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Partner with Purpose: Insight and American Express provide the blueprint for successful go-to-market collaboration

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Identifying the opportunity

Successful partner-to-partner collaboration is built on a foundation of trust and transparency. When two organizations enter a collaborative engagement with their eyes open and with a clear understanding of one another’s goals and values, both teams can align in pursuit of shared success.

Microsoft Gold Partner Insight is a firm believer in the power of transparency to build trust in collaborative partnerships. Looking to accelerate sales and consumption of Office 365, Insight began working to expand their presence among premier small and midsized (SMB) customers.

Lynda Ollivent, Insight’s SMB Marketing Manager in the UK, had often sought out local and national bodies to partner with, such as the Chamber of Commerce, and other SMB influencers in the UK. These partnerships were incredibly valuable in developing relationships with smaller SMB customers but ultimately Insight wanted to augment this network with a commercial partner whose primary client base were larger SMB organizations.

Ollivent and Insight knew that there were key commercial partnerships out there that could help influence their SMB business. Their goal: Find a commercial partner with whom they could work to target the right SMB customers. Understanding their audience, Insight went to work looking for the right partner.

Finding the right partner

A Microsoft Gold Partner, Insight has been an MPN member since 2002. Knowing Microsoft’s network of partners to be extensive, Insight turned to Microsoft for help in forging a commercial partnership with another organization whose audience aligned with their ambitions.

Microsoft had a pre-existing relationship with AMEX and had been on the lookout for a suitable IT partner for them to go to market with. Based on Insight’s criteria and AMEX’s desire to partner with an IT organization, Microsoft connected the two partners, recognizing a perfect fit.

Microsoft continued to lend their assistance throughout the development of the offer, providing insight that helped the two partners optimize the offering. Serving in an advisory role once the match was made, Microsoft continued to play an active role in refining the offering, assisting both partners in speaking to the value of the offer.

“With Cloud solutions becoming an increasingly popular option for SMEs, I’m delighted that the American Express Small Business Card is the payment partner of choice for Insight technologies and Microsoft. With cash flow benefits and the opportunity to earn Membership Rewards on not just Cloud but every aspect of eligible business IT spend with Insight, American Express offers SMEs the opportunity to be rewarded for their technology purchases, which will hopefully aid business growth.” – Kathryn Cowan, Director of Business Partnerships, American Express

As part of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, Insight had the flexibility to assemble an offer of cloud service SKUs that the two partners could take to market together as a packaged offer.

Aligning priorities

Together, the two partners met to align on their goals and reach an understanding of how they could work to best achieve them together, through a single offer.

AMEX was in search of a way to create additional value and incentive for cardmembers. Meanwhile, Insight was looking for an avenue to reach a targeted group of SMB customers with their cloud services, specifically Office 365.

Defining the offer

The result? Insight and AMEX created a new promotion providing new and existing AMEX cardmembers with three free months of premium support services with an annual subscription purchase of Office 365 business premium. In doing so, AMEX could provide their SMB customers more value and greater incentives to be cardmembers, while Insight gained exclusive access to market to AMEX’s vast network of vetted SMB customers.

The partnership proved to be exactly what each was looking for.

“We both went into our first meeting with our eyes open. AMEX saw it as an opportunity to increase the benefits associated with card membership, we saw it as an opportunity to reach our ideal customers within the SMB segment.” – Lynda Ollivent, Marketing Manager, Insight

Having worked out the details of the agreements, the two organizations began working together to bring the promotion to market. From the first meeting, they clearly outlined their priorities so each partner understood what they had to gain from the offer. From there, it was just a matter of bringing the offer to market.

Going to market

Early on, it became apparent to Insight and AMEX that this deal was a priority for both partners.

They quickly established a team with members across both organizations and began laying the groundwork for the effort to follow. The partners began by setting a weekly cadence of meetings to ensure key milestones were met and to keep pressure and visibility on the campaign.

Having generated interest and buy-in from key stakeholders within each organization, the team began divvying up responsibilities. As the promotion was targeted to a focused segment of AMEX customers, AMEX would function as the face of the offer, running the promotions and campaigns leading the offer to market, while Insight and Microsoft offered support via marketing content development and sales training.

 

AMEX saw it as an opportunity to increase the benefits associated with card membership… We saw it as an opportunity to reach our ideal customers.

- Lynda Ollivent, Marketing Manager, Insight

Dividing the labor

While AMEX led the charge in outbound marketing, the Insight team worked with AMEX’s account managers and sales reps, educating them about how to sell and position cloud services to their customers when pitching the offer. This education served as the backstop to a callout campaign being conducted by AMEX account managers to the cardmembers and prospective cardmembers within their accounts.

Additionally, Insight crafted pitches to include in Insight’s monthly buyers’ guides and accompanying newsletters, two-page spreads highlighting the details of the offer and pitching its value to customers.

The success of Insight and AMEX’s collaboration is a credit to the effort and organization of the three partners involved, each of whom took on a stake in the success of the promotion. AMEX and Insight each approached their customer bases directly with the offer, while Insight provided education and support to the campaign while Microsoft provided the introduction, technology and branded content on Office 365 to enable the team to go to market quickly while staying on message regarding the service itself.

Driving transparency

For partners looking to learn from Insight and AMEX’s approach to their engagement, the biggest takeaway: know what you’re getting yourself into.

“Walk in and be transparent about what your goals and expectations are in bringing an offer to market. Be prepared to walk away–walking away isn’t always a bad thing if the fit isn’t right.” – Lynda Ollivent, Marketing Manager, Insight

Insight was clear with their expectations from the beginning, and both Insight and AMEX had clear line of sight to the value they were seeking in the promotion. By coming into the engagement with clear expectations, it was easy for the two parties to understand the engagement as one that could be mutually fulfilling. Coupling honesty and transparency of intent with a structured approach to the engagement, Insight and AMEX provide an effective formula for effective partnership.

Walk in and be transparent about what your goals and expectations are in bringing an offer to market. Be prepared to walk away—walking away isn’t always a bad thing if the fit isn’t right.

- Lynda Ollivent, Marketing Manager, Insight

What’s next

AMEX recently completed a callout campaign to their current and prospective cardmembers advertising and selling the new offer.

Moving forward, the two partners are developing a LinkedIn campaign to continue to promote the offer and bring awareness to the market of the new benefits at their fingertips. With a standing meeting still on the books, the two partners have laid the groundwork for future collaborative offers, while architecting a blueprint for other partners looking to foster sustained, successful collaborative partnerships.

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