Start-Up Partner Program Lessons I Learned – Partner Right or Wrong?

Starting partner programs is different every time - read on to see what I have done to make it all work!

The first time I built a partner program it was for a CD-ROM distribution company in the 80s and as a founder I knew we needed an extension of us – welcome to the introduction of partners into the family. From that moment, we added another task to our tradeshow goals – find the right partners. When looking for those correct fit partners, we would stealthily look for partners at tradeshows, asking the customer of theirs (that stood there talking to them), what was their opinion of the partner and btw…who else do you use? We looked for those that had the relationships and that was easy to see at the tradeshows. Granted our market was schools and libraries and finding partners at the tradeshows was the way to go in the 80’s.
Connecting with these partners and showing off how they could add to their bottom line was good for them too. We signed up 25 partners across the U.S.!
The second time I built a program, the CEO was finding lots of interest in what we had to offer and the partners were coming in like crazy! There were MSPs, integrators, one-man shops, huge multi-national consulting firms, and so on, but we needed a way to see if they were the right partners, so I created a Partner Scorecard. Deciding what was important to our outreach success came down to the types of partners that would align the closest and those that could do their part – a teamwork relationship. This scorecard also helped the partners as I didn’t have needs to line up multiple government go-to-market partners in one area. By planning out the categories and verticals needed to complete the partner picture, I knew what to look for and emphasized these points when discussions were happening.
Lesson Learned? Have a plan of what kind of partners, verticals, and models are best for your products and then create a scorecard to evaluate your choices if you don’t have an easy way to study them with customers. Spend the most time with those that align the best and still ask customers.

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