No one uttered at the age of 18 “I want to be in partner marketing”

No one uttered at 18-years-old “I want to be in partner marketing”.

Helen Curtis, CEO, Coterie Community

They are more likely to aspire to be YouTubers, create computer games, be a lawyer or be a doctor, yet according to LinkedIn,  3 million of us work in partner marketing, or something remarkably similar. So how did we get there? The Coterie team interviewed a group of experienced partner marketers and found that most of them fell into it by accident, movin from sales, technical, or general marketing roles, and then they were hooked! Why? Most love the opportunity to be creative marketers, commercial, and relationship builders extraordinaire! Straddling the boundaries of many organisations. This talented group influences around 60% of global trade, which makes them influential.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce myself and my reason for penning this blog. Full disclosure, I’m not a writer. I’m a marketer who also fell into partner marketing. With a marketing degree under my belt, I spent my first five years working at a global systems integrator, Fujitsu, where I learned the basics of sales and marketing.

I then went on to my first partner marketing role at Intel, the powerhouse of the computer industry. There, as a Partner Manager, I spent my days working with UK PC manufacturers developing creative marketing and business plans to get my partners to use their Intel Inside marketing funds, and in turn, grow Intel’s (and the partners’) market share. This was a great role because I could be creative, commercial, and entrepreneurial. But it wasn’t an easy job because of the complexity of the rules we needed to satisfy and make sure Intel’s objectives aligned with the partners’, plus, you are trying to align two very different organisations – different size, different culture, different objectives. 

I moved to BT (British Telecom) Global Services in a Global Proposition marketing role where I was back on the other side of the fence – now I was a partner – on the receiving end of a lot of partner programmes. Of course, I set about including ingredient partners in my marketing activity. Blimey, not so simple! I had buckets of enthusiasm but the rules to include each technology partner in my marketing plan were overwhelming. They all had their own marketing funds, rules to use them, a portal to access information, and marketing contact, not to mention my own company brand rules, the extra calls to manage the partners, and trying to get the funds into the BT bank accounts. I had successes, especially with my cyber security partners, but it created a headache and at the end of the day, we all want to make our lives as easy if possible. It made me think there must be an easier way. Is there someone like me to help someone like me?

This pain was the catalyst to set up Coterie  to help partner marketers on both sides of the marketing fence. Arm in arm with my business partner Jo, and the amazing people that have collaborated with us over the last decade, we have attempted to make life easy for our partner marketing clients and address the challenges I experienced. We have run many strategic projects, help prioritise partners, and created over 600 joint value propositions and 400 joint go-to-market plans. The result is a lot of learning – the good, the bad, and the ugly. What do we do with all this knowledge? For both Jo and I, it was important to share and connect with the community beyond our day-to-day business.

This is now coming to life with Coterie Community, a not-for-profit organisation.

It came about because of a research collaboration with the University of Huddersfield, which evidenced what we had seen at a personal level – partner and ecosystem marketing were seen as the Cinderella of marketing, never quite getting the focus they deserve, and so with the help from the University and Innovate UK funding, we’ve set the community.

The Community’s mission is twofold; to put partner marketing on the map and to build an influential community. We want everybody to be proud to be partner marketers and members of the community. We will make this happen in three ways.

  • Learning – online learning courses, a new micro-credential.
  • Sharing – best practice information, Community member 5-minute reads, and best practice templates.
  • Connect – physical and virtual meet-ups so we get that opportunity to come together and connect and celebrate success.

I am excited to see how our community unfolds led by our Board, Community Founders, and members. I am sure there will be many twists and turns along the way but I believe, collectively, we can put partner marketing on the map, and maybe an 18-year-old will one day say “I’d like to be a partner marketer”!

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