Standing out from the crowd: How to become the partner of choice for technology platforms

Try as we might, being impartial is next to impossible, and we all have favorites. 

This is even true of the biggest tech platforms: Hubspot, Google, Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft - they all have that short list of partners they really like. And if you’re on that list, you’ll probably enjoy some special treatment: more co-marketing, more co-selling, a more secure place at the table. 

Even the biggest tech giants are, after all, piloted by real people. 

How do I know? I’ve been in the fortunate situation to be that favored partner. I was part of a team that, while smaller than many other Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), earned accolades from major platforms in our space: “Hero Integration” (I really like that one), “Tech Partner of the Year”, “Focus ISV”.

How? By focusing on how we could bring value, and then working in a methodical, single-minded way to deliver that value. To do that, we developed some “partner superpowers” that are critical to achieving that much-desired status of ”favored child” of your big tech partners. 

Partner superpower #1: Making it rain

Major tech platforms usually aren’t banking on an ISV’s ability to land a big deal. And that’s precisely why it makes such a big impact when you do. Deliver more than one, and you’ll secure your spot on their organizational radar. 

If you can pull it off - and make sure that the right people know about it - you’ll position yourself as an indispensable partner. That way, you’ll receive the support you need to continue delivering those wins. 

Partner superpower #2: Closing the deal

Sometimes, a little bit of niche expertise is what it takes to get a deal over the finish line. And you might be well placed to provide that mission critical magic that gets everyone there. 

Your partner will remember this, and they’ll be motivated to bring you to the table for the next deal. That’s exactly where you want to be. 

Partner superpower #3: Detecting gaps and closing them 

Users and their ever-evolving needs: a perennial challenge for even the biggest and best in the tech world. The fact is that even the biggest tech platforms can’t solve every problem all on their own, particularly when it comes to addressing user requirements that change over time. The ability to satisfy users through innovation and imaginative problem solving is partnership gold.

If you can spot feature gaps and build products that close them, your partners will begin to perceive you as essential to customer satisfaction. That’s the kind of value that keeps you top of mind. 

Partner superpower #4: Keeping customers (really) happy

Software solves problems. Tech platforms are in the business of replacing heavy lifting with automation magic that keeps everyone happy. But even the best platform can usually be improved by some specialized integrations that enable customers to solve highly specific problems: a more streamlined and decluttered workflow, or an automatic process that runs quietly on its own. 

Find a way to make their customers even happier, and your partners will start to wonder if they can really do it without you. 

Partner superpower #5: Exerting influence

If you’re the “it” company in your space, you can leverage that to excite your partners. Even if they’re big fish, they’ll be interested in amplifying their reach by associating with you. This works particularly well in the short term, even if it may not be a viable long term strategy.

Nevertheless, if you can influence people - especially their target market - tech platforms will probably get proactive about partnering with you.

Staying on the radar

The approaches we’ve outlined are all essential to success. But they’re not enough on their own. They’ll get you noticed, and they may even bump you up to pole position. But if you want to stay there, you can’t afford to get complacent.

You’ll need to constantly remind your partners of the value you bring. Part of that is developing relationships with key decision makers who have the clout to keep you firmly on the company’s radar. And you should be strategic about these relationships: if “making it rain” is your strength, you’ll be especially well received among sales leaders. On the other hand, if boosting customer satisfaction is where you shine, you should keep Customer Service teams close. 

And speaking of relationships, how many partners have you communicated with recently? Did you target them with messaging that was relevant to them and their roles, or was it a generic update? If it was the latter, then it probably fell short of showing them value. Truly effective partner communication is built on a foundation of audience mapping, and careful consideration of each partner’s needs. All of that needs to happen before you hit “send”.

Note: A slightly different version of this blog post was first published as a PartnerHacker op-ed. I highly recommend you sign up to their newsletter and check out their blog! 

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