Last week I was delighted to have facilitated our second IT Marketing Leaders Forum event with my great friend Adam Harris. The event was called ‘Creating a Killer Partner Program’ and it certainly stimulated some lively debate and discussions!

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What was interesting was watching the room dynamic and how it changed over the course of the afternoon as people shared more ideas, understood more about each others’ views and opened up about what they were really looking for. At the end of the day (as well as having a chance to explore the glass walkways and inside the bridge itself), everyone came away with a positive feeling of achievement and the feedback forms told us how valuable the members found the event.

In many ways the process of discovering what makes a killer partner program was a bit like the process of creating a partner program in the first place. What became clear was that everyone in the room was tired of churning out the same old stuff. Everyone was looking for a fresh approach, to share ideas and find out what people really wanted.

Because we had all sections of the channel represented, we also had a cross-section of views and opinions. For many vendors especially, it was interesting to hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’ about what resellers were looking for…and it definitely wasn’t what they thought! One vendor asked’ If we run an incentive, how do we know that in the next quarter you wont just go back to your previous supplier?’ It was very clear that actually resellers weren’t interested in quarterly incentives – for them, choosing a new vendor was much like a courtship. One reseller, Leigh Wood from Node IT explained that for him, a vendor partnership was likely to last for at least 3 years. He didn’t make snap decisions about who to partner with. Instead he was looking for someone who could offer support throughout that whole time and the on boarding process.

In some ways I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that actually what resellers want from their vendor relationships is just that – a relationship. It became clear that because of the constant, quarterly pressure often on many vendor marketers, that their focus became more product and number centered and less about the relationship. Yet how many of us became marketers because we wanted to focus on numbers and product benefits? I know I didn’t! For me, the magic of marketing has always been about an emotional connection. It’s why brands succeed where products don’t. In fact, get the brand right and the product becomes almost incidental! If you’re an Apple, or Innocent or Virgin fan, then you’ll know what I mean. You trust the brand to deliver great products. But you also want a great relationship.

We had some key insights during the course of the event. For me the most important one was it’s still about people. Asking your partners what they actually want, for starters, and then working out how to give it to them, consistently and creatively, in a way that meets their needs and your business goals. What no-one wanted was the ‘same old, same old’. No one cared about a fancy partner portal that costs thousands and is used by a handful of people. No one wanted to run the same incentives to be won by the same partners. You can find out what people actually DID want by downloading the report here.

And once you’ve read it, if you’d like to talk about partner programs, The IT Marketing Agency has lots of expertise in this area! We can help everything from creating a partner strategy, to running a partner program that will truly support and engage your partners. So get in touch if you’d like to know more!

If you’ve got any feedback on what really worked on partner programs you’ve been involved in too, we’d love to hear it!

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