I recently tuned into an episode of the Ecosystem Aces podcast, ‘How Partners Help You Handle Your Biggest Challenges featuring Brian Allison, Vice President of Global Channels and Alliances at Snow Software. Here, I’ll share my favorite insights from Allison, as well as some of my own thoughts around how you can improve the way you solve for your customers via your channel partner ecosystem.

“What got us here, isn’t going to get us there.”

Brian Allison

I really like this quote, as it encapsulates the need for many SaaS companies to transform their partner go-to-market strategies if they want to stay relevant in this ecosystem-focused age we find ourselves doing business in today.

Allison recommends starting off by asking some fundamental questions:

·  What is the purpose of your partners?

·  What do you really want your partners to do for your business?

·  How will they contribute?

·  How integrated do you want them to be in your business model?

Categorize partners according to how they serve your customers.

We all know that customer experience is more important now than ever before, which is why I love Allison’s point about how SaaS companies need to change their thinking when it comes to categorizing the role of various partners within a channel partner ecosystem or partner program. Instead of categorizing partners according to their business model – like reseller, alliance partner, integrator, and so on – focus on how they serve your customer. “Customer success is the ultimate outcome,” says Allison, so rather than structuring your partner program around transactions, structure it around how your partners solve for your customers.

Partners that provide managed services are incredibly important today.

Allison mentions that he’s seen a consistent trend over the past few years pointing towards the importance of having partners that provide services around your product. Providing services around your product is great for your partners because they get to create a recurring revenue stream. It’s also great for your customers because they get access to the services they need in order to succeed. And when your customers are happy and doing well? You’re winning too.

Improve CX by connecting your customers with accredited MSPs via a Partner Services Marketplace.

I couldn’t agree more with Allison on the importance of partnering with MSPs. I’d add that SaaS companies should consider taking their CX to the next level by allowing customers to browse and buy accredited service packages and bundles via your own eCommerce services marketplace.

We’ve written before on Why eCommerce is now viewed as the best B2B sales channel. In that article, we looked at data from McKinsey showing that two-thirds of B2B buyers collectively prefer remote interactions and digital self-service when making software or services purchases. With this in mind, it makes sense to meet your customers where they increasingly prefer to shop – marketplaces – and connect them with your MSP partners via service bundle listings. (Find out how our Partner Services Marketplace solution works here.) 

Really leveraging your partners requires deeply integrating them into your business model.

Allison expresses a really partner-centric mindset here, which I think is going to be an absolutely vital aspect of any successful SaaS company in the future. Getting the best results from your channel partner ecosystem means integrating your partners into your entire business model, from presale all the way through to customer success.

“Look at your sales cycle and think, have we partnered with partners to do specific things throughout the sale cycle?” advises Allison. If your sales teams are still doing most of the work and your partners are playing a small ‘fulfillment’ role, you’re not leveraging your partners as much as you should be, and your partner go-to-market strategy needs rethinking.

We’ve actually explored this in a little more depth in our post How to leverage businesses via collaborative partnerships. In it, we take a look at how you can leverage four ‘partner archetypes’, including selling allies, delivery champions, ecosystem pioneers, and cocreators. Another useful post that outlines strategies for maximizing the benefits of your channel partner ecosystem is 3 ways to leverage your ecosystem for competitive advantage.

Prioritize those joint solutions that are going to bring huge returns.

Allison talks about a partnership pyramid, with a wide base of APIs and integrations at the bottom, and a few select partnerships at the top that take the form of true joint solutions. Those joint solutions at the top of the pyramid go far beyond simple tech integrations. There’s real co-creation between like-minded partners, there’s a combined value proposition, there’s a joint go-to-market strategy. Allison calls it ‘part art and part science’, and he stresses that SaaS companies need to know how to spot opportunities for those joint solutions that are going to serve a huge number of customers, and then focus on getting those massive returns.

channel partner ecosystem

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