In this blog, we speak to two of the most experienced partnership leaders in European Fintech. They share their insights into building a modern partner ecosystem: Ben Snowman, VP Partnerships & Advisory at Mambu, and Serkan Unal, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Fourthline.
If you want to build a compelling software business, you need partners. Here are five elements they believe are critical for your partner strategy to be effective.
1. Know what makes your partner tick
As with any relationship, both partners need to benefit. The best relationships are formed through a union; some can be more transactional. So you need to really understand your partners’ motivations and build a business around that.
Ben says, "at Mambu, we have a give/give philosophy - the more we and our partners give to each other, the better the outcomes. We see this working in practice and delivering great results."
Serkan comments, "Compelling partnerships are formed by a combination of a unique joint offering, market knowledge, people, and mutual trust. The give/give philosophy is a true testament of the buildup of trust".
2. Know your ecosystem
There are a plethora of businesses that you can partner with, but you need to be crystal clear in your partner strategy.
For example, software requiring a lot of customisation is unsuitable for many resellers. Simple, over-the-top software solutions are of little interest to global system integrators who like to build centres of excellence.
Ben notes, "Mambu has a great fit with consultancies, cloud providers and other software companies through our composable banking architecture; we are really clear in who we partner with, so we can respect our partners' time and efforts."
Serkan adds, "Over the last decade, technologies have become more seamlessly integrated into businesses. As such, businesses are today becoming tech companies. This situation brings enormous advantages, but it may also come with challenges around adapting to new market conditions, scaling the business, or breaking away from any legacy architectures. Partnerships offer unique capabilities to businesses to be able to overcome these challenges. Mambu's compossibility and Fourthline's end-to-end bank-grade KYC are a great fit. They benefit our respective clients and our joint partner ecosystem considerably."
3. Focus on the partner experience
To be successful and tap into the myriad of benefits of a highly effective partner ecosystem, you need to care deeply for your partners.
With an ecosystem of hundreds or thousands, it can be hard to maintain a personal connection, all the time. This is why a highly effective partner operations function is needed. Ben adds, "at Mambu, we focus extensively on the continuous improvement of partner experience, investing in our portal, the programme, and learning journeys."
Serkan notes, "At Fourthline, we provide excellent compliance and a great onboarding experience for our clients' user base. As we continuously invest in our Partnerships organization, we strive for the same values for our partners. In the near future, we aim to set up access to a partner portal and a partner programme and generally scale our partnerships to new heights. As an example, we have recently added our new partner page, and we will add more functionality incrementally."
4. More than just a channel
Partners are considerably more important that serving as a source of leads. While an ecosystem of highly entwined partners does create commercial network effects, partners do much more.
Ben adds that, "in addition to lead generation, partners help in the delivery of our solution, form part of our core solution design, work with us on industry Thought Leadership - they are integral to everything we do including being a voice for our business in the industry - they have a significant role to play in strengthening our reputation."
Serkan comments, "In an era where social media is part of billions of people's lives, influencers are evaluated by the number of people that follow them. Equally, the Power of Partnerships lies with the audience one can address with a joint message and the greater impact it will have."
5. Personal relationships matter
Partnership teams, unlike sales teams, get to know specific individuals at specific firms very deeply. These relationships have a strong bearing on the success of the relationship and persist. As Ben says, "it is the specific personal connection that can be the difference between a transactional partner and a deep, trusting strategic partnership; you need to invest personal time and energy into relationships."
Serkan adds that, "Very true. People do business with People. In addition to the trust built in the relationship, it makes a huge difference when a real human connection is made. A relationship needs time and care to flourish; hence long-term thinking is essential.”
Partnerships is a nuanced competency and often misunderstood because of its complexity. However, once you crack it, great things happen.