, like co-marketing, co-selling, co-innovation, and co-design. If you’ve noticed more and more SaaS companies having conversations around these concepts, you’re not imagining it.

Collaborative partnerships are becoming essential to staying relevant in the tech world today, and SaaS companies large and small are waking up to this realization.

Collaborative partnerships go beyond the traditional reseller model to co-create holistic solutions based on customers’ evolving needs. Getting this right, however, requires orchestrating a three-way mutual understanding between your organization, your partners, and your end customers.

Your tech team needs to work closely with your partners to share deep technical expertise.

B2B customers, no matter which industry or profession they’re in, are more tech-savvy than ever before. Widespread digital transformation means that technology permeates almost every department of every business. For this reason, the best collaborative partnerships are those where the vendor’s tech team works closely with their ecosystem partners. Partners should be able to communicate their end customers’ needs directly to the tech team and should have access to resources like MVPs and demos to help them sell more effectively. Vendors, for their part, need to work hard to ensure that they’re able to bring deep technical expertise to their partners.

According to IBM Partner Ecosystem Leader Thomas Timmermann, there are three vital components that make up a healthy partner ecosystem: a common purpose and objective, deep expertise, and a mutual partner-first culture. “It’s really around, ‘How do we work together more effectively?’ We want to go into deep technical discussions and co-create with our partners for our clients. Now is really the time where we need to demonstrate our technical capabilities to our clients with and through our partners,” says Timmermann. “See [the IBM Partnerships Team] as a core team that is working directly with partners developing, building, and executing plans and opportunities for partners.”

Categorize partners according to ‘partner archetypes’ to better understand how they can impact your business and benefit your customer.

Different partnership models require different levels of collaboration and impact your end customer in different ways. Categorizing your partners into different partner archetype groups can help you understand how best to leverage each partner’s business specialty.

The diagram below from Deloitte provides a clear explanation of the four primary partner archetypes and the kinds of partners that typically fit into each category:

(Source: Deloitte)

Selling allies assist in bringing ready-to-use solutions to market, usually through traditional channel sales partnerships. These resellers and distributors may or may not sell their own services and products as ‘add-ons’ that help customers get the most out of your product.

Delivery champions “streamline services delivery to extend existing capabilities.” As such, these partners typically take the shape of global systems integrators, regional systems integrators, and managed service providers.

Ecosystem pioneers allow you to integrate your offering with theirs, thereby going to market with customized, joint IP solutions that offer more value to the end customer.

Cocreators take collaborative partnerships to the next level by actively and strategically collaborating to create and deliver new products. According to Deloitte, “Such partnerships tend to capture greater market value at a more rapid pace than traditional product development approaches.”

Some of the best partner ecosystems leverage businesses throughout all four partner archetypes.

While selling allies and delivery champions fall into a more traditional reseller channel partnership model, they’re still highly valuable and play an indispensable role in most profitable partner ecosystems. In order to stay relevant to your customers’ rapidly evolving needs, however, your ecosystem needs to embrace ecosystem pioneers and cocreators as well.

That said, many SaaS companies today are still struggling to get their core, ready-to-use solutions in front of customers. There’s one very powerful way to solve this problem: your own marketplace.Forrester’s Jay McBain predicts that one-third of all tech sales will flow through marketplaces in the future. Our white-labeled marketplace infrastructure specifically designed to sell your tech alongside your partners’ B2B services will help you accelerate the sales process and collaboratively solve for your customers.

collaborative partnerships

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