How to maximize partner marketing results

  • 17 Jan 2022
Alisha Lyndon

Alisha Lyndon

Adobe's Martin Smith shares his views on how to get the most from your partner marketing program by capitalizing on strong synergies

Adobe’s Martin Smith reveals how to get the most from your partner marketing program, sharing his advice for overcoming common pitfalls, equipping sales teams for success, and bringing in ABM tactics to drive value.

Partner marketing is having a moment. As buying cycles continue to evolve in the wake of the pandemic and the rise of digital ecosystems, tech vendors are finding new ways to reach enterprise customers. By joining forces with a complimentary organization, vendors can bring to market a proposition that is “greater than the sum of its parts” and beneficial to all parties involved.

Martin Smith has been instrumental in maximizing the impact of partner marketing at Adobe, whose partner marketing ecosystem includes global systems integrators (SIs), major technology vendors and organizations such as Microsoft, AWS, Deloitte, and WPP.

For Smith, the biggest shift over the past 24 months has been the speed at which customers operate. “For example, a digital transformation project might have taken two, three, four years,” he says. “That has been accelerated to a six-month period. [Now], working in conjunction with our partners to be able to identify the best way to deploy systems and overcome the challenges [our] customers and prospects have [must happen] in a very short timescale.”

This has had some unexpected effects. “The responsibility for, say, customer experience [transformation], is no longer just one single stakeholder. It’s the whole board’s responsibility to make sure those projects deliver on the goals of the business. So, what’s surprised me is the relationship between the CIO and CMO coming together. I think that’s been key to the way that these businesses drive forward and get a successful implementation of any form of business transformation.”

What’s surprised me is the relationship between the CIO and CMO coming together.

Martin Smith, Head of Partner Marketing, EMEA, Adobe

A symbiotic relationship

Smith, who was formerly head of Adobe’s strategic accounts, believes partners have a central role to play in strengthening company-wide marketing activity; not just joint-go-to-markets. Because Adobe is focused on the creative and execution aspects of marketing, its client relationships tend to be CMO-dominant. Its partners – particularly the global SIs – on the other hand, tend to focus on the CIO as a core stakeholder. “One of the things we’ve found is that with our partner community, we were able to fill in a lot of the whitespace we had in terms of account intelligence. [Our partners] generally had more senior contacts, different stakeholders, and knew the customer ecosystem better than we did.

“It’s that combination of having both Adobe and the partner working together that brings together those different stakeholders as well. And we’ve been able to make sure our messaging not only touches the CMO but also touches the CIO. [We have a] more holistic approach to the way we actually deliver solutions to market.”

Start with the value

Partner marketing can yield incredible results. “We saw a big increase in terms of revenue we got from [one] account. We saw an increase in our average sales value and also the longevity of that customer,” says Smith. But it is complex and difficult to get right. The first challenge is alignment. In other words: “Make sure that everybody is effectively singing off the same hymn sheet. You have to bring together a powerful joint-value proposition that [elucidates] why would you go with Adobe plus this particular partner. I keep saying it: the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to that.”

A word of warning from Smith: “Sometimes you can go down rabbit holes with a particular set of messaging [around a challenge] that you think you’re addressing, only to find it’s not really a challenge that a company has, or it’s way down the list of priorities.”

Keep them keen

But the joint-value proposition is just one component of an effective partner relationship. It’s important to keep your partners – who have their own programs and trajectories – engaged and on-side. Smith says it’s important to “extol the virtues” of the partnership by celebrating customers won and success stories. “[Saying] ‘this is the benefit from a service perspective’ for the partner – so that might be a five-fold or 10-fold [revenue increase] that’s been generated – makes a lot of partners interested.”

Enablement is another essential, especially if your product portfolio is expanding – such as when Adobe acquired Magenta and Marketo. Your partners may want to incorporate your new products into a bigger solution, which means getting trained and certified in those products. “We’re finding a lot of our large partners, as soon as we do an acquisition of a new technology into our product roadmap, [are] jumping on that bandwagon. We must get them enabled on that. It’s growing the Adobe practice within those partners.”

Listen to the Account-Based Marketing podcast episode featuring Martin Smith, Head of Partner Marketing, EMEA, Adobe. This podcast is brought to you by Momentum ITSMA redefining how sales and marketing teams grow their biggest customers.

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Alisha Lyndon

Alisha Lyndon

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