- Can a Fortune 100 company turn around deeply challenged and very visible worldwide sales partner relationships to generate greater revenues
Relations between Oracle and its partners (OEMs, resellers and ISVs) were troubled. This was becoming increasing public as partners became more vocal regarding their complaints, and publications widely and regularly reported on the company’s strained relations with partners. Competitors, smelling blood, were stepping up their efforts to recruit Oracle partners. Oracle knew that it had to turn things around. Partner relationships were becoming increasingly critical for the company as their contribution to the bottom line grew. The company also believed it was leaving money on the table with existing partners and was experiencing difficulty in attracting new partners and relationships. Internal teams had to be given the tools to turn things around and systems had to be put in place to give teams more insight and control. There was also a need to re-qualify partners under the system. If not addressed effectively, this could exacerbate problems.
The program also faced a lack of designing effective partner solutions with little demographic and qualitative sales partner perception data. This had to be rectified if a successful effort was to be executed. In addition to external challenges, the program also faced lack of widespread employee knowledge of the importance and significant revenue contributions of partners.
Oracle hired Julie Karbo to establish a world-class partner ecosystem via the Oracle Partner Network (OPN) to optimize partner revenues and help partners maximize Oracle product and service income. Along with the improvements to the program, the marketing efforts surrounding them became a critical component of their success. As a result, a full blown, aggressive marketing plan was implemented that set the stage for a successful official launch of the new OPN.
To define success, Karbo worked with Oracle to set short- and long-term goals:
- The short term goal was to begin to turn around partner relationships by communicating Oracle’s desire to increase the benefits that partners will reap from working with Oracle, effectively differentiating these benefits from competitors and outlining the steps the company is taking to jump start these efforts.
- The long term goals were to increase the satisfaction of Oracle partners and partner generating revenue contributions while effectively neutralizing the challenges that can work against the program.
Karbo first sought to accurately assess the quality level of existing partnerships with the goal of optimizing beneficial relationships and ending systemically unproductive ones. Karbo wanted to get past any “word on the street” second guessing and accurately determine where Oracle really stood with their partners. This was accomplished through an extensive audit of internal and external stakeholders. Karbo then conducted audit reviews and drove messaging sessions with Oracle executives. The result was a messaging platform that would be used as the foundation for all internal and external communications.
A two-phase plan was developed for execution in the U.S. and overseas.
Karbo developed several versions of a partner presentation for teams to sell the details of the program to their designated partners. Worldwide partner events were planned for major U.S. and international cities where the goals and details of Oracle’s new program would be launched.
Karbo developed plans for activities across the following areas:
- Development of a tiered partner system (i.e., Platinum, Gold and Silver) that would create incentives for commitment and rewards for sales achieved.
- Ongoing partner assessment via surveys, partner round tables and summits
- Employee communications, incentive programs and training
- Press activities and materials, including major press conferences at locations around the world
- Partner trade shows, conferences, custom events
- Association relations
- Advertising and promotions
- Direct mail-print and e-content-blasts, surveys, newletters
- Enhanced web content, web site restructuring and continued SEO
- Internal and external collateral-fact sheets, sales materials, etc.
- Database development
- Success metrics
Oracle implemented selected options outlined in the plan and used the materials developed by Karbo. Their partner relationships have improved steadily over the last few years based on many of the programs outlined by the Oracle/Karbo team. Partner satisfaction has markedly improved and the number of negative articles about Oracle partner relations problems have been drastically reduced.