Joining forces with innovative companies to expand Alyne's SaaS Solution
2020 proved to be a successful testing and learning experience for Alyne and our partners. Alyne is a Regulatory Technology (RegTech) that offers organisations extensive capabilities in navigating the regulatory and compliance space. Since being founded in 2015, we’ve developed a number of partnerships fairly “organically”. As the relatively new kid on the block, with an interesting technology offering, many people and businesses reach out to see how they can help you, and vice versa. 2020 was the year for sense-checking what is and what isn’t working, and putting in place a partnership structure and strategy that can scale with Alyne and our ambitious global growth plans for 2021 and beyond.
Below, I have summarised some of our key learnings from 2020. Perhaps they’ll be useful for other Software as a Service (SaaS) companies and RegTech solutions looking to grow their global partnerships and alliances, or looking for insights on how to best approach business partnerships in 2021.
- Partnership goals - It is important to define what you are looking to achieve, from a partnership channel generally, and also from each individual relationship. Goals might cover financial and non-financial aspects like increased sales leads and deals, complimentary services or offerings for your customers, increased brand awareness, improving your product through technical integrations, or a combination of these.
- Responsibilities of the Partnerships Team and interactions with other departments (eg. Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Development) - The requirements and role of the Partnerships Team should be clearly defined by the Management Team, and it should be transparent when to involve other departments.
- Target Partner types - It is helpful for the Management Team to define the ideal partner persona(s) and to qualify partners.
As a starting point, broadly define the main partner types that your company might want to work with. For Alyne this includes: Consulting, Resale and Referral partners. You need to then define the ideal persona of a potential partner within or across these partner types.
Consider factors such as a proven track record and solid reputation in the relevant services. At Alyne, we focus on partners with an existing reputation in the areas of InfoSec and Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC).
Identify organisations with a local presence, established relationships and a consistent ethos with yours. For us, we look for partners with a passion for introducing industry players to a digital, centralised and agile platform for managing their Cyber, Governance, Risk and Compliance processes.
Ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. It might be alright if the business partner is working with competitors offering similar solutions, so long as there is still room for you in the partner’s portfolio of software vendors. Conduct due diligence on the partner's expertise and products while qualifying them against the above criteria.
- Be flexible - There’s no one size fits all when it comes to partnerships. While it is helpful to define some broad partner types and contract templates, it’s important to consider what resources will work best for each. Use the defined business partner types and structures as a starting point for conversations, however it is also ok to be creative here and use a structure that works for both sides. This does not mean that you shouldn’t conduct data analytics to look for trends in order to gain insights into which types of partnerships are and are not working, but it can be beneficial to still be open to new ideas.
- Quality over quantity - At this stage for Alyne, we have opted for highly competent business partners, rather than trying to work with as many organisations as possible. This allows us to spend sufficient time onboarding, training and promoting each, and to be sure that each parter is able to clearly communicate Alyne's value proposition and our specialised technology.
- Target partner numbers (per region) - Think about how many partners would be ideal. You don’t want to “overcrowd” a market with too many, as this can result in tension with you and your partners – and between your partners. You also need to be able to give them the tools, support and energy they deserve, in order to equip the partnership with the best chance of success.
- Metrics for measuring success – How do you know if the partnership is working? It is important to decide on some key metrics to help you track whether the potential partnership is fruitful, both for your partner and for you. For sales-focused partnerships, a simple financial indicator might be the number and value of deals closed.
- Focus on your partner’s happiness - Partnerships are built on mutual benefits, however having said that, our experience has been that partnerships are ultimately more successful when you focus on putting your partners’ happiness and needs first. Openly ask your them questions like: What would you like to get out of this partnership? What incentivises you? How can we help to make you a happy? And be sure to address their requirements, answers and priorities.
- Promote your partners - At a minimum, publicise your collaborations on your website (Alyne’s partners are listed here). Additionally, depending on what your partner is interested in doing, you can also announce new partnerships on social media platforms like LinkedIn, host joint webinars, attend conferences together, or collaborate on white papers.
- Deal registration - When starting out, keep the system for deal registration simple (eg. an email from your partner registering a deal and making it clear in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that the deal is related to a specific partner). For sales partners, the focus should be on increasing deal numbers – a complex deal registration process may hinder this.
- Extension of Alyne - Ideally, your partners are a natural and seamless extension of your organisation and service. It helps to establish direct lines of communication between your partners and the different areas of your business. Set up a structured onboarding covering topics such as sales (we provide sales training, including a sales handbook covering the most important information for anyone promoting Alyne as a RegTech organisation); marketing (we make sure our partners have access to Alyne’s latest marketing collateral, including digital media materials like slide decks, white papers, infographics and demo videos); and customer success (including product training and user manuals). The access you provide depends on the type of partner, as well as their services and solutions offered.
- Partner account growth - We have noticed that some simple steps can be taken to help promote the growth of deals linked to partners. The two most effective practices have been:
- Jointly setting achievable goals and tracking them through data analytics (eg. number of leads generated through the partnership per quarter - either by Alyne or the business partner)
- Regular management meetings (at a minimum, monthly) with a defined agenda (eg. covering sales, marketing and product topics)
I have had a number of interesting conversations about these topics over the past year with other international SaaS companies (titles such as partnerships, alliances, business development, sales). It is surprising how many people contact you out of the blue on LinkedIn who would like to compare notes. It is also pleasantly surprising how helpful the tech community can be when you reach out yourself. If you would like to discuss any of the topics above, or have a general chat, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org