In over 10 years of operating and investing in consumer electronics and smart home sectors, I’ve encountered a variety of go-to-market strategies, coupled with an even larger number of partnership programs, that were designed to help companies go faster, expand product scope or provide that just-needed PR boost at the right moment.
As I transitioned from Greenwave Systems to lead August Home’s sales, business development and platform partnership efforts in February 2015, I created a new playbook to help prioritize our efforts.
Below are some excerpts.
1. Make sure your end user wins.
The primary question is, “How does the proposed partnership benefit your end user?”
Will it generate better interoperability, improve the user experience (UX), or lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for your product? Can it reduce friction in the setup or run-time experiences?
If you can’t map a clear end-user benefit to the partnership, you may want to reconsider its priority.
2. Use data to determine priority.
The amount of data available for connected products and services is staggering. Consider all of the online reviews across Amazon, Best Buy, etc., incoming customer support tickets, industry analyst feedback, Net Promoter scores (NPS), and more.
An important aspect to drive priority in a partnership pipeline is to mine the various data sets and stack rank the proposed partnerships.
3. Reduce your target list at least 50 percent.
Is your CEO or board of directors telling you to partner with every new platform announced, or every new retail or service provider entry into the smart home market?
Chances are these newcomers won’t be immediately (or perhaps ultimately) successful, so you may want to consider cutting your target list in half or more.
Double down on those partnerships that are bearing fruit and then recalibrate the expectations and qualification process to approve the partnerships.
4. Establish clear success metrics (and then actually review them).
Sure, generating PR is great, but actually establishing a fully functioning strategic partnership is even better.
What is the appropriate timeline to announce? Will there be an expected bump in sales velocity due to ongoing synergies with the proposed customer base?
It’s very important that you review the “good, bad and ugly” on at least a quarterly basis following your partnership’s launch. Business intelligence software such as Looker can dissect and help you visualize the efficacy of the various integrations.
And, by the way, if business conditions change or demand diminishes, be willing to de-prioritize a partnership that isn’t going to be material to the business.
5. Treat partnerships as a “product.”
The partnership process is a larger extension of product lifecycle management, so why not consider treating the partnership as a product? Would you let your product go without a feature roadmap, bug list, NPS goals, etc.?
Of course not.
In many cases these partnerships require precious engineering support to sustain quality so be sure to do the trade-offs against other items. Consider a dedicated product management resource.
6. Negotiate team-to-team.
As I’ve transitioned from more platform and B2B-oriented deals at 4Home and Motorola, to consumer-focused relationships at August, I’ve come to realize that having a broader base of support is crucial to getting both accurate upfront scoping and post-close execution on deals.
I recently added the “platform product management” function to my revenue organization to ensure the proper linkage into the product and engineering teams and to establish a more complete feedback loop.
Rather than just sprinting through the process as business-to-business teams, I recommend bringing in key stakeholders from marketing, product development, and engineering so everyone has a clear understanding of the team goals.
7. Look outside your own window for inspiration.
So many industries overlap now that what was once viewed as exogenous to your core business could be very relevant in the near future. Just look at the recent news regarding Tesla’s proposal to acquire SolarCity.
If you are a consumer electronics executive, step outside your office and you could meet new and interesting people from the telematics industry, as well as those in virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
The Internet of Things Consortium is one group that actively promotes this by encouraging discussion and debate among a wide set of stakeholders.
8. Bonus Habit: Sharpen your saw.
Just like engineering or product management skills, business acumen needs to be constantly updated and upgraded. I stay current by reading wide-ranging business publications, religiously mining Twitter and LinkedIn, and, most importantly, networking with peers.
I walk away with new perspectives I can apply directly to challenges of leading a fast-growing startup.
This article was originally posted on CI sister site, CEPro.com.
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