Last month I wrote a piece where I stated that to not consider providing services with an Enterprise SaaS solution was to leave money on the table. Adding, that it then becomes a strategic decision as to whether you offer them yourself or partner with people who will do it for you. Or a combination of both
In the previous post I provided examples of SaaS companies that offer post-sales services today and call it Customer Success. This month I want to talk about why you might want to create a Partner Ecosystem.
Let’s first look at an example of who does this well today. In my opinion one of best the SaaS companies that does this best is Salesforce. They have spent the last 15 years building one of the best Partner ecosystems in our industry.
Partnerships between technology companies have been around forever. Software licensed companies have often looked to forging partners with distribution and reseller channels, system integrators, OEM relationships, and built cross-sector integrations.
Salesforce is not the only company that has established a great partnership strategy, but I believe they have done two things really well that contributed to turning this strategy into a thriving ecosystem.
Technically they have made the platform open and extensible, which has encouraged people to build and integrate with their platform. They also created the AppExchange Marketplace to showcase Partner Apps, with mutually benefit to both Customers and Partners.
They created a Tiered Partner certification. Partners earn credibility, albeit at a services cost. Customers are assured that these certified Partners have an approved level of knowledge and expertise.
Okay that speaks to the how they have done it. Let’s step back and consider what I feel are the benefits of why technology companies, especially young technology companies should consider creating a program for post-sales services partners.
Mainly these are around Cost and Reach.
To build an expert in-house services team is costly. For some companies it is better to focus on product and operations, making the SaaS offering more attractive to Customers and Partners. So it’s a strategic decision of where do you want to spend the costs. There is a cost to running a Partner program, both in terms of administration, education and communication. A budgeted investment needs to be put into making sure the Partner program is successful. But it’s not as expensive as building a global services team.
The benefits of the Partner program are in how it can extend your reach. That reach can be in a number of different ways.
Globally. While a SaaS service is an anywhere anytime to anyone proposition. Sales and Services are often local. One of the best ways to extend into global markets is through partnerships. Of course, as a company also needs to strategize on which markets are better for you to go to first. And then target your partner program accordingly.
Vertically. Enterprise sales are usually made up of verticals that are defined by the business your customer is in. Enterprise Customers want to see that you understand their end market and any customizations that they require are provided by someone who understands that market. By partnering with people who are already experts in a vertical and have established trusted relationships with companies in a vertical, you can extend beyond your current ability to provide that in-house.
Customer size. The value of having a tiered partner program is that you can reach different sized customers. Going back to the Salesforce example, depending on the size of the company Customers can choose implementation partners that are independent customers or a big-5 partner like Accenture. Having a tiered partner program can allow you provide appropriate service levels to a wide range of customer needs.
To build the Partner ecosystem you need to start somewhere. As the technology vendor, your responsibility will be to understand how you can benefit partners and attract them. Treat them as customers and gateways to your customers – and understand the mutual value proposition that is the basis of the relationship. Focus on that, and the ecosystem will grow.
This post was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse May 27, 2015.