The Wireless Way, with Chris Whitaker

The Power of Partnerships: Insights from Greg Plum on The Wireless Way

June 25, 2024 Chris Whitaker Season 5 Episode 89
The Power of Partnerships: Insights from Greg Plum on The Wireless Way
The Wireless Way, with Chris Whitaker
More Info
The Wireless Way, with Chris Whitaker
The Power of Partnerships: Insights from Greg Plum on The Wireless Way
Jun 25, 2024 Season 5 Episode 89
Chris Whitaker

In this episode of The Wireless Way, host Chris Whitaker welcomes back Greg Plum, a seasoned expert in channel strategy and ecosystem development. Chris and Greg discuss the evolution of technology partnerships, with Greg sharing his vast experience in the communications and IT channels, and his role in Partnernomics. Greg explains the importance of alignment, effective strategies, and the science of partnering to build successful alliances. Tune in for a deep dive into what makes a successful partner program, the significance of ecosystem strategies, and valuable insights into modernizing your approach to partnerships.

 

00:00 Introduction and Welcome

00:56 Greg Plum's Journey

03:51 The Concept of Partnernomics

05:29 Ecosystem Strategy Explained

08:53 Challenges in the Channel

12:07 Partnernomics Framework

19:16 The Importance of Strategy

23:04 Final Thoughts and Wrap-Up

 

https://partnernomics.com/greg-plum/

 

 

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of The Wireless Way, host Chris Whitaker welcomes back Greg Plum, a seasoned expert in channel strategy and ecosystem development. Chris and Greg discuss the evolution of technology partnerships, with Greg sharing his vast experience in the communications and IT channels, and his role in Partnernomics. Greg explains the importance of alignment, effective strategies, and the science of partnering to build successful alliances. Tune in for a deep dive into what makes a successful partner program, the significance of ecosystem strategies, and valuable insights into modernizing your approach to partnerships.

 

00:00 Introduction and Welcome

00:56 Greg Plum's Journey

03:51 The Concept of Partnernomics

05:29 Ecosystem Strategy Explained

08:53 Challenges in the Channel

12:07 Partnernomics Framework

19:16 The Importance of Strategy

23:04 Final Thoughts and Wrap-Up

 

https://partnernomics.com/greg-plum/

 

 

Support the Show.

Chris:

Hey, welcome to another episode of the wireless way. I'm your host, Chris Whitaker. And as always is the case. I really mean it. I'm just grateful that you're here and equally grateful that Greg Plum is with us again. He was with us in September of 2021 back in season two and we're in season five now. So this is a repeat guest and we're going to talk about, some updates and some projects he's working on. But Greg man, first, thanks for being here. Welcome to the show. Welcome back. How's it going?

Greg:

It's my pleasure, Chris. I had so much fun the last time. It's just the line of guests that you have, it's hard to break down the door and get back in here. So I appreciate the opportunity.

Chris:

No, yeah, 55 countries and going strong. So appreciate all my international listeners. It's been a blast sharing all these technical stories and these journeys. And again, remember the double entendre, the wireless way. It's no strings attached, no judgment and the path of journey in the adventure. So having said that Greg, for the sake of those that haven't listened to season two yet go back in the archives there. You could find this episode where we talk about technology and CompTIA and promise to profit some really great topics around the technology biz, but yeah, it refreshes a little bit, who's Greg Plum and how did you get here?

Greg:

Not a straight line. Anything but. It's been pretty circuitous. Channel for 24 years. It started out in the communications channel and then discovered about 10, I don't know, 12 years ago or so, CompTIA and then the whole IT channel. And then really they've morphed. We know that they've merged thanks to, thanks to cloud technology and SaaS applications. And, I've been through the years, I've been heading up, starting from scratch, different channels or fine tuning channels. It's all been an indirect play. Fast forward to I guess two, three years, about three years ago, I was with a tech company out of Denver running the channel, global channel. And, PE got involved and that my day came for a Friday morning where I took a phone call and that was the. Last phone call, official phone call. It was my last official duty with the company. At that point, I had a choice. It's either you go and find somebody else that you can go help with, build a channel, or you can try to do it on your own. And I decided to I teamed up with another advisory firm, Partner Ready. That was a it's a, it's an advisory firm specifically around ecosystem development, how to identify the right partners, because Look, Chris, as you've been in the channel for a long time. If we're doing things really well, you're sitting at like the 85 15, return on your investment, we would love it to be 80 20. It's really 90 10, 95 5. There's so much of our effort. Wasted because we just don't do it the right way. So I just decided at that point. I wanted to try it out and be a fractional, Channel lead and i've been doing it for the last three years a lot of fun worked in a lot of different industries like I said anything but a straight line But it you know brings us here. I love the fact That the story has evolved the channel and the methodology has evolved, but it's not changed. It's still the most powerful way. You build you buy, your partner, there's how you build a business. That's how business grows. I'm still of the partner mindset. And I think, when we talk about it, we'll see why I favor that one, but that's why I'm here. Certainly appreciate you. I've loved working with you through the years and we first started talking about this whole ecosystem strategy, Chris, believe it or not, it's been about three years in Nashville when we for your university that we started talking about that. So it's crazy. Time flies, right?

Chris:

It is crazy. And that, that cliche that saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes that's a confusing phrase, right? Especially, if English is the second language, that's what do you mean? The more change stays the same, but there's some definite truth in that. And in our pre show conversation, you introduced me to and maybe I've heard it, but I don't recall hearing it, but I love the term partner nomics. You're right. I haven't been in the channel. I haven't also been a channel chief, worked as a practice leader at a TSD. And now with a Spectrotel leading our mobility practice here, yeah, you're right. Partnerships are the way to go. Relationships are the way to go. And, the play on partner nomics. I love that. Tell us more about that. What do you mean by partnernomics?

Greg:

Yeah. So partnernomics is a company. It's been around for I don't know, more than five years. I just was introduced to it maybe a year ago. And what I like about it, the tag, the description is it's the science of partnering. Now that spoke to me. Because anybody that's been to Vegas for Channel Partners or for ChannelCon for CompTIA, there's a lot more to it than, you don't look at it as scientific. It's much more of a boy, it's an intuitive, it's very, no matter what, it is very relationship driven. However, there is still a science, a cadence to it that should be followed. Too often, it's not, and that's the problem. That's the problem. It almost reminds me of the old movie, weird science. If any kind of science that I know about is weird science. So it's, it spoke to me because believe it or not, by training, by education I'm technically a scientist. That was a geophysics major. So I get the, I get that mindset. I understand the methodology and formulas to follow just to have some predictable outcome in the channel. It just doesn't happen as much as it should. So that's why I got drawn to it. I, you know what, let's talk if we can, because I, since we haven't spoken in a bit, I do want to share with you the whole concept of ecosystem and what that means, because everyone's talking about ecosystems right now. But to me, the challenge is okay, what does that exactly mean? Ask 10 people, you're going to get 10 variations. So to me, essentially ecosystem is the one that's important is the influencers around your customer, right? We're all selling through partners, some indirect way. And I don't, it doesn't matter what the stats are, but all of the analysts are predict are predicting. Our forecasting or sharing that the lion's share much greater than 50 percent of business actually touches a partner in these texts and textiles. It flows to a partner. So we know that we also know that the lion's share of these partnerships don't reach their potential. So that says there's a gap. There's an opportunity for us in the channel, both as MSPs, as agents. As suppliers we all have an opportunity to close that gap. So the whole, I love the concept of the with the F1, the pit crew, you know what happens, Chris, you've seen an F1 race, right? They're flying around the track, right? That customer, let's say that driver's the customer. What happens when they pull into the pit stop? All these people come running out and try to help them. Exactly. You get, believe it or not. And there's a whole, I dug deep on this. It's amazing. Each one of those entities, they are tremendous athletes. They are off the chart. Amazing competent mechanics. So there are many they're renaissance people. You wouldn't know it, right? They're one of this team with a common goal. They each have a single job, common goal, get that driver back out on the track as soon as possible, get them across the finish line. First would be ideal, at least safely, right? That's what, that's the whole goal of this. Using that methodology here looking at what does this mean for us, right? What does it mean for a SaaS provider? What does it mean for an MSP? We all want to sell the customer. The ideal way to do that is really identify those that are already influencing the customer. There's noise. Chris, these guys are bombarded. Think about how many emails you get a day. How many social messages on LinkedIn, you get the in mails all the time. There's a ton of noise and people are deaf to it now. It's losing its effectiveness. However, they already have their trusted advisors. They have those that are in their inner circle. The goal for us. either as a SaaS provider or an MSP is to identify who is impacting our customer, our target customer, our ICP, ideal customer profile, who's impacting them right now, who has their ear. And here, this is just an example marketplaces, think, find out, does the customer use Microsoft? Okay. That's a whole marketplace. Do they use HubSpot? Do they use Salesforce? These are ways that you can try to identify, all right, maybe can we. strengthen our offering if we know that a significant part of our customer base is a Salesforce user. That's good to know. Membership organizations, what if they are, if we target accountants there are several or industry organizations that target accountants that's their membership. They have a newsletter, they have events that they attend, conferences. If we're targeting that customer, why not infiltrate those routes as well? And then it goes on and on. There's other different types of influencers. The one I want to draw attention to is competitors. You want to know competitors. You want to know your landscape. You don't want to just know your product and how you, what you can do for your customer. You really need to know everything. You have to be more educated than your customer. You have to be, if you're a supplier, you have to be more educated than your partner. Otherwise that, where's the trust and then, that circle right in the bottom there, Chris, that is whoever's listening to this, that is, it's either the SAS leader, it's the CRO, it's the channel leader, it's the MSP, it's the agent, they are a part of that customer ecosystem. The challenge is figuring out who the others are to help you figure out how you can bolt on, make them help them do their job better, then they're going to bring you into the sale. That's essentially how I look at ecosystem strategy. Does it make sense? Makes perfect sense and I do want to point out one thing. So if you're listening on the audio only platform. Don't forget, you can see us live and see our shining faces on my YouTube channel and it's at Wireless Way on YouTube. So you can actually see what we're looking at and I highly encourage you to check that out. And of course, subscribe to the YouTube channel so you can get all the updates with the new episodes. So that was my commercial for the Wireless way, Greg. Thank you for it. Love it doing that. But yeah, of course. Back to the ecosystem and you'll see that circle, yeah. Tell us more about, what else have you discovered? What other observations have you had? And there's so many people trying to make a living working in the channel and some are doing a great job and then you see some that are really just struggling to get their message out or and it's hard You said it. There's a lot of static out. There's a lot of competing offers and messages what other tidbits can you share with us on that? To me, Chris, it's really about alignment, finding the right partners that are aligned with you, both from your, where you have a product that dovetails well into what they're already offering to their customers. And then you also have business alignment where your model. Can work with what they're taking to market. So for when I say that, some will have just a referral model where the partner the supplier is doing all the work and putting on their paper, they're billing the customer, they're collecting, and then they pay a commission to the a rev share to the partner, which is a very viable. You and I know that space very well, and it's extremely lucrative. Then there's the wholesale side of things or a reseller where the partner is buying at a discount, off of the retail, they market up, put it on their paper and then sell it to the customer. You need to understand the partners, what their optimal model is and how that lines up with your optimal model. If you have a mismatch there, it doesn't matter how good your product is, how well you deliver it. If you have a mismatch in delivery methodology, it's not going to be a a very good, very strong partnership. So it's about alignment. That's the key. And I think oftentimes we spend too much time talking guilty. I've done this through the years. I've spent too much time talking to partners that I like. Even though that was not a fit, right? I'm, we may have done good things together in the past and I may have a new product and I wanted to bring it to market and I may go back to the well, blind to the fact that might not be the optimal partner for that. Yes, it's fine. We, I don't want to keep that relationship, but it might not be the optimal for that particular. We need to pay attention to that because otherwise you're just wasting your time. So you had asked about, partner nomics. What exactly does that mean? And so it was founded by Mark Brinkman. He's got his PhD in economics. And so why not? He saw a gap and he's worked for large, Carriers in the communication space. He saw a gap in their partner program. And I believe I might have this wrong, but I think he even did something with his dissertation is doctoral dissertation along those lines, ultimately launched the company partner nomics. And what I love about it. It's actually a it's got a couple different things. There's a whole more LMS. It's a whole learning management system where we're partnering pros or novices that want to be pros can go to learn the ins and outs the nuance of partnering. But then there's also folks like me, I'm an orchestrator, which means basically I can walk them through it and guide them and be like that Sherpa. Through the entire process, we have bootcamps that are either self serve, self guided, and then there's even a software that helps reinforce this that's actually integrated, it's built on on Salesforce. What it is, Chris, it's really just a recipe. They're all too often, you and I talked earlier and this has always been a big joke. I want to build a partner program. Okay, let's go recruit. Okay, that's the wrong thing to do because you're going to waste your time and effort. So these are the steps that Partnernomics follows. It's first strategy. Yes, everyone wants to recruit. You can have to hold off there a little bit, right? Let's get the right strategy. You have to get, we could go on and on. You have to get buy in at the highest level within your organization. It can't be, let's dip our toe and let's go, try for three or six months and see if we can get any partners. It's not going to work. That's not the right strategy. So determining the right strategy for your product, for your service offering, then you can go and do the record recruiting, because at that point you should be Have a good indication of what an IPP is, right? Your ideal partner profile. Without that, you're shooting in the dark. And then you've got the steps contracting, you have to make sure that's the nuts and bolts. People usually get that pretty well. Onboarding, I can't say the same. I feel like all too often I've seen onboarding just not done properly. These, you are never going to be the partner is never going to be better at knowing your product than you are. You have to get them empowered, enabled, educated. That way, the more it's front loaded, right? It's a lot of effort on the front end, but when you do that, if you properly educate them on the front end. Then that's your annuity, right? They're going to only bring you into deals where it makes sense. They've already gone through and they've screened them there. And then they think of you, Hey, this is the right product for this customer. That's Nirvana. That's what we're all gunning for. And then you have to, and then the other enablement for the systems, are you giving those partners everything that they have to be successful? And then there's the operations. That's where that's, are you using a PRM, partner relationship management tool, something to be able to communicate your operations, your materials, and just really keep them really up to speed with what you're doing. And let's face it, we are in a pretty busy Ridiculously fast changing industry, right? We have to keep our partners educated and current on what's going on. Otherwise they're going to be irrelevant pretty quickly. So these vendors were coming to us as a technology services distributor and they were trying to recruit us. But yet when I asked them about, Hey, what's your strategy? What do you mean? Our, what kind of budget have you set aside for marketing? Oh we thought you guys were doing that. Everything you were saying is really resonating all these past conversations Very interesting. There's a lot of moving parts. Where else can you take us with that? Elaborate. Do you want to go more into that? So here's the thing. With Partnernomics, what I like about the offering is we can actually, we have a baseline that we can, we give it away. Gary V always says give away 80 percent of your material and then that way, people have to have that last 20%. This, we actually have, Yeah, exactly. We actually do have a a foundations course and it's a great kind of a primer for either a company that is looking to create a channel for the first time or a partner program, or if they want to revamp, if they, if it's just not as effective as it should be, as they think it should be, and let's face it, that's, that is, Chris, I think you can attest that's most of them. They're just not, yeah. Living up to the potential that when it was, they set out what they thought it would produce. So that's art used to work 20 years ago, right? Like we said earlier, it hasn't, if you don't evolve with the time, you don't change with the times. What worked 10, 20 years ago, it's not going to work today. Yeah we live in, like you said, fast paced, things have changed, so yeah, you got to wake up and smell the coffee, right? Just as an example of how fast things change. Do you know when chat GPT was released? Do you know what date that was? It's November 2022. Wow. And look now it's everywhere. Generative AI, Gen AI is everywhere. It's integrated in, every tool that you're touching right now. And it just gives you an idea of how fast things are changing. We have to stay really educated on this. And it's funny, Chris, at one of the CompTIA events, if you were at that one, where somebody said AI, because people, rightfully what does this mean to me? How's this going to impact me? We're taking a, we're taking a left turn here, Chris, talking about it. AI, but I think it's relevant, right? Cause it's impacting everything. And the quote was, I loved it. Look, if you're good at your job, AI is going to make you better. If you're not very good at your job, it's going to make you irrelevant. And that I don't think could be any more true today than it, than ever. And I think people are definitely jumping on board, and there comes in all forms and flavors of AI, the challenges. How do you take that and build it into your practice? One thing you need to know for sure, who's listening to this, you have to know more than your customer. You have to know more because they want to know. They're here and they're being inundated with it. And they're going to think, who's my trusted advisor? Who helps me with my tech? You have to be versed in this and help them understand what's a shiny object versus what's truly fundamental or who can truly help them with their business.

Chris:

Of those six categories, there are six, methodologies. Which one do you feel like people struggle with the most? We talked about a lot of don't have strategies. Recruiting is fun and easy. Contracting, that's, you can get templates offline for legal. That's what I guess, zone boarding, enabling operations. Where do you see the most gap, the biggest gap for companies?

Greg:

Frankly, I think it's strategies right out of the gate because they don't know where to start. And usually some, they're starting because there's a need, right? There's a fire burning. We need revenue. All right, let's go, let's start a partner program because yes, partners, it's a great way to build a business. It's variable costs. It's infinitely scalable. You don't have to pay for the resources until, especially if it's a rev share model, right? So it makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. The problem is You could spend and you will spend your time chasing the wrong partners with the wrong business model. If you don't have the right strategy and if you don't have buy in at the highest levels with your organization, it happens time and again. And here's the argument that you're going to have, and I've had it with countless. Founders or CEOs. Look, yeah, I want a partner program, let's face it, Chris, what, 20 percent typical, pretty typical rev share, right? Where you're paying the partner. If it's a referral model, CEOs have said to me why would I pay 20%? Cause these are usually evergreen. Why would I pay 20 percent of my product to a partner? Forever when they just bring me the deal once. And my response is always because you're seeing 80 percent of a dollar that you never would have seen before. That's the reason for it. That's why the partner channel is so effective and powerful. We have to have that buy in early on and they can't be like, and let's give it a shot. You have to go. It's gotta be both feet in and have buy in at the highest level. That is, and that frankly is table stakes. If you don't even have that, don't even start. Once you have that, you still have a lot of pitfalls to navigate. That's what this strategy, that's what this recipe, the blueprint to follow with these other, the other five steps after the strategy that's really required. And then the other one after strategy, I really think onboarding, you signed the deal. People get excited. And then they move on. We need to make sure that partner understands your offering, understands where you fit, how you help the customer, your value add. If they don't, they're not going to sell it. They can't be confused. They have to know a lot, crystal clear, what you bring to the table.

Chris:

And I think that in that strategy is so important about the marketing strategy because and I think strategy and onboarding, they're definitely, I guess there's a common line between all of them, but, I've been I don't like conversations around creating awareness and getting your message out. So partners can't sell what they don't know about. So how are you not only onboarding them, where else in the strategy, can you get that word out where there'd be event marketing? I personally, I'm not a big fan of email marketing. I think that's just overplayed. We, we said it earlier, even, LinkedIn messaging. Boy, gosh, we could go on that one for a while of you accept a connection and next thing, you get a two paragraph sales pitch. That's not even relevant to your role. That's always fun. But yeah, partner nomics. Now I like this. So yeah, if you're listening, you're in the channel, whether you're a partner or a supplier or, distributor

Greg:

Hey, Chris, here's what I'll do. I'll drop, we can drop at the link if we could my contact info, right? We can drop my page, but also the link to the freebie. It's a, I don't know what it is. I think it's a 600 course or something like that. Oh, okay. A hundred percent free. It's been because again, this is the very Gary V mentality. Let's give it away because. It's that important and it's valuable. It's truly going to help somebody fine tune and maybe look at their partner program a little bit differently, and then, yeah. And then if, always have to have a conversation around that. I love, I think I always joke around, like I'd love to talk. Talk to somebody know about partners and ecosystems. My wife is sick of hearing it. So I need somebody else to talk to.

Chris:

Excellent. Excellent. So there you go. Check the show notes. We'll have a link there for you to see this course and and of course a way to contact Greg. Greg, any last words or anything we haven't talked about yet?

Greg:

Oh, Chris, come on. I got to save something for our next episode. So now, and listen right now the time is now with partnerships and channel and ecosystems. I love the fact that it's getting a lot of attention. There's getting, there's a lot of press around this. At the highest levels and all the analysts are talking about the power partnerships. I love it. I love it. I discovered it by accident 24 years ago. And I think time is now. However, the pitfalls are many and they are frequent and they are, they're all over. So we want to make sure that you're armed. And partnernomics is just one way. This is a way that I've found to be able to help. Companies and partners really fine tune their methodology. But anyway, I'd love to have a conversation. Always happy to chat with you, Chris, you're doing a great job. You're certainly you're absolutely a pillar out there in the industry and I love that we're friends. Oh man. Likewise, and I appreciate the kind words. I, yeah, I love what I do. I jokingly say, if I didn't have bills, I would do this for free. You know what I mean? It's a win. Helping partners succeed, you're helping their customers succeed. So the customer's winning the selling partners winning and the supplier and the distributor, we're all winning, so it really is an ecosystem. We're just like that race car, everybody on that pit crew benefits when that driver wins. Great segue great way to wrap this up. So check out the show notes. And again, I appreciate you checking this out as always, subscribe to the YouTube channel. And if you, this if it rang a bell with you you want to share it with a colleague or coworker or friend, please share this episode with them. And we'll catch you next time on the wireless way

Okay.