Partner Success: Blending Strategy, Innovation & Marketing

Fiona O'Connor

Senior Content Marketing Manager

partner marketing strategyThere’s so much goodness to be gained simply by executing Partner Marketing really well (and if you think it’s easy, you must be new to the game!), but how do you improve strategy? How to you continue to innovate? How do you take your program to the next level so that your partners continue to prefer to work with you? That’s what this Partner Marketing Visionaries discussion really dug into.

Michael Latchford, VP of Strategic Alliances and Partner Marketing Services, spoke with with Business and Marketing executives Susanna Parry-Hoey (SoftwareONE), Kimberly Payton (Infosys Finacle) Andy Sayare (NetApp) and Jeff Wood (Lenovo) to see how these leading practitioners put it all together. Here are a few highlights from their conversation.

How to build a better partner marketing strategy

Successful partner marketing teams do a lot of strategic thinking. In a continuous innovation prototyping process, they hypothesize and test concepts long before adding something into their programs and rolling it out to their teams. Our panelists highlighted several areas where this approach has delivered value.

When building in a way that constantly assesses market opportunity, Kimberly Payton of Infosys Finacle recommends quite regularly taking a step back:

“.…what’s the story that you need to be telling, who has what traction and where, from your competitors’ standpoint? How are you going to stand out amongst them and their message?” she says. “A good example is back when Unix existed. There was a good opportunity to do a “Unix to Linux” type campaign so that you can migrate, and that aligned well with many of the OEMs [and] software companies of the world and [the] application layers that sit on top. So how do you go out to market and say, ‘You might be running a Unix environment, but you want to shift over to a Linux environment.’?”

Building on this approach, SoftwareONE’s Susanna Parry-Hoey adds that partner marketing teams will want to include in their strategic processes a phase or a cycle specifically to review overall business objectives and identify exactly how and where their partner strategies connect into the overall business strategy of their organization.

“On the strategic level – if I look at SoftwareONE – we’ve been working on a very distinct strategy that shows us where we have the right to play, what is the future direction of the company, and that really is set by the board of directors and your executive leaders.” She continues: “Where I really see that taking life is under our CEO, Dieter Schlosser. We have been pursuing five growth streams, from using FinOps to optimize your cloud and software, to mission-critical workloads like SAP; moving into application services, both modernization and cloud-native, and some of the automation around that; right through to vertical geographic expansions.”

The power and value of nurturing innovation in partnerships

As Parry-Hoey points out, the best partner strategies extend and help scale the operationalization of the business effort overall. And then, over time, their continued progress depends on continuous improvement. But building a culture of collaborative innovation with partners, and with the rest of the business, is not easy. Such a capability starts with an understanding of why it’s so important and why it’s a driving force in partner and alliance success over the long term.

Andy Sayare of NetApp summarized why collaborative innovation is key for organizations to remain competitive within the partner ecosystems like this:

“Because you have companies collaborating to build solutions, you actually end up creating more value for the customer. So, if you think about it, by selling storage alone, that’s helpful for customers. But when I can combine the storage, along with the compute infrastructure, the switching infrastructure and everything else that’s needed, so that a company can now say, ‘We can run this new capability because we’ve got all the elements together, they’re all tested, they work well together,’ we’re essentially moving up the value stack for the customer.”

Jeff Wood of Lenovo highlighted an example of how the piece parts of innovation has come together in his experience:

“A couple of years ago, we were seeing a lot of the high-end systems, whether in automotive design and styling, or exploration of oil and gas. [And] we saw that there was a bottleneck in current technology,” he recalls. “So, we partnered with AMD (our technology partner) to bring out one of the highest-end workstations in a single CPU design that drives higher-end core count computing. [This then] allowed a lot of the application vendors … to take advantage of more of a linear performance solution with a bigger core count than some of their competitors. We were very unique in the industry … which has helped us grow our business quite a bit in the automotive market, in media and entertainment for those folks who absolutely have to have the fastest solutions in the industry.”

How to align marketing efforts with different partners

Together, the panelists echoed their recognition of the opportunities created by the rapid evolution they’re seeing in new partner types. Each is looking at ways to innovate and take advantage of the trend.

At NetApp, for example, Andy Sayare explains: “We’ve had to expand the lens a bit as we have pursued these AI opportunities to work with different kinds of partners – partners that are actually touching customers who are building their strategies for deploying AI at their companies … it’s very important to think about who is talking to the customer at the right time, to be able to ensure that your partner ecosystem is able to address these opportunities as they come up.”

SoftwareONE’s Parry-Hoey pointed out how they’re positioning to be both a leader and partner. “We are now offering our higher-value advisory services – on the one hand, we have to lead here and figure out how to fit and go into motion with our partners. And then we’re also a very real channel for those partners where we have to be driven.”

How we can help

While the ability to focus on an ideal blending of strategy, innovation and marketing will vary widely from partner program to partner program, attention to all three areas will clearly benefit your business as you work to grow it.

For more insights from partner marketing experts like these, we hope you’ll continue watching TechTarget’s Partner Marketing Visionaries webinar series. To learn more about products and services to support your own partner marketing efforts, contact our host, Michael Latchford.

alliance marketing, Channel and Alliance Partnerships, channel marketing, partner marketing, partner marketing ecosystems

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