How to Build Meaningful Programs for Solution Partners

How to Build Meaningful Programs for Solution Partners

Explore meaningful solution partner programs, setting goals for these programs, and best practices for working cross-functionally.

A meaningful partner program is truly mutually beneficial. For solution partners, meaningful programs add value to both their clients and their process with complementary solutions. In short, your solution partners care about the services you build that can enhance their current offering.

In this article, we’ll dig into how to ensure your platform or solution is built in a mutually beneficial way, how to set goals for these programs, and best practices for driving cross-department buy-in.

Best Practices for Approaching Solution Partner Programs

When building your solution partner program, developing solid relationships is essential. Transparency is a critical element in establishing that trust. Your agency partners should feel comfortable providing feedback and sharing what they need to see from your product or program. Implement bi-weekly calls with your partner to discuss their current and long-term goals, existing and prospective clients, and ways you can align.

To continue building on that trust you’ve established (and improve your program simultaneously), your program should evolve along with the feedback shared. Continue connecting with your partner to ensure your efforts are aligned with their goals.

Baseline Goals for Solution Partner Engagement

Engagement can be seen as a strong indicator for alignment with an agency partner. There are six key activities Brandon Lytle (Siteimprove) looks to establish:

  1. Bi-weekly calls. When you frequently meet and have an open discussion with partners, there are many times where you’ll find you have the perfect client to discuss.
  2. Account mapping. This can be either in a tool like Crossbeam or in spreadsheets to identify prospect opportunities.
  3. Multi-department exposure. Are our teams aligned on both sides? We want to ensure Development, Product, Sales, and Account teams are connected. That cross-functional conversation ensures we’re approaching the program in the right way, not just relying on a sole partner contact.
  4. Business planning. Are we conducting quarterly or bi-annual business planning sessions? These conversations ensure our efforts are aligned to their goals, both short- and long-term.
  5. Co-marketing activities. Have we begun any co-marketing campaigns?
  6. Shared Slack channels. Are our teams connected via a shared Slack channel where it’s easy to communicate in real-time?

If you’re doing all six of those key activities and it’s not resulting in alignment or opportunities to collaborate, then you need to assess if this is a partnership that both parties can benefit from moving forward. If you aren’t getting traction from a solution partner avenue, you may consider proceeding with a referral relationship instead.

Meanwhile, suppose you’re completing half of the key activities and have already generated a significant number of opportunities. In that case, that’s a telltale sign you should double down on that partner and work toward completing the rest of the activities. 

Crossing the Value Chasm with a Cross-functional Team

solution partner programs

You can identify more opportunities to drive value by developing an agency council where you’re looking for straight feedback on your platform. That can naturally come into play, providing exposure when you show vulnerability and openness for feedback. When agency partners can help drive the program’s future and platform, it makes it easier to engage. 

Partners must see you as flexible. When you demonstrate openness and flexibility, your partners are much more willing to bring in their Product and Sales teams. Similarly, they’re more likely to bring in their Account and Sales teams if you’ve done account mapping. Typically, Product and Engineering take care of themself when you’re seeking input.

Something that happens internally with a lot of agencies is called the Value Chasm. This exists when their Development team doesn’t necessarily see the value that their Sales team sees in the solution they are partnered with or vice versa. If you can bridge that gap, you can start to talk to the agency and show how you holistically impact their organization. If you can demonstrate all the areas you support the partner, you’ll be able to drive a lot more success than you would when working in a siloed group.

Get More Advice for Building Impactful Partner Programs

To drive meaningful solution partner programs, you need to build a strong relationship with your agency partners. Establish trust and transparency by seeking feedback and implementing it quickly. Look to establish all six solution partner engagement activities and engage multiple functional teams in your efforts. 

Thanks to Brandon Lytle for sharing his insights from nearly a decade in the partnerships space, most recently as the Global Head of Partnerships at Siteimprove. Brandon dug into KPIs to track for these types of partnerships in our Solution Partner Programs panel, inspiring this article. 

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