Building the Ultimate Partner Ecosystem—and What It Means for Your Business

At Microsoft we know that good business is all about good partnerships. With hundreds of thousands of partners, Microsoft has the largest partner ecosystem in the industry. For any business—large or small—strong, strategic partnerships are essential for disseminating its purpose effectively. Here’s why you should start building your own partner network today.

Scale and innovate with partners

According to Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Worldwide Partners Program at Microsoft, a partner network is essential to effectively penetrating the market: “there’s a limitation to our own internal resources and partners enable us to get to a hundred times more customers than we could support on our own and they also provide high-touch, local support that we would typically not provide.”

“Partners get our message and sales capability, as well as our technical and support capabilities, out into the marketplace in ways that we would never be able to achieve ourselves,” says Schuster. Partners help scale your business so that your salesforce and customer support services can operate at both a local and global level.

Critical to the whole equation is the word partners. It’s not a euphemism for “externally contracted employees,” but rather a relationship built on give and take, an undertaking in which the risks and profits are shared amongst the associated parties. At Microsoft, for example, 35 percent of partners are solution development partners. This means innovation is contingent upon the combined efforts of Microsoft and our partners.

Communication and inclusion  

To create a thriving partner ecosystem it’s important to foster relationships of inclusivity. Every year Microsoft hosts a Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), basically a sales kickoff where the business decision makers of key partners from around the world meet. “It’s our opportunity to come face-to-face with our partners, to let them know what’s going on, what investments we’re making, and to direct them on the type of opportunities there are in the market,” says Schuster

“We can only touch a fraction of them live, in-person, at the event, because obviously we don’t have any venue that could hold all of them, but then we extend a lot of the sessions and content through our virtual network throughout the year,” explains Schuster. Most of the content and playbooks shared during WPC are what Microsoft sales teams use internally. So by extending these materials to partners, we share an intimate knowledge of the company’s direction.

According to Schuster, another benefit of a partner ecosystem is facilitating partner-to-partner connections. This happens locally, through salespeople, and globally, through events such as WPC where partners have the opportunity to connect with one another. There are also opportunities online for partners to come together as a digital community to communicate and engage with one another. Digital and social tools help partners meet partners and grow the ecosystem as a whole.

Partner up

“The benefit to an organization to create a partner program is that it enables them to scale their message, to scale their sales and support organizations, to service their customers locally and intimately in ways that they never could, and to build wholly new solutions that you could never imagine,” says Schuster.

Whether your partnership ecosystem is large or small the same business benefits apply. Start by assessing your business needs: if you need support selling your product or developing new features, find partners that can help in those areas. The important part is forming partnerships that help your business tell a unified story and then transmit that story to markets you otherwise wouldn’t reach.