In the enterprise IT market, the core reality is that no vendor is a standalone vendor; customers look for systems that integrate the components of the solution as a known, effective architecture. As a result, most enterprise infrastructure and application vendors form alliances to go to market more effectively. However, most of these alliances result in little more than press releases, some hypothetical demo systems in a vendor Executive Briefing Center and frustrated alliance managers who struggle to prove effectiveness of these relationships.
Alliances are complex things and often difficult to manage, as over time, each participant in the alliance will inevitably pull the marketing messaging and sales efforts more and more towards their own brand interest at the expense of the alliance joint interests. Technology and markets evolve and this shifting landscape causes momentum in alliances to be difficult to manage. Successful alliances are focused on a persistent customer problem, such as productivity of employees, accelerating insights into the market and their business, or similar issues that can sustain the changes in technology landscape and competitive actions.
At the Spur Group, we work with clients on building effective alliances and we work within a diagnostic framework to help structure alliances more effectively. We think of alliances on four dimensions:
1. How well do we meet in the lab?
In this level, we look for the nature of IP creation around the joint offering - great examples are the partnership between Cisco, Microsoft and storage vendors like NetApp with the UCS Flexpod converged system for private clouds, or the partnership between Dell and VMware on the EVOrail solution. Other kinds of IP are just as important, such as joint architecture and the services methodology for deploying a specific solution, such as a secure commerce solution or a high performance Hana system on converged infrastructure. The problems that often arise in IP creation are poorly focused integration plans that fixate on technical capability in search of a customer problem; other problems range from poor commitment from technical resources and product resources and sponsorship of the IP at a low level role.
2. How well do we meet in the market?
Here, we look at the effectiveness of the alliance product marketing and sales messaging - is it the same old blended 'feature/benefit/value' lists that describe the technology without describing the solution value? Does the messaging contain effective Point of View insights to drive alignment of customer thinking to your solution value? Is there effective messaging traps for competitive or alternative solutions? Often, the marketing integration of alliances is limited to press releases or 'cut and paste' integrated documents that don't result in customer resonance and interest and, as a result, leaves the customer and field feeling unvested in the alliance outcomes.
3. How well do we meet in the field?
Now we look at the alignment of the sales and support resources in the field of each alliance member. Are they aligned on incentives and scorecard targets? Is there a clear role or resource in each field that is measured specifically on the alliance goals or outcomes? Is there a product conflict in a different market that creates resistance to the field trusting each other? Often, alliances quickly break down over sales conflict and trust issues, but a lack of a clear incentive model and readiness training lead to even committed alliances failing.
4. How well do we meet in the channel?
Lastly, we look at how the shared channel between the company is aligned and trained to sell the solution on behalf of the alliance. Often, challenges exist as application solution partners don't work in the infrastructure layer or the solution partner on the software side is driving cloud solutions aggressively that is undermining the infrastructure partners revenue. Mapping the alignment of selling model, product mix and services is critical to building effective channel alliance models, whether the result is cross-recruitment, partners or competitive disruption.
Getting to market with a more effective approach to alliances
The Spur Group has a portfolio of offers for building and driving effective alliances. We offer:
- Virtual Product Marketing Management - Alliances have people on both sides who want to see the alliance succeed, but often have other day jobs and are aligned to their own company goals. The Spur Group offers a virtual product marketing manager role where we drive the alliance solution formation with each sides resources, with a daily cadence from alignment to solution definition. With a virtual product marketing manager, you can move faster towards results and solutions in the market.
- Launch Factory - The Spur group offers a structured approach to building the core messaging of the alliance solution set and all the field and partner deliverables needed to get to market. Customer Decision Maker sales presentations, solution technology guides, customer At-A-Glance materials, partner business propositions and much more is packaged into a set price, fixed delivery time offer you can budget and plan for in each launch.
- Partner InSite - Finding the partners who are a best fit for an alliance offer is a tough task; at The Spur Group we offer our proprietary Partner InSite engine that analyses the website text of over 600,000 partners to measure their product mix, services, solution areas and vertical markets, as well as vendor alignment in messaging to help you find the best partners immediately
The Spur Group can help you accelerate your alliance to success and share gain - to set up a discussion on how improve your alliance effectiveness, drop us a line.