When Partnerships Aren’t the Right Move

Most of the time, leaning in on building partner programs makes sense. They’re a growth engine after all! And there’s a mountain of success stories, use cases, and playbooks outlining the multitude of ways partners accelerate revenue growth and extend the core business to new markets. Except when they don’t. 

When it comes to building partnerships, timing and your maturity stage matter. The optimal time to ignite your partner journey is after product-market fit has been achieved. Prior to product-market fit achievement, consider backing off from pursuing partnerships. Here are four reasons why:

1. Lack of focus

Product-market fit is the bedrock on which strategic partnerships are built, providing insight into which technologies are truly adjacent, as well as how co-marketing, co-selling, and co-building will work with which partners and which partner types. If your core business and its offerings haven’t achieved product-market fit and require a lot of focus and resources to do so, the premature pursuit of strategic GTM partners will be a distraction. For that matter, it’s just plain difficult to craft a compelling partner value proposition that incentivizes them to prioritize your offering over others without a validated product-market fit.

2. No commitment

Partner programs require significant resources (personnel, budgets, systems, etc.) to build and scale effectively. A willingness to dedicate resources throughout the organization is must for partner recruitment, development, and attachment to the core go-to-market strategy. That includes your c-suite and senior management. Are they yes-people that won’t commit resources? Or are they aligned and committed to execute harmoniously in support of partner-led motions?

3. Leadership void

Partner programs operating outside of the core business are a recipe for channel conflict, unreliable integrations, and unfulfilled potential. Top-down alignment, however, enables faster development of a winning partnership model that can be integrated into core business operations. If your organization isn’t ready to locate, listen to, and support the leader who is tasked with building and executing a partner-led growth strategy, it’s better to delay pursuing a partnership and focus on filling that leadership void first. 

4. Hostile core

For many organizations, partner programs will be a new growth engine. If you’re going to pursue a partnership, keep in mind that your partners need access to the resources of the core business to be successful. And in the case of technology partners, integrations are expected. If your business is resistant to these integrations or just makes it difficult for integrations to take shape, failure is certain. After being burned once, it will be tough getting these partners interested in and committed to co-building in the future. Remember, you’re not the only game in town and your partner prospects can always partner with your “easier-to-do business with competitors.” Don’t give them a reason to – just be easy to partner with from day one! 

With partner programs, the right timing can make all the difference. Still wondering when to activate your partner journey? That’s why we’re here. Contact us and together we’ll chart your partner-led journey.