This posting is part of a series on Partner Management.
If your company is in business for quite some time, it inevitably has accumulated not only relationships with clients and suppliers but also with partners. The partners tend to be contacts of the owner and senior management. Typically cooperation is very much ad-hoc and results lack, until something happens: a merger, a new manager, a crisis or perhaps a large new order.
At one stage someone will look at the partners and thinks to himself: what is happening? I am no longer in control of all our partnerships! How can we make the partnerships more fruitful? It is this very moment that your company needs to implement a partner program.
A partner program unifies the ways in which your company wishes to work with partners. It harmonizes and brings structure to the relationships. The premier benefit is that partnerships rely no longer on an individual employee, but that anyone within your company can utilize the relationship.
The partner program is in many ways a standardized product catalog; it specifies what kind of partnership opportunities your company has on offer and what the default conditions are. The catalog includes all the trainings, certifications, marketing campaigns, reseller fees and more. The program should leave it to the partner which individual elements of the program are relevant and of interest to him.
It is sometimes argued that a formal partner program takes to fun out of a relationship. I disagree: a partner program gives structure to a relationship; it takes care of the house-hold task and enables both parties to focus on getting results. The partner program helps to identify if and how both parties can work together. A well-established partner program sets the guidelines and leaves enough room to fill in the blanks for each individual relationship.
How much room there is to adapt the program for each relationship depends heavily on how your company perceives its positions with its eco-system. The more partners your company seeks, the more stringent the partner program needs to be applied. It is then simple not possible to tailor each partnership.
When a company is small and works with a limited number of partners a partner program could be too much of a good thing. As a rough guideline a partner program is relevant when the organization works with more than twenty partners.