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Partner Strategies 12 min read

The path to digitizing your partner channels

Partner strategies for subscription-based businesses | Part two

 

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artner strategies have existed in businesses for a long time but in a predominantly physical form. When it comes to subscription models, businesses need to digitize the entire process, and herein lies both the challenge and a wealth of opportunities. 

Businesses are always under pressure to grow at a pace, but labour alone is not enough to achieve the rate of desired accelerated performance. Partner strategies are a highly effective way of bridging that gap, compounding growth and maximizing the revenue potential as well as brand value of the knowledge, skills, product and service that you have already invested to date for a fast-growing enterprise.

However, as we discussed in our last article, lots of businesses hesitate when it comes to venturing into partnerships because of the perceived uncertainty of success and management complexity.

In this article, we wanted to reflect on the different types of partnership strategies, their benefits to subscription-based businesses and what you need to put them into practice.


 

Partner contributions to subscription businesses

The various types of partner relationships behave very differently from one another and require different systems to make them work effectively.

For many businesses, there is a requirement/benefit to implementing more than one type of partner strategy, and this is something that keylight is unique in accommodating through its partner portal.

The following are the most prevalent partnership strategies, however, there are sub-genres within them that can also be explored in relation to specific business types and requirements:

 

Reseller partners

A reseller partnership provides a form of indirect sales through a third-party platform.

Reseller partners, such as distribution channels, have existed in traditional companies for a long time. However, whereas traditional product sales partnerships pay upfront for each sale, subscription models pay commission against recurring revenue generation. This means that the systems required need to be able to track and monitor sales, as well as customer relationships in a manner that’s fit for purpose.

In a recurring revenue model, the provider - not the partner - hosts the offer, and the customer experience is still very much your responsibility. You need to establish the partner infrastructure and ensure the customer gets what they need, but also create systems that mean partners can access timely quoting, ordering, and billing support.

 

Value-added reseller

A value-added reseller is someone you have chosen to work with because there’s synergy between your products and services which means they give customers an elevated experience and added incentive to buy when they’re combined. Each partner gains a value added by working with the other.

It has the capacity to be a highly innovative type of partnership, creating an offering that no one else can. Each party brings their specialist knowledge to the table and they have their own area of focus. Since much of the decision-making is localized to each value-added partner, key decisions are made quickly.

 

Referral/commission partners

Referral partners are those that leverage their brand reputation with their own established market, to bring leads and sales to you my recommendation. They will then be paid a commission for each successful referral. This is likely to be a one-off commission payment per customer, but it may also be repeated each time the customer renews their subscription.

These can be highly valuable partnerships, and they involve a huge amount of trust on both sides. The partner will only refer you to people they have already built business relationships with, making the lead a highly valuable one thanks to the degree of trust the partner has developed with the customer.

 

White label partners

White label partnerships are when you work with someone who resells your product or service under their own brand/label. They can be highly effective alliances for helping businesses to grow, especially for subscription businesses seeking repeat sales. It means that someone else is doing the front-facing sales, but you maintain ownership of the product or service and its management, which works to mutual benefit.

 

The partner marketplace

These are arguably the most complex of the partnership strategies, but also one of the most rewarding. It gives you access to an exceptional and established network of trusted vendors in a relevant, regional location or market segment that you do not currently have a presence or expertise in.

In an opportunity for selling and upselling, they allow brands to offer both their own and third-party products through an online platform in the form of a subscription.

 

 

The challenges to a digital partner portal

The evaluation of buying vs. building a partner portal from scratch is essential, but with many underlying complications, which include:

 

Connectivity & Scalability

The portal has to connect seamlessly to your existing systems, so that partner processes can be streamlined and automated for all stakeholders including your internal teams, your partners, and your end customers.

The main purpose of a partnership strategy is rapid business growth, so scalability needs to be considered from the start. Invariably, if solutions are not built together, processes can't be effortlessly automated and can't be scaled altogether without serious customization effort. The challenge becomes apparent when internal teams need to find solutions that fit the architecture and logic of the billing system. Not having the right solution is a key culprit in limiting the scalability of partner strategies.

 

Automation

As partnerships grow and businesses evolve, more complex processes are required. Much as the complexity of building a partner portal can inhibit scalability, buying a standalone partner portal tends to limit your capacity for customization. If the partner portal is not built into the core subscription engine, processes can’t be automated end-to-end and the full potential of the partner strategy cannot be utilized.

 

User experience

At keylight, we create systems that begin with the user's needs in mind. It’s common in subscription-based businesses to think about revenue first and the user second. However, whether you’re launching a new subscription business or integrating a partner portal to an existing one, repeat revenue is a characteristic of the model - the customer relationship is the most important asset.

Starting with this mindset will give you the freedom to pursue the most beneficial business strategy and help you find the right solutions for the best, most sustainable and most profitable customer experience.

Before launching a partnership strategy, instead of being curtailed by the possible billing complications, start with the questions:

  • What products do we want to sell?
  • What kind of experience do we want to offer to partners and end customers?

Then, systems need to be built with that user experience front of mind rather than starting with the billing system. Otherwise, businesses will find that as the partnership strategy grows it will lead to costly maintenance and unsustainable adaptations to the system that cannot keep up with a fast-moving market.

 

Billing systems for long-term thinking

More often than not, partnerships come up against challenges because digital strategies fall short of requirements, especially when it comes to billing systems. Subscriptions are about long-term relationships, and legacy billing systems are not built for relationships or with a digital-first mindset. In a partner portal, it’s all about creating a digitally efficient partner and customer experience, which includes a billing structure that reflects the evolving customer relationship and their changing subscription levels.

 

 

Integrating all partners with one robust architecture

All of that information, all those variables and all those different types of partner relationships can sound overwhelming, but not if you have a modern system that can enable them all. To have a successful digital partner strategy, the partner portal has to be built into the core subscription engine and the digital experience has to be enabled out-of-the-box. That’s what the robust architecture of keylight’s dedicated partner portal solution offers.

keylight is the only system on the market that offers an out-of-the-box partner portal, built into an end-to-end subscription system. This connectivity allows businesses to integrate all and any partners into the core business.

With that architecture, businesses can automate every partner process, while keeping full control of how, what, and where partners sell for you.

 

Global rollout

One of the main reasons businesses get into partner strategies is to expand on a global scale.

A global rollout means being able to adapt to multiple different practical requirements within a local market. Partnerships can be extremely helpful as they know the local market best. However, you need a platform that adapts to the legal and logistical needs of each region, such as language, currency, time zones and so forth.

keylight’s partner portal has the native capabilities for legal entities and subsidiaries to support global expansion and country-specific compliance requirements.

 

Predictive analytics

As with all areas of a subscription business, being able to adapt to the changing needs of the market, refine your offering and build and maintain strong customer relationships, requires having access to appropriate data and the ability to turn it into meaningful actions.

Predictive analytics is a vital tool in expertly forecasting and reporting, gaining deep insights into partner growth and partner-end customer relationships. It allows you to optimize revenue potential and the overall success of your business as a whole business. This is also an area in which keylight can support partner strategies.

 

 

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