Having worked in both sales and partner management for more than 30 years and managing hundreds of partner relationships, I have seen some interesting trends emerge over the last few years. Partners within healthcare communication are the roots for the manufacturer. Without them, the manufacturer does not have a solid foundation that enables us to maintain a healthy relationship with our end users. Also, maintaining a strong relationship with our partners enables us to have more ‘feet on the street’ selling our product and assisting us in gaining market share.
Almost half of B2B marketing decision makers have identified that improving their partner programs, experience, and communications go hand-in-hand with improved customer satisfaction and retention.
So what are the keys to successfully working with partners? Here is what I have seen.
1. A “one size fits all” approach used to work but doesn’t anymore. Focus on mutual success with your partners. Make them want to be YOUR partner.
2. Regardless of your initial contact point, it is imperative that we work from the top down as well as from the bottom up.
3. Market Development Funds (MDF) are harder to come by. So think about how are you strategically positioning MDF opportunities around marquee events (live or virtual) and make sure you have tools in place to report on results of their investments.
4. We’ve come full circle: it’s back to the relationships you build with your partners at every touch point. From marketing to sales to customer service, how are you making it easier to do business with you as the manufacturer? In today’s environment, we must battle for our partners’ mindshare because many carry other competing products. The easier it is to do business with us, the more product they will sell.
5. New technologies have emerged to help manage partner relationships the same way that you use a CRM system to manage your sales team. And just as social media plays a huge part in your sales and marketing mix, it is also an important resource for your partners.
Are you watching where your partners are focusing, where they find their news, where they learn about your products? Who are the key influencers within your ecosystem? If you spend the time to look at the speakers, board members, contributors, digital creators, consultants, analysts, and media professionals, you can easily set up ways to determine who your key influencers are.
Maybe it is 10 people, maybe it is 100 people. Then the hard, ongoing work starts.
1. If you haven’t already met them, put a plan in place to meet them. Zoom or Skype are great options right now, since tradeshows are on hold.
2. Develop a conversational list of things that you want to know about them and THEIR business. What are their pain points, their Unique Value Proposition (UVP), but also some questions about where they live, and about their career trajectory? Do they have kids? Dog or cat lover? This gives you a more personal way to connect and get to know them. Having a personal relationship with your partners enables you to have those difficult conversations but also celebrate their wins.
3. Don’t get hung up on titles within your partner organizations. You’d be surprised at where great ideas and insights originate, and where you can obtain great information that will help you better manage your partner relationships. Whether it is an executive briefing or the front line person, the more you know, the better you can help assist in helping them grow their business and increase your market share.
4. Plan on how to educate and train your partners, whether it is about your current product or new solutions. It is very important to make sure your partners also understand the market in which they operate. You want them to be able to deliver YOUR UVP and how you are different from the competition. It is vitally important to equip Partners so they are so well versed they can serve as an additional arm of your business to promote your brand and sell your product.
To both our distributors and our direct clients - Ascom want to help you be successful in the ever changing landscape of healthcare. We strive to cultivate true partner relationships based on transparency, mutual respect and a growth mentality that is mutually beneficial to both organizations.