When one thinks of a technology company partner, what comes to mind?
Various flavours of IT solutions providers — VARs, MSPs, GSIs and distributors probably come to mind first, especially for those in the industry. Moving afield, one might think of financial software companies that typically partner with accountants or companies like Cisco that work with construction companies on smart building initiatives.
Oracle NetSuite is further expanding the definition of an IT company partner, finding success in a new program where it partners with industry associations and buying groups.
The program started about three years ago, said Kate Daniels, director of industry partnerships for Oracle NetSuite. It was an offshoot of another foray into new types of partners for the company, its longstanding work with venture capital firms to enshrine NetSuite as a community favourite.
“We know that companies in fields like wholesale distribution, manufacturing and retail often belong to buying groups and industry associations, especially smaller companies,” Daniels said. “It’s the smartest way for them to negotiate more favourable rates on goods and services.”
The goal was to craft a program that lets NetSuite get closer to those organizations, offer a group rate discount to its members, and promote the cloud software company as a vendor that understands members’ industry and nature, that “speaks the language” of customers within a given group.
The program has primarily been a one-person show for Daniels but now has two people and is expanding. Daniels reported that the program is “knocking on the door” of signed deals with 50 industry association partnerships in the U.S. and Canada, growing at a 300 percent CAGR. Daniels said it all comes back to the old business truism that people buy from people.
“We’re tapping into what I think is one of the most effective ways to sell technology or offer technology, especially in sort of questionable economic conditions — working with a network of people who trust each other,” Daniels said. “We’re far more likely to take recommendations from friends or peers than from strangers.”
Daniels suggested that relationships help customers grapple with an ERP deployment, something most businesses view as a significant investment and a big bet.
Daniels said her role is not a sales one but a relationship-building one. She leans on the company’s sales resources and those of partners to bring the partnerships she surfaces to life, working to find people in the NetSuite field or its partner base with industry-specific knowledge and skills to bring the relationships to life. That includes finding the right consulting and implementation partners to support an industry that signs on.
The program has thus far been focused on North America. However, Daniels said she has had outreach from other regions within the NetSuite business interested in expanding the model to other geographies. The company is also starting to reach out to franchisors to form roots with their franchisees shortly.
“We know we have several franchisors running on NetSuite very successfully right now, and that’s where we’ll start the conversations,” Daniels said.
While the effort is focused across North America, Daniels said the model is a bit different on the two sides of the 48th Parallel. Because of differences in privacy laws, Canada-based groups are prohibited from sharing member information. In the States, the program has a strong lead generation element, Daniels said. But in Canada, “it’s more about building relationships so that we continue to be invited back.”
“Members will come to us if they want to have a conversation,” she said.
Daniels’ Toronto-based colleague runs the Canadian program. Daniels said growing the operation in Canada is essential because of its list of significant North American industry associations; one-third are Canada-based or have in-country operations.