Being bold partner marketers: The Big Bold Mindset

Being bold partner marketers: The Big Bold Mindset

What does it mean to be a bold partner marketer? Why does it matter, and if we make the choice to be bolder, then how do we go about it?
Written by Caspar Craven, a leading authority on achieving big bold goals and one of Europe’s highest rated leadership conference speakers.
I’ve just had the pleasure of spending time speaking to, and with the Coterie Community – a community of Partner Marketers who have the fabulous big bold mission to put partner & ecosystem marketing on the map. This article is my reflections on what I’ve heard and a brief summary of some of the ideas shared on how to apply The Big Bold Mindset to partner marketing.
Why does being bold matter to Partner Marketing?
Speaking to the 30 senior leaders in the room from both marketing and sales in the partner marketing field, it’s clear that this is a sector that is underrepresented, and not seen as a distinct profession in its own right despite the fact that 76% of technology sales go through some form of channel, which is basically partner marketing. Across EMEA, one data set shows that for every eight field marketing people, there is only one partner marketing person.
This tallies with my own experience as CEO of a technology company a decade ago where we ended up working very closely with the partner marketing teams across leading companies like IBM and Microsoft. My first experience was that I knew nothing of this area and as we became more involved in, the cross discipline nature, the complex nature of managing multiple relationships and the skill of the teams, it became very apparent – Partner marketing is an important area and deserves to have light shone on it and to become a championed sector.
Big Bold Ideas
What are a few of the ideas I had to share with Coterie Community that can help with being bolder as partner marketers.
You can’t navigate a new world with an old chart.
I can’t think of a single sector that isn’t facing disruption and that requires us to develop a different set of mental models, of frameworks for how we look at the world and how we approach developing the skills needed at work. Put simply, we need a new set of charts.
Professor Kamal Munir at Cambridge University talks of need to imagine a world 5 years from now and to see the players, the ecosystem, the trends and patterns that have changed and to then work out what part we want to play in that world.
My mentor used to say to me that if you plan to be in the business that you are in today in five years’ time, then you won’t be in business. Different words but same result – how can you positively disrupt yourself.
In my talk, I shared the way that I first positively disrupted my world at home (with our plans to sail the world as a family) and as I developed that skill set at home, I then used the same approach to positively disrupt our business to find new and better ways of doing things. In the past seven years, I’ve added to this set of insights with my research and I now use these insights to help market leading companies globally to positively disrupt themselves and to think bigger and bolder.
There are some defining characteristics that I observe from the many leaders I have worked with, spoken to and studied. These are the characteristics that make up the Big Bold Mindset which I want to set out and explore here.
I’m curious. What does this mean? Why does it work this way? Why did this happen? What else could we do?
Leaders who are always thinking of new questions to which they really want to know the answer. Leaders who are seldom satisfied with generic answers. Leaders who want to know more. Inquiring hungry minds.
What’s the natural resting state for your mind? Is it seeking more answers or settling for what is?
Rightly or wrongly, this is very much a defining characteristic.
Everything changed when I went from saying “I’m right” to “How do I know I’m right?”. The words of Ray Dalio, founder of the worlds largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates which he shares in his brilliant book “Principles”.
None of us have enough life times to know all the information and insights we will ever need to answer all the questions we want answered.
To be comfortable with admitting we don’t know the answers and to seek out the wisdom we need to be honest about the gaps we have – doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
I wonder if many of us in our formative years have experienced ridicule and humiliation for not “knowing the right answers” and this experience leaves a lasting mark. A lasting mark that means it’s uncomfortable to be wrong and to get the wrong answer.
Dare to be Different
Why is it this way? Is there a better way? Is there another way?
A willingness to challenge the status quo is something all the leaders I’ve met share in common. 
One of my mentors had a more punchy phrase “Are you prepared to spit in the eye of the witch doctor and challenge the way it has always been done?”. 
Why don’t we do this more often? Is it because we want to conform? Were we told off more than once for being difficult, for being challenging, for exhausting our parents?
What may have been unhelpful in a former life is exactly the skill set we need today. 
And this isn’t just for organisations. This is for individuals wherever we are in our careers. As traditional career paths change, as technology threatens how we’ve thought about the world, conformity as a default pattern is not a great place.
How challenging are you? How willing are you to dare to be different?
Unless we study and reflect on the past, we are destined to keep making the same mistakes and repeating the same patterns into the future.
Big Bold Leaders take the time to reflect and notice what worked well and what didn’t work so well. These reflections are then used to shape the hypothesis for the next experiment. 
It’s about working out your first best guess and running that experiment. Then reflecting. If it worked well, what can we do to improve on it and make it even better. If it didn’t work well, what changes can we make.
Ray Dalio puts into a simple formula what I see across all reflective leaders who strive for greater things: the formula is Pain + Reflection = Progress.
When we hit that pain point, when we find something uncomfortable, what is your default reaction? Do you turn away from it or lean into the discomfort.
One successful senior leader I interviewed shared his daily ritual of the first 30 minutes of the day built into his diary for quiet reflection on the 24 hours that had gone before. A discipline he has honed and developed to find ways to improve every single day. 
Napoleon Hill’s famous words resonate: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit”.
These seeds only get planted if we take the time to reflect and to notice the message that the failure is trying to communicate to us.
What’s your default? Do you turn towards or away from pain?
Nurture: Think Like a Farmer
Every impactful leader I’ve met who has made their own small dent in the world has on their journey at some point come to the realisation they can’t do it on their own and that they need a team of people – people to compensate for where they are weak and to bring in people who are strong in that area.
Further, those leaders all have arrived at the insight that people only do things for their own reasons and not the reasons of the leader. It’s based on this understanding that listening to, engaging with and nurturing people in their team is crucial.
Recently I was a guest speaker at the Garden Centre Association Conference and have spent two days immersed in the thriving world of garden centres and plants. One of the most successful leaders running a large chain of UK garden centres summed us his wisdom with the phrase: “You can’t sell a dead plant”.
All too often what I see is the impatience of money and returns can be so overwhelming that it drives out the nurture. It’s about understanding the fundamental nature of the nurture business.
In the garden centre business, the lack of nurture shows up pretty easily in dead plants – the dead profits take a little longer to follow on.
In business, how does a lack of nurture show up in teams of people? Disengaged, demotivated teams, “burn-out” or that phrase which I keep hearing of “quiet quitting?”
You can have a pretty good bet that dead profits follow from disengaged people. Yes of course, have an eye to the bottom line, but I definitely encourage leaders to take a leaf out of the garden centre book and focus on nurture.
When you put people first, the results will follow. This is something I see big bold leaders the world over understanding at their core.
Are you focused only on the numbers this quarter or do you have a long term perspective? Achieving bold goals needs the mindset of running a marathon, not a sprint.
Think Bigger
One year, three years, five years, ten years, twenty years from now you will be somewhere. That somewhere will be in direct relation to the choices you make from this moment forwards.
Why not make it the biggest and boldest you can possibly imagine? What if you had the tool kit and mindset to navigate the most seemingly impossible challenges? What would you do differently?
The pattern I see that epitomises this mindset is that stretch. When we set big bold goals we stretch what we believe is possible. Belief, such a core component which is examined in a chapter on it’s own literally shapes the way we think, the way we feel and therefore the way that we act.
It’s in this stretch of our beliefs, this new space that gets created that we make the space for fresh ideas, fresh thinking. It’s when creativity gets released and magic gets created.
The first step which again has a huge psychological component is that of thinking bigger. Thinking bolder. What would it take to grow by 5x, by 10x, by 100x?
What would it take to completely reimagine what we do?
How inclined to big and bold thinking are you?
Our story of who we are, our identity does not have to be fixed. It can grow, expand, change and take shape over time.
Are you open to re-writing your story, your identity of who you are?
Did you consciously choose and create the identity you have today? How did you get it? Did you work to define it or has it been shaped by the experiences you’ve had until now? 
Are you happy with your identity and story?
If you expanded it and made the biggest wildest dream you could possibly imagine, what is the very worst thing that could happen?
“What’s the worst that can happen?” is a thought process, a question that I see time and again from those showing a big bold mindset. When one really answers this question and reflects on it, we often discern that many of the beliefs we’ve been building on fall away and the downside risks are far less than we may have perceived them to be.
What comes up for you when you think of re-writing your identity and story, of reinventing yourself?
Are you like my friend from college days, Paul who firmly believes you are who you are and you can’t change who you are at your core?
Or are you more open to the possibilities that Professor Carol Dweck, outlines in her book, “Mindset”? That our brains have neuro plasticity and we can literally expand and re-write our script. I love the small language tweak that she advises when a child (or adult) will say “I’m no good at this”. The tweak is simply to add the word “yet” at the end of the sentence to become “I’m no good at this yet”. Those simple three letters open a world of possibility.
What’s the identity that you’ve not created yet? What possibilities could you create?
As our world changes and technology and Al redefine processes, jobs and roles that humans have traditionally done, this identity redefinition is vital.
In my early career, I defined my place in the world, the value I could bring to the world by the role I performed. It was as much an identity as a definition of value.
I was an accountant. That was who I was.
Imagine now technology can now do 80 to 100% of that role? Where would that leave my identity? I’ve been replaced by a machine. It’s easy to see a pathway to feeling that one brings no value which would be a terrible place to be. 
For you, for your work place, for your home team, how aware and equipped are you and they to re-write their story? 
Make no mistake that this is a skill set and one that I believe is vital. What is your skill level at re-writing your story and how equipped are you as a leader to help others on their journey?
Thinking Bigger
We’ve rattled through the traits I see time and again from leaders who consistently think bigger and bolder and achieve results that match. As a partner marketer, what can you do to think bigger and bolder? How did you score and where could you improve?
Partner Marketing already has a significant if under-represented impact. What could you do to grow the recognition and impact of what you do as a leader, as a team, in your company and in the wider ecosystem. As Steve Jobs famously said “The only people crazy enough to change the world are the people who do ” – What’s the impact you’d like to have?
Caspar Craven spoke at the Coterie Community of Partner Marketers in March 2023 and is a leading authority on achieving big bold goals and one of Europes highest rated leadership conference speakers. To get his full set of 20 principles for achieving big bold goals, you can get these by messaging Caspar’s team at

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