Last week we had the opportunity to attend Catalyst, the first iteration of Partnership Leaders' conference in Miami.
Hundreds of partner leaders, consultants, and vendors met up to talk about all things partnership. It was a really exciting event, and we wanted to share the three takeaways that we felt were most important.
In no particular order...
Software companies have always had partnerships. But, traditionally partnerships have been kind of an after thought--last to prioritize, first to cut budget from.
This is changing fast.
Traditional go-to-market channels, like social media advertising, are getting expensive. We've just come out of a cycle of record venture investment, which creates more competitive pressure. Competition for talent is also trending upward.
The way you brought your products and services to the market 10 or even a few years ago is significantly harder today. It's also significantly more expensive.
To win in this new reality, the smartest young companies are realizing that they need to team up with adjacent offerings and go to market together. Thus, the partnerships function is becoming a primary part of the plan.
In fact, Reveal shared some powerful stats during their presentation:
Bottom line: you can't afford to build everything right now. You can't (and probably shouldn't try to) be everything to everyone. Instead, build an ecosystem of go-to-market partners with whom you can market and sell joint solutions.
While it's really exciting that partnership leaders are more and more getting a seat at the executive table, it's also uncovering just how many partnership team needs are unmet.
Catalyst had hundreds of attendants who enthusiastically attended sessions about how to recruit more partners, how to make those partnerships successful, how to build integrations to support those partners, and many more topics.
There's a thirst for "how to" in this community, and it's only the beginning.
This is all anecdotal, but the drive for knowledge was as palpable as the excitement. Canalys, Partnership Leaders, and Hubspot are teaming up to do a survey to cover the state of partnerships. The results are sure to show how many needs remain unmet.
Growing focus on partnerships as a primary strategy and partner leaders' many unmet needs mean partner tech as a category is about to explode.
Canalys recently shared a well researched Channel Ecosystem Landscape, which gave a solid overview of the current state for partner tech. McBain writes that this currently $3.9 billion sector will be $8.9 billion by 2027. In his keynote at Catalyst, he likened what is happening in partner tech to what happened in marketing tech about a decade ago: a 28x increase in vendors over 10 years.
This should be exciting for partnership leaders, but it should also raise caution.
There will be a lot of new companies seeking to tap into this opportunity. Many of them are going to be awesome value drivers! Some will be less so.
When the ecosystem gets crowded, it'll get harder to weed out the strong from the "meh" solutions. It'll be hard to differentiate products. There will be more and more overlap in who provides what, making it harder to decide which solutions you need.
All that said, this is a net positive for the space. More innovation in partner tech will help support the increasing focus on partnerships.
It was incredible to attend the inaugural Catalyst event. Next year is sure to be even bigger and even more exciting.
Much respect to Partnership Leaders for throwing an extremely valuable and fun event. We look forward to the next one!