One Universal Partner Experience – cultivating an environment that stimulates growth.

One Universal Partner Experience – cultivating an environment that stimulates growth.

Piece written by Simon Stokes, Associate Director of Partnership Marketing, at CityFibre.
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Let me begin by offering you a window into my world, a world where brand new telecoms cables are laid into the ground and a world in which my success is only possible through partnership.
This is where I reside, in an organisation with a symbiosis with our partners. Where we find an intrinsic link between the performance of our cables and the commercial success and appetite of our partners.  Success here requires the entire ecosystem, their business models and their people working to a shared goal. 
There is no room for our partners not to succeed. They must succeed. Otherwise, we fail.
A fundamental part of building a successful ecosystem is to provide a platform for growth. But not all Partners are created equally, no two organisations face exactly the same problem. So to create a platform for growth we must first begin with a few fundamentals.
  1. Understand your partners business model.
  2. Understand your business model. (Don’t overlook this!)
  3. Be open to break new ground.
  4. Learn and adapt from past performance.
Partnership marketing is more than a pure marketing discipline. It is the blend of commercial strategy and marketing execution by more than one organisation. Understanding what makes each company tick is therefore crucial in cultivating success. My organisation for example is an infrastructure builder with a huge capital outlay and a long term investment horizon, our decisions are more likely to have long term (10+year) considerations. 
Our Partners by contrast are more likely to have shorter term objectives with EBITDA (Earning Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) or with newer and disruptive partners perhaps even more focus on Cash Flow. A thorough understanding of these fundamental business drivers can give us the insight into where we can find success and where we may find a brick wall.
However, as Partner Marketeers we are not an alone!
We are part of a wider commercial army, with Pricing and Product teams, Strategy and Finance teams and of course our Sales Teams. If the above feels intimidating then you might just be paying enough attention, it is! But with the support of the aforementioned teams, we can continue to push our understanding and pave the way for this mystical pursuit of ‘incremental growth’. 
Incremental growth is that growth we can attribute to doing something. If you put up a stand in a shopping mall and make 100 sales we can be reasonably confident those sales would not have happened without the stand. A theme we will visit shortly when we look at my view of ‘Marketing Development Funds’ (MDF).
comparison website, universal partner experience
Now that we have a clear view of our own and our partners business goals, we can begin to look at the existing strategies our partners have deployed and plan to deploy. When I have done this with my partners it has prompted a very simple gap analysis, which channels do you go to market with, what does success look like and what proportion of your resources do you deploy where?. This exercise alone can give us the insight to begin developing our ecosystem, it is a treasure trove of insight. For example, what performance metrics do you use? Why do you use the channels you use, how do these channels reach your target audience?
It was through this understanding that we launched our first webinar programme to our partners. The programmes were developed from insights gained directly from our partners to learn about new channels and bring in experts to share insight. For example, one of the big channels for buying broadband is through comparison websites, also known as affiliate sites. These affiliate sites can deliver 99%+ of broadband sales they make to only 5-6 of the biggest broadband names, making this route to market feel inaccessible to newer and smaller partners. My role is therefore to disrupt this channel and use our influence and buying power to find new ways to open this route to market.
My next challenge is to understand how I can support my partners with the cash flow impact of acquiring a new customer. In the broadband market it can take in excess of 12 months before a partner might see a profit, accounting for the cost of marketing and the cost of a router and installation. If we can find a way to reduce the cash flow burden, we may be able to grow even quicker. What is blocking your partners from growing at super scale? 
These are just small example’s of how disruptive we can be as partner marketeers and how much bigger our ecosystem is than just our company, our partner, and the end user.
Only use MDF after baselining “do nothing”.
One of the tricks we hold up our sleeves in partnership marketing is access to the coveted Marketing Development Fund. When my team approach MDF funding they ask one question before any other. “What happens if we do nothing?”
If we understand the answer to this question, then we can begin to work out where to best spend our precious cash. The purpose of our MDF funding should be to provide incremental growth above the do-nothing position. This might allow us to encourage activity in an underserved area or traditionally more expensive area of customer acquisition. It may allow us to trial a new channel in which we haven’t experimented before, or it may simply allow us to upweight an already well performing plan. The devil is in the detail and in that joint commitment to growth. If we look for example at trialling a new channel, the cost may be £50k. We might return 10x this investment. However, imagine if you agree with the partner that if that £50k returns 10x that they commit to spend another £50k for the next four quarters in that channel. Now we have transformative change and exponential growth.
baseline, universal partner experience
Blurred lines
My job is to change the trajectory of growth in pursuit of shared business objectives. How we get there is not always clear cut. It can mean that traditional responsibilities and roles can become blurred. Historically we’ve taken a siloed approach to partners but now we are bringing teams, targets, and responsibilities together. 
To really impact change and drive incremental growth you need to sit across the organisation and ensure that we remove blockers to unlock growth. Roles and responsibilities are clearly important, but shared goals and shared vision are key. Every so often It is necessary to get back into position and to focus on the delivery and execution, but if cultivating an environment for growth requires you to sprint ahead for some time then partner marketeers need to take that step and lead the ecosystem as a disruptive intrapreneur.
 The Future of Partner Marketing
 An intrapreneur is an employee within a company who takes on the mindset and behaviors of an   entrepreneur in order to innovate and drive change within the organization. Intrapreneurs are often   motivated by a desire to create new products or services, improve existing processes, or develop   new markets for the company.
 Like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs are willing to take risks and think creatively in order to achieve their   goals. They are often passionate about their work and willing to challenge the status quo in order to   bring about positive change.
 Intrapreneurship is becoming increasingly important in today’s business world, as companies look for   ways to stay competitive and adapt to changing market conditions. Many organizations are   encouraging and supporting intrapreneurial initiatives as a way to foster innovation and drive   growth from within.
 Overall, an intrapreneur is a valuable asset to any company, as they bring fresh perspectives and   innovative ideas to the table, while still working within the existing framework of the organization.

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