A strong partner network has many benefits. A strong partner network can help you better tailor offerings to customer needs and accelerate customer value realization. As a result, you can scale your go-to-market to reach more customers and provide more specialized solutions that build upon your great foundation. The growth you achieve in your partner network often pays tremendous dividends for your business—and for your customers.
At the core of growing a successful partner network is the partner value proposition. The partner value proposition communicates the benefits partners can receive from working with your company, the expectations you have for them, and the potential rewards for executing well within the program. Because the value prop is central to nearly all partner communication, getting it right can help attract new partners, increase partner participation, reduce resistance to change, and strengthen your overall program.
What makes messaging effective?
In previous blogs, we’ve covered how you can run an effective partner program, and refine that program so that it maximizes its appeal to existing and new partners. Now we want to explore how you can communicate more effectively with partners, using language carefully tailored to the partner perspective and designed to drive your desired results.
Without an effective partner value proposition, your program will never be as successful as it can be. To drive growth, you need a clear value proposition that attracts new partners to your program and ensures existing partners are motivated and productive. However, crafting a message that accomplishes that goal can be a challenge. Partner programs often have many internal stakeholders, and your dozens or hundreds of partners may each have unique needs and points of view. With such complexity, how can you be sure that your message will resonate with a diverse group of partners and drive alignment toward a unified plan?
How to craft an effective partner value proposition
Ultimately, no single message will sway every current and potential partner, but optimizing your messaging will increase its impact. At Spur Reply, we use the following best practices that we’ve found to be effective in activating partners and aligning them with corporate goals.
#1: Anchor messaging in partners’ point of view
Partners bring a unique perspective to the table, and messaging that doesn’t consider that point of view is likely to underperform. Consequently, understanding and leveraging that point of view will be an important part of shaping your partner value prop. While you may have good relationships with your partners, you can’t assume that you fully understand their motives and desires.
To close that gap, it’s important to regularly interview your key partners—and also to occasionally interview partners you interact with less often to cast a wide net. Not all partners will share the same perspective, so the more you talk to, the more insight you’ll gain into your partners’ wants and needs.
Speaking of those needs, partner programs work because there are win-win opportunities for your company and your partners. But your partners’ needs won’t always overlap with your needs. They may have different ideas about short- and long-term profitability and sales cycles. They may target different end users or parts of the market. And, they may expect a white-glove experience, or be largely sufficient on their own. While you can gain some insight into your partners by observing their actions, ultimately you won’t get a complete picture until you start asking them about their expectations and what they need to be successful.
#2: Address “What’s in it for me?”
Once you’ve interviewed your partners, you can begin leveraging what they told you to begin crafting your partner value proposition. It’s important to pay careful attention to the specific word choice your partners used. If you can frame your value in the same way, it’s more likely to resonate. Likewise, you should be comparing different interviews to detect any trends or patterns. Any partner wants that come up multiple times from different organizations are worth pursuing in your partner value proposition messaging.
Your partner program may offer tremendous value for your partners, but if the benefits aren’t clear, it won’t attract them. As a reminder, your partner program may have benefits for your company that don’t extend to your partners. To craft an effective partner value proposition, you’ll need to identify the shared benefits between your company and your partners, and the benefits that are unique for your partners.
To better attract and activate partners, messaging should always center on those benefits and answer the question “What’s in it for me?" Without clearly outlining the benefits of your program for partners filtered through their point of view, you run the risk that they misinterpret the benefits or decide that there are none.
#3: Back up benefits with evidence
To maximize the effectiveness of your messaging, it’s important to include evidence that supports your claimed benefits. Including numbers such as a measured increase in profit, decrease in sales cycle time, improved overall customer satisfaction, or other quantitative evidence can often drive significant impact and show partners how participation in the program will help them meet or exceed their own targets. However, companies shouldn’t neglect qualitative evidence as well. For example, a quote from a key executive or partner explaining the success they’ve achieved as a part of the program can have a huge impact on your message’s success.
#4: Tailor by partner type
Ultimately, your partners’ needs will vary greatly based on what kind of partner they are. An independent software vendor or systems integrator will have very different needs than a reseller. Because their needs vary, you may need more than one set of value propositions to ensure that you’re speaking to each partner in a way that resonates.
Sometimes partner differences are formalized in the structure of your program, but even if not, there’s a good chance that your partners will have a few significant differences. What appeals to a company with hundreds or dozens of employees may not attract a much smaller organization. Or, what works for a partner who has been with you for years may repel one that’s only been part of your program for a few months. The broader your program, the more important it is to create additional, focused value propositions to effectively speak to different audiences. You can use partner interviews to assess your partner segments and what their distinct interests and needs are.
#5: Engage the right stakeholders
Running an effective partner program requires buy-in from many different people in your company, including roles such as partner program managers, partner account managers, and key executives who oversee the program. Getting the right group of people involved in the process from the start helps create the strongest message possible. However, getting the right number of people involved is a matter of efficiency. Too many, and the process could slow to a crawl. Too few, and critical input and feedback may be missed.
Your partners’ stakeholders are also critical. The right message sent to the wrong people might as well be the wrong message. Even if someone is motivated by your message, if they don’t have the authority to act the opportunity is wasted. That’s a big part of the reason why keeping your partner contact info up to date is critical. You don’t want to send an important message to someone who is no longer in the right role, or not even at the company anymore. As a reminder, the key stakeholder in the situation may not always be the person you communicate with most frequently. If you’re attempting to get a new partner onboard or are making big changes to your partner program, you need to make sure you’re delivering the message to the person with the authority to make the decision. Otherwise, all your hard work may go to waste.
Planning for impactful communication
We’ve talked about best practices for optimizing your message, but ultimately, a single message, no matter how well crafted, is rarely enough on its own to meet your goals. Effective messaging depends on delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right people, in the right channel. Getting any one of those elements wrong can render your message ineffective. That’s why we’ve found that messaging that’s part of a larger communication plan leads to greater results over time. Spur Reply advises clients on creating and executing communication plans to produce measurable, meaningful results. We can assist with the mechanics of the process, from identifying and managing key stakeholders to conducting partner and internal interviews or even the shaping of the message. To learn more about how we can help, connect with a member of our team today.