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How to escape the Partnership Void

From our work with large technology vendors, we have observed that partnering, and what we call “ecosystem” Go-to-Market (GTM) efforts, are often handicapped by the challenge of an inside-out mindset. Vendors and partners tend to focus myopically on their own needs, rather than driving toward a joint perspective on how both, working together, can address the needs of customers and create leverage with others in the ecosystem.


We call this gap the Partnership Void.


It is only by identifying and jointly serving the needs of customers in a coordinated way that partnerships achieve their maximal outcome and optimize added value. In order to keep from falling into the Partnership Void, it is crucial that ecosystem leaders and individual partner managers focus on developing, articulating and communicating a shared perspective.


What causes the Partnership Void?


The problem isn’t caused by a lack of expertise in partner organizations and their leaders. It exists because most partner organizations lack a defined, consistent, and supportive process for creating a shared perspective with their ecosystem. Most partnerships and alliances skip the step of creating a formal messaging house to drive specificity and consistency in their shared GTM story - promoted through marketing campaigns, events, sales pitches, and throughout the joint customer lifecycle. Value creation for joint customers is always enhanced when vendors design based on the needs of BOTH their customers AND their partners. Yet, even when companies try to take such an outside-in approach, it is hard for them to overcome the default, internal ‘what about me’ biases.


How does the Partnership Void undermine GTM effectiveness?


When companies try to combine two separate “inside out” perspectives, the result is usually an awkward amalgam of two disconnected narratives. Rarely does a truly shared “This is Us” positioning occur. And conflicting or misaligned inside-out positioning usually confuses customers and complicates the entire customer journey – from top-of-funnel activities, to poor joint sales engagements and challenging customer relationships.


How do you escape the Partnership Void?


We suggest three best practices to help escape the void:


1. Acquire deep insights into the joint customer and surrounding ecosystem: As we pointed out in our blog “Do Technology Providers Really Understand the Ecosystem Concept and Its Impact”, becoming ecosystem aware means gathering intelligence about both your customers and your partners unique needs and challenges. Only once you understand the context and positioning of your partnership through this ecosystem lens, can you begin to step out of the void.


2. Create shared value message and joint stories: An independent, objective third-party can help effectively mediate the process of building common ground, establishing a joint perspective, and co-constructing compelling stories that benefit BOTH companies GTM efforts – what you might call “win-win-win” messaging: win for the customer, win for the vendor, and win for the partner. In a subsequent blog, we’ll address the challenges and best practices associated with developing positioning, messaging, and narratives that effectively represent a shared, joint perspective.


3. Create shared processes and content to drive the joint go to market: Once the partnership has a truly shared, joint story to tell about customer and ecosystem value, both the vendor and its partners can begin to develop the shared sales and marketing processes and supporting content needed to go to market, these include:

a. Clearly defined customer journey

b. Joint pitch deck

c. Cross-company RACI and resources

d. Partner enablement materials


In a subsequent blog, we’ll address the marketing bill of materials (BoM), common internal playbooks and partner-facing enablement materials needed to execute on the shared, joint GTM approach.


It’s difficult to overcome the self-centered inertia that creates the Partnership Void, but armed with the right orientation and process, partner leaders can create the increased ecosystem leverage required to achieve GTM success.

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