Partner engagement, preparedness, and adoption are key drivers of whether a new product gets traction quickly – and ultimately whether you achieve your business objectives for the product.
For the channel to embrace a new product, you have to lay the right groundwork. Below are some critical parts of partner launch efforts:
1. Articulate a compelling partner business proposition
A new product is inherently disruptive to partners. It’s easier and cheaper for partners to continue selling existing products – their businesses are already built around them.
As a result, you need to provide the channel with a clear, compelling business proposition – one that makes it worthwhile for partners to invest their money, commit their time, and shift their focus. Without a strong partner business prop, partners won’t adopt the new product, and your launch will likely fall short of objectives.
The business proposition should demonstrate tangible benefits partners will see with the new product, such as richer incentives, new market opportunities, lower costs, sales assistance, greater customer demand, and opportunities to build stronger customer relationships.
Another element of the business proposition should be the customer value proposition. Channel partners must be able to persuade customers that the new product is worth moving to. This requires that partners have a strong understanding of the new product’s benefits, the right technical capabilities to sell it, and the business structures to support it. That’s why you need to ensure the channel is effectively prepared for the launch –see the next section for more about channel readiness.
2. Develop a comprehensive channel readiness plan
For the new product to gain traction and momentum, the channel must be prepared to sell, deploy, manage, support and build on it. Consequently, an effective channel readiness plan – plus successful execution on that plan – is a critical component of a successful launch.
While your company likely has multiple teams dedicated to a product launch, your partners don’t. As a result, you need to make it as easy and painless as possible to help their people get up to speed on the new product. That means:
- Training the right individuals at partner organizations
- With the right information
- At the right time
- In an effective format (that’s also cost-effective)
In developing partner readiness plans, it’s imperative to keep the partner’s perspective in mind. For instance, you might have the funding and resources to deliver three-day in person training sessions, but your partners may not be willing to commit their own resources for that amount of time.
And regardless of the format, timing, or type of training, you must ensure that partners gain a strong understanding of how the new product differs from other products (both from the old version, if there is one, and from competitors’ products). Without this understanding, partners will likely be reluctant to sell the new product.
3. Build a robust partner launch communications plan
It’s imperative to have a compelling partner business proposition, and a clear roadmap for partners to learn about the new product and on-board it into their portfolios. While these elements are necessary for a successful launch, they are of little value if this information doesn’t get to partners (or doesn’t get there at the right time).
This means you need a strong communications plan that ensures the right partners are touched with the right content at the right time. A strong communications plan should include:
- A profile of the partner audiences you need to reach, and the messages they need to hear
- An inventory of the communications vehicles you will use, and the timing of those communications
- A timeline aligned across all aspects of the launch (including product release milestones)
Partner-facing members of the field typically play a key role in executing on partner communications plans. As part of the communications effort, you should ensure that the right members of your field are trained on the new product, and on their partner communication responsibilities related to the launch.
In Part 2, we’ll cover three more partner-related launch elements:
- 4) Launch communications timing
- 5) Partner sales, marketing and support resources
- 6) Programmatic integration of the new product