Guest Column | January 2, 2020

3 Strategies For Building And Growing A Channel Partner Program

By Jason Chester, InfinityQS International, Inc.

Partners

Every software vendor or provider has three common goals: increase product adoption, grow your customer base, and bolster revenue. One of the best ways to achieve every one of these goals is through a channel partner program, where you have a network of partners that sell, distribute, and support your product among clients with whom they have relationships—thereby far extending your market reach. Notably, in 2019, Microsoft attributed 95 percent of its commercial revenue flow to its partner ecosystem.

However, simply establishing a partner program is no guarantee of overnight success. As Director of Global Partner Programs at InfinityQS International, Inc., I have spent the last two years developing and fine-tuning a program that would be attractive to new partners and drive adoption of our cloud-native Quality Intelligence platform, Enact, across the manufacturing industry. I am proud to share that in just 18 months since our Global Partner Program launched, we have added over 40 industry service providers to our partner list—and expect continued growth ahead.

I credit the success of our channel partner program to the following strategies:

  1.  Targeting The Right Partners

Many organizations make their channel partner programs very broad in terms of the types of partners that they want. For most software providers, this would mean a network of software resellers or value-added resellers (VARs). At InfinityQS, we went the opposite direction. Rather than approaching IT resellers, we thought of our desired customers (i.e., manufacturers) and considered the types of companies that they turn to for shop-floor solutions. We wanted to specifically target industry partners who manufacturers already trust and where our Enact platform would logically fit into their services and offerings.

We narrowed our prospective partners into four classifications:

  • Quality management consultancies: with manufacturing clients that need data-driven quality management, including real-time data collection and analytics.
  • Automation and control services: with clients that want to better leverage greater value from their operational data together with their existing automation and control infrastructure.
  • Manufacturing consultancies: with clients that need real-time data collection and analytics for their manufacturing excellence programs like Lean Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).
  • Industrial IT service providers: with clients looking to deploy a modern quality management platform as part of digital transformation efforts.

These partners are more capable of understanding their manufacturing client’s specific needs and communicating the benefits of our solutions. Unlike a typical IT reseller, these partners have closer relationships with the operational teams that would use our solution. They also can incorporate Enact into their existing portfolios and thereby cross-sell or upsell their other solutions, which leads to new business opportunities. It’s a win-win for all, which fosters program growth.

  1. Collaborating Closely With Your Partners

The “partnership” part of a channel partner program may sometimes elude organizations. You want to work closely with your partners so that they can fully understand your products and effectively promote them to clients and prospects. Here at InfinityQS, we strive to deliver a highly supportive and collaborative Global Partner Program. From the moment a partner joins, we endeavor to provide them with all our knowledge, tools, and expertise to help them succeed in their sales engagements.

Specifically, we offer full training on the Enact solution across a variety of skill levels. For instance, we have demo-oriented training for individuals presenting the software to clients. There’s also more advanced training for those involved in a technical pre-sales support role. If a technical question comes up during the sales process, we have application engineers ready to assist our partners in communications with clients or prospects. Moreover, we provide each partner with sales and marketing support, including co-branded outbound sales materials and a rich library of content, including white papers, case studies, e-books, and other audio-visual content.

Ultimately, a high level of collaboration and support ties back to what makes for a successful channel partner program: our solutions with their expertise resulting in their client’s success. It needs to be a joint effort between all parties.

  1. Offering An Attractive Compensation Model

Partners naturally want to be rewarded for their efforts. As a software provider, you should communicate both the tangible and intangible rewards afforded by your channel partner program. In terms of the intangible, your software may provide them a competitive differentiator from other similar providers. If you have a truly innovative solution that brings new value to their portfolio, they can offer their other core service offerings in addition to the current opportunity and generate new business—akin to the cross-selling and upselling with Enact mentioned earlier.

For tangible rewards, an attractive and competitive compensation model is ideal. At InfinityQS, we decided from day one that we would offer our partners 100 percent of the first-year subscription revenue from the clients that they acquire. We don’t take a penny. InfinityQS partners also have additional revenue stream opportunities from deployment- and training-related services with Enact. Such a model encourages partners to continuously seek out new business and promote your solutions. It also demonstrates your commitment to helping them succeed early in the relationship.

Final Remarks

At InfinityQS, we also recognized that the very nature of industrial IT procurement is changing. It is no longer solely the IT department’s responsibility to identify, select, and procure new operational technologies, especially on the shop floor. And while we are a software company, we see ourselves more as a manufacturing and quality solutions provider. By reframing our partner program in this way and working with companies that provide critical shop-floor services to manufacturers, we can get closer to the teams that will directly benefit from our solutions. This is what has driven the success of our partner programs to date and will continue to do so into the future.

About The Author

Jason ChesterJason Chester is responsible for the implementation, management, and overall success of the InfinityQS Global Channel Partner Program. With over 25 years of experience working directly within the Enterprise IT industry, Jason has gained a deep understanding of how information technology capabilities can deliver significant and sustainable business value to end user organizations. Currently, Jason’s main area of interest is the business impact of next-generation information technologies on industrial and manufacturing sectors.