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Typically, for a startup to gain enough traction a period of three years is required, sometimes it takes less, sometimes a bit more. From a single founder startup, to venture funded and everything in between. Usually this happens because startups lack the reputation and don’t have a network or existing customers they can use as testimonials or case studies. Hardly anyone wants to be the first customer even if she likes your product or service.
Once you get your first costumers, and references from the happy ones, you will start building your reputation and creating a successful startup. But it takes time to get to the point where your company gets enough traction to be profitable. A great way to increase awareness, customer base and revenues is establishing a partner network.
Partnering with established companies that already have market awareness, trust and thousands of users will increase your revenues by orders of magnitude and can make your startup an overnight success.
Even if you are partnering with vendors you are also competing with them. We have to realize that given the choice of working with a new startup or a large enterprise, the majority of your costumers will take the large enterprise every time. Your company needs to create its own value proposition.
If you are interested in entering international markets, and especially the US, bear in mind that most program types won’t work. The channel network needs localized programs such as education, demo and trail schemes. Your company should develop a system for identifying, screening and closing deals with potential partners.
Before rolling out a partner program here are some things to consider first:
Size & Budget
You don’t have to be as big as you might think to go international but first you must understand your own sales cycle in order to train a partner to sell your product. If you don’t plan to have a physical presence then entering an international market could be achieved with a 5 digit budget. Be sure to use all the available channels to reach your prospects.
Since you are just getting started, it is best to go after markets that can be approached without making a major investment and use your budget in a market you are more likely to succeed. You can list 10 markets where you wish to establish a strong position and aim for those markets first. Try to identify markets where your solution doesn’t require major changes and its audience is consisted of early adopters.
Types of partnership
Before you start recruiting partners you have to decide what type of programs better fit your needs since there are differences between channel options. There are different margins and rights between a distributor and a reseller for example, so be sure to make the correct choices.
Localization is more than translating your solution, it’s about cultural and technical features such as currency, measurements etc. According to the end users you should consider whether to localize or simply translate your product.
Marketing & Support
Most resellers have a large portfolio of products, but they might have 2 or 3 strategic products that generate 90% of their revenues. You should develop a marketing plan and sales targets to incentivize your resellers and incorporate your product into their routine. Support is the main concern of channel partners and it can take much of your time and staff. Be ready to develop a reseller manual that will address 90% of the issues that come up with a channel partner. It should include product information, pricing policy, training, support information etc.
In conclusion, you should always remember that signing contracts with resellers is easy but getting them to actually sell and support your product is more of a challenge.
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