I frequently have conversations with Autodesk partners about how they can best leverage Autodesk. And almost every time these conversations unearth ways the partner can get greater value from the partnership - leveraging Autodesk to speed up development, reduce development costs, reducing sales and marketing costs, identify new customers, reduce business risk, and develop strategic business opportunities. With thousands of partners and only eight “Autodesk partner evangelists” with the skills to have these exploratory discussions, only a few hundred partners per year are exposed to the broad deep array of possibilities their partnership with Autodesk creates.
Is this just the situation at Autodesk? No.
Having talked to a number of elephants over the years, and having studied how they work with partners, it’s pretty much the same story with every elephant – lots of opportunities for partners to engage but not enough high touch 1 on 1 discussion’s looking at how a specific partner can best leverage their partnership with the elephant.
So how do you get “more than your fair share” of time, opportunities and resources from the elephant?
Be the squeaky wheel.
Take a wee bit of time each week to prod the elephant to see what the opportunities there are to leverage the elephant’s resources.
If you only touch the elephant through their “partnering team” (Developer Relations, Developer Network, Developer Marketing, etc), you are only scratching the surface on leveraging your partnership with the elephant.
Have you talked with one or several of the elephant’s product managers? Maybe you can get them to prioritize development of a feature, API or web service that would allow you to delight your customers.
Have you talked with the elephant’s PR or Social Media team on a joint PR activity like a press release or a live Twitter event? How about getting the elephant to include hashtags that point your way?
Have you talked with the elephant’s marketing team? Show them why it’s good for the elephant to recommend your company on their Facebook page – and you will do the same for them. Exploring with the elephant’s marketing team what tradeshows they would like to attend but cannot – but would consider providing funding for you to attend as their proxy.
Have you talked with the elephant’s business development team about your solutions – your great new cutting edge cloud and mobile offerings? They might be just the right people to introduce you to a Vice President that will take a personal interest in your efforts – that could someday lead to your being acquired.
You are probably thinking “how to I find out the right names of all these different people working for the elephant”?
Your first stop is the developer relations folks (or whatever the elephant calls them) to get a 1 on 1 meeting to explore everyone you would like to reach within the elephant. They might be able to give you a “roadmap” of people to talk with at the elephant – but if not, don’t stop. Leveraging the elephant is at times not all that different then cold calling a customer – or finding a new employee.
Is it worth the time and effort?
Like cold calling, investing time pursuing the elephant can feel unfulfilling for a stretch of time. But we are not talking about investing hundreds of man hours developing opportunities to partner with the elephant – we are talking a few hours per month on the telephone working and developing your contacts at the elephant. The elephant has lots of resources– people and money. What is a significant amount of money for you – say $5k to enlarge a tradeshow presence or $10k to run an AdWords campaign - is a small or modest investment for the elephant. If you find the right person at the elephant that “gets” how supporting you will help them, they will invest. Present how supporting you will create a higher return in their investment then “just another internally oriented investment” (which is why the elephant has partners like you to begin with). Show how your deep industry knowledge, strong customer contacts, leading edge technology or flexibility makes you a great place for the elephant to invest their discretionary dollars. If you are smart about “working the elephant”, it wouldn’t be surprising to find your return on investment to be in excess of $500 to $1000 per hour. A lot of money for a small start-up company. A lot of money sitting on the table for the next demanding partner to pick up.