The 3 ‘R’s for a successful NAV add-on: repeatability, repeatability & repeatability
I was sitting across the boardroom table from one of our NAV partners recently, and I was (pleasantly) taken aback when he said enthusiastically “we love selling your software, because it sells itself”. I smiled and thanked him for the compliment, and I’ll admit thinking to myself: “that makes it sound so easy”.
Because for me, life as an ISV conjures up images of a graceful swan gliding across a still body of water – though her movements appear simple and effortless, only centimeters below the surface, her feet are paddling furiously. It’s compliments like this that help show that the work that goes on behind the scenes may often go unnoticed, but it’s clearly not undervalued by our partners and customers.
Now, as a company that has worked with channel partners for over 20 years, and having sold our solutions in over 100 countries worldwide through an extensive partner network of ISVs, distributors and VARs, I would say that Equisys knows a thing or two about developing successful and mutually profitable partnerships to serve our customers. Fundamentally, it boils down to three key things that every partner cares about and I’m going to explore these over three blog posts:
- As an ISV, there must be strong demand for your goods and services (and they can be sold over and over)
- Your goods and services will drive new margin opportunities for the partner’s core business
- It won’t cost them to engage and the cost of sale is low
The customer comes first
So, first and foremost, there has to be a need for your product out there in the market served by your partners. Now, I know I’m stating the blindingly obvious, but bear with me. Entering a partnership with a supplier can be a major investment of time and resources, and partners are naturally keen to avoid the potential to compromise on high service levels and quality support for their customers. This is a strong argument for partners choosing ISV products that can be sold regularly and often. To deliver high service levels in any product, focus and knowledge levels need to remain high and this is best achieved by selling habitually. Ensuring there’s a steady flow of business helps reinforce the skills and expertise acquired along the way. So in a nutshell, repeatability is king.
For partner evaluating customer demand, the “80:20” rule applies. I regularly hear our partners estimating “80% of my customers would buy one of your products”, that’s great because successful partners know that if a solution is applicable for only 20% of its customers, the cost of engagement can outweigh any benefits in margin improvement or risk customer satisfaction.
To listen is to love
In my experience, the most successful partnerships are those where both parties make a mutual investment in serving our customers. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work closely with Microsoft when we created Zetadocs Express, NAV’s document management module which has been downloaded several thousand times since its launch.
But this wasn’t the first time we had collaborated with our partners and it won’t be the last. Partners are the eyes and ears of our business, and in successful relationships they give critical market feedback from customers challenging us to deliver new features, new innovations or even whole new classes of business. We have long standing partners like K3 in the UK and Prodware in the Netherlands who helped us develop our Zetadocs Delivery Essentials product back in 2007. In 2010, we extended this product family to include our Capture editions, and then in 2013, we innovated on the Microsoft Azure platform by releasing our Payables Approval edition (my colleague, Greg Cole has blogged separately about this: “Win the approvals race without a paper chase”). I’m pleased to say that our long-standing partners are still working closely with us today to deliver what I believe is the most comprehensive suite of document management solutions available for NAV customers ranging from the highly repeatable to the highly customizable. And I’m also pleased to say that over the years, we have worked with many more partners who sell our channel ready products less often and work closely with our account managers and distributors to help them support individual sales.
Our success has first and foremost been down to strong partnerships, excellent customer service, and a desire to deliver attractive add-ons that can solve common business problems and can be sold over and over.
We’ll be at Directions EMEA 2013 from 2-4th September and are always keen to talk to new partners, so please feel free to come over and chat to one of the Zetadocs team. Alternatively we are hosting a session at 11.45 on 3rd September (ISV 12) and we’d love to see you there.
In my next blog post, I’ll demonstrate how the correct choice of supplier can help partners drive new margin opportunities to complement their core NAV businesses, without distracting them from it.