Rule #3: Challenge the Status Quo
Do you like to run? I do. There’s nothing like the cold morning air hitting your face as you explore new trails and try to beat your best time. You know you could be faster. You know you could have better control of your heart rate. You know you could be stronger. And although I don’t run for a living, that’s exactly how I feel most days.
Partner Marketing: Challenge Accepted
A little over two years ago, I was challenged to accelerate my career. After years of sales, customer success, and marketing leadership roles, I was invited to build the Partner Marketing team at OutSystems. I was charged with introducing a new global partner marketing program that would support partners’ activities worldwide at scale.
Because we’re a software provider, a partnership ecosystem is a fundamental part of the OutSystems blueprint for growth. It’s how we make low-code accessible to corners of the world that aren’t served by our direct sales team. And in the markets where we do sell directly, our partners have existing relationships as trusted advisors. They know their markets better than anyone. For that reason, they are able to understand, holistically, the challenges organizations are struggling with. Our partners don’t sell low-code. They help their clients solve complex and sophisticated challenges; OutSystems just happens to be the awesome weapon in their toolkit.
But, back to the story.
Two years ago, OutSystems was expanding its partner program into new regions. Although we had dozens of partners around the world, we lacked a unified, universal, consistent program. Basically, each OutSystems regional office managed their local partners independently.
And that had worked fine; nothing was broken. But as we started growing our program and building teams in new regions, we noticed that something was missing. Each region was at a different level of maturity; some of them had a lot of partners, some had no partners, and some were muddling along. Most regions were focused on acquiring and enabling new partners but lacked expertise in establishing co-marketing relationships. Some partners were highly effective; others were not. But they all had unrealized potential to grow their OutSystems practice and their clients’ satisfaction rates.
There was clearly a need to build a partner program that standardized the support between OutSystems and the partners yet still gave the local teams the freedom to execute programs and activities that reflect the nuances of their markets.
The Global Program: Blazing New Trails
Since we only had local initiatives going, building a global partner program would mean going into uncharted territories and experimenting with new strategies. My goal, since day one, has been to maximize the success of our partners by providing unprecedented co-marketing support. I figured that if the local teams and partners didn’t have to create everything from scratch and could take advantage of best practices from other regions, they could focus on world-class execution and delighting the customer.
Today, our local teams continue to manage their in-region partners and the joint activities that generate new leads, just like they did before. But now they rely on my team to build consistency into the messaging we use, the programs we offer, and the assets made available to partners. Today, the definition of an elite partner is the same from Stockholm to San Diego to Singapore. Access to co-op funds is universal. Co-branding kits are the same for everyone; resources don’t vary based on which country you’re in, how long you’ve been a partner, or a sales guy giving you special treatment. Now it’s the same for every partner. And that’s scalable.
My team delivers the tools, the resources, and the infrastructure that allow partners to create marketing campaigns, generate leads, and, ultimately, close business. This way, both our partners and local teams can focus on adapting the materials for their languages, customers, and competitive landscape.
Keep on Challenging the Status Quo
Now that we have the global partner program in place, I spend my time finding ways to improve it. I’m always looking for new initiatives to benefit our partners and their clients (our customers). We keep challenging the status quo, and we’ll probably challenge it forever. We can always be better; we can always beat yesterday’s performance. It’s just like my morning run.
Just recently, we announced the winners of the 2018 OutSystems Partner of the Year Awards. Our goal is to celebrate our partners' success based on universal criteria: key business metrics like the number of new clients acquired, revenue generated, and new business opportunities identified. This is great because, on the one hand, it gives our partners the notoriety they deserve as incredible contributors to our company’s growth. And on the other, it gives them the motivation to do better—better than the other partners and better than last year. It’s one way I push them to challenge the status quo.
So, I’ll ask you again. Do you like to run? Do you enjoy blazing unknown trails? The status quo is either comforting or maddening. I see it as the latter. I know many see a blank slate as intimidating, exhausting, and stressful. But if you love the challenge and you have the skill, and also the appetite, to build new things, then OutSystems is a great place to be.