Chris is the CMO of Traction on Demand, Canada’s largest dedicated Salesforce implementation partner. Currently, they have over 3,000 live projects, and clients include big-name logos such as Patagonia, Time Warner Cable, and Wildlife Conservation Society.
Chris speaks French, spent 7 years as a “Big” to Big Brothers, and, we just had to mention this: Chris is also a helicopter pilot.
Personal Relationships Are Foundational for Strategic Alliances
The reality of business and partnership creation is similar to other aspects of B2B: People are the ones who buy-in.
While companies are the entities ensuring the resources are available for an alliance, ultimately, the relationship hinges on individuals. This may sound simple, but it must be fundamentally understood before business can transact.
Here’s how Chris focuses his efforts in different areas:
Key Strategic Alliances
Depending on your business model, you may have one or more key enterprise alliances. For Traction, Salesforce is their main key strategic alliance — 100% of their customers are Salesforce customers.
Traction isn’t a reseller for Salesforce — they are true partners. They help companies integrate into Salesforce; they also help develop and implement software built on the Salesforce CRM to achieve customized solutions.
This is Traction’s Key Strategic Alliance.
How Micro Partnerships Impact the Health of Your Alliance
Besides their Key Strategic Alliance, Chris and his team manage micro-partnerships at the individual level with customers, who ultimately turn into advocates for Traction.
Each time a client comes on board with Traction, they ensure a phenomenal result that adds value to all three relationships of the ecosystem:
Salesforce — Salesforce is gaining subscription fees from their SaaS
Traction — Traction derives value from the engagement contract.
Customer — The completed project meets the goals of the customer.
To turn those customers from one-time engagements into lifelong advocates and ultimately alliances, Chris does something counterintuitive: He trains clients how to do future implementation themselves. Yes — he oftentimes trains a customer so well, that by the end of the engagement, Traction’s services are no longer needed.
Many SIs may think Traction is crazy for using this model, but Chris has seen firsthand why it’s actually a secret to success: These customers will often re-engage with them around different development pieces, so there is often an opportunity for new contracts. But, there is a bigger strategy at stake:
The individuals making the decisions for business will often move to another company, or take on senior leadership roles at their firm. Each time they take on additional products or services or move to a new company, they are taking their experience with Traction with them. This gives Traction ties to a larger network of opportunity.
The third type of alliances Chris manages is with their nonprofit partners. How this became a central part of Traction’s strategy is worth a 60-second detour:
Greg Malpass is the founder and CEO of Traction on Demand. Originally, he was the one-and-only employee.
A client had hired Greg to advise on technology, and he suggested a particular software. At the end of the year, the software company Greg had suggested send him a $20,000 check.
The money felt dirty.
Greg put the check in the visor of his truck.
He left it there for 4 months until his wife came up with a suggestion: “Why don’t you give the money away?”
Greg did. He used the money to fund a nonprofit project, which, eventually turned into a company-wide mission of giving away their software.
Later on, they changed their model from 100% free to a highly discounted model with nonprofits. (They found that when they gave away their software and personnel resources and expertise, organizations were less likely to appreciate them.)
Now, Traction donates 1/3 of the cost, asks the nonprofit to put up 1/3 themselves (so they have some “skin in the game”), and then they work with the nonprofit to find a corporate sponsor to pay for the remaining portion. For instance, when the Wildlife Conservation Society needed a corporate sponsor for the remaining balance of the project, Traction tapped Patagonia, knowing the mission and values of the nonprofit matched Patagonia’s.
But the benefit doesn’t stop at a PR boost for Traction: Many of the board members of larger nonprofits are made up of the world’s leading business minds, creating additional contacts and opportunities for Traction.
Still, it gets better — Traction started doing so many high-level nonprofit implementation projects, Traction was becoming an unintended expert in nonprofit partnerships, which have their own unique business models and needs. Salesforce approached them with an idea: They wanted Traction to become their go-to for any nonprofit solutions.
Now, an unanticipated consequence is that 40% of Traction’s business comes from the nonprofit sector.
Let’s Take it Home
Hopefully, you gained some insights on how to focus on Key Strategic Alliances, micro-partnerships, and nonprofit partnerships.